One of the things that most inspires me about schools in Reggio Emilia is the connectivity they have to the families and the communities they serve. Something I am striving for this year is a stronger link between home and school. Some of the questions I have been pondering are: How do I make my students and their parents feel welcome in our learning space? How do I develop a learning partnership with my students’ families? How can I tap into the rich knowledge, skills, and experiences each family possesses?
This is a picture of our classroom family wall – a dedicated spot in the room that holds photographs of the children and their families (and pictures of my family and our ECE’s family too!). As the photos have been brought in we have taken time each day during our sharing circle for the children to introduce and talk about their families. We’ve learned about brothers and sisters, moms and dads, grandmas, papas, opas, and bubbis (and even a few family pets!). Throughout our discussions, we’ve encouraged the children to think about what makes their families special. After sharing, I also photocopy each photo and use it for an interactive writing activity with each student which gets posted on our author’s wall. The children have been so excited to take turns sharing their families with us and can often be found gazing at the family photographs on our family wall during centre time.
Another way I am trying to connect with parents this year is by sending out a weekly email which highlights some of the ideas/concepts/discussions that occurred in our class during the week. The email includes photographs which demonstrate the children’s thinking and learning. The hope is that some of the discussions we are having at school will be carried on at home.
What are some ways you celebrate your students’ families and involve parents in your program?
It was a frosty 10 degrees on Monday morning and our schedule for the day included time in the outdoor classroom first period. I was a bit worried that the children would not be enthused about spending time in the chilly yard. For today’s lesson, I put together a special bin of magnifying glasses, mini clipboards, sticky notes and paper, crayons, and our class iPad. Before heading outside, I informed the children that today I had a question for them: “What do you notice in our Outdoor Classroom?” I showed them our special bin of tools for helping them with their noticing. Hands shot up when I asked who might require a magnifying glass. I distributed the materials to the students and we headed outdoors. (*I should mention that I only had about 6 magnifying glasses and 4 clipboards. I had enough paper and crayons for the whole class. In my experience, limiting materials encourages turn taking and sharing).
Any worries I had about the children not being excited to be outdoors disappeared the minute we got outside. The children spread out all over the yard, crouching under bushes, turning over logs, and digging in the soil. Immediately they started recording their thinking and noticing on sticky notes and paper. Some children used the sticky notes to label what they found – placing them on top of flowers and rocks and mushrooms.
When the period was done, we gathered up our materials and headed inside for a sharing circle. Once again I reiterated today’s question: “What did you notice in the Outdoor Classroom?” Seeing as it is only the beginning of the year, I was surprised by the children’s ability to listen to each other’s findings and ask questions. They were truly interested to see and hear about what their classmates discovered. The discussion gradually began to focus on a handful of worms that a group of boys had collected and brought inside with them. We wrapped up our sharing time by deciding as a class that our worms needed further investigation at our classroom Science and Nature Centre. Stay tuned for the interesting discoveries that emerged from our extended worm exploration indoors!
Does your school have an area for outdoor exploration? How do you use the outdoor environment to enhance your Kindergarten program?
Our classroom Art Studio – the hub of our classroom.
The Science and Nature Centre. Currently stocked with beach related natural materials from my summer adventures. A lot of students have been inspired to share their own summer beach experiences while visiting this centre.
The Teacher Centre. Where our students try their hand at playing teacher. Also a cozy spot to curl up with a book.
Buddha Boards! A magical place to creatively experiment with water.
Math materials have been chosen purposely to encourage counting and sorting.
Natural materials appear in the math centre too. The numbered blocks are coasters I found at Winners!
Math Centre. Labeled bins contain building materials for our Math Science Investigations building program.
The Drama/House Centre. An important centre at the beginning of the year. The familiar homey objects here help to create a cozy atmosphere in the classroom.
The Sand Centre. We chose to put out familiar sand tools and continue our extension of summer experiences with sand castle molds. All the materials are placed on a mat so children know where to put them when they are finished.
The Water Centre. I opted for a large variety of materials here – scoops, cups of various shapes and sizes, squirters and pumps as well as whimsical objects like boats and rubber duckies.
*Update: I get a lot of requests for wide-angle shots of my classroom which show what it looks like mid-year (after the children’s learning has taken over!). Here are a few pictures from the middle of the year so you can get a feel for the actual set up and space in our room: