Saturday, October 10, 2015

Teaching Number Sense in Kindergarten

Kindergarten Number Sense Outcomes
1.1: count in a variety of ways
1.2: explore a variety of physical representations of numbers 1-10
1.3: count to determine the number in a group
1.4: create sets of a given number
1.5: show a given number as two parts concretely and name the two parts
1.6: determine which group has more, which has less, or which are equivalent
1.7: use symbols to represent numbers in a variety of meaningful ways
While our understanding of number sense begins at birth, when we count our baby's fingers and toes out loud (1:1 correspondence), as Kindergarteners, we are still in the early learning stages of number sense. With this in mind, we attempt to make our learning as holistic and realistic as possible. So we sing songs, we use concrete objects. It's a very hands on, brain on, learning process, but one that will take us a long way in understanding numbers.
Teaching and reinforcing number sense in the classroom is always embedded into our daily routine. From singing songs, to predicting how many people are present and absent, to playing a game, to reading stories, to our "Countdown to 5/10" at the end of the day, we are constantly exposed to number sense. It's through these real life experiences that we truly begin to see that numbers do make sense in our everyday life. By using routines to reinforce number sense, we allow the students to make their own connections, and when they can make their own connections, the learning is more authentic. If it's through our life experiences that we learn, then how much more important is it that our teaching give our students life experience?
While singing songs like, "Farmer Brown Has 5 Green Apples" we use props, and we have a "Farmer Brown". Through this, we are reinforcing the idea of 'taking away', and we have real life examples right in front of us.
Usually, during the hockey playoffs, we will take all of the teams that have made it and we keep track of the wins and losses of each series.
Since, right now, it is baseball playoff time, and both my favourite team, the Chicago Cubs, and Canada's favourite team, the Toronto Blue Jays, are in the playoffs, I decided to keep track of each one's wins and losses. It helps that baseball playoffs go to 5 games since we are learning about numbers 1-5 right now.
Through this activity, we are reinforcing outcomes 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, and 1.6
Unfortunately, I'm going to have to add a loss to both the Blue Jays and the Cubs. Hopefully, before the weekend is over, I'll be able to add some wins too!

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Joys of Kindergarten

I love that e-Card. It was sent to me by one of my second grade teaching friends. I've been accused of crazy before, especially in relation to teaching Kindergarten. But I've never understood why it seems so daunting to others. Teaching Kindergarten is always a pleasure. The challenge to meet their needs, the fun because you never know what will come out of their mouths. Kindergartener's are awesome for your self-esteem because Kindergarten kids don't care if you sing on tune, they always like your clothes and shoes, and if you play an instrument, they will think you are the most talented person who ever existed!

When you've been teaching long enough, you begin to realize something. Each class is it's own organic creation. Each class is special and unique. Now I know that each child is unique and has their own personality, but those personalities work together to give each class a group personality.

One year I felt like I was white knuckling it through the entire year. I had 2 boys diagnosed with Autism that year, and a little girl with "developmental delays" (a classic case of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome if you ask me).  Then there was the class with lots of "energy", you never knew what would happen from one day to the next. One year I had "that class". You know the one, the kind that has 'behaviour issues'? Took a lot of understanding and deep breaths to make it through each day. And then last year I had a class of comedians. They were hilarious and cracked me up every day, lots of one liners were thrown around. We had a lot of fun.

This year is no different. If I were to classify this class, though, I'd say we are young, we are curious, and we are used to speaking our minds. Have you ever read Junie B. Jones? My own kids used to love reading those books. I remember thinking having a Junie B. in my class would be lots of fun. Little did I know that, this year, the class personality could be described as "Junie B." And let me tell you, it's exhausting. Fun! But exhausting.

Sometimes when you share little happenings during your day with others they say, "You should write these down!" So I thought, why not share them on my little blog. They are pretty funny, and they do say a lot about what it's like to teach Kindergarten.

The first one I like to title-
How conversation evolves in a kindergarten class:
Principal (on the announcements): Boys and girls, I know that many of you saw the fox watching as you came in to school today. Remember, if you are outside at recess and the fox comes over, just walk over to a teacher and tell them.
Me: yes, just tell a teacher. Remember, foxes aren't pets, they're wild animals.
Student 1: my nana feeds the foxes.
Student 2: foxes are carnivores, just like dinosaurs were. I'm an expert on foxes.
Student 3: carnivores eat meat.
Student 4: humans are meat!
Student 1: humans are NOT meat!
Me: well, yeah we are. But foxes won't eat you.
Student 5: then why can't we pet them.
Me: because they are wild animals, I told you that. They aren't trained like your pets, you don't know how they will react.
Student 6: they might bite you, or try to eat you.
Me: they won't eat you.
Student 7: last night I went for a ride in a buggy pulled by donkeys.

