Monday, March 2, 2015

Always Learning; Four-Ever Inspired

February is a month that celebrates family, love and friendship! Of all these things, I am extremely fortunate to have so many inspiring colleagues that are also wonderful friends. Within the realm of education, practices and pedagogy are constantly evolving and it is because of these friends that I continue to push my own thinking and learning, reflect, and take risks for myself, my program and with my students. Whether it be lunchtime conversations, after-school workshops or casual coffee dates, three friends in particular have allowed me to pave new roads in my journey which I couldn't be more excited about!


Trista Dutt, Joanne Babalis, Vanessa Bianchi, and myself are all teachers, bloggers and passionate risk-takers who have enjoyed connecting as colleagues but also as friends, through networks like #CTInquiry: Connected through inquiry: A curious community of learners, social media (twitter, blogs), and in person.    


“Four-ever Inspired” was created out of these unique, organic and inspiring conversations and connections that I've been fortunate enough to have created over the last four years of teaching within the York Region District School Board. To begin this exciting new chapter, the ladies of Fourever Inspired met at the Indigo Starbucks in Yorkdale Mall to brainstorm, collaborate and develop a plan for what we wanted our blogging community to be about...

A mosaic of creativity, learning and dreaming.


Each member of Fourever Inspired is colourful, creative, and dynamic in their own unique way. But...when together, the colours, creativity and passion that comes alive paints the most beautiful picture of collaborative learning.

-Vanessa Bianchi-
The Evolving Educator

Vanessa Bianchi is an educator for the York Region District School Board, who is currently serving as a Grade 5 Homeroom Teacher. Through various leadership opportunities, workshops, conferences and collaborative efforts with colleagues, she has gained an interest in building positive and collaborative climates within the school environment. This collaboration allows for the design of intriguing spaces for students and teachers to learn, as well as construct curricular expectations around student-interest and passions, allowing for a dynamic educational experience.

Vanessa Bianchi and I became quick friends while teaching at the same school for the past three years. She is an extremely passionate, dedicated and driven Junior/Intermediate teacher, and we discovered quickly that we had lots in common and shared philosophies when it came to teaching, friendship, love and life. Our journey together as educators and friends continues to grow as we bounce ideas off each other constantly, share the many celebrations going on in our classrooms, and seek outside learning opportunities to fuel our passions.

-Trista Dutt-
Kindie Korner

Trista Dutt has a degree in Early Childhood Education, as well as her Bachelor of Education in Primary/Junior divisions and Kindergarten Specialist. She is currently teaching FDK at Moraine Hills PS, where she is a K-2 Lead Teacher and Learning @ Schools Classroom. She is passionate about the early years and exploring the world of play- and inquiry-based learning.

Trista and I had the privilege of meeting each other four years ago when we both landed our permanent contract positions with the York Region District School Board. I think back then we already had inklings that we would be seeing each other lots in the future! We were fortunate to be involved in a collaborative Math Hub with our two schools at the time which led to some wonderful new learning as we began our kindergarten journeys. I was instantly drawn to how passionate and knowledgeable Trista was, how eager she was to take risks in her learning and try new things within her program. We soon came to realize that we had lots of mutual friends within the field and I feel very lucky to have her within my Professional Learning Network.

-Joanne Marie Babalis-
TransformEd: Transforming our Learning Environment into a Space of Possibilities

Joanne Marie Babalis is a Teacher-Librarian, Early Years/Inquiry Lead Teacher, PhD student, and Kindergarten Additional Qualification instructor at York University.  She is passionate about designing spaces that inspire inquiry-based learning and creative innovation for twenty-first century learners.  Her blog, "TransformEd: Transforming our Learning Environment into a Space of Possibilities" www.myclassroomtransformation.blogspot.ca continues to reach educators throughout Canada and beyond. With each post, she hopes to make visible the power of inquiry, as well as the strong potential of all learners.

