Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Bet You Didn't Know! Kind Words Make A Rainbow

This post comes from Heidi Echternacht, a Kindergarten Teacher in New Jersey.

Fresh on the heels of Monday night’s Kinderchat discussion on schools, teachers, students and guns- (Sorry! It still sounds to me like a “One of These Things is Not Like the Other” song from Sesame Street!) led by the brave and fabulous “Team Indigo”, here is a post on fostering the process of Peace in the Classroom Community.

The Problem Solving Center:
One of my favorite moments in the Early Childhood Classroom- or any classroom for that matter- is the inevitable argument. “That’s mine!”, “I had it first!”, “It isn’t fair!”, “She always gets it!” Yes, young children and governments alike are well versed in these discrepancies.

As soon as Free Play starts, it’s Prime Time for these issues to appear. Wonderful! Yes, wonderful! Each and every argument is opportunity. A gold mine of opportunity to practice solving problems, dialoguing, self-control, friendship and creativity. In my classroom community, dealing with arguments are not catch-as-catch-can but highly focused and driven by predictable procedures.

Official Procedure for Dialogue:

1. Both parties of the argument (or all) are immediately asked to remove themselves   from the Play area and retreat to the “Problem Solving Center”

2. If there is crying, there is absolutely no talking until all parties have calmed down

3. I ask “Do you need my help?” to both parties. If they agree “no” I remove myself with the understanding that they conclude the conversation (see number 5)

4. If my assistance is needed, I listen to each side of the story, feeding dialogue as needed.

  • Student A: “I was angry when you said I was a kitkando* and I hit and I made a bad mistake.”
  • Student B: “I was angry when you took my toy and so I called you a kitkando”
  • Student A: “I got that toy first, though”
  • Teacher: “We only have one (truck) what can you do?” Or in extra heated discussions, I will claim the truck. “That truck is my truck and I am sharing it with the class. I don’t like it when kids fight over my toys. I don’t want my truck hurt. I’m putting it up here until you two can figure this out”
  • This usually freaks out both parties just enough for them to quickly dig up a solution to share or take turns or whatever they need to do in order to have the privilege of using my toys.
  • Student A: “Here, you can go first. Can I use it after you?”
  • Teacher: makes a big deal- “WOW! Thank you for those kind words! You are a problem solver!”
  • Student B: “How about we share it?”
  • Teacher: “Wow! I see rainbows everywhere! This is amazing!” (I bet you didn’t know kind words make rainbows, did you?!)

original photo by Heidi Echternacht

5. All conversations are concluded by shaking hands, “Friends again”, smiles or hugs. If the party is still angry, they are asked to stay in problem solving and the other party is asked to go back to playing ie:

  • Student A: “I’m still angry and I don’t’ feel like talking now” (facilitated dialogue)
  • Student B: “I’ll come back later to talk when you are ready” (facilitated dialogue)

The Center:
The design of the problem solving area is important. It must be a quiet and somewhat removed area of the classroom. There are “Feelings Books” and photos of children expressing various feelings posted around the area. The puppets live here and there are two chairs that sit facing each other to indicate that this is an area for dialogue. For fun, there is an “Easy” button from Staples they can push at the end of the discussion. I have also added a good stick from outside the Peacemaker is allowed to sand with sandpaper.

Peacemaker? Yes! A new job this year, one child is designated “Peacemaker” and is called on to solve (minor) issues. I am there for the major ones of course, but it has worked really well to give added responsibility to the peer group. I probably need to ring a bell when the peacemaker ends up in an argument too! Who said Early Childhood isn’t a microcosm of the world’s problems?!

Once this structure is firmly in place, it helps the day go incredibly smoothly. There are no interruptions to the play and the children’s problems and arguments are taken seriously and addressed by both the teacher and community. Students emerge stronger leaders with the tools of dialogue and ability to creatively look for solutions. Make one in your room and see what happens! 

*no one actually knows what a kitkando is, other than it’s bad. Nonsense name calling upsets are my favorite!

Heidi Echternacht CoFounded Kinderchat with Amy Murray in the summer of 2010. You can check out her website here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What does your classroom say about you?

