Mystery Box Inquiry: Plant Edition

IMG_2819We’ve had a busy time working on our current Inquiry study on local plants.  It’s been beautifully timed with the gorgeous early summer weather we’re having right now in the Lower Mainland and so many flowers are in bloom.  This is one of our favourite units to teach as Christy and I are both avid gardeners ourselves, and we love to share our passion for plants and growing things with our students.

We try to teach by theme and connect as much across the curriculum as we can to give a rich learning experience for our students.  We love it when the vocabulary and content can be tied together within the curricular competencies.  So for our most recent round of “Sharing and Special Helper,” we asked all the children to bring in a “Sign of Spring” and many of them brought their favourite plants or flowers from their gardens.  Our students brought in rhododendrons, azaleas, tulips of all colours, daffodils, bluebells, wild poppies and a huge blossoming branch from an apple tree.  By the time we started our plant study, our class had all been exposed to a great variety of flowers and shrubs.  This is particularly important so that we have some similar experiences to refer to during our lesson discussions in the days to follow.

As we’ve mentioned earlier in our previous weekly newsletters, we started our Inquiry with a walk around our extensive school grounds. We stopped to name and discuss some of the plants we have growing in our school garden, and if the children had those same plants at home.  We listened for birds and the sound of our creek.  We also heard the springtime sounds of construction and lawnmowers.

Back in the classroom, we read  Living Things, by Melvin and Gilda Berger, to help reinforce the idea that living things grow, need food and often look like their parents when they grow up, as opposed to non-living objects.  We recalled the things we had seen on our walk, looked around for everyday things in our classroom and sort and categorised those items into living and non-living things, which the children recorded on their charts.

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In our next lesson, we read the delightful chapter, “The Garden,” from Frog and Toad are Friends (Arnold Lobel) which sent everyone, including the teachers, into hysterical laughter as Toad tries to grow his garden as beautifully as Frog.  After yelling at his seeds to GROW, Toad thinks he has scared his planted seeds so they are now afraid to grow.  Toad reads stories, poems, plays music and keeps the seeds company in the evening with candlelight.  The children concluded (and knew) that water, air, soil, food, time and love are essential plant needs.

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Time for a Mystery Box Inquiry!  We placed a variety of seeds in the Mystery Box.  The children asked some great questions to determine what was inside.  Even better, we had the first “checking questions” being asked…questions the children asked to confirm whether their idea was correct, or not.  Wow!  Talk about amazing curiosity and wonder.  The children loved sorting the seeds into groups and then matching them to the seed envelopes.

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We made our own seeds from a National Geographic learning resource we had on seeds.  We are enlarging our vocabulary to include seed coat, plant embryo, roots, stem, seedling, leaves, blossoms, germination and pollination.  

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The most exciting part of learning about plants, of course, is to plant our own seeds.  We’re growing Scarlet Runner beans because we can count on them to sprout (favourite word in the Kindergarten right now) quickly.  We purchased small compostable pots and brought in a trug full of potting soil and a small potting trowel.  After a few mishaps …lots of soil on the table and floor… we quickly realized a quick lesson on how to handle the trowel was needed.  Here are our beautiful little pots with their bean plant markers.  

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That’s Miss Pink, by the way, our trusty snail watering can, looking on.  We’ll follow up in a newsletter with how our beans have grown.  When thinking about the integration of curriculum, our bean plants will be a useful reference point when we teach “Jack in the Beanstalk” from our Fairy Tale literature unit, so the children can imagine where the giant’s castle is located.

By the time you read this post, we will have taught our last lesson on how seeds travel.  We’ve learned over the past few weeks from a variety of books that seeds can travel by air, water, on our clothing or dropped by animals after eating the surrounding fruit.  We were fortunate to have dandelions which had gone to seed brought in for Sharing and the children were all very familiar with what happens when they blow on those “puffballs”  and how the seeds travel.  Some of the children also knew about seeds clinging to their clothes after forest and meadow walks.

Here’s our current book list of plant books that we’ve been reading aloud to our classes, and some other beautiful stories with gardening and plants as interwoven themes.  We’re hoping you and your little gardener enjoy many happy years of gardening and reading together!

