On the Border of Chaos & Order: Project Based Learning in Kindergarten

 

“The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one’s self. Adults work to finish a task, but the child works in order to grow, and is working to create the adult, the person that is to be. Such experience is not just play… it is work he must do in order to grow up.

 – Maria Montessori 


The article Perfecting with Practice: Project Based Teaching by Suzie Boss, lays a wonderful foundation for those educators looking to make the leap into Project Based Learning. As a Kindergarten teacher, this framework coupled with PYP curriculum and a strong emphasis on play-based learning is the perfect recipe for authentic learning engagements in my classroom.

Suzie Boss writes, that “Inquiry is at the heart of project learning.” As much as I  agree with her on that, I’d take one step further with the anatomy analogy and say if that inquiry is the heart than play is the backbone.  As an Early Years of working at conceptually based schools, I believe it’s the concoction of inquiry,  play, and experimentation that really helps foster critical thinking skills and promote big ideas.

Each day my Kinder students become more and more accustomed to inquiry and big ideas and solving authentic problems.  At first, the thought of relinquishing control and transferring more ownership over to the students felt a bit daunting.  However, I quickly realized once I got out of the way, that’s when the magic happened.  I had embraced the power of letting go and started looking at the learning through the macro lens.  By embracing project-based learning as my foundation I helped keep my students tethered to learning but unbounded by their own desires and creativity. 

Suzie’s Boss’ article Perfecting with Practice also reminded me of  Mitchel Resnick’s TED Talk Kindergarten for our Whole Lives.  Throughout his TED Talk, which I’ve also included below,  he dives into what he calls the four P’s of Practice. Those are as followed.

Projects
Passions
Play  & Peers



Starting with Passions

It’s been said if you want to get to know someone spends an hour playing with them.  You’ll learn more from that one hour than days of conversations.  In the Early Years, where students wear their hearts on their sleeves, a few play sessions combined some astute observations and notetaking and you will allow you begin to tap into the interests of an early years learner.  Take iTime, for example, ( also known to other educators as Genius Hour) undoubtedly our most popular time throughout the week. My Kindergarten students consistently look forward to iTime because they know that that time is personal to them.  It’s a dedicated time and space for creative thinking. 

iTime activates my student’s natural desire to learn and empowers them to embrace their imagination and design thinking skills.  Our classroom Makerspace is an organic entity that has taken on a life of its own and treasured by my students. Each week they take part in iTime where in addition to them learning about the creative process, they are constantly exploring, experimenting and tinkering.  In a sense, iTime is grassroots,  student-driven,  Project Based Learning. Fueled by their individual wonder and passions, my students take iTime very seriously. Here’s a great article that speaks to more of benefits of personalized learning  or “iTime”

Also, have a look at some of the focus and levels of engagement from my students below.

 

 

 


Make it Relevant to Make it Work

Although iTime is one way to tap into my student’s passions and make it work on a personalized level.  I began to reflect on my Kindergarten class as a whole and wondered which learning engagements fit best with their needs, Project Based Learning or Challenge-Based Learning?

After reading Kim Cofino’s blog post “ 3 steps to transforming your classroom,” I realized is that Understanding by Design or Project-Based Learning would work really well with my 5 & 6-year-old students. Understanding by Design allows me to revise lesson plans to keep them aligned with the learning goals thus acknowledging the ebb & flow of Kindergarten.

Other learning frameworks although, great, do not necessarily fit as well as my Project Based Learning.  For example, Problem-Based Learning & Challenge Based Learning isn’t exactly relevant or age appropriate for my students. Don’t get me wrong, delve into Problem-Based Learning from time to time, but that is mostly when we are attempting to solve or focus on classroom or individual conflicts.

By keeping my focus on the Project-based learning model,  I help my students become prosumers as they generate a cycle of creation, reflection, & refinement.  It will also change the way they perceive the world. In my class, there is no problem too big to attempt to solve. Providing children with Time, space, resources and an authentic audience equips them for the real world. 

Learning to collaborate on large-scale problems and give and receive feedback throughout the process is one key to success, both in the classroom and in life. 


Overcoming Obstacles  

Project Based learning helps the students learn how to think big and come up with big goals and ideas.  Of course, like any type of teaching, this takes scaffolding, patience, and practice.  One obstacle, although not terribly big one is the fact that things in Kindergarten don’t always move in a linear direction. Some of the learning will probably be circular but I suppose the nice part about Project-based learning is the freedom and flexibility that comes with having an overarching goal/set of learning outcomes. UBD units, for example, allow me to revise lesson plans to keep them aligned with the learning goals.

