Our Kindergarten Journey

Our Kindergarten Journey

Monday, April 21, 2014

How is a rainbow born?

After visiting Acorn School, a Reggio-Inspired school in Richmond Hill, as part of our CTInquiry network group (Connected Through Inquiry) a few weeks ago, Heidi and I felt inspired by one of their documentation pieces displayed. This documentation piece was a collaborative story written by their Jr. Preschoolers and Senior Preschoolers of the school. Heidi and I absolutely loved how they co-created a story with their students around an inquiry question and thus, we adopted the idea while making it our own for our Rainbow Inquiry to follow suite with one of the initial wonderings posed by C.S (JK): 

Image captured from Acorn School during our visit
How is a rainbow born?

A Collaborative Story created by the Junior Kindergarten and Senior Kindergarten students 
in Ms. Schmidt & Ms. Theis’ class

A rainbow is born with just the air (E.Sz). The rainbow is also born with the sun (D.K). A rainbow can be born during the rain or after the rain in the sky (E.S). My thinking is when the rainbow starts it goes one colour to the other colour, to the other colour and that’s how it grows (C.S). 

The first colour is red. It is hot (M.P). The second colour is orange (R.T). It is warmish (L.M). The third colour is yellow (P.B). It is like the sun (V.D). The fourth colour is green (E.Sz). It feels like the grass (Z.P). The fifth colour is blue. It is like the sky (R.K). The last colour is purple (M.D). It feels soft (R.V). 

I see the rainbow start from the left and it looks like a semi-circle (E.S). Maybe the other half of the circle is in the ground? (T.B) The colours disappear but the rainbow is still there until another day of rain (E.S). When the rainbow camouflages in the air, it breaks off and turns into air (T.L). 
Then a new one is born (Z.P). 

But how? (T.D.)

We'd like to extend our sincerest thanks to Acorn School for opening their doors and welcoming us so kindly into their inspiring learning space! 
We hope to visit again very soon!

Somewhere over the rainbow...

Spring has sprung (finally!) and a lot of exciting things are unfolding in our classroom! To provide you with some context of where we are now, I'd like to highlight where we started from over a month ago whereby our students had shown a profound interest in putting on "plays." In order to honour their interests, we worked with our students to help rearrange our learning space to provoke and support their curiousity by turning one area of our classroom into a puppet theatre! After much excitement and many celebrated performances, a few students realized that we didn't have a name for our theatre! After a small group of students brainstormed some possibilities, one SK student (E.S.) decided to create a survey and collect data from her peers around what we should name our theatre based on the four collected names. 

Little did we know, that the winning name itself would shift their gears to begin inquiring about a completely new topic! "Rainbow 126" was the most popular name voted on and that has now opened the doors to our students wonderings about rainbows!

Here are a some of our colourful theories:

What does a rainbow look like?

It looks kind of like a semi-circle because a semi-circle really looks like a rainbow because it’s half of a circle. - D.K. (SK)

A rainbow is like this (makes an arch motion). It’s good because then it’s like a slide and maybe you can sleep on it! - R.V. (JK)

To make a rainbow, you need water because the word “rain” is in rainbow! 
- T.B. (SK)

I see that when rain comes you see a rainbow! It looked like there was red, orange, yellow, green, blue and pink! - J.Si. (SK)

Where do we see rainbows?

We see rainbows when there’s lots of rain and when the rain stops. We see it start on the ground and it reflects on the sky. “Reflects” means that the same things goes on that one thing. - D.K. (SK)

One time, I saw a water sprinkler and then the sun comes out and then I saw a rainbow you know? - Z.P. (SK)

I saw a rainbow in my cousin’s house. I saw it in the washroom and I caught it and then it got out of my hand. When the sun went away the rainbow did too. But then I found it again when the light comes back. - M.D. (JK)

In the sky where the sunlight is! Rainbows don’t live inside our house. Rainbows can shine on people you know? I was driving in my car and I saw it in the sky! 
-R.V. (JK)

Sometimes where it’s a beautiful rainy day and when it stops raining a rainbow appears. It looks like a beautiful rising colours in the sky! - C.S. (JK)

In the sky! It has to be day time because the sun helps and you can’t see a rainbow in the dark. - R.K. (SK)

Can you catch a rainbow?

