With all of the gardens beginning to grow now that nice weather has finally arrived, the students in our Full Day Kindergarten class are excited about plants, both flowers and food. One of the children brought in pictures of her family’s food garden and showed it around the classroom. My teaching partner and I decided to change our dramatic play centre to a grocery store to capitalize on the students interest in the picture and how food grows.
We gathered all of the plastic food, made store signs, printed labels for shelving and went to the library to find books on the food groups. We also made up sheets for the students to print, or draw, their own grocery lists, as well as their own receipts. We set up after school, and today, we made a big “production” of opening our store. The children loved it!
The emphasis on play-based and inquiry-based learning in the FDK program has profound implications on learning outcomes throughout a child’s academic career. Here are several links to supporting play in the early years. http://earlylearningcentral.ca/?page_id=1192
The program has evolved with the introduction of FDK. Educators are more facilitators, listening to the children’s ideas for exploration (the emerging curriculum), placing materials out that are more exploratory–that provoke questioning and research to find out answers. When children are engaged during play time many skills are developing including reading and writing. Oral language is a huge premise in the entire program. Talking is most critical! Getting children to talk and model appropriate language is the foundation. http://earlylearningcentral.ca/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/literacy-30-used-mar-4.pdf . Here are some great prompts and questions to get you thinking about how to assess oral language and some self-reflective questions about the program in your classroom.
Initially in the school year rules and routines are established that need to be followed both in and out of the classroom. Some children have not been expose to a structured routine/environment at this point in their life and it may take sometime to get them to know the expectations. As they enter opportunities at various point in the classroom the ability to problem-solve, get along with others, share toys, ask for support is all part of self-regulation that will be needed for grade 1 and up and for the rest of their lives.
The two year play-based program provides children time to hone those skills necessary for life. When they enter the block centre or dramatic play they set their own rules and self-monitor how roles should play out. It is at this point they will have to regulate what appropriate behaviours (within the paramaters) are acceptable–they need to talk out disagreements using problem-solving skills, they need to share and/or take turns, ask for help when needed, and adapt to various situations in the day. Within the program the Educators model appropriate behaviours (some boards may follow programs like Second Steps to support), and provide ample opportunities for children to work on self-regulation at different points throughout the day.
In my experience it does take some time for many of the children to acquire these skills. They need to have a firm base of appropriate behaviours before they move up the grades. In my opinion when children don’t know how to self-regulate they take on less desirable behaviours and find themselves in trouble. In the K program it is important to build in the leadership skills by giving them roles and responsibilities, make them feel valued, and allow them to make good/positive choices. The structure of the program then changes are they move to grade 1 where they are expected to sit long for lessons, often more large group teaching occurs, and pencil/paper tasks are required for learning. I am a believer that the inquiry model is appropriate for all grades due to the fact that many skill sets can be acquired with a more emergent curriculum model. Having taught in all primary grades there are some great opportunities to apply the inquiry model into social studies, science where we can apply math and literacy skills and meet the curriculum expectations.
The New Learner:
When children leave the K program they are learning to be independent thinkers, ask questions, apply learning and ideas into different contexts–link the concepts into new situations, have a firm base on printing, basic math concepts, reading readiness skills, have the ability to appropriately problem solve, and understand rules and routines in a structure environment.
Although Full Day Kindergarten is more than half way through its third year of implementation, there are still several questions out there regarding the partnerships between a Registered Certified Teacher and a Designated Early Childhood Educator in a classroom working as a team together.
Two of the most important elements in working in a team are communication and trust. Communication needs to be open, honest and respectful between the educators. By having an open system of communication, both educators can feel comfortable to share thoughts and ideas regarding the planning for the classroom, how to implement those plans, and observations regarding the students. By trusting each other, educators can allow each other to plan and implement activities he or she thinks the students will enjoy.
In the classroom that I work in, we try to take time before school everyday to discuss what we have planned together. We have developed a relationship (built on open communication and trust) so that when one of has an idea that we think the children will enjoy, we can talk about it and then plan it out. Sometimes, we write out a plan for activity and just ensure it is put into the daily planner. In a busy Full Day Kindergarten class, there are days where there isn’t alot of time for discussion. If it is one of those days, we just write our notes/plans out for each other and discuss them when we can. We trust each other to implement activities, even if the other educator isn’t sure it will work with the students. We also trust each other to give honest, yet constructive ideas after activities are done, and suggest possible changes to the activity, if the children didn’t find it engaging. Neither of us is there to evaluate or supervise the other. By sharing our thoughts and ideas respectfully, we are able to trust one another to ensure that we can work co-operatively, and value what each other can offer to the program.
This is a monograph about getting started with inquiry. There is a list on the last page that gives 6 tips on how to get started with inquiry http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/CBS_StudentInquiry.pdf
This great line….
Today I had an opportunity to read through some research on why documentation is important to student learning. In the attached article http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/CBS_Pedagogical.pdf there is some great reference points about how students learn and think and how we as teachers extend our understanding of documentation as we discuss, share and collaborate with colleagues. Another topic that was interesting was peer feedback. I tried this informally late last year and when I felt they were ready. I also tried a form of strengths and next steps (one star, one wish) in my literacy assessment. It was a great opportunity to have a conversation about the student work. Again, I did this in late February. I was amazed at how they were able to share not only what they are good at, but where they need to improve!!
Another important part that stood out the most for me was the accountability. We are constantly defending the play-based learning approach to parents, the public and what better way to display learning through prompts, pictures, and questioning. Display student work with their dialogue, questioning. Have their portfolios out and accessible for them to refer back to, display learning over time–history from previous years. Create a communication board on inquiry and show students engaged in learning! Have a read and enjoy!
Here is a link to some video resources on : Flow of the Day, Inquiry, Observation & Documentation, Play-based Learning, Self-regulation, the Learning Environment, Literacy Throughout the Day and Numeracy Throughout the Day. http://www.edugains.ca/newsite/fulldaykinder/videoa.html
Halloween is a great time to use objects from children’s lives to capture their interests in learning. Educators can pull in several aspects of this holiday for play-based activities, without making it a “theme” within your classroom. In our Full Day Kindergarten room, we have been focusing on the “big ideas” in the FDK curriculum and fitting in aspects of Halloween we find appropriate.
One of the curriculum goals in math is measuring. Pumpkins are a great item to capture the children’s attention at this time of year. We brought in pumpkins of various sizes so we could measure how tall they are, how “around” they are and how much they weigh. We did this activity in small groups so we could adjust to each groups’ learning level.
For all of the groups, we used unifix cubes to measure how tall the pumpkins were. For the students at a high learning level, we first used different lengths of yarn to wrap around the pumpkin and then used an actual ruler (a flexible sewing one that could wrap around it) to find out the length of the yarn in centimetres to introduce them to the concept of centimetres. For the groups who have never done an activity like this and were only being introduced to measuring, we only used the varying lengths of yarn. For weight, we used balance scales to see which pumpkins weighed more/same/less and then we used an actual scale for the children who are at a higher learning level to introduce them to the concept of grams. We used a scale that most children have in their homes, not a scientific scale that older grades may use. We had chart paper with us, so that we could record each group’s findings and post them in our classroom. The picture is one example of the findings. We also drew pictures of the pumpkins and used these pictures to record our findings.
For the rest of the week, we left the pumpkins, yarn, unifix cubes and balance scales in our math centre for the children to continue to explore when they wanted. We also made sure we had small enough pumpkins for them to be able to handle themselves. Tomorrow, we will add a squash for them to be able to compare to a small pumpkin.