Connecting to our Place

The more I read about Indigenous ways of learning and knowing, the more I realize the importance of having young learners feeling connected to the land they live on and being aware of themselves as individuals and their own stories. I continue to read, over and over, that young people need to first understand their connection to our land in hopes of embracing other cultures, specially local Indigenous culture. Beginning by exploring in our environment and about ourselves has been our soundtrack lately, and boy have we been ever loving it.

tree.jpgWe love exploring outdoors. We love running, jumping, hiding and of course throwing leaves. We love jumping from tree trunk to tree trunk in our nature playground. We love holding hands and running across the field. We love our place of learning.

We have been curious about the type of tree we have in our school yard. We think it is a London Plane tree. We love finding it’s fruit/seeds that are all over the grass right now.

We recently partnered up with a class in West Vancouver to do a nature exchange. We were inspired by the NaturePal Exchange. Both of our Kindergarten crews collected local nature and items to mail and exchange. We spent time sharing, identifying and labeling our items and they are being shipped off. We are excited to receive our package and learn about the nature and the place of learning our Kindergarten friends have in West Vancouver. What a neat way to learn, explore and connect to our place. We spent countless outdoor explorations combing the school yard for interesting finds. Our friends started bringing in items from weekend adventures and backyard finds. Here is part of package we are sending.

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Learning about ourselves sparked when we visited the Royal BC Museum’s Family & Belongings a few weeks ago. We were entranced by artefacts that families used ‘back in the day’. family

This led us to beginning to inquire about ourselves and families. I was beyond fortunate to attend a workshop by the incredible Adrienne Gear based on how ‘We are all Connected’. Click here to link to resource package and amazing list of books. It was such a timely experience as our inquiry was just beginning. Adrienne blew my mind, gave me chills and made me tear up… ALL IN A WORKSHOP. All the books and resources she shared fit SO well with our current learning and where I was hoping to head towards for the remainder of first time.

Image result for thunder boy jrWe have been loving inquiring about ourselves, beginning with Adrienne’s suggestions of starting with the stories of our names. We loved Adrienne’s recommendation of reading Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie. We’ve read it three times, the first time in English and the two other times in French (‘ad-libbed’ of course).

I loved Adrienne’s idea and suggestion of sending home Name Story interviews. How powerful for families to be part of our learning and inquiring process! We sent home paper interviews for the children to complete with their families, and I also offered and encouraged our families to record their interview with their child and post their child’s name story on Flip Grid. If you haven’t checked out Flip Grid it is almost like a virtual wonder wall, where learners can record short clips of themselves reflecting and sharing. It is an easy to use platform, that can be accessed via desktops, laptops and tablets. There is a user-friendly app that connects to your Flip Grid board using an access code and password (if you wish). We received more than half of our reflections via Flip Grid and some awesome paper interview versions as well.

The children LOVED watching their videos and listening to their paper versions of their interviews with their families. Lots of giggles, especially when we heard what each child would love to change their name to… strawberry shortcake probably received the most giggles.

Thanks for sharing in a few ways we are working on connecting to the local land we live, learn and play on each day and learning about some of the ways we have been inspired by Adrienne Gear to inquire about ourselves and the stories of our names.

How do you connect to your place or learning? 
How are your learners connecting with their own stories? 

Stay curious,
Rebecca

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Some Birds Just Aren’t Meant to be Caged

Wonders, interests and curiosities are just waiting to be sparked. Once they are, it is my role to honour and nourish them so they can grow into a deep learning experience for my learners. This post outlines practical ways to honour and nourish an inquiry that develops from the interest and choices of your learners. It all started out with creating bird nests outdoors and here is where our journey continued to.

Outside, my learners were very interested in building birds nests. This activity was sparked organically. They planned, gathered, collaborated and created. They problem-solved, used oral language to discuss, laughed and shrieked with excitement. I hope some of the following practical ways I supported my learners in extending their learning and thinking will inspire you.

Book Baskets: I realized the interest and wonders about birds was contagious and my learners were beginning to ask questions about birds and building birds nest during our free exploration time. I decided to fill our morning book baskets with non-fiction bird books. A colleague of mine, Leilani Roberts, inspired me to try morning book baskets this year. I have two large baskets on the carpet, each morning, filled with non-fiction texts for the children to explore. I have added post-it notes so they can mark interesting images, or pages they have questions about. Then we can explore them together as a group.

Provocations: I set up various provocations around the room: a bird research centre, paper bag nest making, and for the win a clay bird nest making tote. The tote was such a success! They loved rolling, modeling and creating little bird nests and using bird figurines for dramatic play.

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Morning Story Inquiry: Each week we focus on inquiring about a different picture book. We wonder about the characters, setting, vocab words (as we are learning French), and the different ways we can retell the story. I decided to weave in stories that focused on birds and that would inspire us to retell and recreate bird stories of our own. Monday I introduce the book and we do a whole group retell. Tues through Thursday we build and create using various materials from our story inquiry shelves. On Fridays it is a free build or choice to retell through drawing and painting. The children love having choices in how they show their understanding and learning from the week.