When you touch a rainbow, it goes on your hand. It just feels like air so you can’t slide down because you’ll fall. It’s too high and there’s no oxygen there. 
- E.Sz. (SK)

No it’s because rainbows disappear after a long time and they come back when the rain stops. - R.K. (SK)

I think you can’t because rainbows are too big to get in a net and you can’t really hold a rainbow. When you touch a rainbow your hand goes right through it! It’s made of air too. - D.K. (SK)

I think it’s made out of sunlight. - S.R. (JK)

Rainbows are nothing but colours in the air. - T.L. (SK)

Some of our wonderings...

I wonder if rainbows fade and disappear? - M.P. (SK)

I wonder how the colours pop out? 
- E.S. (SK)

I wonder where rainbows come from? 
- J.H. (SK)

I wonder how a rainbow is born? 
- C.S. (JK)

I wonder why rainbows have different colours? - J.Sa. (SK)

To fast-forward a few weeks, our class has been actively engaged as Scientists as we continue to generate new theories, pose and answer our wonderings and collect information based on our discoveries and our own experiences with rainbows! Stay tuned for a post that highlights our first of many rainbow experiments! 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

"To develop the whole child we must develop the mathematical child." - D. Clements

I'd like to start this post by thanking Deborah Sinyard (@sinyarddeb) for sharing with me the beautiful quote above by D. Clements. This quote struck a cord with me since some incredible mathematical learning took place in our classroom last week! Just like we encourage our students to see themselves as scientists, authors, artists, architects, and beyond we also encourage our students to think of themselves as mathematicians. A JK/SK team embraced just that and this post will highlight how through one invitation for learning, this team made some incredible mathematical connections to what we've been learning about and exploring in our classroom!

Prior to this exploration, Heidi and I have been leading mini lessons during our Math Exploration and Learning Time around teaching to particular early number concepts (e.g. "movement is magnitude," "subitizing, "stable order" and "part/part/whole") using a variety of different mathematical tools (e.g. Rekenrek, connecting cubes, etc). While one of us is instructing a mini lesson, the other is circulating, documenting student learning, and asking prompting questions to push students' thinking.

Here's what unfolded...

While the other students were engaged in their various mathematical explorations, I noticed a JK/SK team (J.L. and R.V.) working closely together with the number cards and kapla blocks....they were co-creating a number line! Each student had a hand of cards and they were taking turns picking a card from each other and placing them in numerical order on the table (from 1-10). Even if a number was already down, they matched each card and with some prompting, they constructed a "tower" out of kapla blocks to show what that number looks like. 

I noticed that both J.L. and R.V. would check each other's "towers" by counting each kapla block used and ensuring that it was the correct number of blocks (thus practicing their one-to-one correspondence skills). This reminded me of the domino card game we put out last week as an invitation for learning to practice recognizing numbers without having to count and matching the cards to the corresponding numbers on the domino. It was wonderful to see them using the new open-ended materials and applying what they learned in such an authentic way!

It was also great to see J.L. and R.V. make connections to our explorations of "Number Trains" and compose each number of their number line using the connecting cubes! R.V. even made a connection to creating an AB pattern!

Here are some of the question prompts I asked the girls as they were creating their number line:
1. Can you tell me what you're making?
2. I wonder how we could use these materials to show what these numbers look like?
3. Why did you choose to stack the blocks? What do you notice about the numbers? What do they look like?
4. How are all the numbers different?
5. What happens to the towers when you count forward to 10?
6. What happens to the towers when you count backwards from 10?

When asked the last two question prompts, both J.L. and R.V. came to the conclusions that when counting forward to 10 the "towers" got taller which meant the numbers got bigger and when counting backwards from 10, the "towers" got smaller which meant the numbers got smaller! Fascinating connections!

