Sunday, 27 September 2015

These Are A Few Of Our Favourite Things!

What happens when you put four educators together to share their favourite things for back-to-school!? A #4EverInspired Giveaway that even I can't resist! 

Visit us on Instagram for your chance to WIN!
One thing that I love about being an educator, is the mere fact that I still get to go back-to-school shopping! As a child, I used to love picking out my new backpack, sharpening my new pencil crayons, and labelling my new binders... and not much has changed! 

My lovely friends of #4EverInspired and myself have decided to celebrate surviving the first month of school with a fun fall give-away of our favourite things! 

The following are my favourite things for this school year!

Sharpie Markers are a great tool for outlining artwork!

These natural branch pencils invite writing in all areas of the classroom!

From markers to watercolours, Crayola has everything you need to
spark creativity in the classroom!

White binders, sheet protectors, and clipboards are staples for documenting inquiry!

Pedagogical Documentation, Reggio-Inspired Math, and Math Exchanges
are my must-reads for the school year!

Post-it Notes help me stay organized and help our students record their thinking!

Who doesn't love vibrant colours with vibrant smells to go along with it!

My MacBook Air and iPad Mini help with organizing documentation and photos,
as well as creating newsletters and updating social media!

My Ban.Do planner keeps me on track during the school year!

My friends at Indigo Wild keep my students engaged in all areas of the classroom
with their wide variety of Reading Rocks!

Don't forget to check out Jocelyn, Vanessa, and Joanne for their favourites and visit us on Instagram for your chance to win one of four giveaways of our favourite things! 

Reflectively Yours,
#4EverInspired xoxo

Monday, 7 September 2015

A New Year, A New Layout!

Repeat, Rethink, and Remove are the three R's in education that are constantly at the forefront of my thinking; and as a new school year approaches, there is no better way to start then with these three R's in mind. 

In setting up the learning environment for both our new and familiar students, I found myself reflecting on how the students and educators utilized the space over the year and what we could do this year to continue to maximize the space we have. 

My wonderful new Designated Early Childhood Educator partner; formally our teacher candidate from OUIT, Rose Marcelli and myself spent a week planning, collaborating, and designing our learning environment. The following are photos of our space with the rationale behind why we chose this layout to start the school year. 

The whole group carpet area was the central space for our learners to come together and share their thinking and learning over the school year. We found that it took up a large space of the classroom and was only being utilized twice daily for whole group learning. We decided to move this space to a corner of the classroom, close to the personal best writing wall; a place we often refer to during our morning meetings. 

In place of this area, we decided to move building and drama. These two learning areas have always been the most visited areas in our classroom, but not always the biggest. Having the two spaces side-by-side allows for the extension of play and use of materials over a larger space, opportunity for saving and revisiting structures, and endless possibilities for imaginative play and creativity.

We also decided to move the math area beside both building and drama, as we found students last year often used math manipulatives in both these areas. 

We knew that we wanted writing to take up the same amount of space as last year, as students loved spreading out around the large table to work on writing and art. However, we decided to move it closer to the sinks, for easier access to water for painting and clean up. 

The book nook, which was located near the whole group carpet, moved to a quieter corner of the classroom and now includes materials for calming and self-regulating behaviours such as feeling rocks, calming jars, and former emotions documentation.

We also added a small table for provocations or loose parts exploration separate from other defined spaces in the classroom. 

The spaces that worked well last year and remain the same for the beginning of this school year are the self-regulated snack area, the light table, the sensory bin, and the science and discovery area. We made some minor adjustments to the areas; adding in shelving to store materials for the light table and a table by the wonder window for provocations. 

We look forward to seeing how our former JK students interact with the new space as SK students, and we eagerly await our new JKs! As educators, we will continue to document and reflect on how the space is being used by the students, and what changes we can make to better suit the needs of our learners over the school year. 

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Louise Kool for Back to School!

As an educator, who strives to create a classroom environment that is natural and promotes curiosity, I was in complete awe when I stepped inside Louise Kool & Galt with #4EverInspired. 

