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!

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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!