The children are very excited about sleeping in school next Friday. For many, this is a landmark in their personal learning journeys; the first night they have spent away from their parents. School is a great place for a first sleepover as it is space the children know well and in which they feel comfortable. Over the week, we have discussed the sleep-over in detail.
The things that the children are most excited about are:
sleeping with their friends and teddies
exploring the school at night time
playing outside in their pyjamas
The things that the children are most concerned about are:
optional -pillow (we have lots of pillows in school but some children have special pillows they wanted to bring
full set of extra clothes (some children have a full set of extra clothes in school and do not need to bring more)
The children are excited about managing their own belongings and routines, “just like grown-ups!”. It will be easier for the children to look after their belongings if they are clearly labeled. This weekend the children should practice packing and unpacking their bags by themselves, several times, so that they know exactly what they have in their bags, where to find everything and how to fit it all in. (Sleeping bags can be particularly tricky.) This will help the children feel a sense of control and independence and will ease anxiety.
We talked about how everything has to fit in one overnight bag and the importance of “packing light”. While we have discouraged the children from bringing big suitcases (for space and storage reasons), it is important that the bag is big enough for children to fit ALL their belongings inside easily.
In our writing sessions, the children choose what they will write about. Our session starts with a ten minute mini-lesson, where we focus on one small aspect of writing. We have a quick practice all together or in pairs and then the children go off to experiment using our focus lesson in their writing. Before they start writing, they think about whether they will:
continue working on something they have started before or start a new piece
write a fiction piece or a non fiction piece
take their writing through to publishing stage or leave it in draft form
share their published work as a book, poster, Puppet Pals animation, kamishi bai or other form
This week the we added another choice to the list – blogging. The children love their kidblogs! They have been amazed and delighted by the number of comments they have received and are highly motivated to write comments on each others blogs. We have added two other class kidblogs to our blog roll – our good friends from Canada, @KinderPals (who introduced us to kidblogs in the first place) and a new class, Ms Lirenman’s Grade 1 class.
The KC children have noticed that KinderPals and Ms Lirenman’s class have photographs on their kidblogs. They are keen to add photographs to their blogs. I have explained that I don’t know how to do that (yet!) but have promised to ask the teachers, Michelle and Karen, how they manage their students’ photographs and get them onto the blog. A learning journey for all!
The children are realizing that some of the comments are hard to read and are discovering for themselves the importance of conventional spelling. In our reflection circle after one blogging session, the children came up with a list of strategies to help them with their spelling:
You can ask your friend who is very good at writing.
I looked in my reading book because that word was there and I read it.
I sounded out with the alphabet chart
Well you can just keep writing and not worry about the red lines till you finish, like we do in our other writing.
I copied sleepover from the paper where we wrote it before.
Me too, I copy from there. (points to time line)
We did our together and we helped each other by sounding out but we didn’t know if there was silent letters
As the children work on their writing, I observe them experimenting, re-reading their work, thinking out loud, seeking and offering help, discussing their ideas with peers and encouraging and supporting each other. Everyone is actively engaged and focused and working at a level that is right for them. I am reminded of the importance of giving learners a choice and enabling them to make decisions about their learning.
Throughout the changing seasons of the year we have been talking to the children about protecting themselves in different kinds of weather; wrapping up warmly in the cold; wearing layers so they can add or take off clothes to help them regulate their temperature; bringing waterproof jackets and boots to school so they can enjoy playing in the rain. Now that spring is finally here and the weather is warming up, we have been talking about sun protection. We saw a sun safety post on the KinderPals blog. Nathan had read a book called HOT HIPPO, about a hippo who fell asleep in the sun, so we read that to the whole class. The children knew a lot about staying safe in the sun. They came up with this list:
The sun is hot and it can burn you if you stay too long.
You need a hat.
You have to put on sun cream so your skin doesn’t burn.
It’s owey when you burn.
You have to drink lots of water because the water comes all out of you when you sweat
If you don’t drink you can get dehydrated -that’s when you don’t have any water left in side of you.
I showed the children this youtube clip which was part of Australia’s very effective sun-safety campaign several decades ago. Although old, the children loved the clip and it remains an effective and catchy way to help children think about protecting themselves in sunny weather.
Mako and Jaiden noticed that there was a pattern in the spelling. All the words started with sl.. and ended with ..p. Scarlett noticed that the vowels were different (we have been talking a lot about tricky vowels in spelling). We thought of another sl… word for sun safety -slurp! We made a class agreement that we would all help each other remember to slip, slop, slap, slurp each day! Kieran made a poster.
Please help your child to follow our slip, slop, slap, slurp agreement by helping them to remember to bring a T-shirt that covers shoulders and back, sun-cream, sun cream and water bottle to school.
Our class blog has played a central role in our year-long class learning journey. The children feel a strong sense of ownership and connection to the blog. They often ask me to post things on the blog so that their families and their twitter buddies around the world can see what they are learning. We check regularly for comments on our posts and leave comments on other blogs. Through interactions on the KC class blog and the other class blogs that we follow, the children have children developed a solid understanding of how blogs work.
Recently @KinderPals tweeted us to say that they had received the letters we sent them via snail mail. They had responded with messages for us. However, they noticed that snail mail between Canada and Japan takes a long time so they decided to put their messages on their blogs -not their KinderPals class blog, but their very own personal blogs on KinderPals Kidblog.
The KC children read KinderPals’ messages and left some comments on KinderPals’ individual blogs. This was the first time that the KC children had typed and published their comments themselves. Some children were hesitant to publish their comments because there were spelling mistakes. We had talked previously about the importance of correct spelling when publishing for a wider audience (books, twitter, blog posts). We had a discussion about whether the rules for publishing books would be the same as or different to leaving comments. In the end there was a consensus that since it was a kidblog, spelling mistakes were all right as the audience was other children and they wouldn’t mind the spelling and might even be able to read it because “they are kids like us!”.
The children wondered if they could have their own blogs too. Last year the KinderPals teacher, Michelle, introduced me to Kidblog, which provides safe and simple blogs for children. All posts and comments, both incoming and out-going must be approved by the teacher before being published. I showed the children the individual blogs from last year’s KC children and offered to set up blogs for them too. There was unanimous enthusiasm. I set up the blogs and today the children had their first go at writing their own blog post. I suggested that for this first post, the children wrote about the sleepover, which we have discussed at length and written about, so that the children could focus on the technicalities of typing a blog post without having to worry about content. The long-term idea is that the children will write about whatever they wish.
If you have time, visit our KC Kidblog and leave a comment. The children would love to interact with family, both here in Japan and in their home countries via their blogs. Several of the children are excited about blogging at home. A couple of children have asked me how to insert photographs into their posts. It is wonderful to see these five and six year olds talk so naturally and knowledgeable about blogging! Thanks to @KinderPals and their teacher Michelle for introducing us to Kidblog!
Our author for this month is Mo Willems. Mo Willems is an American author who has won several awards for his books.
Willems’ pigeon books have simple illustrations and text and tell a story through speech and thought bubbles. Many of the children have been making books in the style of Mo Willems’ pigeon books. There has been a noticeable increase in the children’s use of speech and thought bubbles in their writing sessions since we began reading these books.
The Knufflebunny series are favorites with the children as they can make connections between their own lives and the characters and events in the stories. The illustrations are a combination of photographs and hand drawn illustrations which has generated much discussion. Many of the children have experimented with this technique using iPad apps.
Throughout the year, as part of our unit of inquiry into how we express ourselves, the children have been exploring ways of telling stories. Recently, a group of children have shown particular interest in the PuppetPals app on our iPads. As part of our writing focus on fictional narratives, the children have been conducting group and personal inquiries into how narrative fictions work, looking in particular at setting, characters and plot. In our writing workshops, the children are aware of many of the processes involved in writing. They know that not all work continues to publishing stage and that published work needs to be of high quality. As part of the viewing and presenting strand of our language curriculum the children have been working on voice projection and speaking clearly.
Today, Aiden and Jaiden came to tell me that they had something important to share. It was a story that Aiden had created first using text and drawing.
The original story:
The boys had decided to work collaboratively to adapt Aiden’s original idea and retell the story using PuppetPals. They had spent a whole morning working on the story and were delighted with their work.
Aiden: I think it’s the best we ever did. Please can you put it o the blog because we want to show everyone?
Jaiden: We tried to do it so many times, like all day, and each time it’s better and better and now it’s ready to share.
It was obvious from the body language of both children that this was a momentous occassion. They were clearly very proud their work. I could see they felt they had created something significant which they wanted to share with a wider audience. I was keen to respect and support the momentum of the occasion. The children didn’t need praise from me -this whole project had come from Aiden and Jaiden. The boys were self-motivated, and their own assessments of their creation were more powerful than any adult praise. I decided the most useful thing I could do was help them share their work. Over the year, we have talked a lot about digital footprints and about the need to think carefully about how we portray ourselves on line. I asked the boys if they thought their work was good enough to publish on YouTube. Aiden and Jaiden looked at each other.
Jaiden: Wow! YouTube! We better check.
Aiden :YouTube! I think it’s good enough. But I agree with Jaiden. We need to check. YouTube!
The boys went off to find a quiet, private place to review their work. They came back after several minutes, literally jumping up and down with excitement.
Aiden: We think it’s good. We listened carefully and it’s definitely good enough for publishing.
Jaiden: We have loud voices and not too many characters. And the background matches the story.
