The Curious Kindergarten is a blog written by me, Alexis McDonell. I have my degree in Early Childhood Education from Ryerson University and a B.Ed from OISE. I have been teaching Kindergarten in Toronto for over 10 years (that number still surprises me!). For the past 5 years, I have been implementing a full-day kindergarten program in the TDSB. As a trained ECE, I have always been interested in and inspired by the philosophy of education in Reggio Emilia, Italy. When I started my journey in full-day I decided to implement some Reggio approaches to learning in my classroom. Our learning is a work in progress and I am always looking for ways to improve. Part of the reason I started this blog is that I believe in the importance of self-reflection. I learn so much more about the children and about myself through the process of documenting our learning online. In addition to this blog, I also post daily photos from our classroom on Instagram (@thecuriouskindergarten) and maintain a page on Facebook (The Curious Kindergarten). I hope that you will find some inspiration here. If you have any comments or questions, please do not hesitate to contact me!
I have really enjoyed your blog. Your ideas and provocations are a breath of fresh air. I have been wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing your lesson plan format. I am trying to revamp a traditional format that reflects a more transdiciplinary way of teaching and was wondering how you go about this. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!
Thanks for the comment! I’m happy to hear that you’ve found some inspirations here!
In terms of lesson planning, I take a balanced approach in that some lessons are driven by me and what I would like to see the children learn and others are driven by my observations of the children’s interests. Each week my ECE partner and I discuss what we noticed from the children and build out our centres and activities from there. My planning template is simply a list of each centre in the classroom. We record what the activity will be, what materials we need to set it up, and what curriculum areas we are targeting and/or assessing. I then think about what I need to discuss with the children during our focused instruction time to set them up for success at the centres we have created. We have a group sharing and reflection time everyday after our centre time. This is when we discover more about what the children were learning and wondering as they worked at the centres. We often adjust centres as a result of those conversations and I tweak my mini lessons from there. If you have any questions, let me know! I hope this is helpful in some way.
That was helpful! Thank you for your quick and thoughtful pesponse.
I am a fellow Kindergarten teacher on the Reggio journey. I have been teaching “reggio style” for about a year now but struggle with my “environment”. (Small space, no budget) I loved the look of your room and would love to see some wide angle shots of the whole set up.
I notice your tables are designated for art or science but are there any tables for the students to go to during work times? Thanks
Hi Anna Maria!
Thanks for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment. I’ve been thinking of taking some wide shots for a while now, but haven’t gotten around to it. Hopefully before the end of the year I will be able to get some up on the site.
We also have a small space and I found that sourcing some small furniture really helped. The biggest score I found was a bunch of piano benches my school had in storage which we have re-purposed as small inquiry tables (our buddha board centre is on these tables!). You have to be a bit of a scavenger these days, what with the limited budgets we have to work with.
In theory, the centres are designated as “science” or “art” or “Writing” areas, but all of our tables are considered multi-purpose. If I need work space for the children for another reason (e.g., writer’s workshop, which is a part of our program) then we simply clear the tables of our provocations to make space. In my room this year I do not have enough table space for all my students to work at at the same time, but we make due with mats and clipboards on the carpet area for small groups as well. We have to be flexible with what we have.
Hope this helps!
Sent from FirstClass with my iPhone
“The Curious Kindergarten” writes: > > > msmcdonell commented: “Hi Anna Maria!Thanks for visiting my blog and >taking the time to comment. I’ve been thinking of taking some wide shots >for a while now, but haven’t gotten around to it. Hopefully before the >end of the year I will be able to get some up on the site. We ” > >
I just discovered your blog today and it is BEAUTIFUL! Authentic, meaningful and purposeful. I’ll be following your posts. Smiles, Jayne
ABCs of Reading
I really enjoy your blog and will use it as inspiration for my new full-day kindergarten classroom. I was wondering if you could post some notes you have taken along with a pic/dialogue you had in order to arrive at your notes. I think I can create many ideas but not always sure what to “look for”.