  • Once There was a Seed (Judith Anderson and Mike Gordon)
  • Living Things (Melvin and Gilda Berger)
  • Seed to Plant (Melvin and Gilda Berger)
  • All About Seeds (Melvin Berger and Anna DiVito)
  • Linnea in Monet’s Garden (Christina Bjork and Lena Anderson)
  • Grow Flower, Grow! (Lisa Bruce and Rosalind Beardshaw)
  • Flower Garden (Eve Bunting and Kathryn Hewitt)
  • Flowers (Vijaya Khisty Bodach)
  • Leaves (Vijaya Khisty Bodach)
  • Roots (Vijaya Khisty Bodach)
  • Seeds (Vijaya Khisty Bodach)
  • Miss Rumphius (Barbara Cooney)
  • In My Garden (Ermanno Cristini and Luigi Puricelli)
  • Growing Vegetable Soup (Lois Ehlert)
  • Planting a Rainbow (Lois Ehlert)
  • From Seed to Plant (Gail Gibbons)
  • Round the Garden (Omri Glaser, Byron Glaser and Sandra Higashi)
  • Nora’s Roses (Satomi Ichikawa)
  • How a Seed Grows (Helene J. Jordan and Loretta Krupinski)
  • The Carrot Seed (Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson)
  • Frog and Toad are Friends (Arnold Lobel)
  • Who is in the Garden (Vera Rosenberry)
  • This is the Sunflower (Lola M. Schaefer and Donald Crews)
  • Tops and Bottoms (Janet Stevens)
  • A Tree in a Forest (Jan Thornhill)
  • My Garden (Kevin Henkes)
  • Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt (Kate Messner)

 

Just Another Week in the Kindergarten

We’ve had a really busy few weeks so it’s wonderful to get back to our regular timetable and everyday routines.  We appreciate structure, knowing what’s going to happen next and a certain amount of predictability.  It helps us personally with our own self-regulation and we know our students thrive on it.  Although there is excitement in the unknown, being flexible (one’s ability to self-regulate, cope and manage changes in a day) is a skill that is learned over a lifetime and one that we most certainly teach in the Kindergarten.  But we need to teach those concepts within the context of what familiar days and patterns look like so when our schedule is stable, we can accomplish a great deal.

What have we been up to?

IMG_2785Well, we officially finished our Alphabet Books last week with the “Z” page and painting zebra stripes for our “Z” craft.  But many children had missed out on some alphabet pages due to travel, sickness or a late start at Ridgeview.  So we had three days of finish-up for all the pages missed.  You can see from the photo that we had our alphabet charts displayed on the wall (and on the floor) for children to fill in their pictures, labels and printing.  The children were meticulous in diligently going through their books to figure out what pages were incomplete.  

This massive undertaking was taking place alongside preparations for Welcome to Kindergarten (Parent Information Evening on April 25; new Kindergarten student participation on April 27 and 28), our fabulous Student Led Conferences (May 4), Mother’s Day paintings (May 5) and classroom preparation (May 6) for our school’s Mayfair (May 7).  Our classrooms usually looks like this:

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But for the Silent Auction (my classroom) and Book Sale (Christy’s classroom), our classrooms looked like this:

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We want to thank the Kindergarten children and Grade 7 students for helping us to not only take down the classroom on Friday for Mayfair, but also for restoring the classroom again on Monday morning.

This Week in Our Room:  May 9-13, 2016

Our big excitement this week was taking our class photos and our school panorama photo!  It’s a special moment for us and our students to gather together for a photo the children will always remember as “my first school picture.”

IMG_2797We’ve been working hard on our Inquiry study on local plants.  We learned about how plants grow (germination, roots, stems, leaves, pollination) and we crafted our beautiful Plant folders.  We also had a Mystery Box Inquiry where we placed a selection of seeds in the Mystery Box and asked ten questions before guessing.  Then, we sorted and classified the seeds and matched the seeds to the plant envelopes.   We finished our last lesson today with “How Seeds Travel” and planted our bean seeds.

