Category Archives: Play

Why Play?

As a Kindergarten teacher I have read and been involved with lots of professional opportunities about why play matters and why it is important.  Play really gives us all an opportunity to engage in what we are curious about with others.  Through our play we are able to have fun, engage in conversation with others and enrich our thinking because we are thinking deeply about what is important.

So why is this important?

Children are naturally curious and want to learn.  They see patterns and make connections easily with their surroundings. I have noticed how my students draw from their own personal experiences and then add new knowledge/ experiences to help them make sense of an idea. This matters because children are engaged with what they want to know.  They learn by doing and having conversations about their ideas.  This is where children think critically and solve problems.

Play builds confidence and self esteem.  It offers all children an opportunity to pursue their ideas.  This matters because when we are curious, we work hard to find out about our idea.  Through their curiosity children begin to develop their own creativity because they are invested in their ideas. This is learning.

In Kindergarten we have play throughout the day.  Play can look and sound differently on any given day in Kindergarten.  One of the many reasons why I enjoy being in Kindergarten.

Recently we created Machu Picchu as a collaborative experience because we are exploring South America.  My students did an amazing job exploring the history behind this amazing place as well as learning about why it was created and who lived there.  After we completed the construction of Machu Picchu. My students began playing around it.  Some of my students created special fire engines and machines that could be used to reach a fire as well as provide water for the people who lived there.  As I watched and listened one afternoon I heard so much rich language and also what my students had learned and how they were applying it to their play.

Some of the conversation was about “how to” make wheels that would work so the fire truck could get to the mountain to help the people.  They were collaborating about what ways they could get water to people who were unable to get their own as well as talking about making sure to get all the plants planted and watered before the sun went away.  Just with these few ideas is an amazing amount of knowledge about what we learned, but also about “how to” create opportunities to make a difference with the tools/toys we had available in Kindergarten.

We are also exploring Spanish as well.  By using GoogleHangout as a platform we are connecting with middle school students who are teaching us some Spanish words.  We created a wall for our new vocabulary.  My students use this throughout the day as well.  When exploring Machu Picchu one of my students was counting, in Spanish the steps up the stairs. Again, this was authentic and came from the children.  I am thinking a lot about the value of play and how important it is that we give our students opportunities to play with a variety of materials in a variety of ways.

Thinking about next year and how will I continue to offer rich opportunities for play.  Thinking also about when I am engaged in the things I enjoy most, I am happy and learning lots…..

Bee Bots @vermontkkids123

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A Passion

One of my passions is knitting.  Knitting is an opportunity for me to create, design and think critically about patterns and “how to” make things I have never created.  Knitting is always new learning for me and it also provides a great sense of reflection and rejuvenation as well. When I knit I am often challenged by the patterns and code that I have to figure out.  I have been thinking a lot about how knitting and coding connect and also why it is important to explore code with our students.

This year I have been exploring coding using Kodable and Bee Bots.  Both of these explorations have revealed some amazing insights into the why behind coding.  When my students use Bee Bots they are collaborating and having face to face conversations about what they are trying to get their bees to do.  In a very authentic way they are beginning to create learning experiences with a bee that they design and create. The excitement around these bright yellow bees is contagious and all of my students are willing to take risks when engaged with creating their own code for their bee.

Why is this important?

Coding challenges our thinking.  It provides all of us to think deeply about an idea, a code and how is it created.  When I am challenged with my knitting I engage deeply with the challenge presented because I am passionate about what I want to create.  Students are naturally curious and excited about learning and creating what they explore.  Coding is an easy and fun way for this to happen.

Coding provides opportunities for even young children to use oral language to have conversations about what they are doing.  This is an important part of development for children as they become independent and passionate readers.  Through opportunities to interact and solve problems even our youngest learners find ways to create new ideas that inspire further exploration.  One day while we were reading our feed on Twitter we noticed another Kindergarten class in Hawaii using a Bee Bot to draw with colors.  My students were excited to try this.  While we were exploring this idea some of my students decided to put paper on the floor and build a maze using a variety of blocks.  They were trying to get the Bee Bots to travel through the maze.  This exploration began from an idea that originated outside of our walls.  We tried the idea and then it inspired my students to go further in their own thinking.  Here is what I saw and what I listened to; So much rich vocabulary and conversation. “We are like programming, we programed our bees, let’s figure out how to make them turn and go right, Hey Mrs. D. we are using math language when we do this, We are thinking mathematically and so much more.”

