garage sale haul + internship pd event

On the weekend, I was out of town visiting a high school friend. It was an absolutely beautiful day outside AND there were a ton of local garage sales for us to hit up – WIN WIN! In true teacher fashion, I bought items entirely for future classroom use. Most of my finds were influenced by a recent PD event I attended through Sun West School Division (the school division in which I will be doing my internship).

I traveled to Rosetown (the location of the division office) to take part in an event for Kindergarten teachers that focused on “Play and Exploration: Early Learning Program Guide,” which is a resource that supplements the curriculum for Early Childhood Educators. It focused a lot on the vision and principles of a quality early childhood education program and I am very excited to try out some of the ideas in the fall. We all had a chance to try our hand at creating an engaging ‘invitation for learning.’

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My invitation focused on objects and items that were round or circular. I thought this would tie in well with Medicine Wheels and other Indigenous elements – drums, sun, earth, moon, etc.

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This centre encourages students to explore the letters of the alphabet in a variety of mediums.

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An invitation to delve into shapes.

At the workshop, I had a chance to meet my cooperating teacher for the first time. She greeted me with an embrace as she said “I’m a hugger!” That was an instant moment of happiness and comfort. My coop teacher has been teaching Kindergarten for five years, and told me that she is hoping to try some new things next year – “We will learn together” as she put it. She was very informative and answered my jumble of questions eagerly. I am so excited to embark upon this awesome journey with such a bubbly and helpful cooperating teacher by my side.

At the workshop, I learned that it is important to have a quiet corner in your classroom for students to decompress and have alone time, if needed. This can also double as a reading corner. Inviting and comfortable furniture is a must to implement this kind of area in your classroom, which leads me to my first garage sale purchase: two wicker benches perfect for little bodies to curl up on. The drawers are a perfect hiding spot for inviting books. I also found two natural-toned pillows that could pair with benches as cushions, or be put in the carpet area for sitting.

These could also double as a centre area for activities  if plastic trays or blankets were placed on the top. The drawers could hold blocks, drawing materials, props for dress up, etc.

These could also double as a centre area for activities if plastic trays or blankets were placed on the top. The drawers could hold blocks, drawing materials, props for dress up, etc.

The small bench is perfect for one.

The small bench is perfect for one.

The larger bench of the two.

The larger bench of the two.

These could also be incorporated into a dramatic play centre such as an office, restaurant, or house if the right props were added.

These could also be incorporated into a dramatic play centre such as an office, restaurant, or house if the right props were added.

A comfy place to sit and read a favourite book with calming, natural colours.

A comfy place to sit and read a favourite book with calming, natural colours.

The other thing I learned at the workshop (which echoed many of the ideals I learned in my ECE courses at U of R) was that invitations require aesthetically pleasing and organized presentation. This means you need a lot of containers (to display, sort, organize, and store all of your items). So I stocked up on a variety of trays, containers, and organizers to inspire, encourage, and direct student exploration.

Baskets of differing sizes, colours, and shapes provide variety to satisfy many uses.

Baskets of differing sizes, colours, and shapes provide variety to satisfy many uses.

These beautifully filigreed silver boxes reminded me of delicate treasure chests. The smaller one can nest inside the large one to decrease storage space. These would be perfect to hold numerous kinds of materials.

These beautifully filigreed silver boxes reminded me of delicate treasure chests. The smaller one can nest inside the large one to decrease storage space. These would be perfect to hold numerous kinds of materials.

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I fell in love with these wooden fruit-shaped trays. They are all separated to inspire sorting and classifying - great for math tasks.

I fell in love with these wooden fruit-shaped trays. They are all separated to inspire sorting and classifying – great for math tasks.

Displaying interesting objects

Displaying interesting objects

Sort object by colour, size, shape, texture, etc. Or use to count as you move objects from one space to the other.

Sort object by colour, size, shape, texture, etc. Or use to count as you move objects from one space to the other.

This square glass tray was too cute to pass up - I love the design and colour. Perfect for sorting and displaying.

This square glass tray was too cute to pass up – I love the design and colour. Perfect for sorting and displaying.

I got a whole box full of these blue plastic containers. They came in a multitude of sizes and shapes. They all came with lids too, which is a bonus.

I got a whole box full of these blue plastic containers. They came in a multitude of sizes and shapes. They all came with lids too, which is a bonus.

Aside from providing storage, I thought students might also use these as building blocks!

Aside from providing storage, I thought students might also use these as building blocks!

Circular trays perfect for sorting, arranging, displaying, or organizing. Could also be used for liquids or solids such as grains of rice, beans, seeds, etc.

Circular trays perfect for sorting, arranging, displaying, or organizing. Could also be used for liquids or solids such as grains of rice, beans, seeds, etc.

I really loved these 4 square trays. The wood grain looking texture is very natural. Could serve so many purposes!