 

IMG_2807-1We started our next Math unit in Geometry.  We brainstormed all the geometric shapes we know and read Brown Rabbit’s Shape Book by Alan Baker.  We’re now starting to learn about the individual two and three dimensional shapes and their properties, beginning with circles and spheres.

 

We also launched our Fairy Tale literature study with Once Upon a Golden Apple by Jean Little, Maggie De Vries and Phoebe Gilman.  This delightful story makes plenty of references to nursery rhymes and fairy tales and we had lots of fun reciting the nursery rhymes we recognized and identifying the fairy tale titles from the hints in the story.  

Upcoming Events and Reminders

Friday, May 20, is a Professional Day for teachers.  Students are not in session.

Monday, May 23, is Victoria Day and school is closed for everyone.

Friday, June 3, is our Ridgeview Sports Day.  Please note that Kindergarten students will be dismissed at 12 pm that day.  If your child attends Camp Ridgeview, please be sure to let them know we will be dismissing early.  We will send out more information about our student expectations for Sports Day in the next two weeks.

 

West Vancouver Fire and Rescue Meets Ridgeview Kindergarten

 

We had a very exciting day early on in March when West Vancouver Fire and Rescue (@WestVanFireDept) came to visit us at Ridgeview with a special presentation called “Stories from the Firehall.”

As part of the Kindergarten Social Studies Content, our students are expected to know about “the people, places, and events in the local community, and in local First Peoples Communities,” so meeting with our local firefighters is a tremendous opportunity.  In the Kindergarten we consider the firefighters as one of our community helpers, and we want our children to know and become familiar with the roles and responsibilities they fulfill.

We welcomed Captain Marcia James (Fire Prevention) and Assistant Chief Jeff Bush (@WestVanFireDept) (Fire Prevention/Investigation) to our classrooms to speak to the Kindergarten.

One of the first things we learned is that the Fire Department works in teams, much like we do at school and in our classrooms. Captain James explained that our Principal, Mrs. Brady, is like Chief Randy Heath, Fire Chief of West Vancouver District.  In his role, Chief Heath is in charge of the entire District, like Mrs. Brady is in charge of the entire school.

Assistant Chief Bush’s role is similar to the teachers’ roles in their classrooms, where we are organizing everyone and letting them know what needs to be done in their working teams.

We also found that firefighters are very busy community helpers.  A lot of people think firefighters just put out fires, but actually, they help people in many different emergency situations.  Our firefighters found they were doing a lot of rescues; hence their name, “West Vancouver Fire and Rescue.”

For example, firefighters might go out to help people who are very sick or were in pain.  Or people who are walking and hiking may slip and fall:  if necessary, the firefighters would come out for those emergencies.  The children said they had seen fire trucks where cars had had an accident. But Chief Bush reminded us a fire truck outside a house or building, or at the scene of an accident, doesn’t necessarily mean there is a fire. It might be for some kind of rescue.

Firefighters also come into our schools and inspect them every summer.  They ensure the sprinklers and smoke detectors are working properly and are not obstructed in any way.

Each year our school must have six fire drills so that all of the staff and students know what to do in the event of an emergency.

Naturally, the children wanted to know more about what happens when there is a fire.  We learned that the first thing firefighters have to do is make sure it is safe to go into the burning building.  The air can be very bad, so Assistant Chief Bush donned some of the special equipment the firefighters have to wear.  Assistant Chief Bush also spoke to the children through his mask so they could hear what his voice sounded like, and how they didn’t need to be afraid.

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Similar to a scuba diver, our firefighters wear a backpack with an air supply attached to a mask for breathing.  We noticed that Assistant Chief Bush was moving and swaying with his equipment on, and that’s because there is a special detector that senses if the firefighter is not moving; it gives a clue that the firefighter may be hurt and signals will come on to indicate something is wrong.  Communication can be challenging in a major fire and firefighters have to always be able to communicate with each other.

And of course following a fire, another responsibility of firefighters is that they have to go into the building and see how the fire started.

