Friday, June 6, 2014

The Flow of Our Day, Part One: Morning

I often hear other educators and administrators ask about our "daily schedule". I start out by explaining that we prefer to think of our day's events as a "rhythm" of the day, or as "the flow of the day". The rigidity of a schedule just doesn't fit the natural flow of a small child's day.

When the children come into the classroom, we have "transition" time. This is a block of time that varies in length depending on the day, where the children are encouraged to make a gentle transition from home to school. Some of the children begin their day at daycare, and perhaps ate breakfast two hours before getting to school. During this quiet play time, the children are encouraged to go to the washroom, eat a healthy snack, and play quietly at a centre of their choosing. 

When we started this new routine, we were amazed at how calmly the day began. Instead of tired, hungry little ones sitting at the carpet waiting for the other students to gather, we saw smiling faces. The whining that often started as soon as the children came in was no longer an issue. We use this time to circulate and greet each child warmly, check home bags and collect milk money, and do a check in with the children and each other. We take note of anyone who seems more tired than usual, or is feeling lonely for home. We have time to cuddle up in the big comfy chair for a story with any little ones who are needing some extra time to settle into the day. We also have time to listen to all those stories the children carry to school with them!

After 15-30 minutes (again, depending on the day), the children are cued to tidy up and gather together on the big carpet. We begin our day with a prayer, add a sticker to the ten-frame where we count the days in the month, check in with the Star of the Day, sing a song or do a finger play, and then a very important aspect of our day takes place: Turn and Talk.

As I mentioned above, children this age are always bursting with stories to share! I plan ahead to share something interesting or exciting with the children (such as seeing an animal on the way to work, or going to the beach on the weekend, or what we did when the power went out, etc.). Before I share, I ask the children a provocative questions, such as "Last night there was a thunderstorm! What do you know/feel about thunder and lightning?" I then ask the children to "turn and talk", knee-to-knee with a partner.

The children know that they must use their blossoming listening skills, because once they've had a chance to share with each other, they will report back to the class about what their partner said! In a very short time of incorporating daily Turn and Talk into our rhythm, I've seen a lot of growth in the children's ability to focus, interact in conversation, and express ideas verbally. 

Once our circle time winds to a close, we usually go off into small groups to focus on specific skills. 

For example, this morning the EA in my room took one group off to brainstorm their ideas about how we could begin building castles. They reviewed terms, drew a labelled picture together, talked about safety when using cutting tools and glue guns, and got very excited about their plans! 

I worked with another small group, reviewing a story we read yesterday about a castle under siege. We also reviewed terms (siege, battlement, drawbridge, and catapult), and read a new passage about a young boy becoming a page, then a squire, then a knight. I followed up by dubbing each of the students as they knelt before me! They loved it!

The third group worked independently at the creation station and played with the wooden castle. We rotated three times adjusting the length of each session according to the children's interest and attention. 

The groupings are always fluid, reflecting the interests, developmental stages, and needs of each student. 

Please tune in again tomorrow when I'll give you a peek into what our afternoons are like!

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