I was first introduced to the incredible work of Joanne Babalis by my old teaching partner, Heidi Theis who was an avid follower of her blog. After visiting Joanne's first Open House session, I witnessed firsthand the endless possibilities that classroom environments and the kindergarten curriculum can have on our youngest learners and how the practise of inquiry-based learning can have such a profound impact within the walls of our classrooms.


And so the journey begins...



We look forward to having you follow our journey!

Reflectively Yours,

#4EverInspired
xoxo


“Four” more on the ladies of Fourever Inspired and the unique stories that brought them together, including those essential “work bag” items...

...visit Vanessa’s post, “Fourever Inspired: A Collaboration”: http://www.vanessabianchi.com

...visit Trista's post, “The Start of Something Truly Inspirational”: http://www.kindiekorner.blogspot.ca

...visit Joanne’s post, “4Ever Friends”: http://www.myclassroomtransformation.blogspot.ca

What's in my work bag?

Kate Spade Spiral Notebook, Michael Kors Glasses, iPad Air with iPad Air Smart Cover, MacBook Air, Learning in the Early Years (ETFOpley professional resource), Classroom Keys, Staedtler Coloured Pens, Sharpie Highlighter and Pen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Enjoy the show! - Part 2

Keeping the momentum of a socio-dramatic play area has been at the forefront of my thinking since the co-creation of our classroom airport two years ago (click "Airplane and Airport Inquiry" under "Categories" to read posts pertaining to this incredible inquiry). I often find that these learning spaces within the classroom change the most frequently as students' interests and experiences change quite rapidly from week to week, month to month.  



When looking at the high interest and level of engagement within our current dramatic play inquiry of our classroom's movie theatre, I couldn't help but wonder if it was an appropriate time to seek out a real-world excursion to support our students' interest in movie theatres. For me, field trips are an opportunity to take the learning outside the walls of our classroom, provide a real-world context and experience that students may not be exposed too previously. Furthermore, field trips provide students with the opportunities to verify their understandings and wonderings, and most importantly, drive their thinking and learning forward when back in the classroom. In my experiences and speaking from previous years, my old partner Heidi Theis and I used field trips at various points in our inquiries; 1) to meet the "experts" as a way of supporting our inquiry question and give us a new "spark" when back in the classroom to further explore or, 2) to act as a celebration of our learning and seeing firsthand what is was we've been learning about in action (e.g. visiting an airport and sitting in the cockpit). I feel both opportunities give students an authentic experience that is meaningful when purposefully planned and well thought-out.


Image from Google Images
To support "Room 109 Movies," we began discussing with students who has in fact been to a real-life movie theatre and who might not yet have had that experience. To me, this was a perfect entry point to see if an excursion would be meaningful for my students at this time and for the purpose of driving our students' interests further. I'm happy to announce that we have an exciting field trip booked with the Roxy Theatre in Uxbridge, Ontario whereby students will get a firsthand look into how a movie theatre operates, how popcorn is made, where they play the movies from (projection room) and the different roles movie theatres need in order to work. We will not be seeing a movie, but rather focusing on the inner workings of this type of entertainment our students and families enjoy with hopes that it will allow us to dive deeper into our role-playing, understanding and knowledge within the walls of our classroom.


Image from: http://roxytheatres.com/gallery/listpics.asp
To share this exciting news with our class, I wanted to showcase images of the Roxy Theatre and that of a movie theatre our students might have more familiar with (e.g. a more commercialized and modern SilverCity) and see what they notice and perhaps draw some comparisons. The special thing about the Roxy Theatre, is that it has that "old-time flare" of what movies theatres used to look like and I anticipated students being quite shocked with its outside appearance. 



Here is what they had to say:

What do you see? What do you think this is?

A.O.: "A movie theatre!"
E.R.: "I agree with A.O. - it is a movie theatre because I know movie theatres look big like that."
C.M.: "I think it's a movie theatre too because I see pictures of movies."

What makes you think that? 

A.O.: "Because it looks like one!"
E.R.: "Movie theatres are big places."
C.M.: "Movie theatres always have pictures of movies outside."