I really loved these 4 square trays. The wood grain looking texture is very natural. Could serve so many purposes!

I chose this oblong silver tray because of its reflective properties - perfect for exploring light and reflections. These three lady bug stones were just too cute to pass up.

I chose this oblong silver tray because of its reflective properties – perfect for exploring light and reflections. These three lady bug stones were just too cute to pass up.

This ice cube tray was free! They are perfect for sorting or counting. Here I showed how they could be used to distinguish hues and shades of the different colours.

This ice cube tray was free! They are perfect for sorting or counting. Here I showed how they could be used to distinguish hues and shades of the different colours.

What was your best garage sale or bargain find for your classroom? 

Until next time,

-KKF

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ESL/EAL/ELL hmmmm moment

Does the ‘S’ in ESL stand for Second or Subsequent?

Does the ‘A’ in EAL stand for Additional or Acquired?

Which term is politically correct? Do they all mean the same thing? Which one should I use? And for goodness’ sake, why do they keep changing the abbreviation?!

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These are some of the questions that I have asked myself many times since becoming a student in the Faculty of Education. In the past few years, all things ESL/EAL/ELL have become much-discussed topics. As future teachers, we hear “Your classrooms will include high percentages of immigrant students for whom English is not their first language” so often, it is no wonder that this is on our minds! The shifting focus of ‘person-first’ language in regards to students with special needs has made me think about the language we use to define these students who have a language other than English as their first.

Here was the thought that popped into my head last night:

ELL = English Language Learner. But some students who are labelled ‘ELL’ have a proficient command of the English language. Comparatively, many people who are raised with English as their first language do not use it properly. So it seems rather unfair to call students who have a differing mother tongue ‘learners’ of the English language when, really, we are ALL English language learners. 

As a self-proclaimed “Grammar Policewoman” and English enthusiast, I am often drawn to online quizzes with titles such as: “These are 100 vocabulary words that high school graduates of today should know. Do you know them all?” and “Can you recognize these common grammatical/spelling errors?” Admittedly, even I (as someone who prides herself in being knowledgeable about English language in general) learn new vocabulary words and obscure grammatical rules. A native English speaker with university education, even I continue to be an English language learner (and I will never cease to be).

So, my question is: Is “English Language Learner” truly the best phrase to define our students who speak other languages before English? I truly believe that all of my students, and all members of society, are English Language Learners. Labelling only immigrant families as ELLs supports a power imbalance, placing native English speakers, “those who have already learned all there is to learn about English,” above those still learning it.

EAL hello

So… Which term do I prefer?

I can understand why we have stepped away from the term ESL, as it was most often taken to mean “English as a Second Language,” which was an unfair representation of students for whom English was the third, fourth, fifth, or higher language in their repertoire. If we change the ‘S’ to instead stand for Subsequent, however, this abbreviation becomes more open-ended.

I would argue that EAL meaning “English as an Acquired Language” would apply to every English speaker out there, as we all had to acquire English at some point (whether at age 1 or 15).

Personally, I believe that “EAL” (English as an Additional Language) is the most fitting way to describe these students. It places both English and the preceding language(s) in a positive light. The word “Additional” carries the connotation that it was another language added into the student’s repertoire: a plus, a bonus. It does not undermine the primary language; English is not the language of utmost importance, but another addition into an already rich background. It does not state whether English is the second, third, fourth, fifth language the student learned, but merely that it was not the first. It is for these reasons that I will use EAL as my abbreviation of choice when referring to my students who have added English to theDVDir list of spoken languages.

Put into metaphorical terms, EAL refers to a student’s known languages much like a DVD, with English being the Additional or Bonus Features on the disc. You don’t originally buy the DVD for the Bonus Features, you buy it for the movie (the primary or first known language)! But the Bonus Features are there as a surprise, a little extra treat. Similarly, we have to value students’ mother tongues first and foremost, as they are the Main Feature in the child’s linguistic package.

What are your thoughts on the ESL/EAL/ELL debate? Please leave me a comment to let me know!

Until next time,

-KKF

new book haul

Welcome to May, everyone! Hope the April showers are bringing some May flowers your way 🙂

In order to tide myself over with excitement until I receive my internship package (telling me where I will be spending four months in the fall), I ordered a whole swack of books to supplement my ever-growing classroom library (which has begun to take over the spare room in my family’s basement.. haha).

First of all, I got a super deal on 45 non-fiction books in 9 sets of 5 on different topics. I was extra excited about this addition, as I don’t have many non-fiction titles in my classroom library already and these books all connect really well with curriculum units in Science! I can see myself getting a lot of use out of these in the future.

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Simple machines

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Animal adaptations

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Human body

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Weather

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Oceans and ocean life

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Types of animals

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Space and the solar system

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Different environments on Earth

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The Earth and rocks

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This next one is also very cute. It has illustrations and short descriptions of different yoga poses for each letter of the alphabet. I could see this being a fun way to incorporate brain breaks – you could do a different letter each day.

