I have finally been able to access the coursesites.com site that ASCY invited me to and my first “course” is called “No More Worksheets” – I am tempted to print out the power-point presentation and send it to my colleagues.

An important quote from Kathy Hirsh Pacek, who wrote, ‘Einstein Never Used Flashcards’:


“Children who are prematurely pushed into regimented academic instruction display less creativity and enthusiasm for learning in later years”


Common Misconceptions:

  1. If children are choosing the worksheets, there is no problem Children don’t always know what is best. It is the educator team’s job to  direct, provoke and inspire with intention. Children should not have to face this choice.
  2. It is all about balance, you can use worksheets if they are balanced with hands on activities. If studies have directed us toward their inappropriateness, why are we striking a balance?
  3. Worksheets are good for fine motor skills. There are so many other things to use such as scissors, tweezers, playdough, etc.
  4. Worksheets introduce children to following directions. Most of these children don’t read anyway.
  5. Children won’t do well academically without worksheets. Studies show that this isn’t true!
  6. My kids beg for them! That doesn’t mean that they are the way we teach and they are sending parents the wrong message.
  7. I need to use worksheets because I am preparing them for Kindergarten. Yet, in Ontario, we have adopted a play-based program for Kindergarten. Worksheets do not belong in the early years.

Finally, it is important to protect the child’s right to play.

Ann Pelo’s work at Hilltop in Seattle must have been filled with so many amazing moments. A beautiful example of emergent curriculum is captured in the DVD To See Takes Time: Growing Curriculum from Children’s Theories (2003). In 27 minutes she takes us through an experience where school aged children are exploring why leaves change colour. Step by step, the educator’s decisions are broken down and explained to the viewer with wonderful scenes of student interaction as well.

Initial Considerations

  • consider your values
  • examine your environment
  • expand your skills

Foundations for Emergent Curriculum

  • grow relationships
  • create invitations in the environment
  • tell stories of unfolding activities
  • practice with new materials

A Possibility Emerges

  • form a work team
  • start with hands on experiences
  • save work to revisit later

Ann Pelo makes a powerful observation when she talks about early in her teaching practice she was very hands off and let children simply explore materials but  that with experience she came to believe it is unfair to do this, the children need direction so that they can truly express themselves.

She remarks, “We spent a long time making friends with the leaves.”

Documentation Suggests Next Steps

  • find big ideas
  • plan only a few steps ahead
  • keep listening, documenting, analyzing

She continues with an analogy about how there is a reciprocal nature to the work with children ~ a ” game of catch, tossing ideas back and forth”. She emphasizes the importance of being transparent with the children and wanting them to experience an authentic dialogue.

Questions Challenge Thinking

  • Find a soft spot in the ideas
  • encourage children to challenge each other’s ideas

The role of the teacher is to find a balance where you can affirm and still challenge ideas. Full acceptance is not useful she concludes. The challenge it seems is evidence of authentic engagement. Help the students notice inconsistencies.

… and then the language of art becomes apparent (probably Pelo’s most famous work)

Art as a Thinking Tool

  • revisit earlier work
  • re-represent ideas in a different media (children used paint, markers, rubbings, clay and wire)
  • make connections from one media to another
  • move from individual to group work

The children move from two-dimensional representations to 3-D which Ann Pelo points out is helpful because it stretches them into new areas and teaches them that ideas can be expressed in a variety of ways and this is building a foundation for literacy work.

Explorations with Families

  • provide experiences with the families that parallel children’s work (parents drew their own understanding)
  • study documentation together
  • listen for new insights

Storytelling and Celebrations

  • continually tell stories of the work
  • let children share their stories with others
  • celebrate the work (they baked cookies and decorated them to look like the leaves they had studied)

We as viewers are encouraged to take time. As Georgia O’Keefe says, “to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” We are encouraged to take time to build relationships to really know and understand our students and to give them time to investigate, to build relationships with materials. And of course with each other and with the educators.


