Thursday, October 12, 2017

Planning Time: Seamless, Supportive and Collaborative

As the new curriculum has been implemented in Ontario, there has been a large shift to focusing on the whole child, their development, and a shift away from zoning in on direct teaching of specific skills or in teaching in “subjects”.

This shift has impacted the way that many have approached planning time within their schools. Four years ago we had our planning time teacher write a blog to describe her experiences but with the growth of the program and the shifts in thinking, we felt it was important to revisit this topic.

In 2013, our board published a system memo about planning time. We believe that the message is still valuable and helpful. Planning time should not “...detract from student learning by causing systemic and artificial breaks in a young learner’s day when this is preventable.”

Limiting transitions and the number of adults interacting with these young learners, is the most ideal. When planning our Flow of the Day (Blog Post), our goal is to limit the number of times our students have to transition between activities and environments.

We are fortunate to have one planning time teacher and our administrators have not scheduled them to “teach” a specific subject such as gym, art, library, or science.

In our room, we plan our day based on what we believe is best for children. We completely ignore where the planning time falls and focus in on structuring a day with large open ended blocks of play for our students.

Every year, the role of our planning time teacher has shifted slightly depending on when the time falls in our schedule. Last year, planning time was during period 1 and 2 which is our Outdoor Learning time. Our planning time teacher, collaboratively planned, implemented, and documented learning opportunities outdoors (e.g., set out a provocation, set up a gross motor activity or game, engaged in project work).

Provocation set up by our planning time educator, Melanie Rudow, last year after noticing an interest in animals homes and birds during her time spent with students outdoors.

This year, our planning time teacher is with our students during period 3 and 4. During this time our students are transitioning from Outdoor Learning into the classroom for Small Group instruction and then transitioning to Nutrition Break. Our planning time teacher works collaboratively with us to reflect on her role during transitions (to provide common messaging, timing, and support). She also plans, implements, and documents small group instruction.

The transition is fairly seamless. When our planning time teacher arrives, she quickly checks in with both educators for any messages or information that may be pertinent and then takes over in the learning.

Our children do not stop what they are doing. They continue their learning with the support of another educator. When reflecting on the process, we wonder if the planning time teacher can become a trigger when students have to stop their learning after their arrival.

Also, what message does it send to children when learning must change or stop because the classroom teacher is leaving? How does that translate to the relationship with the Planning Time Teacher and Early Childhood Educator in the classroom? We ultimately want to honour all relationships in the room and by creating a seamless transition, it sends the message that we are a collaborative team that values and recognizes the importance of student learning.

How does the Planning Time Teacher… plan?

Each room will look differently, but for us our planning time teacher collaborates with the classroom teacher and DECE to determine a plan that will best suit the children. After that, the DECE and planning time teacher find time to connect and collaborate in terms of their planning … similar to how the classroom teacher and DECE may plan.

It is absolutely difficult to find the time to do this! However, being creative and finding moments to connect can still happen! Perhaps you meet for 5-10 minutes a week at school? Alternatively, could you create an electronic way to communicate that works for both educators schedules?

Setting the Team Up for Success:
We want to ensure that our team is successful as a unit. This takes effort from everyone. There are a few things that we have done to support this process:
  • Discuss classroom management strategies, expectations and language. The goal is for consistency between all educators in the space to best support student learning.
  • Don’t forget to include the planning time teacher in conversations, information sharing etc so that they feel like a part of the team.
  • Ensure that they have all of the tools that they need to be successful (e.g., picture symbols that match the ones used by educators in the classroom)

Documentation and Assessment
This is a piece that is really tricky! Again, it will look differently based on your school, classroom, and experience. Ultimately, all educators are responsible for documenting and assessing student learning. What that looks like will definitely differ based on their experience and confidence.

This year, our planning time teacher uses SeeSaw with us and families.  Each day she shares some of the children’s learning during her time in the classroom. This allows both families and other educators in the room to see the learning that she is capturing during her time with the class.

“As a planning time teacher, when the students see me documenting their learning it sends the message that I am a part of the team. I know that my time with the children is valuable and I want to ensure that I am capturing and communicating what is happening through documentation to parents and other educators. This also supports the team in the process of planning and report card writing” - Melanie Rudow

Take it slow. Be patient with the process. If you are wanting to make changes, have courageous conversations with your administrator, partners, and colleagues. Our ultimate goal is to support and provide the best environment for our students to learn, but we have to understand that adults are also on a continuum of learning and growth/change takes time!

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