Today's post is from @carriemarshall1, a teacher on the East Coast of Canada.

If someone were to walk into your classroom while you were out, what would they think about you? What kind of a teacher do your walls say that you are? What are your values and beliefs? All of these work together to become our "hidden curriculum." I was originally introduced to this concept when I was working on my first degree back in the mid-late 80's. Of all of the ideas I was introduced to then, that (and the role of play) resonated the most with me. It resonated because I believe it is true. What I value, what I believe, those things come out not only in what I choose to put on the walls, how I arrange my room, but also how I choose to teach.

I claim to teach with an integrated curriculum, making sure what we are learning is not taught in an isolated way, but showing my children how math, science, literacy, etc. are all interconnected.
As this year has rolled on, I have been reflecting on my walls and my room. What does my room say about me? My response has caused me to make some minor changes to my room. I have opened it up, tearing down the artificial dividers that I had put up between my "centres". So, instead of having a science centre, an art centre, and a math centre, I have a space for all of these but it is much less defined. Because I see the interconnectedness in all three of these areas, and I want my students to see that connection as well. Because I see the interconnectedness of the world, I want my students to see that too. I "tore down the walls" figuratively, and I opened up my classroom. 

This is an older photo of my room. It is still pretty open, but what I ended up doing was taking all of those shelves that separated the areas and moved them up against the walls or shifted them in such a way as to give the room a bit more flow without making it one large open space.  By opening up the classroom, the students are forced to integrate our subjects because they are all in the same area. The sand and blocks also blend quite nicely in as well.

But, opening my room up was only part of my "integrated revival". I began to critically look at my curriculum and how I was approaching teaching. I am a lover of science. I enjoy all of the fun experiments we can do, I love to bring nature indoors and the class outdoors. I love investigating ideas about how and why things work. But as I reflected on my day, I noticed I was not highlighting this love. The more I began to read, the more I was convinced I could reignite this love of science without sacrificing the literacy and mathematics goals set forth by the department of education. I have always had a science journal, but I realized I was not utilizing the journal as best as I could. It had become more of a filler activity. Now, much more of our daily writing is centred around what we are investigating in science. When we talk about patterns, we shift over to the science area and see the patterns in nature through leaves, shells, starfish. 

Teaching is always a work in progress. I believe that when we stop reflecting on our teaching, we stop being relevant to our students. So I continue to reflect on ways to integrate my classroom. I reflect on what my walls are saying. Right now, I hope my walls are saying, "This is the classroom that values all of its members. It shows in what she has on the wall, how the room is arranged, and what is written in the science journals." I hope my walls show value and respect, because that is what I have for my kids.

Carrie Marshall is a wife, a mother, and a teacher. Born in the midwest, she now resides on the East Coast of Canada. She has been teaching in the area of early childhood for 23 years, 9 of those years in kindergarten.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Aristotle and Me: A philosopher for the 21st Century Educator?

Today's post is by @debmeredith13, a kindergarten teacher in Chicago.

So what does Aristotle have to do with my job as a kindergarten teacher?  
Learning targets, formative assessments, PLCs, 21st Century Skills, 1-1 iPad initiatives, The Common Core State Standards, Project-based learning, checking in on my Personal Learning Network and the ever-pressing challenge of increasing student achievement are at the top of my list.  So why would I choose to add Greek Philosophy?  Why?  Ah, the best critical thinking question of them all…why.  Would it be convolutedly clear for me to suggest that the why is why Aristotle is on my list?  Let me explain

If Aristotle were here in our 21st century, looking at my aforementioned list, I believe he would say: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”  Now, since I am in the business of educating minds, I need to do some serious thinking about that one….
You may be speculating that I am about to face a big dilemma: How do I entertain the expectations for teaching and learning and student achievement on my list with an educated mind of my own?  How do I entertain every new district initiative, possible new assessment method, view all of those super-cute looking projects that my teacher friends are pinning on Pinterest, read a great blog post and not try it?   You’ve all been there – we are in such a rapidly evolving communicatin society that the volumes of ideas available to us are breathtaking…and overwhelming.  At this point in time, it is more important than ever to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.  To do this I believe you must have a philosophy: a clear vision of what you do and why you are doing it, of what you believe and why.  And thanks to John Hattie (more about him later) you can no longer say, “Because it works for me.”  Here are some of the modern day thinkers (my Arisotoles, if you will) that I turn to when I need to entertain a thought.  Oh, and I’m sure you will ask…why?

Who:  Dan Pink author of Drive
Why:  I want my students to have ownership of their learning and their behavior, but what if a school-wide incentive program to increase desired student behavior becomes the policy in my district? 
Dan Pink writes, “A lot of the research shows …these policies [external rewards]can actually impair creativity. But at most, they’re a big zero. They don’t do anything. It’s very clear they don’t work very well for higher-order thinking, so we’re basically putting in place these policies based on the folklore about what motivates human beings rather than the science. There’s this push toward data-driven, evidence-based practices, but in this one realm of motivation, we’re kind of ignoring it. We have 50 years of research that says, ‘This is unlikely to work.’”

Who: Debbie Miller, author of Reading With Meaning (second edition)
Why:  Sometimes I just want to close my door and teach.  What difference can I make? 
Debbie Miller writes: “When we know the theory behind our work, when our practices match our beliefs, and when we clearly articulate what we do and why we do it, people listen… Read. Reflect. Read some more.”   Ms. Miller implores us to do more than think that something isn’t right.  Speak out about your thinking, say it out loud.  Be an activist and an advocate, not for fidelity to a program, but for fidelity to doing what is right for children.

Who: John Medina, author of Brain Rules
Why: Brain-based classroom?  Really?
John Medina writes: “If you want to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing you probably would design something like a classroom.  If you wanted to create a business environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a cubicle.  And if you want to change things, you might have to tear down both and start over.”

Who:  Carol Dweck, Author of Mindset
Why: The new Common Core State Standards are asking us to adopt a more rigorous curriculum, even in kindergarten.  Is it developmentally appropriate?
Carol Dweck writes: “ Many educators think that lowering their standards will give students success experiences, boost their self-esteem and raise their achievement, it comes from the same philosophy as the overpraising of student intelligence.  Well, it doesn’t work.  Lowering standards just leads to poorly educated students who feel entitled to easy work and lavish praise.”  (Ooops, I think this may apply to teacher evaluations as well.)

Who: Lucy Calkins, author of Pathways to the Common Core
Why: The Common Core tells me what children need to learn, but it doesn’t tell me the best instructional delivery model to use.
Lucy Calkins writes about using a workshop model for delivery of reading and writing instruction,: “workshops are kept deliberately simple and predictable, like an art studio or a researcher’s laboratory, because it is the work itself that is ever changing and complex…Each day’s teaching in a workshop does not set up a new hoop for the students to all jump through in sync.  Instead, the bulk of time during each day, students carry on with their work.  As they do so, they draw upon a growing repertoire of skills, tools, strategies, and habit.”

And finally, my Aristotle, John Hattie:
Who: John Hattie, visionary, researcher extraordinaire, and author of Visible Learning.
Why: When you need to make an important philosophical decision about new initiatives, projects, methods or just about anything else…  Read. John. Hattie.  He has done the research on all of the research.  And he found out that almost everything we do in education works…but since you can’t do everything, you’d better find out what really has an effect on student achievement (it might surprise you).

So, now I will close with a full-circle back to those Greek philosophers.  This time it’s good old Socrates: “ I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.”

It is my hope that I gave you something to think about.

Deb Meredith is 30+ year educator.  In her life as an educator she has taught everything from a 2 year-old playgroup to High School Math.   She now finds herself happily teaching Kindergarten in suburban Chicago.  Thanks for the opportunity to join the Kinderchat blog.  It’s a pleasure and privilege to contribute.
I would love to entertain any thoughts you may have

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Genius Hour: Is this possible in a kindergarten class?

Today's post is from @jpulvers, a kindergarten teacher in British Columbia, Canada.

"Genius Hour" is a relatively new term in education, but has been around in the business world for a few years. Organizations such as Google have an 80/20 work week, where employees are given 20% of their work week to "explore" things that interest them. Many brilliant ideas have come out of that 20%.

