uncovering curriculum with help from the food truck

food truckAn interest in the amusement park inspired the students to research things they might find there. As mentioned in the last post, they became very intrigued by food trucks. We googled images of food trucks and the students decided which pictures they wanted to print to use as a reference. A group of students was very interested in finding the proper wheels needed for the truck.  Once they chose an image from which to model their wheel, they decided they needed something round to use as a basic template.  They compared a few different materials and quickly decided that the tree cookie was best.

food truck wheels

Another group of students researched other elements needed for the food truck. They discussed the need for a “sign” to show the foods they could sell. This need for a “sign” led to discussions about a menu board and how they are the same or different from restaurant menus. Our Early Literacy Teacher, Mrs. Pierre, supported the students as they researched and organized their menu board.

researching menu

A problem arose when it came time to prop open the serving window. The cardboard was too thick for the students to cut, so they asked me to cut two strips which they would use to hold up the window. They soon discovered that the cardboard began to bend and would not support the cardboard flap. This provided an authentic opportunity for problem-solving while experimenting with different materials. After trying more cardboard, pipe cleaners, thin popsicle sticks and thick popsicle sticks, they decided on pieces of dowel and string because the dowel was “…long and the popsicle sticks were too short.”

food truck problem solving

constructing food truck

The food truck is now open for business. While engaging in dramatic play, the students have been developing their literacy skills as they refer to the menu and write food orders and receipts. They are counting and adding amounts of money and they are reflecting on the need to revise their play.

food truck purchase “O” decided they needed a copy of the menu behind the counter so they could also refer to the prices as their classmates ordered. She also noticed that “… at the food truck we don’t have any cents. Just dollars. We need cents because I wanted the snow cone and I needed 3 cents, but “S” said we didn’t have any cents.”

“M” decided to work on food orders. He found images on the iPad and decided to use one as a model. Based on the picture, he wrote “010” on all of his copies. This led to an interesting conversation:

Mr. P.: How do you use this order?

M: You give it to the chef and he will know what to make.

Mr. P.: Why do you have “010” on all of them?

“M” looked at the number and read them as the number one. I asked him to look closely at the number and covered the first zero.  He realized it was the number 10.

Mr. P.: “Why do you think it says ‘Your Order Number’ and the number 10?

M: It’s for the customer.  Customer #1, Customer #2, Customer #3 (counted to 10).

Mr. P.: What will happen if they all have the same number?

M: You will get all mixed up! You won’t know who is first, second, third…                            I need to change them.

food order

As the students engage in play at the food truck, I’m noticing that they are not only reflective, but that they can and do evaluate what is working and what changes need to be made to further their play (and their learning). It’s also a reminder for me to be present. If we see the child as capable and as protagonists in their learning, and we see ourselves as researchers, then we will be able to recognize curriculum expectations being uncovered as students and teachers engage in the research together.

rethinking calendar

calendarAt the beginning of the school year, I have very little in the classroom. The first days of school are all about getting to know each other and building community. They are also about inviting the children to take ownership of their learning environment. After celebrating the birthday of our classroom library, we began to discuss special days. Birthdays, Diwali and Christmas were the first to make the list. We also talked about other important events like the first day of school, assemblies and pizza days. “How will we know when these days are coming?” I asked. The students were quick to reply, “We need a calendar.” In groups, they represented what they knew about calendars.

As I was cleaning the room at the end of the summer, I came across an old unused calendar. I knew I wanted to involve the students in co-constructing areas of our classroom. This included the calendar, so I kept it for reference. They immediately noticed that it had boxes and numbers. Some recognized the year. Others noticed the days of the week. “S” noticed empty boxes along the top row of certain months and wondered why they were empty. We also looked at a commercially prepared blank calendar.

observing calendar
A group of students was particularly interested in creating our classroom calendar. They were given bristol board, two sizes of blank stickies and the calendars to use as a reference. It was very interesting to see how their problem-solving unfolded. They began to lay out sticky after sticky without giving it any thought. There was no consideration for how many small and large stickies they would need. Some overlapped, some didn’t. Eventually they ran out and asked for more. I asked how many they needed and they didn’t know. When I asked them how they could find out, it took them a while to decide to look at the actual calendars. They counted the boxes on the calendar and compared the total with the number of stickies they used. It turned out they actually did need more, but before I handed them over, I asked them to take a closer look at their calendar to see if they needed to make any changes. They began comparing row by row and realized they needed seven stickies in each row, so they began to re-configure their arrangement.

comparing calendars

Once everything was re-arranged they could clearly see how many stickies they needed. “O” told her classmates that they needed “five here, four here and three here.” When I asked how many that was altogether, they counted and decided they needed twelve.

calendar stickies 2

With the stickies finally in place, they used metre sticks and markers to draw lines and label the days of the week. After a few days we had our first calendar! We took a class survey to find out if we should keep the calendar blank and stick numbers to it or if we should write on it and make another calendar next month. It was unanimous. Others wanted a chance to make one too. I love when they inspire each other!

constructing calendar This whole process was yet another reminder for me to slow down. The discussion this group had around constructing the calendar was rich and the problem-solving in which they engaged was authentic and meaningful. I’m sure I’ll be frequently reminding myself of this lesson as our year progresses.