What clues from the picture are you using to help you?



A.O.: "Because it has two movie posters there that you can watch on the outside."
C.L.: "There's a sign called "The Roxy" and I think  that's the name of the place." 
O.S.: "I see people lining up and coming in."
M.K.: "I see words on top and numbers."
E.E.: "I see lots of lights."
I.C.: "I see traffic lights and roads - maybe it's on a street?"

I wonder what the people are doing that are lining up?

A.O.: "I think they're going to buy tickets because you need tickets in order to go to the movies."

Lets check the next picture and hear what you're thinking. 
(Students were shown a more close-up image of the "ticket booth" from the Roxy Theatre)


Image from: http://roxytheatres.com/gallery/listpics.asp

D.C.: "I see a radio inside there. I think it's for talking."
I.M.: "They had to go there to get inside to watch the movies."
E.E.: "I think that's where they get the tickets from because it has that radio thing."
C.L.: "It says 'TICKETS' so it has to be where they get the tickets from."
E.R.: "This reminds me of our ticket agents and our tickets in our movie theatre. Maybe this is where they go if someone forgets their ticket."

If we're thinking this is a movie theatre...what do we think this is? (Students were then shown a side-by-side image of the two movie theatres)




E.E.: "They're really different. They have different colours."
E.B.: "That blue one is small and the other one is really big. I've been there before and it's big inside."
A.O.: "That's the SilverCity in Newmarket - I've been there before too. I saw Big Hero Six there!"


After our discussion, I revealed that we will be visiting the Roxy Theatre and that it is a really old theatre but I've yet to disclose what we will see inside the theatre. It was obvious from their reactions that our students are VERY excited to be seeing firsthand how movie theatre's operate! 


Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Enjoy the show!

Over the last few weeks, our socio-dramatic play area in our classroom has undergone a transformation from a very successful bakery to a movie theatre! The reason I wanted to highlight this on the blog was because it has truly allowed for our students to build on their imagination through play, incorporate rich and meaningful learning opportunities for both literacy and mathematics, and lastly, "spark" our students' ownership over their learning space! It is truly inspiring to witness our youngest learners so eager and excited to take charge in their learning and, as an educator, it couldn't feel more rewarding to support them throughout the process!


Here are some highlights from our transformation; all of which have been led by students' interests and ideas and supported by us as a teaching team:

After brainstorming ideas for our dramatic play area, students then voted on the one they wanted! 
Movie Theatre was a clear win! Students enjoyed analyzing our collected data and even made a list of students who had yet to vote due to their absence! It was wonderful to watch them take such pride on ensuring the decision-making process was inclusive of all students!
Students began brainstorming as a team what our movie theatre needs and what sorts of materials we will need to create! A list of movies that they wanted to have playing in our theatre was also co-created!
After posing this question to students: 
"What special jobs does our movie theatre need?" 
students came up with the following:
1. Ticket Agent
2. Ticket Taker
3. Popcorn and Drink Maker
4. Customer
5. Poster Maker
Afterwards, we brainstormed what materials we could use that were already in our classroom that could help our movie theatre feel more "real"! Our students' imagination continues to amaze us as they thought of 
some of the following materials:
- small cups and large cups
- variety of cubes (linking cubes and wooden cubes)
- baking trays
- tissue for the napkins
- clipboards

A special thank you to Jennifer Tompkins, an FDK Teacher at Bond Lake Public School, for inspiring us to use linking cubes for our popcorn! Our students have easily named the "yellow" ones as buttery popcorn and the "white" ones as plain popcorn!
Students have truly taken on the various roles throughout our movie theatre! Their dialogue, exchanging of ideas, teamwork and oral language skills have really helped make our theatre come to life!
So much so, that it has officially been named "Room 109 Movies!" and has a list of "rules" that we follow based on our prior knowledge!


 As part of showcasing each movie at our theatre, we really make it official by watching a short clip of the "featured" movie using our classroom's tech cart! This has really made our theatre feel real since once the clip is over, students practice leaving the theatre and tidy up as a team before 
the start of the next movie! 


