Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

creating spaces for playful inquiry: thinking about relationships – September 2017

Posted on: October 5th, 2017 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

Inspired by our staff’s visits to the Opal School in Portland, we continue this year with our Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry Series. Sixty Richmond educators registered for this three-part dinner series, with a growing waiting list of educators wanting to be part of this series. This continued interest in this work speaks to the ripple effect that our playful inquiry community is having in schools and in our district. Many new teachers have heard about playful inquiry and how it aligns with goals and aspects of BC’s redesigned curriculum. A goal for the series is for teachers to consider: How can we create new possibilities for joy, wonder and inspiration?

So what is playful inquiry? Playful inquiry is not a new term and much has been written about it as a pedagogical stance. In Richmond, we have drawn upon our experiences and relationship with the Opal School in Portland and made connections to our BC context and curriculum. At our last study tour to Portland in March, the following explanation of playful inquiry was provided:

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In this explanation of playful inquiry words such as community, collaboration, citizen and uncertainty pop out. The term “learning alive” resonates with the spirit of inquiry we are hopeful of nurturing in our classrooms. Why playful inquiry? The above definition suggests an approach that will support students in thinking through the uncertainty in the world around them and nurture student agency in seeing themselves as contributing citizens in their community. So we can work together towards the goals and vision of what playful inquiry can bring to our classrooms and schools.

So how do we enact playful inquiry in our classrooms? For planning purposes, we often use the framework of -

  • playing with materials
  • playing with language
  • playing with ideas

to help us consider different ways to engage our students and ourselves with playful inquiry.

Playful inquiry creates opportunities for deeper engagement with concepts and idea, choice in ways students may pursue uncovering the curriculum, personalization and meaning-making as well as providing openings for connection-making, seeking relationships – both with self, each other and with ideas.

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As teachers arrived at Grauer Elementary, they were provided with provocations created by our playful inquiry mentors. These provocations were either pedagogical – meant to experience through the lens of an educator and to reflect on practice or, were those that students engaged with in Richmond classrooms.

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After a welcome, introductions and an overview of the series, teachers shared and discussed questions such as:

What is a provocation? How is a provocation alike and different from an invitation or a rich open task? 

Some conditions for provocations were shared:

  • žresponsive
  • žprovokes thinking
  • žconnects to a big idea, concept or theme
  • žis ongoing, lingering, extends

We talked about the theme of relationships for this session and how relationships were an inherent part of teaching and learning – social and emotional relationships but also relationships with and between curricular ideas. Some of the provocations shared and how the concept of relationships is embedded throughout our BC curriculum were provided to participants here:

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Other big ideas and themes that we have engaged with as a playful inquiry community were shared:

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Three of our playful inquiry mentors shared stories from their classrooms. Michelle Hikida from Diefenbaker shared how her and grades 2-4 group planning team are focusing on the big idea of stories this year and how they collaborate together to plan provocations based on students’ interests an questions. Laurie David-Harel from Whiteside shared the movie trailer she created for her school’s parent evening to share how the Kindergarten students in her class engage in playful learning. Karen Choo from Blair shared how sharing circles and using clay as a metaphor supports relationship building in her grades 4&5 classroom.

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After dinner together, teachers met in interest groups with conversations and sharing facilitated by our playful inquiry mentors.

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Many of the interest-based inquiry groups will continue their conversations with schools visits, online collaboration or other forms of sharing before our next whole group session together in January.

Participants were asked to consider what “one thing” they will play with, try , take risks with…what might be your one thing?

Blog posts from previous years can be found HERE

More information about the Opal School can be found HERE

~Janice

summer professional reading: THINQ Kindergarten (and Grades 4-6)

Posted on: July 28th, 2017 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

IMG_6380THINQ Kindergarten: Inquiry-based learning in the kindergarten classroom

by Joan Reimer and Deb Watters

THINQ series authors: Jennifer Watt and Jill Colyer

published by WAVE Learning Solutions, Canada, 2017

accompanying website: www.wavelearningsolutions.com

This is a relatively new series of books, written by Canadian (Ontario) authors. The Kindergarten book just came out this spring. One of the many things I like about this book is that it acknowledges that there are many interpretations of inquiry and not “one way” to engage in inquiry. There is a focus on remembering that being inquiry-minded is part of being human and that we are born with curiosity. I also like the recognition of the importance of the learning environment and the emphasis on developing inquiry dispositions. The “Inquiry in Action” sections share learning stories or case studies from classrooms. As I read the book, I added lots of post-it notes to pages to go back to, particularly connections I was making to our BC competencies – both core and curricular.

