Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Welcome to the Detectives Room

Entry into my Classroom

I think that when you open the door to your classroom that it should be a welcoming environment for the teacher, parent, visitors, and students. This is one of the elements in a Reggio Inspired classroom that should be your first decision. How do you want it to look and what does it say. I want my parents to have a place to get information and feel that they are a part of our  classroom. Since, I'm in a public school setting it is crucial that you have elements about objectives that you are meeting in the classroom. Parents and administrators know that I am prepared and put thought into what is planned. One of the drawbacks about following the Reggio Emilia philosophy is that many people are not knowledgeable about what the children are learning. They portray your  environment, materials, centers, and lessons  that the children are just playing, that the classroom is not structured, or it does not have enough rigor. To counteract that view, I have objectives on the wall for the parents and administrators to see as they walk in the room. Information is on the walls for the parents to read. Communication about what is happening in your room can make the difference in parents believing in what you are teaching their children.  I am a big believer in quotes. I place them around the objectives so that parents can read what theorist in Early Childhood Education , famous artist, inventors, and scientist say about education. My objectives are made using frames (seen on pinterest). I placed stickers on the outside of the glass saying: Objectives of the Day, Math, Language Arts, Literacy, Social Studies, and Science. I write the common core statements with a sharpie on the glass. They are mounted to the wall with Command Stripes. I wipe the marker off with alcohol wipes.

Creating a Second Grade Environment

2nd Grade Environment

I came into my classroom a week before school started. I had taught younger ages in the past and for the first time was asked to do Reggio Inspired environment in a second grade classroom. There  is not very many primary classrooms that have this philosophy.  I had to make critical decisions about what I wanted my environment to look like. I had to decide what centers was important in this age range, how I teach, and how children learn and move in the environment.

 I first look at power sources for my lighting and technology. These are the things in your environment that can not be changed. My room is full of straight lines and rectangles. I wanted to soften the environment. I took out all the desk and found round tables. This allows the room to open up and have movement in the room . I put my computers facing each other in the back with a shelf in front of them. I created symmetry with the shelves facing each other. The back shelf has my math manipulative and the front shelf has language and literacy elements. Along the right wall is my science and block center.

Along the left wall is my library, cubbies, and teacher area. In the back is my atelier (art center). My entry way has items for the parents and communication between home and school. I have several lighting sources in my room. The chandeliers are made out of old umbrellas. The umbrellas have been a great draw to my classroom. People come in and try to guess what they are made with. I took 2 old umbrellas that would not close (make sure the out appendages are not broken they will not hold lights). I spray painted them white. I took  icicle lights and draped them around and secured with white bread ties. They are hung with fishing line and hooks that fit into the grid of the ceiling tile. White extension cords run across the ceiling and down the wall to an outlet. The top picture you can see my identity panels that cover up the cord running down the wall. The next challenge was to soften the room and make the room less geometrical. I hung two limbs at an angle over my desk and the block center. They are symmetrical  and draped with my colors(cream and sage green) from the limbs to detract from the two corners.I lined my bulletin and white boards with a sheets and old curtains. The back of my selves have burlap stapled on so that you cannot see the holes. I think plants are a crucial element to soften the room and bring natural color into the space.The color on your wall need to be neutral so that the children's work gets to be the focus point. I put two water fountains for sound and a scentsy for smell. When you enter the room it should be inviting and have a warmness about it. It should say you are welcome here and this is a wonderful place to learn.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Finding my way in Public School Setting

Finding My Way in Public School Setting

Lee Team with our awesome OU interns
        Going from a school that somewhat supported Reggio Inspired to a Public School that is not completely believers in the philosophy has been challenging. I knew going in that I was going to have several obstacles.The first and most important  positive was that I had several teachers before me that fought the good fight. Patti Eaton is the most amazing person and mentor. If I could give any advice I would say find someone that has fought this fight and understands how to navigate the trenches and will support you even when everyone else is saying that your not teaching the children the skills they need.
I found another lady that is quite amazing as well. Sally Haughey  founder of Fairy Dust teaching and co-worker. I have several other ladies that I would like to recognize that has helped me in so many ways, Crystal Cathey, Tina Henke, Jennifer Dean, Jennifer Caldwell. I am blessed to call these women my friends as well as the most amazing co-workers ever.

Documentation of the Moon Project


I have created several documentation panels. I like using PowerPoint because of my lack of fine motor skills for all the cutting and measuring. I believe that if the documentation should be thought out.
It allows me to put together quality documentation quickly by putting conversations with pictures. I create boxes around the conversations so that I can cut on the lines.

Documentation is one of the hardest parts to keep organized and up to date. I have project meetings and this is where I get most of my data. I write down conversations the children are having. I always am carrying around my camera, it is just a small one that fits in my pocket.This is a drawing from their question,"Why is the moon out during the daytime?"
I begin writing down their conversations.

After they began doing research on the question.
This is where I start documenting through their writing about their research into the questions and my questioning.
We continued to do many art, writing, and science experiments looking for the answer.

Complete Documentation Of Our Questioning


We continued this research project for 3 months.
I had the children discuss how they wanted the documentation put together. They decided they wanted the planets hung from the ceiling in order from the sun. 
I put the project together starting from the beginning about the question until the conclusion of the project.
I will continue to add great examples of documentation.

Questioning leads to more Questions

Questions Lead to New Questions

They students took the questions and began wondering about things that are found in Outer Space.

They began creating Power Points to document their learning about the planets. They wanted to create the planets, meteors
, asteroids, sun, constellations.

We began discussing how they wanted to create their planets.
They choose to make them with yarn.

I found different sizes of balloons.
They inflated them and began wrapping the yarn around the balloon.
Then made modge podge from a recipe (find on Pinterest).
They used large paintbrushes to put the glue on the balloon.
Tip: Make sure yarn is not to thick or the glue will not penetrate and it will collapse
They popped the balloon and added a paperclip to hang from the ceiling.

The sun they used yellow water color on a paper lantern. We added a light inside.

MOON Question

Why is the moon out during the Day?

The children became aware of the moon was visible during the day. They became interested in finding the answer to question.

The challenge for the day was for them to develop their ideas about why.

Some of the children went to the computer and started researching.
Other children sketched their ideas.
Other wrote about their ideas.
Then one group went to the block center and began creating a model of the question.

The difference in a Reggio inspired classroom is that children can use their different languages to construct their ideas. Is this the easiest way for a teacher? No, the classroom environment is key to help children be able to use their own language. The normal 2nd grade environment does not have a block center or art center (atelier). The classroom becomes loud and active during the process. This can become a challenge within a public school. Teachers, parents, and administrators that have never experienced this style of teaching have the impression that I do not have good classroom management skills, the children are just playing, or we are not working on literacy skills. This has been my journey this year. 

What has been your experience with these challenges?he next step was setting up a provocation for their ideas about the moon being visible during the day.

Timeline Documentation

History of Flight on Time line

Time Line Documentation

          I was walking down the hall and saw the greatest documentation using a timeline. Mrs. Caldwell's 1st grade classroom was working on research about flight. Her documentation had great elements that made it so great. She put the work on foam board and glued different lids and boxes to the back for a 3-D effect. It made her documentation POP!
It was hard getting quality pictures of the whole time line because it was about 20 feet long and ft. tall. So, try to imagine it in a straight line. The time line was created  is on top and children's documentation is on the bottom.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Design 2 Inspire

Ms. Dean's Kindergarten Classroom

                 My philosophy is that the environment is the third teacher.

 I often felt like the environment was one of the hardest to successfully construct.  It was difficult trying to figure out how to put in all the elements and still have movement through my room. I began 10 years ago working on different room arrangements and styles. I fell in love with the Reggio Emilia philosophy of bringing natural and re-purposed materials into the environment. I have been on a quest ever since. I believe that I am always learning and growing in this area. I thought I would give out some of my successes over the years. I have already posted about the Princess and Dragon class for a multi-age 3-5 years old. I am going to show some elements from Ms. Deans class that I came in and consulted on her classroom. He room was a old classroom that was used for storage for years. She was hired after the school year started. She was left with a lot of  furniture that was in disrepair or 50 years old.

Before Pictures: 

Mrs. Dean was a first year teacher walking into a empty classroom for Kindergartners. She worked hard and was able to create an environment that was usable but did not inspire the children or her. The lack of materials and arrangement of the room became overwhelming.

Her professor called me and asked if I could work with a group of teachers to help create an environment that would inspire children.
This was one of my first experience creating an environment for another teacher. 
Looking at her room we determined she needed different arrangement of centers to create better and efficient movement in her room.
The lighting was awful, we discussed different options that would best fit her style. 
First step in arrangement and lighting is looking for electrical outlets. This is the most important for lighting and choosing where centers will be located and what type of lighting can be done in her room.

Second was location to sinks.

Third- Finding furniture, lights, and rugs.

Fourth- Finding Materials and containers

Fifth- Drawing out her room layout  so that others could come in and help her put it together in one day.

After Pictures:
We added draping over her fluorescent light. Arranged the room so that there was an openness for a better flow around her centers.

She had some lights, drapes, and a lighted lantern. The drapes added definition to the space as well as adding gentler lighting.

The children was always worried about the repaired crack in the wall. We added layers of curtains with lights and added some plants to conceal the crack from view.
This was a great first project for me.The collaboration with a group of teachers was insightful because I was able to learn how other view environments. 
Collaboration is a huge component to the process. 
Ms. Dean was amazing to work with and all the other teachers that came together to help.

Ms. Dean was able to take the little bit of help that we gave her and took her environment to a whole new level. He environment this year is truly inspiring!

What a beautiful room!!