igniting a new spark

RoyThompsonHallIt has been quite a while since my last post and a lot has been happening in Grade 1. We have been looking at different materials and how they are used to build structures. Last month, the students enjoyed listening to the symphony at Roy Thompson Hall. They were intrigued by the surrounding buildings but especially by the shape of Roy Thompson Hall and of course, the CN Tower. The next day, we had some interesting discussion about what they noticed about the buildings. The students talked about the glass and the shapes they saw.  We had also begun to discuss different materials that objects are made from. So how did all this lead to a food truck? One of the ways children were invited to create a structure was at the studio using strips of paper.

amusement park sculptures

During our debrief, student after student shared that they created an amusement park. They were excited to describe their structures – waterslides, rollercoasters, and bumper cars were the most popular. In response to their interest, they were encouraged to research what else they could find at an amusement park. Take a close look at the picture.

researching amusement park

food truck

During the next sharing circle, students shared what they found out about amusement parks.  “O” shared the food truck. Co-incidentally, the students were in the process of co-constructing a restaurant for the dramatic play area. Several of them asked if they could make a food truck instead.  We took a survey and it was unanimous. And so begun the planning and construction of the food truck which I post in a subsequent entry.

more dots, curriculum, and inspirations from Goldsworthy

goldswrthyAround the time we were embarking on our 3-D dot project, we were also exploring creating dots using natural materials. We looked to land art and Andy Goldsworthy for inspiration. The students were quite amazed at the different ways Goldsworthy created dots and “not dots” and they took on the challenge of creating their own versions. As you can imagine, there was a lot of compromising, troubleshooting and problem-solving happening. Many of the students worked in pairs or small groups to create their own unique versions of their nature dots.

goldswrthy inspired1And so, the question arises…Why do you continue to play in Grade 1? Aside from the inspiration of watching the students engaged in this play, I began to think of the curriculum expectations. I knew we were addressing them, but I’m always surprised to see just how many are uncovered through one experience. Some of the obvious mathematics expectations around sorting were addressed in addition to the other 4 strands and the mathematical processes. Also uncovered were expectations in art, science, and language. While many of the children were interested in using these materials, some preferred to demonstrate their understanding in different ways and were given the opportunity to do so. Gr1Goldsworthy inspiredWhen I looked at our math text book, I realized that the entire unit was covered in just the first two weeks of school and we didn’t look at the textbook once. We talk about the importance of giving students experience with manipulatives and exploration, yet we often resort to, or begin with, textbook lessons where everyone is expected to do the same thing.  Reflecting on this experience is yet another reminder to me that “play” is powerful and definitely has a place in Grade 1.

dot project beginnings

dot surveyOn September 16, our school celebrated International Dot Day. Like many schools around the world, we read The Dot by Peter Reynolds and began to think of ways for us to “leave our mark.” We looked closely at the dots we could find around us. Some children explored rocks, beads and shells. Others painted and some drew. After a day or two of exploration, I presented the children with a question about which dots they liked best. Noticing the balls of yarn, the students were eager to share their connections.

A – “I know what these are! They’re 3-D!”

Mr. P. – “What is 3-D?”

A – “I see it at the video store.”

R – “It means, not flat.”

We took a survey and discovered that most students in our class liked 3-D dots best. Thinking about Dot Day, I asked the students if they would like to create some 3-D dots. They immediately agreed, but we had a problem. How do we make 3-D dots?

M – “Maybe we can wrap up paper and put it on a stick and roll it.”

O – “Wow, that’s a lot of stuff! We can use string?”

Mr. P. – “How would we use it?”

A – “Just roll it round and round.. .Maybe we can take something like a circle and wrap string over it.”

3D Dots problemsolvingThe next day, balloons, yarn, and glue were available to the students so they could test “A’s” theory of “rolling it round and round.” I have to admit, this was an optimistic project for the beginning of Grade 1. The students were very excited to get their hands in the glue and begin wrapping yarn around their balloons. They soon discovered that this was not a very easy task. Some became frustrated because it was too slippery, or they couldn’t get their yarn to stay put. Some wanted to give up. Here was a perfect opportunity for a lesson in perseverance. I asked the children to stop and come together for a group meeting. They took a break, identified some of the problems they were having and shared some possible solutions.

3D Dots

The short break and discussion was just what they needed. When they returned to their work, they were engaged and focused. With a little assistance, those who wanted to give up were determined to complete their task. And they did.

3D Dot mobile

The students learned the meaning of perseverance that day. The creative process is messy. It can be frustrating, exhilarating and inspiring. As I reflect on this I realize there is always a lesson to be learned. Our dot project continues to evolve. The students are discovering different dots, engaging with different media and materials, and are developing unique ways to “leave their mark” through their own creative processes.

the “we are” project

We Are Project 1I can’t believe how quickly another school year has come to an end. This post is bittersweet for me. It will be my last “Kindergarten” post. I’ve said it many times, but the only constant is change and that certainly has been true of my career. I’m very sad to be leaving Kindergarten.  It’s not the end of the blog though! I’m looking forward to bringing my Year 2 students with me to Grade 1. Thank you to all of you for visiting the blog and I hope you continue to drop in and join us on our Grade 1 journey.