Our children asked some very thoughtful questions and received very straight answers:

  • “What do you do when the bottles (air supply tanks) are emptying?”  A bell rings and you have five minutes before it empties.
  • “How do you open an elevator?”  Firefighters have special keys to open it, or special valves to turn to move the elevator car.
  • “If there is a fire, how does the family get out of the building?”  Children need to ask their parents, “What is the family escape plan?”  Everyone needs to listen to the smoke alarm and make a plan to leave the home and meet in your designated meeting place.
  • Some thought they should hide if there is a fire so it was an opportune time to review what children and adults should and should not do in a fire.

It was good reminder for all of us to think about the family escape plan. When a smoke detection device detects smoke, the alarm is sounded so the inhabitants of the building should get out right away.  The smoke will be hard to see through, so we’re to get down low to the ground and crawl; air is heavier than smoke so the smoke would be above us.  Fires can be noisy and dark so it’s important to yell and shout as we’re making our way out.

As well, smoke detection devices need to be tested and checked.  October has typically been Fire Prevention month, so checking your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors’ batteries around Thanksgiving would be a wonderful way to show thanks and gratitude for our wonderful families.

No firefighter visit is complete without a visit from a fire truck, so you can imagine our children’s delight when this beauty came driving onto the playground!

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The children suspected something was going to happen as we waited for the playground gate to be unlocked:  the fire truck flashed its lights and whistled at us a few times and then the excitement really began!

All of children had a turn to climb up into the truck and sit on one of the seats, and some of them also took the opportunity to wear the firefighters’ headsets.

We saw the yellow hoses, checked out the water valves, learned about the jaws of life and tested out the weight of a firefighter’s helmet.  We engaged in a long discussion about the blocks used to stop the fire truck from moving, or rolling backwards, while the firefighters were working. It was a very wonderful visit!

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We were particularly pleased to know that our students now have some familiarity with the firefighters, particularly when dressed in their uniforms.  We wanted the children to see how firefighters look in their jackets, and with the helmet and shield over their faces.  The children need to know not to be afraid or hide from the fire or a firefighter.  The firefighters come to help and rescue them.

We would like to thank Captain Marcia James and Assistant Chief Jeff Bush so very much for visiting and sharing with us the roles and responsibility of one of our most important community helpers, the firefighter!

 

Celebrating the Family:  Kindergarten Social Studies

Bookmarks English.inddIt’s Family Day today and we’re enjoying some time with our families here at home.  Although it’s been mostly centred around homework, we’ve also been in Victoria with my extended family because it’s Chinese New Year’s weekend as well and we usually gather together for at least one big dinner.

Although our kids aren’t little anymore, we’ve remained diligent over the years in planning and organizing time to be with them which can be challenging because of our busy after school and weekend schedules.  We eat dinner together late most week nights, one of our few constants where all of us are sitting down and talking (and reviewing who will be driving which car with whom on the way to school and home again).  Our kids are both musicians and love to sing and play their instruments with their Dad.  And we really enjoy travelling just as family of four to experience new places and foods and activities to create those common bonds and memories.

FullSizeRender-4During this term, our focus in Social Studies has been on the Family.  As always, we try to integrate as many parts of our day into a theme to deepen the learning and view it from as many perspectives as possible.  We started off with a Sharing Special Helper theme of “Our Family’s Favourite Activities.”  This is certainly one of the most fun Sharing activities we do because the children are able to talk about the most important relationships they have–that of the family unit.

FullSizeRender-12We posted the information outside our classrooms, created the Sharing and Special Helper calendar, and continued to use the Remind texts to follow-up with our expectations for Sharing.  It’s been so wonderful to see the love as the Special Helper names the people and pets in his or her family photo.  Then, our parents have assisted with some writing for their child to read, or with prompts from us, about the things their family enjoys doing together.  

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Everybody illustrated one of their favourite family activities, then we sorted and classified those activities into broader groupings.

