To view our early years team’s Day Plan click the link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1saaHyGWuVukcYNbdk0_hkQh5eBBkkjxC_DvAtmjdbic/pub
I’m a full-day kindergarten teacher and work with an amazing team including a Designated Early Childhood Educators (DECE) and an Educational Assistant (EA). Our team has facilitated the learning of 16-34 3-6 year old students. This year we have 19 JK/SK learners. However, we have had experience with larger numbers too. One year the majority of the students in our care were 3 and 4 years old (23 JK and 11 SK). Research in the reggio-emillia approach and montessori practice, observing 30 year veteran kindergarten teachers, experience as an early reading intervention teacher, and collaborating with the DECE, educational facilitators and other leaders in our board have influenced our programming and approach profoundly. Not only this important research, but also reflection of my own practice and re-evaluating my educational beliefs has assisted our team in creating a flow of the day that is quite successful for both personal-social and academic development.
Almost all of our early learners are bussed to school and some have been on the bus for close to 1 hour. Yes, 3 and 4 year olds on the bus for close to one hour. So, when they get off they immediately put their backpacks against the outdoor wall of our school and get busy playing in our awesome forest yard. If you are interested in viewing some of our open-ended outdoor play opportunities see the tab, “outdoor learning”.
1st Block: Literacy Focus
We enter after around 45-60 minutes of outdoor learning to get one healthy snack and come to the carpet for our first circle. We allow our learners to listen to their bodies and if they are hungry while they are at play they can get a healthy snack too. I have done research and reflection on whether we go straight to play, table top activities or other. However, I’m a firm believer in community building and I believe that coming together first thing to sing, share and learn is such a strong way of connecting. Also, group learning time is precious and we feel like book-ending our unstructured play with whole-group instruction is best for our team and learners so we can accomplish all our goals in an effective and efficient way. Some educators feel that some children are not ready for learning letters and numbers and they need to just be working on personal-social development. Well, I question how do they know that? What research and/or evidence on this particular child tells us this? How do we know that particular child shouldn’t have an opportunity to have explicit teaching with letter sounds and names or number sense? Perhaps, this is a particular strength for them. Perhaps they would enjoy that too. Perhaps they came to school with an expectation to have explicit teaching with reading and writing. I agree that some learners are wiggly and don’t want to sit. However, I believe in starting the year with short circle times (5 minutes) so all children feel successful at the carpet and then gradually increase the time. I believe in making carpet time active and fun. Trying for one day, 1 week or even 1 month might not give us a true reflection of success for them. Our early years team regularly reflect on our learners (individually and whole group) so that we can strive to give them what they need. We reflect on our day regularly and we modify it based on observation of what works best for our group of early learners. Later on in the year we assess our learners academic achievements in a positive non-threatning way. Then we split them up into ability-based groups with one educator at each group. This approach helps us better meet the needs of all our learners.
Let’s get back to what the flow of the day actually looks like. We sing our “Good Morning Song”, read a morning message from our mascot (Joe the gnome- the children re-name him every year), SMARTnotebook shared poem (sight word focus with Heidi Songs), SMARTnotebook Jolly Phonics (2 letter sounds/week), SMARTnotebook word building, and phonological awareness whole group games. All of these activities are quick active game-based and/or music-based incorporating actions, air-writing, movement and music, etc. This circle time flies by. Friday, however is different, we sing our “Good Morning Song”, shared poem, and do a Modelled Writing/Writer’s Workshop with Kid Writing approach. By January usually significant growth has been made in reading that our higher reading group is onto learning graphemes/phonemes, grade 1 sight words, guided reading, and word building (like SSP Reading). After our Literacy Circle we are onto Literacy Games (table top activities). This too can be shorter (5-10 minutes) or longer (10-20 minutes) depending on observation student engagement. We then open-up to play-based learning (unstructured play) where our early learners have many provocations around the room as well as dramatic play, small world play, building, light table, sensory tubs and tables, quiet teepee, magnet table, math table, fine motor, loose parts table, etc. The educators also support child-led inquiries with documenting the learning at provocations that are co-created with our learners. After that we are back to the carpet for a read aloud where we explore a reading focus together (i.e. retell, visualization, making connections, etc.).
Nutrition Break 1 / Outdoor Learning (Recess) for 20 minutes
Block 2: Math Focus
We come together on the carpet for Math explicit teaching time which is approximately 10 minutes. We do a quick number talk, math focus (i.e. subtilize, greater/less than, counting forward/backward, cardinality, etc), inquiry-based math challenge or introduce new math game. Then we go to Math Games (table top activities) where again our early learners self-select their learning as we, the educators, document it. We allow our learners to play with open-ended math materials however they want. They often come up with amazing rich games that draw in our whole-group learning concepts into their play.
Gym: DECE lunch and Teacher prep
Nutrition Break 2 /Outdoor Learning (Recess) for 20 minutes
Outdoor Learning: We stay outside after recess. An amazing feature of our schedule is that both the DECE and myself are on duty for recess so we start our Outdoor Learning the moment recess starts. We bring out all kinds of learning provocations, art, outdoor learning toolbox, etc. In addition we have lots of loose parts, tree blocks, trucks, measuring cups, pots, pans, buckets, shovels, an outdoor stage, mud kitchen, trikes, etc. We stay outside for unstructured play, outdoor inquiries, forest school-type approach for 1 hour and often more if our learners are fully engaged in their learning. The educators also observe and document the learning of child-led outdoor inquiries. We try to listen to our learners and often follow their lead as to if we end our day with unstructured play indoors or outdoors. If we stay outdoors longer, than we may do our Inquiry Circle (Knowledge Building Circle) outdoors or we might do it at the end of the day indoors.
Block 3: Inquiry Focus
We return to the carpet for a short knowledge-building circle where we as a class wonder, share our learning, and investigate with experiments linked to child-led inquiries. This carpet time is where active listening, deep thinking and wondering is encouraged as a whole group. Some of our learners are inspired from these whole group explorations and get them thinking about the world expanding on the thinking of their peers. It’s an exciting time. We document our learning, research our wonderings, and share our learning journeys through videos, pics, stories, art, experiments, etc. We then have our final play-based learning time (unstructured play) where they can research their own independent inquiries and other play (like mentioned above). After our last play we gather once more to share the Mystery Bag. Our Mystery Bag is a show and tell bag where our learners bring something unique that helps us learn about the world (i.e. a sand dollar, a postcard from grandma in Cuba). They give three clues and our class guesses what it could be. The class then asks questions about the object. We sing our “Goodbye Song” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPEftqhK0OA and pack up ready to go.
Fun Friday: Every Friday we have a Fun Friday event from 2:00-2:45. We invite our Learning Buddies to share in our inquiries, interests, explorations, and celebrations. We set-up multiple provocations for some events and others we do STEM challenges. Some Fun Fridays have include; Sensory Overload, Leaf Extravaganza, Marble Mania, Monster Madness, Cardboard Construction Challenge, Can you design and build a car with recycled materials?, etc.). Our early learners look forward to Fun Fridays as it’s a chance to try something new and it’s always based on their interests at that time.