patterns and promises, patterns and promises

The past two days have been a whirlwind in the Kindergarten world. Today was school pictures, which meant that, for the first time, I got to see all 30 of my students in one day! Things went surprisingly smooth, considering one class of K’s didn’t even have regular school today and had to come to the school specifically to get their pictures done.

My pattern unit in Math is progressing extremely well. I am so impressed with how quickly my students have caught on to the concepts and how easily they can spot patterns around them in their daily lives. I was tickled pink when a student came up to me at Meet the Teacher night on Monday and told me she found a pattern in her bedroom at home – it’s great when students are interested in what you are teaching them OUTSIDE of the school walls.

The latest lesson we did was all about manipulatives! I set up three different centres for students to rotate through, at which they copied a pattern using different types of objects around the classroom. The hands-on work was obviously a good fit, as the students had minimal problems staying on task or doing their assigned jobs. I was preparing myself for the students to be distracted and disruptive, but they were focused and showed effort. I really enjoyed this type of lesson – it was lively and fun for myself and the students! “Never a dull moment” is becoming a theme for my internship – and I love it!

Here are a few photos I snapped:

Making small, big, small, big patterns with buttons.

Making small, big, small, big patterns with buttons.

Cut up construction paper is a cheap, quick, and easy way to make patterns. The students made a more complicated pattern with these: orange, orange, yellow, purple.

Cut up construction paper is a cheap, quick, and easy way to make patterns. The students made a more complicated pattern with these: orange, orange, yellow, purple.

Students copied patterns with whiteboards. One thing I didn't anticipate was students having trouble with drawing triangles. Note to self: Only use very simple and easy shapes, like circles, lines, X's, crosses, smiley faces, etc.

Students copied patterns with whiteboards. One thing I didn’t anticipate was students having trouble with drawing triangles. Note to self: Only use very simple and easy shapes, like circles, lines, X’s, crosses, smiley faces, etc.

Here is a copy of my lesson plan: Lesson3Pattern

A big realization I had this week is that I need to let go of my mental image of an ideal, perfect classroom. After teaching this lesson for the first time, I felt that it was rather chaotic. When reflecting on my lesson with my cooperating teacher, she kindly pointed out that it was a successful lesson and that “this is what Kindergarten looks like.” She is absolutely right – Kindergarten is messy, and noisy, and all-over-the-place, and full of hands-on exploration. It can definitely look and feel like chaos, but as long as meaningful learning is taking place (which I have discovered is pretty much ALWAYS happening), you have to let go of the idea that all of the students will sit nicely at their desks and do exactly as you originally pictured. This is one of the best things about Kindergarten – I am always surprised at what students will bring to the table and how differently they will view a lesson than I do.

It is going to be a continued learning experience for me as I keep being introduced to what exactly a Kindergarten class looks like.

Also this week, I covered a lesson that I am extremely proud of and excited about: a Treaty Ed/Social Studies crossover all about Promises. Here is the lesson plan: PromisesLesson

I was extremely impressed with how well the K’s watched the video book (link here – “The Promise” read online) and discussed its main elements in detail. They had a much deeper conversation than I expected going in. They also sat for an extended period of time in the talking circle – maybe this was increased stamina due to a change of scenery (sitting in a circle versus all facing one way)?

The students then made their own promises that would help to keep our classroom a safe and happy place. They then illustrated them. Here are a few samples:

books promise

follow rules promise

What a cute (and smart) promise!

What a cute (and smart) promise!

play w friends promise

Notice the cowboy hats - too cute!

Notice the cowboy hats – too cute!

Today, the students went outside for Phys Ed (as the photographer was in the gymnasium). They soon noticed an abundance of lady bugs and, in true Kindergarten fashion, we quickly grabbed some handy bug houses to collect them in. Emergent curriculum makes its first appearance in my internship: we are going to have an observation centre and a KWL/mini-inquiry lesson on lady bugs tomorrow! All I have to say is: Thank goodness for teacher librarians! We let her know (at the end of the school day) that we were looking for books about lady bugs and not too long after, she magically appears in our room with several options (fiction and non-fiction to boot!). I will be sure to snap lots of pictures and post about our lady bug inquiry soon.

Until then,

-KKF

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kindergarten: a whole new world

We had another four day week this past week, due to Labor Day being on Monday. I have to say, it was rather nice to have two four-day weeks with the students – really ease the teachers into it after summer break! All of the students in our two lovely little classes came together for our first full-sized class days this week. I have to say, I am absolutely loving this age – Kindergarten is “a whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew.” (Can I say that on here? – COPYRIGHT goes to Disney!)

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The students have so much love to give and are SO. STINKIN’. CUTE! They are energetic, inquisitive, playful, funny, adorable… The list goes on and on. I love that K allows teachers flexibility in instructional methods – especially the fact that so much learning can be done in a student-centred approach using hands-on exploratory stations at centre time.