Since our movie theatre was becoming so busy and popular in our classroom, we problem-solved as a team and came up with the solution that the movie space has room for only 6 chairs! In doing so, one SK decided that by keeping track of who has bought tickets (using tally marks), we can tell people when the show is "SOLD OUT!" - how awesome is that! Whoever is the "Ticket Agent" now has this responsibility added to their job! Moreover, our "Popcorn and Drink Maker" is in charge of reading each ticket order and choosing the correct size container (small or large) which has given us the opportunity to begin to explore mass and capacity!

We hope that this transformation leaves you feeling inspired to think about the ways you integrate literacy and mathematics into your dramatic play areas of your classroom! 
We hope you enjoyed the show! 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

What is a Superhero? What makes a Superhero special?

After taking a break from the blogging world for the past month or so, and in part of celebrating the new year, I wanted to finally showcase and share our documentation from our students' Superhero Inquiry (since it's been on my very long "To-Do" list for a while)! It was most definitely an inquiry that was fantastical in nature, however, it was so empowering for our students to take lead on answering each other's questions and wonderings and using their imagination to drive their thinking forward! 
This inquiry has tied in perfectly to our "What can you see? How can you help?" global inquiry project since our students made the connections to "heroes" in our community! Police officers and Fire Fighters were at the top of the list and it was incredibly meaningful since many of our students' family members are part of those professions! 

Moreover, as a teaching team, the Visual Arts was a perfect opportunity to celebrate their imaginative thinking by creatively designing their own Superheroes and describing the powers they uphold! We used Sharpies and water colour crayons to create these representations of each students' unique visions of themselves as a Superhero! We have selected a few products to show and celebrate with you!








Superhero rules:
Be Kind
Be Brave
Be Extraordinary
Be Strong
Be the best you can be!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

What can you see? How can you help? - Our First Skype Call!

A few weeks ago, our class had the wonderful opportunity of connecting with another Full Day Kindergarten class from Keswick, Ontario as part of our "What can you see?" global inquiry project! 

This was most certainly an exciting announcement since our students have had very little exposure to what "Skype" is all about and seemed quite puzzled by the fact that they would actually be able to see, hear and talk to another class over the computer!


In preparation for our very first Skype call, we wanted our students to come up with three questions that they would like the students in Mrs. Harrison's and Miss Sanders' class to answer so that we could gain a deeper understanding of their school and where they live! Here is what we came up with:

1. Why are there so many "graders?"
2. What are the workers building near your school?
3. What are milkweeds?

Here is what we learned about their school, Lake Simcoe Public School:

1. We learned that graders are scrappers and their job is to go across the ground the scrape the dirt. It goes inside the truck and later goes out the truck.
2. We learned that the workers are building houses! Lots of houses! So far there will be 4 new roads and lots of new houses.
3. We learned that milkweeds were near their pond and monarch butterflies need milkweeds because they live on them. They are a type of plant and help with the life cycle of butterflies.


Here are the three questions Mrs. Harrison and Miss Sanders' class asked us about our school yard:

1. Why is your school called Robert Munsch Public School?
2. Why is your school look like ours?
3. Why do you have a park?


We had a lot of fun answering these questions and teaching our new kindergarten friends all about our school, where we live and what we can see! To conclude our Skype call, Mrs. Harrison and Miss Sanders' class came up with "compliments" for our class. Here are what some of her students had to say:

"I really liked your class."
"I want to compliment your class for talking to us."
"I would like to compliment your class for your book so we can read it."

Some other interesting facts we learned about our friends at Lake Simcoe Public School was that their school is 13 years old even though it looks a lot like our new school. We also learned that they have a new highway that goes to their school and more and more people will start living near their school in all those new houses. 

