I was putting together a presentation for our pre-service and thought I'd share some of the ideas that I was using. I've posted some of them before.
With all the reading adoptions and programs we are required to use, sometimes that rigor gets lost in the shuffle. I am very lucky to have an administration that allows us to "supplement" and not follow the scripted curriculum verbatim. We see kids with such a range of abilities and we are doing them a disservice with that one-size-fits-all mentality.
Anyway, as I start to plan for the new year I have a few things I keep in mind:
1) Make critical thinking fun! It doesn't have to be a chore. Give the kids an object and let them come up with a new use for it. Pencils and crayons are perfect for this in the beginning of the year. I do it a lot with holidays as well. You can start as a whole group discussion and move on to something they can do themselves.
2) Give it a new twist: after reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See we do one whole group for school-Miss Trayers, Miss Trayers, What Do You See and then the students make up their own. So this is one that's Comfy Couch, Comfy Couch--and all the things it sees is furniture.
3) Use open-ended questions to introduce a topic. When we talk about the leaves changing for fall, I ask the kids to come up with a creative reason why they change-not a scientific reason, but a creative one-it can be silly. They will say fairies paint the leaves, or something to that effect. And then I will tell them the real reason. It can be anything-why do ladybugs have spots? What happened to the dinosaurs? Where do rainbows come from? What do cats dream about?
4) Do art with them. I know I've posted this before, but it's so important that they learn how to be creative. Let them choose what color to paint the sky. Let them express their vision.
5) Give them time to play. I know this is controversial today. Kids love to construct things. You can make it rigorous by giving them pictures of actual buildings or setting parameters of using certain shapes. Where will the future architects come from? Not to mention, it's just plain fun for them.
Just look at the masterpiece below and tell me that was not a challenge to build!
6) Use different products. Have them do an interview or make a commercial. Make dioramas and trioramas. Create books. Write skits. Draw blueprints. Make comic strips. Write a song. They can do it! Even in Kindergarten. We want to instill in them a passion for learning and seatwork is all pencil-and-paper--that doesn't work for many kids. Plus I love seeing kids who struggle academically excel in activities that are varied this way. It gives them confidence.
I do a lot of these things selfishly--I just love to see what they come up with. Often they think of ideas I never even considered. Let your kids show you what they can do! :)