I had to add this note when I returned the cd:

Thank you Karyn!

I really appreciated the loan of this cd. It was a perfect bookend to the session on emergent curriculum that I’ve just finished. In our sessions we talked about certain questions to be considered when we approached our programs and we were so hungry for examples that illustrated and then answered these questions. The two dimensional panels we spent time interrogating were wonderful but not as satisfying as watching Ann Pelo in action.

For example,

  • The use of graphic materials we might offer to support the multiple modes of representing thinking
  • fostering an environment that supports the learning interactions
  • what do the conversations that generate children’s theories and inquiries sound like (when we don’t rush to search engines and books to extinguish the wondering)
  • How to begin to think of the pedagogical documentation as relationship.
  • How the family and community can be drawn into the learning


And on a rather different note altogether, it is so inspiring to see how consistent Ann’s message is nearly 15 years later – and how beautifully she has aged!

Thanks again for letting me take my time with these resources.












 Each illustration of the rights of children and youth is a link to a video one might use in an early childhood setting to explain rights to children.








Bishop Strachan School


Today we begin the journey… with Mary Jane Miller  & Ellen Brown

Many housekeeping details have come up and then a history of Reggio as I have never heard it been told…. The push mostly by women to build an educational environment that would foster the critical thinking that could rebuff fascism in the future; in a place dominated by communist politics; aligned with the women’s movement; situated in an agricultural hub;

Then some of the principles of Reggio that make if different from emergent curriculum:

  • transparency
  • collaboration
  • differences valued
  • conceptions of beauty
  • reciprocity
  • role of relationships

Collecting information that is different from our North American traditions~ are there grandparents to support, for example?

School as a living organism >> it grows, it moves, any change affects all of its parts. Yet the Ontario curriculum disassociates aesthetics, emotions, etc. Pedagogical documentation  for meaning making not for the “North American Question” : assessment and evaluation.

Today the reading was Emergent Curriculum by Carol Anne Wien. We discussed it very briefly. The parts that resonated for me are quoted here:

The intent of emergent curriculum is to slow down and deepen positive relationships among children, teachers, families and their environment.


Emergent curriculum then is also the teacher’s inquiry into what children know and understand and how that understanding can be stretched and deepened. This inquiry goes beyond the early childhood classroom to encounter the landscape and community that surrounds children in their child care centre. How can the teachers help the children participate in the life of their community as interested citizens, and how can that community be invited t take its youngest citizens into the midst so they and their educators are not isolated from its life?

Wien then goes through the possible stages in teacher development in Emergent Curriculum:

  • the challenged teachers
  • the novice
  • the practicing teacher
  • the master teacher

Wien also talks about building ‘layers’ into an effective program. These layers include

  • serious conversation to find out what children think
  • documentation,
  • many modes of expression,
  • generous expanses of time (and doing things many times)
  • rich resources,
  • parent involvement,
  • carefully prepared activities,
  • collaborative sharing,
  • teacher study

I found myself sub-consciously using this as a checklist against my own program structure. In some respects I win, sometimes I lose! Wien also uses an expression that I found myself using verbatim – to a new colleague coming to the Early Learning Program: …it is not for the faint of heart.

We viewed and discussed La Storia d’ombra from Reggio as well.


Today we were assigned a translation of a Loris Malaguzzi article, ‘Your Image of the Child: Where Teaching Begins”


Best line so far?…. Clearly this one:

“This theory within you pushes you to behave in certain ways”

He writes, “we are always contaminated with the experiences that we bring with us.”…. School can never be always predictable. We ned to be open to what takes place and able to change our plans and go with what might grow at the very moment both inside the child and inside ourselves…. Life has to be somewhat agitated and upset, a bit restless, somewhat unknown… we need to be comfortable with the restless nature of life.”

He describes the role of the adult as the creator of relationships, and not as a transmitter.

