Sunday, 29 January 2012

Dance Parties, Piglets and Exploding Soap Messes!

It's been a few weeks again and I haven't had much time to update. It has been feeling like the beginning of the school year all over again in some ways, though at least now I have a better grasp on what I should be teaching and where to go next. It's the paperwork that always gets me!

I have a new student, and with him, there will be a new assistant whom I have yet to meet. That makes four adults in the room at any given time, 23 kiddos, and in the mornings, two high school students (work experience) and afternoons, another adult. Not including speech assistants, OTs, behaviour consultants or principals who are in to watch that day. Some days it feels like you're trying to keep from sinking just to keep on top of all of it. Thankfully though, the kids are having fun, learning a little (hopefully a lot) and keep us laughing which is why I ended up here!

Here is my January highlight:

Many of the students in my class live on farms and regularly help out with chores, feeding, etc. One little guy came up to me shortly after the Christmas break and said, "We have some piggies, and Dad wants to know if he can bring them to school."

I thought this was a great idea, and went about arranging this as soon as possible. Then I thought a little more and remembered that this little fella had said, "piggies," plural. So I asked, "how many piglets do you have?"

He looked down at his hands and counted on his fingers silently..."1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12... There's 12!" Oh geez. I had an image of 23 little kids being chased around the room by 12 squealing pigs and had to tell him to ask Dad to bring one or two piglets. (It felt like a Robert Munsch story - which the kids have been really enjoying lately- ONE pig, JUST one, NOT 3, 4, 5, 6 or 12, JUST ONE.)

The day came and the little guy was trying his very best to keep his secret quiet. Then during recess I see Mom, Dad and newborn baby coming up the walkway of the school carrying a large tupperware bin. Inside were these little guys:

Aren't they sweet? The kids were so excited to see them, and the Dad got a huge kick out of letting them out of their bin to run around the classroom and chase kids for a little while. They couldn't get traction on the slippery floor and looked like Bambi on ice until they made it on to our foam carpet. Thankfully, there were no messes (by piglet or kid!) and the kids happily named them Smartie (on the left) and Chocolate Chip (on the right). They were two weeks old and very heavy already. It was really interesting to see which kids were right in the middle, who grabbed the camera, who wanted someone to stand next to them to pet the piglets, and who quickly lost interest and moved elsewhere.

As the kids were hanging out with the piglets, the little guy whose idea it was to bring them in went up to one of the assistants and said, "Them piggies are growin'like a son-of-a-gun!"

I mentioned that we now have two high school students coming in the mornings (one at a time). The first day that they came in, we were having our snack, and I turned on some music for the kids. I should have chosen a different song than Madagascar's "I Like to Move It, Move It," because instead of finishing up their snack, ALL of the kids got up and started to dance. We couldn't help but play the song again and have a good dance party then, and just as the one high school student walked in the door, a little girl came up to me and yelled, "K______! Come dance!" Well....there goes my credibility! (These things have a strange way of happening...)

We did have a great time, and got the kids moving for another few minutes at least! I know that I have a hard time sitting all day during workshops, conferences, etc. and can't believe that we expect kids to do the same. Unfortunately, I think often teachers recognize this as a behaviour issue, instead of a need to move once in a while! In Alberta there is a requirement in the curriculum called 'DPA' or Daily Physical Activity, in addition to recess/lunch breaks. This is built in time meant for kids to get an extra 20 mins or so throughout the day to MOVE! Unfortunately this often gets counted in to recess, walking to library, gym class, etc. This has been a big focus for me this year in recognizing when kids need to move around a bit, and I have been trying to use it in how I say things too, so kids can start to identify between behaviour and need. Often our morning talk, weather and calendar goes just a little too long for the kids (they say that a child's attention span is approximately as long in minutes as their age, so I'm working with 5-6 minutes) so I will try to say, "it looks like you need to get up and move, lets do some counting backwards and go touch 10 things and count down to one," or, "go climb under three things and over three things, then come back." This gives the kids a little break while still learning, and the repetition helps them out in the long run as well.

Once a week the Elementary school teachers get together for a "PLC" or "Professional Learning Community." We focus on certain things and is a way to keep learning new ways of doing things, or at least considering them. Our group has been working on 'student engagement,' or, keeping the students excited about what they are learning and making sure that there are connections being made between past experiences and new concepts being taught. Our job last week was to pair up with a grade other than our own (not difficult, as there is only one class of each grade in our school) and to plan a lesson that will demonstrate student engagement. The other teacher was to come in and observe how the lesson went, and provide feedback. I was paired with my mentor teacher in Grade 2, and we planned a lesson together. My kids haven't had much experience with science yet, as our science curriculum can be summed up as exposing students to new ideas, reactions and questions. In Grade 2, students focus on solids, liquids and gases, and learn a little about the scientific method.

We planned a lesson that used almost all of the 5 senses (a big focus in Kindergarten), as well as some math (graphing) and technology (smartboard and cameras). If you place a piece of Ivory soap in the microwave, it actually expands and bubbles, looking like it's exploding. The result is a very light solid that feels like kleenex, and can be used just like regular soap. It also leaves behind a very distinct soapy smell that is pleasant at first, but gets really gross, fast! Anyways, it all worked out, the vice principal was in to watch our experiment and give feedback, and the other teachers were curious enough during our next PLC that we had to repeat the experiment all over again for them.

This week we're going to make some new snacks (last week we made 'apple teeth' out of apple slices and mini marshmallows), take the kids skating and try out some more centers (this go-round has glittery water in the science table)!

Thanks for reading!

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