Sunday, 2 December 2012

Is There Room For Santa In School?

It's December 2nd! Already?! Can you even believe that?

I'm having a hard time believing it myself. I mean, 3 whole months of school-gone. Wow.

This is without a doubt-the most exciting time of the year for me. It is in part because I am ridiculously child-like. There is nothing that excites me like Christmas time. I can be in a foul mood-and walk into a mall that has Christmas music blasting, too many people per square foot and sparkly lights and 30 foot Christmas trees throughout-and I am instantly in a good mood. I love it.

During this season there are several things that are a give in for me. They are:

3. I will bake. I am not a baker, normally. I love to cook-baking is just not really my thing. For one-if I bake it I eat it, and I try not to eat too much of it but that just doesn't fly. I have no self control.

2. Hanson's Christmas album. Ha. You read that right. No need to re-read. It's called "Snowed In" and it makes me feel about 13 years old. Do you remember how exciting Christmas was for you at 13? Really stinking exciting. I had a very public love affair with Taylor Hanson-and listening to their Christmas album is just gonna happen for me. Every. Single. Year.

1. I'm gonna rub my Happy Christmas Attitude all over the place. Yep. I am. It excites me. Much of this excitement comes from the fact that I have 2 young kids. 5 1/2 and 3. Christmas is exciting for them. We have created wonderful, fun, festive traditions in our family-and I wait 11 months of the year to be able to see them come to life. Not much ruins that for me. Not even a Grinch.

With all of that being said. Here is my disclaimer.

Tomorrow-in our class, really awesome stuff is going to happen. Before school even started this year-each of our children's parents were asked what celebrations they celebrate and if there is anything they DO NOT celebrate. NOT ONE indicated that they don't Celebrate Christmas. Furthermore-upon intense investigation of my own-each of the children in our class mentioned being excited about Santa coming. This news really got me ready.

I know how completely lame this all must be for those of you who couldn't care less about the old guy, and it couldn't be more annoying for those of you who don't celebrate the same way as I do-BUT. This is why I titled this blog post "Is there room for Santa in School?"

I get excited about Santa because I feel like children grow up too fast. I love the opportunity for children to use their imaginations, and believe that something truly magical is happening in a world where they hear, and often feel bad things happening. I think that most of the toys on the market today-have robbed our children of being able to truly use their imaginations. I believe that society's pressures for children to be seen and not heard-has robbed them of good old giddy childhood. I believe that no matter what our religious beliefs, no matter our stance on "lying to our children"-imagination is something to be respected. It is something to be encouraged-and in our world today-it is something to be celebrated.

I must tell you. My 5 1/2 year old has one of the biggest imaginations known to man kind. I know that sounds ridiculous but I say it and truly believe it. He can take a kleenex and turn it into something that occupies him for an hour. I constantly hear him telling his sister "No Amelia-it's not real. You have to imagination it". :) When given the opportunity to watch tv-he normally lasts 7 minutes-and quickly leaves to go to his bedroom to build something fantastic with his lego. He is continuously thinking of new things to build with his lego. He never needs to be told "Build a house. Build an air plane" He just has the imagination required to pick up the blocks and construct. He also has a teacher this year that I can tell really encourages his enthusiasm for using his imagination. I am grateful.

This was so wordy. I would love to hear your opinions. I know we will all share different views on this-so when you voice them-know that I respect yours. Whatever they are-and whatever the reasons. I do respect them.

I will follow up tomorrow with some photos of what goes down.

Here's a hint: Our class brainstormed new ideas for our dramatic play center last week and it is now closed for construction. Here is what they decided:


Thursday, 22 November 2012

So About Those Math Bins....

Alright. I got tremendous response in regards to the math bins. I got many emails saying 'Rah, Rah we toot the math bin horn too!' and 1 email that said 'you blow. and so do the math bins'.

Ha. Well those were my words but you get my drift? Lots of positive. 1 negative. That's okay. I respect a different opinion, and I welcome your opinions.

I did have many people ask if I could post about some of the different bins we do. So I will.

This was one of the child directed bins. There were materials and numeral papers in the basket-they decorated their numbers. Very hands on. They loved it. The materials were ones that we didn't have in our art center at that point in time, so they were exciting and fresh!