I was especially struck with the section entitled, “Forging Alliances with Families” where Malaguzzi writes:

We need to make a big impression on parents, amaze them, convince them that what we are doing is something extremely important for their children and for them, that we are producing and working with children to understand their intelligence and their intelligences.

We also were assigned a drawing activity that forced us to make visible what we could hear. We were to share our meaning making; to think about lines representing time, and the reasons for what we drew.

We watched a slide show from Portland Oregon and the Opal School where the research question was about how to grow empathy. They examined good guys vs bad guys.

We were then assigned random quotes from Rinaldi’s In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia and we had to consider the quotes and how it translates in the project we were examining.

Day THREE (3)

The reading today was an article about the evolution of pedagogical documentation by Carol Anne Wien.  See link below:


We discussed how the educator is ‘lending consciousness” when demonstrating how to use new equipment or materials. See Project Zero p. 58 A Day at School or p. 49 math example, The Right Price.

We presented our ideas about the quotes.

We used the language of wire to translate our meaning making in sound. We tried to do an off the cuff documentation of each other.

We were visited by Lana O’Reilly from Pape Avenue Public School TDSB who shared some documentation about alphabet work. We rushed to follow her on Twitter and on Instagram @shimmerteach . She was that impressive….

Day FOUR (4)

Finally the tour of Heather’s classroom at Bishop Strachan.

My observations in short:

  • Centre Decoration explains each centre in large graphic panels to all visitors but is not documentation.
  • art material mixed and beautifully organized by colour.
  • popcorn words are out
  • many student made mobiles
  • use of ten frame for attendance (pictures at first, then names only)
  • math based on Cathy Fosnot (I immediately ordered this from OCT library!)
  • tracking of use of centres every week – a log is used by the teachers
  • Lucy Cawkins Writer’s Workshop used for literacy

We chatted and debriefed about this opportunity to observe the classroom and went on to examine more pedagogical documentation from Reggio Emilia to try and discern the “theory” of the educator who created it. Our group had an interesting conversation about translation. For example, the word ‘lovely’ was used. BT argued it meant beauty. I argued the children were implying ‘full of love’. The whole conversation left me thinking more deeply about translation in general, and the assumptions made by any translator.

Deb Curtis and Margie Carter are unstoppable! They are indefatigable! Here is yet another book full of inspiration for the early childhood educator – Teacher or DECE partner, alike. This book takes the form of a self directed course you can take yourself to increase your powers of observation. There are a few striking quotes that must be noted here…

After a basic introduction there are 14 chapters, most of which are “study sessions” on issues such as observing….

  • children’s perspective
  • children’s lively minds
  • how children use their senses
  • how children explore, invent, and construct
  • how children connect with the natural world
  • how children seek power, drama and adventure
  • children’s eagerness for drawing, symbolic representation and literacy
  • how children form relationships and negotiate conflict
  • children with their families

and when the STUDY SESSIONS are over:

  • getting organized to observe
  • using and sharing your observations
  • using observations for planning and assessement


While I did not spend much time with the text this time around, what I did see was impressive.


Ann Pelo’s memoir of spending the year outdoors with a one year old (Dylan) is not the professional development I expected. It isn’t the sort of book that you carry in your school bag, back and forth to class, chock full of ideas you can implement in your classroom the next day. It is more a philosophical treatise on how much time we spend appreciating the environment and how to actually instill environmentalism in young children. I found it more meditative than instructive. And that was a good thing.

I thought I would simply record important passages here for easy access wherever I am and perhaps a comment when it seems relevant.


…wild Earth, our first instinct is to know it. The instinct too quickly becomes buried beneath the rip-rap of contemporary life: beneath plastic toys and alphabet drills, beneath homework and housework and blue-glowing screens, beneath numbing commutes and smart phones and long days at work. But the instinct to know the Earth as animals know their home grounds is essential to a full human life, and must be safeguarded as birthright in young children, and received, rekindled, and renewed in us as adults.”


