Read Aloud

The books listed below are among our favourite read-alouds for early learners.  These 10 book are an amazing addition to any kindergarten library…

Peter Reynolds

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Kathryn Otoshi

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Herve Tullet

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Annika Dunklee

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Drew Daywalt

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Amy Krouse Rosethal, Scott Magoon

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Jesse Klaumeier

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Let the Kids Learn Through Play

The stakes in this debate are considerable. As the skeptics of teacher-led early learning see it, that kind of education will fail to produce people who can discover and innovate, and will merely produce people who are likely to be passive consumers of information, followers rather than inventors. Which kind of citizen do we want for the 21st century? – DAVID KOHN

Pedagogical Documentation Blog

We’d like to thank Ellen Brown for featuring us in her amazing blog,

Her inspiring blog thoughtfully features educators in a Canadian context, sharing best practices in the early years and bringing educators together to learn from one another.

Thank You Ellen!

The Details of Grass

Each girl in our Kindergarten class is given a “Wonder Book” at the beginning of the year. This acts as a sketchbook, or a special place for our students to draw or write about the things they are wondering about.

One beautiful morning, we brought our students outside and asked them to simply sketch the grass. Concentrating and observing from above, they stood in a long line and sketched the grass. Most of them drew straight lines and stereotypical drawings of grass without really examining the details of each blade. When they were finished, we asked everyone to lie down in the grass, turn the page, and begin to sketch the grass again, lying on their stomachs. We wondered, “Would their sketches change? Would their detail be greater?” What we noticed was in fact closer attention to detail, more thoughtful observations, and students taking longer looks at the grass.


Afterwards, photographs of the grass were printed and placed at our Production Centre, where students used a range of utensils to create illustrations that reflected these  observations.


The grass is so pointy it could pop balloons… – JK student


 This opportunity reinforced with us the importance of asking children to look closely, and providing meaningful opportunities for them to refine and develop their skills in observation and communicating their thoughts and ideas.

“Most children are naturally curious about their surroundings. They have an interest in exploring and investigating to see how things work and why things happen. Children have an innate sense of wonder and awe and a natural desire for inquiry. The Full-Day Early Learning–Kindergarten program capitalizes on children’s natural curiosity and their desire to make sense of their environment. However, curiosity on its own is not enough. The guidance of a thoughtful Early Learning–Kindergarten team is essential to enable children to learn through inquiry. The team should use inquiry-based learning to build on children’s spontaneous desire for exploration and to gradually guide them to become more focused and systematic in their observations and investigations.” Ontario Ministry of Education, FDK Document


Vowels are tricky letters. Long vowels, short vowels, silent ones on the ends of words and of course sometimes ‘y’. Each year in grade one I struggle with how to introduce these letters in an authentic way.

Using the thinking routine, ‘See, Think, Wonder’, developed by Harvard’s ‘Project Zero’, offers an authentic entry point to discuss and think about vowels. We structured our conversation in three parts ‘what do you see, what do you think and what do you wonder’.

The provocation was a box of magnet letters.This box had individual compartments for the letters. Consonants were blue and vowels were red.

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What do you see?

“I see a pattern red, blue, blue, blue, red, blue, blue, blue.”

“I see different letters.”

“I see some letters have different places for them.”

“I see different colours.”

“I see stickers with letters.”

“I see different boxes, like little places.”

“I see 28 boxes.”

“Nooo… I see ummm… 25… no… let’s count again”

Children count to 18 and then recount again to 26.

“26 boxes!!” shout several children

“Like the number of letters in the alphabet… 26 letters.”

“How many boxes are blue and how many boxes are red?” – Teacher

“5 boxes are red.”

“21 blue boxes.”

I Think…

“The red ones are important.”

“what makes you say that?” – Teacher

“because they have a special colour”

“I think that the red ones are vowels…see … a,e,I,o,u”

“A vowel is a letter that you use in the middle of the word and its important that is why they are red because they are important”

“Red ones are vowels and the blue ones are not.”

“The blue ones are consonants.”
The children were then given the chance to play with the letter and make words they know. 

