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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Français Intensif...ça vaut la peine!

By Stephanie Bartlett

How many of you learned French in school and didn't have a chance to speak it?  In our French Immersion program, we dedicate regular time and professional development to keep current on best practice. We want our French Immersion students to speak the language and be able to express themselves from the beginning of their language acquisition. 

We have moved away from vocabulary lists to teach a theme or topic. Instead, we model and practice how to ask questions and how to answer in full sentences across all subject areas.
The results? Amazing and highly effective.

Our Kindergarten students are able to ask and answer familiar questions. They arrive each day with the understanding that they are welcomed and encouraged to express themselves en français. There is designated time throughout the day for support and practice. It filters and carries on through every grade in the school. I always feel a tingle and sense of satisfaction when I walk through the halls and hear older students speaking French with no adult present. 

How do we do it? The answer is given first in a full sentence.
Je m'appelle Isla.

Then the question is modelled.
Comment t'appelles-tu?

The work is done in partners, with an emphasis on eye contact and active listening with bodies facing each other. Our class loves to chat and sing outside, on the carpet, one on one with the teacher, after gym, and during snack. We add new vocabulary and sentences as the year progresses.

Some Thoughts on Play, Sound and Music

By Stephanie Bartlett

Dimples were deeper than normal as Sienna found her rhythm. She and some friends were joyfully banging copper pipes against the bike racks in our school yard. Metal on metal unleashed a joy in her that I have yet to see inside the classroom. Wide eyed, she looked at me as if to ask “Can I do this?” or perhaps expecting me to be upset. I grinned back at her and asked if she felt the vibrations in her body when she hit the bike rack. And she wasn’t alone. Sebbie unleashed a wild screeching noise as he grooved to the sound coming out of his loud pipe. Another group created a rhythm as they sat in a circle and drummed to keep the same beat.

When our parent volunteer joined the group to guide them through a rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” the enchantment and joy that I first noticed on Sienna’s face lit up the face of each small musician. The story is not complete without a sensory description of the sounds within our group. Snow crunching under our feet. Metal clanging sharply against metal. The quieter, more unified sound of pipes on plastic and metal containers as students drummed that seemed to weave it all together. The laughter.

Merely playing outside with copper pipes does not fit into the dominant discourse of mainstream education but it slides beautifully into how to make sense of Life and our local place. The learning arrived in abundance and I always feel a sense of surprise, then recognition. As one child was pulling a pipe out of a bin, he was saying it was “plus court” (shorter) than the other ones. Another child held up a pipe and we talked about how the pipe was taller than him. Music making transitioned into serious building as some students built an elaborate machine, while others built a camping kitchen and pretended to cook for each other.

We share daily experiences together in nature and we are in the middle of a year-long school-wide sound exploration. These two important inquiries are ongoing and we add to vocabulary and concepts as we go along. As an educator and researcher, I take my responsibility seriously to share my interpretation of these experiences and to place them within a context of joy and a shared love of learning (Smith, 2006). In the highly competitive, fast paced world that we live in (and yes, I rush around too!), I am helping to build life skills for students that will hopefully linger throughout their school career. We are nurturing community. We are learning outside. We are making music. We are wondering.

Smith, D.G. (2006) Trying to teach in a season of great untruth: Globalization, empire and the crises of pedagogy. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers

Further Thoughts About Kairotic Time

By Stephanie Bartlett

I don't think you can plan these moments. Or perhaps the planning comes from the very action of NOT planning our day down to the minute. Had I written my day plan today, it would have looked like this:

8:15 Greet students outside, français intensif, songs, check in with each other
8:30 Play outside
8:50 Enter into classroom, flow of the day on the carpet, ABC and numeracy skills
9:00 Guest educator from the National Music Centre
10:00 Journal about our experience, centre time, snack
10:40 Clean up
10:45 Story
11:00 Au revoir

My day plan looks like we covered the social and academic curriculum, we had an interesting visitor and we enjoyed activity time. This is curriculum as plan (Aoki, 1987/1991). But reading this brief sequential description, you just don't know- it is impossible to know- what we experienced. Read on to discover curriculum as lived (Aoki, 1987/1991). Curriculum as lived can be described as deep learning within an authentic context where both students and educators are fully engaged. The topics or experiences tend to arrive from the interests of the group and unfold organically to provide rich learning that covers both curriculum outcomes and life experiences. 

The idea of kairotic time (Smith, 2014) is when time is almost suspended while we live in the present moment. Chronological time does not matter here. For a previous post describing a similar experience, please click here. With kairotic time in mind, let's revisit our morning.

The lingering effects of the orange sun rise were behind us as we ran to our tree together. I know how much we all love this moment of the day, because we all gather together with bright smiles to greet our friends. Part of our discussion and our français intensif, is to close our eyes and listen to the sounds we hear. Then we talk and share. What does it look like for an outsider to see 19 students lying on their backs for a minute?

We moved seamlessly  from this activity to free play. When it was time to go inside, there is never any reluctance. We gather our things and move inside to slowly transition and meet each other on the carpet.
Here, we ran through our number recognition and flexible thinking about math, as well as our alphabet rhymes. This could be so flat and one dimensional as we practice these very necessary skills but it is so wonderful to see how readily the students represent different groupings of numbers (2 +3 + 5, 5 + 0 +5, 4 + 1 = 5) and how their bodies move to the rhythm of our alphabet rhyme. We then assembled our visual schedule for the day and talked about Monsieur Evan who was going to come in a few minutes. We were excited and wondered what he would teach us about music.

When Evan came in, he  started to talk to the class about patterns in music. His "Repeato Machine" allowed him to say a name of one of our pets into the microphone, and then it would repeat to make a pattern. We started dancing and moving around the room as we learned the difference between listening to sounds and listening to how sounds can be put together to make a pattern.

When we began to colour in our own circles to create our own patterns, this is when I heard "I love this." "This is so cool." "Can you play mine?" "I am choosing two colours. I chose pale green and light green for mine."

We said a happy goodbye to Evan and began  to draw this experience in our visual journals. It always seems so funny when a room full of Kindergarten students is quiet and everyone is intent on their work. Max drew his journal on a log. Autumn lay down nearby. Two tables were full of students working quietly and sharing crayons. Angus took his over to the block centre to rest on a log over there. Often when we write, we discuss the expectations and that everyone should write quietly and whisper so as not to disturb concentration, and there is a level of maintenance involved on the part of the educator to ensure this happens. There was no reason for reminders here. Everyone was fully engaged in representing their favourite part of Evan's visit.

Students then moved seamlessly into their play as I met with each student and scribed their thoughts. Even this was different. Focused, concentrated play as students met and conferred at the Smart Board, drew shapes and charts on  the white board near the blocks, created art and built at the tool table.

We cleaned up at the end of the day with some regret, made sweeter by the fact that Ivy had brought us all cookies. We munched our treats and commented on the story that I was reading.

Walking you through curriculum as lived, shows how we covered many aspects of the curriculum today that are laid out in government documents and school board policy. Sometimes magic rises up to meet us and enhances our day. There is no recipe. I could have followed my curriculum as plan and we could have had a chaotic day as we moved hurriedly from one activity to another. Instead, we floated. The effects of kairotic moments reach beyond our time as a class and I find myself floating through the rest of my day long after my students go home!

Aoki, T. (1987/1991). The Dialectic of mother language and second language: a curriculum exploration. In W.F. Pinar & R.L. Irwin (Eds.),  Curriculum in a new key: The collected works of Ted T. Aoki (235-245). Mahwah,NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Smith, D.G.(2014). Teaching as the practice of wisdom. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic.