Our Kindergarten Journey

Our Kindergarten Journey

Sunday, September 14, 2014

New School Year, New Chapter of Learning

I'm so excited to be back to blogging after taking a break this summer! From getting married to sharing my practice as a co-instructor at York Region District School Board's "Great Beginnings" week long workshop for teachers and first ever Designated Early Childhood Educator workshop with my lovely friend, Heidi Theis, I wanted to share a more personal post to kick off this new school year since I've spent a lot of time reflecting and getting ready for all the exciting new beginnings. Over the past two weeks, I think it's safe to say that many emotions have come into play when adjusting to this new chapter along my own learning journey:
Before: Part 1
Nervous. Excited. Overwhelmed. Inspired. Anxious. Happy. Confused. Energetic. Frazzled. Open-minded ... 
(to name a few). 
Before: Part 2
I have found myself connecting these varied emotions to my own personal goals as a professional this year and in particular, in relation to this exciting new road I've embarked on as one of the new Full Day Kindergarten teachers at a brand new school, Robert Munsch Public School. 

Coupling my nervousness with the reminder to stay open and reflective in my practice is something that I want to keep at the forefront of my work this year in particular for many reasons. To shed a brief light as to why, a new school means completely new students to which I have had no previous relationship with (yet!). Having always been used to our Junior Kindergarten students becoming our leaders once they enter Senior Kindergarten, this has been my first exciting challenge thus far since I've reminded myself many times to slow down and truly get to know them as individuals, their interests, previous knowledge and experiences and diverse abilities. Moreover, a new staff, new environment, new community and new routines has all-in-all been a tad overwhelming but at the same time, incredibly inspiring and full of excitement. That being said, over these past two weeks I've continued to remind myself that flexibility, transparency, openness, and reflective practice is key to my success and that of my students this year as we grow and learn together. With every new challenge that arises, I look truly forward to tackling it head on and with a growth mindset, since I believe this mentality to imperative when setting myself and students up for success. 

This year, I look forward to all the collaborative opportunities, networking, dialogue and support from my colleagues (both in person and online) and in particular, the ongoing dialogue with Heidi as we both continue to transform our practice as part of our new chapters. My feelings of excitement, inspiration, happiness and energy derive from the foundation Heidi and I built over the past three years spent together in our FDK classroom. While we are no longer together in the same space or school, our relationship continues to blossom in many new ways, shapes and forms outside the walls of our classroom. I am truly so fortunate to call her such an incredible friend and inspiring professional since I feel that it is because of our experiences together, that I can begin this new chapter with confidence, take new risks and always reach for the stars!

Our whole group meeting area:
- Morning & End of the Day meetings
- Math Congress
- Mini Lessons
Dramatic Play Area
- currently set up for a kitchen
Cubby Area and Art Gallery
Open Area
- different writing tools
- mirrors will be secured on the back of the shelf
To that point, I called on Heidi to come and assist me and my new partner Ashley Vieira, when setting up our new classroom environment at the end of August. After much reflection, dialogue and several room configurations later, the vision and beliefs that support my teaching philosophy took shape in this new space and we felt confident in the "second home" we had designed for our new students. We ensured that the space was set-up to invite curiosity, encourage risk-taking and promotes the idea of having the space act as the "third teacher" in the room. 

Building and Construction Area
- open-ended building materials
- clipboards / pencils
Discovery and Exploration Area- natural and found materials
- collected artifacts
Self-Moderated Snack Area
Reading Corner / Quiet Area

Discovery and Exploration Area
- open-ended materials
- loose parts
After seeing many other inspiring educators blog and post beautiful pictures of their classroom set-ups and designs, I wanted to share a similar post but also shed light on the reflections and dialogue behind it. 

Open-Ended Materials
- for Math Exploration, Free Exploration

Over the last two weeks, Ashley and I have witnessed firsthand the power of letting our students help make the space their own and make their "mark" in many different ways around the room. We couldn't feel more excited to see how the space has already sparked their creativity and wonder, and we know that upon our daily conversations, new transformations will continue to take shape as part of this wonderful new beginning!  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A special celebration

How can I possibly sum up the last three years with my incredible, passionate, and caring partner, Heidi Theis, in just one blog post? It's next to impossible...however, I do want to share how our end of the year "Celebration of Learning" was special to our students and to us as a teaching team. 

