There is a lot of playing going on in a Kindergarten day. They make the day schedule visual for the children by using cards. The cards on the picture do not correspond with the schedule mentioned below. A time schedule of a day could look like this:
0815 – 0900 Play with what the teacher has put on the table
0900 – 0930 Activity in circle
0930 – 1030 Playing outside
1030 – 1145 A craft or activity and when finished, choosing a game to play with.
1200 – 1230 Lunch
1230 – 1330 Playing outside
1330 – 1400 Finishing crafts and when finished, choosing a game to play with.
1400 – 1415 Preparing to go home
Left and right
At the beginning of the week, I made a craft with group 2 about the top left and right and the bottom left and right. They got a toadstool and had to paste certain forms of paper in one of the boxes. For instance, I would tell them to paste the yellow squares in the right top corner. I did this in 2 groups of 4. The children helped each other a little, which was fine. They all learn from each other. Because they are working with left and right, we put a red ribbon around their right wrist, telling them that now they knew that this was right.
With group 1, Miss A. made a craft about the positions of an object. When is it in front of, behind, next to or on something? The children of group 1 had to paste little goblins in the right position of the toadstool. 3 children still had to finish this the next day so she asked me to do this.
The children were all sitting in a circle. They were singing the song “Goedemorgen (naam kind), fijn je weer te zien. Wie zit er naast je, weet je dat misschien?” Miss P. said that when we were in the middle, we would switch to English: “Good morning (name child), good to see you here. Who is sitting next to you, can you tell me dear?” Some children got confused when Miss P. went further in English. After the song they talked to them about the middle. How did she know that where G. was sitting, is the middle?! She counted. She told them to find a partner and stand in a row, two by two. She skip counted (2, 4, 6, 8, … 20). Next, she showed them using blocks. Miss P. put two rows of 10 blocks next to each other on the table and asked one of the children how she could find the middle. The child put one of the rows away and the teacher asked her what she did so she explained. They counted the left over blocks, there were 10. Now they counted the children again but stopped at 10. And see, we need to stop where G. is sitting, so that is the middle.
Letter suitcase (“Letterkoffertje”)
One of the children gets to take this suitcase home (one child every week). They are working with a different letter every time. There is an explanation in the suitcase (for parents to read). The child that gets to take the suitcase home needs to fill it with objects starting with that particular letter. Next week, on Wednesday, he/she takes it back to school and they talk about it. This week, it was time for the letter a. It is all done in Dutch because the children are learning the Dutch alphabet. The objects taken to school were: armband, appel, acht, appelmoes, aardbeienjam, aap, auto. Only the first 4 words start with the a. The letter behind the a in the other words make the a sound differently. The children could tell the teacher what the objects were. When they weren’t correct, the teacher would break it down into syllabled and ask where the child heard the a. She made two groups on the table, the correct and the incorrect. To make the child who brought the objects to school not feel bad, she told him that he did a great job because all the words in fact started with the letter a, but they sound differently. She showed the letter au (of auto) and kept her hand on the u. She told them this is a, but when this letter (u) comes around, it is pronounced as au. She then asked in whose name was an a. The names are stated below and they talked about how the different a’s are pronounced. Miss P. told them that a’s could be pronounced differently, just look at the names. The sounds between brackets are Dutch sounds.
Every 2 weeks, the Kindergartners have something called ‘Kanjertraining’ (roughly translated as Whoppertraining). Miss P. told me that teachers need a certificate to teach this to the children. It is about teaching respect and preventing things like bullying. They have sort of a small flip-over with pictures and a story. The story is about Max and some ants who discover a village. In this village, multiple animals live in colourful houses. First the ravens (teacher puts on black hat, the colour of their house), these animals are mean and scare away the ants. They throw things at them and want to kill them and Max. Every time these animals talk, the teacher puts on the black hat. In the next house, the red one, there are monkeys. They come out and the teacher puts on the red hat. They laugh when the ravens are mean. The monkeys find it very funny what the ravens do. “Shoo them away, yes, good job!” the monkeys say. The third house is white, tigers live in here. The teacher puts on the white hat. The tigers do not listen to the monkeys and the ravens. They are not mean, they just ignore them. You can trust the tigers, they do not laugh at people and they are not mean or scared. At this moment, something happens in the circle. The teacher makes a remark “Look what happens, this is where the story is about”. One of the boys is laughing and portraying a monkey, the teacher says “Why are you wearing a red hat, take it off!” Max has to keep it a secret that this village is here, he discovered it by accident. The teacher talks to the children about secrets and what to do when someone tells you one. In the last house, the yellow house (yellow hat goes on), rabbits live. We haven’t seen them yet because they were scared. They were hiding in their houses. The tigers go and help them. The story is being translated by the teacher to real life and how the children can be tigers and help other children.
I observed several activities during a gym lesson:
- Miss P. has a drum and hits it. When she hits it loud and slow, the children need to take big steps. When she hits it soft and quick, the children need to tiptoe.
- Sevenjump. The children walk aroung in a circle, singing:
“Did you ever hear of the seven, the seven,
Did you ever hear of the sevenjump (they all jump)
They say my dancing is no good
I will show you dancing with one foot”
This is one (right foot out)
They repeat the first part and go on with:
This is one (right foot out), this is two (left foot out)
They repeat the first part again and go on with:
This is one (right foot out), this is two (left foot out), this is three (right knee down)
Every time after repeating the last, the following sentences and actions are added, one at a time.
This is four (left knee down)
This is five (right elbow down)
This is six (left elbow down)
This is seeeee-heeee-veeeen (head down)
Teacher shouts softly and all the children scream and laugh.
