Our Kindergarten Journey

Our Kindergarten Journey

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! 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

What can you see? How can you help? - Fall 2014

Our first book as part of the "What can you see? How can you help" collaborative inquiry project has now been posted on our shared blog: 

Our class had a lot of fun walking around the edges of our new school yard and capturing all the wonderful things that we saw that help make up our school community. As part of the collaborative project this year, unlike the previous year, is that we've extended the project to include ways our students can help make a difference in our classroom, school, community and world! 

Since September, our class has been working hard at being the best "bucket fillers" they can be by saying and doing nice things to their peers and teachers within the school each and everyday. This continues to be a large focus for us and we look forward to helping others in different ways and learning about how other people help us. 

Here is our "What can you see?" video that captures the fall changes in 2014 we observed! We welcome any comments, questions and connections on our collaborative blog to extend our discussion in the classroom! 



#WCYseehelp

Sunday, October 26, 2014

"Don't Get the Red Dot!"

At this point in the school year, I always love introducing math games as part of our comprehensive math program in our classroom! Respecting the fact that developing a classroom community takes time, patience, routine-building and established expectations, I wanted to share one of my favourite math games from last year that was a student "favourite" and one that promoted strong skills when acquiring early number concepts!

We have yet to introduce this math game to our students in our classroom this year, but look forward to seeing them build upon their numeracy skills and acquire new strategies for being the incredible mathematicians that they are in the coming weeks.  

The title itself says it all: "Don't get the RED dot!"

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 hierarchical inclusion (numbers build by exactly one each time and nest within each other by this amount. This relationship means that the child mentally includes one in two, two in three, three in four, and so on) skills as early mathematicians in a fun and engaging way!

Materials:
- Each student is given a ten-frame board to play on. Counters can include any type of open-ended material/loose part (e.g. corks, coloured counters, marker caps, gems, etc). 
- Create number cards 1-10 and dot cards also 1-10 on blank playing cards
- Include one card with a red dot

 How to play:
- Each player takes a turn picking a card, naming the number (e.g. by recognizing the numeral and/or counting the dots) and then everyone showing what that number looks like on their ten-frame board
- Continue taking turns and showing each number on students'  ten-frame boards until someone picks the red dot card! This means the game is over! The object of the game is to not get the red dot! 

Encourage students to compose and decompose numbers to 10 by adding and taking away counters as the numbers change.

Here is one of our previous SK students explaining how the game works with a few twists:


This is an incredibly fun game and one that capitalizes on students' prior knowledge around numbers and build upon their understanding of those important early number concepts! 
Enjoy and remember...don't get the red dot!!

Here is an incredible reference sheet that explains the Early Number Concepts created by the York Region District School Board. I refer to this chart daily:

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. 
After!

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! 

Ready...
Set...
Release...
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.
Details: 
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.
Resources:
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.  
OFFICIAL BLOG LINK:
Tweet using the hashtag #WCYseehelp