Here is some captured video documentation of the girls in action:

I'd like to thank a wonderful friend, Heather Jelley, for picking my brain and getting me thinking about my position as the active "observer" and what types of question prompts I used to get these students to this point in their learning and understanding! It certainly gave me goosebumps revisiting my recordings and transcriptions!

Here's one "Think Tank" question that Heather left me with and I welcome any thoughts and ideas! 

How do you invite/engage/provoke learning in your classrooms with a math focus?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sharing our journey

Throughout this school year, Heidi and I have had the fortunate opportunity to be 
"Learning@School" teachers within our school board. By working with the York Region District School Board's Early Years Team, Learning@School teachers open up the doors to their classrooms and host scheduled visits whereby school administrators and teachers can have the opportunity to observe, review elements of classroom practice, discuss "flow of the day," witness various forms of technology in action, and make note of the classroom environment and how it's set up for learning. 

Within these learning opportunities and through dialoguing with various teaching teams, Heidi and I came to the realization that a "take-away package" would be the best way for teachers to feel like we answered most/all of their questions. Considering most teachers are visual learners, we use this "take-away package" as a way to self-select the photographs we feel comfortable sharing of our classroom (since the walls of our class are often full of student photographs, names, etc) and provide our visitors with something they can refer back to upon planning, reflecting and sharing their journey with colleagues once they are back at their own schools.

Here are a few of the pages included in our "take-away package" and our hopes are that they can act as inspirational starting points for other teaching teams: 

To conclude this post, I just have to share a truly humbling email that I received this week from a teacher from Bayview Fairways P.S. who most recently visited our classroom with her teaching team. It is opportunities like this whereby we, as educators, can build capacity across our board, instil inspiration amongst us as professionals and continue to learn and collaborate!

Hi Jocelyn & Heidi,

Thank you for making that remarkable day happen, I have personally waited 2 years to see and experience this beautiful partnership in real life. Giving us ideas where we can start the process of putting decision and plan as a team into effect is the beginning of our team future learning journey. Thank you for answering our questions through your spectacular demo FDK class, I have learned so much from you guys as a real team. I look forward to learning more. Thank you again for sharing with us such a wonderful arranged marriage in real FDK environment. I am very grateful to get to know both of you. 

Thank you so very much Jocelyn & Heidi.. 

Bayview Fairways P.S

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A visit to the aquarium...

Last Friday, we had the wonderful experience of visiting Toronto's new Ripley's Aquarium. As a teaching team, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to use a field trip experience to support and enhance our current inquiry into oceans since students would see firsthand, all of the ocean life they've been inquiring about over the past month and a half.

When planning for a field trip, Heidi and I truly believe that it has to either support, enhance and/or celebrate the learning going on in the classroom. In this sense, we do not plan field trips unless they are relevant to the learning going on.
What do you see?
With this mentality, we feel like the experiences thus far that have supported our class inquiries both this year and in previous years, (e.g. visiting Buttonville Airport to support our Airplane/Airport inquiry, visiting McMichael Art Gallery's Tree Exhibit to support our Tree Inquiry) have truly made for meaningful learning opportunities before, during and after each experience for our students and us as a teaching team. 
Sea anemones, clownfish, puffer fish and more!
Students engaged in an Aquarium Scavenger Hunt using the riddles they
came up with in class as clues!
We hope you enjoy the captured photographs from our most recent trip to the aquarium and we look forward to sharing with you how this experience has pushed our thinking back in our classroom! Stay tuned!
"What kind of shark is this? It's not a great white because it's not as
big as a great white shark." - T.B.
"I see the sharks' gills and big teeth!" - E.S. 
"The stingray has a long stinger and uses its flaps to swim in the
water. How come some are big and some are small?" - R.K.
The diver was not only giving away high 5's, but he was also feeding
the stingrays!
The jellyfish were most certainly the highlight of the trip!
"I see all the tentacles and I wonder how they change colour
and swim with no eyes?" - C.S. 
"The starfish have their mouths underneath but they have no eyes.
I wonder how they stick on the glass?" - V.D.
Students even got to touch Horseshoe crabs and see what they feel like.
Do you see the sea horse? Do you see the pacific kelp?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Following a "spark"...