We've all been there, right? In the middle of one conversation and then a student contributes something random that has nothing to do with what you were talking about (and I can guarantee that student 7 did not go on a buggy ride pulled by donkeys).

The second is a conversation between one of my students and myself:
Me to a student at the end of the day: You need to finish getting ready. Everyone else is, and we need to get to the busses.
Student: (wailing at the top of her lungs)
Me: Why are you crying?
Student: No one gets me!
Me: What do you mean "No one gets me"? Do you mean they don't understand you?
Student: YES!
Me: OK, does that mean they don't understand your words, or they don't understand who you are as a person?
Student: They don't understand me as a person!
Me: ?
Student: I CAN GET READY FAST!

Teaching Kindergarten means you are always "on". Your brain is functioning at 100% from the time you get there until the time you leave. There are some perks though. You get lots of love and hugs, they are always excited on Monday mornings, and they love to laugh. If you have a bad day, you generally get a do-over the next day, because they really don't carry grudges (just don't take advantage of this feature, because eventually it stops). Other teachers always say they think the kids are cute, but they'd never want the job. Kindergarten teachers are usually the opposite. Older kids are great, but teaching Kindergarten is where it's at. I guess we are our own special breed. I'm glad to be a part of it!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"Purposeful Play"

There was a time where children played all through summer. They came home from school and they played. They played in their 1/2 day kindergarten classes (if they even went to kindergarten). They played, and they played, and they played. And guess what? They managed to get a man on the moon. They managed to build cars, and factories, and machines. They managed to harness electricity, and they managed to invent indoor plumbing. And they didn't have adults asking them what they were doing. They didn't have adults directing their every move. They were able to play pickup baseball, basketball, football, hockey games. And they were able to solve problems on their own. Interesting, I know!

Please don't misunderstand. I don't think children should have free reign to do whatever they want, whenever they want. Not at all. But what I do think is that children will learn what they need to learn when they are ready to learn it. It is my job to create the atmosphere and environment to facilitate that learning. There is still much room for direct instruction from the teacher. There is still a time for children in kindergarten to do specific work on reading, writing, and mathematics. But there is also time for children to do other learning- and that is through their play.

If someone were to come into my classroom at choice time, and if you'd asked them what the children are doing, they might say they are playing. They might think what they're doing is "cute" (another pet peeve of mine) . But I would imagine the first thing they might not think is that the children were "learning".  It isn't "purposeful play" you know,  they aren't doing a fun activity directed by the teacher.

In education, and in early childhood development, we know that young children (like all animals) learn best through play. What is unfortunate though, is that people who don't understand early childhood development, who don't understand play (and many of those are in positions of authority over education--- umm politicians and business leaders...) feel the need to impose their opinions and ideas on our children. They think we are "falling behind the rest of the world" and we need to get these kids "learning" at a younger age. So those of us in education, because we have to defend our practices, begin to doubt our own knowledge. We try to synthesize what we know with the expectations of those outside our field. And we call it "purposeful play". But it really isn't play. It's still an adult, forcing their own agenda, while trying to make it "fun".

Each year I get to this point, where I think it's important to pass on what is actually happening when we play. Because I am such a strong proponent of block play, I generally use that as my example. Perhaps some year I will choose a different one, but I haven't tired of block play yet...
Here is the documentation I put up today regarding what we learn through block play:

(I apologize for the quality of the pictures, I know it's hard to see what is written)

What I put up here are pictures of my students building and creating in the block area, pictures of them drawing what they've built. Then I put up quotes from "The Block Book" put out by the NAEYC (it's a classic), as well as which Kindergarten curricular outcomes are met through block play (hint: each of our curricular areas have at least one outcome met, and over 29 individual outcomes are met). All without me getting involved in their learning. I provide the materials, I encourage cooperation, I might suggests they draw their buildings and maybe write about them. That's as far as I get.

It's my job, as their kindergarten teacher, to defend their learning. It is my job to champion Developmentally Appropriate Practice. It is my job to inform those who may not know that ALL PLAY IS PURPOSEFUL. It all meets the needs of the individual wherever that individual is.

Silly people, what makes you think children aren't learning?