Class Play: We started learning a class play about a chicken. It is a similar story to Chicken Little, La poule Maboule (AIM Language Learning Kit). Because a chicken is a bird (which for some reason they giggled a lot at), and it is a great oral language piece to learn in Kindergarten. We’ve been doing journaling about the setting and about the chicken. We loved comparing her to the birds we have been learning about in our non-fiction texts and seeing outside in our playground. They thought it was interesting that she lived at a farm and not flew freely and built her own nest.

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Research Books: Our love and interest for birds continued to grow and I decided to guide my learners through a research series of activities using a research book template. The booklet is a half page booklet filled with research stems. We followed the stems as a whole group and used non-fiction texts to help us research. We are working on ‘Regarde partout hibou’ which is similar to ‘Eagle Eye’ reading strategy. We are learning that a picture can tell a story and share ideas. We are using little owls glued onto clothespins to mark interesting pictures, during research, that tell us information or propose new thinking.

Communicating Learning: Sharing our learning with our families is an important focus of mine. I use weekly email updates and communicate a few times a week via Fresh Grade to our portfolios. Using Canva (an online tool) I created a visual documentation of a provocation activity. A student brought in a nest from home and it sparked wonderful questions, insights, wonders and stories. It also inspired others to bring in nests and feathers from home to share with us. The ripple effect was neat to witness.

Art Mural: I love creating art provocations and activites for my learners to engage in revolving our inquiry learning topics. My learners were loving our paper bag birds nest provocation so much that everyone had made at least one. We decided to look on Pinterest for a fun bird art activity. I love using Pinterest with my learners to search and to be inspired; what a game changer it is to be inspired by other childrens’ work and learning! We ended up creating a large tree mural scene for our birds to perch on.
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I hope some of these ideas and routines can be of help to you in nurturing and following the interest of your learners. Teach slow, know your curriculum (this led to so many connections for us), listen, and really know your students and you’ll be of witness to what interest them the most. Follow it, invite and support them in exploring it, set up further provocations and document, document, document!

We just visited the Family & Belongings exhibit so we are jazzed about families and objects that remind us of our families. This is where our interests and learning will be taking us to next. What is driving your learners at the moment? In what ways are you supporting them and encouraging them to go deeper with their interests? I’d love to hear and see what you’re doing.

Stay curious,
Rebecca
#inquirymindset

Orange Shirt Day in Kindergarten

What does it mean to wear an orange shirt on September 30th? 
Why are you wearing the shirt? 
How do you go about sharing the topic of Orange Shirt day and Residential schools in your classroom? 
What does Orange Shirt mean to Kindergartners? 

Orange Shirt day is this Saturday, September 30th. For more information on what Orange Shirt Day, why we have it, and how it started please click here.  Without an explanation, teaching and lessons behind Orange Shirt Day, lots of children would assume it was another school spirit day. The link would make sense in their innocent and beautiful minds, as we dressed up for our School Spirit Day last Thursday wearing black and red.

The importance of introducing and teaching about Orange Shirt day is something I feel we must do. When I begin to think about introducing the topic with five year olds I have a lot of feelings. I feel obligated, sad, heartbroken, hesitant, compelled, and a bit apprehensive. In no means am I trying to be disrespectful by sharing these feelings, I am just hoping to be honest and share how I feel, why I feel this way and how I am introducing and teaching about Orange Shirt day in my classroom.

I feel obligated to share about residential schools, children’s experiences, and orange shirt day because this is the history of the people whose land we live on and share. I feel that in my school experience topics surrounding Indigenous education were minimally touched on. In my own experience and my observations of my peers this resulted in a lack of understanding, connection, and knowledge of this significantly important culture.

I feel compelled to share about the heartache, unfairness and suffering Indigenous people endured, and continued to endure today. We have an obligation to work towards reconciliation, my heart says we must. We, as teachers, have a duty to share true and real perspectives of Indigenous culture, both today’s and yesterday’s. The children in our classrooms deserve to understand as full of picture we can provide, the truth. We can begin a conversation about reconciliation with our learners, the future of our world.

I feel a bit apprehensive to introduce this topic with such young learners as it is a big topic, full of sadness and heartbreak, but I know I must.

I feel a bit hesitant as it is not my culture, and I am forever working on being respectful and not overstepping in a culture that has been repeatedly stepped over. I am hesitant, but I know this feeling must pass. I value real discussion with kindergartners and I value the truth.

With all these feelings close to my heart, here is how I began introducing the topic with my Kindergartners today.