The short version on the education side goes something like this: In July of 2011, Daniel Pink wrote a blog about how a Credit Union in Washington was using "Genius Hour" with their employees. These employees were given time each week to use as a "Genius Hour" to pursue their passions. Angela Maiers saw this blog and re-tweeted it and suggested we need this in schools for teachers.  Denise Krebs spread this information via Twitter and her blog, both of which were discovered by Hugh McDonald  and Gallit Zvi  who were keen to try the idea in their classrooms. I work with Gallit and Hugh and their passion is contagious! More info about "Genius Hour" will be included at the end of this blog.

Gallit is my buddy teacher and our classes often do projects together. The more time I spent with her and Hugh and see how engaged their students were during "Genius Hour", the more I contemplated trying it with my class. But I was plagued by thought like, "They have ideas, but they can't research them...they can't even read" and "how would they share their learning when they can't write sentences yet".  I am very fortunate to work with an amazing group of people who are always making me question my practice and push me to try new things. My co-workers are always encouraging me think outside the box and they never let me "get away with" excuses like the ones mentioned above. Many of our conversations end with "well, why can't you do this?" These conversations make my head spin, leaving me to come up with ways to modify things to the K level. As my principal Antonio Vendramin,  tweeted last week, "It's all about the What if... rather than the Ya, but..."

I am not one to back down from a challenge, so driving home one day thinking about how to make this happen - it hit me! We can use our buddies to help us with the "research" and we can use the Book Creator app on the iPads to create books about an animal that  interests them. I knew I would need more help, so I recruited our amazing teacher-librarian Anna Crosland and asked her if she wanted to be a part of this "experiment" with my K class. Anna jumped on board and the 3 of us (Anna, Gallit and I) developed a plan. This activity was done in April/May of last year.

1)  I would make a Sample eBook with my class. This took about 3 lessons. For this book, we used Penguins as that was the last animal we studied and we made a pages for habitat, food, enemies and 3 interesting facts. We took pictures and recorded the sentence using the Book Creator app.  Here is our class book.

2) Gallit had her class write and produce stories using Book Creator to share with my class as way of teaching them how to use the app.  My class LOVED "reading" the stories their big buddies made on the iPads. Here is a sample of a book written by our buddies!

3) I asked each student in my class to pick an animal that they wanted to know more about. I gave the list to Anna, and she pulled many books on each animal for us. We set aside a 45 minute block for the next 5 weeks where both classes would meet in the library to develop their books. The idea was that the big buddies were there to guide the little buddy through the research part and assist them with putting their books together. We came up with criteria for what information should be included in the eBook and that each page needed to have 3 components:
  1. A photo taken by the little buddy.
  2. A sentence scribed by the big buddy.
  3. A voice recording by the little buddy talking about the page.
I was a bit skeptical at first as to how well this project was going to work, but looking back on it now, EVERYONE  was on task and excited to be learning. The big buddies were so happy to "teach" their little buddies and the little buddies were so excited to be "researchers". There was no fooling around, no conversations that were off topic and everyone was learning something! All the doubts I had were erased when I saw how hard everyone was working and how upset they were that the work period was up! Here are some samples of finished work.

When this student started the year, she was just learning English and wasn't that comfortable speaking. Listen to how confident she sounds now talking about Cats.

Adaptations were made so that every student could participate. Here is a wonderful book from student with Autism, who has come so far since the start of the year. Here is a video of his Elephant book.

After working hard on our eBooks, we took the time to share each and every one of the books. The students were all so proud of how hard they worked and sharing their books was a highlight for everyone. What is the point of making a book, if only the teacher is ever going to see it? Having an authentic audience gave everyone a real purpose for completing the task to the best of their ability.

This is a project that I am going to do with my students again this Spring. I am so excited to give them ownership of their learning. After all, they should be learning about their passions, not mine!! With a bit of thinking outside the box, modifying for the needs of the students, anything is possible in a Kindergarten class - even a modified Genius Hour!!