Later I begin to think about other opportunities to offer in regards to coding.  During math time Bee Bots is now a station with task cards I created for the children to use with the mats we have.  I have a former student who is now in 2nd grade who comes to Kindergarten weekly to facilitate this station.  Using Paint as a way to create our own Bee Bots offers my students another opportunity to create and design what they understand, why also strengthening their computer skills.

So many possibilities in regards to learning to code.  Little did I know that I have been coding for a very long time……..

A New Year Full of Hope

Today begins a new year, a new start, new opportunities and possibilities for the future. I have been thinking a lot about the importance of being resilient and having hope.  I am looking forward to all of the new learning that awaits and is going to happen through my willingness to be transparent, share and ask questions.

I think about the importance of how we all need to have hope, hope for our students and the world.  Through our daily interactions with parents and students my message will be clear, a message of hope.  So when a student has challenges, I will be persistent and vigilant in the belief that their is hope, hope to learn and grow through a variety of authentic and meaningful learning experiences that support my students ideas and interests.  I feel that when we are successful, we develop confidence and the ability to believe in ourselves.

This can be contagious in Kindergarten!  This is where passion develops and an excitement to take risks and try new things that interest us appears. Having hope and being hopeful offers parents an opportunity to be engaged and gives them opportunities to engage in their child’s gifts.  We all need hope and someone to believe in us and our potential and ability to be brilliant at what we choose to do, our passions and interests.

Being a Kindergarten teacher is really a wonderful gift and privilege that I am grateful for. The culture of Kindergarten is full of hope and potential.  My students have many opportunities throughout the day to have conversations around what they are discovering, playing with and learning through their authentic hands on experiences.  My students engage in phrases like;”You can do it!, Nice job, Let me help you!” These are the kinds of conversations that give us, our students and the families we work with hope, hope to be successful.

A new year, a new year of discovery, inspiration and new learning awaits.  I look forward to what is discovered by students and others that I connect and engage with.  Here is to a brand new year!  I am not wasting a minute of it!  Cheers!

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Connecting As An Educator: What it looks and sounds like @kkidsinvt

This past week was an amazing one in Kindergarten!  I am so excited and thrilled at how my students, their parents and others are reaching out to connect, share and use technology in meaningful ways that capture what we are learning.  This is happening in a variety of ways.

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Last week we visited the food shelf in our community and dropped off food that we had collected.  My students reminded me that we needed to blog about our trip because others would be interested in how we made a difference.  When I asked; “How will they know?” My students shared that they see the triangles blinking on our map of the world on our class blog and that is how they know.  Wonderful!  The gadget on our class blog gives us feedback about where in the world people are from who are interested in Kindergarten Life.

I had a wonderful opportunity on Friday where I was invited to be a part of a class  discussion at Clemson University in South Carolina, facilitated by Ryan D. Visser, Ph.D.  So during my lunch time I was able to give an overview of how and why I use technology with my students, families and myself.  I was also able to share about what I am seeing in terms of engagement and how my students are interacting with technology and the positive impact it is having on their learning.  This was a great way for me to connect with others and have a meaningful conversation via Skype.  Ryan and I connected on twitter.

I needed to check in with a parent and thought of this while at my computer.  I noticed she was online(thanks to Skype) So I was able to call and have a quick conversation.  This was easy and seamless because Skype is part of my classroom culture.  We started using Skype on the 1st day of Kindergarten.  My point here is that once you begin to use technological tools in authentic ways that enhance connection, reflection and transparency, you begin to transform and your learning is open to others and others will begin to connect and collaborate through your learning.

Twitter is on all day in my classroom and my students are great about sharing what they want to tweet. Social media is used and part of my classroom culture because we use it to reflect, share and connect what we are learning and experiencing.  Last week we were beginning to read the live feed from others that we follow and my students began asking how do we tell them we are doing that too.

