Tag Archives: Kindergarten

Drawing a Lesson: Familiarity Breeds Creativity

Putting herself in an unfamiliar learning setting, Christiane Dufour experienced first-hand what happens in the “making” process when one is unfamiliar with the materials and the techniques associated with them. It brought home what three teachers discovered when they implemented STEAM the Kindergarten Way through Play.
Be sure to scroll all the way down to the video at the end.

I have a confession to make: I envy the creativity and ability of those who can imagine something and then give form to it. Whether they draw it or make it, it seems to spring easily from within to be translated into the medium of their choosing. That’s an illusion of course: they learned their craft through a lot of experimentation over time.

I’ve never experienced that apparent ease. But, as a teacher, I must and do believe that you can learn anything when you set your heart to it. So, listening to the admonitions of the adage that you’re never too old to learn, I decided to take art classes, starting with learning how to draw.

Drawing Materials
Drawing feet by hand (count the iterations!)

Pencils and paper; lots of paper and a good assortment of pencils! I’m in familiar territory. The teacher is great, creative. He has a road map in his head but many ways to take us along. He listens, adapts to our abilities and interests. I’m learning to draw, to manipulate these familiar pencils along with a few other simple tools to create the effects I see in my head or in the models he gives us to reproduce or to inspire us.

Every week, he enriches our toolkit of gestures and expands our capabilities by building on the previous lessons. When he shows us a technique or corrects our work, he tells us what he is doing and, while doing that, he provides us with a language for shapes, forms, gestures, tools, space and more. All good! I’m still in friendly territory. I see where this is going and, more and more, I imagine things that I could do along with an ever greater variety of ways to do them. I think my drawings are sometimes quite nice. It feels good.

After weeks of learning all kinds of techniques and eventually practicing how to draw hands in all sorts of positions, the potter’s hands emerged from my page by bringing together many of these techniques.

Reaching my potential

Setting my skills into motion

Then he throws us (me!) for a loop. He says he’ll show us a technique that will allow us to marry drawing and painting. This time, he proceeds with the lesson in steps.

  1. Apply paint to this canvas. (Voice in my head: is any particular way better than another?) Now wait to let it dry.
  2. Apply this gel to the canvas in this way. (Ok, what does the gel do? Thick or thin coat? What will it look like when it dries?)

    One of the Cheshire Cat’s Dreams
  3. Sprinkle this powder over the gel. The powder prevents the gel from drying too quickly, we are told. (OK, but my brain still wants to know what the powder will look like when gel and powder dry.)
  4. Now take this bamboo skewer and draw by scraping away the gel and powder. (Draw? What, how, why?)

This is not the end of the process; there will be a few other steps to the finished product but I don’t yet know what they are. So I draw the way I do with pencils: lines to create a shape and a few details to give it volume.
I scrape away!
I feel lost.
It doesn’t look like anything I can relate to! I can’t imagine what this will end up looking like. I can’t even think of other things I could do that would give an interesting effect. It just looks like a mess!

I have no idea what I’m doing with these materials!

This is an “ah ha!” moment for me. I feel lost.
I can’t even imagine what I could do because these materials are so unfamiliar. I don’t know what they will let me create.

And, there and then, I’m brought back to what we discovered in our STEAM in K one-year experimentation. Namely, how important it is for children to be given ample time to play with and explore materials, tools and techniques freely and with no end-product in mind. Well, this doesn’t apply just to preschool children, does it? It certainly applied to me! And it’s true for any learner at any level. It‘s true also for anything we learn, from art to coding and for all the other letters in STEAM.

LEARN by doing!

In our year-long project in which three experienced teachers implemented STEAM in Kindergarten, this fact was spectacularly brought home the day clay was introduced in the class. It was a totally new and unfamiliar medium which just shouted to be explored. Their exploration started with the medium itself.

How does it feel? How does it let itself be manipulated? What different gestures can be used to shape it? What can be done with these shapes? Then, what tools can be used to refine manipulation? How do you change its texture? How do you stick pieces together? And so much more!