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In class, we’ve been reading aloud from our collection of books on Family.  We’ve brainstormed the various roles of the family, trying to work through the connections of grandparents, aunts and uncles (Mom’s sister?  Dad’s sister?  Mom’s brother?  Dad’s brother?) and who are the nieces and nephews.  We were really surprised at how well the children could explain which aunts and uncles were their parents’ siblings, and those who were related through marriage. The children drew and labelled these beautiful portraits of their immediate families:

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We’ve collected quite a few books which talk about different aspects of the family, and grouped them below here for you in case you’re looking for more titles to read.

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Family:

  • The Great Big Book of Families (Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith)
  • The Family Book (Todd Parr)

Home:

  • Alison’s House (Maxine Trottier and Michael Martchenko)

Working Parents:

  • Mommy Works, Daddy Works (Marika Pedersen and Mikele Hall; Deirdre Betteridge)

Needs and Wants:

  • A Chair for My Mother (Vera B. Williams)

Brothers and Sisters:

  • Julius, the Baby of the World (Kevin Henkes)
  • Peter’s Chair (Ezra Jack Keats)
  • Revenge of the Small SMALL (Jean Little and Janet Wilson)
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz)`
  • Big Sister and Little Sister (Charlotte Zolotow and Martha Alexander)

Grandparents:

  • Oma’s Quilt (Paulette Bourgeois and Stephane Jorisch)

Happy Family Day, from our families to yours!

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

IMG_2278We love Christmas, it’s our favourite time of year.  But a Kindergarten Christmas is extra special.

The children have been practising their songs for the upcoming Christmas concert these last few weeks.  This will be the children’s first time on stage with their classmates, singing and performing for their parents.

We’re decorating our classrooms already.  Although it might seem early to some, we’re going into the last two weeks before the Christmas break.  We have some children leaving early and we want to enjoy the feelings of excitement and anticipation with everyone before we go our separate ways.

We’re trying to adhere to some of our self-regulation guidelines for keeping the classroom calm and peaceful, while still making it a beautiful and special Christmas space.

We’ve changed the fairy lights from autumn orange to Christmas multicolour.  We’re still keeping the overhead lights off, except on the darkest days when we turn on just one bank of lights so we can read our books.

FullSizeRender-4We’ve set up a small Christmas tree for the children to contemplate when we’re listening to quiet music, part of our after the morning recess routine.

We’ve downsized the Christmas clutter of figurines and signage.  We’re going to create a Christmas word bank instead so our “decoration” will also be a useful writing reference.

Confession time….we have hung small Christmas stuffed animals from the wires we’ve strung across the classroom which are definitely distracting.  But the little stuffed teddy bears, angels, Santas, reindeer and snowmen are just so cute and the children love them.  Call us old-fashioned Christmas softies, but Christmas comes FullSizeRender-5once a year and you’re only young once.  We clarified our expectations with the children (no jumping up to grab the toys) and so far, things are going pretty well. We’ll talk again in two weeks.

This Week in Our Room:  November 30-December 4, 2015

The big excitement this week was that our Kindergarten classes got to see their Big Buddies not once, but twice!

FullSizeRender-3We made our annual Christmas Crackers with our Buddies for our traditional donation to several local organizations this year, including. The Union Gospel Mission and our sister school, Grandview Elementary in Vancouver.  We fill a paper roll with your Hallowe’en candy donations, and wrap it beautifully in Christmas paper and ribbon.  Our children have learned that there are many children and adults in communities close to us who will receive only this candy as a gift this year.  We are firm believers that if we are able to share some of what we have to bring comfort and a little holiday joy to others, then we should.  Thinking globally begins at a very early age; talking about the gratitude for the privileges we receive, whether through hard work or good fortune, is a discussion a Kindergarten child is able to participate in.

Our other Big Buddy project this year is a secret.  We started working onFullSizeRender-1 our Christmas gifts for our families!

We browsed the Scholastic Book Fair and enjoyed looking at possible gift purchases.  We did not take out a library book this week as the book fair bookcases were blocking access to our storybooks.

Upcoming Events and Reminders

The Primary Musical is called “Toys” and our Kindergarten children will be dressing up as Prince and Princess Dolls.

Girls: please wear a princess costume (Disney Princess is fine) and crown.  No wands, please.

