creating bonds

IMG_2099 (1)Another school year is on the horizon and after a lengthy hiatus, I’m excited to be blogging again! September brings not only a new year, but also the opportunity to collaborate in the opening of a new school! This year, I’m thrilled to be co-teaching Grade 1 with Liz Ugolini. We’ve known each other for years and have engaged in several conversations about play, inquiry, and creativity. We are looking forward to supporting each other as we continue to reflect on our practice and moving our own thinking forward. As we enjoy our final weeks of summer, we are beginning to think about welcoming our new friends.

Years ago, I read Regie Routman’s Reading Essentials. A message that has stayed with me is the importance of bonding with kids. As I re-read the quote, it also reinforced the importance of authentic learning and the fact that we teach children, not curriculum.

Reading EssentialsCurriculum and standards must first connect with the lives and spirits of our children if we’re to have any lasting success. Unless we reach into our students’ hearts, we have no entry into their minds. Through drill and memorization, we can get students to complete assignments and pass tests. But there is a price to pay for such short-term accomplishment. We will never inspire our students to learn for their own sake and to love coming to school. Bonding with our students is the “human essential,” the intimately personal connection that is the core of responsive, excellent teaching.

I’ve watched this TED Talk by the late Rita Pierson many times. I always find inspiration in it. If you haven’t had the pleasure, take a couple of minutes to listen to “Every Kid Needs a Champion” where she explains that “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”

Rita Pierson

In the past, both Liz and I sent our students postcards to welcome them to school. As a first step in our process of bonding with our children and their families, we decided to create our own postcard complete with a hand-written message that we will send out soon. postcard2 2015 For those of you who have started a new year, I hope it has begun with joy and excitement. For those of us who are preparing to welcome a new group of children, I wish you and your students many adventures filled with possibilities!

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!

welcoming the iPad

ipadWe have been very fortunate to receive an iPad to use with the children. So far, we’ve used it to document some of the children’s learning through pictures and video. The children have also been using it to draw pictures, voice-record stories, type observations and write about their learning. I found it very interesting that one of my emergent readers automatically left spaces between words when she used the keyboard, but often needs prompting to do so when she writes on paper. I wonder if she’s making the connection to how text appears in a book? Does she leave a space because she is typing or because the format is similar? Maybe she’s just at the stage where she doesn’t need as much prompting. Regardless of the reason it’s something I’m paying closer attention to.

I’ve been on the lookout for apps that are open-ended. There are many highly rated Kindergarten apps available, but five-stars doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to work in the program. Whether on paper or in electronic format, a worksheet is a worksheet. I prefer apps that are versatile and that support children’s creativity and curiosity.

Here are a few that we’ve used so far:

mystoryMy Story This is a great app for writing and drawing. It’s a simple story maker and book creator. The children can draw a picture, take a picture, or import one from the Photo Gallery. There is a text feature, so they can write about their pictures using the keyboard or they can use the drawing feature to write words. My Story also has voice recording so the children can narrate their stories or describe their pictures. It’s also great for creating and sharing class books.


Bamboo Paper can also be used to handwrite and import pictures. A few of the children have asked if they can write about something they’ve made using the iPad. Using a stylus or their finger, they can write on the screen.


Sock Puppets allows children to choose their own puppet character, stage and scenery. They can create their own puppet show by recording their voices. It’s a great app to encourage                                   story telling.

piccollage-medium-bc9d04270dd2473fb9251a7a0f0b6cbePic Collage is another app we’ve used both for our own documentation purposes and with the children. The app allows you to create a photo collage and add text. It gives children another way to represent their learning.

noteshelfOne of my absolute favourite apps is Noteshelf. Last year I decided to use my iPad for assessment purposes. Before the iPad, I took notes on stickies and filed them under each student’s name. I wanted an app that would allow me to quickly handwrite a note and take pictures. With Noteshelf, each of my students has a “notebook” where I jot down observations including pictures. It’s also a great way to set up electronic portfolios or journals for the children. Although it’s my favourite handwriting app, it doesn’t have voice recording….yet. Personally, I’d love to see this app include voice recording, tabs, and the ability to annotate PDFs. The great thing is that you can provide feedback to the app developers, so if you’re a teacher and you use Noteshelf, please take the time to share your feedback.

the best part of me…and you

Each month, we focus on a new character trait.  In September, we talked about what it means to be responsible.  Last year, I had a HERO board which captured students demonstrating a particular character trait. This year, I continue to capture images of the students as they go along their daily routines.  This month, we’ve been talking about the meaning of respect.  Self-respect is just as important as showing respect for others.  I read parts of Wendy Ewald’s, The Best Part of Me.  We discussed the pictures and I explained that the book was written by children. I asked them to think about how we could share the best parts of ourselves.  One of the children suggested we make our own book.  Each child shared what they liked best about themselves and decided how they wanted to pose for their picture.  Here are some of their responses:

I like my hands because when I lay on my bed, I put my hands here on my side.

