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!
Valentina is 4 months old. I am in the middle of creating a play space which adapts to her learning and development. Many of you have asked for some infant learning inspiration which can help you and your child bond, develop and practice those milestones.
As a strong supporter for play based learning, I am a passionate Reggio Emilia inspired educator. I adore creating beautiful learning environments which foster wonder and curiosity. As an educator, sparking the imagination is essential in my spaces, which lead many of my classroom designs to exploring the world of Waldorf practices. Upon visiting the school and enrolling myself and Valentina into Joyful Beginnings, I am so eager to combine both into my professional and personal practice.
As a new mama and passionate kindergarten educator, the place space is something I have been eager to get going between feedings, cleaning, moving, and instructing! Leave the cleaning for later - and play!
As my husband and I began to transform the main floor of our home into an atelier for baby Valentina, safety came first. Consider the soft flooring (wood like form mats from Wal-Mart), shelving that is safe and secure, cozy corners, crawling space, and of course lots and lots of natural lighting! The main floor is directly in front of our green space and when she's a little older, her play space can extend into the outdoors.
When selecting materials, my husband and I opt for natural non toxic materials, such as Grimms wooden materials made in Germany. These Waldorf materials are open ended and crafted by hand - they really are heirloom pieces. The beautiful colours complement the neutral space.
Literature is easily accessible within all corners of our home. There are baskets with literature that reflects the season and stimulates her senses. There are many texture books, puppets, and some with sounds! Her favourite book at the moment is Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
The Ontario Science Centre has released a series of media clips about play-based learning and inquiry. The series includes the setup of the learning environment, materials, the educators as a team, and how to create meaningful inquiries. Visit their learning series on YOUTUBE.
Trent U AQ Participants
If you are part of my AQ, we will be uses these videos as part of our four frame modules.
I am proud to be part of these wonderful THINQ Kindergarten Inquiry resources! As a member of the editing team for this resource, I had opportunity to share our experiences, photographs and classroom stories to help and inspire all educators alike to embrace the power of inquiry in the early years. I enjoyed learning from other educators and tried many new activities and explorations in our classroom. As many of you have asked, it is available on Amazon and through the OCT online library. The visuals are clear, simple and concise, there are many examples of how to start an inquiry, and there are several examples of student work, the classroom learning environment, and how to spark interest and meet program requirements.
As the winter comes to an end (so it feels like) spring is in the air! How are you transitioning your k program to encourage children to notice such changes? How can the provocations planned and brought into the learning environment evoke critical thinking? Here is a look back at our winter to spring transformation last year.
I am in love with this new book released this month called Lola Dutch by Kenneth and Sarah Wright ! This little girl loves painting, researching classic inventors at the library, learning about the grand works of Monet, Van Gogh, and Klimt. She loves to cook a fancy breakfast, drink tea, and throw fancy parties! She certainly is a little bit much! At the end of the story, her favourite things to do is be with her friends (a swan and bear)!
How cute! Needless to say, my husband was the one to surprise me with this book for Baby Sprinkle's spectacular collection! Ohh... to leave in the world of Lola Dutch!
Our kindergartens have been busy exploring the world of technological coding using a variety of devices. Our school has been busy creating a maker space for all grade levels to explore the benefits of STEM learning, inquiry and play. Our kindergartens have been learning about directionality and the ways in which computer coding is a skill for the future in the 21st Century classroom.
As I am an advocate for all toys and materials from Louise Kool and Galt. I appreciate their customer service, quality, and open ended opportunities. I am so excited to start my own baby's collection of Kool & Galt! As a kindergarten teacher, I desire to have materials last and extend to the next group of learners. Therefore, I went to venture to their showroom to find these wonderful math inspired materials! Here are some of the goodies we brought back to class! The Cubetto was certainly a highlight for the class. Together, we discussed how to take turns as the Cubetto really requires a smaller group format.
We began with a guided lesson and discussion and throughout the week broke out into math learning "coding groups" and took turns exploring how the Cubetto might work and brainstormed about the materials in the box. The kids really enjoyed having a grid to use and they adored the symbols (which they adapted to fairly quickly). The language required for the Cubetto encourages literacy skills and communication and for those at a different entry point, the symbols allowed them to participate at their own level.
