Thursday, October 13, 2011

I Wonder & iTravel

I have been teaching kindergarten for quite a while now. Let's say that when I started teaching, telephones were not cordless, we had televisions where you had to stand up to change the channel, portable music meant a "Walkman," and hi-fi music was on vinyl.

The world is in constant change, and so are the children. Some people believe that if you teach the same year over and over you can simply fall into a routine... and that is so not true. The curriculum may continue to be the same, but the children are not.

The presentation of the curriculum must be adapted from year to year according to the needs and preferences of the children. 

Last year my classroom was mainly populated by firstborn children: this year I have lots of siblings. Last year, "Percy the Park Keeper" was the preferred book; this year they prefer the "Large Family" collection. Last year they wanted to "Wonder" about things, while this year they want to experience them.

So instead of "I Wonder," we will have "iTravel" on Fridays. Every other Friday the children will find the classroom chairs lined up in rows, like seats in an airplane. We will take the children, in their imaginations, to another country. We will have preflight briefings, and suitcases, and passports, to make it more vivid (the suitcases and passports are made out of cornflake boxes). Up on the board they will see where they are going, on a map, and we'll talk about how far away it is.

When landing, they will get their suitcases and passports and line up to go through passport control and get stamps on their passports, and they will be greeted by someone in the language of that country. After that the country guide will be waiting for them, to take them to see something representative of the country. (As you can imagine, I will play multiple roles during all this!) 

The children will mail a postcard from "the country" (actually from the school, of course!) to their parents, telling them where they have been. 

iTravel is based on an awesome book, which has all sorts of great ideas for us to use:
iTravel's launch generated enthusiasm from the children that exceeded anything we had expected. They LOVED being on the airplane, and lining up with their passports, and doing Flamenco dancing and saying "ole!"

During all this fun, we do have some sneaky ulterior motives. You see, we can slip many of the learning objectives for the year into the iTravel theme. For example, one of the things we talk about early in the year is "All About Me," where each child can talk about themselves, including where they are from, where their parents are from, what they eat there, what holidays their families celebrate, and what their country's flag looks like. We talk about "friendship" and "citizenship," and we talk about "processes" (such as getting on the plane, flying, getting off the plane, going through immigration...). 

Toward the end of the year, we will pull it all back in again to ask, "Where Are We?" We will zoom in, from looking at the whole world, to look at the United States, and then New York, and then to our own neighborhoods. We will talk about what makes a neighborhood, how they are similar and different, what all neighborhoods need, and the people in our neighborhoods and what they do.

We must reinvent ourselves every year and make learning interesting and above all FUN!

Happy travels!

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