We are also part of a Flat Classroom project and we created a padlet about what the view is like from outside our window.  My students reminded me to tweet this and email this to their parents so that others can post their window view. This is another easy way to connect and share what you are learning.  I got this idea because another teacher from Ma. contacted via Skype over the weekend and asked me to post on her padlet.  We connected through Skype play last year.  Again connections are everywhere!  They are active and inactive, but they are always connections.

One of my students parents called us during snack time via Skype to say hello and ask about our day.  This is a part of our culture, not a disruption.  My students are excited to have conversations with others about what we are doing in Kindergarten.  Through authentic opportunities to engage, we connect and get inspired because we are wondering what is next.

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Try twitter, Skype, blogging, create a padlet and connect. Showcase something you are doing with your students.  For me it is always about the learning, but most importantly about how I am going to share my story with others.  Through sharing we get inspired, make connections and gain insight about learning.

I want my students and their families to feel a part of Kindergartenlife.  Learning is fluid, ongoing and exciting.  Communication is constant and helps build strong relationships which impacts learning in endless, positive ways.

Creating, Designing and Reflecting On An Authentic Learning Opportunity Through Play

Kindergarten is a special place where learning opportunities seem to appear from the simplest, yet important lessons we, as teachers can help to foster.  Young children really engage in lots of higher level thinking and collaborate when the purpose is clear and the experience is meaningful.

Yesterday I walked my class over to the food shelf in our community where we dropped off a wagon full of food to be shared with families in need.  This was our second trip this year. Our presenter, Reggie spoke to the children as we walked through the 3 rooms where food was kept and distributed.  The children immediately noticed the shelving and that labels were used to organize the food.  A few children responded by making a “c” with their hand showing that they made a connection and then shared their connection out loud.  Some of the comments were,”Mrs. D the food shelf labels are like the ones we do in Kindergarten”,”their labels are big”,we use labels for our scientific drawings too”‘.  As Reggie continued to talk the children began recognizing other things at the food shelf that they could connect too.  This is a great example of the learning opportunities that unfold and appear when young children connect with their environment. It is through this connection where learning has meaning and then children can develop a deeper understanding.

In my mind I was flashing back on the writer’s workshop model that I use in Kindergarten.  During our writing sessions together the children are introduced to an idea, craft and or big writing idea.  Afterwards we practice using our newly learned knowledge.  The application piece is the most important!  The idea of labeling will stick with the children, as they saw the application and some of the features are the same which can even be more powerful.  By features I mean large letters, letter formation, words match the picture/item they are representing.

The other idea I was thinking about was all the time we spend together in Kindergarten sharing, collaborating and designing learning opportunities that we can relate too and want to know about.  The morning meeting is a daily opportunity to introduce these ideas as well as the idea of empathy.  In our visit to the food shelf the children asked;” Can anyone could come to the food shelf and get food.  How do mommies and daddies know the food shelf is here?, Can we take pictures and put on our blog?”

This displays how children naturally become sensitive, caring and want to help others out who need help.  This field trip displayed lots of big teaching ideas I have worked on throughout Kindergarten and how easily these ideas can come together in a place where you can see, hear and touch how they make a difference for others.

On our walk back to Kindergarten the children talked about what they saw and heard.  One of my students remembered seeing a crate of books also.  The books were donated so families could take and read to their children.  By the time we returned to Kindergarten the children ate their snacks and then slowly as exploration time started I noticed children beginning to create and design a food shelf!  As I watched this evolve I observed the children creating shelves for food, stacking baskets to create the shelving that they saw at the food shelf.  Later the food started to arrive in bags, arms and baskets.  The children seemed to work together in a flurry of constant movement and dialogue without any prompting or help from me.

Life in Kindergarten is really exciting and engaging.  I love how willing young children are to try new things and how excited they get when they explore a new idea and/or experience.  Play is such an important part of a young child’s day and development.  I value the time spent challenging children to push themselves in ways that they are genuinely attracted to when inspired by an idea.  The implications of the endless opportunities that can evolve through play are available to us, if we just open our eyes to the possibilities that exist.  The technologies available give children an opportunity to reflect and listen to themselves create and design play situations that display true meaning of their understanding of what they experience.  The challenge as a teacher is to continue to find ways daily for this type of sophisticated play to emerge.