Tag Archives: Dalton School of Hong Kong

Virtual Conversations on Virtual Choice Time

 

 

For so many of us, all around the world, this Coronavirus pandemic has tilted life to an unfamiliar and uncomfortable angle. Life isn’t as it should be. It’s a confusing time, a frightening time and a complicated time. Days take on a different meanings depending on what is and is not  happening in our lives. Many teachers are struggling to connect with their students as they juggle their personal responsibilites as parents  who are  home schooling  their own children. It’s overwhelming!

As an early childhood consultant i have been trying to imagine how to productively use my time and how I can virtually connect with teachers. Those first weeks of sheltering at home caused my days to stretch on and on.I was feeling like a person without a purpose.

I wondered if there were a few teachers or parents who would like to explore Choice Time with me. I posted a proposal of my Facebook page and waited to see if anyone might be interested. This is what I wrote:

I’m planning to begin an online, Zoom, presentation/conversation with teachers about Choice Time and Inquiry Projects. My idea is to present a Powerpoint and classroom videos. There would be opportunities for discussion. Using Zoom is quite new to me but I’m pretty excited at the prospect of communicating with teachers! It would be appropriate for teachers of Prekindergarten through Second Grade. PM me if you’re interested.

The response was overwhelming. Teachers from all parts of the world responded. How impressive it was for people who were working so hard to continue teaching on line to even consider spending some of their “spare” time joining a Choice Time discussion group.

The conversations the first week focused primarily on play and Choice Time.We explored what free play looks like and how it might be transferred into the classroom. You can watch the first session here: https://vimeo.com/406286992

The second week was devoted to looking at and discussing two different whole class inquiry projects. One study took place in a prekindergarten classroom and the second one took place in a kindergarten class. Both classes were in New York City public schools. You can view the second week’s session here .https://vimeo.com/411393368

The third week was opened up for teachers to share how they were providing Choice Time opportunities for children as part of their virtual teaching.

How can we avoid giving children “tasks” to do? Can we tweak what was originally a task and encourage children to use the same materials in a more explorative and creative way? For example, instead of giving children specific  activities to do with 10 stones or buttons, might we challenge them to see if they can create an interesting design or pattern with the stones. Perhaps we could ask them,”How did you decide to do it like that? Can you think of ways to move them around to create  something new? Would you like to add something to your collection and see what you can make? What kinds of ideas do you have?” This gives the children  opportunities to play, explore and use creative, higher-order thinking.

 

In a recent zoom workshop for prekindergarten and kindergarten teachers, I was asked if I could include ideas for virtual choice time. Not having taught virtually myself, I was reluctant to do this. I wondered if my ideas might not be helpful. I did give it a try and the feedback was positive, so I’ll share some of what I came up with.

  • Keep a consistent daily schedule
  • Maintain routines that children will become familiar with
  • Include songs and chants
  • Have a regularly scheduled storytime. Perhaps invite family members and other people in the school who the children know to record a reading of a storybook.
  • Perhaps include a quetion of the day. When this becomes routine, children can come up with a question or wondering for everyone to consider.
  • •Remember that this is a stressful time for all, teachers, children and parents. Keep the emotional needs of all a priority.
    •Parents, during virtual teaching and learning, are our partners. Is it possible to have separate group meetings with parents to answer their questions and to tell them what your aims are? This will help them bond as partners in teaching and learning

Some ideas…

A Looking Out of My Window book

•Take some blank papers and fold them together to make a little book.
• Every day draw a picture of something you see when you look out of your window.
•You might see a bird, a car, a tree, maybe even flowers.
•You can make a “detail finder” by cutting a peep-hole in a paper. This will help you look really closely!

 

Ikea posted ideas for making hide-outs.

