Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Connected Wellness Global Yoga Challenge

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you might have followed my journey last fall when I became a certified yoga teacher in Greece. Upon my return to the kindergarten classroom, I was excited to experiment with yoga as part of a developmentally appropriate play-based learning program. Read more here about how yoga has enhanced our connections to literature.

My young learners have embraced yoga as part of their daily routine and have benefited hugely from a daily yoga practice. So why yoga in the classroom?
-encourages tolerance and acceptance of others
-promotes healthy habits
-countless physical benefits: strength, flexibility, balance
-teaches focus and improves ability to sustain attention
-teaches calming techniques and self-awareness
-promotes self-regulation and positive mental health
-more information available here 
And as always happens with my young learners and me when we are passionate about something, we want to share it with others. This started with practicing yoga with Mrs. Obach's Grade 1 class via Skype and teaching yoga poses to Miss Green's Grades 3/4 class in our own school. My boys and girls proved themselves to be very capable little yoga teachers and they loved connecting with classrooms around the world, so it made sense to combine these two interests into a global yoga challenge!

My colleague and best friend Leah Obach and I are both Microsoft Innovative Expert Fellows, and we agreed that two of our favourite Microsoft tools were perfect to support this project.
Skype: to connect classrooms to practice yoga together
One Note: to curate and share wellness resources such as yoga pose tutorials, links, and videos.
Both of these tools are free and multi-platform, which is really important when working with teachers around the globe.

Follow this link to view our Connected Wellness One Note resources.

Leah and I co-moderated a Manitoba Ed Chat (#mbedchat) on Twitter that focused on wellness in school communities. It was a great opportunity to launch our Connected Wellness Global Yoga Challenge, and we shared a link to a sign up form. It was exciting to recruit 21 classrooms from around the world to take part in the week-long event! Check out our Bing map showing all the participants!
March 14-18 was our designated week for the Connected Wellness Global Yoga Challenge, and my boys and girls worked hard to select their favourite poses and breathing techniques. We created tutorials for each pose using photographs and shared writing. We also made short videos for breathing techniques and sequences such as sun salutations. As mentioned above, all these resources were organized in One Note. As we created these resources, we discussed the importance of using our own images and work. It's never too early to build digital citizenship!
As we created our pose tutorials, the learning was multi-disciplinary. We uncovered descriptors from the Literacy with ICT continuum, physical education/health outcomes, as well as ELA outcomes as we captioned the photographs. 

Once our tutorials were made, we used Microsoft Publisher to create a calendar for the week showing what was happening each day. This gave learners a practical application for our daily calendar work. We chose one or two yoga poses or breathing techniques for each day of the challenge.  
And finally the long-awaited week was here. I woke up early each morning to share the daily pose tutorials with our participants, using Twitter and email to make sure that everyone received the One Note links. Each day of the challenge, we connected with three classrooms:
-a daily morning yoga practice with Mrs. Obach's Grade 1 classroom via Skype
-a daily afternoon yoga practice with Miss Green's Grades 3/4 class in our school 
-a Skype call to connect with challenge participants virtually--it was so exciting to teach yoga to "big kids" at university and a French immersion classroom in Brandon 

Each day of the challenge, participants were encouraged to post pictures and videos on social media practicing the daily pose(s) using the hashtag #connectedwellness. It was so exciting to check Twitter and Instagram to view the pictures and read the captions. Pictures of students practicing yoga in school uniforms sparked a lot of questions from my kindergarten students. 

To conclude our challenge, we collaborated with Mrs. Obach's class in person to practice yoga and make a video showing all the photographs from the week. Watch our movie here. My students, our Grade 1 partner classroom, Leah, and I all agreed that it was an excellent week of yoga--we shared important wellness practices with 21 classrooms and their teachers and definitely raised awareness for wellness in schools! 

If you are interested in trying out our Connected Wellness Global Yoga Challenge, please check out the resources in One Note. Try any of the poses on your own or with your students and tweet it to us using @india0309 and #connectedwellness. We'd love to hear from you or connect via video call! Until then...namaste!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Daily Calving Report in Kindergarten

You just might be from a farming community when calving is a big deal in your classroom. For my big city colleagues, calving happens in late winter-early spring on Canadian beef farms when mama cows give birth to baby calves. When a farmer's cows are calving, it requires frequent checks at all hours of the day and night, and sometimes farmers have to help the cow give birth. Once the calf is born, it has to be tagged and documented. Many issues can arise during calving--emergency c-sections, mothers and babies that die, calves that won't drink, and mothers who reject their babies. In farming families, calving and the resulting successes and challenges are a frequent topic of conversation and there is no doubt that my little people are impacted by this. Some of my young learners check cows with their parents and bottle-feed calves. These little farmers can tell you the tag numbers of their favourite animals and use terms such as heifer, steer, cow, calf, and bull correctly. So after a number of days of children spontaneously reporting on calving on their farms, I decided to turn it into a learning experience. Giving my students' the support to pursue their interests while connecting it to curricular outcomes is hugely important to me, and it seems that these learning experiences can never be planned in advance--they just happen.

We began by including a hundred chart in our SMART Board calendar. Every student created a coloured, semi-transparent square to place on the chart to mark the number of calves on their farm. If students didn't have cattle of their own, they were related to someone who did--students reported on their grandparents' cattle for example.

After we recorded our calving numbers on the chart, we made comparisons among the numbers. I made a point of explaining that it wasn't a contest to see who had the most calves, but a way for us to learn more about numbers and share what was happening on our farms. However, that didn't stop my students from taking great joy in having more calves than Mrs. Caldwell most days!

My local co-op feed and hardware store was kind enough to give each of my students their very own calving record book (the kind that real farmers use). So each day, we recorded our calving totals in our record books. This gave the students an opportunity to practice printing numbers as well as copying the date off the SMART Board (strengthening visual-motor coordination in preparation for Grade 1). 
Next we represented our numbers to share with our school population and through social media. We tried to represent our calving totals in different ways. 
 Using bingo dabbers to stamp our number on a hundred chart
 Use hand prints in fives and tens then printing the number
 Colouring our total on a hundred chart
Representing our numbers using ten frames
We displayed our daily calving report in the hallway outside our classroom. Lots of people looked at it and asked us questions about it. My students were eager to explain what was happening with calving, confidently using numbers from 1-300! 

Lastly, our daily calving report provided an opportunity for real-life problem-solving. This allowed us to explore early multiplication and skip counting. 

This learning activity was a huge success for a number of reasons:
-it emerged directly from my students' interests and students were highly motivated and engaged
-it fostered strong connections with families and extended families
-it underscored the importance of agriculture and helped kids take pride in their agricultural operations
-it provided an extremely relevant way for students to explore, represent, and compare numerals and quantities from 1-300 

Agriculture is an extremely important industry in rural Manitoba, and I'm proud to say that as young as kindergarten, we are contributing to the next generation of farmers!

"That's the thing about clock in at age 5 and never truly clock out." -Unknown