There are seven chapters:

1) Inquiry-based learning in kindergarten

2) Wondering and questioning

3) Creating an inquiry environment

4) Negotiating the curriculum

5) Documentation

6) Inquiry assessment in kindergarten

7) Final thoughts

IMG_6381The layout for each chapter is very similar. There is lots of “white space” and use of text boxes and colourful visuals to support the content of the chapter. Each section has a big idea and often quotes from well-known educators and authors.

 

 

 

 

IMG_6382At the end of each chapter there is a chapter summary with some questions to provoke reflective thinking. There are also “thumbnails” of the blackline masters/printables that accompany each chapter and can be found at the back of the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_6383The printable resources at the back of the book correspond to each chapter and focus on the big ideas from the chapter as well as templates for educators to use for planning and assessment.

 

 

 

 

The Grades 4-6 book was release last year and is very similar in format to the Kindergarten book. Interestingly, in this book, the assessment chapter is up front and then assessment ideas are woven throughout the rest of the book. I wonder if that is because this is a pressing issue for intermediate teachers – how to assess student learning during the process of inquiry? I know this question comes up a lot in my work with teachers. There is also much more of an emphasis on questions of personal significance, inquiry approaches across disciplines and the importance of providing feedback (often through questioning_ during the inquiry process in the Grades 4-6 or Junior book. The printable resources focus more on student self-assessment templates than the Kindergarten book.

The Grades 1-3 book and the Grades 7-9 book are supposed to be released this summer or fall.

~Janice

summer professional reading: Teaching Mathematical Thinking

Posted on: July 25th, 2017 by jnovakowski

IMG_6362Teaching Mathematical Thinking: Tasks & Questions to Strengthen Practices and Processes

by Marian Small

foreward by Linda Dacey

published by Teachers College Press, 2017

 

 

In this recently published book, well known math educator and author Marian Small highlights an important aspect of the discipline of mathematics – the thinking practices and processes that are “the doing of mathematics” when engaging in mathematical problems and learning content.

For those wanting clear examples of practices such as mathematical modeling, structure and argument are – the author clearly defines these with examples from across grade bands (K-2, 3-5 and 6-8).

For each practice/process, the author includes:

1) a definition with examples

2) where that practice/process is seen in K-8 mathematics

3) examples of problems, across grade bands, that might bring out that practice/process, often with examples of student responses

4) assessment questions for the educator to use to help notice and reflect on the students’ use of the practice/process

5) a short summary

I can’t think of another book that makes such careful nods to the Canadian mathematics education landscape. Although the focus is on the eight American Common Core standards for mathematical practice, the author connects these to our mathematical processes/competencies in Canada (with slight differences in different provinces/regions). Because our Canadian emphasis on visualization and mental math and estimation is not explicit in the American practices, the author has added a final chapter dedicated to these processes.

The problems are chosen to connect to each practice/process but should not be considered practice-specific. There are different types of problems – if you are familiar with Marian Small’s other books, you will understand the type of open-ness, differentiation and complexity built into the problems provided. For each practice/process she provides at least one problem for each grade band and then discusses how students take up the problems, with student examples.

I highly recommend this book. So so many wonderful problems for K-8 students and great information for teachers to help us think about the discipline of mathematics.

~Janice

playful storytelling celebration

Posted on: June 13th, 2017 by jnovakowski

We held our year end celebration for our Playful Storytelling through the First Peoples Principles of Learning project on June 1 at Grauer. Teachers and school teams came together to share what they had been working on during this school year. It is always interesting to hear how each school makes the project its own.

An overview of our session at the beginning of the year is HERE

After an acknowledgement of territory and a welcome to some visiting educators from Manitoba, in circle each teacher introduced themselves and shared the principle that they have most connected to this school year.