For more information on Genius Hour, follow Gallit @gallit_z, Hugh @hughtheteacher and Denise @mrsdkrebs on Twitter. Also check out #geniushour chat on Twitter the first Wednesday of the month at 9pm EST  and the Genius Hour wiki. Gallit has also posted some articles on her blog about integrating technology and introducing Genius Hour.

Jodi is a Kindergarten teacher in Surrey, BC, who loves to use push her students to try new things - dancing, singing and using iPads to explore their passions. Her blog is

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Today's post, is, appropriately, a collaborative piece by @hanna_fale and @jenboydNZ, infant and toddler teachers in New Zealand.

Collaboration: ‘to work jointly with others or together, especially in an intellectual endeavor’

As a passionate team of Infants and young toddlers we took it upon ourselves to not only pursue change but also to be more open to possibilities within children’s learning. As reflective practitioners, we were looking to create a positive challenge to our established pedagogical perspectives. We wish to share an insight of how we have been challenged in our understanding of collaboration, coming to the conclusion that truly reflective practice comes through multiple perspectives.

“Do you see what I see?”
There are many definitions of what it means to ‘collaborate’. Within our role as infant/toddler teachers we believe we have come to a mutual understanding of what collaboration means in terms of our pedagogical documentation. Inspired by the philosophy and values of Reggio Emilia, we have sought to deepen our thinking, through sharing ideas, discussing ‘the language of possibility’, and maintaining an open-ended dialogue with each other.

As a passionate team of infants and young toddlers, we wanted to pursue more with our pedagogical documentation, especially in relation to children’s individual learning stories. We believe pedagogical documentation is based on teachers decisions about how they choose to make children’s learning visible.
Are we creating documentation that articulates meaningful and understandable perspectives of what children see? 

Is what we seem to constantly ask ourselves. We acknowledge that as teachers we each have our own subjective interpretations of children’s learning. This is especially true for infant/toddler teachers, as we are focused on children’s non-verbal cues, and the relationships we develop through day-to-day experiences.
How could we as teachers really state we observed children’s learning objectively? Our questioning, became ‘action-research’ where we could retrospectively examine our assumptions and values through multiple perspectives. Through the use of “Google Docs” we opened up a dialogue that offered challenges, which tested our theories and gave rise to a multitude of new possibilities. Questions constantly came to the forefront of the dialogue between us, and we were using google docs as a tool that seemed to plant the seed for the beginning of our critical collaboration.

“Sometimes questions are more important than the answers” Nancy Willard.

For us, true collaboration, and partnership also built closer reciprocal relationships with children and families - acknowledging that we were learning alongside each other. Rather than simply describing events in a learning story, we began to use ‘critical reflection’, combining our practical and pedagogical knowledge in a way that seemed to create a language of possibility, rather than one of certainty....

We feel this journey has not ended, yet only just begun with what lies ahead. The uncertainty excites us in being able to discover the learning ourselves and simply enjoy the moment as teachers. It takes a lot of courage and patience to let go as one, but we have learnt that time is of the essence in allowing “collaboration” to evolve. We are grateful for the extra-ordinary in the ordinary everyday dialogue that we share, and look forward to continuing our collaborative journey wherever it may take us.

@hanna_fale says: For the last 6 years I have been an infant/young toddler teacher at Tots Corner. The journey has been an exciting road of obstacles, challenges and triumph; aspects that have all contributed to my growth as a teacher. My passion lies in photography within pedagogical documentation and how this enriches children’s everyday possibilities.

@JenBoydNZ says: Jen’s pedagogical ponderings open up a multitude of possibilities that she faces each day as an enthusiastic and creative infant and young toddler teacher. Jen’s heart lies also in creating pedagogical documentation for children and teachers through the use of ICT. Jen offers a dynamic approach in dialogue with others and acknowledges that truly reflective practice comes through multiple perspectives.

Many thanks to Taylor Faletaupule (1 year old) who features in our photographs.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Believe in the run

Today's post is from @sophnsully, a family childcare provider in Maine, USA.

So here it is.  My first attempt at a blog post!  I was thrilled to offer to contribute when Amy put out the request and have thought of a million different topics and ideas to share.  Ideas that ranged from gun play in preschool to technology in the early childhood setting.  Not wanting to take on the NRA or Raffi with my very first blog post, I decided to draw comparisons between my newest passion of running with my oldest passion of caring for young children.  

