Saturday, August 17, 2013

Making More Time for Play: A Look At My Daily Schedule

Many of you have been asking me about what my day looks like and how I can fit all of the curriculum in while having time for our inquiries and projects. Here is what I am planning on our day looking like. I am sure my schedule won't look like this right away, but this is what I will be working towards!

Last year when I let go of dictating what the children explored, I noticed that all of our inquiries stemmed from experiences that happened in our school environment. The visiting orchestra prompted an investigation about music. Fall and a trip to the pumpkin farm prompted an investigation of trees, leaves and pumpkins. A picture of men floating in giant, hollowed out pumpkins down a river prompted a sink and float investigation. Our Gingerbread Man running away prompted them to build amazing structures to catch him.  It snowed last year so we investigated snowflakes, feeding the birds prompted them to investigate how animals find food and survive the winter, block play prompted an investigation of ramps, force and get the idea! 

This summer I really explored the idea of using play and creating provocations (kind of like learning centers but not lead by a teacher, more exploratory) that would invite the children to explore and ask questions and inquire deeper! Play is so important in developing real life skills such as collaboration, cooperation, working together, problem solving, and so much more!!! In order for this to be meaningful, I need more than what used to be a 20 minute unstructured free choice time! It needs to look different and we will need more time.

Exploring clay would be one example of a provocation.  Clip boards and pencils would be added also.

With all of that in mind, here is what my daily schedule will hopefully look like:

After breakfast and our morning meeting, they will discuss and plan what they will do and how they will think and learn during our "Investigations" time. They will then make a deliberate choice from a variety of areas that will be set up ahead of time such as home living, engineering (blocks/building materials), art (painting, sculpture, collage, etc), clay, small world play, loose parts, science, reading, and writing.  Both of us teachers will be observing, asking guiding questions, helping guide them to incorporate literacy, math, and observational skills. We will also document their experiences and use it for planning future experiences.  I am hoping that we will be able to investigate through play for about 40 minutes. Projects will also be worked on at this time. 

After their play, we will allow some children to share and we will reflect on what we have noticed, and point out how kids have used literacy and math targets. These most likely will develope into mini lessons and be referred to during math and literacy instruction later in the day!  

When we finish sharing, they will go back to clean and organize the areas they played at.  If it is a work in progress, they will create signs to make sure they stay. We will take our time and not rush this process. I want them to take pride in taking care of all of the materials and areas of our room. If someone told me to clean my kitchen in 5 minutes, I would be throwing things in cupboards and into piles in a rush too!

Writer's workshop will come next.  The kids do not use journals. We will relax and read a story and notice what the writer did as an author or illustrator. The kids then write books as real authors and illustrators. They may write about their experiences, an inquiry, fiction, non fiction, something they know that they want to teach the class about, retell a favorite story, etc. They always write stories that are meaningful for them. When they can write their stories as books, they will write for 30 minutes and complain when I tell them to stop. During this time, I will pull small groups who need to work on similar writing skills while my co-teacher conferences with individual children.  

Most likely we will need to take a break from our writing to eat lunch, then we will come back to it when we are finished eating.  We end Writer's workshop by having some kids share and celebrate what they have learned and can do as writers!

Reader's Workshop will come next with a short 10 minute mini lesson using big books, poetry or experiences from our investigations time.  To prepare for our Thinking and Learning Time, (I got that term from Joanne over at Teacher friends,check her out, she is amazing!!)  the kids look at their data folders to see what they need to work on. They come up with a plan and choose stations with materials or literacy/math experiences that will help them meet their Learning Targets. I will work on guided reading with small groups while my co-teacher will work with kids at stations, or pull out small groups for guided math.  When we are finished, we will pick some children to show what they learned and how they learned it. Math mini lessons will also come from this sharing time. 

Inquiry Studies- At some point in the afternoon, the kids will leave us for a half hour or an hour for special classes.  Three days a week, I have an extra half hour because they only go to one special class. On these days we will use the extra time for our inquiry studies.

Outdoor exploration will take place on a daily basis, unless it rains. We are developing an outdoor exploration area to provide more natural items for kids to play on and investigate!