I find that when they have an authentic audience to provide them with the feedback they are much more responsive. This sometimes can become challenging, especially if we have already exercised the options of our Grade 2 reading buddies, the admin team, or our parent community.  One thing that I would like to do more to help circumvent this obstacle is to seek out more global connections. Perhaps through my PLN on Twitter along with #KchatAP & #Kinderchat groups.  It’s important that my students continue to present their learning to an authentic audience, one that expands beyond the grounds of our school.

I’m a firm believer that Kindergarten students are more than capable of handling big ideas and understanding/handing real-life authentic problems so I’d never completely discount something and underestimate the ability of my students. 

Mitchel Resnick’s book, Lifelong Kindergartener, has been on my radar for a long time and as a Kindergarten teacher, I wholeheartedly agree with his views regarding teaching and learning through his philosophy and the four P’s. 

Although it often requires the right delivery, time, space, a bit of essence and a lot of repetition, my Kindergarten students and I are able to make learning look like an organic roman candle of student interest, engagement, and enjoyment; unbridled and glorious.


Final Wonderings?

What does learning look like in your classroom?

How do you harness and promote creativity with your students?

How do you embrace the four Ps (Projects, Passions, Play,  & Peers) in your teaching?

 

Where Doodles & Data Meet

“Your message is only as good as your ability to share it.” These powerful words sum up a great video explaining the importance of infographics.

These days there are many ways to grab someone’s attention through infographics.  Canva, vizualize.me & Piktochart, to name a few, are in my opinion some of the best ones out there. I’ve used them all in the past for various projects and presentations.  Just three days ago, fellow Coetail’er Pana Asavavatana used Canva to quickly add some aesthetic appeal to the Twitter questions I created in preparation for our upcoming Digital Citizenship Twitter Chat on February 28th.  Here’s a sneak peek &  a shameless plug 🙂

Speaking of infographics and Coetail’ers I couldn’t help but think about the recently redesigned Coetail website which prominently features an awesome infographic documenting the Coetail Learning journey.  I find the new website to be fun, engaging, and informative.


Sketching, Doodling & Synthesising Data

With all the sites, apps and tools out there now to help you collect and organize information. I’ve recently been made aware of the beauty of sketchnotes. Being a visual learner,   I’ve found myself being drawn to sketch notes more and more. (no pun intended)  The ones I’ve come across on Twitter lately have been quite engaging and I’m seriously considering giving it a go. Craighton Berman’s website, Sktechnotes 101, was a great jumping off point and inspired me to dig a little deeper. After a while down the rabbit hole, I found out there’s actually a World Sktechnote Day (Jan 11) &  that sketchnoting is a creative, relaxing, AND efficient way to synthesize information. What I once thought was silly or a bit out of place, now seems like the perfect way to personally conceptualize data.

In the following TED Talk  Doodlers, unite!,  Sunni Brown discusses some other misconceptions about sketching and doodling as well as our inherited cultural bias towards them. Check out the video from Sunni or alternatively the Sketchnotes from ,  below.

Discuss Sktech Notes and TED using Sketch Notes….

 

 

 

https://twitter.com/andymcnally/status/960694599214948352
Created here  by @andymcnally 


In short:

  • Sketching notes helps us understand concepts. 
  • When we make our thinking into images we synthesize our ideas
  • Visual Notetaking enhances memory and improves understanding. 
  • Visual Notetaking and sketching exercises your brain by connecting verbal material to visual material

Infographics in Kindergarten

As I alluded to in my previous blog post, Unpacking Visual Literacy in Kindergarten, visual material plays a massive role in the development of my Kindergarten student’s vocabulary, conceptual thought, and imagination.  It is the cornerstone of their comprehension.

https://www.tes.com/lessons/SfcwZrqsnSblGw/learner-profile
https://www.tes.com/lessons/SfcwZrqsnSblGw/learner-profile

Aside from picture books, the most popular items in my classroom are our “Learner Profile Badges”.

Inspired by the Olympics, I turned the LP images into medals (or badges as my students know them) as a way to introduce the language and visually represent the Learner Profile attributes. When a student sees another student embodying these attributes they will take the badge off the wall and hang it around the next of that student. Since it’s inception, they’ve really taken to it. The way they proudly wear the “Risk Taker badge” or “Thinker badge” around on the playground, you would think it’s actually a gold medal – to them, it is.  Because of these images and the idea of passing them off as badges, my students have developed an understanding of the vocabulary and continue to make a strong commitment towards living out the learner profile.