“There is wide-ranging inequality in children’s opportunities to meet the Earth’s humming life, a disparity that is token of and testament to the unjust organization of our society. That unevenness of opportunity demands bold community action aimed at remedying the inequality of environmental racism and classism.”


“Rather than contribute to a sense of disconnection from place by writing off our most urban environments as unsalvageable or not worth knowing, we can instill in children an attitude of attention to what exists of the natural world in their neighborhoods. The sense of care for and connection to place, then, can become the foundation for critical examination of how that place has been degraded, as children grow older…. “As it became my home, the wounds that were being inflicted upon it – the insults – became my own” (Rick Bass).


Pelo writes of the dispositions at the heart of ecological literacy and then goes on to say that when we help strengthen this disposition in children, we strengthen the capacity within ourselves:

  • Pay attention
  • Be curious
  • Open your heart
  • Be modest and humble

She goes onto describe a ‘pedagogy of looking and listening’ p. 48

  1. walk the land
  2. practice silence
  3. learn the names
  4. embrace sensuality
  5. explore new perspectives
  6. create stories
  7. make rituals

and these then become the headers for the next few chapters of the memoir as she fleshes out these approaches.

p. 49

We live in a culture that dismisses the significance of an ecological identity, a culture that posits what we make home by the simple fact of habitation, rather than by intimate connection to the land, the sky, the air. Any place can become home, we’re told. Which means, really that no place is home.

(emphasis my own, above and below…)

Pelo offers a beautifully written commentary on Dylan’s discovery of apple trees and  blackberry bushes yielding their fruit, a first snowfall, both swimming and dead fish, warm water puddles, caterpillars becoming butterflies, and a great blue Heron fishing for lunch, the floating of leaves in a river that demonstrates upstream and downstream motion…


p. 65

Time is intimacy. When we visit a landscape again and again – visit and notice, consciously, what we find there; visit and talk about what we notice – when we visit a landscape again and again, we come to know its particularities: the changes in light and shadow, the life and death of the green things, the movement of the lively things, the way rain slicks across rock and slips into dirt.


p. 87

We speak such a lot, we humans. Especially adults to children. Talk, talk, talk: we describe, we question, we instruct. We talk to exchange what we know, what we care about, the gossip of the day. When are we silent? In church, synagogue, mosque. In meditation, in yoga, in solitude. In the presence of majesty. In the experience of awe. In the face of a miracle. Which is to say, in witness to heron and spider, flight and web, storm cloud and jewel -backed beetle, blackberry and dandelion and worm.”



Psychologist and naturalist Elaine Brooks says that, “People are unlikely to value what they cannot name.”

p. 108

Richard Louv reports that a 2002 study found that the average eight year old in the United States was better able to identify characters from Pokémon than the native species in the communities where they lived. I wanted Dylan to value pine trees and penstamen more than Picachu. I learned the names. I taught Dylan the names….



I didn’t start behaving like Dylan… But I certainly relaxed more fully into my body, and, more importantly, I learned to give Dylan ample permission to bring every sense into her encounters with the world.


Five senses illuminate the world for us: taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. Neuroscientists add five more senses: temperature, kinesthetic sense, balance, pain acceleration. Other current  nominees for consideration as sense are time, direction, and thirst.


p .142

“We think by analogy, we speak in metaphor –  …Shifting perspective as an act of participation in the world, yes! We don’t look through the window – the instructions for how to paint with perspective have it all wrong. We step through the window, like Alice into Wonderland, and marvel at what we find: barefoot dogs and crows, warm – water puddles, on clear -sky days.”

p. 143

“Analogy invites us to look through the lens of relationship to see the identify of a thing more clearly. Our experience and knowledge of one thing inform how we come to know another thing. This re-aligning of knowledge and experience opens into stories and hypotheses, into revelation and renewal.”

p. 146

“An ecological identity is anchored by dispositions to pay attention, to be curious, to open our hearts. Which is to say: an ecological identity is anchored by empathy.”