Not only does this 100% owned and controlled company strive to create natural learning materials, furniture, and equipment for the classroom, they also provide the same resources for outdoor learning and exploration. 

As much as Sonia Polak and Cathy Elliott, the Sales Representatives for the company, were excited to present their showroom to us, as well as share their knowledge and expertise of the products with us, we were equally excited to explore all the beautifully crafted and high quality materials they had to offer! 

I definitely felt like a kid in a candy store walking through the space at Louise Kool & Galt. Every corner and tabletop was filled with natural and realistic materials, as well as the latest resources for educators. How could I pick just 10 items for my wish list when I could easily choose 100!? With that being said, the following are 10 of my favourites for Back to School that I had the chance to explore and tinker with during our visit!

1. The Sand Trays caught my attention with their glass base and their shallow wooden sides. I loved reading that they also feature a built in slot underneath to add coloured paper or materials for different effects. 

2. The Magnetic Wooden Blocks from Tegu were another personal favourite of mine! This set provides endless possibilities for building and creating with the various shapes and colours.  

3. I would love to add the Outlast Ramps, Blocks, and Flow Pan to my outdoor classroom. These materials are sure to create open-ended play and exploration opportunities with water and loose parts.

4. The Discovery Windows, which are square blocks that you can fill with various items, intrigued me during my visit. I would love to add them to block play, the light table, or a provocation. 

5. I had never seen Transparent Prismo Triangles before and was drawn to them on top of the round mirrored table. They would also be great on the light table or in the math area.

6. The Rattan Sorting Trays are great for sorting manipulatives and loose parts. They are natural in colour, plastic, and super sturdy! 

7. The Nature Wooden Disc Set is another must-have for both the classroom and outdoor learning. The wooden discs are stamped with insect images for sorting, matching, and imaginative play. 

8. A great fine motor manipulative for the classroom are the Letter Stones. They are natural tools for developing fine motor control and feeling the formation of the letters with your fingertips. 

9. I absolutely loved the Storage Units with various built-in panels on the back- from felt boards to mirrors, and magnetic panels to dry-erase boards. It aids in the utilization of all spaces in a classroom environment.   

10. I couldn't complete my list without adding one of the many amazing and current professional resources on their shelves! I can't wait to return to Louise Kool & Galt to pick up my copy of Working in the Reggio Way.  

Don't forget to visit the other ladies of #4EverInspired to see what they have on their Top 10 Wish List for Back to School with Louise Kool & Galt! 

"Four" more on....

Vanessa Bianchi of The Evolving Educator  

Jocelyn Schmidt of Our Kindergarten Journey 

Joanne Babalis of Transform Ed 

Also, visit our Instagram Accounts to enter a free giveaway for your chance to win one of four $50.00 gift certificates from Louise Kool & Galt in collaboration with #4EverInspired! 


A special thank you to Sonia and Cathy for allowing us to spend time tinkering in their space, providing us with resources and goodies, and generously contributing to our #4EverInspired giveaway! Their excitement for Louise Kool & Galt was contagious!   

Reflectively Yours,
#4EverInspired xoxo

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Sit Spots- Engaging Students in Meaningful Learning Opportunities Outdoors

I first encountered Sit Spots at a Ministry Pilot "A Week in the Forest" founded by Tanya Murray, an Outdoor Education Teacher and Specialist with Sibbald Point, which took place with Jocelyn Schmidt of Our Kindergarten Journey's Kindergarten students. You can visit Jocelyn's detailed post of the week, including a section on Sit Spots at "A Week in the Forest"- Inspiring Learning Outside

Sit Spots are used as a place where students can sit independently and connect with nature. The intention is to foster a lasting bond or relationship with a particular spot in nature and watch its transformation over time. I have seen firsthand how Sit Spots have helped inspire learning outside and allowed for an easy and accessible way to engage students in meaningful learning opportunities outdoors. 

