graduation vs celebration

Pre-K gradAlong with the end of the school year, June also marks graduation season. I have seen posts and photos of Pre-Kindergarten/preschool and Kindergarten grads all over social media the last week or so, and it prompted me to examine my beliefs and views on graduation ceremonies in ECE.

First, I felt guilty for not having a formal graduation ceremony for my Pre-K class, especially because the two preschool programs in the community had beautiful and elaborate decorations and programs for their students and family members. Many of my friends and colleagues are also involved in early learning and they, too, were busy planning songs to perform, power points to show, and speeches to share. Was I cheating my students and their loved ones out of an important milestone and experience?

My viewpoint then shifted, in order to defend my lack of a Pre-K grad. I was ready with an arsenal of justifications for opting out. I thought things like…

  • my students are already students within the school, only moving one classroom down within the same building (while the preschool programs’ students will be new to the school, so their graduation ceremony is marking the end of their time at their EY establishment)
  • the Pre-K teacher before me didn’t have a grad ceremony, and neither does the K teacher at the school
  • my cooperating teacher in internship (who taught Kindergarten) didn’t have a graduation ceremony
  • I have some students who are moving to Kindergarten next year, and some who will be returning for a 2nd year of Pre-K

From there, I began to question and reflect on what exactly a ‘graduation’ meant to me. After some thought, I came to the conclusion that, to me, a graduation is intended to mark the end of a significant portion of one’s life in education; it is a finale.

Based on that definition, here is where I have some qualms with a Pre-K or Kindergarten graduation:

  • I view Pre-K and K as the pivotal introduction to formal education in a child’s life; it is the beginning of their journey as a learner in our school system. It seems counterintuitive to have a ceremony that marks the end, when it is really only the start of their adventure in education. Donning the cap and gown in Grade 12 or the final year of university signifies the end of a student’s time in that establishment; it simply doesn’t make sense for Pre-K and K students to wear the same outfit when they are not leaving us quite yet.
  • I assume that Pre-K and K graduations originally came about because these two programs are viewed in a different light than the ‘traditional’ school set up, especially because Pre-K and K were not originally part of the school system, an entity all their own. I think it is problematic if finishing Pre-K or K is viewed as entering the ‘real’ years of schooling. Certainly, Pre-K and K are, in and of themselves, set up and run much differently than the numbered grades beyond. However, this mindset minimizes the importance of early learning and the strategically designed environments and learning that takes place there.
  • I can still remember one of my favourite university professors telling an anecdote of visiting a local elementary school in March and seeing bulletin boards covered in (you guessed it!) leprechauns. She went on to explain how disappointed she was in this, because the leprechaun creations had no meaningful tie into learning. They were created as merely a craft to fill time. That story has stuck with me ever since, and I vowed to avoid ‘crafts-for-craft’s-sake’ or ‘time-fillers’ at all costs in my practice. In the same vein, I see Pre-K/K grads to be an event for the sake of having an event to some extent. Similar to how teachers feel obligated have their students create Christmas, Valentine’s, Mother’s and Father’s Day trinkets simply because it is EXPECTED, early years teachers see posts of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” themed decorations, toddler-sized caps and gowns, and adorable graduation songs and feel pressured to keep up with the Joneses [Exhibit A: the second paragraph in this blog post]. While I wholeheartedly believe that the early years are a time of utmost importance and growth in a child’s life, and they should be documented in order to be remembered later on down the road, I feel that the commercialized, cookie cutter Pre-K/K graduations can be merely a photo opp to put into a picture frame with no authentic connections for the child and their loved ones.

Now, if you are a proponent of early years graduations, I’m surprised you’ve made it this far, because you surely have a few choice words, points of view, or arguments to share after I singlehandedly shredded EY grads to pieces. But stick with me just a little longer, because this is all coming to a culminating point, I promise.

My biggest takeaway from my inner reflection on this topic is that we have to, ultimately, ask ourselves:

Why am I REALLY having this ceremony/event? What is the purpose?

We have to take a critical look at if the ceremony we are planning authentically celebrates students and their learning, or if it is simply an opportunity to tout the cuteness of 3-5 year olds in caps and gowns (which I cannot argue IS, indeed, cute).

