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Classroom Start-up

planning-for-learning

Now that the you have had the opportunity to meet your students over the last little while, you can reflect on your daily schedule.  Thinking it Through has a plan for both full and half days.  http://earlylearningcentral.ca/?page_id=1218 .  Some things can’t be changed due to the large schedules within your school,  but you can always try to move things around if they are in the best interest of your students.  Many schools are on the balanced day program with 3, 100 minute blocks of learning.  I always ensure that my students get 60 minutes or more in one of those blocks, and a second block of about 45 minutes.  The reason behind the time frames is to allow the children to explore the centre, select materials, create/manipulate, think and change, discuss, and share their learning without having to rush.  They are learning how to learn!

During these next few weeks circulating the room with children would be a great opportunity to discuss with them what is available in each centre, behaviours, and routines.  Remind them daily of what is available. 

I personally do not designate where children should be nor do I have number limits.  Children move freely to different centres as it sparks their interest.  My ECE partner or myself will call children over to work in small groups during this block of play the other circulates, documenting and asking questions as they pertain to our goals or big ideas for the centre.  All children are responsible for the entire room clean-up.

classroom-environment

When thinking about your classroom organization for the students attending in the next few weeks, the Thinking it Through document -Learning Centres booklet starting on p.9 makes some great points to ponder when reflecting on your classroom set-up. http://earlylearningcentral.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/TIT-aug-8.pdf

  •  The classroom should be warm and inviting to students, and the Reggio Emilia approach is to have the classroom serve as a “third teacher”. 
  • the environment reflects our values as teachers, and informs and shapes the kind of learning that will happen
  • consider positioning of centres (loud vs quiet), flow
  • include natural materials as much as possible-in my science centre I have pine cones, rocks, twigs, leaves just a few to start off and then the children will be responsible to help build this centre
  • think about large and small groupings-tables in my classroom  are incorporated into centres as well as for snack.  This way they have a multi-purpose and it reduces the amount of large furniture.  I also have no desk, but I have 2 filing cabinets one for my daybook and supplies and the other for files.
  • p. 15-17 poses some reflective questions to consider in classroom set-up
  • starting on p.32 some recommended learning centres are listed discussing there purpose, observation pts, material lists, furniture, and a suggestion for location.

In our classroom, my ECE partner and myself think about making it a “home like” environment where the walls have little commercial bought products, but picture frames handing where we will eventually display children’s art work.  I purchased a few plants, we are going to add some lamps to create a cozy feeling in our reading corner, and last year we had some birch branches cemented into flower pots and strung with white Christmas lights to add that outdoor feel to our science centre.  In the first few weeks we have just enough materials out, so that we can observe, establish routines in the classroom, get to know the children and their strengths, and to see what they need to develop their learning.  Some centres are permanent like building, but the items within it will change.

home-communication

Making the personal connection before school even begins may relieve some anxiety for those little ones entering a formal school setting for the first time.  Sending a hello note or a phone call to introduce yourself is a great way to break the ice. 

Myself and my ECE partner work together to create a JK handbook that informs parents about things like lunch/snack, clothing, communicating with notes, bookbag routines etc.  When they come for their first half day we discuss with parents all this information and answer any questions they may have.  Our board gives every new student a bookbag when they start JK. In this bag we place notes and reading books (started after Christmas) to ensure safe, dry delivery to home.  In the past I used very large ziplock bags with the child’s name on the cover or you can also purchase nylon bags from the dollar store that are more durable.

Regular communication is important for parents and students.  The later part of this school year I changed how I prepared and presented my newsletters.  Firstly, have always sent my letters home in the form of a book  to encourage reading.  The material in the letters no longer tell what we will be doing in the classroom over the month or so, but what we have done in our inquiry projects with authentic pictures and kid writing.  I do however leave a very small space to inform parents of anything like fieldtrips, an important upcoming event, but the newsletter now reflects the students and what they find to be important learning in our classroom.  It is more work, but the students just love it and it gives me an opportunity to sit with children and ask them what they want to include.  It is a good time for me to reflect as an educator on what the children have enjoyed and remembered doing.

gradual-entry-plan

Different boards have different plans on how to introduce the new JK students into the classroom setting. Some have individual meetings with the child and parent(s) scheduledwithin the first 2 weeks and then they begin as a large group by the 3rd week of September.  Last year I had a straight JK class so we had groups of children of about 3-5 come to school with their parents on a scheduled morning.  As the children played, we discussed with parents our classroom routines, bookbags, notes and newsletters, snack/lunch, indoor shoes, busing, starting and ending times, pick-up policy etc.  Basically, everything we included in our JK handbook was reviewed with parents. Parents also appreciated this time because they were able to ask questions, hear others ideas/concerns/questions and meet other parents in a small, intimate setting and children met a few friends before they arrived on the very first day.

We had a school tour, we assigned them their locker space, walked through where buses drop off and how/where they would enter into our classroom etc.

This year with a JK/SK split our plan so far is to have the SKs come the first weeks with no JKs present so that we can reacquaintthem with rules, routines and get them comfortable.  Then start having the JK students coming the following week in small groups of (3-5) for an hour with their parents. SKs will be in centres as we discuss/talk to parents.

preparing-for-your-students

As we begin to prepare for the school year for our students, reviewing OSRs and FairStart files might be a great way to connect.  A few weeks before school starts I always like to send a little card in the mail to welcome them to school with a short little note attached.  Another ideas may be to call the home to say hello or to touch base.

Reviewing the OSRs would help to recall any personal information you may need to know like custody concerns, allergies, medical information, emergency information.  Some stuff my be documented in the office with the secretary, but I always like to have this information handy in my files as well for quick reference. As well, there is another set of eye looking over things just in case something was missed.

FairStart booklets may or may not have been completed early on in February.  It would be good to ensure all students have completed this process and to touch base with those who have not.  Another helpful piece of data to have is the print out of the scoring sheet once the Facilitator (SERT) has entered the information into the system.  It tells you what services the child has been recommended to if need be.  Again, it is helpful information to refer to especially when your begin assessments and need to have a handy cross-reference point.