Thursday, October 1, 2015

"Curiouser and Curiouser": Favourites for Classroom Beginnings

September is always a month filled with new possibilities, new challenges, growing "to-do" lists, and excitement for what lies ahead with the onset of a new school year! That being said, the ladies of #4EverInspired decided to host another giveaway! This one in particular highlights the perspectives of each one of us when it comes to classroom set-up, inventory and our personal passions with hopes to inspire you as we make our way into October!

The nature of our lists are by no means exhaustive and are not meant to be perceived as a "must-have" guide to every classroom. Just as Alice fostered a intrinsic sense of wonderment and curiosity when stating "curiouser and curiouser" in Alice in Wonderland, we thought these classroom favourites would shed light on what each of us finds personally essential to our individual practices when designing and setting up a classroom.

Please note that my list is in no particular order or preference but a curation of my favourites for classroom beginnings!

1. Sharpie Flip Chart Markers

After receiving these in my Christmas stocking the year I first started teaching, I have not found anything else I enjoy more then writing with these "juicy markers" - which we call them in our class! They are thick, colourful and yes, juicy, and show up so nicely on any chart paper!  

2. Sharpie Pens

These are new to me and I absolutely ADORE them! Nothing beats a smooth pen that doesn't clump when taking documentation notes, writing cards, and more! They come in a variety of different colours too which couldn't be more fun! 

3. Classic Black Sharpie Markers 
(or any Sharpie Markers for that matter!)

Who doesn't love Sharpie? It goes without saying that black sharpies are most definitely a classroom staple in my room. They are a wonderful addition to any art studio and are of quality material that students get so excited to use!

4. Mirrors

Mirrors add an extra element of design in any classroom space! They add depth, perspective and light into any space and the Dollar Store has them in a variety of shapes and sizes (circles, squares - both large and small).

5. Sit Spots

These foam squares are the perfect addition to any outdoor environment and are reasonably priced at the Dollar Store for a set of four! They are durable, colourful and comfortable to sit on outside and students always enjoy personalizing them throughout the school year.

6. "Woods" Wagon

I was first introduced to this FABULOUS wagon during our participation in the Ministry of Education's Pilot Project last spring. Read more about it by clicking here ("A Week in the Forest"). This wagon is collapsable and very durable. It can be found at Canadian Tire (click here) and allows for materials to be easily brought to any outdoor environment! 

7. Clipboards (both Mini and Large)

Clipboards provide students with invitations to communicate their thinking in a variety of ways. Whether they are mini or large, they can be incredibly versatile tool to support learning in the classroom.

8. iPad with Google Drive and Pic Collage


Integrating a purposeful use of technology in the 21st Century classroom is key! An iPad is a wonderful teaching and learning tool to add to any classroom and as a teaching team, can be a great addition to tracking student success and making it visible!

9. Watercolours

After being introduced to this quality art material from my dear friend and colleague, Heidi Theis, I have truly seen the value in how art can be a vehicle of communication for students. Watercolours are easy to use, versatile and foster a multitude of learning opportunities for students (e.g. science, oral communication, visual arts, etc).

10. Plants and Greenery

Bringing the outdoors inside is a wonderful way to foster an understanding and respect for the world around us! Simple plants, flowers, etc can really liven up our classroom spaces and provide responsible opportunities for students!

Be sure to check out Instagram for your chance at winning one of four amazing prizes! My giveaway will include three of my all-time classroom favourites: 
1. Set of Sharpie Flipchart Markers
2. Set of 5 Sharpie Pens
3. Set of 10 Black Sharpie Markers
Don't forget to visit the other #4EverInspired member’s pages to read about their top-ten favourites for classroom setup as well and be sure to enter in our giveaway over Instagram! Read more about our lists and adventures by clicking on the links below:
Kindie Korner’s Trista Dutt: "These are a few of our favourite things"

Transform Ed.’s Joanne Babalis: "When in doubt, just add glitter!"

Evolving Educator’s Vanessa Bianchi: "A Curated Collection of my Classroom Favourites"

Reflectively yours,

#4EverInspired xoxo

Sunday, August 23, 2015

#4EverInspired Reunites at Louise Kool & Galt

With the onset of another school year quickly approaching and another summer almost behind us, I always find myself getting excited to plan my program and design my classroom environment after much dialogue and reflection! I like to look at each new school year as a blank canvas and thus, I often find myself making a handful of "wish lists" for a variety of new materials, opportunities, and ideas that I'd like to bring forth into my program in the Fall. 

When Joanne Babalis invited #4EverInspired to reunite and visit the amazing showroom at Louise Kool & Galt, I didn't waste anytime ensuring my busy summer schedule was free so I could attend!  Having browsed through their catalogue many times before, I knew this was going to be an exciting opportunity for all of us and we couldn't be more excited to share our discoveries with all of you!

Once we arrived, we were greeted by Cathy Elliot and Sonia Polak, two wonderful sales representatives that share a passion for creating classroom environments that ignite every learner's imagination, creativity, thinking and learning. 

They kindly lead us through their Showroom and highlighted a variety of different catalogue items from new furniture pieces and open-ended manipulatives to magnetic blocks and outdoor play materials. As we were tinkering and messing about, it was evident how versatile and engaging their materials were!