This was a memory game. Number concentration if you will.
This was the other child directed bin that week. So we had the Grab A Handful bin, the memory bin, the decorate your number bin, and the other teacher directed bin was a trace the hands or paint the hands bin. Each child traced or painted their hands onto paper, and then had to stick one sticker on for each finger. Ta-Da! Math Bins made easy and engaging.
This week-our Math focus is Patterning. We are trying to assess whether or not the children can copy, create, extend and ID a pattern. It is going well! These math bins are a huge teaching tool for me. As in-I am learning so much from them and am so glad my new teaching partner brought this to the table.
About patterns--
This is the teacher directed bin that I am using to assess this week. The children are using dyed pasta to create pasta pattern necklaces. This is going over really well. I`m not sure who wouldn`t want to make a necklace. Not me.
There are obviously 3 more bins this week-but I haven't taken pictures of them yet. I`ll get around to it.
BTW. Do you all know how to dye pasta or riceÉ (and while you`re at it, do you know how to shut off the french on my laptopÉ, because I am really tired of seeing that É instead of a question mark).
I did not colour that pasta. My teacher did. I am not sure how she did hers, I think I heard her say vinegar but will check on that. I have always done mine like so:
bunch of pasta or rice in a ziploc bag.
2 tablespoons of food colouring.
1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol.
Shake that bag up. Lay it out on wax paper, on a cookie sheet to dry (the rubbing alcohol helps speed this process along), and VOILA! coloured pasta or rice, and the experience I have had with this recipe-the colour never bleeds onto skin or clothes! Yay!
Chat Soon :)

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Getting In Touch With Our Feelings

I'm sorry.

No good relationship can be sustained on this little communication. I've been a bad blogger.

tisk. tisk.

Seriously though. I've not been here in almost 2 weeks. That's a record for me. Not one I'm proud of-and I promise I have thought of it 113 times per day-since I've been away-I just, exhausted myself and needed to take a pause.

Pause is over.

I'm here with a cute little something something we did with our class 2 weeks ago. We had kind of put some focus on discussing feelings, and being special and individuals. We read some books, we had some discussions. We read "Chrysanthemum" by Kevin Henkes. What a super book. This was my first experience with the book-and it's a little wordy-but they sat still for it-and they got it.

My new teaching partner (I am not sure when I will stop calling her "my new teaching partner") had the book, and she read it to the class. I love it. Good read.

We also read a couple of other books about feelings, and being special. We talked about these things in a circle, and then we put out my iphone at the easel with some music playing. We told the kids to paint what the music made them feel. This is always an interesting activity that can be done several times through the year, with different types of music.

Here are some great ones: (excuse the crappy iphone photography. I promise one day soon I will start remembering to act like I know how to take pictures again.)

Yep. You read that right.
Swiss Cheese.
That's why my job rocks.
Tis the season.
Smart kid-since I had on Hanson's Christmas Album (Snowed In) at the time she painted this.
And yes. Hanson. Mmmbop.
CHECK THIS SONG OUT I made the mistake of mentioning the movie this was from while this girl was painting. I only say it was a mistake because I like to let them figure it out on their own. Makes for better art. But nonetheless I didn't and she painted the character from the movie. :)
Great movie. Better message.
I suggest to take your easel to a new level of interest-you add music. I know many classes have music playing in them at other times, but I suggest special music near the easel, to entice the children to paint something. Rather then just filling a paper from edge to edge with colour.
I'll be back soon don't worry.


Monday, 12 November 2012

Math Bins.........

Okay, I said the dirty words.

Math bins.

I don't like the way it tastes in my mouth either-so if you gasped when you read the title of this entry, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

If you didn't gasp, and you said "ooooooh, gotta click this linky dink, to gather me some ideas to stuff into my math bins" Give yourself a fancy pat on the back.

I'll tell you why I think "math bins" are dirty words.

Misleading. Those words mislead my brain to think worksheets. lame. uber boring. non-engaging.

You know what they say about ASSuming ;)

I will be honest. My new teaching partner likes her math bins. When she suggested we do them in our class, I died a little inside. BUT. BIG OLD BUT.

Today was our first day using math bins, and let me tell you. I love them.

Here's how it works in our class.