After having played with clay in many ways and used different tools and techniques over several sessions, the children discovered how this material works and what they could do with the tools. It also gave the teachers time to provide them with the language associated with this medium, the vocabulary of clay, its tools and gestures. Having worked with it many times with no particular goal in mind, the children were finally able to imagine what they would like to MAKE with it AND they were able shape their idea into the clay and obtain an intentional result.

The lesson I draw from this experience is that when we are introduced to new, unfamiliar materials, practices or techniques, we need to be given the opportunity to explore the potential of the materials multiple times before we make something with it whether it be a picture, a “thing”, or a program.

I am reminded that when we observe children inventing and making things with wooden blocks, with LEGO or with cardboard boxes, we tend to forget that they are quite familiar with these materials which have been part of their environment since daycare. They can turn them into any number of wondrous creations or use them in unsuspected ways to serve their goals. Add a few new materials into the mix, such as cars, balls, PVC pipes or cardboard tubes, tape, and they will be able to imagine new things to do and to make.

Without that, we are only following instructions without much understanding or transferable learning, very much like I experienced in my fateful lesson. Familiarity breeds creativity as well as proficiency.

Observe the exploration and creativity that is possible when Kindergarten students familiarize themselves with new materials without having to worry about creating a single product.

Artful Tinkering in Kindergarten: The creativity table

Be sure to scroll down in this post to see the many photos of children’s work, and their descriptions of what it made them think of.

These days, many educators are preoccupied with helping their students develop creativity. We can harness children’s innate creative reflex in Kindergarten, and set them on a path of making, tinkering and creating. If you wonder where to start infusing the Maker spirit in a Kindergarten class – a creativity table may be just the thing for you! 

A creativity table is an open-ended activity center. Children usually prefer play that stimulates their curiosity and gives free rein to their imagination and creativity. One of the best ways to enhance their natural curiosity is to introduce a wide variety of materials we call ‘loose parts’ into their play setting. Your creativity table should offer your students plenty of loose parts to choose from.

Loose parts possess infinite play possibilities. They offer multiple rather than single outcomes; no specific set of directions accompanies them; no single result is inevitable; they are open-ended.

Materials become invitations that don’t focus immediately on the creation of products but instead support the children’s building relationships with those materials. Louder for the people at the back: materials are invitations. They do not lead the child to any particular course of action. The materials, and the creativity table ethos, allow children to build their own connection to what is offered. Materials are usually artfully presented, organised and sorted, preferably in transparent containers.

 

Transparent containers filled with loose parts

The children are given time to explore, to touch, to feel the textures and to let the materials lead their creativity with no particular outcome, product or set steps in mind. The invitation to create is open-ended and not time-restrained.

Their beautiful creations are ephemeral. This may be difficult for some children who are used to produce work that is always considered final and displayed. They learn to enjoy making them and then letting them go, though they can live on in the pictures that they take of them.

In one teacher’s words:

“[The first time] I put it out there, I thought ‘Let’s see what happens’. I’ll just change it.  Have them create some kind of images with shapes. They have had experience before [with art work that is ephemeral]. It’s really hard for them [not to keep their creation]. But they’re so good. They just create, have fun, and if they want me to take a picture, I can take a picture and put in their portfolio binder. But [I tell them] ‘Don’t make it permanent’. And they learn to do that. They respect that. And they respect putting everything back in its own place. It’s kind of fun actually [that they enjoy sorting things back into their containers]. Usually this is my plasticine/play dough table, but I’m looking forward to changing it up and see what else they can create with the stuff I’m just going to put there: my Exploration Table”

She compares it to building sand castles on the beach. 

“You create and play, and the next day it’s no longer there so you can start over again.”

September’s sea-themed exploration/creativity table

October’s fall themed table

 

When the children were “finished”, the teacher took pictures and asked them what their creations made them think of. (not “What did you make”!) Here is what they said about their creations – “It makes me think of…”

…nature
…the heart of a tree for a ladybug
…a flower
…a nest
…a beautiful garden

 

There were many more. All their creations were beautiful. But even more beautiful is what the children SAW in them. That is both creative AND poetic!

