Sunday, September 28, 2014

Learning How To Slow Down And Look Closer Through Feelings And Self Portraits.

We have been learning to slow down and look closer.  As we wonder, inquire, and investigate, we need to slow down enough to notice things and focus on the detail.  We practiced by using our own faces!

We started out by talking about feelings. We read several books about feelings and discussed that feelings are real and okay!  I am always surprised when I ask kids if it is okay to be angry.  Almost all of them will say no, it is not okay! Of course it is okay to get angry! If a friend is unkind to you or takes something away from you, you are allowed to get angry at them! It is how we let them know we are angry that matters.  They learned about using their words, problem solving, walking away and finding an adult for help if they can't solve the problem that is making them angry.  We discussed how it is never okay to hit, push, shove, kick, etc. when they are angry.  

As we talked about different feelings, they looked in a mirror and looked closely at what their faces looked like when they had those feelings.  We decided to document through observational drawings what their faces looked like!  I got this idea from

They documented what their faces looked like when they were happy, sad, angry, and scared.  They slowed down and really looked at what their mouthes looked like, what their eyes looked like, and what their eyebrows did!

Next we read these books and discussed how we were all alike in some ways, yet different!  We all have eyes, but our eyes are all different!  We all have noses, but each nose is different!

We slowed down and really looked at our faces to notice the detail and created black line observational drawings to show that detail.

The kids choose the colors of watercolor to match their skin, hair and eyes.

I do these every year because the results of them slowing down, noticing detail, and documenting the detail they noticed really showed what these kids are capable of!  We added what they wanted to learn in Kindergarten and displayed these fabulous self portraits in our hallway!

We will continue to learn how to slow down and document details that we notice as we make our thinking visible during play, explorations and inquiries!  Some have started as they create plans or document during their play already!  The slowing down is the hardest part for them! They are used to bouncing from one thing to another, but they are getting better with practice!

Below is an observational drawing and clay sculpture of our praying mantis.

Here are some plans in the block area that showed great detail!  They also did a great job of sticking to their plans!

Below is a drawing of a friends favorite part of a book she read and some friends drawings of objects on our "look closer" table.  

This friend really slowed down to add details such as texture to this clay sculpture of a gourd. She added the lines that she took the time to notice!

It is amazing what they can accomplish once they learn to slow down and notice things!  The kids have been noticing the changes happening outside as Fall is creatin changes around us!  We will be slowing down to notice these changes in more detail! Stay tuned next week to see what they notice and learn!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

How and Why We Celebrated International Dot Day!

This past week we celebrated International Dot Day! It is a special day to celebrate creativity based on a precious book called "The Dot" by Peter Reynolds.

It has a great message for both children and teachers! It teaches children to celebrate their creativity and helps them build confidence in their own abilities!  It teaches us teachers how powerful our encouragement and our words can be!  We can use words to build them up or to criticize.  In this room we choose to build these precious children up!  This day was a day to show them that!  It also teaches me that the process of creating art is more important than the product! What the students create should not at all look the same as everyone else's creations! Nor should it look like what I think it should look like!  Where is the creativity if I direct what their art should look like!  Each one should be unique to the student who created it!

Here are some ways we celebrated our own unique creativity, made our marks, and saw where they took us!

Materials were set out for them to make their marks and see where they took them!  They had the freedom to use them however they choose!

Paint, brushes, paper plates, cotton swabs and corks...

created some beautiful dots!

Watercolor and oil pastels...

were used to create beautiful pieces of art.

Paint, paper tubes, swabs and corks created stunning pieces!

A large giant paper was layed on the easil for everyone to make marks on for a collaborative art piece.

Paper plates, primary colors and paper allowed for some color mixing experiments along with beautiful art!

Marks were also made in the library after children looked at the book with friends.

The writing center was also inspired by Peter Reynolds!

Even clay was inspired!

Of course, the children started finding dots all over our environment!

We had to display all of the beautiful creations around our room! Our room is now a "Dot Gallery!"

Ken Robinson once said, "Creativity is as important as literacy."  This was the first time that I had celebrated International Dot Day! It was wonderful, the children loved it, and it will be celebrated annually in room 201 to help children be confident about what they do in our room and hopefully carry that confidence out into the world!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How Do My Students Learn With So Much Play? A Look Into My Journey Toward More Play-Based Learning

Why do we put so much focus on play here in room 201?  What are they learning? Will they learn the basics? I know these are questions some parents may have going through their minds!  In this post I will tell you why in my room, play is he most important part of the curriculum!

I start out by setting out materials and experiences that will foster curiosity, wonder, creativity, team work and problem solving.  I want to provide experiences where kids feel confident enough to take risks, make mistakes, learn from them and try again!  99% of my kids think mistakes are bad. I spend a lot of time telling them I hope they make a lot of mistakes in Kindergarten because that is how they learn!  This includes social mistakes also!  

It's not a matter of just having materials, but setting them up in inviting ways that will draw the children in.  At each area, I have to wonder...will this provide real, meaningful situations where math, reading and writing skills can be fostered and encouraged?  What equally important 21st Century Skills (teamwork, problem solving,critical thinking, creativity) will be fostered and encouraged? Where might kids take this?  It takes a lot of planning and time to set up a room full of experiences to foster all of this and to change them as the year goes on. 

Here are just a few examples of learning situations that have happened in our room this week all through play!

Critical thinking as they come up with a design, problem solving as they figure out what to add next, team work as they discuss what would be the best next move, respect as some others were allowed to play with the environments that were created without destroying what someone else worked hard to make. 

Counting with one to one correspondence, measurement, comparing lengths, critical thinking, persistence, problem solving and handling frustration as they explored balance. 

Patterning with loose parts all over the room!

The concept of "equal" meaning "the same" has been explored and discussed as a class through the creations below. 
When I projected this on our promethium board during sharing time, they realized that if the red group had six, they didn't need to count the others since they could tell by looking that they were all equal.

Observational, reading and writing skills were practiced at our "look closer" table. 

Below is an observational drawing of our praying mantis. We worked together to figure out the "p" and "m" that we heard in praying mantis. 

This friend put an S for sparkle because she observed the sparkles in the rock.

This friend wondered what the spots on the pumpkin were. 

This friend knew how to make the "I" when he wanted to write "I wonder" but wanted to dictate the rest. I took that opportunity to model sounding out the words as I wrote and had him help me figure out some of the letter sounds. 

This friend wrote the color of each table and the names of each friend that sat at each table!

Kids are creating web maps about their friends, imitating what we do whole class each day as we get to know the "special friend of the day."

Measurement using both non-standard and standard units, and comparing lengths. The concept of "half" came up when they discovered this long unifix cube trail was 3 1/2 friends long!

Showing how many, counting and one to one correspondence. 

Do we have whole group instruction? Yes!  We have a time for focused instruction for reading, writing/drawing, and math!  When they are better at working independently, I will pull out small groups to work on skills specific to their needs.  But the most important parts of our school day are when they can take what they are learning during focused instruction and apply it to the real life situations that happen here in our room as they are being active learners and outside of our room in their own homes and lives.