Last week, I talked about the growing sense of community in our classroom. There are a number of other events with our JK friends that have helped build our sense of school community as well. Morning meeting is one such event that helps us, as JK and SK classes, prepare for the day ahead. Each morning, after completing our SK morning routine, we walk to the JK classroom for a community time where we play games, sing songs, and build social skills with our JK friends. And lately, we have been inviting our JK friends into the SK classroom for more shared learning opportunities. Below are a couple pictures that highlight some of these experiences. One is story time. After outdoor play, SK and JK have been gathering together in the SK classroom to participate in a read aloud story together. This is a great chance to build literacy skills like comprehension, vocabulary development, and making connections.
Which leads us to this week's video. A week or so ago at morning meeting, we played/chanted a little ditty called "Button Factory." Then, we found a container of buttons on the TinkerLab supply shelf that looked interesting so we brought it into the classroom. After seeing this jar of buttons, it seemed only natural (to me, anyway) that these buttons could be sorted so I grabbed a couple egg cartons and put them on a classroom table. To be clear, I did not give any specific direction, just simply put the egg cartons on a table in the classroom next to the jar of buttons as a kind of provocation. A day or two later, one of the kids brought in a book that had ideas for making all kinds of stuff but one thing, a game called Awalé, caught the attention of a couple children. The directions suggested using some kind of game "pieces" (like seeds or beans) in an egg carton. Put all of these factors together and the next thing you know, we have a "button factory" in the classroom where children are sorting buttons into the egg cartons, based on their individual characteristics. After the sorting was complete, we had all the right pieces to assemble a new game for us to play during classroom Number Play. The "Button Factory" consumed almost an entire day of explorations and number play. It was fascinating to see how the idea of a button factory permeated all classroom activities for the day. And now we have a new game to play! The excitement of the button factory had a lasting impact on our class so we decided to share our button factory and game at all-school meeting.
For more information on things happening in the JK classroom, including some of the shared time with morning meeting, Spanish language development, and outdoor play, check out the Bennett Day JK Blog!
Let's begin with the sea creature exploration. It began one afternoon during "quiet time" when children typically find something to do independently in the classroom. (The children understand it as quiet time because it happens while our JK friends are napping.) One child decided to start building with magna tiles and then discovered a basket of sea creatures on a shelf. This led to the creation of a "sea floor" constructed from magna tiles and placement of sea creatures through the sea floor. This scene caught the attention of another child, and then another. Eventually, one-by-one, each child left their independent activity to join the imaginative sea play. The gathering and play was unprompted by me as the teacher, rather was an organic development of student choice and curiosity. This kind of play happened for three consecutive days after lunch and included all children. It was quite an interesting development to observe and shows the human desire for interest and participation in collaborative play. It also highlights the natural capacity children have to participate in a community.
For a second example of our community development, I'll follow up on a recent student idea to build a table for our classroom play space. As you'll see in the pictures above, our class play space was intentionally empty at the beginning of the school year. As play evolved and needs were identified, we decided as a class to add some components for more engaging and interactive play. You'll see what appears to be a stove, wagon and table. The table was a building project we took on as a group and extended over the course of two weeks. The process of planning, selecting appropriate materials, and constructing took time and effort. In the video below, you'll see a little bit of the process and the culminating presentation at a Friday all-school meeting. Sharing something from the SK class is one aspect of the all-school meeting. For this meeting, our class elected to share the table. As you'll see in the video, the students are proud of their work and confident to share what they've done with other children. Of special interest to share with others was the different feel between vinyl and duct tape. Two types of tape we used for the table's surface.
The table is just the first of what might be many more building projects in the classroom and possibly beyond. I will continue to respond to the interests and learning desires of the children. Check back to see what happens next!
As classroom explorations continue, play and creativity are running rampant. Through play students have been transforming objects into just about anything they can imagine. Play is a powerful way for children to become familiar with new materials and is also a natural way for a teacher to engage thinking, introduce concepts, and develop appropriate skill sets. Below is a video that highlights this kind of learning experience as I introduced pattern blocks to the class.
Pattern blocks were introduced because the children were having a conversation about the need for a table and chairs in the "dramatic play" area. I asked if they wanted to make a table, to which they responded with a resounding yes. We started talking about tables and how they are constructed. We flipped over a table in the classroom to examine its parts, get some ideas, and deepen our understanding of the structural components in preparation for our project. As we talked about our plan for a table, it was suggested that we decorate it. I asked what kind of decorations and someone suggested patterns. So, pattern blocks were introduced and played with in preparation for table decoration. And yes, we are actually going to make a table. You can get a peek at some of the materials and process in the slideshow below.
Another aspect of play in the classroom involves numbers and card games. We began "number play" this week. Similar to "word play", this is a time where children experience and "play" with numbers. This week, I have been using a standard deck of playing cards and a deck of "Uno" game cards. Our class has been learning how to play together while developing mathematical concepts like counting, ordinal numbers, sequencing, and patterns. I have also used the cards to visualize number patterns and develop algebraic thinking through identification of missing numbers in sequences. (ex. 1, 2, 3, _ , 5, 6) Ask your child about the games we've been playing. You might even want to try playing them at home!
This site was created by Colin Reynolds as the SK Lead Teacher for the 2014-2015 school year. Stephanie Holdridge was the apprentice teacher for the academic year.. You can contact me via e-mail or follow me on Twitter.