I like my hands because they help me tidy up.

I like my legs because they make me walk and they make me proud.

I like my eyes because I can see all things.

I wondered what they liked best about each other and if choosing “the best part” of a friend would contribute to their understanding of respect.  It was interesting to hand the camera over to the children.  Some posed, some used an interesting angle, some chose the same “best part” as their friend.

I like “A’s” hair because she has braids.

I like “T’s” legs because she can run fast.

I like “N’s” mouth.  He eats with his mouth.

I like “K’s” feet because he can run fast.

I like “H’s” hair.  This (wavy) part.  And she wears a braid everyday.

It’s always interesting to see what happens when they take ownership of their learning.

thinking about the third teacher

It’s at this time of the summer that I begin thinking about how to arrange the classroom.  I have set up many classrooms over the years and each time, it feels like a new beginning. Having been inspired by the Reggio approach, I began to re-think how children used the spaces within the classroom, and last year, I began to make a few changes.  Now that I’ve changed schools, I feel a new sense of excitement and possibility.  An added bonus this year is the opportunity to collaborate and share ideas with a Designated Early Childhood Educator. The slate is wiped clean and it’s time to think about how to begin to create an inviting space that encourages inquiry, problem-solving and choice, allowing the environment to become the third teacher…stay tuned.

reflecting on our learning

There is something magical about watching students share their learning. There was a buzz of excitement in the room as the children looked back and shared some of the learning they did in Kindergarten this past year.  They remembered the pieces they included in their portfolios.  They talked about how they mixed colours, or made a pattern, or wrote some words or numbers.  Some children couldn’t believe they weren’t able to write their own name at the beginning of the school year.  Some didn’t know any letters.  Others couldn’t cut very well.  They loved looking at their own personal documentation of growth and were excited to share their learning with a friend.  Me?  I sat back, took it all in, and realized how far these little people have come.  I’m very proud of them!

I also took a few minutes for my own reflections.  Well, to be honest, I’m always reflecting, but lately I’ve been re-thinking portfolios.  I’ve used them in every grade I’ve taught and I’ve always been a strong advocate.  They’re a powerful tool for self-assessment, goal-setting, developing metacognition, and for documenting personal growth.  Since teaching Kindergarten, I’ve re-thought a lot of things about teaching and learning.  Portfolios are no exception.  Do I think they’re appropriate for children this age?  Absolutely.  But I feel as if some pieces are missing.  Not physical “work” pieces, but learning pieces that are not captured through a painting, or a drawing, or a piece of writing.  As I reflected I began to think about how to provide a more complete picture of each child.  So much learning happens through talk — questions, thoughts, wonderings, hypotheses, personal experiences, observations, conclusions, and discussions amongst peers or with a teacher.  Some of that talk is captured in notes and displayed in documentation panels, but not in the portfolios.  This got me thinking about the power of learning stories, which in turn, got me thinking about setting my own goal.  So, when it comes to portfolios, my goal will be to use them in tandem with learning stories.  Tune in next year to see how they work out!

leaf prints

I wanted to give the children a new painting experience and came across the idea of painting leaves from the Crayola website.  I put out some leaves, tempera, paint brushes and toothbrushes.  The children couldn’t wait to get their hands dirty!  They felt both sides of the leaves and noticed that one side felt “bumpy.”  This led us to talking about the veins in the leaves and why leaves have veins.  (Now might be a good time to put out some celery in food colouring to see what connections they make.)  It also led to a discussion about the meaning of “texture.”  Printing the leaf provided one texture.  Stippling by running a finger along the toothbrush provided a different grainy texture.  Hmm…veins, texture, stippling, bumpy, grainy, smooth….there’s a lot of new vocabulary here.  I think this might be a good time for some shared writing!   Maybe we’ll start by making a list of words describing the leaves, or autumn, or textures.  Regardless of the list, our next writing experience will be meaningful all because we played with leaves, paint and toothbrushes.