Classroom Configuration: Muscles For Days

After I felt my room was presentable enough to take pictures, here I am finally getting around to showing you my classroom set up for this school year. It was nice not to have to move rooms (since I have for the last three years) and it took WAY less time to set up than normally.

Here is what I like:
– neutral tones so the students’ art work will be the focus (woooooooo Reggio inspired!)
– not too many hidden corners so I can keep an eye on what’s going on (I’m about as tall as a kindergarten student, so I had barely any height advantage here people.)
– a clean carpet to start off the year (thanks to my fabulous coworker for bringing her Bissel in and doing it for me!)
– as many non plastic containers as possible (again, fist pump to Reggio inspired.)
– areas that can be easily changed for different purposes (table can be for art one day, flipped on its side for block exploration the next day, and turned back up again for play dough the next day)
– a small teacher dedicated space (if you can’t fit it in one small space, just throw it out. You won’t miss it. I promise.)
– lamps lamps lamps everywhere (fluorescent lights aren’t good for anyone.)
– area rugs to define spaces within the room.

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Goin’ With The Flow, Uncomfortably: Following Student Interest

I love Reggio. I love project and inquiry based learning.
Wait.
I love the IDEA of those approaches. Executing them in the classroom is a whole other story.
I’ve been taking baby steps to becoming more Reggio inspired in my classroom. I feel fairly confident about how to set up the environment, how to have self-managed projects in the classroom, and how to document effectively enough to point out areas or student interest.
It is at that point where the most difficult part has been for me as a teacher. Learning how to go with the flow with student interest while tying it into the provincial Program of Studies has been…tough. Let’s not sugar coat it.

Giving the freedom to students as they inquire about a specific subject gives me an uncomfortable feeling inside because I’m not sure where we are going with it. But that’s kinda how I know it’s working.

I know I’m not the first person to come to the conclusion that if you had a class of 10 students, going with their interests would be a lot easier. If 5 of them take a liking to flowers you have put everywhere in the classroom, you could probably convince the other 5 fairly easily to learn about flowers. It would lead to a perfect investigation and exploration of a million areas within the subject. What I’m struggling with now is finding the common points in student documentation, and making it enthusiastic and engaging for 51 students. To make it even more difficult, I have an AM program and a PM program. In the example I’m about to talk about, it was interest from the AM class that lead to our investigation about boats. However, I had to convince the PM class to explore the same thing as well, without them even having been there for the initial discussion of boats.

I wanted to take a really good shot at going with the students’ interest about one subject this year. We were creating some bookmarks for our library when I drew a boat in my example.

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Lots of other students drew boats too.

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I set up a self-managed area with rocks and tiles for the students to make boats.

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We were also inspired by a student who went on a cruise over the break and painted us a picture of a boat.

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Another student made a boat out of modeling clay.

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It was kinda staring me in the face that we could get on board with the ships exploration. Pun TOTALLY intended. And again, that uncomfortable feeling came creeping in because is hadn’t obsessively planned a boat unit that would go on for 3.5 weeks detailing every activity the students would do. Meep!

I thought exploring sinking and floating would be a great place to go from here. We put different objects in water and basically loved this activity for days and days.

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The students basically came to the conclusion that if the objects were made of wood they would float, if they were made of plastic that was hollow enough it would float, and that heavy items sank.
Even TALKING about this with students without giving them the answer was difficult for me. Again, uncomfortable feelings by GUIDING the students to their own conclusion rather than saying it and having them remember it.

I then decided to pull the rug out of under them by using material that wasn’t plastic or wood. I have them tin foil to make boats. We tested them with marbles and the whole nine yards, and they loved it.

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A few students then came to the conclusion that the bigger you made the boat, and the longer, the more marbles it would hold. When they were adding the marbles, counting in French so high was difficult for them so I used me of my favorite apps called “My Blackboard” to record some winning results.

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But what to do next? Uncomfortable feelings were killing me yet again! I figured we had so many conclusions and ideas swirling around in our heads that we had better organize our ideas. We used Popplet to organize items that float and sink when we tested them.

We talked about what a word web was, and did an example on the smart board together. The students paired themselves up and in their groups of two, each student tested three items from the class. They got to choose if they would like to retest the items from our previous experiment or if they would like to test new items. I helped them write the words “sink” and “float” in French. They took individual pictures of each item they wanted to test. Then all I had to do was teach them how to make a new bubble out of the primary bubble and how to insert the photo. Almost every student caught on quickly and needed little assistance from me. I stayed with them to enforce the French vocabulary when they were experimenting.

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We’re will we go next? I’m not sure. But let me tell you, those uncomfortable feelings will be accompanying me for sure.

Making Number Posters: The “Digital Reggio” Way

There were a few people on the amazing #kinderchat talking about having students make posters in the classroom. I’m sorry folks, I can’t remember who exactly I was chatting with! I’m pretty sure it was @hechternacht and @Havalah but there could have been more, so sorry if I forgot you!

I got to talking about how Reggio and Reggio inspired classrooms have most items made by the students. No more trips to Education Station! I love the idea of having students make items for the classroom in order for it to be meaningful. We did it last year and I wanted to continue this year.
BUT I wanted to make it a little more “digital”.

Last year, I made numbers for the wall with my students by helping them trace numbers with pencils and then having them glue items on top. I plan on making our alphabet for the class with the help of our artsy hands and creativity, so something different was needed for numbers. So I guided the students towards completing the math activity with the help of the iPad.

I printed out the numbers 1 through 10 on cardstock. I also put a sticker in the top left hand corner (inspired by the Handwriting Without Tears program we are currently using parts of) so that the students didn’t confused 6 and 9 when they were working on their project.

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I put them in a basket. The students chose a number and then had to go around the classroom and find that number of items. They then had to take a picture of the items next to the number.

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Once they had done all 10 numbers, I printed the photos out, mounted them to black cardstock and taped them to the cupboard. Boom. Home. Made. Digital. Reggio. Number. Posters.

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I would have liked for them to be a little lower on the cupboards for students to see easier, but as per usual, space is at a premium in a K class.
I think they look smashing however! I hope the students do too.

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I think this is such a great math activity to do with all students. I would maybe make another set of cardstock numbers with super hero stickers, or boy friendly stickers, to get the reluctant boys a little more enthusiastic about the idea. All the students enjoyed the activity however, so I guess that’s a thought for the future.

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.