This very simple activity over time creates a maker mindset which values autonomy and exploration, which makes tinkering the default first steps of any activity, which gives permission to try different ideas and which provides invaluable experience with the medium used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enter K – Exit Play?

play1Is Play on the Endangered List of our Kindergarten Practices?

A friend of mine, an experienced teacher, was reminiscing on her years teaching kindergarten. She regaled us with funny stories, precious moments, and some great aha! moments. One of these aha! moments happened at the beginning of her career. She had taken great pride in planning her day and had organised activities that she thought would be fun and interesting for the children. After they had danced, made puppets and done a sing-along, one child asked her: “When do we get to play?”

She was flabbergasted. The realisation that the children did not view these well planned teacher-led activities as PLAY was a revelation which, over time, changed her view of what her classroom environment should offer. Her misunderstanding is not unique. The problem is that there’s a lot of confusion around what constitutes PLAY. But in the words of a five year-old, it’s really simple: “Playing is doing what we want.”

Yet for many teachers, play remains an ambiguous concept. For some it’s what children do in the short free play periods between more structured activities; for others it’s their center time with proposed activities/challenges that may last 30 to 40 minutes; sometimes it’s viewed as being able to choose among playful activities presented by the teacher. The children can choose their activity; participation, however, is not optional. In certain cases, playtime will be used as a reward for children who have completed a mandatory activity or for those who behaved “well”. As a result, only children who do things quickly and easily get the reward.

What is play?

But there’s really no in-between with regards to play: either you’re playing or you’re not, because playing is a state of being, a way of experiencing life during a certain time. So when I speak of “play” here, I refer to activities that are freely chosen and directed by children which arise from intrinsic motivation and are sustained over a significant period of time.

These play activities have the following characteristics:

  • They involve a process with no specific objective, no required product, result or outcome;
  • Play is not predictable and you never know where it will lead the players or how it will end because neither rules, outcomes nor tasks are set by an outsider. The players are in control of all aspects of their activity;
  • The children choose to do it because they want to do it (they are intrinsically motivated);
  • They can choose who they play with, what they play with, how they play with it, and for how long;
  • It’s a sustained activity in which the children become immersed in ideas, emotions and relationships. They call upon their personal experience and knowledge while exploring, discovering, and practicing. They use their imagination; they demonstrate dexterity, problem solving abilities, perseverance, and much more.

There are mountains of research that show that “Young children learn the most important things not by being told, but by constructing knowledge for themselves in interaction with the physical world and with other children – and the way they do this is by playing”. (1)

And these “most important things” all relate one way or another to the competencies of the Quebec Preschool Education Program:

  • Psychomotor Development (Competency 1)
  • Social Development (Competency 2)
  • Emotional Development (Competency 3)
  • Language Development (Competency 4)
  • Cognitive Development (Competencies 5 and 6)

play2Where is the play?

So why don’t we find more real play time in our kindergarten classes?

There is no doubt that we bathe in the academic approach of all the other cycles around us in a school. Peers and parents don’t necessarily understand the kindergarten program, and see it as the beginning of academic life for the child, which in truth should be found in Grade 1. Most of our own learning experience is based on academic teaching models as well. No wonder it is so difficult for us to identify and name the contributions of play to learning. It entails a shift in our mind set. It requires us to look again and differently at our materials and at what could be done with them.

Taking blocks as an example, we need to think about and identify how children’s block play contributes to learning, and what conditions, materials, time and space we need to provide for that learning to happen. We have to think about what we want to learn about the children as we observe their play and their talk; we need be able to see and to “name” their behaviours, their processes, their strategies, and their attitudes in order document them.

Luckily we have a guide at our disposal which contains all that information. It tells us what to aim for and what to look for: the Québec Preschool Education Program. I like the way my friend talks about her relationship with it. For her, it’s a guide you have to see and embrace “by heart”. It’s her heartfelt understanding of it that has guided her through the years.