Here is a list of my top ten "Wish List" items for back to school (even though I could've easily shared over 100)! Each item title is linked directly to Louise Kool & Galt's website to provide you with more information: 
Item images are from

These wooden discs are the perfect natural material to bring learning outdoors! Not only are they incredibly versatile and cross-curricular (bug hunts, sorting, matching, counting, etc), but they would add much excitement to any outdoor learning environment!  

These natural building materials make a great addition to any building and construction area! They would also be great to take outdoors since they are light weight and come in an easy-to-carry cloth bag. 

Math is everywhere and I can only imagine the possibilities of bringing a simple material like these large wooden dominoes outdoors! 

This simple tool could excite many when exploring the natural learning environment around your school! While magnifying glasses are fun, this easy to use magnifying sheet makes it fun to look closely at a variety of different objects! 

I love the versatility and tactile experience of these wooden letters! From play-dough and pipe cleaners to using beads and even your finger, this would make learning the letters of the alphabet fun for all the senses!

This sand tray provides students with the wonderful opportunity to practice pre-handwriting skills, promote concentration and creativity! I love how it also has a built-in slot underneath the glass base where coloured paper and other materials can be inserted for added effect! 

These small but versatile building blocks could be added to any area of your classroom! From the light table to open exploration, they would be a wonderful add-on to any structure or design!

These incredibly sturdy trays can be used in a multitude of ways! From storing materials on a shelf to bringing them outside! They come in a round or square framework however, both have four sections allowing for a variety of materials to be on display. 

I actually won this professional resource during an outdoor education workshop this summer and couldn't put it down! I was so happy to see that it was available for others to purchase through Louise Kool & Galt since it truly explains how children benefit from learning and playing in outdoor environments. 

These outdoor learning materials would be an amazing addition to any outdoor learning environment when exploring water and different liquid materials! Problem-solving, experimentation and open-ended play are only some of the many opportunities that I can foresee when using these materials!

Not only did we get to see firsthand all of their incredible products, but it was also a wonderful opportunity to dialogue with the ladies of #4EverInspired once we left around how the materials at Louise Kool & Galt reflect the importance of creating strong foundations for student learning. 

Every corner of their showroom made visible their strong value and beliefs around creating spaces for child-centred, innovative learning experiences and we couldn't help but feel inspired! Don't forget to check out the other ladies of #4EverInspired to read about their top ten "Wish List" items by visiting their blogs:

For Vanessa's Top Ten list: "Too (Louise) Kool for School"
For Joanne's Top Ten list: "Royal Treatment at Louise Kool & Galt"
For Trista's Top Ten list: "Louise Kool for Back to School"

As a way of sharing our experience with all of you, Louise Kool & Galt generously donated four $50 gift certificates to give away with hopes of inspiring your classroom design and program planning for September! Be sure to check out our Instagram pages to read more about contest details and enter for your chance to win! 

Vanessa's Instagram: follow @evolvingeducator
Joanne's Instagram page: follow @joannebabalis
Trista's Instagram page: follow @kindiekorner
Jocelyn's Instagram page: follow @ourkindergartenjourney

A sincere thank you to Cathy, Sonia and Louise Kool & Galt for opening up your doors to #4EverInspired and giving us the wonderful opportunity to share your products with our readers! We truly can't wait to reveal the many exciting things in store for #4EverInspired this coming year!

Reflectively yours,
#4EverInspired xoxo

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Planning in FDK: An Ongoing Reflection

With this year coming to a close, it's hard to believe that it'll mark my fourth year teaching Full Day Kindergarten! As much as the ending of a school year is busy, I often find myself setting time aside to reflect on the year under the lens of what worked really well in our program, what are some things I want to rethink for next year and what are elements of our program that I'd like to completely remove. This 3R's framework is one that is often used in the York Region District School Board and I find it to be a perfect anchor for reflective dialogue and conversation as an educator team. 

As part of my final assignment for my York University Kindergarten AQ course, I chose to reflect on my own kindergarten journey from the perspective of how I plan and program. Each new year brings a wave of excitement, possibilities and new challenges and I have to say how wonderful it was to see for myself just how far my practice has evolved and changed as I've grown as a teacher and life-long learner. 

Here is a brief breakdown explaining how my planning has changed in response to my own needs as a professional, our collective needs as a teaching team, and allowing for that flexibility that is crucial for an effective and engaging Full Day Kindergarten program:


To compliment these reflections, I found it so interesting looking back at what my "planning" actually looked like as a tool for making visible what my program was all about. Here are samples of what my plans looked like throughout the past 4 years. My hope is that by making them visible for you, my followers, you can see that there is no one "right way" to plan and program for FDK, but rather you need to honour the process and reflection that goes into preparing, modifying, rethinking and planning a successful program for yourself, your teaching parter and most importantly, your students. Every year my "plans" look different since I'm constantly learning new ways of sharing my learning and planning purposefully for my students. 





The following Inquiry Planning Outline was originally developed by my wonderful friend Joanne Babalis. Upon our reflections as a teaching team, Heidi and I and my new partner Ashley, have modified parts of it to suite our needs as a teaching team. 

Below are some key learning moments that I've come to understand more deeply and truly appreciate when planning and programming for my students. The following points are ones that I feel one should always keep at the forefront when planning and programming and I hope this blog post gives you lots to think about as we head into the summer: