## number glass gems

Posted on: September 18th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

One of the elements of The Studio at Grauer that teachers often notice is the collection of numerals we have in baskets and trays on our shelves. I have collected these over the years and find them in craft and scrapbooking stores, thrift stores, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and Urban Source on Main Street in Vancouver. I am always on the lookout for numerals. Students use them in their play and investigations, ordering them, using them to label/represent their collections or sets of materials or to use as purposeful numbers in their creations (addresses, phone numbers, parts of a story, etc).

Just to clarify some terms…

Digit - A digit is a single symbol used to make numerals. 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 are the ten digits we use in our number system to make numerals.

Numeral - A numeral is a symbol that stands for a number.

Number - A number is a count or measurement that represents an idea in our mind about a quantity.    Numerals are often used to represent a number.

It is how these materials are used that leads to them becoming called numbers – they are used to connect meaning to the symbols by matching the symbol to a set or quantity or are put in order/sequence which gives meaning to the symbols. They can also be used to represent the number in an expression or equation.

I chose to make my most recent set of glass gems using the digits 0-9. This way students can put them together to create different numerals/numbers to label their representations/sets/quantities.

Materials needed: large glass gems (found at Michael’s and some dollar stores), foam paintbrush, Mod Podge and number stickers or cutouts

Instructions: Using the flat side of the glass gem, apply a light coat of Mod Podge and lay a numeral upside down, centred on the back of the gem. Press down and smooth surface so that the numeral adheres and there are not air bubbles between the surfaces. Let dry for a couple of minutes and then apply a coat of Mod Lodge to the entire surface of the flat side of the glass gem. Let dry for 20-30 minutes and then apply a second coat. Let dry and then they are ready to be used.

We have also created materials similar to this by adhering stickers to tree cookies/slices or to smooth stones. It’s just handy to have a collection of these and students find all sorts of ways to use them.

~Janice

## creating spaces for playful inquiry: thinking about the hundred languages – April 2018

Posted on: May 16th, 2018 by jnovakowski

For our final session of this year’s Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry professional learning series, we focused on the Hundred Languages – a grounding element of the educational approach from the childcare centres in Reggio Emilia, Italy. The Hundred Languages concept is based on a poem by Loris Malaguzzi who suggests that all children have a hundred languages (or more) in which to express themselves and that are role as educators (and school systems) is to nurture these languages, not suppress them.

As Richmond educators entered the room, they were invited to they were asked to reflect on how the hundred languages are living in their classrooms.

Hundred_Languages_Provocations_April19_2018

The Richmond educators who visited Opal School in Portland over spring break shared their reflections on the experience through documentation panels.

Carrie Bourne,  Jen Yager and Julie Curran shared what they learned at Opal and how they have taken some of these ideas up in their own teaching contexts.

Marie Thom and I shared some of our experiences from our Canadian Study Tour of Reggio Emilia in March. I shared some ideas I saw about intersecting digital and analog languages through digital landscapes and Marie shared the power of the language of food and the metaphor of the table to bring people together.

After dinner together (enacting the table metaphor) our interest groups met with playful inquiry mentors to share ideas and go deeper with their understanding about playful inquiry.

We collected feedback from educators who have attended this three part series as we reflect on our learning from this year and think ahead to next year.

“Love the opportunity to collaborate with others and hear others share about their thinking/learning and what they are trying in their classrooms. It is thought-provoking and inspiring.”

“Playful inquiry and teaching is a learning process, always growing and changing and best in collaboration with others teachers and peers.”

“This series has kept me inspired when I’ve felt uninspired or simply tired.”

“This series completely changed the lens through which I see my role as the teacher and the roles of the students.”

There was considerable interest in creating opportunities for teachers to visit others’ classrooms to see playful inquiry in action and to be able to collaborate with colleagues from across the district.

Regardless of how how things unfold for professional learning opportunities in our district for next year, we know we have a strong and growing community of educators committed to teaching and learning through playful inquiry. Thanks to all of the educators involved in this series for their contributions and participation!

~Janice on behalf of the Playful Inquiry Mentors

## creating spaces for playful inquiry: thinking about reflection – January 2018

Posted on: May 11th, 2018 by jnovakowski

On January 25, Richmond educators gathered at Grauer for our second dinner session of our Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry professional learning series. This month our focus was on reflection and time. Educators shared their experiences engaging in playful inquiry with their students and considering the role of reflection in documentation and making both students’ and our professional learning visible.

After dinner together, teachers participated in interest groups facilitated by our playful inquiry mentors.

A handout with curricular connections to the idea of reflection can be found here: Reflections_Provocations_Jan25_2018

~Janice

## 2017-18 primary teachers study group: session 2

Posted on: May 10th, 2018 by jnovakowski

On December 7, Anne-Marie Fenn hosted our primary teachers study group at Woodward Elementary. We went outside and Anne-Marie shared the vision and plans for their new outdoor learning space.

As the sun was going down, we played with the elements of light and shadow and considered ways we could include these ideas into our outdoor (or indoor) storytelling experiences, thinking about how these ideas might enhance or add new problems to students’ stories.

After coming back in to Anne-Marie’s classroom as it started to get dark, teachers shared different outdoor storytelling experiences they had tried with their students.

Thanks for hosting us Anne-Marie!

~Janice

## 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:

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.

*****

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.

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:

• responsive
• provokes thinking
• connects to a big idea, concept or theme
• is 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:

SD38_Relationships_Provocations_Sept28_2017

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

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.

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

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

## 2017-18 primary teachers study group: session 1

Posted on: October 4th, 2017 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

On September 21, our primary teachers study group came together for our first session of this school year, hosted by Anna Nachbar at McNeely Elementary. Our focus this year, as chosen by participants, is outdoor storytelling experiences, connecting multiple areas of the curricula. This collaborative professional inquiry draws upon the work we did last year as a group around outdoor learning in general and also draws upon our district’s three year Playful Storytelling through the First Peoples Principles of Learning project. Some ideas from that project were compiled and shared with the group and can be downloaded here: SD38_Playful_Storytelling_FPPL_Ideas

Books that we will be working with together this fall include teacher resources and children’s books:

We will be compiling ideas that are inspired by these books to share with others.

After coming together in a circle and introducing ourselves, we shared ideas about working with groups of children at the beginning of the year with regards to learning outdoors. We then ventured out to the “McNeely forest” and spent time in the space noticing how the space might inspire storytelling. How do small spaces and big spaces allow for different storytelling experiences? What natural materials could students gather to contribute to their stories? How might a connection to place and knowledge of local plants and animals enhance their stories?

I brought out a bag of materials as a way to extend the experience – a collection of fabrics and some wooden and plastic animals. How do these materials extend or inhibit the storytelling experience?  Teachers came together in small groups to create and share stories and new ideas for storytelling that emerged through being outside and talking together.

One area of discussion was what to do in schools that don’t have a wooded area such as the one McNeely does.  Some schools are using a garden bed and using it as a story garden. Another idea is to create small worlds using pots, planters or window boxes – plants can be created and pieces of wood, rocks and shells can be used to landscape a setting. How might the difference heights in a tree (base, trunk, branches) be used to create multi-level stories? Most schools have a few garden beds near their entrances – could one be used for storytelling? What characters might visit that space?

Although registration filled up very quickly for this group, we will continue to share our thinking and experiences through twitter and this blog. We will be coming together in November at Woodward Elementary in their new outdoor learning space.

~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

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

January 13 2017

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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

## creating spaces for playful inquiry: April 2017

Posted on: May 28th, 2017 by jnovakowski

For our third session of our Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry dinner series, Richmond educators came together at Grauer Elementary to share and learn together. This year at our sessions we have focused on broad themes or big ideas that cut across curriculum areas and grade levels, beginning with community, then identity and for our third time together this year, we chose to focus on place. Those that attended our Lower Mainland study tour to  the Opal School in Portland created panels reflecting on their experience. Many of our playful inquiry mentors set up either pedagogical provocations or shared provocations they developed to engage their students.

Playful_Inquiry_Place_Provocations_April2017

Four teachers shared their experiences visiting Opal for the first or second time – what had an impact on them and how it is affecting their practice. Thank you to April, Louesa, Laurie and Karen for your thoughtful and passionate presentations!