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A group of us involved in this project visited the Vancouver Art Gallery in early May to see the Susan Point exhibit. We made so many connections between her work and story and came up with several questions to guide our practice when having students engage with art. We shared this with the group and also shared how some teachers had already taken up these ideas with their classes.

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School teams then shared how they have investigated playful storytelling in their schools.

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We noticed a clear move to many classes taking storytelling outdoors and this will be something we continue to investigate next year.

After a lovely dinner together prepared by Marie Thom, we moved to The Studio at Grauer to engage in some sensory experiences with materials that can be used to enhance the storytelling experience. Experiences with clay, watercolour and wet felting were provided, for teachers to consider – what stories live in these materials?

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We all left inspired by each other and full of new ideas to enact with our students. Looking forward to continue this work in our district next year!

~Janice

The Studio at Grauer

Posted on: June 11th, 2017 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

The Studio at Grauer came to be based on a need we felt existed in our district – a space to engage in professional learning experiences for teachers as well as for a learning environment for students that could be left  “set up”. My office partner, Marie Thom, and I have been talking about this for the last couple of years. The notion of a “pop-up” classroom emerged and Andrew Ferguson, the principal at Grauer, was approached to see if we could use one of the school’s unused classrooms.

December 16 2018 – Room 102

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Room 102 was being used as a storage room until we began our transformation of it in January 2017. Blending Marie’s background in learning environments and my understanding of mathematics teaching and learning, we developed a space focused on mathematics, filled with inspiring materials in a learning environment designed for learners K-Adult. Our goal was to create a flexible, responsive and inclusive learning environment.

Room 102 – January 10 2017

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January 13 2017

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The learning environment is set up to create opportunities for choice, collaboration, personalized learning and inquiry. More specifically for mathematics, our hope was to broaden understanding of what mathematics is and what the teaching and learning of mathematics can be. Often school mathematics is perceived as “arithmetic” and mathematics is a much broader discipline that this. We wanted students and teachers to see math all around them and be inspired to think about mathematics in different ways – to see mathematical ideas in the materials, in pinecones, in buildings and structures, in images of our community, in art, in stories.

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As we discussed how we were going to use the space, we decided to call it The Studio, inspired the notion of an atelier, a studio space used in the early childhood schools of Reggio Emilia.

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Classes from Grauer, as well as visiting classes on “math field trips” visit The Studio to engage in mathematical inquiry. Marie and I take on the role of atelierista, working with the classroom teacher to facilitate learning experiences through different materials in the space. We have intentionally curated both mathematically structured materials like pattern blocks and Cuisenaire rods alongside materials often known as loose parts such as ribbons, gems, rocks, pinecones, etc. We also have art materials available to the students such as paint, clay, charcoal, yarn and wool so that students can express themselves and think using different languages. Students also have access to various tools to support their investigations such as measuring tapes, protractors, grids and ten frames.

The first class to visit The Studio – the grades 3&4 students from Grauer on January 18 2017

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The learning environment is intentionally flexible with choices in seating and tables available for both students and adults. Interestingly, although we have some chairs available, none of the students using The Studio have used them, preferring instead to stand or sit and lie on the carpet or use pillows. We have observed the flow of movement in the space and intentionally have large open spaces for students to move through. Shelves filled with baskets of materials are open and accessible to students. Students can choose the materials they want to use and take them to where they would like to engage.  We took doors off of some cupboards to create more open shelving. All of the furniture, except for four small Ikea open shelves, was found in school storage rooms and thrift shops.

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Provocations are set up on tables for students (and educators) to inspire mathematical thinking and inquiry. Inspired by one of the students’ interests in optical illusions, the grades 3&4 students from Grauer investigated the mathematics embedded in optical illusions. I gathered materials and tools that I hoped would provoke their thinking about optical illusions and the students also accessed and were inspired by other materials in The Studio.

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As we have more classes through The Studio, we have developed documentation to share in the space. Panels, photographs and photobooks are available for students and educators to engage with, to reflect upon and to inspire new experiences.