This week was my first crack at doing “invitations” (or centres). I definitely learned a lot about managing them – on the first day, I had out 3 at once and quickly realized that I had to jump all over the place to document students’ learning in photograph form. This was NOT productive. The kids hop from centre to centre at such a fast rate, that I felt I was missing so many great learning moments. Thus, after a conversation with my co-op teacher, I decided to just have one centre the subsequent days. I would then sit at that centre and ask key questions to dig a little deeper into the subject matter with students. This also allowed me to have more focused documentation and more closely follow each students’ interaction with the centre.

This week, I decided to have out a gardening centre. I was astounded at some of the information my students were able to give regarding insects, soil, and gardens. Some of the best quotes:

Q: What do bugs do in the garden? “They eat things and squirm around.”

“‘Gardener‘ snakes live in the garden.”

“It’s a worm. Their home is in the dirt. They dig it up.”

“Worms love living in the garden. The dig up the soil and help the flowers grow.”

Student A: “What is this?” Student B: “I think it’s a butterfly.”

I definitely see theory coming into practice in terms of “students have lots of pre-acquired knowledge from their home lives” and “students are capable learners.” I was so impressed with my students’ knowledge. Here are a few pics of them digging in the dirt.

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This little guy showed some great Math skills at a Science centre. This was even before I put out bug counting mats with numbers.

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This little girl, and one other, were great soil detectives! They noticed different particles in the soil itself (round white pieces, light and dark brown pieces, etc.).

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Students already knew what a magnifying glass was, that it was made out of a breakable material, and how to use it! Wow!

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Using the bug counting mat the next day

This week, I also led our daily routines of Calendar/Weather/Leader time on Thursday and Friday. I really like this part of the day – it incorporates so many life skills and curriculum areas! The students are each given a job while we go over the day’s date, days of the week, months of the year, rhyming poems and songs, the day’s weather, classmate’s names, counting (numbers), colours, letters of the alphabet, girls and boys in the class, and leaders sharing their ‘secret item,’ which their peers have to guess. It is a action-packed morning full of routine and structure. I will post a detailed schedule of these routines at a later date.

I also taught a brief math lesson on Taller and Shorter, and a Phys Ed lesson. These both went well also. I am excited to actually start some regular lessons when I begin my Math unit in Patterns next Monday! I am busy planning that as of late and am happy to say that it has a large emphasis on manipulatives and hands-on activities.

Also this week, I attended two volleyball practices and one game. I am helping out with the Jr Girls (Gr 7-9) and Sr Boys (Gr 10-12) volleyball teams and couldn’t be more excited! It is so wonderful to go from playing a sport and loving it, to sharing that passion with others in an effort to help them develop their skills. I also had a chance to make “Raiderade,” the school’s extra-special, homemade beverage reminiscent of Booster Juice, and named after the school team name: Raiders. Members of the staff and student body meet on a regular basis, either before or after school, just to blend up frozen fruit, yogurt, and fruit juice to make amazing concoctions that are sold to the school population, community members, and visitors during sports games and tournaments. I could not believe the huge amount of dedication that this act involves – one of the teachers on staff makes regular trips into Saskatoon to purchase all of the supplies (in one day alone, a group of about 8 people make over 350 cups of Raiderade). The delicious drinks are then sold for $3 a piece, and make the school a huge amount of money. Davidson has not had to have magazine campaigns in years due to the success of Raiderade.

In only 3 weeks of internship, I could not believe just how much extra work educators and school staff take on simply to keep the school running smoothly and successfully. Aside from planning for and teaching 15-25 children at a time, teachers also run sports teams and extracurricular clubs, make schedules and arrange drivers, work in the canteen, spend time communicating with parents, organize/decorate/clean their classroom, go to school council meetings, and spend time with their own families, among countless other things! I think this conversation with one of my fellow interns sums up our thoughts on teacher dedications and commitment (I am the blue messages):

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My choice of future career is reaffirmed each day. I am so excited looking into my future and realizing that no two days will ever be the same, and that I can continually keep challenging myself and growing as an educator, even after 20+ years! I think this is why teaching attracts some of the finest people in the world: it is challenging beyond description, and often mostly thankless and unnoticed, behind-the-scenes work that is constantly changing, demanding, and never-ending. Yet teachers will continue to put their best foot forward and a smile on their face for the students that they strive to inspire, motivate, and teach each day. I think that is truly a magical feat.

-KKF

P.S. My 3 day internship orientation seminar is in Regina next week. I am excited to be back in the capital city (after all, it has been my home for 3 years) and see some of my friends who are embarking on their own internship adventures! I am also happy to be learning more about my role as an intern, and the expectations for my growth and progress through this amazing journey. This is also a chance for my co-op teacher and I to polish a contract for our professional relationship during these 4 months. More soon, I promise!

lots of ideas stemming from STEM education

I just finished reading another issue of Instructor magazine and, not surprisingly, came rushing to my computer to get all of my thoughts down! My favourite article in the latest issue (Spring 2013) was about the up-and-coming topic of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) or STEAM (the A is for Arts) Education.