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!

constructing a water wall on a hot day

constructing water wallA few days ago we laid out a new provocation for the children. Tubing, funnels zip ties, and bins. We brought them outside and placed them by the fence. And then the magic happened. A small group of children came over and began to look at the materials. Initially, they asked what they should do with them. “What do you think?” I asked.

“This is like what we have at the water table. We should put water in it.”

“We can put it on the fence.”

The zip ties were a little tricky, so I helped them with those as they designed their water wall. The children decided where they wanted to place the tubing. They brought the tubing up and placed it in another funnel. I didn’t know if this would work, but had to remind myself that I needed to take a step back and observe.

testing water wall

“We need water,” they said, and water we went to fetch. It was wonderful to see them test their hypothesis. They filled, and filled, and filled until they proved their theory that the water would in fact go down, up and through all of the tubing.

testing water wall 2

It didn’t take long before a large group of children came over to join in the fun.

Water wall 3Pretty cool!

co-constructing the fire station

fire engineThe children have been visiting the dramatic play area less frequently, so it was clear that we needed a change. They had an interesting brainstorming session where they shared their ideas and possibilities:  a rocketship, a dinosaur cave, a library, a police station and a fire station.  With the help of our DECE, Mrs. Kassam, they created a graph to decide what the play area would become. The results were clear – a fire station. More brainstorming helped them to determine the things they would need for the fire station and they began to make a plan. Using a couple of cardboard boxes, the construction began.

fire station planningdramatic play graph

The process of constructing the fire station, provided another opportunity to develop literacy skills in an authentic way.  So, it was off to the library to collect a series of books to inspire the children. They looked through them and found details they thought were important to add to the fire engine.

firestation collage 1

Once the fire engine was complete, I printed up a few of the pictures to encourage the children to do some writing.  They were eager to record their thoughts as they became involved in documenting the process.

student writing

Some children also expressed an interest in drawing the fire engine. This gave us an opportunity to revisit our investigation of lines and shapes. As they reviewed the lines and shapes they saw on the toy truck, the children slowly became aware of other details as they drew.  One student chose an interesting perspective and drew the front of the fire engine, while others drew it from a side view.

fire engine collage

fire engine drawing 2fire engine drawingThe fire station is always busy, and the children have been putting out fires on a daily basis.

co-constructing a…classroom?

That’s right.  A classroom.  The time came to change the drama centre, so we took the same approach we used when we created our doctor’s office.  The children brainstormed their ideas on stickies.  We chose the top three, took a survey, collected the data and made a list of things we might need.  So now we are in the process of creating a classroom within a classroom…a little Shakespearean, don’t you think?  I know kids love to play school (I certainly did!) but I thought, why on earth would they want to play school AT school?  They soon showed me.  The excitement that a few children generated was contagious.  In the span of the day’s play they estimated, measured, problem-solved, arranged furniture, read, wrote, argued, negotiated and created.The children wanted a bulletin board, so I put up some paper and gave them some borders and a stapler.  They quickly started measuring, selecting and cutting the pieces they needed.  They filled every last space.

They wanted a “Writing Centre” and calendar.

The children also wanted to include a Principal’s Office.  The decided they would use the red table and made a sign:“Principal’s Office.  Knock on the door before you come in the Principal’s office.”

The principal needs to make important announcements, so they also made a P. A. system which they immediately put to use.

It’s great fun to watch them role-play.  When the “teaching” began, I was happy to see one of our before-reading strategies put to use.  I overheard the “teacher” ask, “Does anyone have any predictions about this story?”  As you can see, we are well overdue for a new copy of this well-loved favourite.  

construction continues…

The children have been busy adding some things to the doctor’s office.  Too many doctors and no patients posed a bit of a problem, so we talked about the different jobs people did at the doctor’s office.  We decided there needed to be a receptionist to greet patients and to make appointments.  I put out an old keyboard which prompted the request for a computer.  I asked the children what they could use to make one.  They chose a box which I wrapped for them.  They cut and pasted a screen, and there you have it – a computer monitor!  One of the children made a sign.  (I love the “before” and “after.”)

They began making appointments for each other.

In addition to the reception area, the patients needed somewhere to wait, so with two chairs and a sign, the waiting room was born. The children also decided they needed an x-ray machine.  Thank goodness for boxes!

One of the  children wanted to see a picture of an x-ray and to make a sign.  I asked him if he knew what letter we needed for “x-ray”  He knew it was “x” so I asked if he thought any of the books in our classroom library might help us.  He immediately went to the “x” book and found a picture which he then used to help him make a sign.  

A little string, clothespins, black construction paper and white crayons, and we now have an x-ray lab!