A couple of weeks ago, our school had a talent show. When we asked the children about their talents, it didn’t take long for them to generate a list of all of the things they could do. The “We Are” project is a retrospect of all of the things the children see themselves as.

We Are Project

It wasn’t difficult to find evidence of young artists, writers, scientists, teams and friendship.  We wrapped some boxes and displayed their representations on a portable art display which was displayed in the school foyer.

We Are 2The children enjoyed looking at their representations and talking about all of the wonderful things they can do – and so did we!

Thank you to the parents and all of our friends who work in the Early Years. For those of you who are off for the summer, enjoy your time with family and friends. I hope you continue to visit us on our Reggio-inspired journey through Grade 1!

Get ready Grade 1….here we come!

Happy summer!

shapes and lines all around

photo-8We have been exploring lines and shapes.  We decided to go on a shape hunt around the school to see if we could find any interesting lines and shapes in our environment. The children were very observant and noticed lines and shapes everywhere.  They were so observant in fact, that it took us quite a while to walk the short distance from our school play area to the sidewalk!  We found many different shapes and lines.  These are just a few that the children decided we should document.  photo-9

We have also been talking about ways in which artists use lines and shapes in interesting ways.  The following day, we looked at a few of Kandinsky’s paintings and the children shared some interesting thoughts.

Several Circles -1926

“It’s about planets and circles.”  kandinsky-circles-1926-granger

“Two bigger circles and small ones inside.”

“Big, tiny and medium that they painted.”

“The big one looks like earth.”

“He made lots of circles and made shapes like circles.”

Composition VIII – 1923

kandinsky.comp-8“He made flags.  They are all tangled up with sticks.”

“I see some shapes — triangles — lines that are straight — circles and squares.”

“Yesterday we saw these shapes.  Triangles and round ones and rectangles.  We saw those on our shape hunt.”

“I see half circles.”

“I see a ribbon.”

“It looks like arrows attacking the bow.”

Squares with Concentric Circles – 1913  04-0192_l

“I see all shapes, big and small.”

“I see squares.”

“They look like rangolis.”

Kandinsky’s artwork along with what the children noticed on our line and shape hunt inspired some beautiful artwork.  Some children represented shapes and lines on transparencies which we hung in our window.  Others printed shapes using different objects.  Some painted their concentric shapes which we hung from a branch to make our own Kandinsky tree.  Others created larger paintings.

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more leaf inspirations

Last week we went on a leaf hunt. The children collected leaves of different shapes, sizes and colours. When we returned to our classroom, the children each took a leaf and described something they noticed. They discovered that some leaves have spots, some are droopy and others are “stinky”.  Using their words, we engaged in some shared writing.  As they took a closer look, the children also noticed that “leaves have lines.”  We are fortunate to have a light table, the leaves were placed on the light table for further exploration.  At first, the children sorted the leaves.  As a small group took a closer look, I revisited their idea that leaves have lines and encouraged them to trace their favourite leaf onto a piece of transparency.  This reminded me of some wonderful art work I had the opportunity to see at the Bishop Strachan School last year which inspired what follows.

Using the overhead projector, the leaf drawings were projected for the children.  Projecting their leaf drawings added yet another dimension to their experience with light, shadow, and their drawings.  As the children painted, more children became interested and were also inspired to trace a leaf.  Once their paintings dried, they added colour.  I was amazed at how much care even the younger children took as they painted.  We are now paying much closer attention to the lines we see in our environment.  I have a feeling this could be the inspiration for a line project!

more than a collage

We took the children on a nature walk so they could make some observations about things they noticed in the natural environment.  Although not many leaves had yet changed colours, there were several on the ground that the children found interesting.  We collected some of the things they found and brought them back to the classroom.  The children collected a lot of the same types of leaves.  We put what they had collected out on some butcher paper to see what they would do.  For me, this was another lesson in patience and honouring the unexpected.  I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for the children to sort and I could have easily told them to do so.  Instead, I decided to watch and listen.  A couple of children immediately brought the magnifying glasses over and began examining the leaves.  They noticed that some were soft, and some were “crunchy” (There was the sorting I had anticipated, but that was where it ended.)  A few of children decided to rub the crunchy leaves between their hands and enjoyed watching the leaves become “crumbs.”  Someone decided to make a picture and realized she needed some glue.  Her piece of paper was cut and she brought it over to the Studio to create her masterpiece.  

This encouraged a friend to come over and help.  The individual work of art now became a collaborative piece as the two girls created together.  Other children also wanted their little piece of butcher paper cut so they could create their own collages.  The girls’ collage became a story about their nature walk and a demonstration of cooperation.  What I thought would be a simple sorting exercise turned into a much richer experience.  The children observed, wondered about the crunchy leaves, engaged in a sensory experience, artistically represented their thinking, retold the story of their walk, and collaborated with peers.  What seems on the surface to be a simple collage of leaves, is really so much more.  It will be interesting to see what the children find on our next walk and the changes they might notice.