Hi Corena! Thanks for the comment! Maybe check out my post about our Colours of Fall Inquiry (you can read it here: https://thecuriouskindergarten.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/the-colours-of-fall-inquiry/ ). In that post I copied a snapshot of a conversation our class had about identifying and sorting colours. As we talked, I was furiously making notes about what the children were saying and debating about. In that particular situation it was obvious to me what ideas/concepts the children needed further opportunities to explore. Other times, it might take me a second read of my notes or a discussion with my teaching partner about what the children were doing to be able to analyze and identify where we should go next. I would just encourage you to document as much as you can! I take notes, pictures, and have daily reflection time; all of which help me keep track of where the children are at and inspire me to come up with new ways to guide their learning further. Hope that helps!
I have really enjoyed reading your blog. I will be teaching kindergarten in the fall. I am from Whitby Ontario. I was wondering if you would be willing to share your day and year plans? I love your Reggio Emilia approach. Thank you so much. Thank you for inspiring other educators.
Thanks for visiting my blog! I tend not to do “long range plans” for the year, as I find it too challenging in an emergent-based approach. That being said, I always start off the year with a loose plan of “Big Ideas” I want to tackle in the first term. Then, I change and modify as I go. I plan on posting some of these big ideas for Term 1 on the blog soon. I hope you’ll come back and take a look! I hope you have a great year in FDK!
This would be very helpful:-)
I just came across your blog and love it. I teach half day kinder in Manitoba and am interested in implementing some Reggio ideas. I am wondering what books/websites/blogs did you use as inspiration to get started?
can is “subscribe to your site? do you send out newsletters or info?
Yes, you can subscribe to my blog. If you do, you’ll get an email every time I add something to the site. Thanks for visiting!
I am an Early Childhood Art teacher in the UK and I too love Reggio. I love your map of the heart. I am making a map with my kindergarten classes basedon our immediate surroundings.
I LOVE LOVE your blog !!!! i am a kindy teacher in Australia, this is my first yr teaching too (very overwhelming!!!!) i am really interested in inquiry learning in kindy, we are looking at doing some around a vegie garden can u give my any advice tips ? or resources/blog anything i could get some help with this ?
I am in love with what you are doing! Your space is so welcoming and calm, and teeming with inspiration! I teach in the US with 28 kindergarten students (entrance age 4) by myself with ‘common core’ curriculum, which is very prescribed and not remotely child-centered. I still try to make my classroom as developmentally appropriate as possible and allow the children some exploration time – even though 15-20 min a day is not nearly enough… Thank you for sharing, it is very encouraging :).
Your blog is a source of information, inspiration and encouragement. I too teach FDK in Toronto and am making the shift away from monthly thematic planning and towards inquiry based learning. I have soooo many questions – could you email me separately to discuss a possible classroom visit?
Hi Netty! Thank you so much! I am currently on maternity leave, so unfortunately I have no classroom to visit this year. I can definitely answer some of your questions by email. Just send me a note with your questions!
I love your blog! There are so many helpful tips and amazing inquiry activities and lesson plans!
I am a first year Master of Teaching student at OISE and I am starting my placement in an FDK class very soon. My associate teacher has invited me to create different inquiry-based learning centres- she is really open to any ideas I want to try. Do you have any ideas for good themes that I can base my centres on?
I would love to hear your input. There are so many great ideas online, so I am a little overwhelmed.
I have been searching for a site to give me direction! Thank you so much! I am making a shift in my teaching and your site has given me guidance. How is your room set up? Do you have a place where all kids can sit down and work all t once, or are your tabes used for your amazing centers?
Hi Erin! Thank you! I have a small room so the tables have to serve multiple purposes. There are designated centres (art, science & nature, writing, math, etc.) which we set up with activities and provocations. I also do writers workshop daily, so we clear the tables and set up for writing right after lunch. I don’t have enough tables for all my students to sit down at once, so I often have a small group working on the carpet with clipboards when the class is having writing time. Although it sounds onerous to have to switch things back and forth throughout the day it really doesn’t take too much time. We often have a few children help with the responsibility. You can see a sample of my classroom set up here: https://thecuriouskindergarten.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/a-new-year-a-new-classroom/
I have just discovered your blog. Exactly what I have been looking for. I love your ideas and your inquiry projects! How do you manage all of your documentation. I have taken pictures like you of my children working in progress and throughout. I am trying to find a meaningful way to use the documentation I collect to further the inquiry process and make it more meaningful for my students. Any suggestions?