As a way of consolidating our new learning about Lake Simcoe Public School and our first Skype call, we asked our students what they enjoyed about this experience! Here are some of their thoughts:

"I liked how we could see them on the screen and talk to them!" - C.L. (SK)
"I liked when I got to ask them a question." - A.O. (SK)
"I liked how they reached us about their school." - C.D. (JK)
"I like how they have a pond too!" - E.B. (SK)

This first experience and exposure to what Skype is all about not only gave our students the opportunity to connect with other students their age, but also allowed them to begin to gain an understanding of different communities and how they can be similar to our own. We truly look forward to connecting with Mrs. Harrison and Miss Sanders' class again over Skype very soon as we hope to compare our ponds and the changes that we observe! 

Since this year's "What can you see?" project also extends to "How can you help?", this month, our class decided to get our school registered for the York Regional Police's "Holiday Heroes" Campaign and donate non-perishable food items to our local community for the holiday season! This is one way we are showing kindness and making a difference in our community!

Photo from: http://rmpsyr.com
A sincere thank you to Mrs. Harrison, Miss Sanders' and their students for opening up their classroom and school yard to us and teaching us something new about the world around us! From our class to yours, we look forward to growing and learning together this year! 

Please be sure to visit our "What can you see? How can you help?" collaborative blog to read more on this exciting project! #WCYseehelp

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Tenzies!"

Over the past year, I have had and continue to have the wonderful opportunity to learn and "play" many times alongside an incredible friend and inspiring colleague, Heather Jelley in our full day kindergarten classroom! Heather is one of the Elementary Math Consultants and part of the Early Years Team in the York Region District School Board who comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience in relation to Primary grades and the Full Day Kindergarten program. Not only does she infuse her passion into everything she does, but her expertise within the realm of early mathematics is infectious and has truly transformed the way I look at and teach "math" within the walls of my classroom everyday! 

That being said, I have had a ton of fun integrating a variety of "Math Games" into our comprehensive math program that I have learned from Heather! Based on my students each year, I ensure that the introduction of each math game is purposeful, meaningful and, most importantly, responsive to their needs as young mathematicians. Most recently, I highlighted a personal favourite called, "Don't get the red dot!" on the blog! If you have yet to read all about this incredibly exciting and highly engaging game, please click this link: http://ljpskindergartenteam.blogspot.ca/2014/10/dont-get-red-dot.html

I'd now like to highlight a second Math Game that is equally as popular and incredibly engaging called "Tenzies!"
Purpose: 
For students to build upon their subitizing (the ability to recognize the number of objects at a glance, without having to count all the objects), one-to-one correspondence (each object being counted must be given one count and only one count. The number word spoken and the object counted must match up), and conservation (the count of the object stays the same whether spread out or close together) skills in a hands-on and engaging way!


Materials:
All you need is 10 die (preferably all of one colour) - that's it!


How to play:
1. Roll all ten die and sort them by number rolled into groups. Whichever number has the most die is the "magic tenzie number!" Remember that number.

Modification: Avoid sorting and have students pick a number from 1-6 to be their "magic tenzie number."

2. Gather and roll all ten die again and when that "magic" number appears on a dice, take it away from the group and form a line. 

3. Gather remaining die and keep rolling; adding the "magic" number die when rolled to your "tenzie" line. 


4. Once all ten die have been lined up with the "magic" number, the player shouts out "TENZIE!" because they win!


The nice thing about this game is that it's really a competition within oneself to see how quick you can get "tenzies!" The more familiar and knowledgable students get at the early number concept of subitizing, the easier the game becomes! 



In particular, this game has been one of the best whereby I've noticed students gaining a strong, confident sense of the early number concepts mentioned above (subitizing, conservation and one-to-one correspondence). Making Math "fun" is so important when developing our youngest learners into mathematicians, and a game like "Tenzies!" is one where there's an entry point for every student and most importantly, every student can feel successful playing! 

I've created a set of "Tenzies!" instructions for you to download which were shared as part of our Great Beginnings session this past August for educators and DECE's. I've also linked the game to the Full Day Kindergarten Curriculum expectations. 


Here's to making math fun and using play as a vehicle for learning!