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Set of 10. Teaching phonics through fairy tales. Each book has a major sound focus (ex. ‘ee’) that is highlighted throughout the text. Classic tales are written in short, rhyming stanzas.

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The classic song from Sesame Street in book form. Also includes a CD with 3 songs! Such a steal.

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Awesome set of 6 that explains different plant parts. Has great pictures and simple text.

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And finally… This one really excited the grammar nerd in me. A whole set of books that explain the parts of speech in first person. Ex. “If you were quotation marks, you would work in partners, and go outside of the words that characters in the story are saying.” SUPER cute!

On top of all of this, I am headed to the Scholastic warehouse sale this week to hopefully pick up some more gems at rock bottom prices. Gotta love teacher bargain hunting!

Until next time, go out and grab a great book!

-KKF

treaty education

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A couple of things came up for me during Claire Kreuger’s presentation on Treaty Education today:

  • I think it is very exciting that the push for inclusion of Indigenous viewpoints is becoming more prominent in education as it is such an integral part of our country’s past
  • I feel that I don’t know a great deal about treaties myself, but I think learning something alongside your students is a great approach – if teachers include Treaty Education in their classroom, they will be educating themselves along the way as professional, lifelong learners
  • Integrating things like Environmental Education, Treaty Education, and social justice into other subjects’ curriculum goals is a necessary skill in order for teachers to accomplish everything they are required to in one year
  • These tasks may be very daunting, but they are worth it in the end
  • We, as teachers, need to be connected to as many resources as possible (ex. elders, teachers on Twitter, other professionals, etc.) if we are going to make the most of these decisions – no one person can do it alone! You will need a lot of help and should embrace that fact if you are going to succeedImage

To bridge off that last point of sharing resources and being connected, I thought I would share with you some wonderful resources that Richard Van Camp (an author from the Dogrib nation in NWT) shared with me after an in-class presentation in my English 110 class last year (I highly recommend his children’s book, “What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses?” – it has lovely illustrations!)

Primary Aboriginal Resources – This resources offers many different ways you can incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into various subject areas. It includes a TON of stories.

Primary Storybook Favourites – This second resources has a vast array of children’s books with Aboriginal themes. And don’t worry, there are representatives from many different First Nations cultures, not just one (because after Claire’s presentation, we will all be cognizant of the fact that they are NOT all the same).

Enjoy!

(And in case you want to get synced up with Claire:    

Twitter: @ClaireKreuger      

Classroom Blog: mmekreuger.edublogs.org

Treaty Education Blog: treatypeople.edublogs.org)

-KKF

how books without words can build literacy skills

While thinking back to my days of volunteering as a high school student in an elementary classroom, I was reminded of one particular day’s task and, now that I can look through my critical ‘teacher lens,’ have a different take on the experience.

My job was this: take Grade 1 students out into the hall, one at a time, and have them narrate a book to me. The only catch: the book had no words. The book depicted a baby who, while being carried by their mother, yawns and starts a chain reaction of other yawns around the town which eventually makes it back to the same baby (and I wish I could remember the title/author of the book – I tried searching for it to no avail). The Grade 1 students were meant to catch on to this and tell me the story in their own words by interpreting the illustrations.

One particular student astounded me with their ability to string eloquent sentences together on the fly. They began the story with “Once upon a time…” and added in other phrases that made it very articulate and exactly like what the written words on the page would have said (if there had been any), while some of their other classmates merely flipped quickly through the pages saying, “Then the construction worker yawned. Then the librarian yawned” (which still show complete sentences and sequencing words like “then”). It took me by surprise how different the children’s versions of oral storytelling were.

I think ‘reading’ books without words is a great way for students to work on the flow of their spoken words, storyline comprehension, understanding of story elements (beginning, middle, end, setting, characters, plot, etc.) and careful observation of visual clues. Perhaps the biggest benefit of this exercise is its quality of open-endedness, which leaves a lot of room for individual interpretation and creativity. Each student will notice different things on the page and verbalize their observations into the story. It is pretty amazing that one book will never be told exactly the same way – it allows for a lot of reuse!

Another thing that struck me when thinking about this experience was that some of the students clued in to the yawning, while others mistook the baby’s closed eyes and open mouth for screaming or crying. The evaluation of the students’ performance in this exercise was based on their ability to recognize the baby’s action as a yawn, not something else. At the time, I remember feeling bad for the children who misinterpreted the pictures.

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Thinking back on this now, I question if this is truly a fair evaluation of a student’s skill. Is it contradictory to give students all the freedom of telling their own story and then penalize them for not getting the prescribed ‘right answer?’ Or should children be expected to put together the story’s clues and realize the yawn? What do you think? I’d love to hear your feedback on this one! It just goes to show you that assessment can be a slippery slope, especially with such wide open activities.

-KKF