Documenting in K: Using “MaxJournal” App

MaxJournal is one of the greatest apps I use on a daily basis. It really kicks the standard “Notes” app in the behind, working great for me for staff meetings, conferences, and classroom life.

MaxJournal lets you have different journals which is great for my obsessive need to organize.

Right now I have a few journals on the go:

The ones I use the most in the classroom are
  • Documentation: for class discussions and student quotes during the process of an activity and the final reflection of an activity.
  • Speech: to document speech difficulties for certain students and what activities we did during the day to work with a group of students, as well as examples of difficulties to show the speech therapist when she comes in.
  • OT: same thing as for speech.
Speed is of the utmost importance in any early childhood classroom, and I really like how MaxJournal boots up quickly. It automatically brings you to the correct date, you tap of the page, and type away.
While the students are speaking, indidivudally or as a group, I type what they say. Yes, you have to be quick at typing. One good thing is that while I am typing, it forces me, as a teacher, to just BE QUIET for a while and let the students express their thoughts and ideas without me interrupting, not giving them enough wait time, or asking another question.
(I had to blur the names out. Sorry!)
Another advantage about MaxJournal is that it allows you to tag posts. When I am documenting in my Speech and OT journals, I tag the students I was working with. When the therapists come in and ask about a student, I can search the history of the entire journal for that students. During meetings, I am prepared, efficient, and know what I’m talking about with 50 students!
The tags appear on the right hand side, which again, I had to blur out. You can also add photos!
When you touch the magnifying glass, you can type in the student’s name to bring up all their entries.
To print out documentation to make it visible in the classroom, I highlight it all and email it to myself. Then I can use only the sections I need and want to make my documentation.
Try it out in your classroom – you’ll LOVE it.

Provocations: Baby Steps

I’ve been using the centre table in my classroom as an experiment in the area of “provocations” for my students. From my understanding, a provocation is supposed to entice the students to explore a certain subject in their own way.

My reasoning for changing the centre table the way I did was two fold: 1) our social studies curriculum focuses on a unit called “I Am Unique” and 2) being able to draw a selt-portrait is an important achievement in kindergarten. I thought it would be great to have an area where the students could move pieces around a lot without worrying about being “wrong”. I printed out two 11×17 pictures of a body and taped them to the table. I set out some white rocks, red rocks, paper flowers, googly eyes, string, and some scissors with some paper (thinking the studens might want to make clothes for the people).

For two full days, I sat with two students at a time at the centre table and documented their movements, choices, and quotes using Pages on my iPad. In the next few days I will be making one with each of the students on an 8.5×11 cardstock sheet and they will be able to glue the items down.

Extending on the “I Am Unique” section of our curriculum, I bought some mirrors from Wal-Mart to put at the art station so the students can draw themselves.

It looked so beautiful with the sun streaming in today (not so beautiful were my gross fingerprints on the mirror…)

I then decided to put the numbers 1-10 framed in the centre table (after we were done having fun with those silly people!) in hopes of having some students want to come practice some numbers.

This is the first year I feel I’ve had enough SPACE in the classroom to actually change things and set up decent provocations so…baby steps.

Making It Inviting: Scissor Style

A huge part of being a Reggio Emilia inspired classroom is making the learning opportunities in the classroom look inviting.

I knew that with so many students, and a visit soon to be had by the OT, that I wanted to get started on scissor skills with my students right away. There are never enough hands and eyes to help correct students and help them use scissors properly.

I set up a few tables in my classroom to look like this:

I found the dark brown desk organizer at Value Village and used it to put paper and pencils in. I then made the scissors extra inviting by putting them in baby food jars with the labels taken off. I defined the space by getting some neutral coloured place mats from Superstore and placed the vase of flowers there for some inspiration (just in case!).

To make the pencils stand up and make them seem a little more useful, I put some kidney beans in the bottom.

The next day the students entered the classroom and saw this area, they were there in an INSTANT.

This speaks volumes as to how important the environment is. A stack of paper with a few pairs of scissors laying around would not have gotten anyone excited to practice cutting.

Of course, the excitement will wear off next week, and then I’ll put something different at the table to focus on something else.

Have you tried anything like this in your classroom?

#Kinderblog challenge: The Start Of The Day

Yes, I have switched blogging platforms three times now. Slow clap for me.

I think I’m finally content with this one, but don’t be surprised if I change it again.

OK, the challenge question is: How do your students start their day in your room? What is the routine they follow once they walk in the door? More importantly, WHY is this your routine? How did you choose it, develop it, refine it? What is the goal and purpose behind why your students do what they do? What do YOU do as the day begins?

