Monday, January 27, 2014

Who are we and where do we come from?

Over the past 3 months, our class has been inquiring about who we are and where we come from! This wonderment around "identity" and what makes each of us special and unique was something Ms. Theis and I wasted no time on exploring with our students. What started from one of our SK students leaving to visit family in Egypt before the holidays and our students wondering where Egypt was on the map, led to a multi-facted inquiry that has branched off into many authentic directions! 
A world map by T.D. (SK)
Our documentation panel 
As we began to explore our "identity," many wonderful learning opportunities began to unravel. This post will sum up in brief some of those wonderful highlights to ensure privacy is still protected for our students' and their families!


We hope you enjoy our "Highlight Reel":

1. An interview with T.B. in Egypt through Skype! 
Here are some of our questions and T.B.'s responses:

What does it look like in Egypt?
T.B.: "Plants are green and I can see the ocean and lots of pools. The weather is summer and I have been making sand castles and see the pyramids too!"



What is your favourite Egyptian food?
T.B.: "I like lots of carrots, beans and rice. It's yummy."

V.D.: "I wonder if you talk a different language?"
T.B.: "Yes, I speak Arabic!"

J.S. (SK - boy): "How many pyramids did you see in Egypt?"
T.B.: "I saw big, medium and small. There's also a guard for the pyramid to control if they're open or closed and who can go in and out and the guard has to say 'yes' or it's not safe."

2. "Whoever You Are" - by Mem Fox:
After reading this story as a Read Aloud on Wednesday afternoon to support our inquiry, our class had a very insightful discussion around what makes each of us special and unique!


"My Dad comes from Poland and my mom comes from Italy."
"My family is from Jamaica and it's hot there!"
"My family is from Sri Lanka!"
"My Dad comes from Cambodia and my Mom comes from China!"
"My family is from Canada."
"My Mom comes from the Phillipines."
"My family comes from Vietnam. I don't see rain or snow in Vietnam but I see leaves on the ground sometimes."
"People's skins are different colours because everyone's countries are different."
"Everyone speaks Indian in my country. That's my language."
"We speak Tamil at home."
"Skin colours are different and they change because of the sun you know?"

Here is a list of some other fantastic Read Alouds that we have used to support this inquiry:
"Skin Again" by Bell Hooks
"This is me and where I am" by Joanne Fitzgerald
"The Skin You Live In" by Michael Tyler, David Lee Csicsko
"The Colours of Us" by Karen Katz
"Who's in a Family?" by Robert Skutch
"Whoever You Are" by Mem Fox

3. Creating our Self Portraits out of clay:
Creating a self portrait was one way we felt our students could be invited to celebrate their identity. It was truly a remarkable experience watching them pay such close attention to the details on their face when drawing their sketches and when crafting their design out of clay! 




4. Our families on the map:
To celebrate the diversity within our classroom, one activity that drew in a lot of excitement was creating "Country Cards" and plotting ourselves on our world map in our classroom! It was so wonderful to see how multicultural our classroom is and how many unique backgrounds create the community within the walls of our learning space! Our students continue to look up and observe each other's family identities and talk about what they see! 





5. Holiday "Think Work":
Over the Holiday Break, we invited our families to share with us some of their cultural traditions! Families could create a "Country Collage" out of pictures that represent their country and/or share a recipe of a favourite cultural dish! We were beyond thrilled with the responses from our students and their families! It was also great to see our families experimenting with technology and creating their collages on PicCollage! Our plan is to create a "Class Recipe Book" including all of those shared with us as part of this Think Work activity! 

6. Our Collaborative "Who is Nobody?" Project:
Read more about this incredible project by clicking on the link:


7. Designing Flags:
After one SK's response to her "Question of the Day" book based on the question: "If you could design your own flag, what would it look like and why?" - our students jumped at the chance of celebrating their identity by creating a flag of their very own! With the incorporation of water colours, here are their masterpieces:
Artists: D.K., C.S., G.V., E.Z.
Artists: G.B., J.H., J.S. (boy), J.S. (girl)
Artists: J.L. (boy), J.L. (girl), L.M., M.P.
Artists: M.D., P.B., R.K., R.T.
Artists: R.V., S.R., T.B., T.P.
Artists: T.D., V.D., Z.P
The above is just a snapshot into our "Identity" and "Map Inquiry"! We hope it helps to paint a picture around what has been going on inside our classroom these past few months! We truly can't wait to see where the journey takes us so stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Who is Nobody? A Collaborative Project

Image from www.whoisnobody.com
As a way of connecting classrooms within our school, Ms. Theis and I, along with our wonderful colleague Mrs. Abalos (who teaches Grade 1/2), have been excited to launch a collaborative project entitled "Who is Nobody?". While this project is based on a "kit," we have customized our intent to make it unique to our classrooms and current inquiries. In short, our "Who is Nobody?" collaborative project involves connecting our classrooms through an inquiry that not only illustrates a "bridging of the gap" between Full Day Kindergarten through to Grade 2, but its focus encompasses character building, kindness and appreciations for who we are and where we come from.

Presently, we are in Week 2 of our project and are thrilled to see our students making meaningful connections between their acts of kindness and our classes unique inquiries thus far! Even though our project is still young, our students are beginning to understand that they CAN make a difference in the world around us even through small acts! As we embark on this journey, we wonder...

