Monday, 22 December 2014

Inquiry-Shminquiry Kindergarten Hijinks with a Pinch of Reggio

It has been just over a month since I became a Kindergarten teacher. I have spent the past few weeks getting to know my "fabulous fifteen" students: reading, building, playing, and cleaning & organizing (cleaning & organizing, cleaning & organizing) my classroom,

Pinterest has become a dear old pal - I highly recommend these recipes for  Jello and/or gingerbread  playdough (although I would think twice before diving in to making snow - as it lead to quite the MESS!)

With my background in numeracy we have been spending lots of time exploring quantity using dot plates, buttons on snowmen, rocks, blocks, decomposing games etc.  I know that in the new year we will be exploring our rekenreks, five- and ten-frames and our classroom counting jar and continuing to develop our classroom number line. Math is my thing - I can inspire it and find ways to make it surface out of play.

My biggest challenges these past few weeks have centred around what I like to call the play-based, reggio-pressure that the majority of  ELKP teachers are feeling these days. It seems as though no one really knows what Kindergarten should look like, but everyone has an opinion about what it should not be. I am open to trying anything - but I believe moving students forward in their learning has to be the priority.

My new principal @kevinolamb, has been a tremndous help - bringing in fabulous finds from his hikes including nests, a falcon wing and even a beaver-chewed log for the students' nature exploration table.

I take a lot of inspiration from my new favourite kindergarten tweeps, especially @joelseaman and his blog Wide Eyes and Wonder  that seems to always have a gem to get me through those moments where I am "pulling my hair out" and questioning this inquiry-shminquiry.

Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed with the inquiry-reggio-pressure I think of this statement from the Inquiry-based Learning monograph from the LNS Capacity Building Series:

                     Inquiry-based learning concerns itself with the creative approach of combining 
                     the best approaches to instruction, including explicit instruction and small- 
                     group and guided learning, in an attempt to build on students’ interests and 
                     ideas, ultimately moving students forward in their paths of intellectual curiosity  
                     and understanding. 

In a class where a high percentage of students do not have basic letter and number recognition I'll admit that I find as much time as possible for one-to- one and small group instruction, but this vital time only exists when my students are fully engaged in play. Striking the right balance is going to take some time - but for now I am doing my best to embrace the hijinks.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Begin Again ...

If you have not seen Carney's 2013 movie "Begin Again", the main character Gretta (played by Keira Knightly) goes on a crusade to develop her own album after her long-time boyfriend becomes famous seemingly overnight and drifts from her to the calls of stardom. This movie - the choice for a recent much-needed-girls only-cottage-get-away resulted in quite the debate between friends. The movie sets itself up as a love triangle and as it nears its end viewers are left wondering not only if Gretta's album will be signed, but also who she will choose: the cheating (now) famous ex or her doting older producer? What sets this movie apart is that Gretta chooses Gretta. She decides to sell her album independently on iTunes rather than succumb to the record label's changes to her music and chooses neither man. Many of my friends loathed this ending - while I and a few others loved it.

There are many vital roles in education and having the opportunity to see the other side for the last six years has been a tremendous learning experience. Making the choice to return to the classroom was hardly easy. For the longest time I felt as though I could not abandon the teachers, research partners and projects that had become the focus of my work for so long. Ultimately my decision was a personal one - and the only way I can think to explain it is that for some time it had felt like I was trapped on the wrong side of the looking glass - and it was time to make a change. The movie clip below from Alice Through the Looking Glass explains this analogy for my readers who may not recall vivid images of Lewis Carol's work at the drop of a hat. (

Those who know me well are shocked when they learn that I am now teaching Kindergarten. This reaction is usually because they know I have never taught below Grade 7, or that they feel I am not putting all my valuable learning to good use. I will admit that if you asked me twelve, six or even one year ago I likely would have said that I would never teach Kindergarten. But I have come to believe that to truly "begin again" you need a fresh challenge.  I intend to use this blog as a space to reflect on this decision and share my learning as I venture through the year.

Over the past six months I have realized that good friends help you see yourself  in a positive way - the perfect reflection.  But great friends challenge that image and push you to recognize all that is not right in the looking glass. Thanks to all those good and great friends who have supported me as I begin again ...