Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Building Blocks for Kindergarten: A Summer Journey

All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten
- Robert Fulghum

To start off my summer, I had the wonderful opportunity of teaching the Building Blocks for Kindergarten program in my classroom! This half-day school and play-based program focused on building literacy skills, personal and social development, and supporting students' transition into school for September. With this objective in mind, I knew I wanted to continue shaping my classroom environment into a space that was alive with authentic learning experiences that not only engaged each child in their thinking, but also inspired them to become an eager and enthusiastic learner. Given that the program only ran for the month of July, I decided to create a holistic goal for myself to achieve; I wanted to provide every child (all 16 of them) with multiple opportunities to ask questions, explore their imagination inside and outside the classroom and foster that enthusiasm towards learning. Looking back on my experience I am so excited to say that I believe every child left the program feeling successful, eager, independent, creative, and most importantly, excited to come to school in September! 

With documentation being my focus for this upcoming school year, I used this program as my own "building block" for new and refined practice! Given the students strong interest in being able to write their name, I decided to use this as an opportunity for students to self-assess and reflect on their work with my feedback  - and WOW were the results amazing! To give one brief example, part of our morning routine was having each child "sign in" their name on a name card. We kept each of their name cards on individual rings so that they could flip through and see their progress daily! By giving the students the opportunity to look back on their work and see how far they've come was very rewarding for them and for me as a facilitator!  I purposefully met with students individually to review their name ring, discuss the letters in their name, and talk about their work daily and provide them with descriptive feedback that they could later work on at the different play-based, open-ended activity centres. From our one-on-one discussions, students were able to articulate the letters they think they wrote well and others that they wanted to work on. They were able to comment on whether or not they wrote them in proper order or mixed them up; just to highlight a few examples. This was an excellent planning opportunity for me to then further guide and provide those students with other play-based experiences to practice their name, build upon their goals and celebrate their successes! This trickled into student requests to represent and write their names in different ways and using different materials! From "water painting" their names outside on the pavement to using different natural materials to build their name (e.g. sand, paint, rocks) in different ways, each opportunity helped build ownership and confidence as each child showcased and took pride in their unique identity! 

All in all, and with the above only being a snapshot of my own professional reflection, I am confident that these students with start their educational journeys on a high note because of this program! This opportunity has given me lots to think about with regards to how I want to enhance my programming for the fall and I truly look forward to sharing my journey with you!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Our first school year comes to a close

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential of turning a life around.
- Leo F. Buscaglia

On this Canada Day long weekend, I couldn't help but find myself looking back on what was an incredible school year! While the last day of school was a busy one, my DECE and I still took the time to enjoy and reflect upon our accomplishments as a team. From the amazing artwork produced by our class of artists to our professional program planning around trees and connecting it to all learning areas in the curriculum, we have witnessed the beauty of teamwork and fostered a wonderful sense of partnership which has truly transpired into each of our students' love of learning.

First and foremost, we would like to thank our students for not being afraid to take risks in their learning and for being open-minded when experimenting with a range of materials, environments, and tasks. This led to wonderful learning opportunities and discoveries beyond what we had anticipated! We wouldn't have had the year we had if it wasn't for you!

A sincere thank you also goes out to our families who did an amazing job supporting their children in their learning journey's this year. We truly appreciated all of your support inside and outside the classroom - it helped make our year a great one since the children loved every minute of your involvement! (e.g. Surprise Readers, volunteers, field trips, etc).

Lastly, thank you to our colleagues for their support and for helping to make our first teaching year a memorable one! There were many times we sought advice, recommendations, opinions, and ideas from our colleagues and we truly appreciated their patience and same dedication to learning and student success!
 
 We wish all of our students and families a safe and happy summer!