As Heidi and I began taking down all the amazing memories and learning moments that occurred within the walls of our classroom before the end of the school year, we couldn't help but find ourselves getting very emotional. Over the past three years as a team, we have had the wonderful privilege of coming to "work" everyday and not only being partners to each other, but also partners with our students along their learning journey's. We couldn't feel more thankful to know that we got to work with these incredible, capable and creative young learners at Lorna Jackson Public School. 

As a way of celebrating this incredible feeling, Heidi and I decided to use our Rainbow Inquiry, and in particular Our Rainbow Tree of wishes, as a vehicle for creating this year's "Celebration of Learning" whereby students and their families could come together to help create special memories of their time Kindergarten in their hearts as well as in ours! 

So....we created the idea of a "Rainbow Release!" 

Each child got a balloon to signify their special place in our "class' rainbow" and together with their families, they wrote a wish! 

After tying their wishes to their balloons, we all gathered in the middle of our soccer field and, after sharing a few emotional words, let our balloons go! It was truly wonderful watching them all fly away in the sunlight! Such an incredible moment to be a part of! 

For us as a teaching team, this "Rainbow Release" helped signify new beginnings for us as both Heidi and I as we venture off to brand new schools in September. Our time together is not over however, but rather just beginning! We look forward to all the new learning, exciting new chapters, and inspiring young learners we will meet along the way! 

A special message to our students' families:

Thank you for taking the time to come and be a part of our special celebration and for helping create magical memories with your child and with us as their teachers. Thank you for believing in us as a teaching team, entrusting us with your child, and opening up your hearts to us as we supported your child as they began their learning journey! We truly hope that the "wishes" have reached the rainbows and we couldn't be more thankful for the time we had with your children. They have helped shape the educators we are today! Wishing you all a safe and happy summer! 

Yours truly, 
Jocelyn Schmidt

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What can you see? Who can you help?

This post will highlight, with great excitement, an invitation to play for the 2014-2015 school year with the launch of a second chapter of our "What Can You See?" collaborative inquiry project! 
For those of you new to my blog or perhaps unaware of what the "What Can You See?" project was all about, here is a snapshot of how it began and where it took us! Last year, some teachers within our Professional Learning Network (PLN), came together over a simple inquiry question that encouraged classes to compare their environments: "What can you see when you look out of your classroom window?" Classes photographed what they could see (e.g. park, basketball nets, tarmac, etc) and created a way to share their view. iBooks, Quicktime movies, comics, and blog posts were ways that classes displayed the things students could see within their schoolyard and these multimedia presentations were used to compare and discuss the similarities and differences between school environments! Over the course of the school year, some classes connected even further in conversation by engaging in SKYPE calls to further their questions and comparisons of their schoolyards. As the seasons changed, students learned about the differences in a schoolyard in Ontario versus schoolyards in Mexico, Hawaii and other locations. Safe to say, it was an incredibly rewarding project for both teachers and students involved! Teachers tweeted and blogged and students talked and shared their comparisons. Some of the interactions are posted on the collaborative blog space created for this inquiry project. You can read all about our journey by clicking on the link: http://wecanseeprojectsharingspace.blogspot.ca/

To shed light on how the second chapter of this project emerged, a reflective discussion was had between some close friends, Heidi Theis, Angie Harrison, Carmela Sita and myself whereby we reviewed how the project went and noted the benefits it had on our learners in a multitude of ways. Within our conversation, we discussed how we wanted to engage in the project again with our new group of students in the Fall. However, we feel a need to take this concept one step further - in doing so, we discussed ways to include a social justice lens that is appropriate for young learners. 
So here is our proposal to act as an invitation to play for this upcoming school year (2014-2015):
Join us in a collaborative project that will engage your students and make a difference.
At different points throughout the year, ask your students to create something that will show others what they see in their schoolyard. Use a format that works for your learners. eBooks, Quicktime Movies, Comics, picture books, audio files or any other method that is easily shared virtually.
Next, with your learners think of a way they can help. It can be as simple as helping people in your school or community. It might be participating in a food drive, helping in a seniors’ home or your class might be a part of a global project. One suggestion, your class could write picture books for your local Children’s Hospital. Your class might find an environmental issue to support or your class might respond to a crisis that is happening in your community or in the world.
A blog will be used to share what you see and ways you are helping. If you wish, you can connect with classes and SKYPE and talk about how you are helping others.
Classes could participate in this project once, or several times throughout the year. They could show progress of one way they are helping or they might show different ways they help throughout the year.
Our hope is this project will help students understand that we can all make a difference in the world. (no matter how old we are or where we live)
Here are some resources that might help launch the project.
If Everybody Did by Jo Ann Stover
How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer
Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
Lily and the Paper Man by Rebecca Upjohn
Resources for helping:
Next Step: 
Indicate on the blog that you are interested in participating. Use the blog post links to your class’ view of the schoolyard.  
Tweet using the hashtag #WCYseehelp