A wonderful colleague of mine shared a book with me, Amik Loves School. Before reading the book we talked about what we love about school. “Friends, singing, playing, recess, dancing, learning about birds,” the list goes on. We then talked about celebrations we love to celebrate at school and with our families. “Birthdays, Easter, Halloween, Hanukkah, First Day of School, Christmas,” the list goes on. We then talked about how it feels when we are at school, and when we are participating in celebrations. “Happy, fun, laughing, excited, warm, hyper, hungry,” the list goes on. We then imagined what it would feel like if these things that we loved and were important to us, and our families, we taken away from us. “Sad, hurt, upset, crying, scared,” the list goes on. We then talked about First Nations people and how a long time ago this happened to the children when they attended school. We talked about how it must have felt for them at school, not being able to celebrate special things, not being able to see their families or siblings and not enjoying school like we do.

Bit of background: We have been talking lots about how we share the First Nations People’s land. We have learned that the land we live on belongs to the First Nations people, specifically the Esquimalt and Songhees people. We are beginning to understand that we are very fortunate to share this land with them, and once a long time ago it was just their land. We have learned that people (settlers) came and took their land away from them. We have talked about how sad this would be and thought about how it would make us feel.

We then went into reading ‘Amik Loves School’. This book is a great way to introduce the topic of Residential Schools to young learners. It is about a boy sharing with his family member, Moshoom, about how much he loves school. Moshoom shares that he did not love school because he attended a Residential school. He shares how his teacher was not very kind, the school was very far away, how he did not get to celebrate things that are important to his family, and more. My Kindergarten learners shared that they felt sad for Moshoom. They also shared that they wished they could invite Moshoom to our school so he could “feel fun and loved”.  We talked about why it is important to remember these types of memories, even if they make us feel sad. I shared that this happened in the past, and it is something that must never be repeated. I shared that the more people that know about it, the more we can help to support people who’s hearts hurt from this and the more we can make sure it is never repeated. We talked about how everyone is welcome at our school and that we are interested in learning about everyone’s culture and celebrations.
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This was our conversation today. This is how I began introducing the topic. This is a real experience from a real Kindergarten class. This is a step towards reconciliation. I am grateful for my colleague, and her willingness to share her book with us. On Wednesday we will be welcoming and thanking an Elder into our classroom who is a survivor of Residential Schools. This week is very important in Education, it is our opportunity to share the truth at an age appropriate level for our learners. It is an opportunity to introduce a tough subject. It is an opportunity to step towards reconciliation, a path that will be forever long. It is an opportunity to open the hearts of young learners and involve them in this important topic.

How will you be involved in this opportunity?
I would love to hear what you are doing with your learners. 

Thanks for reading,
Rebecca

Core Competency Reflection

Our learning intention setting process has been the backbone of our learning and development this year in Kindergarten. We have been rooting our learning intentions in our district’s Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement. For more information on our journey this year, please see my previous blog posts.

The more we set daily learning intentions, the more clear we are becoming about how we learn best. The more we set specific activity intentions, which are aligned with specific criteria, our learning and work becomes more precise and well-rounded. The more conversations we have about setting, shifting and re-setting our learning intentions to be best aligned with what we need as learners, the closer to becoming self-regulated learners we are. This has been an exciting process and an empowering journey. As term two came to a end, I wanted to align our learning intention setting process with our Curriculum’s Core Competencies. My goal was to have my learners reflect, but also to celebrate in their learning. I was happy with how nicely the Core Competencies and the Spirit of Alliance teachings align, and decided to create a general reflection for my learners to partake in. The reflection is rooted in the teachings of the Aboriginal Spirit of Alliances and the language is taken directly from our Core Competency profiles.

Here is the reflection tool I created and used with each learner. The first section is filled with core competency I-statements which are aligned with the Spirit of Alliance teachings of Bear. The second section are statements connected with the teachings of Raven, the third with the Wolf and the fourth with the Salmon. Each learner and I sat down and filled this out using their answers. This reflection was part of their Term 2 report card and shared with families.

Growing Intentional Learners Google Slides (1)

The process of sitting down with each learner and going through the reflection tool was powerful and a great process for both myself and the learner. Discussions spontaneously came up with almost each child, without prompting. They wanted to share the reasoning behind their answers. My learners’ ability to articulate their reasoning as to why they are still working on something, for example why they feel they are still working on keeping their body safe at school, was on point. I believe this is thanks to our ongoing focus on setting learning intentions, reflection and adjusting them. Our learning is future-focused and reflections are ongoing. For the learners in our environment, discussions and reflections are the norm. Reflecting out loud in front of each other happens on a daily basis, they are a close knit group who are able to act as constructive critiques, but also truth mirrors and each others’ biggest supporters. They are working towards becoming learners who understand how they learn best, who can recognize what they are still working on and what tools help them to learn best. This group of five year old learners amaze me!

We have also been working on reflecting on specific activities, and larger projects.  created reflection tools, which align with the core competencies, for our recent Weather Inquiry project. The learners worked in small interest based groups to research about a weather topic. They chose art projects, science experiments and constructed museum exhibits to celebrate their learning with their families. Here is quick capture of our Weather Museum, if you’re interested!