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One area of pedagogical intention in The Studio has been on noticing, naming and nurturing the Core Competencies and the Mathematics Curricular Competencies from our BC curriculum framework. A focus has been on both communication and creative thinking in mathematics. We intentionally create opportunities for students to engage in different types of communication and to reflect on how they are doing.

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We have had many groups of educators also visit The Studio. Our District Support Team, educators attending our Playful Inquiry professional learning series and teams from schools in our district. Many BC educators involved with our BCAMT Reggio-Inspired Mathematics project have visited the space as well. We have also had visitors from Manitoba and Sweden! We often focus the visits with the questions – what do you notice? what do you wonder?

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We also have a dedicated professional learning library with the teacher resources we recommend around teaching and learning mathematics, the use of loose parts and the importance of the learning environment.

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We had hoped The Studio would inspire similar learning environments in our district but recognize that many schools do not have access to a dedicated room for a studio space – we hope that teachers will be inspired by elements of The Studio for their own classroom learning environments. What has been exciting for Marie and I is that this little project has had a huge ripple effect at Grauer, in our district, and beyond!

~Janice

 

 

Big Mathematical Ideas for Grades 3-5: year four

Posted on: May 25th, 2017 by jnovakowski

This after school series is in its fourth year, focused specifically on the foundational mathematical concepts in grades 3-5 such as operations, place value and fractions. This year, we met once a term after school in Jennifer Plummer’s French Immersion grades 3&4 classroom at Homma Elementary (thank you for hosting Jennifer!).

For our first session in the fall, we focused on number sense and operations and the curricular competencies of reasoning and communication. I had recently been to the NCTM Regional Conference in Phoenix and shared a great game that I was reminded of in one of the sessions there.

The Product Gameboard

The Product Gameboard instructions

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At our second session, in January, we focused on financial literacy and mathematical inquiry. I shared the new Pizza Co. game for the iPad from Osmo as well as some other resources and children’s books to support the financial literacy content in the BC Mathematics Curriculum.

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BC K-5 Mathematics Big Ideas

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For our third session in April, teachers in the series requested a focus on assessment, place-based learning and connecting the core and curricular competencies.

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BC K-5 Math Communication

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We explored curricular content and competencies by investigating with power polygons.

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Looking forward to continuing the conversation around big mathematical ideas next year!

~Janice

Provincial Numeracy Project in Richmond – year two

Posted on: April 24th, 2017 by jnovakowski

For the second year, Richmond is one of several districts in the province that are taking part of an adapted version of Changing Results for Young Readers in the form of Changing Results for Young Mathematicians. Provincially, this project is not just focused on young students but for K-12 students and their teachers and has been called the Provincial Numeracy Project.

This year, three school teams of primary teachers and a Learning Resource Teachers are participating – teams from Whiteside, Grauer and McNeely.

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Several routines such as Counting Collections (see tedd.org) and High Yield Routines (book published by NCTM) were shared with teachers as elements that could be introduced as both whole class and small group instruction.The  importance of assessment to inform instruction was discussed and the importance of spending time being present with our students – listening, noticing and talking with them. This is a critical practice in this project – really zooming in on students’ mathematical thinking.

One of the handouts provided to teachers was a collection of Number Sense tasks and background information connected to the Kathy Richardson book we would be using. The handout package can be downloaded here: Didax Number Sense guide

number concepts kathy richardsonUnfortunately, our second session together was cancelled due to a lack of TTOCs. Between sessions, copies of Kathy Richardson’s book How Children Learn Number Concepts was delivered to each teacher in the project. Teachers were asked to zoom in on one section of the book and make connections to what they were noticing as their students engaged in counting or other number routines.

Each Orange Had 8 Slices Teachers were also provided with a copy of the classic math picture book Each Orange Had 8 Slices and were encouraged to share some of the pages with their students and engage in playful and joyful mathematics – counting, problem posing and problem solving.

The one-pager that was created to accompany the book to send home with students to engage in joyful math with their parents can be downloaded here: Each Orange Had 8 Slices.

For our third and final session in March, school teams shared what they had been trying and what they had been noticing in their classrooms.