Cubetto Kit for schools: coding device
The Cubetto is a coding device where children use signs and symbols to create and program a device to move along a grid. This gave our students the change to learn more about mapping and what a grid actually was! The students loved the symbols which included jump over fire, turn, spin, stop, forward, and backward! I enjoyed the simple instructions and the lessons which were included- especially for grades 1 and up! This coding device does take some time to introduce to children in a smaller group format, it also encouraged the idea of patterns in motion (whoo!) many of our kinders loved the idea of creating these motions.
exploring the cubetto
For more information on Cubetto or how to purchase the item click the link below
kinder favourites top picks: Mathematical materials from kool & galt
Music & motion marble run
Wooden numbers with a twist
Let's Go Code: foam coding mats
As many of you already know, design is a passion of mine, pair it with my love for learning and I get pretty excited about what is yet to come. Many of you have been asking me how I might be designing baby's room, as I already have many ideas flowing through my brain, I keep thinking how can my baby's room transform easily from a soft and calming nursery space to a child centred-constructed atelier? Without giving too much away, I will say ... I always tend to gear toward decor that is French inspired (you all know that). I enjoy the fine details, textures, and mix of hues which allow me to think about the beauty of people and culture. As we select furniture, I am thinking about furniture with soft lines, fine details, and something baby can grow into- especially pieces suitable for extending play and art spaces. Our furniture is from a selection of stores around the city. Many of our pieces include connections to the environment. I found just the company!
Little Seed: Build a garden
Little Seeds is a furniture brand providing families with high quality children's products with great style. Little Seeds is committed to protecting and preserving the environment for our children's future. And it just starts with a little seed. Little Seeds partners with environmental organizations like National Wildlife Federation on key environmental initiatives including habitat loss for monarch butterflies. This is a special part of my passion as an early years environmental educator to include in my child's nursery. From seeds to furry Maggie friends- this company is fabulous and actively eco-friendly!
Check out their toys, furniture, and storage products here:
For Little Seeds activities about building gardens, school initiatives, and monarch butteries check here:
Creating a soft, calm, and comforting environment
As I begin to prep the baby nursery, I am thinking safety, clean lines, and the beauty of simplicity. Just like the classroom, baby's space begins as a blank canvas and grows along with their personality and needs.
Things to consider:
Transforming spaces from newborn to toddler
The baby furniture selected is indeed French inspired - that's just me... I find that investing in quality furniture is a smart investment and makes a space transform into many possibilities (and photo opportunities). PSST Daddy is our personal photographer!
Allowing baby to create & construct their own space
As much as it is so much fun to fill the walls with wall art, my intention is to create a blank canvas meant to inspire our child. As baby creates masterpieces, these pieces will grace the walls and slowly- become a fully transformed toddler atelier.
Purposeful materials, toys, & aCCESSOIRIES TO CAPTURE BAbY'S GROWTH & LEARNING JOURNEY
As baby grows, the materials which become available will be made available through a collection of linen baskets. Materials are currently stored by age and provocation type- including light exploring. Many of our newborn items and toys are from HODGE PODGE (located at The Shops at Don Mills), Pottery Barn, and Cradle and Co.
a grand selection of children's literature
Robotics, Coding, & STEM oh my...
The Bee Bot: Early Years Programmable Coding Device
As an early years educator, kindergarten qualification instructor, and M. Ed student, I am always eager to to implement new and innovative ways to get children involved, thinking, and playing in the most authentic ways (and get my own research underway). Our class often has the opportunity to try out products and I am always keen on having children speak their minds - which they very easily do! I am always looking for opportunities to implement purposeful materials into the learning environment and infuse our learning environment with innovative play to get all levels and ages thinking.
The Bee-bot is a programmable robot that helps early learners explore the first stages of programming. For those of you just entering the world of "coding" and kindergarten, it is truly the "thing" every educator is talking about. For those expert coders out there- good for you! I am sure you already know how wonderful these little critters can be in the classroom! These coding devices allow children to explore mathematics through the lens of the modern learner.
