Sunday, September 17, 2023

Ten Free Printables to Supplement the 'Autumn Math Walk' Book

 "Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."

Albert Camus

Autumn is my favourite time of year. Once we have settled into the new school year it's amazing to head outdoors and appreciate the interesting changes happening in nature. There is so much potential for math learning outside of the classroom. 

To celebrate the 1500th copy of Autumn Math Walk being published here are ten free printables to use with children during outdoor math exploration. Autumn Math Walk is available through Amazon. Enjoy!

 1. Hundred Chart Printable

Print and laminate this page so that children can bring it outdoors and see how many objects they can collect. Challenge children to find 100 of the same objects (e.g., acorns, leaves). If children's collections are made of different objects challenge them to see how many of each there are and total these to 100 (e.g., 20 acorns + 15 rocks + 12 leaves...)

2. See, Think, Wonder

Provide a copy of this page for each child. During time outdoors ask children to focus on something that piqued their interest. This page can be used to delve more deeply into the observation using the 'see, think, wonder' thinking routine.

This page can be used to help children observe and represent something more closely. For example if children are curious about the vein patterns on the back of a leaf, they can represent what they see in a large format inside the magnifying glass.  

4. Scavenger Hunt

Before heading out on a math walk children can predict what they might see and draw these in the left column. For the walk have children attach the page to a clipboard and track how many of each object is observed using check marks or tallies.

5. Idea Web

This graphic organizer can be used to help children represent all the interesting things they observed on their autumn math walk. Papers can be distributed for individual use or a large one can be printed and used by the class when reflecting after their walk.

6. Autumn Colouring Page

Colouring can be a soothing activity. This fun page can be used by children during quieter moments of rest and reflection. It can also be sent home at the end of the day. 

 7. Autumn Counting

Ask children to look for different numbers or groups of objects on their walk. As they notice different arrangements of things they can fill them out on this page (e.g., 1 duck, 2 trees, 3 ladybugs...).

 8. Favourite Part

This template can be used once children return from their math walk. It asks children to reflect upon their favourite part of the walk by drawing a picture of what they saw, and completing a sentence to further explain their thinking.

9. Big and Little Objects

As children explore outdoors ask them to consider the size of objects they find. This template can be printed and laminated for children to use outdoors as they place objects directly in each column (e.g., small acorns, leaves, flowers, sticks). Children can also reflect upon their walk and draw pictures of small and large objects on the paper once returning from the walk.

10. Five and Ten Frames

These five and ten frames can be printed, laminated and brought out with children on their explorations outdoors. Challenge children to use the frames to count different collections of objects that they find. (The frames can be enlarged on a photocopier before laminated to accommodate very large objects). 

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Creating a Space that Cultivates Math Learning


As we head back into the school year many educators are working thoughtfully to create environments that are rich with math possibility. In Reggio Emilia the environment exists as the 'third teacher' inspiring, supporting, and extending children's learning in rich and complex ways. I have been contacted by many educators asking for advice on how to best set up their classroom and routines in order to create as many opportunities for authentic math as possible. This has inspired today's blog post - how to cultivate a math rich learning space for children at the beginning of another school year. When I reflect upon my own math pedagogy and practice, these are what I think stand out as mathematically meaningful for the educators, children and families that share our space. Although this list isn't all inclusive, I thought it might spark some ideas to support and inspire as we enjoy the first weeks of school and start back in our classroom with open eyes, minds and hearts this month.

1. Make math a part of every space in the classroom and child's school world. In the classroom are there math tools and materials available for use beyond a 'math center or math shelf'? Do children see how math relates to every subject in the space (e.g., how materials are sorted and stored on the toy shelf, how measurement is used when children decide on a size of paper to use for their project)? Can they translate math tools and ideas into other spaces in their immediate school world (e.g., see how math relates to their walks in the hallway or work in the gym)?

2. Ground and build math concepts into known objects for children. When introducing, extending or innovating a math idea is it organic and natural to the child's explorations and world? For example, it is more natural to engage children in an exploration of measurement if they measure things in their immediate world using the stick they are playing with, instead of using a standardized ruler (e.g., "Can you find something the same length as your stick in the yard?", "What is taller than your body?").