Hi…I also like your blog and it gave me lots of insights on teaching young learners. I was wondering if you do a sort of whole class teaching explaining the day´s lesson and then have the children work on the centers reinforcing concepts and getting children´s questions/answers on the topic previously explained. Or, you just have the kids explore the materials at the centers and document their inquires and do a small group teaching. I´d like to know your thoughts on that. Thanks a lot!
I am in ECE in the Eastern Ontario board and my teaching partner and I love your blog! This is our second year with FDK and really try to do a Reggio/Montessori type atmosphere/learning experience. Your site has given us many ideas throughout our journey with FDK so far! We just started exploring “snap cubes” and used your site to push our students thinking. We showed the students your site and posts about snap cubes and they were very interested in trying to make your students creations (from the photos). If you would like to see some of their discoveries/experiences, send me an email and I can send you some photos. Thanks for a great resource for FDK!
Wow! That is exciting news! I’m so glad to hear that my blog has been a source of inspiration for you and your teaching partner. I wish I was in the classroom this year so I could show your photos to my students (I know they would *love* to know their creations are famously inspiring other kids in Kindergarten!). I can’t figure out how to email you directly from WordPress, but I really would like to see your photos. Are you on Facebook? You can always post them there on The Curious Kindergarten Facebook page. They will probably be inspiring to other educators as well! Thank you so much for stopping by and taking time to leave me a message.
Love Love the nest inquiry. Would you mind telling me what kind of clay you used and does it need to be fired?
Hi Mary! Thanks! We used basic potters clay. It does not need to be fired (our was not) and will air dry in a couple of days. I found mine at Curry’s art supplies, but it was also available from our board stock catalogue.
I have appreciated your blog so much. Absolutely love the posts and have integrated some of your beautiful inquiry-based centers into my own kindergarten classroom as well. Thank you for the inspiration! As I move into the end of the year this is the time when I begin talking with preschool families who will be entering into kindergarten. It always makes me reflect about the year, and begin to think about the following year to come. This next year will mark my 4th year in kindergarten, I love it and the many challenges that it brings – and of course the joy too. One of the things that I have continued to think about and work on is that first day and week of kindergarten. What will the experience be for the children? How do I make the classroom feel safe and familiar – while still putting out centers that encourage students to be exploring the classroom/centers in ways that we will do so all year. I have tried covering up particular areas with fabric so that not all pieces are available at the beginning of the year – but I’m not completely satisfied with this approach. I’d love to hear what your approach is for that first day…or that first week. It’s a bit early to reflect and think about this as we approach summer but would love your thoughts. Appreciations to you!
I think about the first week a lot too…how to set up something inviting and familiar but also creative and intriguing. I always find it a challenge to have to go back to a September frame of mind after having such independent children in my midst in June!
I don’t usually close or restrict centres. Part of this is out of necessity… with a large class you need the children to be able to spread out and have lots of opportunities for engagement. However, I usually keep one sensory area open at a time (sand in the morning and water in the afternoon) until the children get the hang of how those areas work bc they tend to be the messiest!
I try and make sure everything is labelled so the children know where to put materials when they are done and the first few days I spend going over the expectations for discovery time (how to choose a centre, wait for a turn, tidy up, etc.). Materials-wise I like to put out a combination of things that I know will be familiar and accessible to the children and also some materials they have likely never seen before. Hope that helps!
What a great blog! Congrats on your new child!
I teach FDK in York Region through a Reggio Emilia lens, but always wanting to learn more!! I’m curious about a few things, as I’m constantly refining my practice, and bc our classrooms are much smaller! I understand about the use of tables, or not using them as much (self-regulated snack), but do you still have a seat for every child at lunch?