“Empathy: the awareness of another being’s feelings; the ability to take up another being’s point of view. We nurture empathy when we practice seeing the world from new and unfamiliar perspectives….

Empathy is cornerstone in an ecological identity. Empathy turns us toward the living world with imagination and curiosity, with courage enough to let go of our habitual and easy understandings, with willingness to experience the vulnerability of disequalibrium. Empathy sizes us in  right proportion to others, not more-than, or better than, or worthier than, but connected by the shared capacity for joy and suffering.”


p. 159

from Scott Russell Sanders:

“Stories entertain us. They created community. They help us see through the eyes of others. They show us the consequences of our actions. They educate our desires. Stories help us dwell in place. They help us dwell in time. They help us deal with suffering, loss and death. They teach us how to be human. And stories acknowledge the wonder and mystery of Creation.”

p. 161

“We know the land better because we told stories about it. Stories bind us to place.”

p. 163

“Storytelling begins in observation, unfolds into language, and opens finally, as an offering, an outward gesture anchored by the inwardness of experience.”


p. 171

“Ritual lifts us out of the mundane and habitual, and calls our attention to what matters to us.”

p. 174

“… when a ritual becomes stale, or forced, or pro forma – an echo rather than a song – it is no longer useful, and best allowed to fall away…”


“We create rituals to remind us of how we hope to behave.”

She ends the book with a Coda that includes a letter to Dylan, and before that a chapter entitled, A Call to Come Home, which was powerful for me  to read, as someone who is always questioning her sense of belonging and, like Pelo I have accepted being ‘displaced’ for long periods of time.


“What changed was my long acceptance of being displaced – my willingness to live on hold, gazing at the far horizon for home – somewhere else, somewhere more suited to me than the gray cool place that I lived….I decided to shift my gaze… I decided to reside here, for as long as I lived here – which might not be forever. But while here, I wanted to be here fully. Walking the land, learning the names, filling my senses with this place. Making ritual, learning the stories, coming to know the goodness of rain. I decided to make this place home.”

I’ve truly savoured this book and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have worked out all the important pieces and to have found the time to record them here.

F. A.

March 19, 2017

Six pages in and I don’t think I can do without my own copy of this resource. It has tapped into all my teaching anxiety this month. With some children in my care, I am not getting past behaviour management mode – and most days not managing the behaviour very well either….

Jenna Blimes might be my professional development  holiday rescue!

Let me jump right in! Essentially she writes, for children to negotiate the world successfully they need to develop 6 strengths with grow out of positive beliefs about the world around them and culturally appropriate social skills.

The Six Life Skills

  1. ATTACHMENT ~ “I have a grown up who cherishes me and keeps me safe.”
  2. AFFILIATION ~ “I can have a friend and be a friend.”
  3. SELF-REGULATION ~  “I can manage my strong emotions and am in control of my behaviour.”
  4. INITIATIVE ~ “I am constantly growing and changing and learning new things”
  5. PROBLEM SOLVING ~ “I can solve problems and resolve conflicts.”
  6. RESPECT ~ “I have unique gifts and challenges and so do others.”

p. 18 Effective Teaching Strategies

When my mother was a child, teachers sat children in the corner with a dunce cap oir they rapped a child across the knuckles with a ruler if they lagged in reading. We listen to those stories now and say, “Tsk, tsk, how primitive.” Yet when a child is struggling socially, we still have him wear a version of a dunce cap – only now we call the dunce chair a time – out chair and we have replaced the dunce cap with names written on the board. Our public shaming techniques flaunt the child’s social or emotional challenges to her peers and to anyone else who walks into the classroom.

p. 20 Rewards

Do we want to raise children who make behaviour choices based on bribes and rewards? …. “If you give me that truck, I’ll be your best friend.” Where do you think children learn [that]?


p.24 Institutional Culture

Like home and school, work environments have cultures…

Bilmes creates a table with a column headed When Leaders…. then Instead of and finally They establish a culture that values…   which is meant to highlight the positive things we can do to build the culture of our classrooms, with typical things we do instinctively sometimes and finally the promotion of