3. Use available math moments with children. In our classroom we have a large block of uninterrupted play each day. It's sometimes challenging to manage children, materials and activities during center time. However I try to engage with children as much as possible in the activities, and take on the role of 'play partner' together with them. When I am actively playing I am able to closely observe what they are saying and doing, helping me to identify and extend the rich math learning that is organically occurring (e.g., helping children to recognize why their tower keeps falling, using math terms when they equally share the play dough, introducing math terms as they discuss how many cars are in their parking lot).

4. Become a math role-model for children, families, and colleagues. Even if math isn't your favourite subject, how do you discuss it within your school and classroom? Are you excited by new activities and resources? Do you demonstrate a growth mindset? When mathematical situations arise with children that you aren't sure of, can you use these opportunities to showcase positive thinking and problem-solving? Share your new math learning with others - suggest articles and books you're reading and post these throughout your classroom to enhance documentation displays.
5. Find the math in everything. Many educators plan forward by choosing curriculum and programming expectations and then building activities to fulfill these. Try back-mapping activities from time to time; embrace child-centered, organic experiences and then deconstruct them in order to identify the rich math concepts and curriculum expectations that they utilize. You'll be surprised to find that math happens in almost every experience children have in the classroom.

6. Try looking at life through a mathematical lens. When planning invitations for learning in your classroom, see what math you can sneak in as well. Changing one or two elements of the experience might be enough to engage children in rich math. It reminds me of how I used to sneak veggies into my children's meals - a little can go a long way!
7. Collaborate mathematically with colleagues. Share new ideas and resources informally. It's easy and effective to create math invitations and activities and share these within your school or division. If every educator plans one or two activities and these are shared, children will benefit from many rich and interesting games and activities without the burden of planning and preparation it would take one educator to accomplish the same.

8. Record and celebrate your math moments. Help children, families, and colleagues recognize that math happens everywhere in the classroom by creating a documentation display with photos, anecdotal observations and connections to curriculum. This bulletin board can be built over the course of the school year as artifacts of learning are continually added by staff and students. Keep sticky notes nearby and invite observers to record their own ideas and share them by posting the notes within the documentation.

9. Engage families in joyful math with children outside of school. Consider ways that you can promote and extend math for children after school. Encouraging families to play math games and activities together with their children will not only provide children with additional meaningful math moments, but it may help older family members reconcile their fear or dislike of math. In our classroom we send home 'family math bags' once a week. These are filled with math invitations and materials so that children and their families can play games inspired by our classroom work.

10. Build your collection of math stories, songs and games. Children love to sing, dance and play games. Ask colleagues to share their favourite games and activities, and use these to help with transitions and other 'math moments' throughout the day. Quite often the words in songs can easily be improvised to match something happening in your classroom, and many rich storybooks have mathematical elements and problems embedded within them that can inspire children.

Friday, September 1, 2023

A Classroom Tour for September


For many years now I have been greatly inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education and have sought any source of information that I could get my hands on! When FDK was first introduced in Ontario I was thrilled to see that many of Reggio's beliefs were interwoven in the document and honouring children's interests through play, inquiry and documentation were highlighted. As educators who follow a standardized curriculum we have great flexibility in our interpretation and implementation of the expectations and this makes our role exciting and dynamic.

I believe in having a fluid, evolved space that continues to change to better reflect the needs of the children and support heightened understandings of explorations and inquiries as well as enhanced abilities in the various domains of learning. We want to support the whole child in developmentally appropriate experiences and integrate learning materials from centres in diverse and unconventional ways.  