And so, here is my suggestion of a substitute to a “graduation” ceremony:

Celebrations of Learning

Hosting a ‘celebration of learning’ event ensures that the most important factor of ECE – the students and their journeys as learners – is sitting centre stage.  This format also allows for so much flexibility and personal tailoring to truly fit the needs of your ‘clientele.’ In its most basic form, a celebration of learning is a time for students and their loved ones to come together to share pride in the learning that has taken place over the course of the year.

While I didn’t host a year-end “Celebration of Learning” this year (because this idea is brand-spankin’-new), we did have a final Family Day, where students and their family members hopped onto the school bus and drove 15 minutes to Ruby Lake, the local regional park. We enjoyed a day of exploring the playground and shoreline, eating fire-roasted hot dogs, and each other’s company.

Photo 2017-06-23, 9 32 34 AMPhoto 2017-06-23, 10 46 48 AM

I did make an impromptu thank you speech to the families for their support and involvement in their child’s learning in Pre-K and sent home a book of “Learning Stories” I had collected for each student over the course of the year, but I am already crafting plans for what I would like my ‘Celebration of Learning’ to look like next year…

Rather than sugar plum fairies, I have visions of a Memory Walk dancing in my head. While it would certainly require a lot of paper, ink, planning, and work, I would LOVE to print pictures from each month of the school year and then hang them up in chronological order on the walls of the school hallways (along with quotes, observations, student artwork, etc.) for students and their parents to walk through. Think self-guided tour/art installation/giant documentation panel! It’s a literal walk down memory lane!

Check in with me in a year’s time when, hopefully, I will post about what kind of “Celebration of Learning” actually transpires.

  • What are your thoughts on graduation ceremonies for early years students?

Until then,

-KKF

Advertisements

spring has sprung

And spring has brought with it some new adventures. 

1. I have been feeling a lot more motivated and energetic with the warm, sunny weather. This has led to getting up earlier, being productive, and even going for walks after school! 😊

2. Seed planting in Pre-K. We planted some mystery seeds on Monday. Hopefully I can keep them alive until they sprout into grass. The students all made guesses on what the seeds would turn into and my favourite answer was: “A chomper plant!” We are checking in on the seeds every morning to see if there is any change, and I am hoping that something will happen quickly so they don’t lose interest.

3. Puddles. Giant puddles. Our whole Pre-K playground is basically a puddle, thanks to a lovely little valley between two trees in the middle of the yard. Thankfully, it has dried up a lot this week. At first, I was fairly adamant that students could not play in it when it was topped with ice, as it was slippery and could result in someone falling through the ice and getting soaked. However, the sunshine has worn me down and I now allow the students to explore the water to a point. Unfortunately, a wagon mishap today led to 2 students taking an unexpected swim. Yikes!!!! That was a teacher panic moment when I heard terrified shrieks and turned around to see the wagon sinking and 2 students half-submerged in water. The joys of spring. 😳 Check me for grey hair, please. 

4. I have received my timetable for next year. I am teaching all of the same things, and am picking up Health and Music for Grade 4. If our class numbers stay the same, I will be teaching approximately 140 students next year! That is more than 1/3 of the school population. It is sure to be another busy year full of some learning curves, but I am excited for the new adventures and learning. If you’re curious, that brings my teaching assignment to:

-Pre-Kindergarten (mornings) 

-Grade 6 Social Studies 

-Grade 5 Health and Music 

-Grade 4 Health and Music 

-Kindergarten Dance, Drama, and Music 

5. I am still keeping up with weekly blogging!!! (Again, all credit to the weather)

With Easter break right around the corner, I find it hard to believe that there are less than 3 months of school left now! 

That’s all I have for now. Until next time, 

-KKF

pre-k FINALLY started!!!

Well, my friends, after the first two days of Pre-K, I can finally say that I feel the school year (and my career) has begun!

Was it messy? Yes.

Was it completely chaotic at times? YES.

Did I almost lose my voice after the first morning? Yes.

Did we have a few tears? Yes (but way fewer than I mentally prepared myself for).

Did I have to run after a wandering student several times? Yes.

Did I tie shoes, zip zippers, and pull sweaters over heads? Yes. About 100 times. And we are going to start working on independence with these tasks ASAP – haha.

Did I absolutely love it? Yes!

 

Having my mornings filled with Pre-K now makes my day go a lot faster! The time really flies when you spend your time with 15 three and four year olds. And boy, do they keep you on your toes! Never a dull moment.

