Dr. Davey’s Disney World

Tomorrow is the first day of school. After six years out of Kindergarten, and teaching everything from Grade 1 to Grade 6, I’m now going back to Senior Kindergarten. This is a change that I’ve wanted. It’s a change that thrills me, but also terrifies me. As I’ve found out after reading many different books this summer and seeing numerous tweets and Instagram posts from various educators, there are countless opinions about how to best approach the play-based philosophy behind the Full-Day Kindergarten Program.

  • Some believe in a balance between the “new” and “old” ways. Others believe that the day should be large blocks of uninterrupted playtime, with educators just instructing during this playtime. 
  • Some still see the value in guided reading. Others feel that reading can be taught in the context of play.
  • Some create numerous provocations for students. Others have fewer ones, and wait to see what the students do first.
  • Some have removed almost all of their plastic toys from the classroom, and have largely natural materials in the room. Others have both.
  • Some have very few materials out for the students to use initially. Others have more. 
  • Some plan full class lessons for certain concepts. Others largely just share student work/thinking with the full class, but instruct in smaller groups. 
  • Some have reading and writing materials out on all of the shelves and/or in all of the different areas. Others have these items contained in just one or two areas, with the understanding that students will get these items when they need them.
  • Some have more designated math and language times. Others keep these times separated, with mini-lessons for each.
  • Some embrace more of a project approach to learning (the book, Young Investigators: The Project Approach In The Early Years describes this well). Others have a less formalized approach to inquiry (I think of many of the inquiries described in the ETFO Thinking It Through series).

The more I saw and read, the more questions I had about how to start and what to do. It was then that I decided to reread our Full-Day Kindergarten Program Document. An updated version of this document is due out very soon, which is why I waited to read it until later on in the summer: I thought that there might be a new version by now. Here are my takeaways from this document.

Yes, our program document still leaves me with questions. It also though helps me make sense of so much more of what I’ve read. It provides a context for the various ideas, and helps us focus on the big ideas and learning outcomes. Now for the most important part: our kids. I can’t help but wonder if there are such variations in approaches because of such variations in students (and student needs). 

On the eve before the first day of school, it’s these words of wisdom from one of my previous vice principals (Kristi) that stick with me.

It looks like we’re in for a trip to Disney World, and I figure that we might as well go on this adventure with the studentsIn time, I’m hoping that by observing and interacting with them, they’ll show us what they need, and together, we can figure out where to go next. Any words of advice before Day 1 of Dr. Davey‘s Disney World? I’d love to know how you know you’re on the right track.


8 thoughts on “Dr. Davey’s Disney World

  1. Aviva,
    Your students are very lucky to have a teacher that is as thoughtful and reflective as you are. Just the fact that you re read the documents so thoroughly shows how dedicated you are to your students! Enjoy the ride, I’m sure it will be awesome!

    • Thanks Jennifer! I think that sometimes with a bunch of unknowns and uncertainties, we try to find something that makes this “uncomfortable feeling” a little bit better. The curriculum documents do that for me. They help provide perspective, and give me a chance to connect my other readings with the big ideas and learning outcomes. They give one big part of the big picture. I think the even bigger part is the students. Tomorrow, I finally get to meet them — I can’t wait. I think that I’ll learn the most from them. I still wonder though, how we’ll know when we’re on the right track. I hope that with time, listening, careful observation, and interactions, we’ll figure it out together.


  2. I love how you question yourself all the time. More than just reflections! You make me think and wonder how would I approach some of your concerns now, But although no longer in the classroom, I share your thoughts and ideas with colleagues. How we approach teaching and what to teach often depends on the structure of the institution’s vision for each grade. But we aways keep in mind what’s best for our students. A big challenge. Just wrote post called Making Right Turns. I thought of how you question as I wrote and questioned.

    • Thanks for your comment and support, Faige! I just read your post, and really liked it too. Sometimes I wonder if when we ask these questions, they help keep us focused on the issues/topics/areas of uncertainty, and ultimately help us change. I’d like to think they do.


  3. Aviva,
    I believe that teachers who prepare for back to school day1 are trying to be on the right track. I over plan, find day 1 activities that are relevant, engaging and age appropriate. Routines, expectations and fun learning activities are included. I always tell the students that “I care and I want them to win”. Smile a lot too.

    • Thanks for the comment, David! I think that this positive attitude is so important. How do you take your observations from this first day (and likely beyond that) to inform your practices? How do you know you’re on the right track? I have lots of questions in my head as I think ahead to a new and exciting school year!


  4. All the best for the first day! I am sure your students will enjoy the wonderful spaces you have created in your classroom. While they will likely have idea how much time and effort you have put into the process, I am sure it will make all the difference in their learning experiences. I can’t wait to hear all about your adventures.

    • Thanks Sarah! I really appreciate your support. It’s always interesting to hear what various educators have to say about our classroom spaces. The feedback that we’ve received over the past week have led to some great discussions between my partner and I, and I’m sure will lead to many more in the coming weeks. Now to have fun on the adventure that starts tomorrow! 🙂


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