Saying Goodbye to Tom

About a month and a half ago I was informed by my sponsor teacher that Tom was officially accepted into Nuko, a school to help students who need more one on one time to increase their success rate. When my sponsor teacher was informed he was filled with joy that Tom would now have an opportunity to grow in an environment that fits his needs. Although there was joy for Tom’s future there was also many feelings of sadness. Tom’s departure also meant that the class’s spark of energy would be leaving within the next week.

Once I found out that Tom was leaving I ensured that I made it into the classroom to have the opportunity to interact with Tom a few more times. On arrival to the classroom I could instantly tell that Tom was off, he was upset, he was not himself. I approached him and asked him how his day was going and he responded with a simple “Meh, I’ve had better days” and completed the interaction with a shoulder shrug. This was NOT like Tom at all, the Tom I knew always had a spark in his eyes ready to make someone laugh. After this interaction Tom went outside for recess and interacted with his peers.

Once back inside a duty came in and told us the sight she had seen during recess. Tom had gone around to all of his friends he had made at this school since kindergarten and said his farewells and hugged his friends that gave him permission (which was rare for him to ask permission). Tom had shown that this change in his life was already helping him grow.

It was now time for the class to go to technology and my sponsor teacher pulled him aside and asked him to speak to us for a moment. As Tom came over to the desk he was calm again which was unlike him for the early afternoon. We asked Tom how he was feeling and he became even more quiet, which lead him to say that he was scared. He was scared to move schools, to loose friendships, and to not be as successful as everyone expected him to become. Tom knew the reasoning behind moving schools and he made us aware that he knew. This conversation turned into tears but quickly was brought back to a smile when success stories were shared with Tom of other students who had moved there before. We shared pictures and discussed him coming back to visit the classroom.

When leaving Tom it was bittersweet because he had brought me anxiety and worry within my teaching but turned out to be a student who will forever stay with me and my career as a teacher.

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Testing it Out

During my last practicum I was able to try some new things in the classroom with my students. I decided to try a Knowledge Building Circle with my class. This was new for me to teach, and new for my students to experience. This strategy is taken from the resource “Natural Curiosity”.

After speaking with my sponsor teacher she I both knew that the class would be a great class to try this with. They are so eager to learn and try new things. To give some background information, normally the class has quiet time during this block.

Although the class is adaptable it was still going to be a transition for the class to switch their daily routine. I knew that introducing something new to them would take a couple of days. I have done a KBC before as a participant in one of my own classes and also at a workshop. My plan was to first introduce what it was, create our own definition on what we knew the words meant. Below is the draft that we came up with as a class.

The anchor chart was put up each time we had our Knowledge Building Circle, so that students could look back at it.

We participated in a Knowledge Building Circle each day for the two weeks. The first day with this new strategy went surprisingly well. Students were interested and were catching on to the point of the circle.

By the end of the two weeks students were starting to use the phrase “I disagree because.” This was a huge step for the class to share their ideas and to support it. Not only did the class start to use language that was knew to them, that supported each others learning but they did so in a respectful way. There definitely was some helpful reminders of what it sounded like to respectfully disagree but over all students were able to communicate in an effective way.

Students not only began to develop new phrases to use during discussion but also new behaviours that supported an equal playing field. The purpose of a KBC is to eliminate hierarchy through different phrases, and actions. All of these things aren’t done at one time of course because it would be very overwhelming.

What I found most effective in introducing different aspects to the circle was to introduce ones that you could see naturally arising from the discussions students were having. By the end of the week students were placing their hand inside the circle rather than putting their hand up. Students waiting till their peers were finished speaking before they place their hand inside the circle.

To read more about what a Knowledge Building Circle is check out the book “Natural Curiosity.”

I should also mention that this was done with a grade 1/2 class. I was so very proud of them and the conversations that they were conducting on their own. As the teacher I was just there to guide and support when needed. By the end of the week two weeks they were leading their own KBC circle, and coming up with their own topics and questions!



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Nature Kindergarten in Sooke

This is a Ted Talk I watched about how a Nature Kindergarten program was set up in Sooke. Frances Krusekopf spoke about how she noticed children playing outdoors is getting less and less common these days in order to avoid discomfort and danger and because children are often distracted by electronics. However, playing outdoors offers much more space and possibilities. She spent four months in Germany where her son attended a Forest Kindergarten program, something that is traditional for the country. She was inspired by the program and wanted to bring something similar to BC. With the help of other collaborators she set up a program in Sooke at a school next to a forest and a lagoon, where the kindergarten students spend two and a half hours outside every morning. The students had gains in four areas compared to regular kindergarten programs. These areas were: locomotor skills, assertiveness, cooperation and self-control. There are now 20 similar program all over BC.

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Quote that Spoke to Me

“Imagine a child playing in a small patch of woods, where the trees might be hiding places, the foundation for a fort or branches to jump and swing. The tall grade in the understory might be a bed, a hiding spot or a farmer’s field. Now compare the imaginative possibilities this child has with a slide or swing.”

-Deanna Erickson and Julie Athman Ernst, NACC 2011

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Benefits of Outdoor Experiences

I have been skimming through the book, “Outside Our Window: Developing a Primary Nature Program” by Liz McCaw (an educator in Nanaimo who teaches a Nature Kindergarten program. Although taking your students outside can seems overwhelming, with all the behaviour, safety, weather, and planning considerations to be made, Liz explains many of the benefits that she has found for her students by taking them outside everyday. Her students learn about the environment through an interactive, play-based approach which hopefully plants a love a nature in them, leading to them becoming stewards of the environment in the future.

Other benefits include children learning to take risks, overcome fears, develop persistence, problem solving, regulate emotions, investigate, wonder and use their imaginations, as well as getting a lot of opportunity to play. The BC Ministry of Education recommends at least two hours of free play everyday for Kindergarten students as it is critical for a child’s development and learning. They learn to cooperate, take turns, listen actively and play by the rules and develop executive functioning skills.

Taking students outside benefits their physical development, oral language, social emotional development, and creativity.

In addition to the benefits of outdoor play, Liz also discusses many practical ways to bring classroom content outside. To me, it’s easy to see ways to bring math, science and art outside but not as obvious of how I would bring literacy and Language Arts, so that is why that is the focus of my inquiry.

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