My other question is that I see from your photos that you have a clip board on your wall for every student. Do you highlight their work there weekly, etc?
Thanks so much!
Hi Debbie! Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Our students didn’t eat lunch in the classroom so I didn’t have to worry about having a seat for everyone. I had seats for about 22 kids in total.
The clipboards were used to highlight student writing. At the beginning of the year the writing was mainly tied to show and tell assignments (e.g., students brought in a picture of their family and we wrote about it together). Later in the year the clipboards were used to showcase each student’s “best work” each month from their writing folder (I do a Lucy Caulkins-type writers workshop program). Hope that helps!
So, along with Lucy Caulkins, do you a Daily 5-type writing program as well? What does your literacy/play-based block look like? Do you have a sample timetable? Thanks!
You can find a sample of my timetable from last year here:
Literacy is a major focus in our program. Along with writer’s workshop, most of our discovery centres/provocations include a literacy component. We also focus on guided reading, shared reading and word work. So not the Daily 5 Framework per se, but the same type of skills are infused within our play centres.
I am inspired by your blog. I love the ideas and thoughtfulness behind the theory and lessons. I just don’t know how to begin. I am not sure how or where to start. We have a very structured program and I am not sure how to break that mold.
Any help would be great Karen
Hi Karen! Thank you! I have a couple of suggestions. First, I’d say the most impactful change I made when I embarked on this style of program was adding in a reflection time each day after our learning time. Reflection time is really what drives our inquiry process, helps me “advertise” the kinds of learning I want the children to be engaged in, and allows for a lot of opportunity for deep thinking and student involvement in the planning process. It’s very difficult to sustain this type of program without a daily time to meet and talk about our learning. Secondly, if you aren’t quite sure where to begin I’d recommend adding in a special inquiry time at least one period a week, such as Math and Science Investigations. I describe how I go about that in detail in three different blog posts:
Thirdly, try not to think of changes to your program as “adding on” to what you currently do, but rather replacing something with a better practice. For example, my reflection time replaced what used to be traditional “calendar” time where I did the days of the week and weather, etc. So I’d recommend some examination of your schedule where you try to think about what kind of learning is important to you and where you can alter your timetable to fit that in. Hope that helps!
Thank you for the quick response. It really helped. When do you do reading groups? I meet with three reading groups a day while the children are doing literacy activities. I could replace the literacy activities with discovery time but do you still have leveled reading groups?
thanks so much for you guidance.
Hi Karen! When I worked with an ECE, we did reading groups during our group carpet times. The ECE would read with children during our first morning group time while I was teaching. I read with children after discovery while the ECE led the class in our reflection time. This year I only have 15 kids and no partner. I mainly rely on my parent volunteers to read with the children daily and I check in with them once a week. They take home a new leveled book every night as part of our borrow a book program.
Great! Thanks for the ideas!
This is my first year teaching kindergarten. Thank you for providing me with such inspiring ideas. My class is really interested in birds at the moment. Your post on May 19, 2014 mentioned that you made nests out of clay. What about the eggs? What were they made of? Thank you for your help.
Hi Carrie! The eggs were made out of paper – I bought them at the craft store and the kids painted them. 😊
I have enjoyed reading your blog this evening as I myself am and ECE from University of Guelph and Teacher from Althouse. I have been the special education teacher supporting FDK for a few years now and am taking a leap into the classroom in Sept 2016. I am trying to consolidate what I’ve already learned and my current research on classroom design, materials, inquiry, etc. Your blog has inspired me to figure out what is important to me and take it slow as it is a process to adapt as a teacher. What were your first few steps in implementing the reggio approach? I really liked your day plan and love how it balanced ontario curriculumn with the reggio fundamentals. Thank you!
I taught kindergarten for almost 20 years and loved every day of it.
I am presenting a session on science inquiry next month and would love to share your mystery object post and about your blog. Do you mind if I use a picture from the post and give you a shout out?
