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.
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.
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.
We got a request for help on our twitter stream. A technology coordinator from a school in the USA (@mpowers3 on twitter) had been given a Google Glass to try out with her students. She wondered how she could use it to support teaching and learning in her school. It occurred to her that perhaps students in her school and in other schools would have some good ideas. She was particularly interested in gathering ideas from younger students. She set up a blog where she could gather and share information and tweeted out a request for help.
I explained the project to the children and showed the children the Google Glass website. I asked the children if they were interested in helping @mpowers3 with her research and they said they were.
I asked the children how they thought the Glass could help children learn. The children were slow to respond and when they did, their answers were not obviously related to the question. It occurred to me that the question I had asked required the children to think abstractly about something that they had never experienced. As I pondered on what I could do to make the question more accessible to the children, Yungi suggested that everyone build their own Glass. There was unanimous support for this idea. Without further ado, the children went to work. Jaiden asked if I could put the photo of the Glass up on the screen so that children could refer back to it as they designed their Glasses.
For the next forty five minutes the children worked busily, creating, constructing, testing, adapting, changing, collaborating, and problem solving. Most of the children made more than one model, selecting different materials and getting new ideas from their peers. Several children finished their Glass and walked around the classroom giving verbal instructions to the Glass to take imaginary photographs of things. I overheard groups of children discussing what their Glass would be useful for. When it was time to tidy up, the children asked if they could continue to work on their Glasses tomorrow.
As I reflect on the process so far, I am thankful for Yungi’s suggestion. I was struggling to find a way to make the experience meaningful for the children, and Yungi’s idea was the perfect solution. The children are highly engaged and are motivated to continue working on their designs. We have scheduled large chunks of time over the next days for the children to continue with their exploration. Once the children have had the opportunity to experiment with different designs and materials and have tried wearing their Glasses around the classroom, I predict they will find it easier to think about practical applications for Google Glass. I am intrigued to see how this inquiry unfolds.
Today we went to watch the dress rehearsal of the ELC play. Before we went, we talked about the ELC and about where and what it was. Jaiden, Angus, Albe and Sofia had been in the ELC before they came to Kindergarten. They had very strong memories about the play that they had performed in ELC and told the other students about their experiences. Angus told us about how he was the Easter bunny and explained, “…but that was a long time ago when I was younger and littler. I couldn’t do everything then, only some things.” This led to a discussion about the children’s learning journeys and about themselves as learners.
The children loved the ELC performance. When we got back to the classroom, they shared their thoughts and feelings enthusiastically, commenting on the acting, music, costumes and use of lighting to create different atmospheres and moods. I was struck by how deeply the KC children empathized with the ELC children, describing events from their own personal experiences which related in some way to both their own learning journeys and to the ELC children’s learning journeys.
Our new unit of inquiry focuses on knowing ourselves as learners. The central idea is that people’s awareness of their characteristics, abilities and interests shapes who they are. As we teachers reflected on the ideas that the children shared about the ELC play, we noted the deep personal connections the children were making to themselves as learners before and now. Based on this, and on a discussion we had earlier in the year with education consultant Kath Murdoch, we are planning to take the Kindergarten children to visit the ELC to interview the ELC children about themselves and how they learn. We are intrigued to see what ideas come up at these interviews, from both the ELC children and the Kindergarten children.
This month we shall be looking at books written by Nick Sharratt.
Nick Sharratt is a British author. He has won several author and book awards. Many of his books have a repetitive, predictable text making them ideal for beginning readers. Sharratt’s books often have ridiculous rhymes and patterns which children love and which engage even the most reluctant readers! He has also co-written books with more text and more complex story lines. This wide range in levels and topics makes Sharratt’s books particularly suitable for the wide range of reading levels and interests in a Kindergarten class.