4 different coloured math bins. 4 different coloured peer groups. 2 teacher directed activities, 2 child directed. Math bins last 7-10 minutes.

4 different activities that target our learning focus. Basically, our learning focus is whatever we need to get assessed. Each group does one math bin per day, the following day we rotate activities and after Thursday, everyone has had a turn at every center.

Are our math bins optional? Not really. Are they full of worksheets? NO!

This week we are focusing on Number Sense. 1 to 1 correspondence and I.D. numerals and counting.

So here's the activity I led today.

Each child reaches into the basket of squares, closes their eyes and pulls out a handful of tiles. They then count their tiles and record their catch on their paper.
Did everyone seem engaged? yes. I made it like a game. I got excited about hearing them count to 17 or 8 or whatever they pulled out of the basket. I also encouraged them to "beat their own record".
Now-I think I like this for the 2 biggest reasons of 1) the activities are engaging. We plan them with that in mind. The kids have to be interested in doing the centers, or they wont be serving a purpose anymore. AND 2) They only have to sit and do them for 7-10 minutes per day. Its a quick little window, that helps them build stamina for sitting at a table, and for allowing us a brief little assessment period per day.
The other teacher directed activity this week is hand prints. They stamp their hands on paper, and add one sticker per finger. They count to 10, and it's a great illustrator of whether or not they get the 1 to 1 correspondence.
I know this post was a little wordy. I'm sorry.
I will keep you posted on some of the different activities that we implement in our math bins. I was not excited about this idea at first, but with a little conversation between my partner and I, I quickly started to see the benefits.
Today as we implemented our first math bins session-I REALLY saw the benefits.  Which is why I will pat this ELK program on the back once again.
Two minds are better then one. Bouncing ideas off of one another, trying them out and then reflecting as a teacher/DECE team, is absolutely an integral part of this program, and today proved it! :)
The program is only as strong as the team implementing it.


Saturday, 10 November 2012

Remembrance Day

Always a tough one.

Remembrance Day is one of those that needs to be explained to curious minds. It has to be. They are able to hear it, they are able to ask questions about it-and even if you think you can get away with not explaining it (although I'm not quite sure why you would want to try), they WILL ask why people are wearing red flowers. And yes-you should tell them the truth.

I have a 5 year old of my own. We talked about Remembrance Day quite a bit leading up to Friday. Friday at his school-and at many schools (including the one I am employed at) was the Remembrance Day Assembly. It is meant to be a quiet, and respectful ceremony to honour.

I wanted my own son to be prepared for the silence so I did talk to him about it. We listened to "highway of heros" by the Trews, about 300 times leading up to the day. It is a song he has heard a kajillion times anyways, as I have a slight addiction to the fabulous band. I'm sure you all know it but if not CHECK OUT THE SONG.

We talked about the words and what they meant. He gets it.

In our kindergarten class, we worked on the concept of Remembering people who fought in the war for our freedom. We read this:

I didn't know how this book would go over. I have seen it in the bookstores for years. I have never bought it so was glad when my partner said she had it! I read it to the class- and wow. They sat still. They listened. They absorbed.
Great resource to add to my own collection! :) Love trying books on for size before investing!
We also designed this fantastic wreath to take to our Remembrance Day Assembly. Our reading buddies helped us.

We made it using a poppy pattern, red tissue paper and a black pipe cleaner. The kids love when they get to take a break from reading with their buddies and just have some good old craft time.

I think they did a beautiful job-but perhaps I'm bias.

I also caught some boys in the block center, making connections to real life.

Normally I discourage the war play-but given that this took place 5 minutes after our assembly-and they built a tank with soldiers and one boy said "i just want peace" I let it go.

Does everyone agree that they aren't too young to talk about the importance of remembering? How do you help kids remember?

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Opportunities are Endless

So. This is a follow up to the blog I wrote on how annoyed I get with block center problems. You can find that post here if you missed it.

Today in our class (by the way-I have a new permanent teaching partner since all those big changes. I lucked out again with someone fabulous!) the boys got silly with lego-so we brainstormed things we could make. They decided based on the ideas in the book I made-that they would build an office building.

