If you ask my kindergartners, anyway – that’s what they’ll tell you.
Last year, when I taught kindergarten, immersion into a second language wasn’t something that I had to really consider. A.B. Ellis runs an English program, and as a result, for the first time of my life, I wasn’t spending my days entirely in French. When I began the FI program at my new school, I knew that it would have to be different. I knew that this was the first instruction that these children would have into the French language. I also understood that this wouldn’t be off the hop, because first … we had to get a routine going. And it’s hard to get a routine under your belt if you don’t understand what the only adult in the room is trying to say.
Several weeks ago, I noticed that some of the students were beginning to copy down the things that I wrote in class. It started out innocuously enough – small buzz words that they liked; that soon turned into copying the morning message in full.
They had always been pretty interested in writing, but I hadn’t noticed any real progress until those morning messages began being copied. They would work for entire inquiry periods to meticulously write down everything that I wrote. It was the first time I had ever seen anything like it. These were kids that were ready to start writing sooner than I had anticipated that they would be. No use slowing down the train – the beauty of this model is that I can pounce on things like that and really try to stew an inquiry from it.
And they really did put their all into it. Together, we constructed the alphabet out of Writing Without Tears sticks. I took pictures of their creations, and posted it on a previously empty bulletin board – a bulletin board just itching to have something be put on it. It sat there, with only pictures on it for a few weeks and I waited, sure that it would spark their imaginations.
That wait took some time. The next day, not one student had even noticed that anything was different. What had I done wrong? It was all at eye level! It was with their own creations! I had spent a whole day from my weekend at school making it pretty and wonderful and inspiring for them! A week went by, and still, not a student even noticed that it had been put up.
Or at least, they hadn’t verbalized it to me. Shortly after that, though, I started finding scraps of paper with words on them. These were meticulously written words, carefully copied from my own careful script. So I started putting them up on the word wall. Now, they are proudly writing full pages of the words that they read around them all around the classroom.
I guess I just hadn’t thought of it the same way that they do, but words are everywhere. Literacy is all around us, constantly. We begin by copying or mimicking, and then, when we get brave enough, we venture into unknown waters to tread on our own. I imagine that is what writing is like, too – at first, it’s easier to copy all of the words that we have around us, before we start feeling confident enough to begin building them on our own. Words can be daunting – they’re such a peculiar thing, with such a peculiar spelling and meaning, that they have to be done just so.
But just from my desk, here in class, I see words everywhere. Their names are found in various places around the classroom on tags, in frames and on cards; the morning message is fresh and different every day with a new ami du jour, but it’s so startlingly familiar that the kids always know what it will say; the Jolie phonique songs are hung up under the alphabet wall; the stories that we write grace our walls; we brainstormed a page for every letter of the alphabet and they hang on the wall, as well; our art center is meticulously labelled. Words, words, words, everywhere you look, but because we can read them, we don’t give them much thought. When kids see them, they get excited to take up the challenge, and begin writing all of the words all around them.
I can’t wait until that develops into experimentation with writing and labelling in class, but until then, I’ll just be thankful that my word wall is coming along nicely.
During one of the sessions I attended at SXSWedu in Austin last week , one of the presenters asked us to turn to someone near us and share a memory of an innovative teacher from our childhood.
I thought hard. Finally, I turned to the gentleman next to me and said, “I’ve got nothing.”
“Me neither,” he responded.
It’s not that I didn’t have great teachers. Most of them were very caring and patient. They explained things well. But they were very traditional. Lecture, assigned chapters, and textbook questions were the standards in every class I took.
It struck me that many educators had that experience. We went through twelve years of education in mainly teacher-centered classrooms, memorizing answers to multiple choice questions. Then we went to college, often sitting in the midst of hundreds of students in one lecture hall. We did our student teaching, and…
Woo, what a ride! We were obsessed with the Olympics at school these past few weeks (I feel like I was, especially), and so, as a result, I shaped our curriculum content around it. Our 7/8 class and our 6/7 class are making infographics about a specific Olympic sport that they have been researching for a couple of weeks. I’ll be honest, I became inspired by all of the wonderful infographics that the Canadian Olympic Facebook page was putting up to explain sports to beginners. Have you seen them? Take a look at the one for acrobatic skiing. Continue reading Intermediate Core French Olympics Project→