I would say that the first two days were a major success! We are working on learning basic routines and procedures at school, and I think this next full week coming up will help solidify these expectations.

I even got all of my students sitting in small groups doing table work on the SECOND DAY!!! Sure, it may have only lasted a few minutes, but I call that a victory!

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-8-36-39-pm

I think this picture perfectly sums up Pre-K. It looks chaotic and messy. But all of the students are engaged and learning in their own way. That is what I think our entire education system should strive towards. 

As I looked back through pictures of the two morning we spent together, my heart soared. I was overwhelmed with pride and love for these amazing little people I get to call my students. It truly is amazing that I am getting paid to spend my day with these lovely, blossoming little learners and be a part of their lives. I promise I won’t take it for granted.

-Ms. F

 

new beginnings

Hello, blogging world! In the past 8 months, I have been grossly absent from this little slice of the internet, but I am happy to announce that, with the new school year (my FIRST as a teacher!) approaching, I am setting a goal to get back into it with gusto! Ideally, I would like to post once a week about my journey, but I also want to be realistic and give my first-year-teacher self a bit of leeway, so I am hoping to post every 2 weeks (or twice a month). Who knows, maybe I will pleasantly surprise myself and use blogging as a welcome break from planning – haha.

Just a little refresher and catch-up on my life…

I moved to Hudson Bay and into my adorable little house this past Sunday (July 31). I am absolutely LOVING it! I feel right at home here; having grown up in a small town, it feels familiar and comforting. I know that small town teaching is definitely my niche.

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 6.19.58 PM

Home sweet home 🙂

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 6.24.15 PM

I’ve been spending a lot of time in this room – the couch and chairs make a great spot to sit and plan.

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 6.23.34 PM

My little slice of home – all my friends and family.

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 6.23.53 PM

Of course, as soon as I got keys to the school, I was in my classroom and rearranging furniture (thank goodness most of it is on wheels!). I loved how the previous teacher had the room set up (everything in there is so ECE friendly, calming, and beautiful), but I decided to change it up completely to give the room a fresh feel and to put my own spin on it. That definitely helped to make the room feel like mine, and hopefully it will signal a fresh start to students as well!

I decided to have areas in the room that served a specific purpose. I have a quiet/calming/comfy area for students to curl up in if they need a break from the hustle and bustle of the other things going on (it’s complete with a leather sofa and recliner – both miniature, of course!). Then I have a block/construction area and a house (complete with baby dolls, another child-sized couch, and a kitchen and table) area. I have a numeracy/literacy centre where targeted letter/number/fine motor work will be set up. My story corner/morning meeting area is carpeted and features a “VIP/Leader” leather chair, the SMART board, and a book display/shelf. There are 2 large tables in the open space of the classroom for eating snack/doing activities. At the back of my room, I have an art and exploration theme going on – there is a shelf with art supplies and a two-sided easel, as well as the sand and water tables. Finally, near my desk in the back corner is a natural items/small parts/FNMI area (pictured below).

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 6.19.25 PM

See the circular basket divided into four quadrants?  I am going to use that as a Medicine Wheel!

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 6.19.42 PM

This is the visual schedule that is displayed at the morning meeting area. I made it myself – can you tell I’m pretty proud?

Once I have everything set up and picture perfect, I will post pictures of all of the areas of my classroom. I can’t wait to share it with everyone!

For now, I am spending most of my days planning and prepping. I made an interactive SMART notebook file at the school today, which students will use to check in each morning for ‘attendance.’ Can’t wait to share more of my adventure with everyone!

Stay tuned!

-KKF

P.S. Did I mention I went on a two-week cruise/land tour to ALASKA with my lovely mom?! We were celebrating being finished our respective educational endeavours – me my degree, and my mom the Educational Assistant course through Sask Polytech. Here are just a couple of the 1000 snapshots I took! It was an awesome getaway and bonding experience that we both adored!

IMG_7571

Our first port of call – Ketchikan, AK

IMG_7665

Checking out historic totem poles

IMG_7864

Whale watching in Juneau – highlight of the trip!

