Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Envelope Project

     We recently did an engineering and design project that was inspired by a child who came to school with a homemade envelope containing his Scholastic book order. 

The Envelope Project - Kindergarten

     I invited him to share it with the class and he told us how he came to make the envelope because he couldn’t find one in his house.  I used this opportunity to share that engineers often design and build things because of a problem they want to solve. I then asked him to talk about the materials he used and we explored how well his envelope worked. I asked, "Was the envelope big enough to hold the book order? (yes!) Did it get the book order to school safely?" (yes!) 
     Later that month, we wrote letters to Santa and designed and built our own envelopes.  To begin, I brought in a variety of envelopes for the children to observe. 

The Envelope Project - Kindergarten

Here's what they noticed about the envelopes:

They come in different sizes.
Most are rectangle shape.
They come in different colors.
Some have bubble wrap (padding).
Some have see-through windows.
Some close differently (clasps, stickers, gum seal). 
Some let you see what's inside and some don't

     We talked about the structure and function of these envelopes and how they had to be the right size for whatever they were meant to hold and how they must be able to close in some way in order for them to work.
     Next, the children drew a design for their own envelope.

The Envelope Project -  Kindergarten
     They then worked in small groups to make their envelopes.  The only guidelines were that the envelope had to be big enough to hold their letter (folded or unfolded) and that the letter must not fall out when I shake it upside down and all around!
     Some children willingly accepted this challenge. They enthusiastically got right to work and enjoyed the creative endeavor.  Others were less comfortable and would rather have been shown how to make the envelope step-by-step (I married this type!).    

The Envelope Project - Kindergarten

The Envelope Project - Kindergarten

The Envelope Project - Kindergarten

The Envelope Project - Kindergarten

The Envelope Project - Kindergarten

The Envelope Project - Kindergarten

The Envelope Project - Kindergarten
     There was lots of trial and error, experimenting, redos and remakes and tape, tape, and more tape involved in the process! In the end, they all passed the "shake test," and were free to decorate them.  While the sequins didn't add to the functionality, they sure made them look pretty!

The Envelope Project - Kindergarten

     We ran out of time and not all envelopes made it home before Christmas (such is the Kindergarten life!), but we continued the work when we returned in January.  We also took some time to talk about addresses and what happens to an envelope once it goes into the mailbox.
     While we started this project in December, it's also possible to begin in January with thank you letters to Santa (see My Pen Pal Santa for a great literature tie-in) or in February for Valentine's Day.

     What projects might you do in the new year that could be inspired by children's ideas and interests?

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Thursday, 5 January 2017

What's New in the New Year?

     When you work in a school, the “new year” comes twice - once in September and once in January.  A bit confusing for the Kinders who also think school ends on the 100th day (how many times have you explained that one?!) Anyhow, both are about new beginnings and fresh starts and after all the hullabaloo that December brings, January is a welcome change!  
     While there were no party hats, horns or ball drops to greet the children when they arrived, they quickly noticed that the tables had new names to reflect the season: snowflake, evergreen, and pine cone and that they had new tablemates. 

New Year in Kindergarten

There was also a new “trophy” for the VIP table (the weekly reward for good table manners).  

New Year in Kindergarten

     Amidst this morning buzz was lots of talk about holiday happenings so we began the day with a “toss and tell” to share one thing about our winter break.  

Toss and Tell Kindergarten

     We then got out the calendar, crumpled up the December page and threw it in the garbage (they love this)! 

     After reading Squirrel's New Year's Resolution, they did a turn and talk to share one thing they'd like to learn or get better at in the new year. 

Squirrel's New Year's Resolution

Turn and Talk Kindergarten

   In previous years, I’ve also read The Wishing Tree and An Orange in January and we celebrated the New Year by eating an orange and making wishes!

An Orange in January

New pencils, new crayons, and new name cards (for our last names) were also part of our first day back. 

new pencils in the new year

new crayons in the new year

last name name tags

last name name tags

     Best of all, we've had a lot of new skills to celebrate as we complete the winter pages in our Show How You Grow Books and see just how much we've grown since September! 

Show How You Grow Winter Drawing

     What's new in your new year?

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Monday, 2 January 2017

A Cup of Contentment - Teacher Style!

     I decided to try the one word challenge for 2017.  If you are not familiar with it, it’s a New Year’s ritual where you choose just one word to focus on every day for the next year. It’s a word that represents who you want to be or how you want to live. 

Contentment Stones

     The fact that I had a hard time choosing just ONE word is exactly why “contentment” was the right word for me.  Even as a young child my mother would tell me that I was “never satisfied.” I’ve always been a “have your cake and eat it too” kind of girl.  This has not always been a bad thing as I’m pretty committed to continually improve, learn, and better myself (think growth mindset) and not afraid to take a risk. On the other hand, it’s rarely a peaceful state of being and often leaves me chasing perfection rather than gratitude. 
     So this “one word” led me to wonder, “What does a “contented”  teacher look like (and can she meet me at Starbuck’s tomorrow afternoon)?  

Here's what she might tell me as I got to know her over a cup of chai tea (cue up: Girl Crush).

I am a teacher who: 

Sets Priorities: 
I'm real clear on what my kiddos need at any given time and plan accordingly. I know what I believe about children and teaching and am less likely to get lost in a Pinterest search. I know that what the children REALLY need from me isn’t found in any of my teacher guides. I'm not constantly tempted by the next big thing as I am confident in what I already know works well. I know my limits and say no without feeling the need to give an excuse. I've done the math and am pretty sure that my curricular expectations are greater than the number of hours I have in any given day. I choose to do less well and not give my children a drive-through education.

Avoids Comparisons: I'm confident in my abilities and don’t get sucked into the scarcity mentality (i.e. there can only  be ONE good teacher).  I know that another teacher's awesome bulletin board doesn't make mine any less wonderful!  I appreciate the differences between colleagues and know that there isn’t just one right way of teaching.  I view these differences as learning opportunities that allow me to affirm and challenge my own beliefs about education.
Changes the Message: I'm cautious about social media and aware that the promise of “good ideas” comes with the "buy in" that I am not good enough as I am. I realize that perfection is not attainable even if it seems to keep showing up in my Pinterest feed! I'm constantly reminding myself that I am “good enough” and already have everything I need to teach my students well. 
Counts My Blessings:  I'm grateful I have a job and work that I love. I appreciate my classroom space and abundance of materials knowing that some teachers and students have very little.

Lives Passionately: I have other interests besides teaching and make time for them.  I see life as an adventure and know that every experience adds to who I am as a teacher.  I seek joy and inspiration and know that children are less likely to remember what I did, but rather how I made them feel. 

Finds Positive Friends: I avoid the naysayers who live in a constant state of discontentment and instead surround myself with positive people who accept me exactly as I am (flaws and all!).

Trusts Myself: I recognize that the nature of teaching is trial and error and that mistakes are part of the process.  I know that what works for one class/student may not work for the next and trust myself and the children to show me the way. 

While it would be really nice to meet up with this fictional sage teacher (I'm sure she just carries one really small teacher bag too!), it would be even better to move a little closer to being her! I didn't plan on writing this in first person, but now that I have, "her" words read a little like affirmations (one for each day of the week) that just might be helpful in finding a little more contentment in this "big bag carrying" teacher's life.   What's your "one word" for the new year?