•First get children’s ideas and then, if it seems helpful, show these pictures.
•Only use these pictures as prompts to start a conversation about building a special reading and play spot at home.
Chore Week
•At morning meeting, brainstorm some chores to do at home. Possibilities are washing dishes, setting the table, sorting socks from the laundry, folding laundry, putting away toys, making the bed, etc.
•Each child can pick a chore that they want to do.
•Parents (or older siblings) can video tape the child doing the chore and send it to the teacher.
•The teacher can  make a “chore montage” and everyone can watch it together.
•This might be followed by a discussion of other ways to be helpers at home, how it felt to get a chore done, who helps out in our community and in our home, etc.
Go on a search around your home
•See how many electrical items are in each room.
•Can you draw a picture of something you might invent that could use electricity?
You might want to use recycle materials to construct a new machine.
•Can you give names to parts of your invention and label them?
•Youmight want to write a story about your invention. Let your imagination go wild!
•Listen to your favorite song. Make up a dance or exercise routine to go with your song. Ask the teacher if you can share it at meeting and teach it to the class.
•Play a board game with someone in your family. Then see if you can make up your own board game. You can play it with someone in your family. Ask your teacher if you can share it at a class morning meeting.
•Can you draw a map of your room or of your apartment? What are the landmarks that are very important to you?
•You might imagine that you are a pirate and you’re looking for a treasure. Draw a treasure map.
•Think of everything on your mind. How could you draw a map of your mind? What about a map of your heart?
Cooking Together Day
•Children (with an adult) cook the dish and the teacher cooks along with them.
•Send the recipe a week ahead so parents can prepare ingredients and be familiar with the recipe.
•Children who can’t participate might sketch what is happening and make a recipe/cook book. Perhaps they might want to create their own recipe.
Some recipe ideas
•Making playdough together
•Cinnamon toast
•Scrambled eggs
•Deviled eggs
•Ironed grill cheese sandwiches
•Fresh squeezed OJ or lemonade
• Pancakes
•English Muffin Pizza
Two kindergarten teachers from the Dalton Hong Kong school shared some ideas with me via zoom.
I sometimes asked children if they could change their intials into new or silly pictures. This is a similar challenge.

As a final 2-cents piece of advice, I really would like to urge teachers and parents to ignore any message that children are “falling behind” during this time. Children are naturally curious and they are always learning something. It’s the responsibility of the teacher to observe, listen, support and facilitate children’s learning by understanding what they know, what they’re interested in and to build on that. Vygotsky wrote of the zones of development. Young children need to have the freedom to explore and learn in their Actual Zone of Development, their comfort zone. As teachers, we can gently and perceptively challenge them to stretch into their  Zone of Proximal Development. This iswhere they can experience the excitement discovering new understandings just as this prekindergarten boy did when he proudly blurted out, “I did it!.”

The Aviation Study: From Brooklyn to Hong Kong

Five years ago, Dana Roth a marvelous kindergarten teacher at P.S. 10 in Brooklyn, came to my home to work on writing a chapter for Teaching Kindergarten: Learning-Centered Classrooms for the 21st Century with me. When we took a break in our writing, Dana asked me for some advice. The children in her class were particularly interested in airports and airplanes. She wanted to begin an inquiry project with them but she knew that it would, because of security rules, be impossible to make a class trip to the airport. Should she just see if there was something else that interested the children? I suggested that we put our heads together and create an anticipatory web. That might give her some direction to see if an airport/airplane investigation would make sense. This is what we came up with:

 

Dana thought that she would do some preliminary exploring with her children.  She started by inviting children to draw pictures of what they knew about airports and airplanes.

The next day, instead of their regular “signing in,” Dana proposed a question to determine their past knowledge. We always build upon what children already know (schema theory) rather than introducing an exotic, unfamiliar exploration. 

The children shared what they already knew about airports.

Then they went of, drew blueprints of how they thought an airport would look, based on their past experiences and they began building.

 

It took a lot of tape to hold up the tower and a lot of concentration to create the sign for it.

 

At class meeting, the children shared their “wonderings” and considered how and where they could find answers to their questions.

During Choice Time children children researched different airplanes and airlines, created airplanes in the art center and continued building.The class took a trip to the Saker Aviation Heliport but first they made a list of questions. Back in class…

The next trip was to Floyd Bennett Field

Back in class…I

It seemed to be the time to culminate the investigation.

SKIP AHEAD TO AUGUST, 2018. I WAS INVITED TO VISIT THE DALTON SCHOOL OF HONG KONG AND WORK WITH LARRY LEAVEN, NANCY DU, SHAuN PORTER, MATTHEW WHITE AND THE WONDERFUL TEACHING STAFF ON  DEVELOPING INQUIRY-BASED CHOICE TIME AND CLASS INQUIRY PROJECTS. 

Larry Leaven, Shaun Porter.

 

Nancy Du

Matthew White

 

The teachers!

I shared Dana’s Aviation Study with the staff from Datlton School and with teachers and administrators from two other Hong Kong school. First I projected the PowerPoint and we discussed different aspects of the study. Larry posted a photo of each page of the study on a wall adjacent to the presentation as a long time line or frieze. We invited the teachers to look at the study again along with copies of their teaching standards. When they saw an instance of a particular standard being addressed, they were asked to write a note on a post-it and stick it on the picture.

The discussion after this activity was lively, intense and illuminating. The gist of the discourse was that we DON’T begin with the standards when planning a long-term investigation. If we listen to children, value their knowledge and encourage questioning and investigating in many different modalities, then the standards will ultimately be covered, but in a more exciting and meaningful way than if we prepare a study that is pre-planned based on the teaching standards.

At the entrance to the Hong Kong Dalton School, there’s a plaque with the quote, “I’m not led. I lead.” That’s the important mantra to remember.

Children first!