Aiden: And the story makes sense.
Jaiden: It’s really good. It’s our best ever.
Jaiden: I especially like how we photographed the characters from the original one.
Aiden: Yeah! We did that because we wanted the characters to be the same.
We exported the clip to YouTube. All the children were struck with awe and wonder that they had the power to create great works and share them on YouTube. Yungi suggested tweeting a link of the YouTube clip to @KinderPals so they could wathc the story in Canada.
There has been much talk in recent years about the role of technology in elementary school classrooms; talk about whether technology has a place, and if so, how best to use it to enhance teaching and learning. In this example, the technology complimented and enhanced our writing inquiry into narrative fiction and our overarching unit of inquiry into how we express ourselves. It empowered the children by enabling them to create a story independently and share work their work with a wider audience. The technology was not a substitute for a more traditional style of learning -it enabled the children to do new things in ways that were not previously possible.
The children have been making koinobori in preparation for Children’s Day, a Japanese festival to celbrate children, which takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month. Yuri read the children a book about Children’s day and then the children went to the ELC to observe the koinobori that were flying in the ELC playground. The children drew sketches of the koinobori to help them with their own designs.
When we got back, we had a discussion about what the koinobori was like (it’s form) and what kind of materials might work well for making a koinobori. The children came up with these ideas:
It has to float in the wind
It should be a little bit strong so the wind doesn’t tear it or rip it
It has to be a light material or the koinobori won’t fly
It should have some kind of handle so it doesn’t fly away
Then the children set to work on creating their koinobori. We set aside large chunks of time over several days for the children to work on their models. By now the children are experienced makers. Over the year they have had opportunities to explore many different kinds of construction and creation materials. They already have ideas about what might or might not work. Recently we have been thinking and talking a lot about where good ideas come from. As we meet back in a sharing circle at the end of each session, the children share their successes and frustrations and build on the ideas of each other to further refine their models. They have free access to the playground to test their models and most children have experimented with several different designs.
Aiden’s sister Kayleigh, who is in Grade 2, has been exploring ways that people communicate through dance as part of an inquiry into How We Express Ourselves. Kayleigh and two of her friends created a dance that they thought everyone could learn as an opening dance for our sports day. We had our first practice today after recess.
Kayleigh, Kirra and Ryuta made this instructional video so that students and parents could practice the dance at home. The music is “Move Your Body” by Beyonce, released as part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to reduce childhood obesity in the US.
Thanks to Kayleigh, Kirra and Ryuta for this initiative and for teaching us the dance.
Grade 1R left a message on our blog post about spring. They told us that they were also in the park looking for signs of spring and they had found some tadpoles. They had done a lot of research into tadpoles and they invited us to their class to come and learn what they had discovered.
After our visit to the the Grade 1 class, the Kindergarten children decided they would like to have some tadpoles for themselves. Scarlett remembered seeing some tadpoles in the pond in the park opposite school so we decided we would go and have a look. Before we went, we discussed what kind of habitat the tadpoles would need. The children drew diagrams to show their ideas.
The diagrams helped us to plan what we needed to collect. Off we went!
Once the tadpoles were safe in their new homes, the children did some research and wrote some instructions on how to care for our new class pets.
We have spent most of the day today researching, planning, acting and reflecting to create an appropriate habitat and systems to ensure the well-being and care of the tadpoles; the children have been engaging in scientific, mathematical and linguistic thinking; they have used research skills, thinking skills, communication skills and social skills; they have collaborated, created and problem-solved -all as part of a student initiated, real-life inquiry. I am reminded yet again of the power of giving children time and resources to follow their interests and of the importance of embedding learning in a meaningful context with a real-life purpose.
As part of our unit of inquiry into how we expres ourselves the children have been exploring different languages of self expression and communication. Over the weeks the children have had opportunities to explore some of the hundred languages referred to by Loris Malaguzzi, a key founder of the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education.
Last week, the Grade 12 IB Art students exhibited their work as part of their final diploma assessment. The Kindergarten students went to visit the exhibition and had the opportunity to talk to one of the artists, Virginia Russolo.
The children were particularly interested in what the exhibits were made from. As Virginia talked about her work, the children made connections to their own creations and were intrigued to learn that Virginia used many of the same materials that they themselves had experimented with but had also used some materials that they had never thought of.
The children were fascinated by the idea that these artists were nearing the end the end of their YIS learning journey, and had once been Kindergarten students just like them! The Kindergarten children met the Grade 12 art teacher (who has also taught Kindergarten!) who suggested to the children that some of them might one day share their work at an exhibition.
This opportunity for the children to learn outside the classroom, from other students, in a real-life context is a powerful way of helping the Kindergarten children make connections between their own classroom- based learning and the world around them.