I am a runner.  I am so proud to write those words.  I haven’t always been a runner, in fact, just a little over two months ago I had run VERY little since high school.  Now, with the coolest Asics sneakers, a hat that has a hole for my ponytail and gloves that I can operate my iPhone with...I (pause for effect) am a runner.  I have put more than 200 miles on my purple and silver sneakers mostly at night and mostly in below freezing temperatures.  I run mostly on the road, my quiet country road, and it is on this road that I have found myself.  Dramatic I know...but true.  I run five miles at a time and have averaged 25 miles per week all while listening to a playlist that has songs ranging from Eminem to Drake and could never be shared during child care hours.  While I have fallen madly in love with running and what it has done for me mentally and physically, it hasn’t necessarily been pretty.  I have needed motivation and support.  The support that I have received from social media has been the most surprising.  Following running pages on Facebook and using the motivational quotes has been shockingly helpful.  I have always been moved by quotes when they were about social issues and political points of view but secretly gagged when they were about fitness.  Now, prior to a workout, I log on to my running pages to choose a quote as the mantra for that particular run.  

At this point I’ve gone on much longer about running than I had intended and I probably even lost a few readers or several of you are gagging as I once did when I listened to how much people loved running and how alive it made them feel...blah blah blah!  So come back to me now...I promise I am going to connect this to early childhood!  

While away this past weekend in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I took advantage of the 40 degrees and set off for a run with the specific goal of deciding on a topic for my NaBloPoMo post.  I was barely out of breath before it came to me!  Working with the littles is EXACTLY like running.  EXACTLY!  

“Running never takes more than it gives back, believe in the run.” Nike

The words running and run in the above quote can so easily be switched out for “young children.” Go ahead try it... “Young children never take more than they give back, believe in the young children.”  Now, I know what each of you just did, you each said “not every kid...this one time...”  But wait, if you dig so deep and allow yourself to be so honest, you have to admit that you learned more, grew more, or changed more because of “that” kid.  It may take some time to see the results of a run, feel the strength in your legs or have the clarity in your thoughts but like Nike says...believe in the run.  Or believe in the kid...whichev!

“If you wait for the perfect conditions, you'll never get anything done.” Ecclesiastes

This one is so meaningful to me as I care for a mixed age group and I am forever wondering if they are ready for or able to process and grow from a certain topic, book, or skill.  Like each of you in your classrooms, you never have each child in exactly the same space emotionally or educationally so you have to go for it and differentiate like a crazy person.  Of course my eight month old isn’t going to be ready for the things that my four year olds are but he can still grow from being a part of the learning that takes place.  One of the greatest things about caring for a mixed age group is that the children often do the differentiating for me.  They extract as much as they can from a learning opportunity and then in their play, expose the younger children to the new concepts at levels only children can reach.  I love this.  If you wait for the weather, time or mood to be just right you’ll never run.  If you wait for every child to be on the same “page” you’ll never teach what you need/want to teach!  

“I'm not telling you it is going to be easy, I'm telling you it's going to be worth it.” Art Williams
The connection that this has to education and caring for young children is obvious.  I find it most relates to teaching routines and standard operating procedures.  The first steps are brutal, the follow through can be excruciating but the end result is pure beauty.  It’s never easy...ever!  Sometimes it’s not even fun...sometimes!  But, I’m sure I speak for most of you who are taking the time to read a guest blog on a site dedicated to enriching the lives of the very young when I say it is always worth it...ALWAYS!  

“It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The what makes it great.” A League of Their Own
This quote is similar to the last but it points out how we are different.  Those of us that choose to spend our days with the very young know that we are a different breed.  We have patience, we see potential, we create possibilities!  We do all this with a part of the population that can’t even zip their own pants.  We choose to come back day after day, pour our souls into creating learning opportunities, give emotional support (but not always give out bandaids...right @mmekathleen?) and do it with enough energy to power a small city. We know that while an outsider might see chaos, frustration, tears and even a little bit of puke (that was for you @mattbgomez) we all know that putting the time and effort into these children will pay off big time.  Now and later.