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A specific focus on the reasoning and analyzing section of the curricular competencies was explored through estimation. Estimation is a good indicator of students’ number sense and is an important competency to develop and use in many contexts – both computational and with measurement. The estimation information and connections to literature that was developed as part of the BCAMT Reggio-Inspired Mathematics project can be downloaded here: Estimating final

We also looked at the curricular competency: “use reasoning to explore and make connections” through routines such as Number Talk Images and Clothesline.

How many ducks are there? How do you know? What different ways can you see the quantity?

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A blog post of how clothesline math has been used in kindergarten classes in Richmond can be found HERE.

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Teachers in the project each received a copy of Which One Doesn’t Belong? by Christopher Danielson and connections to our BC curricular competencies in math were made – communication, reasoning, justifying and explaining.

As part of the project, teachers were asked to pay attention to a child who they were wondering about – a child whose math learning was causing questions for the teacher. Based on the findings from Changing Results for Young Readers, we felt that focusing on the learning of one child, and how that child  responds to new ways of approaching math learning, would influence the class’ learning as a whole. Teachers were asked to reflect on this as well as write a short professional narrative reflecting on their own professional inquiry during the project. A collection of excerpts from the teachers’ reflections are included below:

“We are having to unlearn the ways we learned math in order to think about ways we can help the students build a solid number sense foundation.”

“I noticed increased student ownership over their own learning. They are choosing collection at their just right level and are trying to figure out, on their own, ways to count their collection in multiple different ways. Students are beginning to be able to communicate their thinking about the strategies they use to count their collections.”

“I have a better understanding of number concepts and where to go next to help/challenge a student.”

“High Yield Routines had high engagement levels and encouraged a lot of math talk in our classroom.”

“I noticed that I was taking chances in my teaching during this project, allowing myself to learn alongside my students.”

“I learned that math is about exploring and sense-making.”

“Students were engaged with math talk images of actual objects rather than dots or ten frames.”

“My students are more engaged and more hands on with the math now as a result of the changes I made.”

“Students are now expected to voice and articulate and justify their thinking about why they feel their answer could be right.”

“I learned about recognizing the phases of mathematical development and how foundational skills contribute to deeper meaning and understanding for students in subsequent years.”

“I noticed that I need to step back and invest time to delve into student learning and understanding beyond the correct answer.”

*****

~Janice

Vision, Mission and Values Project at Thompson Elementary

Posted on: March 20th, 2017 by jnovakowski

The Richmond School District is embarking on a legacy project, developing new Vision, Mission and Values statements for our district. Teachers were invited to engage in discussions with their students and collect artifacts to contribute to the district process of creating new VMV statements. Two intermediate classes and their teachers from Thompson agreed to do some special filming for a district video for this legacy project.

At the beginning of January, I was able to meet with classroom teachers Lyanne McCaskill (grades 5&6) and Kevin Dimmick (grades 6&7) to plan how this project might unfold. The teachers put a lot of thought into the experiences they wanted to provide for their students. I was fortunate to be able to attend three different learning experiences with the students and to capture the students’ thinking and ideas with photographs and videos.

On the first day, as is the usual routine, the students in both classes entered their rooms to the morning provocation: What do you imagine school could be? They were invited to respond to the question using loose parts. Some students focused on the physical environment while others focused on metaphors and ideas. Each class paused to go to each table group and have those students share what they had done. Students could go back to their spots to revisit their work, connecting to new ideas or inspiration. Students were then asked to reflect on their thinking using a familiar response form.

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In the grades 5&6 class…

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In the grades 6&7 class…

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On the second day, the teachers used the Vision, Mission and Values from the Vancouver Aquarium website to initiate discussion about what Vision, Mission and Values are. In one class, the students were asked to use a familiar response format (Notice, Connect, Wonder) as they discussed and thought about the Aquarium’s VMV statements while in the other class, they used the Vision, Mission, and Values framework and questions as a way to respond.

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In one of the classes, the students sorted different statements they had made in their own reflective writing about VMV – there were very interesting discussions that emerged as students distinguished between what was part of a vision, mission or values statement.

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The students worked in small groups to create charts of words and phrases that connected to Vision, Mission or Values and these were displayed in the classroom for students to read and discuss.

