Wonder-ful Week One

Finding the right beginning for this first parent recap of the school year was challenging. To say that we had a wonder-ful and wonderful week, though technically true, seems trite. After the hours of planning that went into classroom set-up and the activities of the first week to be intentional and to reflect the type of learning environment that we hoped to create for your kids, it feels wrong to just rattle off what we did this week. So I will go back to one of the first things a teacher ever learns in a teacher education program – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Maslow’s Hierarchy is a theory of human motivation that suggests that people need to meet basic needs, physical and psychological, before they are ready to pursue “self-actualizing” or “self-transcending” needs. In other words, people are naturally curious and maybe even altruistic beings, but only if they aren’t worried about things like where they can get food or use the bathroom and whether or not someone will tease them or if anyone cares about their ideas. (For more on Maslow, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs is a good place to start.)
With that in mind, the schedule and activities of this week at The Kineo School were designed to help the kids feel those needs met so that we can get to some of the loftier goals of “self-actualizing” and “self-transcending” – where learning and discovering and experimenting and collaborating can happen.
We started with some of our routines. Mornings begin with snack time to allow kids a soft entry to the day. Sitting at a table with peers and chatting allows a chance for kids to share any big news (lost tooth, rough night of sleep, afterschool playdate, etc) and to reconnect with classmates before starting their day’s work. On day one, we then decorated our journals, which on day two, we learned are Wonder Journals. The Wonder Journal is a routine designed to promote kids’ habits of asking questions, looking more closely at a topic, and looking at their world through a different lens.
We spent some time wondering about each other and doing some activities to find things we had in common and discovering some differences. On the first day of school, we read the book “First Day Jitters” and discovered one of the commonalities was a little bit of nervousness about the first day – for teachers as well as kids.
We made sure some of those basic needs were met by teaching routines for bathroom breaks and asking permission to use the bathroom. We showed where water bottles and snacks are stored for ease of access throughout the day.
We provided opportunities for the kids to share their ideas in a variety of ways so that differences in writing abilities, art skills, or building talents didn’t hinder their ability to express themselves. We slowly introduced the Seesaw app as a way to capture their creations.
The kids also had opportunity to explore the room – and their new classmates – in free play in the classroom and then again on the playground. Much time was spent building forts in the wooded area, and they even discovered an amazing caterpillar.
Our workshop time introduced writing (with pictures and/or words) as a way to express your feelings, sometimes in reaction to a book you read. You might feel a connection with how the character felt and that inspires you to write about your feelings. We started reading by showing how each person in the room was a reader – making meaning from letters and symbols – like bathroom signs, exits, and traffic signs. We later had a chance to share some information about our preferences as a reader by showing what types of books we liked, weren’t sure about, and didn’t like. Our math activities (revolving around students’ names and heights) allowed us to learn a bit about the students as mathematicians without formal assessments.
We slowly introduced classroom jobs : horticulturalist tending to our plants, librarian tending to our books, disc jockey picking out a song of the day for the class (see additional email), office manager helping with supplies, meteorologist reporting our weather and date, and daily reporter recording special moments of the day.
Our wonders work for the week also looked at creativity and collaboration. Through activities with our “Not A Stick” and “Not a Box,” we worked on creative thinking and building on the ideas of others. We looked at how one thought or wondering could provide inspiration for your own ideas.
All the while we were observing and noting self-care skills, self-advocacy, teamwork, scissors and gluing skills, reading, handwriting, counting, adding, fine motor, gross motor, learning style preferences, and interests. All this information will help us to know not just what we want to teach your child, but how they are most likely to learn it and feel and be successful.