Archive for September, 2010

Help! Can there be a balance between play/Academics in Kindergarten?

Posted on September 11, 2010. Filed under: edublog, Kindergarten, reflection, teaching and learning | Tags: , , |

This week’s post is a reflection on what has happened in my Kindergarten classroom this week:  I was sick and had to book a sub, I survived a meet the teacher night, and I am battling through the idea of meaningful play versus academic/literacy work.

First, I booked my first sub yesterday.  I had got really sick Thursday night during meet the teacher night.  I was shaking, freezing cold, and felt like I was going to pass out.  By the end of the night, I was sitting down behind my desk as parents were coming up to talk to me.  (I know, in terms of teacher etiquette, that’s a big no no, but in my opinion, it was better than passing out into a parent’s arms.)  I decided to keep my hands under my desk because they were shaking so bad; I didn’t want my parents thinking I was a drug addict needing a fix! I had decided to write out a detailed sub plan that night, just in case I wasn’t feeling better by the morning.  When I got home, I hopped into bed and threw a whole bunch of blankets on top of me, and sure enough, 5 minutes later I was sweating and couldn’t handle the heat… Oh the joys of being sick.  On Friday morning I woke up and still felt like I had been hit by a train so I called the sub office and asked for our school’s “resident sub.”  I had heard about her in the staff room; apparently she’s been subbing at Ford close to 30 years.  I figured my kids would be in good hands, so I asked for her.  This was a tough decision for me as I want to give some of my friends who are subbing a chance to work, but I figured that because it is still this early into the year, an experienced sub might be able to handle them a bit better.  I had her call me at lunch time to let me know how things went and she had very nice things to say!

Second thought from this week: I battled a lot with the idea of academics versus play.  I am a very strong believer in play.  I believe that early childhood classrooms should be centered around the play environment, and that play is how children learn.  But, I have also been reading some books that have been stressing early literacy skills.  It says that the best indicator of how well a child will do in Grade 1 is how well a child knows his/her letters and sounds by the end of Kindergarten.  Now the obvious solution to this dilemma would be to teach the children their letters and sounds through play.  Of course! I have in fact thought of that.  But the problem I am facing is the clock.  I usually do my explicit instruction right after circle time heading into table activity time. This is where I try and teach the kids their skills or concepts and do a table activity that corresponds.  This week we played alphabet bingo.  This game was a playful way for the kids to become more familiar with their letters and sounds.  This table time goes great, but I find that the battle is not during the table activity time, it is during free centres time, where the children choose their own play activity.  Centres time comes after snack, which is after recess.  This playtime lasts for about 35 minutes, and I feel like I am running around trying to help the children in their centres rather than observing, questioning and documenting their play.  I want to use the play, debrief, play method where children play, come and talk about it in a circle, then go back and experience it again, but I feel like there is just not enough time in the day.  I have also noticed that the math centre, writing centre, and ABC centre are not chosen as much as the dramatic play, car centre, paint centre etc.  I completely understand why this is, but I am afraid that by the end of the year, if I continue to give them free centres time, some of them will not have had enough literacy/numeracy experiences.  Am I falling into the idea that the “other” types of play (the ones that don’t have to do with letters or numbers) aren’t important? I hope not.  I know the value of pure play, but I also want my Kindergarten’s to succeed in a school system that is heading towards a higher focus in numeracy and literacy.

That all said, my goal this week is to try and appoint some centres experts in the classroom that can answer their peer’s questions about the computer centre, or the music centre, etc.  Hopefully this will free me up to actually have a chance to get around and observe, interact with, and question the children in their play.

As for the discussion around balanced play and academics, I will keep reflecting on it.  I know that being a good teacher means that I need to meet the needs of my students, and I need to be flexible in my practice.

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How to Survive Your First Week of Teaching Early Childhood

Posted on September 7, 2010. Filed under: educational, Kindergarten, teaching and learning |

Now, before you go on reading the rest of this post, know that I am not a seasoned veteran in this area.  In fact, last week was my first week of paid teaching- ever.  But holy cow- did I learn alot.

First– I learned that prep is KEY to the success of your day.  I knew every teacher has prep to do, but I didn’t realize it was so dang important.  For example, on my school supply list, I asked for the students to send a 2 litre washed out milk carton to school.  I was planning on cutting them in half and making them into their “pencil boxes.”  The first day of school, the children coloured pictures.  These pictures were going to decorate the outside of the milk container pencil box.  This was fine except that I didn’t pre-cut the children’s construction paper to size, and I didn’t ask for their milk cartons to be cut in half.  Sounds simple, but those two tasks took me so much extra time those first two days of school.  Time that could have been better spent organizing other things- like children.

Second– I learned that I need to emphasize that parents need to bring their children ON TIME those first two days of school.  In Kindergarten, we stagger-start the children on the first two days so there are not too many children at one time.  This is a great idea, but it doesn’t make things any easier when parents are bringing their children in a little bit late.  I understand that things come up, and I’m not mad at parents for bringing their children in late, I just realized how much more smooth things could have gone if everyone showed up at the same time.  The problem I ran into is that on the first day of school, everyone’s emotions are running high, parents and children, and it’s best if the children don’t have time to sit by themselves and think about how much they miss their parents.  Let me explain: The first thing I did on the first day of school was have the children come in and find a spot on the carpet.  When everyone was sitting, I had them all turn around and wave goodbye to their parents.  This worked excellent, and it helped the parents know it was time to leave.  The only problem was that just as I was introducing myself and beginning our normal carpet routine, a parent would walk in, and I would have to leave the other 9 children on the carpet to welcome them and tell them what to do.  Now the new timid children are on the carpet by themselves, they don’t know the routines yet, and they have just seen a child that still has their parent with them.  That’s not the ideal scenario I’d like to be in.  I feel like I could have survived those first 10 minutes a lot easier if I had all the children at one time.

Third– I learned that before the children can do a good job of taking care of your classroom, they need to know HOW.  During the day, the children have a play time where they get to play at different centres.  The first day, I let the children play at whatever centre they liked, and switch whenever they want.  What a gong show!  The centres were left really messy, and I couldn’t keep track of who was at each centre, even though we have a little pocket chart for them to show which centre they are playing at.  After school, I talked to the pre-school teacher and she suggested that for the first little while, they aren’t allowed to switch.  I liked the idea, and tried it the next day.  Even though by the end of the centres time, some of the children were getting a little bored of their centre, the structure of keeping the same centre was so much better.  I also decided to take a couple minutes each day and have the children go to the centre and learn how to clean up properly.  I showed them what I expected the centre to look like, and it worked like a charm!  The children just didn’t know my expectations earlier.  It is exactly a week later, and the children are cleaning up the centres the way I would do it! What a relief!

Obviously there are more things that I learned last week, but I thought these 3 were some of my bigger “ah ha” moments that I could share with other teachers.  Please comment if you have any other “need to know” information for surviving your first week at school!

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