Thanks! April Larremore (Chalk Talk and Chalking On)
Hi April! I don’t mind at all! Thanks for the shout out!
Hello, I really appreciate your ideas. I teach kindergarten in Canada and our students are 4 and 5 years of age. IMany teacher’s are doing Daily 5. I am in a rural setting and we have alternating full day kindergarten..I find that your day is condusive to learning for this age group. I am trying to organize in my brain how to implement more of your strategies. Thank you.
I found your blog really interesting, I have been teaching children for more than 15 year but lately since I arrived to Canada I have been working with preschoolers working with the Montessori methodology, I like this approach especially when I work with extensions making some kind of projects like lap books, time lines and others. I have passion for the things that I am doing with my children. Now, the school where I am working is offering me to be a teacher working with Reggio Inspire, I am so really excited to start my classes. However, I know that I have to find the right information that helps me to implement my routine. Fortunately I have some other teacher that they are going to help me in this process.. well, I really appreciate any advise from you. Thank for sharing your amazing ideas.
Rosario in Calgary
I came across your blog incidentally whilst researching other things. I love it!!! I returned from the Reggio Emilia study tour in 2014 and am based in an Australian kindergarten.
I resonated with your reflections on the imaginary garden and the bulb growing one as I’ve implemented similar inspire based projects with my group of four year olds.
I’d love to share them with you.
I really love the way you write and put it all into context so simply yet so effectively with such meaningful content.
I write blogs for my kindergarten families on the children’s learning too. Do you find that your families read yours? How often do you share these reflections with them? I write weekly and wonder whether it’s too much for them to read each week. I imagine yours take a while to write (as everything does)… Do you get feedback from your families for a collaborative approach to the program? I find I don’t get much but aim to try ways in which this can be encouraged.
You are an inspiration and I love to read about like minded Colleagues that critically reflect on learning provocations and children’s interests and provide rich learning experiences for our children. Well done!! You’ve re ignited my flame for the new year ahead! ( 2017).
Hi Shaney! Thank you for the thoughtful comment! I’d love to read your reflections – do you have a link to your blog? In addition to directing my families to my blog I also used to write a weekly update just for them (through email) with photos of the children at work. This year I have opted to use ClassDojo for my parents. I post images with descriptions daily. Most of my parents use it daily and I am finding it is a wonderful way to involve the children’s families in our program. For example, if a new interest arises and we need materials or want to involve the children’s parents I post it on Dojo and by the next day I have feedback from the parents. It’s wonderful! I have actually been neglecting my blog lately (life has been so busy!) even though I have a list of topics I want to write about. I am hoping to catch up on some of my reflections before I go back to work on the 9th. I have found myself more regularly posting images on Instagram, though it doesn’t allow for the same kind of reflective process that bogging does. Thanks again for your feedback! All the best in 2017!
Hi Alexis, that sounds wonderful. I’ve been writing my reflections using a passcoded website through weebly for privacy reasons as I post photos of the children. I’d be happy to share it with you but I’m not continuing with the registration so it’s recently been deactivated. I’m in the process of creating a new website through another organisation for my new group of families. When I’ve set it up I’ll send you a link.
My Instagram account keeps getting hacked too! So I can’t follow you… So annoying!
This is so great! So happy to stumble on it. Is there any chance you have a copy of any notes you sent to parents asking for materials? I would love an idea on how to start with this!
Hi Julia! Thanks for the feedback! My notes are usually pretty informal (this year they are mostly brief messages I post on our ClassDojo site). However, I have a sample materials note in the post on our Beautiful Stuff project. You can find it here: https://thecuriouskindergarten.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/beautiful-stuff/
Hope that helps! -Alexis
Hi Alexis! After reading your beginning of the year post, I started reading through other posts on your blog. You have such an energy and passion for what you do! Do you ever allow visitors in the classroom? I also live in Ontario (I have just finished 3 years in the Northwest Territories as a Kindergarten teacher there). I am always looking for classrooms where I can be a “fly on the wall” for a day and see how other teachers structure their time and space in the classroom!