Boys:  please wear a long sleeved green top and black pants.  We will supply the gold garland sash and prepare the crowns at school.  If you already have a crown, please let us know by Monday, December 7.

Wednesday, December 9 is our second annual Reindeer Games Activity Party.  We will be having some fun, reindeer themed activities for our class.  If your children would like to dress up with reindeer or Santa hats, Christmas jewelry and headpieces, or Christmas t-shirts, this would be a good day to do so.

Also on December 9, our Me to We Team (Grade 7) is hosting a gingerbread house evening.  You can make a wonderful gingerbread house with your family.  Please note that children must be accompanied by a parent.  You can order your gingerbread house kit, extra icing and candies, with the form we sent home earlier this week.  Please see the office if you need another one.  Mrs. Daudlin and Mrs. Campbell will also be attending this evening to support the Me to We team, make there own gingerbread houses and look forward to seeing the Kindergarten families who may be in attendance!

 

Elmer the Safety Elephant

FullSizeRenderOn Wednesday we welcomed Elmer, the Safety Elephant, and his special friend, Mrs. Young, to our Kindergarten classrooms.  Elmer comes to us from the North Shore Safety Council.  Although some of the children said they had met Elmer before, we know as parents and teachers there is no such thing as “too much” when it comes to the safety of our children.  Elmer brought along his trusty friend, Ruff, the Dog, as well.  Elmer gives two presentations a year, and today’s was about pedestrian, car and traffic safety.  We will learn about bicycle safety in the spring.

We learned a valuable lesson with Elmer, and that is, it is our choice whether we choose to be safe or not.  We all want to be able to play safely and enjoy ourselves with our family, but we need to make the right choices when doing so.

Elmer talked to us about several different scenarios.  First, when a toy, such as ball, rolls out onto the road, we just leave it.  Elmer reminded us the toy is just a thing.  It might be a special thing, but we should ask an adult for help to get it back.

In addition, what do we do when a toy falls between parked cars?  An adult has to help us.  Children cannot be seen when they step off the sidewalk, and a car may pull forward not knowing a child is in front of it.  So it is important that the children ask an adult to retrieve the toy.

We learned that pedestrians are people who are walking places.  As pedestrians, when we cross the street we know we should look in both directions.  But we also need to look behind us:   over our shoulder and towards the cars coming from another direction.  Did you know we don’t say “Look in both directions” anymore?   Now we say, “We look all ways” or “We look in all directions.”  When there is no sidewalk, the safest place to walk is on the grass or side of the road facing traffic.  As pedestrians, we want to be able to see what is happening with the cars coming towards us.

Here is a fun poem Elmer shared with us about traffic lights.  He brought a big set of traffic lights to show us.

“I am red and I say stop.  See me shining at the top

I am yellow and I say wait.  Please be patient even if you are late.

I am green and I say go.  But be careful and walk.”


Elmer also showed us what the pedestrian controlled lights mean:

The hand lit in red means “stop” and our feet stay on the sidewalk.
The walking figure lit in green means it’s time to walk.  But before you walk, look all ways.

Elmer spoke about safety equipment when riding a skateboard or riding a bicycle.  Cyclists and skateboarders must wear helmets when they are using these pieces of equipment, because it is the law.  For our own protection, we should also wear elbow and knee pads while skateboarding and shoes and socks to protect our feet on a bike or skateboard.

Ruff, the Dog stopped by for a short visit to tell us it’s the law to wear a seatbelt while we are in the car.  We need to listen for the “click” sound of the seatbelt as the latch engages.  If the children do not hear that sound when they put on their seatbelt, they should tell you immediately.  

As a further reminder, Ruff said we can hear that click sound again if we are on our bicycle.  We need to listen to the “click” of our bicycle helmet as we engage the latch and adjust it to fit under our chin.  Please remember that you need to wear a helmet that is the right size.

Thank you again to Elmer the Elephant and Ruff the Dog!  We can never be too safe when it comes to our children.

This Week in Our Room:  November 23-26, 2015

Please check the new Special Helper and Sharing calendar.  Our new theme is Holiday Traditions.  More information can be found on the Parent Board outside the classroom, and we sent out a Remind about it earlier this week.