- Children all sit in a big circle. They have a ball which one child rolls to another, saying “I roll the ball to (name), he/she is a boy/girl.”
- One of the children stands with their back to the other children, who sit on the bench. One of the children from the bench taps the child in the middle on the back and says “Knock, knock, knock, who am I?” The child has to answer who he/she thinks it is. After this, an amount of children would stand behind the child in the middle and he/she had to guess how many children were behind him/her.
Friday, my day
On Thursday afternoon, my mentor and I talked about what more I could do and we decided that the next day, on Friday, I could run the whole morning. We had a conversation about what activities I could do. It had to have something to do with hedgehogs. We searched the whole school for an English book about hedgehogs and couldn’t find anything. Our last hope was the American teacher, K. We went to her class and guess what, she had a perfect book about a hedgehog! The book was about things getting stuck in the fur of a hedgehog and K. had cut out a hedgehog where things could be stuck on with Velcro. Perfect for Kindergartners!
But first thing in the morning, when the second bell rings (and the parents are still in the classroom, saying goodbye), the teacher (so me, this time) claps her hands so the parents know that they need to go. This happens at 08.30. Around 8.50 the children needed to tidy up. Again, I capped my hands while saying “Hands together!” This is the que for the children to sit on their chair, be quiet and of course, have their hands folded. I told them to put all the things back in the boxes and baskets and then in the cupboard. When they are finished, they can sit down on their chair. When everyone was seated, it was time to sit in the circle. Every day, the teacher has 2 helpers and they sit next to the teacher in the circle. They can both pick a child that can sit next to them. I let a few children choose and later finished the circle myself by calling out names. This went quite smooth. When in the circle, I tried to be as consistent as possible so there would be peace and quiet and I would have everyone’s attention. I started by asking who could tell me what day it is today. All the days have a different colour, today was the blue day. It often happens that the first child answers the colour of the day, then what could be asked is the name of the day, both in Dutch and in English. Afterwards this can be extended by asking what day it was yesterday and tomorrow. This is what I also did. The conversation went well and the children were focused.
Next, I read them the story of the hedgehog. The idea was to put the things on the paper hedgehog every time this also happened in the story. But then I thought it maybe would be nice to let them remember the story when the book was finished. I decided to leave the paper hedgehog and use it afterwards. During the reading of the story, some children were not paying attention. I said their names during the story so I would have their attention again. Despite doing this, it happened a lot. I tried to get their focus by using more hand gestures and different voices and I believe this worked. After the story I showed them the paper hedgehog and the items that were on the hedgehog. I asked them if they could tell me the order of the objects sticking to the hedgehog’s spines. There were also animals trying to get a certain object off, so I simultaneously asked them what animal was connected to what object. I found it hard to keep the attention of 20 Kindergartners and I had never experienced this before with this age group. I think it is because I had to simplify the story and wasn’t able to read the exact words. I found this difficult to do and the children apparently felt this in a way. During the story, I noticed one of the children crying. I decided to let it go for a second. The reason I did this is because when I would talk to her about it, she would be the center of attention (which, I think, would not be nice for this particular girl) and everyone would be out of the focus of the story. After a few minutes, the crying was over. While writing this blog, I realize that maybe I could have gone to her after circle time to ask her but I had not thought about this before.
When done with the paper hedgehog, I put some things on the table that all had a different structure. These were a chestnut (hard), a husk (sharp), a pine needle (little bit stingy) and moss (soft). I let some children feel every object to tell me what it feels like. Everyone wanted to touch every object, but this would take too long. I told them I would let everyone touch the husk, as it feels a little bit like a hedgehog. I told them to be careful because it is sharp. 2 children did not want to touch it, probably because of this remark. I wanted to go to them later and let them touch it together (when outside the circle), but I forgot. If I think about it, I will do this next time when I’m in the classroom with them. We spoke about some other characteristics of a hedgehog, most of the time about his hibernation. One of the boys said that every animal sleeps all winter long. I asked the children who had pets at home. I heard cat and dog, so I asked if they slept all winter. They didn’t. We still had some time before we could go outside, but we were finished with this little lesson. A good test for my improvisation skills. One of the children started singing and some children sang along. I asked them if they could all sing that song together for me, as I didn’t know it. Miss P. said they know another song, about autumn, so they sang this for me. I asked them to translate it a bit for me to Dutch. One of the children had a mosquito bite, so I also asked them if they knew the English word for mosquito and mosquito bite. They didn’t, so I told them and asked them to repeat it.
About now, it was time to go outside. I told the children to (in a minute, when I’m done talking!) put the chairs back at the table. I saw Miss P. shaking her head to me. I told the children a little hedgehog just walked passed me and told me I made a mistake. The chairs should stay in the circle. The children could get their coats and stand in the line to go outside. After playing outside for a while, we went in and it was time to eat our snack. Every time when someone talked, I reminded them that for talking and eating we both use our mouth so we can’t do both at the same time. It happened a few times that someone talked, but I was consistent which kept the peace in the classroom. I told the children of group 2 during snack that when everyone would be finished, we were going to make our own hedgehog. They were all excited about this.
The children of group 2 sit in 2 groups of 4. I told one group to stand around the other group’s table so I could explain what to do. After doing so, they could sit down and start. Some of them didn’t need much help and some needed some more help. I was quite able to help everyone without letting children wait too long. But a group of 8 children is big enough. After the craft, it was time to tidy up so I clapped again. I told everyone do tidy up and get their bags for lunch. I discussed with my mentor that from this time, I could work on my school assignments.