Here are some of the reflection tools we used. I paired a Core Competency I-statement with a teaching from the Spirit of Alliances. We brainstormed all the steps it took us to create our museum: research, working as a group, art projects, experiments, using non-fiction texts, printing, writing, illustrating facts, building exhibits, practicing our sharing, etc. I then presented the four reflection tools, and asked the learners to choose the one that best fit the learning they had been working on throughout our Museum Inquiry project.

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These reflection tools were used as an assessment piece but also displayed throughout our museum. Families sat and looked at their child’s reflection and had a prompted conversation about their chosen statement and animal which they were like throughout our project. The reflections were a crucial and powerful tool to use as a family prompt. They were meaningful, connected and a snapshot into each learners’ perspective of themselves as a learner and a part of our Museum.

I am excited about our progress this year with learning intention and am feeling empowered to further our connections with the Core Competencies. I would love to hear how you are incorporating the Core Competencies into your teaching and involving your learners. Let’s connect!

Thank you,
Rebecca

Learning Intentions forArtistic Expression

Setting learning intentions, that are strongly rooted in the Spirit of Alliances, is something we have been focusing on and learning to do all year in our Kindergarten class. Our intentions are set daily, and now are also set for specific activities such as journal, play time and numeracy or literacy time. Over the past couple of weeks we worked on setting learning intentions with our artistic expression. Here is how it went.

To quickly set the background, we embarked on an inquiry journey in the middle of January. I presented the topic and the essential questions, which encompass various components of our science curriculum pertaining to animals and their adaptations to seasonal changes. I presented four interest group options for the children to choose from: Wolf, Raven, Bear and Salmon (animals we have been learning about all year). Since then, we have been researching and sharing our learning and wonders about these animals.  As a means of sharing our learning in another way, we decided on doing an art piece that would portray our animal and share one written fact. I introduced some of Ted Harrison’s work, and then we did a mini inquiry answering lots of our questions about Ted Harrison and his work. We learned that he is from Victoria, BC and that lots of his art has animals on beautiful scenery. We even noticed our four animals and various seasons in his pieces. This was exciting.


I chose to present the children with a sunset directed draw of Ted Harrison which we would do multiple times, each time in hopes of improving something and making a positive change to our work. Inspired from the clip Autin’s Butterfly, I had great images in my head of discussions, intention setting based on their art and refining their work. We started out with a directed draw, which I guided on our document camera. We had an ongoing discussion about how art decisions and work is never wrong, but we are doing our best to create a piece inspired from Ted Harrison that somewhat resembles his piece. The message of ‘art is never wrong or a mistake’ became a common language and was repeated by many of our little friends. We finished our directed draws and left them until the next lesson.

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Next, we learned about critiquing our own art in comparison to the directed draw. Thanks to our background work on setting learning intentions the children quickly flipped their critiques into intention setting, basing them on the Spirit of alliance teachings, in the form of “next time I will…”. Growth Mindset in Kindergarten? YES! We shifted into learning about critiquing a partner’s work in the form of a suggestion, I modeled each step from how we would sit, how we would find something we liked about their work and something we thought they would improve on. We shared our predictions about how we thought it would feel to receive a compliment and a suggestion, I am glad we shared this before as it made the activity feel positive and smooth. I am always looking at how I can set my learners up for success and this set up did just that. To witness them all sitting knee to knee, eye to eye and sharing their compliments and suggestions was a magical experience. They were so kind and thoughtful, but also had great suggestions for each other.

We then moved into setting intentions, based on the Spirit of Alliances, using a sticky note (an intention setting activity we have done many times before). We set an intention for our art for next time, such as: I will be like the Salmon as I try harder to space out my lines, or I will be like the Raven because I would like to be more creative with my swirly wavy lines. We took our sticky note intentions, and went back to work and created a second piece. We followed this same process again, another day, but the third time made verbal intentions in small groups and continued onto our third piece.

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In the end, we had three directed draw’s of the same piece, but refined to something we were proud of and ready to use as a tool to help us with our final copy. The three pieces were all done in pencil, but the final copy was done solely in sharpie. The children didn’t use pencils for the final copies, straight to sharpies! Bold and bold! It was wonderful to see them laying our their three copies and then going over each one and making mental notes about what they liked best about each one (a process we modeled prior to getting going).

Once they had their sharpie outlines, they had the choice of painting or using pastels to fill in and add the colours. They then drew and cut out a black silhouette, just like Ted Harrison, of their focus inquiry animal. This project was NOT about the final copy, it was about the process and the intentions…but the final copies are beautiful!