I just posted a question about your clay nests. We just had a little boy bring one in today and I was going to use your idea of Who’s Nest? I love all of your amazing ideas. I put out the Guess What is in My Egg activity at the beginning of April and the children are still doing into May. Each day we fill our 4 eggs with items from the classroom, they love it! As I was looking at your Instagram posts I came across your Super Hero ideas, do you have those ideas and activities posted somewhere? I couldn’t find them on your site. I was looking for something like this, as quite a few of my kindergarten friends are fascinated with super heros!
We have just started our Butterfly Inquiry, we received our larva last week. Again, I have looked at your post about this and love all of your great ideas. For your collaborative Hungry Caterpillar display, did the children make the food out of plasticine?
Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful ideas, so inspiring.
Hi Chrissy! I haven’t blogged about our superhero adventures but I got most of my ideas from Darla Meyers’ blog. Maybe you can look it up? I can’t remember the name of her site at the moment. She is also on Instagram. Yes, for the hungry caterpillars the food was also made out of plasticine. Thanks for checking out my blog!
Thank you for the quick reply. I’m going to add some of your ideas today. Hanging your chrysalis from the branch is a great idea.
On another topic, did you put your clay nests in a kiln?
Have a great day.
Hi Chrissy. No, we didn’t. We bought a type of clay that hardens naturally. Crayola makes one (I’ve purchased it through Wintergreen). The one we used for this project I got at an art supply store.
Good morning Alexis!!
Wow! I just stumbled across your blog and it is AMAZING!!! Your classroom is beautiful and love how you aren’t able to implement a Reggio Inspired Approach!!! I believe this is valuable to kids!!! After reading your intro, I too am just returning back to teaching after having my second daughter (she will be 2 in September, my oldest is 4) and have decided to ease into it with a part time! I’ve never taught Kindergarten before … taught grade 1 for 7 years:-)
Was wondering if you have any tips and tricks, ANYTHING:-) (Long Range Plans) we have half day Kindergarten!
I will be teaching FDK this September. I have question concerning centres (inquiry and provocations), how often do you change them up. Is it weekly, daily or dependent on interest level?
Hi Adrienne! I usually plan for the week but some things last long past that and some things might only last a couple of days. It really does depend on interest and on how you are highlighting the centres during daily reflection. Sometimes it’s not that the children aren’t interested, but that I haven’t properly introduced or reflected on the goals there. In full day I also find I need different options for the afternoon, so I might have one provocation for the morning at the writing table and a different one in the afternoon. I hope that helps.
I really enjoyed your blog. I have a question from you, how we can implement some technology for kindergarten lesson plans. I am a teacher candidate at TDSB, and l am looking forward r powerful and creative lesson plans. What other resources do you recommend?
Hi! Thanks for the comment! If you search “technology” in the search bar on my page you will get a few examples of how I have used technology in the classroom. There are some great apps you can use with your students these days (chatterpix being on of them). We also use the iPads to document student work on a daily basis. The children get quite skilled at photographing their own work (see the blog called “the spinner project”). Of course the smart board, if you have one, is another excellent tool for technology.
Thanks alot for your time and response, l might get from u while l am in the practicum, since lesson plans and plays are different in k.
I am new to Reggio Emilia, although not a new teacher… your blog Is so inspiring.
Thank you for sharing and helping me on a new exciting journey. I want to make sure I don’t miss any of your posts. Is there a way to subscribe?
Thank you again
Love your style, energy, clarity and ideas
Amazing, amazing, hard and inspiring work! Thank you for sharing.
It is very clear that you love being on the “field” (in the classroom, outdoors, online) and with the children, but I strongly feel that educators like you should teach, inspire and share their passion at institutions that train DECEs (and teachers). Maybe that would reduce the unacceptable attitude, work ethic, and behaviour of educator candidates who graduate from those institutions. And maybe, my prep colleagues and I would not find ourselves in a situation online where the TDSB DECE is texting, and knitting for his/her second business, and is distracted, and has no idea what is going on during school hours and teaching time. Keep up the great work!
How can I read your latest posts about your work?