The essence of inquiry...

"Inquiry...requires more than simply answering questions or getting a right answer. It espouses investigation, exploration, search, quest, research, pursuit, and study. It is enhanced by involvement with a community of learners, each learning from the other in social interaction." (Kuklthau, C.C., Maniotes, L.K., & Caspari, A.K. (2007). Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Westport, CT & London: Libraries Unlimited.

The following quote sheds light on the importance for us as educators to make the process and understanding of our students' learning transparent and in doing so, honour their interests, their thinking and their wonderings in a way that builds conversation and celebrates new learning together. 

Our Wonder Wall that showcases students' thinking.
Over the past month, our Identity and Map Inquiry has been put on "pause," as one student has ignited interest and wonderings around sharks and oceans. What stemmed from a simple conversation between this SK student (E.S.) and 8 of his peers around what they know about sharks, has now led to a whole class inquiry with multiple entry points! 
M.D. uses a non-fiction book to record what he knows
about sharks and how they travel in small groups.
M.D. shares his thinking using sticky notes and recorded
transcriptions of his wonderings. 

As a teaching team, we embraced this interest and created learning opportunities that helped our students dig deeper into the learning, pose questions and answer wonderments. Together, we purposefully planned investigations that would push students’ thinking and never wasted any time celebrating their findings in small groups and with the class. 

Inquiry in our classroom allows for every student to bring ideas to the table. Inquiry has given us the opportunity as educators to utilize student motivation as a catalyst for learning and in doing so, have seen firsthand the power of being a facilitator in the learning and witnessing our student construct their own knowledge with our support. 

Inquiry is not posing the question, “What do you want to learn today?” but rather “what tools do you think we will need to learn about...”. Inquiry puts us educators in the position of facilitators and students in the position of active investigators. Inquiry does not mean we stop “direct instruction,” but it does mean that that instruction itself becomes more meaningful to students interests and yet still targets areas of need. 

This post will showcase some of our captured photographs and videos thus far to show how, as a teaching team, we have taken this student interest and facilitated learning opportunities to extend and support their thinking in a variety of ways. Similarly, we have honoured where students' interests are underneath the umbrella topic of "Oceans" and purposefully planned provocations and hands-on experiences within our classroom that allow for every student to feel like an active investigator in this exciting inquiry!

Moreover, Heidi and I have been cognizant about separating this learning as an "inquiry" and not a "thematic" exploration. In doing so, we have had the privilege of working collaboratively with our Learning@School colleagues (Angie Harrison, Carmela Sita, Heather Jelley...to name a few) to dig deeper into how this can be achieved and in doing so, have co-created a "BIG IDEA" that stems from the Full Day Kindergarten curriculum for this inquiry. Throughout our Ocean Inquiry, children are active investigators that can communicate their results and findings from individual and group investigations in diverse ways.  

With this lens in mind, Heidi and I have worked hard thus far to ensure that we dig deeper with our students to develop an understanding of this Big Idea and as a result, we continue to embrace this student-led inquiry and celebrate their learning in new ways! All in all, inquiry has allowed us in our classroom to truly reach all of our learners and through differentiation, we have been able to create a community of learners whereby motivation and determination are at the forefront of our program and planning!

Stay tuned to find out how our visit to Ripley's Aquarium of Canada gives us a new lens to dig deeper in our learning and inquiry around oceans and ocean life! 
Post coming soon!

For educators: The following Capacity Building Series article entitled, "Inquiry-Based Learning" is a great resource that helps unpack this exciting and engaging way of teaching and learning!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Who are we and where do we come from?

Over the past 3 months, our class has been inquiring about who we are and where we come from! This wonderment around "identity" and what makes each of us special and unique was something Ms. Theis and I wasted no time on exploring with our students. What started from one of our SK students leaving to visit family in Egypt before the holidays and our students wondering where Egypt was on the map, led to a multi-facted inquiry that has branched off into many authentic directions! 
A world map by T.D. (SK)
Our documentation panel 
As we began to explore our "identity," many wonderful learning opportunities began to unravel. This post will sum up in brief some of those wonderful highlights to ensure privacy is still protected for our students' and their families!

