Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Baby Love: The Return of Project-Based Learning in Kindergarten

I spent yesterday at Brandon University's Faculty of Education as a guest speaker in two different classes. Brandon University is like a second home to me...I completed my Bachelor of Education degree there and continued with graduate studies immediately after. Years later, I graduated with a Master of Education degree. Since then, I've been a regular presenter, and last winter I worked there as a sessional instructor, teaching The Multi-Age Classroom (Early Years). Yesterday I was thrilled to return and speak to early years students about best practices in ELA across the curriculum and multi-age/multi-level education.

It's always interesting to reflect on past projects and classroom practice, and yesterday was especially impactful. As I shared the body of our work in project-based learning (largely a collaborative effort with my colleague and best friend Leah Obach), it really hit me. With a project-based learning approach supported by technology, we have accomplished some really great things...for our students, our local and global communities, and ourselves too. Here is a link to yesterday's presentation.

Project-based learning is one of my preferred teaching methods, and upon returning to the classroom at the end of November, I was eager to launch a new project with my students. However, Leah and I have learned that it can be difficult to just choose a project and start developing it. Often the project has to find you. Well find me it did--I am currently replacing a teacher on maternity leave, which has resulted in a bunch of baby-crazy five year-olds. When Mrs. King had her baby, we decided our first project would be to plan and host a baby shower for her and her new bundle of joy.

Take a look at what we did...

Our projects usually begin with a to do list. Our to do list guides our learning activities, and allows me to make decisions about the curricular outcomes we'll uncover and the skills the students need to develop to successfully implement the project. 
-we developed our to do list as I modelled the writing process and how to make a list. We focused on initial consonants in words. 
-we used shared writing to develop our guest list. Boys and girls were excited to print the names of the people in their families whom they wanted to invite. 
-art, design, and ICT came into play as we created our invitations on the SMART Board using Microsoft Publisher. It was a great time to discuss ethical and responsible use as we sourced images. 

The students were eagerly anticipating the shower, which proved a perfect way to teach teen numbers. We made a countdown of "how many sleeps till the shower" and each of us practiced printing the numbers from 1-20 for the countdown. Every day as we ripped a number off the countdown, we counted back from that number and printed it. 
We also explored the hundred chart. After creating our guest list, we coloured a square on the hundred chart for each invited guest to determine how many people we were asking. As people replied to our invitations, we used tally marks to tabulate how many guests to expect. 

The shower invitations provided a unique way to explore the concept of half. We strengthened our fine motor skills as we folded the stack of invitations in half. 

The boys and girls decided to serve cookies, cupcakes, and blue Jello at the baby shower. Icing our cookies and cupcakes proved the perfect opportunity to teach the colour cluster in kindergarten science. We explored how we can mix primary colours together to create secondary colours, then applied our learning to create a number of icing colours. It was lots of fun icing our cookies and cupcakes--another great fine motor activity. 

Social Studies
Social studies themes are interwoven throughout this project--identifying the people in our lives who care for us and exploring different types of work in our homes and communities. 

Social Emotional Development
Everyone had an important role to fulfill at the shower. This promoted shared responsibility and interdependence in our classroom community--in order for our project to be a success, it was vital that everyone carried out their responsibilities. We made a job chart with all the tasks and students signed up. We had a fun time role-playing the different jobs with pretend shower guests. Below: greeters at the door, guest book attendants, beverage station, food station. 

With Mrs. King and baby Leo and our guests in attendance, we were beyond excited to open presents!
We made a special movie for Mr. and Mrs. King using iMovie on our classroom iPads, then transferred the footage to Windows Moviemaker to finish it off. Check it out here. 

 Connection to Play
Throughout this project, housekeeping and baby items were available to the students which they played with almost exclusively. The play focused largely on pregnancy, relationships, then caring for the babies once they were born! Following the baby shower, the boys and girls wanted to play baby shower. We added gift bags and tissue paper, another guest book, and a jug of water and cups to the play materials and they had a blast reenacting the events of Mrs. King's baby shower.

And another successful project draws to a close in my kindergarten classroom. We're excited to begin our next project which will be more collaborative in nature as we link with another classroom in our school division. Stay tuned!

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