If we can convince ourselves that playing is not just a “recreational activity” but the core of children’s learning experience, then perhaps we could do like my friend did, and slowly but surely turn our classes into a place where the children can, first and foremost, learn the most important lessons in life … through play.

 


(1) Jones, E., & Reynolds, G. (1992). The play’s the thing: Teacher’s roles in children’s play, pg. 1.

Additional quick reads and references:

Why Play, Retrieved May 6, 2016 from http://EarlyLearningCentral.ca.

The Importance of Play, Retrieved May 6, 2016 from http://EarlyLearningCentral.ca.

Points to Keep in Mind about Play and Learning, Retrieved May 6, 2016 from http://EarlyLearningCentral.ca.

LEARN’s one page QEP preschool programme

K is for Kindergarten: Why parents matter in the transition to school

I still remember the day I went to our local school to inquire about registering my daughter for kindergarten. It was going to be a big step for her, and I vaguely felt it would also be a change for me. Being new to the area and not knowing anything about the local school, I was a bit nervous about the kind of environment it had to offer. So I was pleasantly surprised as well as quite shocked when the young secretary who took my information looked up at me and said: “Welcome Mrs. Dufour. I bet you don’t remember me.” Turns out I had been her teacher in CEGEP some years back. It was an impromptu visit, very informal, but the welcome I received as well as what I saw of the school left me with a good impression of the people and the place. As a result, I felt good about the school in general and about my daughter’s kindergarten teacher in particular.

This happened quite a while before Gordon Neufeld became known for his attachment-based developmental approach of how children come to realize their potential as human beings along with the role that adults play in this process. I had no framework to understand the effects of my positive attitude towards my daughter’s new teacher on her transition into kindergarten. According to Neufeld, by liking her teacher I was giving my daughter implicit “permission” to create an attachment to that new person in her life, to trust her and follow her directions.

Duck_&_Ducklings_Morning_Walk-sm
https://en.wikipedia.org/ (CC BY-NC)

As an educator, I now like the light shed by Neufeld’s attachment focus on a child’s transition into kindergarten. I like the guidance his view can provide to educators who plan a welcoming process for parents and children. It offers an interesting framework which can shape that plan and give it an overarching meaningful objective, that of creating a bond with both parent and child in order to allow that child to feel securely dependant on their teacher, their other “mother duck”.

What would transition welcoming activities look like if we took as our premise that this is the year in which a child can get off on the right foot by creating a strong attachment to you, their teacher? There are so many variables which come into play when putting together welcoming transition activities that it’s impossible to give a single recipe for success. So I’ll just try to give ideas about some goals to achieve and examples of what could be put in place to get there.

There are essentially three major moments that create opportunities for “making a good impression”: before school starts, at the time of school entry, and at key times throughout the year. In this blog, we’ll just look at the first one.

Meeting the parents and children in May-June

 The process could start with a parent-child meeting in May or June. Its purpose would essentially be to make both parent and child welcome and to instil the seed of a positive mindset towards the school and the teacher.

  • Focus on the child.
    There would be a cordial and personalised welcome. You could greet each child individually, at eye level, saying his name and staying focused on him. Then only would you greet the parent! Parents are about to entrust their precious children to you. They’ll appreciate that you focus on them first and foremost.
  • Create a shared experience
    You would plan something that both parents and children would enjoy doing together in the school environment. It could be a picnic, sharing a snack, or playing school yard games, perhaps the kind the parents would have played when they were young. In this way they can talk about what they did as a child and connect themselves to the school experience.
  • Put both at ease about the larger school environment
    Include a visit of the school in the plan. Why not do it in the form of a game? Perhaps a little rally through the school in which both parent and child discover all its areas together at their own pace. This type of approach also shows the parent how they can expect their child to learn in your class: by being active participants rather than passive listeners.
  • Address parents’ information expectations
    Of course parents would get any pertinent documents that will tell them about such things as when school will start, how the first few days will be organised, what they need to know about bussing, etc. This is not yet about the program, your expectations, your pedagogy, the school rules, etc. That can come later. With this you are responding the adults’ expectations and you are reassuring them with the basic information they need to be ready for the fall entry.
  • Make both parent and child feel special
    When it’s time to go, you would make sure to thank each parent and child individually for their participation and let them know you’re looking forward to seeing them again in September. You might give each child a little booklet in which they can present themselves and their family in a variety of ways. This would help maintain the parent-child conversation about school alive and positive throughout the summer. Ask them to bring it back with them in the fall. If the school playground is open to the public, you could invite them to use it.