 

Thanks for reading,
Rebecca

Extending our Intention Setting

img_4013Our learning continues to be grounded in the Spirit of Alliances. Please read my previous posts for more background information on this. We have an ongoing dialogue about how we learn best, which is rooted in the four Spirit of Alliance animals. For instance: I would like to work on using kind words with my friends when I feel frustrated like the Wolf, or I would like to keep trying to remember to use a finger space when writing in my journal to show the space between my words. We are setting goals, each morning after our mindfulness time, on how we can improve our learning and our actions throughout the day. The intention setting and strategic monitoring using various visuals, check-ins and journal entries has been successful for our learners, however I wanted to extend our learning intentions deeper and further.

Looking at how I might shift our daily learning intentions to become more focused intentions I reflected on the fact that I did not want to stop setting daily intentions, but I wanted to add in more opportunities to set specific intentions for specific activities. I also realized that if I hope for my learners to set more specific intentions, then we would need to be co-constructing specific outcomes and expectations for each activity (more than we already have been). This might look like setting goals specifically for an inquiry, numeracy, literacy activity or during a play exploration time. 

I decided to try this out with a more structured activity that concretely aligns with a co-constructed criteria. After the winter holiday break, we have begun a new journal that has us writing on lines. Last term, we had been working on creating ‘Big, Bold and Beautiful’ illustrations that tell a story and then printing our names. This term we have begun journaling about ourselves doing actions. For instance, Rebecca jumps. In French Immersion journaling and invented spelling can be a tricky concept for writing, and I find you have to introduce some key words through modelling and then almost go backwards towards invented spelling. The vocabulary needs to be there in order for the children to sound out and spell independently. I also attended a great AIM language workshop by Karen Oraas (a teacher in the Victoria School District) which sparked some more great extensions for journaling in Kinder French Immersion. For our new journal activities, we have co-constructed a criteria with new learning taken from our morning message. We have learned that sentences start with a capital letter and end with a period. We thought these would be two great points for our journal criteria. We also have been practicing starting at the top for our letter formation, at the sun and going down to the ground. We have also learned that words have spaces between them and we can use our finger to create this space. So there we had it, four points for our criteria.

We talked about how we set our learning intentions for each day, but how it is a good idea to set intentions for other parts of our day too. We decided that these intentions might be different than our overall day intention, and this is a good thing. “You can be more than one animal in one day and that’s actually really good! Because then you are even more thoughtful” -Kindergarten friend shared. We agree that our intentions would still be based on one of the Spirit of Alliance animals but would also need to connect to one of the criteria pieces for the activity. Connecting this back to our journal activity, most children decided they would be like the Salmon (persevering) on one criteria piece, for instance: I am going to be like the Salmon and work on remembering to end my writing with a period.

img_4011Together we discussed our co-constructed criteria and I made a visual representation, with a code for each criteria piece, on our board. I modeled how they were to use a sticky note and begin by printing their name, then quickly outlining which Spirit of Alliance animal their intention was rooted in and then draw the ‘code’ for their chosen focus piece of criteria. I found because our journal routine was already somewhat practiced from last term, the intention setting activity went smoothly and was not too much more for them to take on.

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We set our intentions together and then I modeled referring to their intention throughout the journaling activity. I modeled sticking their sticky note in the corner of their journal page and using it as a check-in point before they started their illustration. As I supported and moved around the room, I could hear them using similar language and orally checking-in independently. I noticed that some of them got out erasers to make changes or edits, and some came up to show me that they had remembered their focus and included in their work.

 

They were beaming with img_4021excitement to show me their work. The oral narrative of them checking in with their intentions was powerful to witness!
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As we are looking forward we will be starting to look at setting learning intentions for our exploration play time! These intentions will most-likely be structured more around social interactions, but perhaps clean-up responsibilities and persevering with building and creating as well. We shall see what our co-constructed criteria will look like. Stay tuned for more to come!


Thanks for reading,
Rebecca

Growing Intentional Learners

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Aboriginal Artwork in Sketchnote -The Spirit of Alliances

Here is an overview of my share yesterday at the GAFE Summit. Click here for my slides.

I began this school year with reviewing and connecting with my driving question as an educator: how can I support learners in truly learning how to learn? Before I begin a new term, year, learning activity, inquiry project, etc. I always try to look back to my driving question. I always look back, because I need to ensure whatever we are doing is going to be supporting this driving question. I always also like to reconnect with my core as an educator, to ensure our new learning adventure is connected to the things I value most
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IMG_1491.PNGI created this sketch that represents my core and heart as an educator. These sketches share what is most important for me in guiding my learners through and inviting them to experience together.
Love of learning: Developing this through play-based, hands-on, and imaginative learning.
Connected learning: connected to our land, connected to our past and present.
Visible learning: Making learning visible and sharing.
Seamless Integration of Tech: No longer a stand alone, always woven in when appropriate and powerful.
Celebration: Ongoing celebration and reflection of where we are, where we came from and where we are going.
Relationships: Building strong partnerships with all. Learners, families, colleagues, community and more.
Learner Interest: Following the lead of my learners.
Inquiry-based learning: Inviting and celebrating questions, following ideas and developing independent learning skills that are driven from learners’ passions. aboriginal-education-enhancement-agreement-2013-2018

Back in September, after reviewing all these important components, I decided I needed to focus on an essential question to benefit the learners in our group: HOW CAN I SUPPORT LEARNERS IN SETTING POSITIVE LEARNING INTENTIONS? I decided that this was a great start, but I needed to ground our learning intentions in something powerful and connected. I then came across the Spirit of Alliances, and they fit tremendously. Now I had something: teaching learners how to be intentional about their learning through the history and teachings of our land. first-principles Here is the First Principles of
Learning, that is also an ongoing resource I am checking in with and evaluating how I can infuse more of the First Peoples’ Principles of Learning principles into our learning.

