|Structure of Our Day - Shaded areas are "prep" periods. |
We don't use the times to the minute but they help us to structure our time through the day.
When we began our journey in FDK one of the key messages from the ministry, which was then supported by our board was "maximum message, minimum time". What we know developmentally about children is that sitting for long periods of time in a whole group is not best practice. How could we possible meet the academic and development needs of children in this way?
We have tried many different things during this whole group instruction time over our journey: read alouds, shared reading, poems, math problems, science experiments, and sharing of learning. We have tried to have specific teaching points that reach all of the students...but we have found this to be a real struggle.
During our whole group time (which we call Focused Learning) we still do many of the above things. We will do a read aloud, share children's thinking, or reflect on a math problem. This year I feel that we have tried very hard to do all of these things with purpose. When we read a story it is because it is connected to the children (e.g., connection to something happening in the room, related to a project or inquiry that we are exploring). We really try to ensure that in those 10-15 minutes (max!) that the learning is connected to the children so that they are engaged and interested in actively participating.
We have 2 large uninterrupted blocks of Learning Centres. During this time so many things are happening: planned and unplanned small group, one on one interactions with educators and children, open and free choice in play, and project work.
When we started 3 years ago we were much more calculated in our timing which I now think was related to our confidence and our understanding of the program. We tried balancing the day by saying "first learning centre - one educator can plan or do small groups and second learning centre - the other educator can plan or do small group". It worked and helped us to structure our thinking. One educator felt that they could focus and sit, while the other floated and extended.
This year, we have taken that structure away...and it is working. Some days we are both engaged in small groups, other days we are both documenting and entering into different learning areas. As we have grown more confident in ourselves and our children we have loosened our structure which has allowed for us to experience so many more incredible learning experiences with the children.
We begin our days outside and we love it. For the past two years we had outdoor play at the end of the day outside, but upon reflection with my partner we realized that many children may benefit from starting the day outside. The children have the opportunity to explore, create, and invigorate their senses outdoors before coming into the classroom. It allows us lots of time to interact with the children, to hear their stories from the night before and for them to interact and talk to one another.
During Outdoor Play, one of us quickly checks children's mailbags for notes, money, forms (all of the fun stuff!). After 20 minutes outside together as a team, I bring 2 small groups of children inside. We strongly believe in filtering children through transitions to avoid chaos and over stimulation. During this short time I do 2 guided reading groups. This allows the children also to have a calm, quiet environment to focus on reading instruction.
When we finish our groups (7-10 minutes for each group), my partner begins to slowly filter the other children in. As the children come in, they know the routine for taking care of their belongings in the cubby area and then they come in and choose somewhere to learn.
We feel it is really important to go right into learning centres (not having a carpet time) for a few reasons. When children are sitting on the carpet waiting for their peers to undress - it is boring and behaviours often arise. Further to that, imagine being a child coming into an exciting learning environment and being asked to sit patiently on the carpet when your hands can't wait to reach for those large wooden blocks.
So...they come in a few at a time (to avoid the busy coat area) and head into their learning centres. I begin to circulate and document. Once all of the children are inside, my partner comes in and begins the same process (documenting, small group instruction, project work).
This happens (as you will see in the schedule above) twice a day. However, the second transition is after lunch. The children rest at their tables and slowly my partners filter them back into learning centres as I come back from lunch. During the second block, my partners take their lunch.
After second nutrition break, our children come in and read books of interest for them for a short time just until we are all settled and ready for music and movement. This is a beautiful time for them to read loudly and excitedly.
Quiet reading time seems almost like an oxymoron to me...especially at this age! Our children are by no means yelling but the conversations about books and reading together with their peers is so important. So much of their reading development comes from their oral language. They talk about the pictures, the words, the stories, the facts...they talk!
We end our day with music and movement...we have done so many amazing things in this time. We explore instruments, songs, different types of dance, cultural music...
We finish the day with a slow release from music and movement back to the cubby area where one of us dismisses while the other engages the children in music and movement while we wait for families to arrive.
There is so much more that I want to say and share...however, I talk too much which translates sometimes to me "typing" too much. Please ask questions and challenging our thinking - that is how we all learn. As I mentioned early, this is not "the way" but this is "our way" right now...
...exciting news: our planning time teacher is going to write a "guest blog" for us to share her incredible insights on how we structure and use planning time within our school. She is seamless in the way that she comes and leaves the classroom and it works so well!
After presenting and sharing about the flow of the day with many colleagues this year, I thought it would make sense to include our updated schedule.
This year we have minimized transitions to 10 (a long way from the 17+ transitions that we have only 4 years ago). We have shifted outdoor learning to beginning and end of the day so that transitions are more natural for the children as well.