Some of the Reggio principles that have guided my work include:
  • children are capable of constructing their own learning
  • children form an understanding of themselves and their place in the world through their interactions with others
  • children are communicators
  • the environment is the third teacher
  • the adults in the room are mentors and guides
  • there is an emphasis and importance on documenting children's thoughts and experiences
  • there are hundreds of languages of children and these are used to explore and communicate ideas and experiences
This is the door leading to our classroom. I post information around the door to assure visitors to the space that I believe in an inclusive environment where all children are respected. Building relationships with families and helping them learn about and support growth mindset is a big part of creating a safe and supportive space for learning. Something about which I've had a lot of positive feedback is our 'wish wreath'. Each September we ask families to write their hopes, wishes, dreams, etc. for their children's kindergarten experiences on paper ribbons. We weave each of these onto a grapevine wreath and display it on our door. We want it to be a symbol of our partnership and collaboration with families for the year ahead. We also include a photo of our teaching team and visitors to the room can access our class blog by scanning the QR code on the door.

Above each child's cubby is a recent photo and painted self-portrait. These change a few times each year (usually a new photo and self-portrait per term) to help show their growth. We like including a real photo to celebrate each child and love how the children use the language of art to represent their perception of self. 
Our quiet literacy area has a collection of books and writing materials to explore. It's a comfortable area for children who want a quiet space to read or draw and the sofa and chairs are a great way to calm oneself if a child is tired or needs a break. The whimsical light invites children to stay for a while and read a book or chat with a friend. We ask families to send in photos that are hung by the sofa as a sign of connection and comfort. The light table and weaving wall encourage creativity and fine motor development which will help children with writing readiness. An upcycled photo display holds seasonal vocabulary cards that can be manipulated by children. The wooden shelf holds diverse and inclusive books so all children can see themselves reflected in classroom resources.

Our math area has many things available for children. We include mentor texts, learning props, and documentation to showcase and support our program.

Our drama centre changes based on the interests and requests of the children. At the beginning of the year it is set up as a little 'house' to provide comfort and familiarity to children.  We include many real objects for the children to use in their imaginative play; real objects communicate the message to children that they are capable of using these tools and make the context for the imaginary play very real and meaningful. Donations from families and the local community also helps represent the diversity of our population and encourages children to see themselves and their peers reflected in the space. Literacy is interwoven throughout as children can talk on the phone, write on the chalk boards, or follow a recipe when cooking. A variety of scarves encourages children to dress up and create their own costumes and clothing. A large basket of fabric flowers can be turned into different arrangements for the table or inspire other dramatic play (e.g., a flower shop, a farmer's market).

Our building area is the heart of our room and the most popular place to be. Children integrate materials from all around the classroom into their play here. We love the big body play the wooden blocks encourage. Small loose parts (e.g., tile squares, corks, wooden spools) are also included in this area for children to combine with wooden blocks. Pillow are available for incorporation in the creations and photos of local structures are displayed for inspiration.

My favourite center in the classroom is the science area. We are fortunate to have a very large wall of windows on one side of the space. The shelf near the window houses materials that are specific to ongoing inquiries. Loose parts play are a big part of our program as we embrace all things STEAM and love our makerspace. We use many natural and found materials here and always welcome donations from our families. The science area also houses many building materials and the children can freely use these around the room in any area to support their play. Often treasures found outdoors (e.g., pinecones, feathers) and the changing of the seasons inspire inquiries. Invitations for further exploration are sometimes set up on the table in this area. A sensory table integrates imaginative play regarding current interests, here insects and their natural habitat. Children can swap out materials for other small world play (e.g., dinosaurs, fabric flowers).

The art studio is located in a sunny area of the classroom. You can see that colours and colour mixing are ongoing interests and there is much art that supports this. The materials are aesthetically arranged to be accessible for children and also decorate the space. Materials are organized by colour for ease of accessibility and also to embed math and sorting into the centre.

We are often asked by other educators about how we encourage the children to engage in regular reading and writing in a child-driven space. On the back of our bookshelf are writing clipboards, one per child. We ask children to self-select a piece of writing that they are proud of and display it on their clipboard. These are then brought to a sharing circle where children can discuss their work with others. It's a quick and easy way for us to see which children have (and haven't) engaged in regular writing so we know how to better support their needs. This clipboards can also be brought on nature walks in the yard or community as needed.
Thank you for visiting us! We love feedback and to learn about your classroom and program. Please share in the comment section below or connect with us on Twitter @McLennan1977.
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