Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Cooking with Kinders!

Let's be honest, for some, this is a VERY scary thought! Cooking with that MANY children?! In the CLASSROOM?! That has the potential to be a tsunami-scale mess!

Stay with me for a second here and let's look at this from a positive perspective...

Cooking in Kindergarten:
  • allows children to use all FIVE of their senses;
  • provides nutritional value to the children;
  • provides growth in the physical, social/emotional, language and cognitive developmental domains;
  • links to the health & physical activity, science & technology, personal & social development, mathematics and language areas of the curriculum;
  • begins to teach them life skills;
  • provides opportunities for questions and inquiries to come about during the time in the kitchen or around the table, just like at home;
  • allows the children to make connections between home, school and their community;
  • provides the opportunity for the children to explore new foods and develop their tastes.
I have made this handy little sheet just to show you HOW MUCH cooking is linked to our curriculum:

You can download and print your own copy right here:

Let me give you some quick examples of how cooking really does encompass a lot of our curriculum.

  • Investigating gardening and farming, where does our food come from?;
  • Making predictions and observations before and after cooking;
  • Changing from liquids to solids: We added milk, water or oil to the recipe, what happened when we cooked it?;
  • Food and cooking safety practices.
  • Counting as we measure or add-in the ingredients;
  • Estimating how much it will take before we measure, or how many (e.g how many raisins in 1/2 cup?);
  • Noticing shapes within our food;
  • Measuring out the ingredients.
  • Reading the recipe and following the directions;
  • Using vocabulary related to cooking;
  • Writing out our recipes and shopping lists;
  • Reading cookbooks;
  • Talking and asking questions.
  • Mixing or kneading the ingredients;
  • Smelling the different foods and spices, tasting the recipe;
  • Feeling the different textures of the ingredients.
Health & Physical Activity:
  • Exploring what is nutritious, why it is good for our bodies, why eating healthy is beneficial;
  • Ensuring we wash our hands before and after cooking (and any time we need to in between), why we do this, how we can transfer germs into our food and to others;
  • Developing our fine motor skills by using the small cups and spoons to measure, balance and pour, counting out the little ingredients.
Personal/Social/Emotional Development:
  • Learning to take turns while preparing the recipe and during the conversations that happen;
  • Learning to work together within a small or large group to help prepare the recipe;
  • Being able to make a connection between home and school about the foods we are using, what they cook at home and sharing any special meals that they may have;
  • Willing to try new foods or ingredients that they may have never tried previously;
  • Talking about the foods they like and do not like.
What I really love about cooking is the conversations and the inquiry that comes about during it. We have explored so many of these topics just from one simple activity:
  • Where does food come from? (This leads into fruits, vegetables, farms, grocery stores etc.);
  • Why do we have to cook it?;
  • We have this at home but my mom/dad/grandma/grandpa makes it different... (This leads into recipes, variations, bringing in recipes from home or even the family member to come make it with us);
  • Favourite and least favourite foods, what we like and do not like about them (This often turns into a graphing activity);
  • Field trips to grocery stores, restaurants, farms, a family members vegetable garden;
  • Growing our own vegetables in the class to cook with;
  • Different family meals (One of my favourites because it usually leads to multicultural foods).
The list from this really is endless and changes with every single recipe we cook!

So, how do I cook with my kinders you ask?

It's simple really. I have found the best way to arrange a cooking activity is in small groups of about 6-8 children. This way there isn't a lot of waiting (measuring and pouring can take a LONG time with almost 30 children!) and since it can be done quite often, everyone always seems to get a turn. I also like it this way because there are some children who just aren't interested in cooking.

We arrange ourselves at a table and I have the recipe prepared on cards that are laminated so we can use dry erase markers on them. Further on in the school year as the children develop their writing and math skills, they write the ingredients on the card.

You will notice in the picture above that measuring cup and spoon are coloured in. I do this to try and show the children the measurement in picture form as well.

These were some leftover cards from making yummy Yogurt Popsicles.

Side note: I also have a pre-made set for playdough and other frequently-used sensory recipes that I printed off and created so that I am not having to re-write it each time!

If you are interested in this set it is available in my TPT store, just click on the picture below and it will take you there.


This package also includes a menu, weekly shopping form, blank recipe cards and shopping lists to add to your writing or dramatic centre and a note to parents explaining our cooking and a slip to write any ingredients you may need donated to your class. 
I hope I have convinced you that cooking with your kinders can most certainly be a fun learning experience and really should be a part of your kindergarten program!
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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Investigating the Meaning of Inquiry in Kindergarten

What is Inquiry Based Leaning in Kindergarten?

In simple form, inquiry-based learning is more of a student-directed way of learning rather than teacher-directed. In some cases, the teaching team may set the general framework for learning, but for the most part, the learning is based on the students questions, ideas and passions. This is similar to the emergent curriculum if that is a term you are more familiar with. Rather than working off set lesson plans that are theme-based and not necessarily developmentally appropriate for all children, your teaching is guided by the students interests thus making the learning more meaningful to them.

We know from research that children achieve optimal learning when they are given plenty of opportunities to become fully engaged in their play. Most often while children are engaged, their natural curiosity of the world around them comes forth. They take notice of everything and have a beautiful sense of wonder about people, places, objects, and nature. Through noticing and wondering, the children come up with questions and observations about their thinking. It is important that children are given the opportunity to investigate their inquiry, gather information, make observations and share their findings with others.

It is the role of the teaching team in kindergarten to act as facilitators. We use these opportunities of inquiry to help guide the children with more open-ended questions allowing them to extend and clarify their thinking and make connections, while modeling the inquiry process. We provide the children with the tools, materials and resources they need to investigate these inquiries.

What is the Inquiry Process?

The Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program clearly defines the inquiry process in the curriculum document and I have included the table for you below:
There is also an article I enjoyed named "The Plan: Building on Children's Interests" by Hilary Jo Seitz through NAEYC, that you can read here, that offers a very interesting perspective on the inquiry process. It has many similarities to the one in the Full Day Kindergarten document, but I enjoyed the way Hilary explained her four step process. I also now love the term SPARKS which refers to anything that promotes deeper thinking.

Open-Ended Questions to Promote Inquiry

The key to open-ended questions is that they promote further thinking and explanation. Questions that begin with "what, why, how, if etc." are usually open-ended questions. Anything that can be answered with yes or no are typically closed-ended questions and a lot of the time may begin with "can, do etc."
I created the sheet above to carry with me on my clipboard when I am doing observations during the day as a reminder or suggestion. Very quickly these just became natural for me and it is just part of my normal conversations throughout the day with the children.
This certainly won't be my last post on inquiry, but I hope this answers some questions for those who were wondering just what inquiry-based learning is.

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Let's Look at the Full Day Kindergarten Schedule

A Typical Day in FDK!

I have noticed that a lot of people search for full day kindergarten schedules in Ontario. I am assuming this is to see how people organize their days! I have included here a condensed schedule from one of the full day kindergarten classes that I was in, because, I absolutely loved this schedule. It really seemed to work well for our students and took a lot of tweaking to get this right! We certainly did not follow this every day because, as always, things come up in a school day. For the most part though, this is the schedule we tried to stick to as closely as we could. I have made some changes to the schedule but overall it is pretty close.

Our board goes by the "Day" system which means we don't schedule based on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday but rather Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5. This makes allowances for things like professional activity days and teachers prep times because the next day bumps over and no one ever misses their prep time, gym time etc. I changed the Day titles to your typical days of the week.

We also follow a "Balanced Day" which means that there is a 100 minute instructional block at the beginning of the day, followed by a 40 minute nutritional break (20 minutes for lunch and 20 minutes for recess), followed by another 100 minute instructional block, another 40 minute nutrition break and then the last 100 minute instructional block.

And lastly, I removed the teachers prep times from the schedule.

What Does the Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten Curriculum Say About Scheduling?

The FDELK curriculum document states on pages 35, 36 and 37 that when planning the use of time educators should :
  • offer large amounts of time to work at learning centres;
  • plan instruction and activities that are for both small and whole group, as well as individual learning;
  • ensure that there is a balance of both team and child-initiated learning activities;
  • provide a daily block of time that is solely for play and include time for the children to become immersed in the activities, as well as the tidy-up time. It is recommended that the children have no less than one hour of uninterrupted time for play;
  • plan for daily literacy and numeracy instruction (this can be done in a large or small group, or at learning centres);
  • be sure to include time for "free exploration, focused exploration and guided activity."
The document also recommends that when you are planning your time, to take into consideration the:
  • attention span of your students;
  • the amount of time the children have been going to school;
  • the "strengths, needs and interests' of the students;
  • group dynamic of your class.
(You can view the full Ontario kindergarten document here.)

How Have We Incorporated These Suggestions in Our Schedule?
  • Wherever you see the word "freeplay" means that the children are free to play at the learning centres, and with both table top and carpet toys. We try to offer this every block with the largest chunk of time being in the morning and this is also the child-initiated time because they are free to choose;
  • After every recess we try to have a gathering time on the carpet. This allows the opportunity to discuss any issues that may have come up over recess and, as well, the children can share anything they may have from the previous block of instructional time. We also try to do our mini math or literacy lesson as a whole group during this time;
  • Typically after the gathering time we do "bins". The class is divided into five groups and we have five bins for both the literacy block and math block. The children only complete one bin activity per day and we rotate them over five days (five bins, one for each day.) There may be an activity related to the lesson and one educator may work in a small group with them, the other educator will move about the other activities assisting with individual needs and instruction. This only usually lasts about ten minutes and the children are then free to play. We usually offer table top toys with a literacy focus (or math depending on the block) and most centres;
  • If we have a more focused lesson or guided reading, we will most often pull small groups at a time to work with during freeplay;
  • On Thursday and Friday during the last half of the second block, we divide the class in two and the teacher may do a more focused or individualized lesson with certain students while the ECE takes the other half to computers, outside or to the gym.
I will be going into more detail in other blog posts about how we do certain things during the day but I hope this post gives you some general insight into how these days looked for us and what the curriculum is looking for when planning your day!

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Beginning of my Blogging Journey


First and foremost I would like to begin by welcoming you to my blog! I am not going to lie, I have had this blog for quite awhile and a lot of the time it has just sat empty, or I have written posts and then deleted them. I have so many ideas I would love to share but I really just do not know where to begin. It seems every time I sit down to write a post I develop a severe case of writer's block! It may be because there are SO many fabulous blogs out there and I am definitely intimidated by how wonderful they all are!

After doing some blog research I have come to the conclusion that you just write what you know! That seems easy peasy, I know early childhood :) My goal is to share my experiences and provide resourceful information, not just for those working within a classroom, but for homeschoolers, home child cares and anyone working within those early childhood years.

I have a background and diploma in both Early Childhood Education and Social Service Worker. I have been working in a Kindergarten classroom in Ontario, Canada for the past two years. Prior to that I still worked within the schools just in a different capacity; I was working as a Child and Youth Worker with all age groups assisting with academic help, behavior management and social skills.

Before working for the school board, I owned and operated a home child care for almost five years until my youngest baby started Senior Kindergarten.

I must admit having worked with children and youth right up to the age of eighteen, that my passion is the preschool/kindergarten years! I absolutely love working with this curious, inquisitive, and exciting age group.

I hope that you find this blog resourceful and fun and will continue on this journey with me!

With many thanks,

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