Sunday 23 March 2014

The Dreaded Research Project, Kid style

I miss this blog : ) 

I am kinda blogged out as I am writing blogs in prep for a Masters,  and writing blogs (sporadically) for an iPad project.  

But this goes here.   A bit of what we have been doing.  

Friday 18 October 2013

21st Century Learning - Rocketships and piggies

Some days it just all comes together.  And apart. 

An aside, to start with.  I am blogging for a course right now. I usually post them on a made-for-that blog.   But of course, you can't put everything in a tidy box. Things spill out.  So this post, though it comes from the reflection of grown-up conversations, belongs here. 

I have to say,  I am struggling.  I am finding that as I get grey, and crotchety, and well, old,  I am less likely to be impressed with things, and more likely to question them.  I have a lot of world’s crashing together, and powerful voices feeding this feeling of frenzy that is unsettling. 

I think I am a global learner.  I am all techie, and connected and PLNy.  My ks have access to all the shiny brilliance I can focus my fractured brain upon.  21st Century Learning and all that. 

But I wonder if there is a Honeymoon Period to this brave  “opening the world to all”.  I wonder if there is a seven year itch.  Of course, we are an easily distracted culture,  and I am a “LOOK SQUIRRELL” kinda gal,  so my itch is coming after only a few years into this blast-to-my-brain mountain of possibility and wonder that is the newly dubbed, but surprisingly familiar, 21st Century Learning.   

And then, some days, it all comes together.  Take today. 

As any day in Kindergarten, it ran the gambit from pull out your hair, giggle, heart pounding, stomach dropping, stitches, homesick, happy, frustrated, exasperated, screaming, cheering, oh wait nose bleeding normalcy.  In all that mess, some things work. Some do not.  But what always fills my heart with weary wonder is the sheer volume and variety of expression and voice in a room full of five year old brains.  

It was Fairy Tale Friday.  Three little pigs this time.  We played Guess That Fairy Tale on our Family Facebook,  giving clues for families to guess.  So all day, families posted back into facebook.  Quite surprising how many options  “It has a Wolf in it”  has :)  

The iPads were busy too of course.  Some puppet show thing, for one, but finally, after a few days of invitation and provocation, Make a Movie took off. Director, Storyteller, all that.  We made tactile storybords, build naturey loose bit houses on bricks, ran like banshees outside in one of our Knooks, retelling the timeless story.  Made a movie of that and shared it on Family FaceBook.  

Very 21st Century learning, yes?  

Yet it is a very “old school” moment that sticks in my head. Makes me smile in spite of the blur that can be my day.   Tristan.  Flying a puppet wolf around the room in a made by him rocketship. With three little pigs in tow.  He now owns that story.  He made it his own.  His choice.  His voice. 

And it made me really look around the room. Not that skim past, no-one is bleeding, arrrg! look,  but a slow motion whoa.  Because at the end of the day, every kid, at a free-choice-pick-what-ya-wanna play time, was engaged in making an Old Favourite Fairy Tale their own.  Their choice. Their voice. Even that kid who was way-to-much-gluing popsicle sticks.  “He won’t blow this down”, he muttered. All loosey-goosey and jittery and real. 

Sometimes I worry for the world, in this 21st century.  I really do.  But maybe now, when I do,  I will close my eyes, and see Tristan’s Rocketship,  and know,  that come hell or high water, a 21st century classroom is actually very simple.  

Choice. Voice.        Time.  

Thursday 8 August 2013

Taking a swing at 100 day

I didn’t plan to write this blog.  I was responding to a comment posted in something I wrote a year ago,   Rethinking Calendar.   It occurred to me that the response was really an entire post, like it or not.   Tammy asked what the stickers on my Year Long Calendar were. 

On the Twitter,  people are passionate. Right now,  lots of debate around Classroom Behavior Systems.  About calendar and all its inherent evil.  About technology from the git go.  So I thought I might take a swing at 100 day : )  

I drop 100 balloons on my ks every year.  They go batcrap crazy.  You know that you can hit as hard as you want with a balloon, right?  That your teacher’s hair will stand straight up.  That you can actually giggle until you pee a little bit.  

Getting ready for 100 day looks pretty standard.  Number lines, popsicle sticks (those make me cranky, so never used ‘em), collections of 10s. Everyday, at calendar time.  I’ve used stones, unifix cubes.  Stickers on calendars.  Always comforting the ks who worry that there is no 101 day. Or that they will be shipped off to Grade One.  

Then one year I forgot to keep track.  Opps.  In December I was pondering my options.  By January I knew I had better do something.  The sacredness of counting everyday we were in school was in jeopardy.  And seriously,  you cannot fake a daily routine into a 5 year old world.  They are gonna notice.  Why yes Ks, that 75 piece caterpillar just magically appeared on the weekend : ) 

So that year, we pulled apart an old calendar.   It was the beginning of my exploration in using a full year calendar rather than one month.  We figured out how many days we had been in school.  Messy, mistakes, and even then we double checked with another class and we were still wrong.  It didn’t matter.  We were on track. 100 Day was saved.  

But it helped me to see that counting each day, on the day, was routine, but not real.   