 

Of course, all these types of activities are multi-purpose. They also allow you to observe the children in different contexts: language, motor development, social interactions. These observations could be used to help balance groups when there is more that one K class in the school.

What you do may be very different from these examples given the great variety of school and community contexts. But if the focus is clear you should be able to find a way to help the child see you as an attachment figure with the parent’s blessing.

You will still need to provide more information to parents about the program, about your classroom practices and expectations, about school rules and regulations, about bussing, about daycare, and the list goes on. Keeping this for a separate occasion allows you to plan with adults in mind who will have your undivided attention. You, on the other hand, will have a better opportunity to get to know them: their backgrounds, prior experiences with school, with authority figures and with learning, their expectations or fears. All these you will have to uncover in order to make them your allies and your partners. The quality of that partnership will have an impact on their child’s connection to you.

What are some ways you (or teachers you know) welcome parents and children in your school? I’d love to hear from you!

 


Related resources

Fédération des syndicats de l’enseignement. Projet entrée progressive au préscolaire, Revue Préscolaire, Vol. 47, no 2, avril 2009.

Neufeld, G., & Maté, G. (2013). Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter. Toronto: Vintage Canada.

Robillard, R. (2015) Merci! Revue Préscolaire, Vol. 53, no 1, Hiver 2015, 20-21

Dossier : La collaboration école-famille. Revue Préscolaire, Vol. 51, no 4, Automne 2013.

“What IS Attachment and How Do You Get It?”. Mothering.com. Retrieved 2016-04-24

(http://www.mothering.com/articles/what-is-attachment-and-how-do-you-get-it/)

AuthoritATIVE Parenting, not AuthoritARIAN Parenting”. Mothering.com. Retrieved 2016-04-24

(http://www.mothering.com/articles/authoritative-parenting-not-authoritarian-parenting/)

K is for Kindergarten: Easing into school

This is the first in a series of posts dedicated to the wonderful world of kindergarten.

1stdayofSchool2SM
Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It’s the time of year when parents of pre-school aged children are thinking of kindergarten, and the Great Transition from pre-school/home to school. I still remember my own daughter’s first days of school in kindergarten. She had attended a great daycare service and I was confident that the transition to school would be seamless. Moreover, I was convinced my daughter would adapt without any difficulty since she already knew her letters, could read and count. What more do you need, right? Wrong. Though she was keen to go to school, that first day she came home tired and overwhelmed. That’s when I realised there’s more to this transition for her than meets the eye and that she would have benefited from a slower and softer landing into the BIG school. She would have been more at ease with a Progressive Entry.

This is when kindergarten teachers stagger student attendance over the first few days of school so that they can give each child more attention. We call it Progressive Entry, but I like to refer to it as part of a Welcoming Entry. It’s meant to help ease the stress of full day attendance in a new school setting, create a strong bond between child and teacher, and set the scene for a successful year.

Welcoming means to greet someone with a positive attitude or simple gestures that make the welcome heart-warming. Registration to preschool, the first step in the child’s admission to school, is in fact the first contact parent and child have with the school. This is where they’ll get a first impression and it’s the first opportunity the school has to make them feel welcomed.

The second opportunity is the start of the school year. These first few days have an impact on the child’s current and future motivation to go to school. For parents, those days often give rise to both pride in their child and uncertainty of what lies ahead for them this year. That’s why it’s important to be very attentive to these two moments of school life. A progressive entry can be part of the things a teacher and school should consider to make the child’s transition to school a success.