With a younger age group, such as those in Kindergarten, you might consider using Sit Spots during an outdoor group activity first. Playing a circle game or having a community or knowledge building circle using Sit Spots allow students to gain familiarity with them and feel comfortable using them. You can also assign each student to a Sit Spot, as you lay them down outside, and provide them with an activity to do while they are at their spot. 

Some examples that I have tried with my class are clipboards with paper and crayons or watercolours to record what you see and hear in nature, magnifying glasses or binoculars to look closely at things in nature that surround your Sit Spot, or frames made from sticks or paper to focus on a particular spot in nature. With these activities, I have found that students are able to sit and focus independently for longer periods of time, which in turn allows them to connect on a deeper level with nature. As students become more comfortable on their Sit Spots, you can increase the time they are seated, as well as their independence in choosing their own spot. 

As an educator, it is also important that you actively participate in using the Sit Spots. It is tempting (speaking from experience) to want to go over to a student and ask them questions or walk around and take pictures, however modeling how to use your Sit Spot is important for students to see, especially in the early years. If they see you engaging in the activity, they will be more inclined to stay in their spot and focus on their activity as well. Remember, there is always time for meaningful discussion and sharing after Sit Spots! 

The Sit Spots that I were introduced to are foam puzzle mats that can be found at Dollarama (a pack of four for $3). These particular ones are recommended for their durability, comfort/size, and insulation in all weather conditions- so don't be afraid to use Sit Spots all year round!

A special thank you to Tanya for introducing me to Sit Spots and to Jocelyn for welcoming us into the forest to see them in action! 

I hope this post inspires you to use Sit Spots with your students this Fall! Don't forget to hashtag #inspirelearningoutside on Twitter and Instagram if you do!  

Sunday, 3 May 2015

A Closer Look at Math in Full-Day Kindergarten

I had the opportunity to share my philosophy and program through a math lens during the Kindergarten Additional Qualification course that I co-facilitate with Joanne Babalis through York University. I appreciated the positive feedback from the participants and welcomed the idea to share some of my presentation with them, as they continue to reflect and inquire about their own math programs.

I strive to remain transparent in the sharing of my journey, and I am open to learning and making mistakes along the way. The following are just some ways in which I try to incorporate math into our constantly changing, emerging, and transforming classroom. I hope this post provides a spark of interest, curiosity, and reflection!

The Math Area 
The math area begins with simple and concrete materials to help students explore and investigate mathematics in meaningful ways. Knowing that each student comes with a knowledge of mathematics through real-life experiences, we allow for multiple entry points to meet them at their developmental level.

Math Materials 
As we introduce students to math materials through provocations or focused lessons, we add them to our math area, so that they can access the materials during thinking and learning time. We observe their interactions with the materials and change or move them as needed.

Math Provocations
We offer students various provocations (invitations to learn) throughout the year, which focus on specific mathematics strands, connect to a specific inquiry, or are based on the emerging interests of the students.

Whole-Group Lessons
During whole- group lessons, students explore mathematical problems that are connected to their lives. They are able to apply what they know and discover new strategies with their educators and peers.

Small-Group Lessons
Through mini lessons, we provide guided and explicit learning experiences for our students. They engage in the co-creation of success criteria, so they understand what they need to do in a given task, and they are able to show their learning in a variety of ways.

Math Games
We engage students in mathematics by playing games that teach early number concepts and strategies. By modelling, practicing, and eventually playing independently during math exploration time, we help to build confidence and foster positive attitudes towards mathematics.

Reflecting on Math
As much as students need time to explore mathematics, they also need time to reflect on the process. Our focus has been on asking effective questions such as “what worked well?” “how else might you try…?” and “why did you use…?” to give them the opportunity to explain and consolidate their learning.

Celebrating Math
Developing positive attitudes towards math will have a significant impact on students future success. We share and celebrate math by displaying artifacts, through the use of documentation panels or binders, and during class meetings and knowledge building circles.

Math is Everywhere
“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)