100 Days of school

This morning, two children from Grade 1 made an announcement over the school speaker system to tell everyone that today was the one hundredth day of school. The children in KC were quite impressed. We decided to change our usual number of the day inquiry and to conduct an inquiry into “How much is 100?“. Children worked on their own or in pairs to count 100 objects. I asked the children to arrange their objects in such a way that the objects could be quickly and easily counted by someone else.

100 Days of School on PhotoPeach

The children were deeply engaged. They all chose to continue working on their 100 collections during Free Inquiry Time. There was a buzz in the room as the children checked each other’s work, pointing out mistakes and commenting on interesting strategies. A couple of the children suggested drawing their collections so that they woud have a record of their work once everything was tidied away. The other children liked this idea, and everyone made some kind of written record of their collection. Several children have chosen to put this work in their portfolios.

I was able to use some of the ideas we explored last week with visiting Math consultant, Michael Ymer, regarding place value and counting in tens, to help the children deepen their understanding of the decimal counting system.

Exploring shape; categorizing shapes

The children have been exploring shape. I begin this session by asking the children what a shape is. They call out their own theories and add to and challenge each other’s theories.

  • Ryan: It’s lines
  • Nia: Not only lines, because it’s curves too.
  • Hal: Yes, lines and curvey shapes
  • Nikhil: Like circle because circle is shape
  • Trenton: But they is lines, straight ones and curve one is all lines
  • Rika: Yes because Mr Welk say that
  • Trenton: But shape is in the lines
  • Olivia: When the lines come together and cross over then it makes a shape inside.

The children like Olivia’s definition. I write the definition up on chart paper and display it so that we can revisit it in future sessions.

The children go off to explore the shape materials and continue their own inquiries. I decide to leave the inquiry open, but suggest to the children that they might like to explore ways of sorting the shapes. As I expect, some children prefer to follow their own ideas while others are interested in pursuing my suggestion and set to work sorting and categorizing.

At the end of the session, we gather on the carpet and children share their discoveries. It seems that after a varied start, many children have ended up sorting shapes. As the children explain what they did, a pattern emerges:

  • Maya: I know this sort! It’s with how many sides
  • Nia: Yes, I guessed that too. I knowed it is three and four and six (sides)
  • Olivia: That’s just what we did! That’s how we sorted our shapes too!

I ask the children what we could name the sets. Ryan suggests that we call the sets threesters, foursters, fivesters etc, according to the number of sides. “That’s great idea!” says Hal and the other children agree.

I decide that this is a good time to introduce the children to Greek and Latin prefixes. To start with we focus on tri and quad. We have come up with lists of words that have these prefixes


quad bike

Perhaps you can think of some more? Over the next weeks, we shall continue with our inquiry into sorting and categorizing shapes, and into shape names. Please join in at home!

Exploring shape; the beginning

We have begun a collaborative inquiry into shape. The central idea is that the paths and boundaries of natural space can be described by shape, which helps us to understand and explain our world. We want the children to develop their understanding that shapes have characteristics that can be described and compared, and to begin to develop a common language to describe paths, boundaries and shapes in their immediate environment.

I begin by explaining that we are going to start a new math inquiry; an inquiry into shape. The children respond enthusiastically, and begin to share the wealth of knowledge that they bring to the inquiry:

  • That’s a great idea! I know lots about shape!
  • Me too, because I have shapes in my home, so many.
  • Diamond is a shape.
  • And there is even shapes in this class room.
  • And square and rectangle and egg is shape.
  • But not egg.
  • Yes, because my mummy tell me!
  • I can do all different shapes
  • I am a shape expert.
  • And me, I am a shape expert
  • Yes, we can all be shape experts!

I am delighted that the children are so willing to leap on board the shape inquiry; I constantly struggle to find a balance between child initiated inquiries, driven by the children’s interests and passions, and my inquiries which are driven by curriculum. I am pleased that, once again, we have found overlap.

I am interested to find out more about what the children know already. I set out several tubs containing a variety of 2D and 3D shapes, including logi-blocks, power blocks, pattern blocks, clixi, lego and mini wooden building blocks. I ask the children to explore the materials in any way they like. I do not set parameters or guide-lines, but simply remind the children that we are engaging in a shape inquiry. I observe the children and take notes as they go about their inquiry.