This is the worlds most amazing office building, built by them:

As you can see-they posted some 'stuff' to the outside of the building once it was complete. The 'stuff' was the people and things they said were missing from their building. They knew that office buildings hold things. I asked them what kind of things, they said "people, bosses, money, computers and computer guys"

I encouraged them to make some of these things. They headed to the craft center and got to work.


That is a janitor in case you can't tell. Holding a broom.

These pictures really got me happy. First of all-look at that detail. Drawn in blue because the boy who drew it explained to me that our school has a boy janitor so the office building should too. Also-the broom. Awesome.

Second of all: and this is a big second of all:

We want them writing right? a common way of thinking is that they must sit at a table and write journal entries daily. So mythical. Writing is writing is writing is writing. At this age-practice practice practice. So I want to save this? I'll take it all down and glue these bits of writing samples into their journals. We need to get kids interested in writing-how do we do that if we make them write about things they don't engage in.

I love that this center time providing them with the chance to be creative and build. The blocks is their favorite center (or at least it is where they like to spend their time). So why not give them a chance to write about what they want to. Here's some more examples:

This is the secretary and the assistant boss.
I drew a girl and when I asked them who my girl could be they said "the boss" which I loved coming from a bunch of boys! :)
Also-thought it was really intelligent that when we placed our people and stuff around the office-they wanted to put the money they drew in the same room as the boss. Genius!
Anyhow. I am loving the learning going on in this center lately. I love that it is getting them writing. I'm looking for ways to incorporate more math in this center-aside from the obvious ways of counting how many blocks it took to build. Would love your opinions.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Trouble In Paradise

You know I love my job right?

Good. Didn't want you to forget how much I am enjoying my time in the kindergarten room.

Can I tell you that it's not always sweet tea and butterflies?

It can be fun, stimulating, humorous, and it sure can be sweet tea and butterflies-BUT. It can be challenging. It can be tiresome. It can be the sound of wet hands on a balloon. (That's my analogy for really freaking annoying.) That probably sounds harsh. I don't mean it to be, and despite the fact that at times it seems like a little mosquito is buzzing in my ear while I'm in my tent trying to fall asleep-I still don't swat those mosquitoes! :) Instead-redirection is the key. I know that when the play turns to silliness-and we have boys rolling on the ground in the block center-they are secretly screaming "CHALLENGE ME!!!" So. Challenge we do.

The block center is where most things that are annoying in my opinion, happen. These things aren't actually annoying. They are just annoying to me in the moment because I want them to be learning something-and they don't seem to want to do anything but call each other "poo poo head" and make helicopter gun noises. This is where the next idea came in.

We have been struggling in the past 2 weeks with a lot of nonsense going on in the blocks. Lots of gun noises (no weapons at school), lots of name calling in a really silly manner, lots of rolling around, ruining other peoples creations!

We thought this could help solve our problems. (We were right)

It's a book-full of structures. Many structures from our world (The Eiffel Tower, London Bridge) many structures from our country (Scotiabank Place, The CN Tower), and a few structures from our own community (Our school, our local bank). I found pictures on the Internet, and made a little book. Laminated and did a little binding, and added it to the block center. So far- SOOOO good. They knew automatically what they should do. Look through the book-decide-plan-build! It is really amazing to see what they are coming up with!
It has been super for teaching cooperation naturally because they all decide on one structure they want to create and work together to make it look like the picture. They also have been asking questions like "What is this one?" I got to explain to them it was an arena in Ottawa-that housed one of our Canadian Hockey Teams! We talked about how long it takes to drive to Ottawa from where we live-and we talked about how mad their dads were that "the hockey players don't want to play hockey unless they make like 150 bucks a game-so they are having a break."
Seriously. That happened. I love their interpretations of adult conversations.
We also discussed which structure was the biggest. Two kids told me about when they saw the CN tower on TV.
I gave my camera out again-and had a child take a picture of the hotel they were designing. There is a picture of a hotel in the book-and they did an amazing job recreating it!
The hotel in the book was very pyramid-y looking. (That's my own word-but you can borrow it if you see fit). I was amazed at their ability to get that right in their own structure. I'm not sure why I continue to be amazed by these things-because I know that we have a class full of little geniuses!
Try it. If you are having annoying problems in your block center-I beg you try this approach. It worked for us-and I'd bet it would work for you too.
Can We Build It? the book is mosquito repellent!