The article provided multiple, simple ways to integrate a STEM-based approach in the classroom without previous experience, such as building boats out of clay in order to understand how items that normally sink in water can be made to float.

The biggest reaction I had to these ideas was ‘ugh.’ I always found the ‘engineering’ type of lessons to be frustrating and a waste of time. As a ruthless memorizer, I found school much more rewarding and personally successful when I could learn a formula, keep it stored away and use it forever after. Now that I am in the Education program, however, I understand that being a memorizer only can be a huge disadvantage for a student. And that is why I am so glad that I see the future curricula reflecting a hands-on, inquiry approach to learning. I hope that the educational system puts a stop to making children believe that they cannot be successful in their academic career unless they can remember tables and formulae. Learning through personal discovery and question posing is much more beneficial because it is realistic.

So while I may have found my Grade 10 Physics project of self-designed, balloon-propelled cars the most difficult and useless thing in my high school career, I now look back as a future educator, and applaud my teacher for incorporating (and still continuing to incorporate – much to my younger sister’s chagrin, I guess her opinion on the assignment was similar to mine) this lesson in his introductory Physics unit because it allows the students to fiddle with their cars and notice what improves or impedes their cars’ success.

Personally, I found this project so angering because there was no right answer or steps to follow in order to get to the desired outcome, something that school taught me would, 99% of the time, work! It went against my learning style, which, so far, has allowed me to achieve lots of success as a student! However, I am constantly wishing that I were a tinkerer and an iron-willed problem solver who won’t stop until a solution has been discovered. Unfortunately, though, I just got frustrated with the project and eventually gave up (I know, not a good example to be putting out there, but I figure honesty is the best policy). As a future educator, though, I hope to put an end to a generation of young thinkers who can succeed by merely memorizing (which, admittedly, in some cases and subjects, is required). I want my students to learn through their own mistakes. As the article so eloquently puts it,

Introducing kids to the engineering process – having them start again and fix the mistakes – at that age is much easier because they haven’t yet developed a fear of failure.

-Monica Foss, Instructor, Spring 2013, “STEM: Everyday

Engineering,” Page 41

This really rang true for me because, as a student, I would always dread to give the wrong answer when a teacher called on me. Students are so afraid of getting the wrong answer that they are losing the opportunity to learn through their failed attempts! I hope to foster an environment where mistakes are okay, and even encouraged, in order to work towards the right answer!

In closing, I hope to use lots of these hands-on, engineering/building activities with my students in order to give them a chance to learn real-world principles on a smaller scale. I know that using the arts in my classroom will be easy to do, because I have a connection with them, but I also want my classroom to be a nurturing environment for the world’s future engineers, scientists, mathematicians and technological gurus!

give me 5’s

It’s amazing how many little activity ideas I come up with when I’m in the shower. Is this anyone else’s place for thinking? Anyways, this is what my shampoo rinse routine gave me today:

Learning to count to 100 by 1’s, 2’s, 5’s and 10’s is an important math skill that is worked on early in elementary school. I thought up a fun way to help kids learn their ‘counting by 5’s’ and it is called Give Me 5’s!

The common expression “give me 5” refers to a high five, and I thought this would be a fun activity to incorporate into a math lesson on counting.

I picture this activity with a big hundreds chart at the front of the room and maybe even some smaller ones for the students. Basically, the gist of it is giving a high five every time you say a multiple of five. It would go like this:

5 *high five* 10 *high five* 15 *high five* 20 *high five* and so on and so forth.

You could mix this up in a lot of ways. After you have explained the activity to the students, you could practice with them sitting in their desks facing you. They will all count out loud with you and give an air high five to you as you say the multiples. After they get the hang of it, you can get them to go into partners or small groups and do different combinations. For example:

1. Count to ___ using your right hand/left hand only.

2. Count to ___ using both hands.

3. Count to ___ using alternating hands.

4. Count to ___ using your feet!

5. Make up your own body part to count with.

6. Clap your own hands once and then your partner’s for each alternating multiple of 5.

7. Stamp your feet, jump, spin, etc, for each multiple!

(There are so many variations you could use with this activity. It’s always nice when you can get kids moving during math!)

You could also mix it up by having slips of paper they could draw that had differing values they had to count to (15, 40, 75, etc.) so they weren’t counting all way to 100 every time. This also helps them find different multiples.

Another more advanced idea (that is a bit of a bridge into multiplication) is having one partner count up by fives and the other count how many high fives it took to get to a certain multiple. For 20, one partner would could 5, 10, 15, 20 and the other would count 1, 2, 3, 4 high fives to get to 20! You could get them to draw different numbers and record how many high fives it took them to get to that number each time.

Have fun and high five for having fun in math class! 🙂