Well, I was ready to start… but then I wasn’t sure where to start. So I decided to begin with a literacy introduction, using a story created in our district to introduce the Spirit of Alliances. I also created a provocation as an invitation to play with the animals. I believe that children need to have the opportunity to play and explore, in order to create their own connections and understanding to something. This provocation table did just this. Children were interacting, creating stories and adventures and creating an attachment to the animals. This was exciting and powerful to witness.

We then decided it was time to unpack each Spirit of Alliance animals, and create our own meaning. I kept thinking back to my driving and essential questions, to ensure I was on track and still working towards meeting my goal and doing I believe is best for my learners.

salmon.pngWe unpacked each animal. We had learned about each animal’s teaching and meaning through our literacy introduction, the Four Stones book, and now we had the chance to come up our own individual examples of times in our lives we were like each animal. For more on this, please check out my post on Growth Mindset and learning about the Salmon. We did a similar lesson for each animal and then accompanied it with a journal entry.

Once we had a strong understanding and our own, five year old frimg_2312iendly, descriptions for each animal’s teachings we embarked on creating our class agreement and everyone signed it. The agreement signifies that, throughout our Kindergarten year, we will all be working our best towards being like the four Spirit of Alliance animals.

Underneath here, in the photograph, you can see an example of a child bringing in a piece of art she had created at home to represent the colours associated with each animal. This, to me, is a clear example of how much my learners feel connected to what we are doing, to our land, and how the Spirit of Alliances has a strong place in their heart.

Next we began setting positive learning intentions based on the traits of each animal. This process was scaffolded, with lots of modeling and sharing of intentions. Some examples of Kindergarten intentions might be:
Bear – Keeping my hands to myself and my body calm.
Raven -Sharing my special gift of being able to puzzles with a friend. 
Wolf -Being kind to a friend during exploration play time. 
Salmon -Not giving up on the monkey bars during recess.

Each morning we have mindfulness and reflection time, which begins with Yoga poses and mindfulness reflections, for more on this please see my post. I then walk the learners through reflecting on their yesterday’s intentions and then shifting gears and setting new learning intentions for today. We then join at the carpet and whilst the children are sharing their intentions, I move their names as a visual and a commitment for the day. This is board is a great visual and tool to refer back to during the day, to ensure our actions are being taken with our animal’s lens and focus.

So, we were setting positive learning intentions, rooted in the Spirit of alliances, each day. I then looked back at my initial questions. I needed to extend what we are doing. I had a few questions and hunches of where we could go next.

I wanted to ensure what I was doing was connected to the redesigned BC Curriculum. AND, it is in every strand and subject area. This was powerful to realize and not that I needed a confirmation that what I was doing was important, but it was nice to see how it connected in numerous ways.

I needed to think about how I was going to add what we are doing to my assessment, evaluation and report cards. I use Fresh Grade as an ongoing portfolio and assessment piece to include families in our dialogue. So to demonstrate and share learning snapshots and assessments was easy and working. I then was fortunate to be shown an incredible blog to support Term Overviews using the redesigned Curriculum. I took the fabulous layout, ideas and incorporation of the Core Competences, not curricular, and remixed and created one to fit our learning.  Please visit Reno by Class.

Here is a link to my overview and reflection page for this term:

I then looked at how might I extend what we are doing with our intentions. I needed to ensure that I was providing room for reflections, growth and making our learning visible. Here are some of the ways we are doing this.

Nametags to keep us on track, to spark conversation and as another visual to track our goals. These have been working fabulously!

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Journals and Circle Reflections have been keeping our conversations going about our intentions and goals. We enjoy journaling and sharing in a circle about how we are working towards meeting our intentions, and making adjustments when necessary.
IMG_0757.JPGiPads for documentation, celebrating and making our learning visible. PicCollage is a great tool to help us take photos of ourselves reaching our goals and then sharing and reflecting on them with our group. This is wonderful to witness!
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GOPROS! This will be a full post for another time. But for now I will leave with these two short clips. Learners have an ongoing invitation to use the GoPro to capture themselves meeting their goal, and then we use them to share a bit of the footage to reflect.