Last few years we didn't keep track at all.  One year we were doing a Paper Chain Investigation for the Big Kids when it came up. Another year a big buddy mentioned it.  I’ve come to see the Grade Ones are really the focus for 100 Day in my mind, so last year they came in and showed off every time they reached a milestone to 100.  

We did get into a big discussion about when Half Way Day was.  Not halfway to 100 easypeasy™, but half way through our year together,  thanks to a twitter conversation with @happycampergirl.      We folded our year long calendar.  We used cubes. We were down the long hall breaking counters into halves.  We had the discussion about if the weekends count.   No matter what way we did it, we missed the latest possible Half Way Day by 4 days : )  

So.  I still drop 100 balloons on the ks heads.  They still bring in a collection of 100 things.  I always ask how they gathered it. One k informed me that her collection must be magic because it just showed up on her table that morning.  But 100 Day is for our Grade One classes.  It is their baby.  I am happy to let it go for my weeds.  

I am not one to dole out advice.  I still think of myself as a newbie, 26 years in.  But I am not. I have had years of reflection and mistakes. Of trial and error. Of thought and sweat and monumental screw-ups.  Of blindly going where no one else would go. I come to many of the things that I do with the weight of experience behind me, sometimes blinding me. 

So. As you read the 101 blogs pulling in 102 directions. As you ponder the Behavior System, What?!! No Calendar, Dump 100 Day,  Cute vs No Cute, please remember. 
It takes time.  

Time to find yourself in the children that you teach.  Some things can wait.  You will find the thing that cannot wait.  Do that.  Because there will be a child, a moment, a conversation, that creates a shift in your thinking.   There is power in that.  But it takes time.  

More than 100 days sometimes : )  

Sunday 4 August 2013


I like to brag that I am a life long learner.  Quick brain, voracious reader, lover of tangents and pushing the edges.  Absorbing, reflecting, re-thinking.  I am all about that, baby.    

I confess, it may very well be because I have allowed my profession to consume me.  I can say it is my passion, and my calling.  It would be true, but what if.  What if I am just so immersed in my little world I fail to see outside it?  What if by immersing oneself in a singular, though multi-faceted, passion is a tiny bit of a cop out.  

Because I fear that I hit the wall this summer.  I was put into a very simple setting where my Arrogance tip-toed up, and whispered in my ear,  “Gonna mess with you a little bit : )” 

It changed the way that I look at things.  It is easy to be a life long learner if you follow paths that feel unwalked, but that are really just tangents down Comfortzone Lane.  

So.  A dream? To face facts. To be a real learner. Face the mess, and disappointment, and failure, and find the path back in spite and because of it.  'Cause I can preach it all I like, but in my arrogance, I saw the “easy peasy™, my brain like it stuff” as learning. 

Learning is like being in a room where you don’t speak the language.  You compensate, you concentrate, you try, you fake it, you get blank looks and helpful feedback.  Arrogance winks at you and says “Give up yet?”  And you do.  Because this is actually hard.  And really, when was the last time you learned something hard? Why can’t everyone just speak my language?  What do you do when you have lost your voice?

So.  A few years ago choosing a guiding word for your school year was a thing.  It still is.  It is a good thing.  I chose words like Trust. Relationships. Listen.  

This year my word was going to be Arrogance.  It has smiled at me a few too many times in the past few months to ignore.  But maybe my word is Language.  

Language connects and divides.  It enlightens and excludes.  It can be confusing and delightful.  Language can take your voice and give it back.  

My littlest life-long learners are coming to a time in their lives where the big people are speaking a different language. School. Oh, we all speak English, but I can imagine there is a Charlie Brown “Mmwaa Mwaaa” going on for sure.  I can’t dummy it down.  Speaking slowly will not help.  It won’t magically make sense if everyone just tries hard enough. 

So.  Time to honour the language of children. So that they never lose their voice.  Because if someone is not speaking my language,  it is time I learned theirs. 

Sunday 9 June 2013

Fairy Godmothers

Warning: This post is unlikely to make sense to anyone but me : ) 

I have had an amazing week last week.  I spent it in Twitter DMs  and real time conversation with a #rockstar.  Lisa Murphy, AKA @ooeygooylady.  

We were organizing a Campfire Chat about Play.   Looking to set up that free flowing,  feet up by a fire, drink in hand, conversation.  Surrounded by friends.  Asking hard questions.  Rethinking, reflecting.  The actual chat was all of that for me. 

Through the course of it,  I referred to Lisa as The Fairy Godmother of Play.  I had a feeling of  “Hmmm, THAT fits her”.  A tiny pull of something bigger.  And shrugged it off.   

Lisa did not.  She reminded why it was such an honor.  Why it is such an important thing to be.  A FairyGodmother.    Which got me to thinking.  And reading.  And to re-reading.    

I do love my tangents.  Bear with me.  

I got into this twitter thing mid in 2010.  Found my people quickly.  Found #kinderchat.  Reveled in the crazy, committed, fierce family that understood,  articulated,  and breathed new life into my own commitment to Play.  