IMG_7767

IMG_8217

Dog sledding in Skagway

IMG_8240

Hanging out with some sled dogs 🙂

IMG_8336

I just think this photo is about the cutest thing ever. Sled dog puppies ❤

OT kit

I created an OT (Occupational Therapy) kit for an assignment in one of my Education classes. This kit is geared towards Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 1 and is focused on developing pre-printing skills, such as pencil grip and hand strength (as well as some hand-eye coordination activities). The materials within each activity are every day objects that can easily be found around the house. All of the activities are meant to be fun and challenging, so students will actually enjoy practicing these skills.

If I were to implement this kit in my classroom, I would have students choose an activity to work on for 5-10 minutes before a printing/writing class in order to warm up their hands. These activities could also be turned into centres in a Pre-K or Kindergarten classroom, too.

Food Olympics

Playdoh SpagPenne

This station consists of two different activities. For the first activity, students hold a piece of dry spaghetti in between their thumb and index finger and attempt to pick up a dry penne noodle off of the table. In the second activity, students stick spaghetti noodles into a lump of Play-Doh on the table and use their thumb and index fingers to pick up Froot Loops (or Cheerios, beads, etc.) and thread them onto the spaghetti.

Modifications

  • use the coloured Froot Loops to make a pattern on the spaghetti noodle (ex. pink, purple, green, pink, purple, green)

Mr./Mrs. Ball

Mr Ball

Making Mr. or Mrs. Ball is really easy – just cut a small slit into a tennis ball (the bigger the slit, the easier it is to open Mr./Mrs. Ball’s mouth, so you can have a few with differing sizes to make the activity more challenging as students progress).

Students have to use their thumb and index finger to squeeze Mr. or Mrs. Ball so their mouth will open. Then students hold the mouth open and use their other hand to ‘feed’ the ball some buttons, round chips, etc. When Mr. or Mrs. Ball is full, just hold their mouth open and shake out the buttons to start all over.

Modifications

  • count how many buttons you feed Mr. or Mrs. Ball one by one

Cotton Ball Push

Turkey Baster

Students use their turkey baster to blow the items off of the edge of the table (note: make sure you use your thumb and index finger to pinch the end of the turkey baster). This activity is a lot harder than it looks! Students may need to hold the small end of the turkey baster with their other hand to ‘aim.’ Materials of different sizes (ex. packing peanuts, cotton balls, small foam beads, etc.) can be used to increase difficulty.

Modifications

  • blow the cotton ball into a certain area of the table (marked off with tape)
  • count how many items you can blow off of the table in 1 minute

Tweezer Pick Up

Tweezers

Students use their thumb and index finger to pick up various items (pom poms, cotton balls, beads, popsicle sticks, buttons) with the tweezers.

Modifications

  • have various items all mixed together and students use their tweezers to sort them into categories (type, colour, size)
  • count the items that you can pick up in 1 minute
  • count how many of each item there are as you pick them up

Fishing

Fish

This activity uses triple the hand strength/finger grip! First, place the fish on the floor and have students stand when they use the fishing rod. Students must hold the rod in between their index finger and thumb and move the fishing rod so that the binder clip on the end touches one of the fish (this will be a test of hand-eye coordination as well). Once they touch a fish, students bend down and use their pencil-grasp fingers to open the binder clip and clip it to their fish. Finally, students use their index fingers and thumbs (on each end of the pencil) to turn the rod around and around in order to ‘reel in’ their fish (as the string gets shorter and shorter from being wrapped around the pencil).

Modifications

  • challenge students to touch the binder clip to a certain colour fish
  • see how fast you can reel in all of the fish
  • math: “We started with 6 fish and you reeled in 2. How many are left to catch?”

Firefighter

Firefighter

Students will love to be a hero and put out the fire on this burning building! Make sure to laminate the colouring page (or put it in a page protector) so that it can be used again and again. First, students colour in the flames on the picture with washable marker. Then, they dip their sponge into the small cup of water and use it to ‘put out the fire’ by washing off the marker.

This activity would go great with a Social Studies unit learning about community helpers or a Health unit on Fire Safety!

Crazy Straw Maze

Crazy Straw

This is another activity that can be surprisingly tough (especially with very bendy straws). Simply cut out some shapes from felt or foam and add holes in the middle. Students thread the shapes onto the straw and attempt to get them off of the other side of the straw by maneuvering the straw and shapes with their index fingers and thumbs. Note: Do not use crazy straws that make a complete loop (shown below), as the foam shapes will not be able to pass through this obstacle.