Being like Raven to share her special gift of rainy day puddle jumping adventures: 

Being like Salmon in not giving up, and sitting for 40 minutes using a stencil she had been trying to use ALL week. She was so proud, in a very humble way, of her work. You will want to mute your sound for hers, because I sped up the video.

https://youtu.be/iXGtsjSpn_I

So much more to come on this as our adventure, with learning intentions based on the history of our land, is just beginning. Please stay tuned. In the mean time, I challenge you to be like Salmon and try something new in your teaching. Begin with a driving question and just start!

Artwork below from The Spirit of Alliances

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Thank you,
Rebecca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Story-boxes in Kindergarten

This summer I was inspired by the hashtag #sd38story from the Delta School District. I found their storytelling focus to be fresh, innovative and inviting. I strive to create fresh, innovative and inviting learning experiences for my learners, so I knew it was something I had to try.

img_1685I researched quite a bit before beginning, hung out a ton on the sd38 hashtag and fell in love with Janice Novakowski, Little Blair Dragons, and Annieville Kinders‘ work. I knew I had to set something up that would work for the learners in our class and myself. I decided to begin a storytelling focus through story-boxes.

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I searched out the Monk’s Office shallow cardboard trays to be the story-boxes, and luckily a lovely colleague across the hall generously shared hers with me. My goal was to have 11 story-boxes, one box per two children. My vision was they would begin by working in partners for our storytelling lessons, and over time that may evolve. I searched out some loose parts such as wool, gems, rocks, sticks, fabric, felt, pine cones, felted acorns, etc. I would have LOVED to fill the story-boxes to the brim with materials, but held my excitement back because I realized that less is more -especially at the beginning. I also had to choose a few animals to have as characters for our boxes, and naturally I chose our Spirit of Alliance animals (which we are very familiar with). I had some helpers, and we made characters on popsicle sticks.

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I designed a three part lesson, and plan to guide learners through the same three parts each week. The first part of the lesson is sharing a First Nation’s story. I teach French Immersion, and most of the stories we have access to at our school are in English and that was just fine. The stories I have chosen so far have been extremely easy to switch into French, so I did. I started off the storytelling focus with ‘Good Morning World’ from Native NorthWest. We started by reading through the story, the children repeated the good morning part for each animal. We then stopped and did some imagining and thinking caps. We imagined some of the adventures the different animals could have, different things they might get up to in nature. We had some sharing time with a partner and the whole group. We then reread the story one more time. I briefly introduced the idea of story-boxes and shared a box with some materials in it with the children, so they knew what was coming tomorrow.

The next day, we quickly read through the story one more time and dove back into our imaging. We sat in a circle and shared some of the adventures we had been milling over in our heads. I then modeled what it might look like to set up at story-box. Then together, in French, we created an adventure using two animals: Salmon and Bear. Thimg_1687e modeling part was extremely important for the learners in our class. It was great for them to be part of the planning, vocab review and storytelling process before going off with their partner. They knew exactly what was expected, they’d been part of one process, and then they knew they could invent their own adventure and story, or fall back onto retelling mine. Everyone felt successful, this was a key part of the lesson.

We then passed out the boxes, characters and loose parts and off they went! My oh my, our 22 four and five year old learners were SO empowered, it was magical to watch and listen to. The boxes were being set up, stories were being created and shared and the oral language French component was mind-blowing! After some time, they were given five more minutes to set everything up and place their characters down for tomorrow’s lesson. We met back at the circle after putting the boxes away, and reflected on how the lesson went. We shared things that went well, and things we’d like to improve. We reflected on how we were working towards meeting our daily goals during our story-box activity. We talked about tomorrow’s story-box plans.

On the third morning, we were excited to return back to our story-boxes. We knew and understood that our challenge was to retell our created story from yesterday, with our same partner. Then we were to try to extend our story by making it longer or more interesting to a listener. This was neat to experience and hear all of their ideas bubbling around the room. After about fifteen minutes, the children were invited to document their stories. They had the choice of illustrating a bird’s eye view of their story-box or using an iPad to take three still photographs (one of the beginning, middle and end of their story). I was surprised to see how many groups chose a clipboard versus the iPad ,this made me smile. Yes I am a strong believer of inviting learners to use technology as a tool for learning, but it needs to best suit their learning style. Through choice, learners are able to choose how they will learn and document, they know what works best for them.


After we had documented their stories and learning we transitioned into our free exploration time. It gave me goose bumps to see the storytelling continuing around the room in new areas with different parts and characters. A few of the girls decided they wanted to record their story during free exploration time. They worked together, with our volunteer, in the hallway (who does not speak much French at all -so this recording is all them).

This past week, we went through the same process. The story this week was ‘Goodnight World’. We followed the same three part process, with the same boxes and same characters. This week the children worked with different partners and were given a new character: the moon (la lune) and some yellow modeling clay which was for them to use how they wished (stars were very popular).

Please stay connected to hear how this process continues and evolves for our learners.