  • attachment and affiliation (develop relationships)
  • self regulation (think things over and respond thoughtfully and professionally rather than feeling a situation to be a personal afront)
  • problem solving (acknowledge and resolve problems proactively without blame)
  • initiative (empower and encourage rather than using false praise)
  • respect (honour and recognize strengths and contributions of all

p.30 Blimes tells the parable of the 2 wolves (and this has come up for me in professional conversations for the whole month!)  – the battle of the two wolves, one is kind, generous, compassionate, the other is cruel, selfish, and arrogant. Who wins? The winner is the one that gets fed. Make sure you are feeding the right wolf!

Recognition invites repetition

Six pages in and I don’t think I can do without my own copy of this resource. It has tapped into all my teaching anxiety this month. With some children in my care, I am not getting past behaviour management mode – and most days not managing the behaviour very well either….

Jenna Blimes might be my professional development  holiday rescue!

Let me jump right in! Essentially she writes, for children to negotiate the world successfully they need to develop 6 strengths with grow out of positive beliefs about the world around them and culturally appropriate social skills.

The Six Life Skills

  1. ATTACHMENT ~ “I have a grown up who cherishes me and keeps me safe.”
  2. AFFILIATION ~ “I can have a friend and be a friend.”
  3. SELF-REGULATION ~  “I can manage my strong emotions and am in control of my behaviour.”
  4. INITIATIVE ~ “I am constantly growing and changing and learning new things”
  5. PROBLEM SOLVING ~ “I can solve problems and resolve conflicts.”
  6. RESPECT ~ “I have unique gifts and challenges and so do others.”


Everywhere you look for math ideas in Kindergarten you stumble across Dr. Marion Small. She co-wrote the Nelson Math book for Kindergarten, she wrote Eyes on Math that is often recommended, she is the author of a book chosen for a primary book club, Big Ideas from Dr. Small: Creating a Comfort Zone for Teaching Mathematics Grades K-3.

As I read each chapter I will put the highlights for Kindergarten into this post. They won’t necessarily be posted in order but eventually I will have them all (5 chapters) covered.

Chapter 4 Measurement

Measurement defined:

  • to give a numerical value to an attribute of an object (or a situation in relation to a unit)

Big Ideas for Measurement:

  1. The same object can be described using different measurements. For example in one dimension (length) in two dimensions (area = length x width) or 3 dimensions (mass, volume, capacity and temperature. Different measurement attributes of an object are to always related so an object can be small in one way and large in another – think of comparing a big plastic bowl and a small marble bowl.
  2. Any measurement can e determined in more that one way – for example using single units repeatedly or using many copies of the same unit. Also consider filling a bowl with beans and then using measuring cups to calculate how much it holds OR using the measuring cup filled with beans to pour into the bowl to see how much it holds.
  3. There is always value in estimating a measurement, sometimes because it is all you need and sometimes because it is a useful check on reasonableness. We use comparisons all the time: it’s 2x as big as that and 1/2 the size of the other…
  4. Familiarity with known benchmark measurements help you calculate and estimate other measurements. Students should choose 3 referent lengths as ‘concrete’ measures SMALL might be their hand; MEDIUM might be their height and LONG might be the length of the classroom.
  5. We use units to make measurement comparisons simpler. This is only effective if the same unit is used for both objects and the unit is uniform. For example,  that container holds 7 c. of liquid and the other holds 5 c. of liquid so the first one is definitely bigger.
  6. The unit chosen affects the numerical value (a bigger unit will have a lower number). In class we measured out length in ipads and then in cm. Abby was 5 iPads tall but a whopping 119 cm. Consider measuring a short line with paperclips: it may be 2 large paperclips long but 6 small paperclips long. Same line!
  7. The use of standard units simplifies communication about size of objects. The table maybe be 100 cubes long but that isn’t clear until we say each cube is exactly 1cm.