As school rolls in and classes are busy becoming the magical spaces that they are, I get to work along educators in their spaces and work on my own learning space for my infant. This year, what has inspired me most is the only the natural materials we include in our spaces, but the DLY ones. My daughter and are involved in many play groups and programs ( I learn so much from speaking to parents in this setting). The DIY materials such as drums, shakers, light tables, sensory explorations and musical walls are just beautiful and children are so drawn to their own collaboration and efforts. Why not start our classrooms in this way? The classroom as a blank canvas where the learners create all the materials with materials families have and continue to collect throughout the year. This begins as infants, those fancy toys can be great too - however, there is something special about those home made fabric boxes and sensory walls too!
Keynote speaker John Hattie explores the impact of assessment, feedback and practice. As educators, who best to ask for feedback on our practice than our students? The effects of our impact is determined by what our students see learning as in our classrooms. As a MEd student researching more about the transition to grade 1, I've learned that research suggests that the impact of a program whether it be play based or called inquiry etc... depends on the expertise or more so the ability of the educators to be different and include their learners by being an active listener and moving away from "best practice' because there is no one "right" or "best" way.
As a kindergarten teacher, I am proud to give students the voice in the program and allow our program to transform differently every year. It is essential for children to be encouraged to think aloud. Although we may have large class sizes or a test to prepare students for ( all grades), it isn't about which program you follow or how perfect it may look, it's the way we as educators create an environment with high expectations, less lecturing, more inclusion, and lessons which are not derived from content direct questions, but opportunities to explore, play, investigate, diversify, and make mistakes. Kindergarten teachers have referred to this has play based and connect it with a theory i.e Reggio, Montessori, Waldorf etc... grade educators may refer to it as inquiry, collaboration, STEM... at the end of the day, we are here for our students and need to support their needs and move toward 21c learning opportunities.
"Kids need to be their own teachers"
"It is about teaching skills"
" How do we teach kids to deliberately practice?" - John Hattie
This year, I was delighted to be invited to the Visible Learning Conference this month located downtown Toronto at the Hilton. I was excited to learn that educator, professor and researcher John Hattie would be delivering the keynote. My 5 month old daughter joined me for her first educational conference! John Hattie himself could not resist how involved she was and came to personal engage in a meet and greet (he now is a grandfather himself). For those of you familiar with his work or the work of Mindframes and Visible Learning programs, he delivers decades of research into his work and discusses achievement and assessment from k to 12. As Canadians, we are proud he began his work here in Toronto.
As a kindergarten educator, we are well versed in the importance of the environment for learning, listening to students' interests, and the importance of life long professional learning. The conference was full of admin teams eager to start their year off with motivational team planning, professional learning and tips on how to encourage staff to NOT practice "the best practice" because there is no one right way of teaching something a learner. Instead, the conference was full of inspirational discusses about how to continue to continue educators to take risks, continue to analyze student data and transform learning to fit the child.
John Hattie was clear when he discussed that his research reflected that engaged way key for the learner and interest ranked one of the most important in achievement results (UK, USA, Europe, Australia).
His main question... What works best to support student learning? Active listening, professional learning, differentiation, and inclusiveness etc...
Corwin Press/Nelson is one of those names we see on children's textbooks, however, have we really looked deep into this names to learn more about the people who stand behind me and the quality of their researcher? More importantly, the authenticity? I fell in awe of these wonderful resources because of their ability to unite a team to learn together and develop unity and a positive learning environment.
Infant Sensory Provocations
Valentina is now 5 months (22 weeks). She loves to explore and is very curious about the world around her. She is sitting up, crawling, and is beginning to sign "more" "up" and learn to signal for more "milk". She and I have been attending various play groups indoors and outdoors and we really are enjoying the cooler summer days for outdoor story times! This month, Valentina and I are attending EarlyON Busy Babies program and we are just so happy to meet so many other wonderful families and friends!
As many of you know, I document Valentina's learning and milestones using her hand written journal along with a learning portfolio ( just like the one I would use in my kinder classes). Here is a sample of one of her favourite provocations and learning stories.
1. shallow water tub
2. tearless bath soap
3. hollowed fruit frozen (cut in half, save the middle, and put water into the halves and freeze) with water over night (try oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, watermelons) be cautious of safety (no small pieces of fruit or ice, safe non toxic soap, food allergies)
4. 1/4 of water into the tub
Sensory: Valentina explores frozen fruit
Valentina crawls up to the water tub and looks at the outside of the tub and observes the other child exploring the space. Mommy is behind her watching her interactions.
Valentina is eager to hear the splash of the water! She crawls up to the water tub and quickly dips her hand into the cold water. She notices the bubbles and starts to kick her legs with excitement!
Mommy and Valentina begin to explore the materials in the water. Mommy picks up the grapefruit and Valentina instantly notices the bright colour and touches the inside. Mommy repeats the words grapefruit, wet, and ice.
Mommy puts the grapefruit to Valentina's nose to smell. She puts her nose closer and wants to grab it. She is beginning to realize the use of her senses - and her nose was used to smell the fruit and the soap! At this point, she is very wet and heads into the water tub!
Valentina grabbed the grapefruit and put it in her mouth (using her own grasp). She made a squishy face. I guess it tasted like soap! Next steps, we are going to change the temperature of the water and or try lemons and limes!