Many thanks,
Rebecca

Our Mindfulness Time in Kindergarten

I have always been a big fan of Brain Gym kinesiology to prepare our brains, bodies and hearts for learning. I was fortunate to do my practicum with Jeanine Nahas, a Brain Gym consultant and was inspired to learn more. I did my level 1 Brain Gym training, and see the benefits it lends to children in learning environments.

This summer I began doing Yoga, and absolutely love it! The yoga instructor, Tara, at Lotus Village studio, spoke so passionately about her mindfulness lessons and instruction at Deep Cove elementary. I knew I had to start implementing more of this into our daily routine.

First off, I decided to make lavender eye pillows for the children. During the summer I went to IKEA and got fabric squares (for only 4$ for 50) and sewed around the edges to make them into mini eye pillow cases ready to be filled and sewn together by five year olds. We haveimg_1700 been busy measuring out flax seed, adding in dried lavender and sewing up the top edge of our pillows. What fun this has been! We are now using the eye pillows during our mindfulness time on our eyes, our bellies, or under our heads.
When we come in from our morning recess, we go to our individual spots (I would love to get yoga mats and cut them in half, but funds are always tricky…if you have an suggestion please let me know) and begin by lying on our backs with our hearts and palms open to the sky. We follow a similar music each day. We have been doing belly breathing once we get started, using a chime to guide our breaths.

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Once we are ready we begin with some floor poses, move up to sitting poses, and then finally a standing pose, I have added in our Brain Gym movements here too! After, we go back to the floor into hook ups, and then finally back uncrossed with our hearts and palms open up to the sky.

We end with thinking about what we are grateful for in our hearts. Who we are lucky to spend our days with, who we like to learn with an interact with at school. We then set a goal for ourselves for our day. We have been learning about the Spirit of Alliance animals and this is what we use as the core for our goal setting. For example a child may set a goal to be like the Salmon today because they are working on their journaling and not giving up when it feels challenging, or setting a goal to be like the Wolf today because they are remembering to use kind words with their friends.

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We end our mindfulness time with three chimes. The three chimes signal the children to put their eye pillows back the basket, slowly make their way to the carpet and be ready to share their goal, for the day, with our group. We have been using visuals on the wall and at their table spot to keep discussion and thoughts going in regards to their goal they have set. Their name tags have adjustable paper clips to slide to show which animal their goal relates to. We revisit their goals throughout the day in relation to their choices, actions and interactions.

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Thanks for reading!
Rebecca

The Salmon Teaches us About Growth Mindset

As part of our embarking on learning about the Spirit of Alliances, see post here, I realized a strong connecting between Growth Mindset and the Salmon. The Salmon is a great teacher about having a Growth Mindset, and this topic has been an enjoyed focus by our Kindergarten friends.

Over the past week, we have been discovering more about what the Salmon teaches us. We have been learning that the Salmon teaches us to persevere, to try new things, and to think openly and positively about new ideas. The Salmon teaches us that we may think like the Salmon in some situations, but not all. For instance, we may think with an open mind about trying something new, but a suggestion for a new way of doing something else new might feel challenging for us to think like Salmon about. Through many discussions, role plays and modelling we came to the conclusion that it is OK that we don’t always think and feel like Salmon in every situation. We also decided that when we aren’t feeling or thinking like Salmon, it is important to remind ourselves of what Salmon would do if Salmon where in a situation like ours in order to begin moving our thinking and feelings forward in a positive direction.

We brainstormed, after reading our Spirit of Alliances story, the different traits that the Salmon teaches and shares with us. We then worked on acting like Salmon in different role play situations, this was a great experience for some children who decided to partake as actors and actresses, and others was a important role as an audience member making observations when actors and actresses were thinking like Salmon and when they were not. When they were not thinking like Salmon, we gave suggestions as to how they might shift their thinking to be more like Salmon, if they were so inclined.

Our discussions about Growth Mindset and thinking like Salmon kept coming back to trying new things. For us, in Kindergarten, that was the biggest take away we had about thinking like Salmon. It seemed to be the most relatable piece for five year old’s. We decided it would be a great idea to journal about our experiences in trying new things, and sharing how it felt once we had tried something new. Here are a few examples of our work. The word ‘essayer’ (Try in French) became a fun word to say and use in our classroom this week.

This week we have been working on setting daily intentions and goals for ourselves which are based on the four Spirit of Alliance animals. Each morning we have been sharing orally about our intentions for the day in a circle setting. Lots of our friends have been sharing intentions based on the Salmon. Intentions such as keeping going when feeling frustrated, trying new activities, using my name tag to help me when I feel mad that I can’t write my name yet, listening to others suggestions, and many more. It is very inspiring to listen to four and five year old’s share about intentions and goals like this. Please stay tuned to hear how this progresses and how we begin to capture, reflect and share about how we are meeting our goals and intentions in Kindergarten.

Thank you,
Rebecca