Modifications

  • name the shapes as you get them through the maze
  • put shapes through the maze in a pattern (square, then circle, square, then circle)
  • see how many you can get through the maze in 1 minute

CrazyStraws

DO NOT USE CRAZY STRAWS LIKE THIS —->

Hang the Laundry

LaundryStudents simply hang up baby or doll clothes onto a bungee cord or string. Ensure that students are using their thumb and index finger to pinch the clothespins open.

Modifications

  • hang up the laundry in a pattern (yellow, green, pink OR sock, sock, mitten)
  • math: how many people can you dress with the clothes that are on the line?

Hockey

HockeyA Canadian classic! Popsicle sticks as hockey sticks (use your index finger and thumb!), pom pom as a puck, and masking tape to make lines/goals.

Modifications

  • play in teams (you must pass to each partner before attempting to score a goal)
  • shoot to the goal on the other side of the table from behind the opposite side

Penny Flipping

PenniesLay all the pennies out in a line on the table (this works best if all of the pennies are the same way – all with heads showing, for example). Have the students flip the pennies over, one by one, using their index finger and thumb.

Modifications

  • use coins of different denominations and have students count the total as they flip (ex. for dime dime dime they would say 10 cents, 20 cents, 30 cents)
  • have students start at opposite ends of the line and see how fast they can flip all of the pennies over as a team

Tug of War

Rubber Bands2 students form an ‘O’ shape with their index finger and thumb (like the gesture for A-OK!) and hold the rubber band within the ‘O’ they made with their fingers. Students rest their elbows on the table, wrists bent, and slowly move their arms (from the elbow) apart. Try to make the other person’s ‘O’ break. Note: try to have thick rubber bands or bands covered in fabric so that they won’t snap and hurt the students. Emphasize that students use caution – we aren’t trying to hurt each other, just make our fingers stronger!

Beading

BeadsHand-eye coordination, hand strength, and fine motor skills are rolled into one. Students can take home whatever they make in this station, which is a bonus!

Modifications

  • use your beads to make a pattern
  • practice tying knots in your string
  • count the beads as you thread them

Mazes

MazesLaminating or putting mazes in a page protector means they can be reused many times.

Pom Pom Sort

Pom Pom SortStudents use their thumb and index fingers to pick up the pom poms and put them in the corresponding colour-coded tube. This is also a great way for students to learn their colours.

Modifications

  • primary-secondary colours: have pom poms in the primary colours and tubes in secondary colours. Students have to put the two primary colours into the corresponding secondary colour tube (ex. red and blue pom poms go into purple tube)
  • math: I had five blue pom poms at the start and I have one left in my hand. How many pom poms are hiding in the tube?
  • quick pick up: how fast can I sort all of the pom poms?

Ring Toss

Ring TossDecorate your paper plate rings any way you want. You can make a base for the paper towel tube post or have one student hold the post while the other partner throws the rings.

If students make their own paper plate rings, cutting the holes in the plates is a great hand-eye coordination and hand strengthening exercise.

Hope you enjoyed my OT kit!

What OT activities do you incorporate into your classroom?

Until next time,

-KKF

pre-kindergarten ideas

I did my ECS 100 Field Experience in a Pre-Kindergarten classroom, and the teacher had so many great ideas that I would love to steal!1) Pictures of the students as attendance.
When the children come in, they find the picture of themself and stick it to a large board with velcro. At this age, some of them have a hard time distinguishing which picture is theirs, so this is a beneficial activity. The teacher says that as the year progresses, children have to match their picture to their name.

Image
2) Names on felt squares.
The teacher cut out differently colored felt squares and placed each child’s name on a square with tape. In the morning, they have to find their name square on the rug and sit down on it. Again, this helps them recognize which name belongs to them (and allows a teacher to decide where the students will sit – talkers/wigglers at the front, chatters not beside each other, etc.).
Image
3) Ouchie/ Boo-Boo book

It has actual band-aids in it! So cute. Also, the teacher mentioned that the kids love these books because they are the stars.

4) Guess Who? book

Then the next page shows a front-facing picture of the child with the caption “It’s _______!”

5) Other themed books.

-My Favorite Candy
A blank line where a picture goes and the words “‘s favorite candy is…” and underneath a wrapper of their favorite candy.

-Halloween Costume Parade
A picture of the child in their costume. Underneath, the words, “I see ______. He/she is a ________.”