Another Infographic that I use in my Kindergarten class is for self-management and it’s known in class as the Kelso’s Choice Wheel.  Have a look!

https://www.tes.com/lessons/nKPKtoZ6DgI_mQ/kelso-s-choices
Source: TES Connect (linked)

Teaching children to reflect on their actions is an important yet challenging aspect of Kindergarten. Our Kelso Wheel acts as an intervention infographic that provides students with multiple choices allowing them to feel empowered to take their own action.  A self-governing classroom of five-year-old students will certainly take time but as seen in the image below, my students often revisit the image throughout the year to work on working out their conflicts.

For more information on Kelso’s Choices, including other images, videos, and songs check out TES Teach here.

In this case, the two ways in which I use images to convey meaning help my Kindergarten students make informed choices to solve conflict and model positive behavior and attitudes inspired by the Learner Profile.  Both the Learner Profile badges and Kelso’s Choice Wheel act as aids to connect the verbal to the visual. From foreign vocabulary to understandable concepts, both visual aids have allowed them to responsibility for their own actions. 


Final Wonderings

Knowing that the Kelso Wheel and Learning Profile images are not your typical or classic infographics, I’m wondering what other types of infographics could you introduce to Kindergarten students?

What other ways could I incorporate infographics into a Kindergarten classroom?

Do you have a favorite website or app for creating infographics?

What experience do you have with Sketchnotes?

Thanks,

@NicholasKGarvin

Unpacking Visual Literacy in Kindergarten

Visuals play such an important role in nourishing the imagination of young learners. Dr. Michio Kaku understands this importance and how images can promote curiosity and inspiring learning. As a Kindergarten teacher, I wholeheartedly agree with what Dr. Kaku states in the video below.  Do you?


Comprehension, Creativity, & Critical Thinking with Visuals

One way to help young learners begin to understand Visual Literacy is through the use of picture books. The use of picture books in Kindergarten is an important aspect in the development of student’s vocabulary, conceptual thought, and imagination. Susan Stephenson writes about this in her article, Visual Literacy Through Children’s Picture Books. Where she mentions how the use of visuals help students develop a conceptual understanding of the world around them.

” …visuals present information at-a-glance that would otherwise take a long time to get across in words.”

The following SlideShare provides a great summary of visual literacy and dives deep into symbolic imagery, design and colors schemes.  The best part is that this SlideShare is accompanied by with many wonderful picture book titles.  It’s a perfect resource for any teacher who wants to start implementing more picture books and/or visual literacy into their curriculum. It also lists one of my all-time favorites,  The Rabbits by John Marsden

That slide share coupled with Susan’s wonderful list of questions works as the stellar combination to help provoke deep observations, conceptual thinking, and creativity with the use of picture books.

Here are few of her questions:

•    What do you notice in the picture?
•    Do the words exactly match what’s happening in the illustration?
•    How does that picture/color make you feel?
•    What does that image remind you of?
•    How has the illustration changed/progressed from this page to the next?
•    Do the animals look real?
•    Whose perspective is this illustration from?
•    Why did the artist choose those colors, and why do they change here?


Art to enhance Visual Literacy & Math

In my Kindergarten classroom visuals are constantly weaved into the curriculum as a way to help us communicate and understand concepts and ideas.  For instances, around the beginning of the school-year, one student proposed the question,  “What is Math?”.  This question occurred on the carpet after we spent the first week unraveling our misconceptions about Play and how we learn. (only to find out that we learn a lot about Math in our Play, without knowing it i.e. Legos).  Eventually, another student spoke up to answer the question.  She confidently stated that “Math is something an artist does.”  Many other Kindergarten students disagreed and a bit of a debate ensued.  Later in the week after some collaborative planning with the other Kinder teacher, we agreed to bring both classes together to discuss this claim. We grouped the children into 4-5 students and provided each group with one A4 image of Piet Mondrian’s Line over Form.


Piet Mondrian – Line over Form


We asked them to think like a Mathematician and look closely to see if they can find any Math in this Art.  The image captured the attention of our student’s thanks to its identifiable shapes, striking colors,  & noticeable patterns. This one piece alone sparked so many different discussions about Art in Math and vice-versa. We touched on symmetry, angles, & patterns all while changing and challenging the student’s perspectives on “What is Math.” Having all started with a student-led inquiry, the addition of this visual aid took our learning to new heights and created opportunities for transdisciplinary connections. This to me, was the first time I think I really understood the power of visuals and how they can help connect authentic experiences to higher levels of thinking.

