Archive for September, 2014

Reggio-Inspired Mathematics Inquiry Project

Posted on: September 27th, 2014 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

Last year at the end of September a large group of Richmond’s early primary teachers gathered for an afternoon of professional learning and sharing around Reggio-inspired practices in the area of mathematics. Many teachers continued their inquiry into Reggio-inspired mathematics over the school year and we began to gather examples of mathematical provocations.

A few of us worked to compile our work into a draft resource.



We will continue to add to this resource this year with hopes of a complete version being available by the end of the school year. Richmond teachers interested in contributing to this project can contact Janice through Richnet.


introducing Osmo

Posted on: September 27th, 2014 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

After seeing some early investors post about Osmo on twitter, I jumped on board and pre-ordered one. Osmo is an interactive system for the iPad using the camera to create Reflective Artificial Intelligence. The three free apps work with a reflector and base to create an interactive play environment. The Osmo is recommended for children ages 6-12. Osmo has two tag lines:

Play on the iPad with real people and real objects.

Osmo promotes social intelligence and creative thinking.

More information can be found here:

I opened my box and found three boxes of components.


I loaded the apps from the iTunes story, put my iPad in the base (you have to take any cases or covers off your iPad) and slipped on the reflector over the camera.


and we were ready to go!

First up was Tangram. The puzzles have difficulty options – the pieces are shown in colour, or in black and grey or just outlines. As you place the pieces in front of the iPad, the game provides feedback as to when you have the piece in the correct place and orientation. Great feedback provided as you play and overall, just a great visual-spatial play experience.



Next we tried Words. A beautiful photograph comes up on the screen and you are prompted with the number of letters in the word and then have to choose the letter tiles to spell the word. The letter tiles don’t have to placed in correct spelling order, the app reads the letter and places the letter in the correct spot in the word. If you place a letter tile out that is not in the word, it fills a spot at the top of the screen to show you what letter you have used incorrectly. This game can be played by yourself or versus friends and gets progressively more difficult. A great game for word work.


The last game we tried was Newton. There are not any physical components to go with this app but I personally found this one the most creative and engaging. Visual-spatial problem solving, physics and pinball wizardry all play a part in this amazing interactive experience. You begin with a plain white piece of paper and the reflector reads whatever you draw or place on the paper. Balls start to drop from the top of the screen and you need to direct them to their targets. It is a little mind-boggling at first to see your hand appear on the iPad screen as a line drawing. I also placed my phone down and it “read” that and created an image – I used it to bounce balls off of like a pinball machine. All the adults around me were amazed by Newton – lots of great interactive fun and learning to be had here!


The current price is $80 and a reflector and base would be needed for each iPad which makes Osmo a little pricey for classroom use but on the upside, it is such a social, interactive game that can be placed upright on a table so that a group of 4-6 children can easily stand around and play together.

I’m looking forward to seeing what new apps and play experiences this new company comes up with!



welcome back: joyful learning in kindergarten

Posted on: September 24th, 2014 by jnovakowski

On Tuesday afternoon, almost 100 Richmond Kindergarten and K/1 teachers came together in the Woodward gym for an afternoon of community building.  We are each others’ community and in times like these, we must remember that there are others we can turn to for support. This September school start-up will be unlike any other and we need to be gentle on ourselves. We need to give ourselves time to transition and not feel we need to “catch up” or make up for lost time. It is what it is. The students are where they are.


Based on her dialogue with an Aboriginal elder, Marie Thom spoke about the components of a joyful classroom: building relationships, being present in the moment, the gift of time, a sense of belonging and experiencing joy.


As part of this afternoon, I shared some thoughts around playful inquiry as a means to uncover curriculum in the classroom. I highlighted examples from many K and K/1 classrooms in our district, based on work from projects in our district like the QTL Playful Storytelling project and district professional learning series like Primary Scientists and the Reggio-Inspired Mathematics Inquiry Project. I referred to the resource What About Play? The Value of Investing in Children’s Play by Susan Harris MacKay. Teachers were asked to consider what their role as a teacher and how they might nurture a stance of playful inquiry with their students. The importance of teachers engaging in playful inquiry themselves is important too! We need to be willing to take risks, try new things and be okay with things when they flop…but take the time to consider what could be done differently the next time around.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.03.39 AM

Our afternoon wrapped up with Sarah Loat discussing self-regulation, with some tips for teaching young children how to be mindful and strategies for self-regulation.

Marie and I shared some picture books, professional resources and materials at the session. A list of those items is available here:  Joyful Learning in Kindergarten.

It is such a privilege to work with our youngest learners in the district and to work alongside their very hard-working teachers!