We finished the letter “I” this week in the Alphabet.  We will complete letters “J” and “K” before the holidays.

We’re getting ready for the Christmas Concert and starting to think about costumes for our grade.  The musical is called “Toys” and our Kindergarten children will be dressing up as Prince and Princess Dolls.

Girls: please wear a princess costume (Disney Princess is fine) and crown.  No wands, please.

Boys:  please wear a long sleeved green top and black pants.  We will supply the gold garland sash and prepare the crowns at school.  If you have a crown, please let us know.

Wednesday, December 2 is our Christmas Cracker Craft project with our Buddy classes.  Our crackers will be donated to various organizations around the city.  We are in need of ribbon to tie off the ends of the crackers.  If you have any bolts of curling ribbon, or Christmas ribbon you are no longer using, we would gladly receive your donations.  Thank you.

An Introduction to the Bear in First Nations Art and Stories:  Kindergarten Social Studies

One of things you quickly learn as a classroom teacher is that there is never enough time to teach everything you want, and have to, cover every year.  In addition to the mandated curriculum, there’s also the holidays (for us, an essential part of Kindergarten, and it also ties in with Social Studies) and just the curious and interesting things that you want to do with your class because of your personal interests, ideas you learn about from other teachers or activities you think your class will just enjoy and have fun doing.  Therefore, the process of integration, combining two or more subject areas, comes into play.

We integrate a lot, because it’s the only way we can fit in everything we have to do, and want to do, with our Kinders.

So here’s what’s going on with us this year.

In the new Kindergarten Social Studies curriculum, Aboriginal Education and learning about the First Peoples’ culture, will be an integral part of our teaching and learning.

We wanted to focus on the symbolic meaning of specific animals according to the First Nations.  We were thinking about the salmon, bear and eagle as our starting point as they are familiar animals here on the Westcoast.  The animals are a topic the Kindergarten children will be interested in, understand and make a connection with in their own lives.

At the same time, we are beginning our study of local animals in the Natural World (Science), and we have taught within the theme of Bears because not only are bears local and relevant to our area, but we can tie in a literature focus on well-known Bears in stories, such as “The Three Bears” and Corduroy by Don Freeman.  This also allows us to have a discussion on the differences between fiction and non-fiction stories.

In order to fit everything in, we’re going to have to integrate Reading, Language and Literacy (stories and literary activities on the bear theme), Community (Social Studies) (the bear, and we will extend to include other animals and their symbolic meaning in First Nations teaching), The Natural World (Science) (bear behaviour) and Art activities.

Children’s literature is of primary importance to us and so we always like to begin with a good book.  As Kindergarten teachers, we need to revisit the classic children’s stories with our students through the Primary years to build a broad knowledge base of literature.  We make constant references and cross-references to Fairy Tales, Nursery Rhymes, and other well known books, in our everyday discussions.  We discussed schema theory in a recent post, and the importance of building a common understanding when developing a new topic or idea.

We asked our teacher-librarian, Mrs. Kennedy, to help us with the Aboriginal Education resources, and other Bear books, and she had some wonderful treasures waiting for our classes during Library this week!

FullSizeRender-10We Greet the Four Animals (Terry Mack and Bill Helin) This book describe the four animals, Eagle, Wolf, Bear and Buffalo, and the gifts or teachings that are offered to us.  The children look to the East to thank the Eagle for the teachings of truth or honesty; when they face the South, they greet the Wolf and are thankful for the gifts of being brave and having courage.  The children look to the West to thank the bear who Bear teaches about love; and they face the North to thank for the Buffalo for the gift of being able to listen to others.  

Explore the Animals:  Northwest Coast First Nations and Native Art. FullSizeRender-9 This book has beautiful black and white drawings for the children to colour and a brief explanation of the animals.

FullSizeRender-8Black Bears (Tammy Gagne)  In keeping with learning about many types of bears, our children began with this book.

As the children are learning about the First Nation’s people, they are learning about the similarities and differences between our cultures.  In this way, they can develop an appreciation of themselves and others as individuals, but also how we all work and live together in the broader community.