Saturday, September 19, 2015

International Dot Day: A Celebration of Creativity

September 15th was National Dot Day! It is based around Peter Reynolds wonderful book called "The Dot." My friend Mrs. K joined us and we dressed up special for this day!


This book encourages kids to "Make your mark and see where it will take you!" Sir Ken Robinson once said, "Creativity is as important as literacy!" Creativity is a 21st Century Skill and we focus on those 21st Century Skills equally as much as we focus on the Common Core Standards! They are just as important to your child's success as the standards, if not more! 

This book has a great message for both children and teachers! It teaches children to celebrate their creativity and helps them build confidence in their own abilities!  It teaches us teachers how powerful our encouragement and our words can be!  We can use words to build them up or to criticize.  In this room we choose to build these precious children up!  This day was a day to show them that!  It also teaches me that the process of creating art is more important than the product! What the students create should not at look the same as everyone else's creations! Nor should it look like what I think it should look like!  Where is the creativity if I direct what their art should look like!  Each one should be unique to the student who created it!


We figured that celebrating International Dot Day was a perfect way to celebrate the process of creating!  I set out some experiences and materials for the kids to make a mark and see where it takes them! The kids also created dots out of other things they found in our room!
















The kids wanted to have a Dot Gallery like the one in the book. They could not wait for me to display their art for all to see! We decided to put it in the hallway, but we had enough to fill our room too!




Creativity will be celebrated in our room all year. Encourage your children to make their mark, the way they want to make it! You will be amazed at the confidence you will see growing each time they have the opportunity to create! 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The First Weeks of Kindergarten: How Do We Start?

We now have the first couple weeks of Kindergarten under our belts! How do we get started building a community of learners who will wonder, problem solve and work as a team? Academics take a back seat as we get started and we spend our time getting to know each other, building relationships, and exploring the materials and areas of our room that will will be used during their learning journey.

We start by building relationships with the kids and their families. To start this, I set out a basket of ribbons and asked parents to write their hopes and dreams for their child during our Kindergarten Screening process. They tied their hopes and dreams ribbons to a wooden embroidery hoop.



When families came to visit during our open house, materials were laid out for them to create "Peace Beads" together and add them to the hoop. I loved watching families work to create this beautiful chandelier together! 



Our Hopes and Dreams Chandelier looks amazing hanging in our library area near the entrance to our room. 


We learn how to take care of our tools.  I have the tools available all over the room. I separate them by color. This fosters skills in categorizing as they figure out where the colors such as yellow-green fits in the best. It also encourages the kids to be more purposeful when they select colors for their work. All tips are up so they don't break. I don't have to tell them this. At some point, a crayon tip will break off, so we show the class and talk about how we can prevent their beautiful crayons from breaking.  When they come up with the solution, they take ownership of it and follow through. If I has just told them to put the tips up, it won't be as meaningful for them!  Letting your child come up with solutions to problems works at home too! The hard part is letting the problem happen so they can learn from it!


We explore the materials and the different areas of our room. For the first time, I rotate them through the areas to make sure they have a chance to see what is available in each area of our room. We have our library, art studio, building area, engineering area, dramatic play, literacy and math areas, writing and craft areas and science areas. The items in each area are very limited at first. We explore the concepts of responsibility, self control and respect very heavily through books, videos and modeling.  They know they must show all three of these qualities for them to be allowed to use the different areas of our room. As they show they can use these areas, more materials and opportunities are opened for them.






They started amazing me right away! Just through this simple exploring, many common core concepts were already being used and explored!







We are also learning and reviewing one letter each day. Many already know their letters, but now they have a new interest in these letters. They now realize the PURPOSE for learning these letters. They have expressed that they want to learn the mysteries of reading and writing and I have let them know that these letters are the secret for learning how to read and write. They now have a purpose for revisiting these letters and figuring out their relationship with reading and spelling words!


The kids are also learning some reading strategies as we learn the letters. They have learned that when they don't know a word, they can look at the picture for a clue! They also are learning the direction we read print and how to point to each word as they read them. The latest strategy we have learned are to look at the first letter of a word.

We are also getting to know a special friend better each day, but I will save that for another post!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Our Classroom Environment: Getting Set Up To Be The Third Teacher

Those who are familiar with the Reggio Emilia philosophy of education know the emphasis it puts on the physical environment of the classroom. The classroom is thought of as the third teacher, the first being the teacher and the second being their peers.  I spent a lot of time thinking about the layout of my classroom and reflecting on how it worked out last year and how I could improve it. 

One thing that I remembered was that a lot of learning took place in our building and engineering areas!  In these areas the kids learn the important life skills of planning, learning from mistakes, problem solving, collaborating, team work, creativity, dealing with disappointment, persistence, listening to others, respect, and responsibility! A lot of reading, writing and math skills are also used in these areas! Some problems we ran into last year was that there wasn't enough room, their creations kept getting knocked down, and there was no place for works in progress. With this in mind, I created larger areas for building and engineering in protected areas with no traffic. 





I made our library more cozy where they could relax with a good book! They will also have a listening station and big books will fill the basket in this area later. Here they will read for both pleasure and purpose.  They will learn about story sequence, sight words, phonics and phonemic awareness skills! They will research and write about what they read.


We have an Art Studio in our room that fosters spacial sense and 21st Century Skills needed to be successful adults such as creativity, problem solving skills, planning skills, and collaboration.  They will explore many different mediums in this area.  I have made art materials readily available and sorted by color.


Clay is also available in our art studio area to encourage creativity and build fine motor skills. 


There is also a space for transient art in our art area! For now they can create using buttons. 


The home living area for now can be a house or a restaurant. The children will change this area according to their interests! In the past it has been a bakery, wedding cake shop, airport, veterinarian office, pet store and doctor's office.  They do the creating when it changes and a lot of reading, writing and math skills are used when they do so.  When they play in this area, they are role playing future jobs, collaborating and learning how to get along, share, problem solve, negotiate, and handle disappointment... all important life skills!


This is our "Look Closer" area. Here the kids will see, think, and wonder! They will learn to slow down, look closer and document what they notice using writing and observational drawings and using different art mediums. For now we have rocks, shells, and things that come from trees that they are looking closer at. 


I have an area set up to invite the kids to explore measurement and record what they notice.



Shelves have trays with many opportunities to explore math concepts...







and Literacy concepts. 






Writing and craft materials are also available. 


This area is where I pull small groups and do project work with the kids.


Here is our classroom where they will build their minds, muscles and imaginations and work on 21st Century Learning Skills on a daily basis!  I am excited for you to see how these areas evolve based on the kids interests and needs all year long! The environment truly will be the third teacher for these kids and for me! 





Stay tuned for my next post about how we do things during the first week of school!