A bit of history

Mandatory full time kindergarten was officially implemented in 1997 in Québec with the arrival our new educational program for preschool education. Next year we’ll get to celebrate that 20th anniversary. We’ve come a long way since that first year when many school boards had to scramble to create their kindergarten facilities: adapted rooms, materials, bathrooms, playgrounds and more. The situation was such that the ministry allowed some schools to take as long as 20 days to gradually integrate the children into the school.

The idea of having fewer students, having them come to school for half days or fewer days at the beginning of the year is still something that teachers like to do because smaller groups allow the teacher to observe each child more closely, to interact more personally and to set about creating a bond with that child. For the child, the environment is new, the people are new and the day is more demanding and tiring. The child will profit from a soft landing in the new school environment, whether he/she has attended daycare or not.

Of course we’re no longer talking about 20 days! There are actually provisions in the Basic School Regulation for Pre-school, Elementary and Secondary Education (section 18) that allow schools to implement a gradual entry in preschool while meeting requirements regarding number of hours and number of days: 23.5 hours a week and 180 days out of 200 devoted to educational services (sections 16 and 17). That was originally a problematic requirement and a hindrance to implementation. But now, the first school days of the school calendar for children in preschool education can be used to allow them to enter school gradually. To simplify matters, each day or partial day used for gradual entry to school constitutes the equivalent of one day of class in the school calendar devoted to educational services.

So, in a nutshell, progressive entry is something teachers and schools can consider, both from a legal and educational perspective, when they plan their welcoming strategies at the beginning of the school year. As a parent, knowing that this option is available would have been a load off my mind.

1stdayofSChoolSM
Flickr, Nikita, CC BY 2.0

The Tablet in the Room: Tablet Technology in Kindergarten

iPad in KTablets, most often though not exclusively iPads, are fast making their way into the class.  I’ve often been asked whether they should be put in the hands of kindergarten children and, in my answers, I sometimes find myself skating around a variety of key words that include play, 21st century, meaningful, and, key of keys, the Quebec Preschool Education Program.

So, I thought I’d try to put a bit of order in my thoughts.

Technology is ubiquitous in the lives of our students. Perhaps we are asking the wrong question. As preschool educators, we should rather ask questions such as “Can a tablet help us… and if so, how?” and “What practices will enrich the Preschool classroom environment in keeping with the preschool mandate”.

One thing is certain, the tablet’s portability, long battery life, ease of use, and multiplicity of specialised apps/tools make it a game changer as compared to computers, even laptops.

So, how could we use it?

Heart1smLet’s be clear: it’s not the tablet we’re talking about but rather the apps that we’ll be using and how we will be using them. So, before judging apps, I decided to establish a reflection grid to help decide whether an app can fit into our activities and our class organisation in a way that is in keeping with the Québec Preschool Education Program. The preschool mandate is the first item. Note that it is NOT one of formal instruction and subject areas.  Then, I made 4 columns which highlight four key aspects:

  • The central place of PLAY, i.e. meaningful activities and various forms of play to master reality.
  • its DEVELOPMENTAL rather than instructional approach which fosters the emergence of strong foundations for future schooling. Learning activities should foster the motor and psychomotor, emotional, social, and cognitive dimensions of development.
  • the CLASS ORGANISATION that supports play and active participation in stimulating environments in and out of the classroom (gym, school yard, community, nature, etc) which invite children to observe, explore, manipulate, etc.
  • and finally, its PEDAGOGICAL EVALUATION through the observation and analysis of the children’s attitudes, behaviours, processes, strategies and productions to document their progress and inform our interventions.
    (QEP p. 52)

Just one more tool

The easiest first step in using a tablet is to find a few applications that we can add to the list of tools that we already use.  So, when asking the children to make a picture in the context of an activity, some might use paint, some crayons, and others could use a Drawing app. If you’re setting up a math center with sequencing games, you might include the tablet with an appropriate app.  A Book app (that’s an app that displays a book and includes interactive features) can be used to listen to or read an animated story in a large group, immersing the children in a large screen experience You will still stop, ask questions, ask the children to anticipate, and use all the strategies you normally use when reading to them from a picture book. Later, the children can read or listen to the story in the reading corner and use its interactive features on their own.