“You’ve felt it haven’t you? Those feelings that seem to get so big in your chest like something is so beautiful it aches?” Heather Anastasiu
This totally happens to me!  Both running and with the child care!  I get so excited by these moments and they often happen when I least expect it and sometimes not as frequently as I would like.  When they happen, I force myself to say out loud “I’m paying attention...I get it!”  If I’m running I say those words to myself, if I’m around children, I say them to the closest kid.  For some reason, acknowledging that beauty with words makes it more real and helps me to remember how special the moment was!  These moments may not seem as beautiful to anyone else but we all know these moments.

Finally, a picture.  One that always makes me laugh and one that is probably pretty true!  Also, how much do I want to know and teach this little girl???


Audrey says: Audrey O’Clair lives in Newburgh, Maine with her husband Marc, ten year old daughter Sophie and three year old son Sullivan.  She is currently an accredited family child care provider for six children ages 8 months to four years.  Prior to opening the child care, Audrey was a 7th grade special education teacher.  Working with a local school district as a family literacy consultant keeps Audrey involved with the public schools and allows her additional opportunities to feed her passions of literacy and technology.  Audrey co-authored an article for NAFCCs Teaching Young Children publication on using tablets with young children which can be viewed at  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Teacher/Student In Me

I remember, as a young child, being enamored with school, often watching as my friend went off to kindergarten, and I, sitting sadly by my window, being told I was too young and needed to wait until the following year. Silently sneaking out of my house, I joined her as we walked to our neighborhood school. In short time I was discovered as the extra child whose name was not on the roll call. In due time September came and I began my schooling. Through many high and low points in an uneven education, in an era when memorization was the standard, I never stopped wanting to "know" things. My road to where and who I am now had many detours along the way; marrying, raising two children, and then going back to school so that I could fulfill my dream to be a teacher. 

My inquisitiveness has held me in good stead. I am a lifelong learner because I have a deep rooted need to make sense of my world in all its domains.  I have many questions, more than answers!  My sense of wonder and inquiry, my wanting to know and understand has definitely influenced my teaching philosophy and style. Young children may look to adults for answers, but more often than not their learning is influenced by opportunities to explore, experiment, practice, visit and revisit what has piqued their interest. Immeasurable times I have seen my kindergarten children problem-solve through these hands-on opportunities, allowing for their social-emotional and cognitive skills to develop. Although constraints over scheduling and curriculum may hinder flexibility and spontaneity, in my classroom, teachable moments are embraced, whether it is Endeavour flying overhead, or Felix Baumgartner jumping out of an airplane. The student in me remembers the excitement of discovery as I set aside my lesson and work with my kindergarten class to see what answers to their questions we might find. 

To this end I have to acknowledge the many remarkable people I have found on Twitter, who are guiding and shaping my teaching, veteran teacher that I may be! My growing PLN, through the varied chats I have joined (#kinderchat in the forefront) and the blogs that I follow, are not only reaffirming my core beliefs, but at times, challenging me as well.

As I reflect on what I have written, the student in me has never been stronger than now, motivating me to share in this way, my thoughts in my first blog, as I continue to learn. Instilling in my students the desire to learn, would be a wonderful legacy from this educator and student.

Faige says: I am a kindergarten teacher, with over 35 years of experience, at an Independent school in Southern California. I have taught toddlers, threes and fours. My work has given me many opportunities to observe children, and it is unbelievable what I have learned from them!  Along the way, my journey has transformed me; as I have asked a lot from my students, I have also challenged myself as an educator. And, now, here I am participating in #NaBloPoMo!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An Inquiry into SNOW!

Today's post is by Louise Robitaille (@robitaille2011), a teacher in Ontario, Canada.

Teaching children to think for themselves is a goal we strive to achieve. How do we ensure success? One way is to develop independence in our students. We encourage them to ask questions and we nurture their curiosity and wonder! 

The following clip is from Ms. Bourgeois’ Grade One class. It started with a read-aloud and turned into a month long investigation.

