Monday, 21 April 2014

Investigating Addition in Kindergarten

“Math can be seamlessly integrated into
children’s ongoing play and activities.
But this usually requires a knowledgeable
adult who creates a supportive environment
and provides challenges, suggestions, tasks,
and language.” 
(Capacity Building Series, 2011)

At our school, educators are provided ongoing professional development with grade partners, leadership team members, and administration "between the bells". The Early Learning Kindergarten team recently had the opportunity to co-plan a math lesson together with a focus on addition. We used The Full-Day Early Learning- Kindergarten Program document to guide our lesson plan.

We first looked at the big idea that "young children have a conceptual understanding of mathematics and of mathematical thinking and reasoning." We then looked at the overall expectation that "children will demonstrate an understanding of numbers, using concrete materials to explore and investigate counting, quantity, and number relationships." Finally, we considered focusing on the specific expectation that "they (will) investigate addition and subtraction in everyday activities through the use of manipulatives, visual models, or oral exploration." (The Full-Day Early Learning- Kindergarten Program, 2010 Draft Version).

 "Ideally, manipulatives serve as learning tools to help students build their understanding and explain their thinking to others." (Capacity Building Series, 2011).

The learning goal for our lesson was to add and group numbers up to 10, using a variety of manipulatives. The following images capture some of the learning that took place during small group lessons in our classroom.

The students showed they were successful by meeting the success criteria we had co-created with them: 
- I know my numbers from 1-10
- I can show numbers in many ways: dots, fingers, numbers, pictures
- I can show my thinking in different ways: writing, drawing, talking 


"Students need the opportunity to reflect upon their actions with manipulatives, and through discussion, articulate the meaning they generate, so that the link between their representations and the key mathematical ideas is apparent." (Capacity Building Series, 2011).

The students had opportunities to share their thinking and reflect on their learning through drawing, writing, and oral conversation using pictures to prompt their thoughts.

"Once a concept is acquired, provide practice experiences to consolidate learning. Practice is not meant to be rote or mechanical in nature; it occurs through mathematical investigations that take place through free exploration, focused exploration, and guided activity." (Capacity Building Series, 2011)

Students demonstrated their learning in ways that we hadn't expected. The photos above show two students on different days independently using the numbers and dominoes from the math centre to add numbers up to 10. 

I look forward to working "between the bells" to co-debrief with the Early Learning Kindergarten team by sharing our observations and reflecting on the students learning, as well as co-reflect on our own learning to build a shared knowledge and understanding of our professional learning goals.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

An Investigation of Life in Castles

"Inquiry-based learning is an approach to teaching and learning that places students' questions, ideas and observations at the centre of the learning experience."
(Capacity Building Series, 2013)

We noticed that there was a natural curiosity about castles in our classroom through our students daily drawing and writing. After having a class meeting to decide what to turn our drama centre into, a CASTLE came out on top of the list. We first brainstormed ideas of what we already knew about castles.

"It is a place where the queen and the princesses live." E
"Kings live in castles." C  
"There are guards and horses." S

We then asked how we could learn more about castles.

"Use our imagination." S
"Read books." N
"Look on the Smart Board." S
"YouTube." N
"The computer." C
"Castles we visit." M

Students share what they see, think, and wonder about castles after watching 
"The 10 Most Beautiful Castles in the World" on YouTube.

I see...
"roofs on the castle." S
"different kinds of castles." M
"stones." T
"pretty castles." D

I think...
"the knights fight." B
"castles are big." N
"castles are everywhere." E

I wonder...
"why are castles big." C
"how castles are made." L
"why do knights have helmets." J
"why do castles have bridges." J
"where are castles today." C

The students were encouraged to use visual arts to explore their wonders through observational drawings of castles and knights. Some students decided to further their thinking by using watercolours and pastels.    


The students used their problem-solving skills and their imagination to build with three-dimensional figures and recycled materials. They used non-standard measuring devices to build a draw bridge for the castle. 

During the exploration of knights, students were able to identify and talk about their personal interests, as well as reflect on their own cultural backgrounds.

"This is a Russian flag because my family is Russian. And that's the maple leaf because I live in Canada. This is a robot car because I like robot cars. And this is my family- dad, mom, me, and brother." N

Students arrived to school day after day in princess gowns and dresses. They brought in lyrics for "Let It Go" from the movie "Frozen" and practiced singing and dancing to the song as they explored their wonder of "how do princesses learn to dance." This dedication demonstrated to us an awareness of personal interest and a sense of accomplishment in music, dance and drama. 

Here is some of the learning that students shared at a class meeting:
"What have we learned so far?"

"Castles are beautiful." D
"They used fire and candles and torches to give light and heat." N
"No electricity." N
"A moat with water around the castle." S
"A well is a place in the ground to get water." E
"A bridge goes up and down." D
"The bridge is a door for the people to go in and out." J
"A draw bridge." S
"Castles were made out of stones." N
"Castles were made to protect kings and queens." N
"Because they have power over the people." N
"People that are knights are brave." S
"They fight bad guys." T
"Ride horses because cars were not made." N
"Kings and queens used plates." C
"Servants and workers eat from stale bread." N
"They used their fingers to eat." J 

"By focusing on the 'big ideas' rather than on the specific expectations alone, students' questions often lead to, and often exceed, overall curriculum expectations."
(Natural Curiosity, 2010)

I had an opportunity to share documentation of our learning of the Castle Inquiry at 
Art Supplies for Africa: An Open House Event hosted by The FDK team at Bond Lake Public School as part of our York University Kindergarten Additional Qualification course. 
Educators, parents, and community members were blown away by our students work!