Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Day in a Reggio Inspired Kindergarten in a Public School System Setting: A Look at My Schedule

I have had many ask about what my schedule looks like, being a Reggio Inspired classroom. If you are inspired by the Reggio Emilia Philosophy, it can be very difficult to apply it in a public school setting here in the U.S.  Many ask how I do it, so here it is... It is not perfect, but it works for me.  My schedule is also attached at the end.

We always start out with breakfast. I love this because it gives the kids a chance to come in an socialize and share with each other. It also helps them become independent with many life skills that many cannot do when they first come like serving themselves, opening up food and drink cartons, and cleaning up after themselves.

 After breakfast, the kids clean up, scrub the tables and join in our meeting area for a morning message. I write this message in front of them and either model or think out loud writing strategies that I want them to focus on or I write it, then highlight sight words, blends, chunks, little words inside of big words, and any other reading strategies that will help them decode the message themselves. It only takes 5 minutes but packs some powerful reading and writing lessons!

On our longer days with no specials, we then have a lesson that has something to do with our inquiry. We may find out what they know and wonder about a subject they want to dig deeper in, read a book, watch a video, do an experiment and have meaningful discussions about we read, did, or had seen.

Most days we have two large blocks of Play-Based Learning Time which we call "Thinking, Learning and Discovering." This is when the kids are seeing, thinking and wondering about what is set out for them to explore. It is also where most 21st Century Skills such as team work/collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, creative thinking and communicating skills are being used. They learn to be productive, take initiative, take leadership roles, and listen to others ideas and opinions. These need to be practiced in every grade! Not just Early Childhood! I set up experiences for them to explore and they make their thinking visible through plans, documentation, observational drawings, notes, data collection, and so much more. Some areas for them to explore are building, engineering, art, clay, science, creation station, library, dramatic play and math/literacy experiences. This is also the time when most of our small group inquiry investigations and projects happen.

We have whole group lessons to introduce new reading, writing and math skills that they need. These new skills are practiced and used during Thinking, Learning and Discovering time and materials are set out to specifically practice the reading, writing and math skills. We also have a specific time where they are specifically working on Literacy and Math stations to help them achieve their goals.

Our Literacy Lab is one of the most helpful resources that we have in our school. I feel so lucky to have this available to us! Our whole class goes into our Literacy Lab where the kids are divided into groups based on their needs. The kids who need intensive literacy intervention get it here. There are three teachers including me and four groups (In the past when we had Teaching Assistants we had 5 smaller groups). One teacher for intervention, one teacher for a guided reading group and then there are two groups that alternate between working with me in a guided reading group and an independent table with literacy experiences. With this set up, we meet with all the children in guided reading groups and literacy experiences within 30 minutes. That means I can focus my small groups in my room on those who need intervention and enrichment.

Of coarse, we go outside anytime the weather permits. The 21st Century Skills I mentioned above are used and practiced when the kids play outside. When outside play is taken away, their chances to problem solve, collaborate, take risks, be creative, socialize, take leadership roles, observe and discover are also taken away. It saddens me how little kids can practice these important life skills because so much of their play has been taken away from them in their schools when in actuality, the skills they need most in life are practiced as they play.

Our reflection time is another one of their favorite times of the day. Here we pass a "Sharing Stone" around our circle of friends and share something we did, made, discovered, or even something that happened to them that day. They are only allowed to talk if they hold the Sharing Stone. If kids have questions about what a student shared, they may raise their hand and that student will call on them. The kids are so respectful and quiet during this time. This time is very special to them and they take it very seriously!

Calendar is how we end our day. This is a traditional calendar where we quickly do the date, count the days of school and study the 100 chart, and sing songs about math concepts we are learning. We also talk about the daily and seasonal weather as we graph the weather each month.

Hopefully this post will help answer the many questions I get about what my typical day looks like in a Reggio inspired classroom in a public school system. Just remember  the beautiful thing is that you can make a schedule that works for you.  If you don't have time for two blocks of play-based learning because of curriculums mandated by your school or you are mandated to spend a lot of time pulling out guided reading groups, try to squeeze one in instead!  I had to take some risks to make room for those times and they have paid off!  For example, Independent Writing time did not need to be as long since they were using writing skills during other parts of the day, so I cut it in half.

