So we’re back for week three, and trying a different approach. Kindergarten in Ontario is “play-based in a culture of inquiry”, and I am going to do my best to support this. If you’ve been reading my blog you will know that I am an experienced secondary school teacher and administrator who has most recently been teaching at the university level, so this is not within my comfort zone. However, I did go to Kindergarten myself (and, you know, this is what makes everyone an expert in education), and I successfully raised two children of my own. I’m hoping that this will give me some of the resources I need!
In preparation, I downloaded the curriculum document and began to deconstruct it, to make sense of the policy that C’s teachers are working with. As a proponent of backward-design, or Understanding by Design, I began with the curriculum expectations, and discovered that the program has 31 overall expectations, and 126 more specific expectations. While policy indicates that only overall expectations are evaluated, having 157 articulations of criteria is overwhelming!
The backward design process begins with expectations, considers what might be evidence that the expectations have been met, invites creation of essential questions, and then develops instruction to support this learning. So, over the next couple of weeks I will be examining expectations, considering how C might demonstrate them, and then selecting from the class resources, internet sources, and my own experiences, to support his learning. Each day we will join the class in the morning, and stay as long as he is able. We’ll make use of the Bitmoji classroom, ensuring that we look at each suggestion, and then modifying them to fit. I will attempt some “pedagogical documentation”, beginning with a printed paper list of expectations, and then hopefully figuring out a better technological solution.
Our first challenge of the day was managing the transition to the Chromebook, and preparing for attendance. C asked me to cut letters for him to glue to a piece of paper, and then was immediately upset that I created his full name; he only wanted his first name. Then, because he finished this five minutes before the Google Meet link appeared, we went into the Bitmoji classroom to explore. He chose a link to an Arkansas Zoo presentation that was almost 12 minutes long. Needless to say we battled over “pausing” this, and I chose to allow him to continue to view, making C “late” for class.
I know that the Education Act requires that teachers be in their classrooms 15 minutes before the start of the school day, so this allows some flexibility, and a gentler transition into the work of the day. However, that doesn’t seem to be required in our new online setting, and the transitions are much more abrupt. In the 15 minutes before class, in my experience, the room is prepared, music might be playing, and teachers can ensure that they are ready. Since we arrived eight minutes late to the class, we could hear them beginning the land acknowledgement, before our connection dropped.
Back into the Google Meet, using a different internet connection, we arrived in time for the national anthem. Because of the need to stand still, we turned the camera off. This was followed by their physical education session, beginning with the warmup. C was being a T-rex, and so was unwilling to follow along. It would seem that we missed attendance, but his presence was acknowledged verbally. The second activity was “Zookeeper”, where the teacher held up a picture of an animal to the camera, the students were moving like the animal, and then the teacher tried to guess which animal the kids could see. C said he hadn’t learned how to be a bear yet. The second was penguin, and C was able to “waddle” and the teacher guessed almost immediately. Third came a seal, and this was difficult both for the children and the teacher! The giraffe invited “tall necks”, and then the panda generated an “eating bamboo”.
C then decided he was too hot, and he had to go upstairs where it was cooler. He signed out of the Google Classroom, having been there for only 15 minutes, and headed up the stairs. While there he saw my sewing machine, and asked we could sew. This turned into a literacy and numeracy activity, since the sewing machine has codes to sew shapes and letters, and he was able to identify the letters of his name and enter the code into the machine, then press the pedal to have the machine sew each letter in turn. The code for A was 11, so he correctly read and keyed two-digit numbers up to 37, and spelled his name from memory.
A bit of laundry had him reading “Power” and “Start”, and then he decided that going outside would be a good solution for the mud in his monster truck’s wheels. So, we headed out into the snow. My new snowshoes worked perfectly, and I was able to pull C on a sled through the fields to say “hello” to neighbours. We discussed how different each of the three homes we passed looked, from how they had appeared in the summer. We noticed tracks, and considered who might have made them. And then we headed back for a slide down the hill and then lunch. (The monster truck was accompanied on the trip by his skid-steer and a windshield scraper, which made a great ice axe.)
Lunch included “Abby Hatcher” on his tablet while he ate. TVOkids lists this program as kindergarten, and it certainly engages C! Nickelodeon says that the program supports “problem solving, being a good friend, and persistence”. Glad to see Overall Expectation: “4. demonstrate an ability to use problem-solving skills in a variety of contexts, including social contexts” and “23. use problem-solving strategies, on their own and with others, when experimenting with the skills, materials, processes, and techniques used in drama, dance, music, and visual arts”, among others. Abby certainly supports Specific Expectation: “3.3 demonstrate an awareness of ways of making and keeping friends”. Although this is viewing, not doing, there is modelling of Specific Expectation: “7.2 demonstrate persistence while engaged in activities that require the use of both large and small muscles (e.g., tossing and catching beanbags, skipping, lacing, drawing).” There is certainly a great deal of creative play that is inspired by C’s viewing of this program, including his singing of the theme song!
Among his afternoon activities was a visit to my desk (while I was in the other room) where he found my Cricut paper cutter (which he has seen me use, and shouldn’t have accessed without permission….) and offcuts of cardstock. He also asked for post-its, which I gave to him to use to create labels. Instead of making labels he drew lines, and then cut along the lines, to create four squares out of each larger post-it note. He cut triangles off the corners of a rectangle, and began gluing pieces together. When he needed eyes, nose, and mouth, he drew these on a post-it, and then came to me to ask for assistance to cut them out. The tail required a larger piece of paper, but again he drew and I cut. You can see the results at the top of this post.
When looking back on the day, I am pleased to see that he demonstrated a lot of expectation 7.2, with persistence throughout. Never once did he give up, even when arguing this morning for “gummies” for breakfast!
His impromptu artwork certainly addressed “31.3 explore different elements of design (e.g., colour, line, shape, texture, form) in visual arts”, and “8.4 demonstrate control of small muscles (e.g., use a functional grip when writing) while working in a variety of learning areas (e.g., sand table, water table, visual arts area) and when using a variety of materials or equipment (e.g., using salt trays, stringing beads, painting with paintbrushes, drawing, cutting paper, using a keyboard, using bug viewers, using a mouse, writing with a crayon or pencil)”. But I guess I am going to have to order some safe scissors, for him to continue on this creative path.
Our school day ended by making beds, where C chose to be under the fitted sheet, rather than on top. He enjoyed being “trapped”, and how everything looked red from within his burgundy tent.
We had a visit in the afternoon from C’s great-aunt, whose own grandchildren are now almost all fully grown. Our conversation connected what we were seeing with our own rather narrow experiences at the same age. We identified skills and knowledge far beyond that which we had at age four, and expressed our wonder at how much C knows.
So, I will continue our “follow the child” approach, and connect what I see back to what we are “supposed to be doing” in the curriculum
Want to bet that we hit most of the curriculum expectations without a “plan”?