At the end of the day we will gather together, look at documentation (photos) and reflect on our day. This will also encourage discussion on what will happen the next day. 

I am hoping this schedule works out! As I see more literacy and math happening naturally during investigation time and sharing time, I may be able to integrate math/literacy stations more in another investigation time rather than a separate station time...but I am not there yet! I am still taking my baby steps! Wish me luck!


  1. Sounds like a great day! How is it going so far? I am also curious about the "data folders" that your kids have and about how Investigations time is different from Thinking and Learning time? Are the materials for the Thinking and Learning time set out during Investigations time as well or are they set out after?

    Are you able to also provide some time frames for approximately how long each part of your day is?

    Thank you for your inspirational blog!

    1. Hi Sarah!
      It is going fairly well! I had to make a few changes because my kids leave for specials (art, P.E., music, etc.) from 9:30-10:00 or 9:30-10:30 depending on the day. Here is what my day looks like:
      9:00- Breakfast
      9:20- welcome and greeting, quick morning message
      9:30- Special Classes
      2 day a week, we do writers workshop at 10:00 and an inquiry at 11:00
      3 days a week we do writers workshop at 10:30 because they go to two special classes and are not back until 10:30.
      11:30- Lunch
      12:00 Investigations or explorations- this is basically play based learning time. Some provocations are set out for inquiring and exploring along with blocks, clay. paint, home living, etc. Project work takes place during this time also if a project is going on.
      1:00- Literacy Lab- We go to lit lab for intervention, literacy stations and guided reading. We have a literacy lab teacher who sets it all up for us.
      1:30- Reader's Workshop- BigBooks, poetry used to learn sight words and reading strategies
      1:20- Thinking and Learning Time- These are literacy and math specific experiences for them to explore. I pull out for guided reading and guided math groups during this time.
      2:20- Math/ Calendar
      2:40- Outside exploration and play
      3:00- Meet and reflect on our day and discuss direction and next steps for the next day in regard to inquiries and projects
      3:20- Pack up and get ready to leave
      3:25 dimissal
      On Friday's I only have one special in the morning and no literacy lab. That gives me an extra hour for inquiry and project work so I save the most time consuming things for Fridays!
      It is not as integrated as I would like, but giving them an hour to play and explore was a big step for me! It is working out great! I am seeing a lot of literacy and math opportunities happening during this time and they are investigating many things, but I can't let go of station time and guided reading or math yet. Not with the expectations for Kindergarten here being so high.
      Our data folders have all of the standards they need to meet for our report card in them. Also all of the letters, letter sounds, and sight words they are required to know. During Thinking and Learning Time, they take their data folder and look at it. Each skill, letter, word, etc. has a smiley face colored if they have achieved the skill. So they can see at a glance what sight words they can read and which ones they need to work on during Thinking and Learning Time. They take it and use the materials to practice the letters they don't know or the sight words they need to read and spell or numbers they need to learn to write, or addition, or subtraction. It's all in there and it gives the kids control of what they need to work on. They are not allowed to color a smiley face until they prove to us that they have achieved the goal. It's so hard to explain! I need to post a picture or something to show it! I hope this helps!
      Darla Myers

  2. I found you on Instagram, my account won't allow me to post comments right now but I wanted to tell you that I am so grateful I found you. I have been teaching for 5 years in kindergarten and your classroom is exactly what I am aiming for it is so wonderful to find someone sharing so wonderfully so I can see how this all looks in real life. My heart tells me this is right but finding mentors is such a hard thing and seeing it in action is so important. THANK YOU. I am meetmamabear in Insta as soon as I get it running again.

    1. Hi AshLee!
      It is so nice to connect with you! Do you teach here in the US? It was so nice to hear from you because the whole reason I share so much is because I feel so passionate about getting the word out that this is what children need to be successful in the long run! That we can teach this way through play and inquiry and projects and cover the common core at the same time! Good luck! Are there other teachers in your building who will support you or are you on your own? I was on my own until our Superintendent discovered Project Based Learning a couple years ago and now he wants all grades to do it. I know that is rare though! Good luck on your journey and take baby steps! It's taken me 6 years to get where I am now and I still have a lot to learn! Keep in touch!