Sunday, June 15, 2014

"This is my Rainbow Collage!" - J.S.

Last week, we received the most lovely surprise Monday morning! One of our SK students, J.S., had eagerly pulled out of his communication folder his very own "Rainbow Collage" that he had co-created with his family over the weekend while visiting his Grandma and Grandpa!

This "Rainbow Collage" had such a unique connection to our inquiry because J.S. had planted special "rainbow chard" in his Grandpa's garden! Immediately upon presenting his creation, J.S. made reference to the read aloud story we previously read entitled, "Planting a Rainbow" by Lois Ehlert!

"Here I am carefully measuring the spaces with my hand print.
Now it's time to plant the seeds!
In about 4-5 weeks, the "rainbow" chard will be ready to harvest.
Plant stems may be yellow, gold, orange, pink, violent, or variegated
along with the standard red and white. It can be used in your salad to
add colour and tastes yummy!"

The collage depicts the steps J.S. took to plant the seeds and during his presentation, he answered many questions and shared his own predictions of what will happen next!

Thank you to J.S. and his family for sharing this lovely collage with us and for continuing to update our class with photos of the growth and changes in the special "rainbow chard!" 

Here are some updated photos as changes start to happen in Port Dover! 

Notice the different coloured stems? Exciting!
We can't wait to see what unfolds 
in the next couple weeks!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"The rainbow trees get saved"

With much excitement brewing within the walls of our classroom over the past few weeks, this post will highlight a new path of our Rainbow Inquiry whereby our students' have taken us from a scientific exploration to one that is imaginative and taps into our students' creativity through oral language, authentic writing opportunities and through visual arts! 

I would like to dedicate this post to our students who have collaboratively co-planned, co-created, and co-constructed our class' very own...


Moreover, I would also like to share the following story since it was created by our students as part of an interactive writing experience. We hope you enjoy reading and witnessing our rainbow tree come to life!

"The rainbow trees get saved"
Written by the students in Room 126

Once upon a time there was a rainbow tree. This tree lived in a rainbow forest (M.P). All of the trees were rainbow trees (D.K). 

One day, there were regular trees in the forest and somebody dropped fruit by accident. The fruit went inside the dirt and it went all the way to the rainbow forest. Then, the trees became all the rainbow colours through the roots. An apple became a red tree, orange became an orange tree, lemon became a yellow tree (T.B).

 Then, one tree got magical and it grew rainbow leaves (S.R). It had special powers and any tree that was brown, that magical tree made it rainbow (D.K). And then, it started raining

 The sun came out again and then a rainbow came out of the leaves and it went way up into the sky so everybody could see it (J.S-SK)! 
But then, one day, a guy came and chopped down three of the rainbow trees (E.S)! The magic disappeared and there were no more rainbows up in the sky (T.D)! 

The guy took those three rainbow trees with him (E.S) because he was trying to steal the magic (T.D)! Then, a bunny came and planted a magic carrot so that the rainbow trees can grow again (P.B) but it did not work (H.R)! 

One day, a group of Kindergarten students found out that these trees were missing so ... (Ms. Schmidt) they made their own rainbow tree! They painted it white first and then rainbow colours (E.Sk).

 The next day, they went to the rainbow forest (S.R) and they dug a hole and put the rainbow tree in the hole (T.D). 

All of a sudden, more rainbow trees started to grow (Z.P) and lots of rainbows appeared back in the sky (J.S-SK)!