I moved classrooms at the beginning of the school year. AGAIN. And, as luck would have it, my students enter the school from the door at the very other end of our hallway. Can you see it now? Tiny little kinders working their way through the hallway in their snowsuits at everyone’s knee level trying to make it to their locker. Yep. But that’s life so we’re going with it. We have shelves the students put their outside shoes on, they walk down the hallway to their locker, put their coat and backpack inside, and put their inside shoes on. They take their agenda book out of their bag and go inside the classroom.

On the floor there is a pink box. Their agenda gets placed in the box when they come inside.

They make their way to the Smart board, where this is waiting for them:

Sorry for the small picture. There’s a bath tub with their names inside bubbles on the Smart board. They drag their bubble into the bathtub, step off the box, and take a seat on the carpet to wait for our morning prayer and announcements.

Why is this the students’ routine? I like to make the morning as simple as possible for them. I have many students this year, and I find only having a few things to do helps us get organized a little quicker. You never know who’d having a rough morning and who’s going to be bouncing with energy. Also, when I go to an inservice with other teachers, I want to have a simple morning to! I like to sit, sign in, chat with my friends, and sip my coffee while waiting for our day to begin. Why wouldn’t students feel the same way?

How did I choose this routine? 1) My first year teaching kindergarten, I had little clothespin people the students would move on the whiteboard. It was a pain to change the name on them at the beginning and end of the year, the magnets would break off, the clothespins would break, someone would lose one by having it fall behind a basket or a shelf, and the students would forget to move it back at the end of the day, leaving me with that ONE EXTRA THING TO DO. It drove me CRAZY, so once we got Smart boards in the school four years ago, I jumped for joy and abandoned those frustrating clothespin people. 2)  I like having the students waiting and ready for me in the morning so we can start to discuss right away. Or do our “morning meeting” as most of my tweeps seem to call it.

What is the goal and prupose behind the students’ morning routine? To get everyone ready as quick as possible in order to get our fun and learning started right away! My morning students only come to school from 8:30 – 11:00 so time is precious. We don’t have time to start our morning off by everyone reading a book or playing in an area of the classroom. Depending on the group in the afternoon, they might start off their day by playing or reading, and then we can regroup after 15-20 minutes. If we had Full Day Kindergarten, that’s definitely how I would do it.

My day begins by plopping by bags down by my computer, then going around the room and turning on the 14 lamps I have in the classroom. I also open the drapes of our 2 windows, all while my computer is booting up. I hang my coat up, take my lunch out of my bag, lock up my purse, authenticate to the wireless network on my iPad and then sign in to my computer. I walk my lunch down to our staff room fridge, say hi to everyone on the way there and back, and then primp the classroom for the day (what extra supplies should be out? What needs to be cleaned quickly? etc.) I check my email before school, turn the projector on, and then before I know it, the students have arrived. On Wednesdays, I have supervision outside from 8:15-8:30, so I need to be ON TIME and READY those mornings.

My Previous Students: Not A Walk In The Park

This year, I have had quite the cheer team at school. Walking down the hallway, supervising at recess, or taking my students somewhere in the school, I am constantly getting waved at, cheered for, and hugged by all my previous students as they frantically flail their extremeties saying “Mlle! Mlle! MLLE! HERE! HIIIIIII!” It’s so great to know I built a strong enough relationship with each of my students that they actually want to talk to me the following school year.

I guess that happens when you teach kindergarten. If you stay at the same school for a few years, like myself, it’s likely that you know more than half of the students at your school. There’s a flip side to this though. My previous students are now someone’s new students. I have a relationship with these students, and their new teacher doesn’t. I know their parents and their new teacher doesn’t. I know what they need to succeed, and their new teacher doesn’t. I hear their new teacher talk about how much work this certain student is going to be, and I cringe. I hear their new teacher talk about how their discipline system isn’t working with this certain new group, and my heart aches. I hear their new teacher talk about all the struggles they foresee for the rest of the school year, and I want to shed a tear.

Don’t these teachers know that these were once my students too? That they were my morning and afternoon? That they were my responsibility throughout the day? That they were my students I had to sometimes discipline? That they were my struggle? And my joy as well?

When I hear negative comments about my previous students, all I want to do is say “Each group of students is unique and have very different needs and you need to lower your expectations and tailor your teaching and learning to them!” I thought this was a fundamental belief, shared among most teachers, but this year I’m beginning to doubt it.

I’m not saying having those students who needed more love, attention, and differenciated learning styles was a walk in the park. It was the complete opposite. I was stressed too. I was exhausted too. And I tried everything too. But the point is, I tried everything. I tried my best. We worked on what we needed to and pushed everything else aside. Isn’t that more important?

Are there other kindergarten teachers who feel the same way about negative comments regarding their previous students?