Do your activity differently

But be forewarned. Using the app as an added tool in your usual way of doing things usually leads to discovering that the functionalities embedded in the app let you go a step further and imagine new aspects to the activity, enriching it with new twists.

The built-in still and video Camera app is perhaps the easiest and most versatile first tool to use. The camera can be used to create traces of learning, included in the child’s picture portfolio with ease, and brought out when assessing or meeting parents. The children could record their own reflections. They can use it in many other ways, for example

  • Take pictures during a visit to … (fill in the blanks).  Back in class, you project them and together, retell the story of the visit.

With pictures readily available in the Camera Roll it is easy to use them in a variety of contexts.

  • The Camera app, in conjunction with a simple Video Creation app can be used by the children to retell a field trip, to present a science project’s observations (hatching monarch butterflies, germinating  seeds, etc.)
  • With experience and a good Book Creation app, you might help the children create a book from the pictures, a book which can be posted and shared so it can be viewed at home where the children can retell the activity/story in their own words. Some book creation apps allow voice recording.  They all let you write text.  Can you begin to see the possibilities over time? Imagine the children making an alphabet book from pictures they take, pictures of themselves shaping a letter. It would include text and voice. That book could circulate at home as well as be viewed in your reading corner.
  • The email sharing functionality in most creation apps lets you imagine an activity in which an Audio Recording app is be used by the children to make an audio greeting card which they send by email.

Are we still within our evaluation parameters: constructivist, real-life, developmental, conducive to our observing a rich collection of attitudes, behaviours, processes, strategies and productions to analyse and assess? You bet!

Open-ended and creative

There are many applications that allow the children to create in electronic media. You would use them in a variety of contexts, within a meaningful activity or learning situation, just like you use all the other media in your class. But what is new is that, over time and with experience, you can now imagine projects with a scope that was impossible to imagine before.

  • Your school has a policy of inviting next year’s crop of K children to show them the ropes? How about making a video to show them the school, to present the adults they’ll get to know (interviews), to show them what they will be doing in kindergarten and how much fun it is (videos and pictures)? This would be a major end of year project that targets all the competencies.
  • And what about opening the class to the world: talk to buddies in other countries using the Skype app – we may have cows in our fields but they get to see kangaroos or whales or … (fill in the blanks).
  • Extend their reading experience by meeting the author of their favourite book on Skype; then create your own book to send to the author.

Do not judge an app by its colour

By this I mean, it may look game-like, it may sound joyous, be animated but that doesn’t mean it fits into the kindergarten classroom play-based environment of discovery, experimentation and development. Many apps on the market have little or no pedagogical value.  You’ll find books that are the equivalent of their paper version, instructional apps, the alphabet/counting/spelling/make-a-genius-out-of-your-child type, that are really just enhanced drill and practice.  If you are looking for “games” to play on the tablet, look for apps that focus on cognitive abilities: logic, memory, strategy games, puzzles, games that can be played in pairs to encourage talk and problem solving. These will enrich the collection of materials you already use in class and they are in line with the Learnings Related to Cognitive Development (QEP, p.68).

Based on teacher experience, the LEARN Kindergarten Web site is building a list of a few apps that have been used in the K class and pass the Evaluation Grid test. And so, in the end, it all comes down to starting with an understanding of what makes our preschool classroom unique and bringing in the tool in a way that preserves that essence.

Further reading

  1. Recit du préscolaire: La tablette tactile
    http://recitpresco.qc.ca/node/1035
  2. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development: Play, what can be done.
    http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/en-ca/child-play/what-can-be-done.html
  3. Child Development Institute: “Play is the Work of the Child” Maria Montessori
    http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-development/play-work-of-children/
  4. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development : School Age Children Development and Parenting Tips
    http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/ages-stages/school-age-children-development-parenting-tips/
  5. Blog: Play Based Classroom. A preschool educator shares her experiences.
    http://play-basedclassroom.blogspot.ca/