How might we learn more about ourselves and our community by helping turn NOBODY into a SOMEBODY?

How can we make a difference in our school, community and in our world?

By teaching and learning alongside our students throughout this inquiry project, we decided to create a collaborate sharing space where both classes can connect:


This blogspace is used to not only teach digital citizenship, but it is also a place where the students in both of our classrooms can communicate, ask questions, make comments, learn and showcase their ongoing discoveries! 


We invite you to follow along as we use this collaborative sharing space to learn from each other and connect our experiences! Similarly, the Full Day Kindergarten page will recount specific learning moments from the students in our class and likewise for Mrs. Abalos' class on the Grade 1/2 page, as each student gets a chance to take each class' Nobody doll home and perform an act of kindness to another person/family member, animal or for the environment.


We encourage you to visit our collaborative blog often and we also invite you to become an active participant in our journey by posing questions, comments and connections that we would be happy to respond too!

Here's to new learning as we begin to work together on making NOBODY a SOMEBODY and learn about our school, community, world and most importantly each other!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Feeling Grateful

With the start of a new year, and after taking a "pause" on social media for the holidays, I feel inspired to begin 2014 with new insights, exciting challenges and magical memories professionally and personally! This post has been brewing for a while and I thought it would be the perfect one to start off 2014 since I'd like to highlight and dedicate this post to my wonderful Designated Early Childhood Educator, Heidi Theis.

The reason why it has been hard for me to put down all that I feel into a blog post, is because it's impossible to capture and sum up the incredible relationship I have with my truly incredible partner. Over the past almost two years, Heidi and I have had the wonderful opportunity to showcase our learning publicly on the blog and professionally through our own learning network within the York Region District School Board. We have been honoured and humbled to have other teaching teams, administration, consultants and friends visit our learning space to learn about our program and how we have established such a wonderful foundation for teaching and learning together as a team. Within these visits, we often get a series of questions related to how we make our partnership and program work. For example, "How do you divide up the roles and responsibilities in your classroom?" "What does it look like when you're teaching?" "How do you plan/assess the learning? Who does what? What does that look like?" 

This is where I'd like to highlight where Heidi and I were at the beginning of our journey and where we are now in a series of four small points: 

1. Purposeful Talk: As a team from the beginning, our foundation has been built on communication. Sharing each other's strengths and weaknesses and having conversations around what each other are comfortable with taking the lead on has been an integral part of understanding each other, building chemistry, and establishing an effective and structured program for US as a teaching team. Communication has been at the forefront of our planning, setting up our learning environment every summer, gathering assessment and sharing the roles within our classroom. 
We ALWAYS teach as a TEAM and share responsibilities throughout the flow of our day (e.g. take turns doing the Read Aloud, leading our Morning Meeting, leading experiments, etc). 
We ALWAYS plan together and reflect daily through passing conversations throughout the day and/or before or after school.  
We ALWAYS take the time to talk about our personal lives which has helped us not only become strong partners but also wonderful friends.  

2. Flexibility and Openness: Both Heidi and I come from various backgrounds with various experiences. As a team, we never hesitate to embrace each other's ideas, proposed learning experiences/opportunities for our students and for ourselves, questions and wonderings. Together, we work through the kinks through a LOT of trial and error and embrace change when our thinking shifts, when we gain new insights/understandings and when each other has new ways for teaching and learning. We are not afraid to confront challenges together nor are we closed-minded to reaching out to our professional learning network to gain new insights. Together, we seek new ways of teaching and learning as a team. 

3. Trust: As a teacher, my experiences in the past of working alone to now as working as a team has taught me the importance of "letting go" of control. While difficult at first, Heidi's strong background in child development and passion for the early years not only assured me that our program would be successful, but that by trusting in each other as educators, we could truly be the best WE could be for our students. 

4. Baby steps: Where Heidi and I started almost 2 and a half years ago was a completely different place and program then where we are now. As my Mom has always said, "Rome wasn't built in a day" and that rings true for the journey we've been on together as a teaching team. Each year, Heidi and I decide to focus on 1-2 small things that we'd like to change/accomplish for that year. With this mindset, we have been able to accomplish a lot in such a short amount of time and every year together we have built more on experiences and gained momentum for continued success. These goals have ranged from strengthening our documentation and assessment through the use of technology to revamping the way we "plan" for our learning each week. This all connects back to my first point around Purposeful Talk and taking the TIME as a team to sit down, recap, reflect, and rethink what's working and what's not to help set the bar for where the learning can go next! 

Without making this post too long, I just have to conclude by saying how truly grateful I am to come to work everyday and teach alongside such an inspiring, passionate, caring, open, and honest colleague and friend. Heidi has been my rock throughout this journey so far and she has taught me so much about myself not only as a teacher but also as a friend. Heidi's passion for the Early Years is undeniable and her dedication to the profession goes without question. Her desire to seek her own professional development opportunities outside our classroom through course enrolment, attending conferences and workshops and beyond, speaks volumes about the type of educator she is and aspires to be. I'd like to thank you Heidi for believing in me as your partner, for inspiring me as your colleague and for helping make me the teacher I am today! Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for the students in our classroom and for us as a team. I couldn't feel more lucky.