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On our third day together, the teachers began their days as they had the first day – with a morning provocation posted for the students to engage with and loose parts available. The original question of What do you imagine school could be? was now linked to Vision, Mission and Values. The students could choose one or all of the three areas to represent and record their ideas about.

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It was fascinating to watch how the students’ ideas evolved over time and how each class had its own particular culture it terms of what came out in the students’ representations – kindness, inclusion, community, diversity and collaboration were the five big ideas that stood out to me as I listened to and read the students’ contributions to the project.

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An short video compilation of the Thompson VMV experience can be viewed HERE.

What has stuck with me, while spending time in these classrooms is the wisdom of our students. Their lived experiences in different types of learning environments, their understanding of each other, the importance of collaboration and the purpose of schools within a society made my heart sing. Our future is in good hands.

~Janice

Vision, Mission and Values Project at Blair Elementary

Posted on: March 20th, 2017 by jnovakowski

The two kindergarten classes at Blair Elementary took part in our district’s Vision, Mission and Values project in February. As our district develops new Vision, Mission and Values statements, student comments and contributions are being collected to inform the process.

I worked with teachers Lauren MacLean and April Pikkarainen to develop questions to be a part of their regular routine of morning provocations for when the students arrive at school. 

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As the students chose what materials and question to engage with, we had the opportunity to capture some of their thoughts about what schools could be.

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The students had clear ideas about what schools should have and how they should be designed. They talked about natural spaces and spaces to work together. There was a lot of conversation about how schools are for all children and that happiness is a feeling we should have at school.

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The classroom teachers then facilitated a sharing circle during which students shared their ideas about school. We unpacked the questions around Vision, Mission and Values with the students. The students “turned and talked” to a partner about one of these questions.

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Building on and connecting to the ideas they heard from their classmates, the students were given time to go back and revisit their creations and ideas.

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I was able to “interview” some of the students and capture their thinking about what schools could be. This tweet kind of sums up the wisdom from these amazing kindergarten students:

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I am looking forward to a district gathering in April when artifacts from classrooms across the district will be available for us to think about and am glad that the voices of these kindergarten students will contribute to the important discussions our district is having.

~Janice

investigating numbers with the Kindergarten class at Garden City

Posted on: March 20th, 2017 by jnovakowski

I visited the kindergarten class at Garden City twice over January and February, introducing different routines to develop number sense and to investigate numbers. Teacher Lori Williams had initially asked me to come to her class to introduce counting collections to her students and after that lesson, I suggested some other routines or practices she might try with her students.

To introduce counting collections to the class, the students and I sat in a circle together. The class’ “special helper” and I counted a collection in different ways, taking suggestions from the suggestions. I intentionally modelled working together as a “team” – taking turns, taking on different roles (one of us moving the items, the other counting, etc) and having each of us support each other when we were unsure or “stuck”. We counted a collection by 1s in different ways – each of us placing an item in a container taking turns while counting, putting the items in a line and counting them together, moving the items from one pile to another taking turns counting as we moved the items one by one. I asked the students if they could think of any other ways they might count their collections and they had some new ideas as well as some suggesting that they count by 2s or 10s. Pairs of students then went off to choose a collection to count, with the expectation that they count it in at least two or three different ways.

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The students and I came together after about 30 minutes of counting and I invited some pairs of students to share what they counted and how they counted their collections. I encouraged the students to listen and make connections in their mind as to how they had counted their collections.

For my next visit, I introduced the clothesline and explained that it was another way to investigate counting, particularly ordering numbers.

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The students took turns placing different representations of numbers on the clothesline – they were asked to explain their placement decisions. We followed this routine with an invitation to investigate ordering and sequencing numbers using a variety of materials.

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The students were creative in their use of materials and the inspiration of the materials often nudged them beyond their familiar counting range and what the curricular expectation are for kindergarten in BC (number concepts, including counting from 0-10).

For the classroom teacher, this was a time to notice her students engaging in new routines with different materials and to think about how she might incorporate them into her classroom. It is always a conundrum for kindergarten teachers – there are always more materials to add to the classroom but we also have to let things go and put things away, even if temporarily, to create open access to the materials students will use regularly and purposefully.

~Janice