The next year,  at NAEYC,  the first Kinderchat tweetup had me crazy jealous and inspired from the sidelines as they met, played, learned, raged face to face. Had real campfire chats with s’mores.  And had the honour of attending the keynote that year. 

Vivian Paley.   Lovingly referred to as the Fairy Godmother of Kindergarten.  I inhaled her book,  A Child’s Work.  Because, full disclosure,  I had not read her work before.  Her stories, children’s stories, all written in a prose that speaks to the initiated.  That speaks directly to the hearts of the fierce and crazy ones that daily try to work the magic that is Play into what they do.  She floated into my world and waved her wand. 

During the next year I started following Lisa on Twitter.  Lurking, and learning, and leaning into her energy. Then meeting her.  For realsies : )  Not  “pretend I met Lisa and we all talked about play”  but Really. Talking.  I inhaled her book, Play.  Her stories, children’s stories, all written with humour and conviction and a call for ACTION that speaks directly to the hearts of the fierce and crazy ones that daily try to work the magic that is Play into what they do. She stomped into my world and poked her wand in my face. 

Fairy Godmothers swoop in and work their magic.  It looks so easy.  But check out the three in Sleeping Beauty. And the grandmotherly one in Cinderella.  They know it is not as easy as it looks.  That thought and preparation, conviction and crossed fingers,  imagination and making do, listening and adjusting, advocating and stomping,  are all a part of what makes the magic work.  

So.  Here is to my Fairy Godmothers.  I imagine that you have a few of your own. 

I am inspired by them. Maybe, just maybe,  I am one.  I do know that I will continue to wave my own frazzled wand over the magical kingdom that is my classroom.  I will provide for the play, and let the story go where the children take it.   

Tuesday 21 May 2013

KNooks - A Kindergarten Care Project

My K's helped me with a #genuishour  and Angela Maiers  inspired Passion Project :  A Documentary, Kindergarten Style :  

Documentary from Mardelle on Vimeo.

So.  A goal this year was to spend a third of the day outside.  It  has led to  deeply connected and powerfully rich experiences, both for myself and my students.   A long lost blog ( I so wish that I could find it ) mentioned the power of naming the spaces that you go to.  So I started with the idea of a nook - I had many as a kid -  and added the K for fun.   KNooks (nooks )  was born.

The simple act of naming places has transformed the way we think about our community.  When we go out,  k's are constantly defining,  shaping, personalizing, owning, caring for and committing to  the knooks around us.

Saturday 9 February 2013

Choices and Carpet. Who knew?

Wow. Been away from writing here for a bit.  It happens I suppose.   I tend to write when worlds smash into each other,  as they are prone to do on twitter.   I could write about a million things my  #kinderchat family has inspired,  which is probably why I have written about none.  But @MmeKathleen wrote about choices today.  You should read it, it is awesome.  And two things stuck with me. 

So. My last post about rethinking calendar was written in August.  During that shiny brilliant time a few days before school starts and you can do anything!  Before you get in the class and discover this or that, or somebody or something.  This year it was a new smartboard that kiboshed everything.  My lovely, engaging year long calendar struggles to find its place as I struggle to make this expensive piece of technology fit into my Kinder’s world, a world that I fill with tangents.  I am getting there. But slowly.  

I do not intend to write about the SmartBoard. That would be a tangent : )   I intend to write about carpet.  Not carpet time, not morning meeting, not circle time.  

Carpet.  I said you should read @MmeKathleen post.   #kinderchat often speaks of Reggio inspired spaces, and I have spent a couple of years toning my room to cork, browns, tans, wood.  It is not easy.  Seems every I-can-afford-it storage system, cupboard, shelf shouts color.  But I try.   

The one piece in my room that most frustrated me was the carpet I have had for 3 years in my room. We call it the colorful carpet.  For obvious reasons.   

There is no discernible pattern, it is busy for your eyes, and of course, it has been thrown up on. #pukealert indeed #kinderchat.   

But it has become one of the richest tools for learning my classroom can offer.  

Sitting on the Fat Black line allows my k’s to be a part of a community where everyone can see everything.  

We use a bigger frame to see who is here and who is not. We know the full array of 4 4’s means that stupid flu bug didn't get one of us today.  We build 5 and 10 frames, and we subitize and visualize what is missing.  We use it as author’s row, and YIKES,  stay back! Be safe! spots.  

And the small squares.  OH the tedious busy small squares?  They are magic : ) 

We finger draw in a box and the carpet makes our fingers tingle. 

We measure ourselves to see if we were smaller than a Santa Elf. Or bigger than a Snowman’s Nose.

We explore capacity - fill it full, count it, compare it.  We compare apples to apples and eagle’s wings to hand spans.   It is not always magical.  Sometimes it is just a carpet. A soft place to Read to Stuffie in your PJs.   

So.  It will always be a part of my class.   Puke or glitter, busy or not,  it stays.  

I guess it is good when something sticks it’s ugly mug in your face and says “Deal with me.”  I guess some obstacles make us think, rethink, explore. See things in a new way. If we choose to.  

Choices and Carpet.  Who knew? 

Crap.  Does that mean I need to rethink my Smartboard?  Heavy Sigh.  
Bring it on : )