In Danielle Parent’s Kindergarten class, students ask questions and wonder!

Kids love winter in Canada especially when they can play in the snow.

What a perfect opportunity to explore and discover what winter and snow is all about. Some of the centre activities included:

graphing favourite winter activities:

using the “Snowman Maker” app:

finding winter words around the room:

learning about animals in winter, and of course PLAYING! 

The wondrous thing about using the inquiry approach to teaching, for both student and teacher learning becomes fun! Students are playing, learning and becoming independent engaged 21st century learners!   

Come back tomorrow, when @dubioseducator will write about "The Student in Me."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Introverted is not shy

Today's post is from @garrioch, a kindergarten teacher in British Columbia, Canada.

It was well over 7 years ago when I sat in the school office and took part in a meeting that was not only pertinent at the time but would become one of those "aha!" moments in my teaching career.

There was a student in the school who was rather quiet and, although well liked by her peers, she was often by herself. Her parents came in for a meeting with her teacher, the principal and me (I was the school counselor at the time). When they arrived they shared their concerns and requested some assistance in helping their daughter make friends. They did not like that she was often alone and when she was with others it was always the same people. She seemed to be somewhat uncomfortable with groups of more than three.

The teacher immediately sympathized with the parents and offered to assist with this in the classroom by providing more opportunity for group play and work. I started racking my brain thinking of ways I could help this little girl feel more at ease with her peers because, after al,l don’t all kids love to be with lots of other kids, playing, and... well... for lack of a better term: “being kids”? My principal, at the time, stopped and looked at everyone and said she failed to see the problem. She went on to discuss how it is adults who immediately think there is something that needs to be done when children are quiet and prefer to work and play on their own. She went on to ask us all: “If the child does not have a problem with it, why does everyone else?”

We all stopped and looked at my principal, but none of us had much of an answer for her. After a lengthy discussion, we left the meeting, and I think everyone was satisfied with the outcome. I started observing *Mallory after that. There were times when she played with 2 of the girls in her class and there were many times where she played on her own. The key was, though, that she PLAYED on her own. She was not sitting and watching others; she was fully involved in something that completely interested her. She was never unhappy when playing on her own and was not looking to find another student to join her. Mallory was, by definition, an introvert. She actually seemed more energized after spending some time on her own; she did not like having any sort of small talk with people she vaguely knew, and her emotions were not always easy to read.

I started to do some reading, I thoroughly enjoyed the books written by Susan Cain and found some great things to do to meet Mallory’s needs:

  1. Give her the time that she needs to play on her own.
  2. Provide her with an opportunity to release emotions (journaling, drawing, art, free play).
  3. Never put her in a large group if I expect her to contribute.
  4. Whenever necessary, be the connector between the child and the friend, help out when necessary.

Mallory taught me so much that year. I learned to step back and observe for longer periods of time, to truly understand that there are children who are most in their element when playing on their own, and that those who are more reserved often have contributions that will knock my socks off.

Since I met and worked with Mallory I have had other introverted children in my own classroom. In fact, this year a parent started our individual meet and greet with “My family really does keep to themselves, we don’t socialize in large groups and my child does not fall far from the tree. I am a bit worried about how the large group environment will effect my child”. In my head I said a little thanks to Mallory as I felt much better equipped to say: "Not only do I think your child will be great, as a class we will embrace and respect the time your child needs to be alone and play quietly."

I will leave you with something Susan Cain wrote that really sums up some of the children that we have all taught in our careers.

“Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is the preference for environments that are not over stimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.”

Stacey says: I am Stacey Garrioch (@garrioch) from BC, Canada. I have been teaching for 13 years, and have been a teacher-counselor, an acting administrator and have spent time in numerous grades. I am currently in my second year as a kindergarten teacher and I LOVE it! You can find me at  Outside of teaching I love to spend time with my two boys and husband, I watch a lot of hockey (both boys and the hubby) and I love to challenge myself physically with different events! I am a co-moderator of #kinderchat (Play); being a part of this community has not only changed the way my classroom looks, it has allowed me to make many new friends!

Coming up tomorrow: @robitaille2011 write about Inquiry Learning.