We hope you enjoy our "Highlight Reel":

1. An interview with T.B. in Egypt through Skype! 
Here are some of our questions and T.B.'s responses:

What does it look like in Egypt?
T.B.: "Plants are green and I can see the ocean and lots of pools. The weather is summer and I have been making sand castles and see the pyramids too!"

What is your favourite Egyptian food?
T.B.: "I like lots of carrots, beans and rice. It's yummy."

V.D.: "I wonder if you talk a different language?"
T.B.: "Yes, I speak Arabic!"

J.S. (SK - boy): "How many pyramids did you see in Egypt?"
T.B.: "I saw big, medium and small. There's also a guard for the pyramid to control if they're open or closed and who can go in and out and the guard has to say 'yes' or it's not safe."

2. "Whoever You Are" - by Mem Fox:
After reading this story as a Read Aloud on Wednesday afternoon to support our inquiry, our class had a very insightful discussion around what makes each of us special and unique!

"My Dad comes from Poland and my mom comes from Italy."
"My family is from Jamaica and it's hot there!"
"My family is from Sri Lanka!"
"My Dad comes from Cambodia and my Mom comes from China!"
"My family is from Canada."
"My Mom comes from the Phillipines."
"My family comes from Vietnam. I don't see rain or snow in Vietnam but I see leaves on the ground sometimes."
"People's skins are different colours because everyone's countries are different."
"Everyone speaks Indian in my country. That's my language."
"We speak Tamil at home."
"Skin colours are different and they change because of the sun you know?"

Here is a list of some other fantastic Read Alouds that we have used to support this inquiry:
"Skin Again" by Bell Hooks
"This is me and where I am" by Joanne Fitzgerald
"The Skin You Live In" by Michael Tyler, David Lee Csicsko
"The Colours of Us" by Karen Katz
"Who's in a Family?" by Robert Skutch
"Whoever You Are" by Mem Fox

3. Creating our Self Portraits out of clay:
Creating a self portrait was one way we felt our students could be invited to celebrate their identity. It was truly a remarkable experience watching them pay such close attention to the details on their face when drawing their sketches and when crafting their design out of clay! 

4. Our families on the map:
To celebrate the diversity within our classroom, one activity that drew in a lot of excitement was creating "Country Cards" and plotting ourselves on our world map in our classroom! It was so wonderful to see how multicultural our classroom is and how many unique backgrounds create the community within the walls of our learning space! Our students continue to look up and observe each other's family identities and talk about what they see! 

5. Holiday "Think Work":
Over the Holiday Break, we invited our families to share with us some of their cultural traditions! Families could create a "Country Collage" out of pictures that represent their country and/or share a recipe of a favourite cultural dish! We were beyond thrilled with the responses from our students and their families! It was also great to see our families experimenting with technology and creating their collages on PicCollage! Our plan is to create a "Class Recipe Book" including all of those shared with us as part of this Think Work activity! 

6. Our Collaborative "Who is Nobody?" Project:
Read more about this incredible project by clicking on the link:

7. Designing Flags:
After one SK's response to her "Question of the Day" book based on the question: "If you could design your own flag, what would it look like and why?" - our students jumped at the chance of celebrating their identity by creating a flag of their very own! With the incorporation of water colours, here are their masterpieces:
Artists: D.K., C.S., G.V., E.Z.
Artists: G.B., J.H., J.S. (boy), J.S. (girl)
Artists: J.L. (boy), J.L. (girl), L.M., M.P.
Artists: M.D., P.B., R.K., R.T.
Artists: R.V., S.R., T.B., T.P.
Artists: T.D., V.D., Z.P
The above is just a snapshot into our "Identity" and "Map Inquiry"! We hope it helps to paint a picture around what has been going on inside our classroom these past few months! We truly can't wait to see where the journey takes us so stay tuned!