new grade, new room, new considerations

classroom beforeThe journey through play-based learning has brought us to Grade 1 which will continue to be a place where children’s wonder and curiosity is nurtured and where we will uncover curriculum through inquiry. This school year brings many changes.

New Grade: While Grade 1 does have a formal curriculum, inquiry and problem-solving will continue to be at the heart of our learning.

New Room: The steps in setting up the room have been the same. A new classroom inspired me to rethink, remove and repeat certain practices encountered on my journey as a Kindergarten teacher. Less – a lot less – is more. The teacher’s desk was removed. I didn’t use it last year in Kindergarten and really didn’t miss it all that much, so it found a new home. Another piece of furniture that was taking up far too much real estate was the “guided reading” table. Since guided reading and learning should be happening everywhere and not at a designated table, that too found a new home.

reggio-inspired classroom after

Grade 1 art studio

New Considerations: Having taught Kindergarten for a few years now, I found myself reflecting on how the children were involved in co-constructing several areas of the classroom. I realized that much of this happened or began to happen weeks, if not months, into the school year. As I prepared for Grade 1, I decided that the children would be involved in co-constructing elements of our classroom from day one. This will begin with our classroom library. In Frank Serafini’s book, Lessons in Comprehension, he suggests co-constructing the library and offers the possibility of celebrating its birthday. classroom library

I thought I would keep it simple at this stage and limit it to the small bookcase. My intent is to encourage the children to look more closely at books while giving them ownership. At a later date, I’ll revisit organizing the library and add more books and genres. I also decided to put out blank index cards with question marks in the hopes that children will want to represent their reasons for choosing certain books for our library. I’m hoping the concept of “birthday” will spark an interest in the co-construction of our calendar, which I plan to share in another post.

Another important consideration is how to further engage children as 21st century learners. This year, in addition to the blog, we will have a Grade 1 Twitter account in order to further make our learning visible and to continue to make connections with other classes. The new blog header is representative of a meaningful connection made through Twitter with Laurel Fyne’s class this past spring.

I’m looking forward to an exciting year!

20 thoughts on “new grade, new room, new considerations

  1. I really enjoyed reading this blog post. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief that you will pave the way for Grade 1 teachers and make the k-1 transition a smooth one! You will inspire many!!!!!

    Oh how lucky the children are! Your classroom environment is very welcoming. I especially love the space that resembles a sort of cubby area. It’s simply stunning!!!!

    I also find myself intrigued by your co-constructed classroom library and can’t wait to hear more about it.

    Happy to hear of your new challenge!

    -Joanne Babalis

    • Thanks Joanne. I appreciate your ongoing support. I had originally wanted to use the back counter and cupboards for the studio but the area was very small (only about 1.5m). Since the children use the racks in the hallway, I didn’t want to waste the space. I have never been one to compromise art, so using that space for the studio was perfect – much like your beautiful area! I definitely need a bigger table, but for now we will see how this one works out. Since we are speaking about the studio, I need to thank my wonderful neice Cynthia, who helped me sort through bins of materials.

      I’m hoping the transition to Grade 1 is seamless for all of us!

  2. Your room is fabulous and I think it is amazing it is a grade 1 classroom- that is what my classroom Looked like 20 some years ago when I first started teaching! I am having a real issue with SO many K teachers always saying that they need to get the students ready for grade 1??!! I have a question about the library and having students choose the books – where do they choose books from? Do they bring from home or go to the library! Is there a book in that birthday bag- sorry if a really dumb question?
    Keep inspiring us! Thank you!!
    Diane king
    K teacher for YCDSB

    Sent from my iPhone

    • I agree Diane. Kindergarten is about SO much more than preparing them for Grade 1. It’s a much bigger picture.

      I should have explained that the birthday bag has some books in it already. Sorry about that! I just chose some that were in the classroom that we could possibly begin with. There are mainly picture books. I included some simple nonfiction books about animals to see how the children might sort them. There are many bins to sort through in the classroom. I’ve already done an initial purge, but there is still a ways to go. Over the years, many grades were taught in my room so you can imagine some of the texts I found. Once I do another sort, I’ll provide the children with a similar experience so that we can continue to construct the library together. I’m hoping that giving them more ownership will also result in showing more care for the books.

  3. I have loved following your blog as a Kindergarten Teacher. I can’t wait to see what magic you will create in Grade One. I think I will be sending my SK’s to you next year *lol* Do you think the Peel Board would like 26 new registrations from YCDSB *lol*

  4. Your vision is inspiring to your colleagues; we can only imagine how excited your students will be to return to their second home. Have a great first day!

  5. Hello
    I am so glad I found you! I have been a kindergarten teacher for 6 years. I have been practicing a “reggio inspired/ emergent curriculum approach. This year I am going into a grade 1/ special education classroom. They start a week later and all the furniture is suppose to be in the classroom tomorrow so I am not set up yet. I can see in the picture that you kept your dramatic play centre with the kitchen etc.
    I am curious how you are going to set up your day. I don’t think the classroom I am going into
    will have sand, water, dramatic play etc…. I need to figure out what I need to start with, get
    it quickly and then add to it as the year goes on.
    Looking forward to your next entry!!