In Ontario, educators are always keen to remember that mathematics and literacy are best friends and take part in one of the four domains/frames of learning "demonstrating mathematical and literacy skills". This means, that one is not assessed and/or explored naturally without the other, and children explore both subjects simultaneously. Using mathematics and language to learn how direction /position and trials truly allows the young learner the opportunity to access prior knowledge, critical thinking, and the opportunity to problem solve independently or collectively in an inclusive manner.
In the age of computer everything, as educators and parents, it is beneficial to allow our children to explore and learn such technological and modern skills. When considering the finalized Ontario Kindergarten Program and the emphasis of the many benefits of play-based learning- including inquiry-based learning models, these robotics and coding devices fit right in with our ready to use flow of the day kinder programs.
How it works (from a kindergarten perspective)
follow our class @justletmeplay on Instagram & @carmdigrigoli on Twitter
The Features of the Bee-Bot (according to the kindergartens themselves)
Learning the Language
Every morning students run to our computer sign-up sheet to have a turn playing a variety of computer games. One morning, I introduced the topic of computer programming and how games were made. The students already having their options new a little about how computers were used to make things move- "robots" they said. During our morning community circle (10 minutes in time approx) we shared how we thought a robot might speak and the language a robot might use. These Robot words (our coding words) were used to introduce how we might problem solve and think about how our Bee-Bot might move along a surface.
Planning & Resources
Although the students were very eager to explore the Bee-Bot on their own, educators can find PDF inspiration ready lessons and ideas. We did not get the change to explore these lessons in detail, however, they were very useful for understanding what opportunities they might present to learners- I especially enjoyed the hands-on approach to these lessons. As a Reggio Emilia inspired educator, I appreciated the open-ended nature of the Bee-Bot and the opportunity to engage all entry levels of learning to participate in the game/activity. In the new year, our EL-K team plans to create coding groups to facilitate small group lessons and assess learning. The games included collaborative learning opportunities "a sense of belonging and contributing and innovative thinking and problem solving" and a variety of ways to explore movement and direction.
Here is the link with PDF ready resources.
Where to get the Bee-Bot & Accessories
Our students used one Bee-Bot in small group formats during play. The plugged in the Bee-Bot during morning attendance and it was ready to go ready after our morning community circle. Although we don't have multiple robots or the docking station (it gets very pricey), I can see the rechargeable option and opportunity for multiple robots to be very beneficial in a kindergarten classroom, especially when numbers fall between 18-32! Perhaps this might be a division purchase sign out option?!
The School & Parent Community ...
,The school community was eager to get right on board creating a STEM MakerSpace for students. As a kindergarten educator , I find that these innovative spaces and resources usually for order for grades 1 and up. The school community and parents were eager to learn and experience for themselves the endless opportunities and benefits these coding devices were not only for grade learners, however, the inspiration they reflection upon kindergartens! The EL-K team was eager to share our coding lessons and explorations and provocations with parents via our blog and encourage parents to take part in this learning at home, either using such devices or creating manual games such as taps, jumps, or blinks! Parents were happy to learn how such a concept- program and coding could be a stepping zone into the future for their little ones!
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This beautiful story is all about its illustrations. The illustrations explore the beauty of friends and creative dance. This little ballet dancer and her friend, a talented and graceful flamingo grace the book's pages with funny images and imagination. This story allows children to explore their imagination and bring the story to life from their perspective. This was surely a pick for Baby Sprinkle's nursery and our kindergarten classroom! A book about perfect harmony!
I am expecting a surprise in the mail shortly... a coding surprise! Our kindergartens will be reviewing a new early years coding device which will allow students to learn about computer programming, directionality, math language, critical thinking, technological revisions, addition, subtraction, and mapping. Look back soon for more about this wonderful coding device and other ways to encourage your students and children to get coding!
I am proud to share that our kinders have taken on an active role in learning about the development and stages of our darling Baby Sprinkle. The children have arranged for a gender revealing celebration and continue to guess if baby is a boy or girl. Together as a class, we continue to document the size and development of baby and how yes... how Ms. Di Grigoli's belly is growing too!
In the meanwhile, Baby Sprinkle and mommy celebrated Halloween in glitter and magical style with baby's first costume! Here is a look! I really hope baby loves glitter and sparkles as much as I do! The EL-K team went as TEAM UNICORN!