Based on feedback from the mentor groups during our January session, Michelle Hikida and I did a short professional learning presentation on playful mathematical inquiry and how we plan around a big idea, use provocations and projects based on students’ interests and curiosities and how we extend and sustain a math inquiry.

After dinner together, we spent time in our mentor groups, zooming in on an area of interest and sharing and learning from each other.

We are looking forward to continuing working together next year to support professional learning and building a playful inquiry community across our district.

~Janice

## early learning inservice

Posted on: September 8th, 2016 by jnovakowski 3 Comments

Every September, our district hosts an afternoon inservice for our Strong Start facilitators and Kindergarten and K&1 teachers. Our early learning Teacher Consultant Marie Thom organizes this inservice and each year chooses a focus area for professional learning. This year, Marie invited me to share some ideas around early learning in mathematics.

Richmond educators arrived to inviting tables and displays and gifts. After some welcoming comments, Marie spoke of the importance of infusing joy in our classrooms and to remember to begin with the child in mind.

It is the only time during the year that all the early learning educators in our district have time together. In many of our schools, there is only one Kindergarten teacher so this is a chance to meet and form collaboration with colleagues across the district. Important to remember is that regardless of which program we teach and learn within – neighbourhood, Montessori or French Immersion, our focus is on the learner. Also, the curriculum is the curriculum here in BC. We all have the same learning standards and are working together towards the same big ideas.

My segment of the afternoon focused on what I describe of the art of teaching mathematics – the intersection between what we are noticing about our students and the curriculum. This intersection is the lived curriculum of the classroom and our role as educators is to focus on a pedagogy of noticing and listening – being present and paying attention to our students and then being responsive. Our afternoon together focused on five key elements of early mathematics: counting, subtilizing, decomposing numbers, spatial sense and patterning.  Pedagogical content knowledge booklets were shared with the attendees. These can be found HERE.

We looked at big ideas, the key early learning mathematics concepts and how to develop the related curricular competencies through mathematics routines, structures and frameworks. The use of routines is important for so many reasons (and by routines I do not mean the “how we line up” or “how we wash our hands” routines…)…here is the slide where we discussed “why mathematical routines?”

I shared examples from many Richmond classrooms who have been using three important routines: Counting Collections, Number Talks and Which One Doesn’t Belong.

Blending the curricular content and competencies, I shared several ideas for mathematical provocations to inspire students’ engagement with mathematics, aligned with the learning standards and goals of the redesigned curriculum.

We left educators with two questions to think about as they embark on their year with their students:

~Janice

## creating spaces for playful inquiry: January 2016

Posted on: January 24th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Almost 60 teachers came together at Diefenbaker on the evening of January 14th for the second session of our three-part dinner series: Creating Space for Playful Inquiry. This is the second year of this series, with most of the participants having attended this series last spring. This series was inspired by a visit to the Opal School in Portland in January of 2015 by myself, Braunwyn Thompson, Hieu Pham-Fraser and Michelle Hikida.

As teachers came into the Diefenbaker they were presented with invitations to provoke their thinking about light and darkness.

Three teachers from the series shared what they have been playing around with in their learning spaces – Amanda Chura, teacher-librarian at Diefenbaker, April Pikkarainen, primary teacher at Blair and Karen Choo, intermediate teacher at Blair. We were all so inspired by how they have been engaging in inquiry themselves and with their students.

Before and after dinner, teachers chose from six interest groups facilitated by our inquiry mentors. Teachers shared ideas, collaborated, posed questions and discussed their area of interest with like-minded colleagues. During the after dinner session time, teachers considered what their plan was going to be for this term and how they might engage their students in playful inquiry in a particular curriculum area – with materials, ideas or language.

The discussions were rich, vibrant and inspiring. Many teachers commented that they felt “filled up” and inspired to move forward in new ways with their students. Teachers sharing their learning with each other is so important but I also think the community we are building is equally important in providing a support system for teachers to try  new things, take some risks, develop new pedagogical habits – we are truly better together.

An archive of blog posts about playful inquiry initiatives in our district can be found here:

Playful Inquiry in School District #38

~Janice