    • Hi Jane,

      I kept the dramatic play but I found it challenging to find an appropriate spot for it. I left it where you see it in the picture for the time being. I figure the students will let me know if it is working or not. I also have sensory bins – one sand, one water and a light table. I think it’s important to keep the sensory, so you might want to consider having sand and/or water. If there are no tables available, large bins work great and you can really put them anywhere.

      For now, I have structured the day beginning with inquiry. This time will involve a focused writing lesson and then inquiry centres (primarily Science and Social Studies and most likely math). I’m anticipating this to look similar to inquiry centres and emergent curriculum in Kindergarten. I’m planning to add DPA to recess so that we can extend some time outdoors. After recess will be math inquiry and problem-solving. There will be a literacy block in the afternoon and the last period of the day will be a time for refelction, sharing our learning and goal-setting for the next day. I’m not sure how this will work out, but I’ll give it a couple of weeks to see how it evolves.

      Good luck setting up your room!

  6. Like many of my favourite posts, I sometimes have to visit and read a few times before I remember to leave a comment. This one is no different: I see something new in the photos each time I look (and that’s the secret of documentation, too, isn’t it?) such as the prominent place you gave to the wonderful collaborative painting of the stones (I saw it first reading) and just now, the way the wonderful windows go right up to the ceiling.

    I am delighted to see the invitation to play so evident around the room. As you say, when you nurture children’s innate curiosity, you may uncover the curriculum together through deep, playful exploration. I am also delighted, indeed my heart did a leap, when I first saw the new banner up at the top of the blog. It remains one of the powerful metaphors for my learning last year, that weaving project. It came from the occasion of our first face-to-face meeting at the Peel Kindergarten Conference, where I co-presented the natural materials/loose parts arts provocations workshop with the fantastic ELT’s Amanda Giberson and Bev Moate. We each made our own weaving frames for our participants to try, and were delighted when we saw that each one we’d made was different, yet also remarkably easy to recreate. As I was the only one of us with a classroom to return to that week, they graciously gave me the leftover weaving materials: strips of silver paper and ribbons. Back in class, several of my PM class students were fascinated when they saw another simple weaving frame I’d made for the workshop. I grabbed the weaving materials and set them out, demonstrating the “under-over” technique when asked. We then tore some fabric I had (the long red taffeta they loved so much) and looked through our recycled paper collection for more. I showed a small group of interested students some pictures of flower weaving I’d “pinned” on Pinterest. They were intrigued and wanted to use flowers. I asked where we would find such beautiful, tall flowers. It got fanciful and potentially expensive, but I managed to direct their attention to the long grasses also present in the photos. That was all I had to do: we were off for a walk to the “no-mow” zone to gather “long things” for our weaving. We found many long things to use, such as whispery grass, prickly-stemmed tufted grass, (I see a bit of it peeking out under the silver paper on your weaving), and sweet-smelling wildflowers. The rest of the story, well, you told it well in your post!

    I love that image because it is so rich a metaphor: the strands of so many stories all tangled together. Learning is like that: not linear but jumbled together, tied up with memories that flood the mind when one thread is pulled. My students were SO proud when their gift of grasses and material were used in a beautiful new way. They were inspired to start weaving anew, with the round frame like yours with the heavy twine your class sent. I listened as they told each other stories about spiders and heroes and things that live in the grass while they weaved. I took many a picture and vine clip as they sang: “under, over, under, over” while they played. This was the last of many collaborative art pieces we created last year, and each one speaks powerfully to the connections between the learners. Something I’ve noticed again and again this year is how students work so much harder, or perhaps with more joy but also more stamina, when they enjoy the process as opposed to the product. These collaborations (hanging art, weaving, murals, loose parts sculptures) couldn’t go home to hang on the fridge. So interesting that they take more ownership and more pride.

    So thank you for the shout out, and for continuing to share your journey as you take it to grade one!

    • I have wanted to change the header for a very long time, but just couldn’t find the right image. As I reflected on the year, this is the image that I kept coming back to. You so eloquently explained the metaphor. For me it symbolizes the “messiness” and beauty of learning and process. It is the intertwining of children’s thinking, hypotheses and problem-solving. It is a symbol of the connections they make not only with their classmates, but with learners they have not met. It is also a metaphor for the connections I have made in the past year with educators such as yourself. I’m so proud to be part of a community of inspirational learners!

  7. Pingback: rethinking calendar | crayons, wands & building blocks

  8. I was excited to hear that you had moved into Grade One and are applying the same principles of inquiry and emergent currculum as in kindergarten. It has always seemed to me that we need to do a better job of bridging between kindergarten and grade one, from both ends of that bridge, and focusing on inquiry allows that bridging to happen quite naturally.
    I work with several grade one teachers who have been attempting an inquiry based program for the past year. I intend to share your blog with them today! Thank you for your inspiration and leadership

  9. I am just reading your blog and love your class set up. I will be starting to teach grade 1 in January and love your class environment. I really would like to make it reggio-inspired. I will be going into a classroom that is filled with lots of clutter/colour and stuff. I am leaving a Kindergarten classroom at the same school that I don’t want to take everything out of….but which is Reggio. Trying to get ideas on how to do this over my 2 week Christmas holiday??

  10. WoW! as a second year grade 1 French Immersion teacher I have completely re-invisioned my approach to teaching and learning and it is beginning with the classroom! I can’t thank you enough for the inspiration you have just provided to me! I hope you don’t mind if I use some of your ideas. I will always give you credit. Mille Fois Merci!!!
    Mary Beth

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