So that is my day! I do have to say that we do not always stick to our schedule!  Often learning opportunities pop up that we have to grab onto!  That is part of having an emergent curriculum!  This does provide a base for how our day might look.  I have provided my schedule below for you so that you can see the whole schedule at a glance.



12 comments:

  1. Love this!! Thank you so much for writing this post! :)

    Kristen

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is great! Very instructive and helpful to set up my own rather loose schedule as I hope to homeschool, if not just enrich my LO's learning. Thanks for reinforcing the importance of play - it's too bad it is so discounted now in favor of advancement :( Keep up the great work - you are very inspiring and a blessing to all who are lucky to be part of your teaching, both in person and virtually.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Love this post! Are your students free to move from area to area during the thinking, learning and discovering time or do they go to one area and stay the whole time? Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Liz! When I first started experimenting with play based learning I had them assigned to an area for our morning play but they had free choice for afternoon play. This year was the first year I let them have free choice both times and it has been working very well. I have an extremely well behaved group this year though so maybe it will depend on the group! Good luck on your journey!
      Sincerely,
      Darla Myers

      Delete
  4. Thank you Darla, this is just the kind of info I needed to be able to tweek things in my own classroom. Your Literacy Lab sounds fantastic. I'm going to share that idea with my own staff!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wonderful!! I love having our Literacy Lab! All the kids get their needs met during a 30 minute period. It leaves more time for inquiries and investigations! Good luck!
      Sincerely,
      Darla Myers

      Delete
  5. Can my teaching partner and I come visit? We are in west Michigan. We have been following your work for a little over a year and would love to see it in action!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I would love to have you visit! When did you have in mind?
      Darla

      Delete
  6. Hi Darla, Thank you so much for this post. For awhile I have been pondering how to tinker with my schedule and your blog has been a huge support. I have a few questions that I am hoping you can answer!
    1. I am wondering about the difference between your Focused Reading and Writing lessons versus your Inquiry Investigation lessons. Are your Reading and Writing lessons in support of your Inquiry Investigation, or are they separate units? If your Reading and Writing lessons are integrated, what is the difference between what you do during those times and what you do during Inquiry Investigation time? From your post it sounds like some of the things you do during your Inquiry Investigation we often do during Reading lessons.
    2. During your large blocks of play, do kids often focus in one area for the whole hour or several areas?
    3. What kinds of reading and writing skills are kids often working on during your large blocks of play?

    Thank you so much for taking the time to respond! I am so eager to advocate for more play and discovery within a traditional school setting.
    Jenny

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our Focused Reading and Writing lessons are skill oriented and sometimes related to the inquiry and sometimes not. The Inquiry lessons are purely content oriented through reading informational books or youtube videos on the subject and/or a time for doing small scale/individual project work or science experiments. Writing/reading is sometimes incorporated also during Inquiry time but not all the time. This is a time when they can apply what they learned as they read and write from our focused lesson times. My Focused Writing time is not totally integrated yet. That is my "next step" that I will be taking next year!
      The kids choose where they want to go and how long they want to stay in that area during our play time. I did have a group one year that could not handle that and we had to do a rotation. They would not take care of the materials or respect property. Each area has books related to what they are exploring during play with clip boards for them to document what they notice, create a plan, document something they created, or create a story about something they created. That is how writing is incorporated. They can also document what they see, think or wonder at an area.
      I am so excited to have another advocate for more play and discovery in traditional school settings!!! Good luck on your journey!
      Sincerely,
      Darla Myers

      Delete
  7. Hi Darla,
    Our school is in the candidate phase for PYP (IB) which is all inquiry based learning. One of the major concerns that has been expressed is how all of the standards will be met and how to incorporate specials, writes/readers workshop, etc. It is great to see a living example of an inquiry based K room in a public school. This blog is fantastic. I have shared it with our PYP coordinator and K team.
    Thanks for sharing your work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much!!! Good luck as you take this journey! You will be amazed at the difference in the kids! Enjoy!

      Delete