At the end of the session, we come together on the carpet and I ask the children to share their inquiries. Some children have combined shapes to make pictures. Others have combined shapes to make new shapes. Yet others have sorted and categorized the shapes. As the children share their thinking, I listen carefully and gain an insight into both the understandings of individual children and the collective understanding of the group. This will inform my planning for the next session.

iPads in Kindergarten: tools or toys?

A year ago, our school decided to invest in a set of 15 iPads to be shared between the Kindergarten and Grade 1 classes. Over the last year, teachers and students have been exploring, reviewing and reflecting on ways to use iPads to support teaching and learning in all areas of our curriculum. Zoe recently returned from a Digital Technology conference in Shanghai, where she had participated in a discussion about using iPads as tools rather than toys. Some of the things she had heard resonated strongly with her, and as she shared her thoughts, I found they resonated also with me.

One thing that we agree on is that the iPads should support learning in other areas of the curriculum; tools, not toys. When the children use the apps, we make explicit the connections to learning across the curriculum. The IB Primary Years Program places inquiry and conceptual understanding at the heart of the curriculum and so we search for apps that will support children’s inquiries and help deepen their conceptual understandings.

As the first half term drew to a close and the children reflected on their personal learning journeys so far, I asked them to think about how the iPads had helped them to learn. Below are some of their comments which show a glimpse of the children’s insight into the way digital technology can support their learning.

  • Nia Well, when you have an author, like Eric Carle, you can read his books on the iPad and that’s better if you don’t know how to read.
  • Maya Because I can do counting. I practiced and practiced with the iPad to be better and now I can be better.
  • Olivia Sum stacker is my favourite because it’s quite tricky because you have to think about how to make all the stacks the right number. Sometimes one or two are right but the third one isn’t. And when you get really good you can do it in different languages and with different things like money, so you just keep getting better.
  • Rika And it has Korea in one story and Yeseul can read Korea because you can choose if you want English or Japanese or Korea.
  • Ryan And you can even count like 1,2,3 or like 2,4,6
  • Trenton I like Trace because you have to think how to make a path. And sometimes it is too hard. And then you have to think how it work.
  • Phebe I like to do 100 square because I find patterns.
  • Nikhil It’s good for Walter because he don’t speak English and so he can see how to do it. And I can show him on the iPad.


KC Math Investigations

Today during free inquiry time, I asked the children to use the time to find out more about numbers or patterns, the two mathematics strands we have been working on this term. Together we brainstormed some of the possibilities, and then the children went off to conduct their investigations. The children purposefully selected materials and got to work. The adults moved about the room observing and recording the children’s discussions.

It was wonderful to see how deeply engaged the children were, and how they were able to come up with investigations all by themselves.

Math Investigations on PhotoPeach

Free inquiry times provide an opportunity for children to practice skills and deepen understanding introduced in guided inquiry times.

E-learning in KC

Last week, school was closed as Typhoon 15 approached. This provided an authentic, connected experience involving children, parents, co-teachers and the ES Curriculum Coordinator.

  • One child emailed me her work and I posted it on the blog.
  • I left a comment and others quicky added their comments.
  • Another child emailed me her work which I posted in a PhotoPeach. Soon others were leaving their comments.
  • A third child, inspired by a VoiceThread we had been working on earlier in the week, decided to share her pattern work in a VoiceThread.

Between 8 oclock and 3 oclock we were connected via emails, blog posts and web links.  Zoe and Ms Catasti were also part of our learning web, just like we were all at school.

The next day at school, several children who had not responded digitally, brought photographs and drawings to share. Although they had not had an online presence, they had clearly accessed the e-learning through the blog and had participated in other ways. In the days since, children have continued share their home-based inquiries in school via the blog.

This is a wonderful example of how we can use technology to support teaching and learning, even with young children, and of the power of being digitally connected.

KC Pattern movie clips

Elif is a technology teacher at our school. She helps teachers and students to integrate technology into their teaching and learning. Mrs. Cancemi, who taught the children in ELC, had a good idea about how the children could take photographs to make short movie clips to show their patterns. Elif came into our classroom to help the children make the idea happen.

Have a look at the video clips below. Can you guess the patterns?