Now, our  Maths inquiry has moved beyond the classroom as outdoors as we look for “Math in Nature.”  Our latest Unit of Inquiry titled, How the World Works, has my Kindergarten students looking through the lens of a scientist. Becoming keen observers and practicing how to look closely have been at the forefront of our classroom inquiries. The following photos will be used to help create a buzzing discussion about whether or not there is Math in Nature.

Machaon

Nicolas Winspeare: Flickr

tidal pattern 1

 

I’m confident that these two photos will be able to provide the same sort of spark that Piet Mondrian’s image did. For one, we live on a tropical island with beaches and critters galore so both photos are already tapping into students’ prior knowledge and authentic experiences. It’s just about looking at them now with a different lens altogether.  Now it’s about a new perspective for my students, one that teaches them to look for the meaning being communicated by and beyond the image.


Final Wonderings?

I enjoyed using the https://search.creativecommons.org/ website to quickly find images that I can use in the classroom. This time around, I stuck to images from Flickr but, I hope to explore other sites offered on the CC.org site.

What’s your favorite site?

In what ways do you use images in the classroom to promote critical thinking?

Do you believe that Visual Literacy is transdisciplinary?

What types of discussions about Visual Literacy are going on in your class?

Thanks!

@NicholasKGarvin

Come Together: Collaboration Through Global Goals

 “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.”
                           – Oliver Wendell Holmes

In this age of information, where almost anything can be found by a quick Google search, one aspect that has emerged is the emphasis on critical thinking skills. Ideas such as the flipped classroom model and microlearning have already freed up classroom time allowing teacher and students the opportunity to shift their focus to “big ideas”, sharpening their collaboration and critical thinking skills.  Remaining open to new big ideas and providing both teachers and students with the time and space to share implement and innovate has now become the new community time on the carpet.  This along with collaborating and sharing our findings with others is what more and more classroom time has been allotted for. Deeper connections and higher levels of thinking are all possible now thanks to our ongoing embrace of technology within the classroom.  Why? Because technology is a time saver and with that time saved teachers can shift their focus towards critical thinking & other 21st-century century skills required for learners and leaders of tomorrow. Technology doesn’t guarantee critical thinking success just like it doesn’t guarantee innovation. It does, however, make us more efficient, thus freeing up a lot of time for new discussions, ideas, and action. It all comes down to how well we make use of our tools and time.

The iPod experiment discussed in Cathy N. Davidson’s Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age was a wonderful display of creativity fused with practicality and innovation. Imagine if all schools allowed their students to do the same, only with their own devices. The experiment reminded me of what my former school attempted in Mozambique with secondary students and a little low tech device called Makey Makey.  Here’s a quick video on what Makey Makey is, or can be.

Makey Makey is still going strong today, thanks to its open-ended creativity and its ever-increasing number of possibilities. Most importantly, it’s fun, it gets student thinking big.


Moving from Social Interactive to Global Action

Skype, Twitter Chats, Google Hangouts & the rest of the G-Suite are great tools that allow for global communication, collaboration. Often the problem is that many schools or classrooms fail to find a goal or purpose to rally behind so that everyone involves can get the most out of those tools. I have experimented with virtual pen pals and book buddies, with former colleagues who have moved away to different international schools. It was fun and engaging at first but overtime fizzled out. Looking back, I realize that I could have been doing so much more than swapping big book stories with different grade level at a different school and as a reflective practitioner take full responsibility for its dissolution. Andrew Marcinek’s article about social media really made me question whether or not I was making the most of my connection. When mentioned the importance of connecting efficiently.  


Global Goals

I recently came across this site Technology for a Global Early Childhood Education and I’m thankful I did. I specifically like their section, from ideas to action.  As a Kindergarten teacher, I appreciate that this site specializes in big ideas and steps towards action seen through an early childhood lens. 

In seeking out for more of global connections, I ‘ve recently come across The Global Goals for Sustainable Development. They were just in Bangkok a few weeks back for the Global Goals World Cup. I’m also excited to explore more possibilities that lie within my new school United World College Thailand and the 16 other United World Colleges around the globe. I appreciate their ethos. It reminds me of what was said in Cathy N. Davidson’s article “Collaboration by difference respects and rewards different forms and levels of expertise, perspective, culture, age, ability, and insight, treating difference not as a deficit but as a point of distinction.”. 

UWC’s focus on peace and a sustainable future is something I think we can all connect with. 

The parameters are in place, the tools are there, and now more than ever we have the opportunity to truly make a global impact. It’s a paradigm shift for sure but, we’re already on the cusp of. It starts by changing the way we think about school time, physical boundaries and barriers, and what is truly possible.

What’s your global collaboration goal?


“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
                                         – Vince Lombardi