It has been a little while since I've posted because September, is, well...September! It has been extremely busy at school trying to figure out our new program (I know I've been teaching Kindergarten for 10 years, but everything feels new this year). Ontario is phasing in Full-Day Every-Day Kindergarten, and we are in our second last year of implementation. By next year all schools in the province will have FDK (Full-Day Kindergarten), formally known as E.L.K.P (Early Learning Kindergarten Program). Our previous Kindergarten models included every-day half-day, or all day (alternating days). With this new model of education, our cap size has gone from 20 students for 1 teacher, to 30 or more students (there really is no cap) to a teacher and an ECE (Early Childhood Educator). We are partners in educating the children. However, not only does our day schedule, or class size look different, the 'program' is changing too - while all our curriculum expectations have remained the same, it's play and inquiry based. This means learning, problem solving, collaboration and discovery is happening at a variety of open-ended learning centres around the classroom. We had to purchase new classroom items to accomodate for this, and build upon what we already had.
Here are some of our new materials and centres. I love our new carpet, it's big enough to fit all the little bodies, and I love how it defines the space for them. I got creative with our table configurations to make room for all students to sit at the same time (for instance, during lunch time). I simply turned around the edges of our traditional hexagonal tables. I also love my new book shelf which has 4 centres in one. The front holds small books for self-selected reading and storage for bins at the bottom. The back holds big books, storage bins and a felt board at the bottom. Another new centre is our 'Sensory Bin' which encourages oral language development through the exposure to various tactile experiences. Right now, it's full of pasta, I wonder what I'll put next...
We are slowly learning how to use these centres in the classroom.
While there is lots of learning happening at centres, there are still formal lessons and Guided Reading and Writing activities (such as journals) happening. I just cannot abandon that part of the teaching/learning process! I grew up as a learner in structured environments, and was taught how to teach, in Teacher's College, in very organized, controlled and structured environments as well, so I guess I'm learning too (new ways of looking at the learning process and my role in it). It's not that I don't like change, but I believe in BALANCE between work and play (even though they often are not separate entities in K), and also BALANCE between student-initiated and teacher-directed activities, so I'm still negotiating my own feelings about my role in a play based curriculum.
All of our Kindergarten classes are combined JK/SK's and we have been doing some name work as part of our exploration of 'Me', especially for the little JK's. Every morning when the littles come in the door, they find their apple name card and practise reviewing skills before announcments. I find this a calming way to start the day as the students are all engaged and focused for that short period of time before the National Anthem and office announcements.
We also made Rainbow names and Nature names. The latter was especially fun since we got to go on a nature walk to collect different forms of nature. We brainstormed what 'nature' was and made sure to point out that we were not picking living things out of the ground. On our walk we found cut grass, twigs, flowers, leaves, rocks, pine cones, etc. We came back to the classroom and sorted our findings and then applied them to our name. We showed the kids how to roll the grass between our hands (as if making a long string of spaghetti), then glued it to our name. Usually, I'm not entitled to show children's names, but this little guy is the son of a dear co-worker of mine, and she okayed the use of his work here.