“What do you notice about the words you made?” – Teacher

“I notice that my words have blue, red, blue.”

“I have a row of three letter words and a row of two words and they have blue and red letters.”

“I notice that I have ‘id’ and ‘id’ and these words rhym – sid and lid. ”

“I have three in a row that are blue, red, blue.”

“There are ‘at’ and they rhyme. ”

I wonder…

“What are vowels?”

“Do all words have vowels?”

“Are vowels always in the middle?”

“What would happen if we didn’t have vowels in our world? Would all the words be hard to read?”

“I wonder why the ‘y’ is a half vowel. It means it’s kind of a vowel. If its on the end of a vowel”

“I wonder if all words have vowels in them.” – Teacher

“No… there are words with no vowels I am sure.”

“Hmmm… I wonder… does every word has a vowel?”

This experience of playing with vowels allowed girls to develop a relationship with these letters. From this experience, I have noticed they are more aware of the presence of vowels in their reading and writing.

The Importance of Sensory Play

 How important is sensory play?


Stimulating the senses sends signals to children’s brains that help to strengthen neural pathways important for all types of learning. For example, as children explore sensory materials, they develop their sense of touch, which lays the foundation for learning other skills, such as identifying objects by touch, and using fine-motor muscles. The materials children work with at the sand and water table have many sensory attributes — they may be warm or cool, wet or dry, rough or smooth, hard or soft, textured or slimy. Discovering and differentiating these characteristics is a first step in classification, or sorting — an important part of preschoolers’ science learning and discovery – Gainsley, 2011).

In our own classroom context, we have often grappled with the ‘discomfort’ of the sand and water tables. Located beside each other in our own classrooms, a child cannot help but blend the two together on a regular basis. In time, we recognized that we were spending significant amounts of time policing this area and talking more about the ‘do-not’s’ than the ‘do’s.’ After much frustration and conversation among teachers, we decided that we would let happen what was destined to happen anyway: The sand would become a part of the water table, and the water would become a part of the sand table.

What ensued was rich, sensory learning. Safaris, lakes, deserts, lemonade stands, and much, much more. What benefits were there to allowing children the control to follow their sensory interests?


The article entitled: “Look, Listen, Touch, Feel, Taste: The Importance of Sensory Play,” by Suzanne Gainsley (2011) highlights the very importance of these opportunities. However, teachers can come up with many reasons for why the sand and water tables may remain ‘closed’ in the early years classroom…

There isn’t enough room for art projects or a sand and water table.

It’s too messy.

The sand and water table (or art area) is just a boring and empty space.

(Gainsley, 2011).

Sometimes, new provocations placed in these tables can inspire rich and interesting thinking. To see the article and to gain new insight about the importance of sensory play and ideas for your own sand and water tables, visit:

Maximizing Mathematical Thinking

The Capacity Building Series published by the Ontario Ministry of Education has wonderful resources for teachers. We like reading the published articles, as the ministry of education pulls current research from a variety of sources and presents the information in one manageable read.


We are excited to see a variety of topics that address best practices in early learning and have posted articles below.












Rethinking Calendar Time

“If we look at the development of children’s understanding of time, there is little evidence that calendar activities that mark extended periods of time (a month, a week) are meaningful for children below first grade” – (Friedman, 2000). – taken from the article “Good intentions gone awry” by Sallee J. Beneke, Michaelene M. Ostrosky, and Lilian G. Katz.

As early years educators, having a calendar in the classroom and starting the day with looking at the date and it’s place in the month and year is a regular occurrence across Ontario. However, is this developmentally appropriate practice for Kindergarten-aged students? The authors of the article, “Calendar Time: Good Intentions Gone Awry” argue that it is not.

“Young children can talk about things that have happened or will happen, but they cannot yet understand or talk about these events in terms of units of time (days, weeks) or sequence.” (Beneke, Ostrosky, Katz, 2008).

This rich article outlines the research behind developmentally appropriate practice in the early years with regards to time and sequence, offering many meaningful opportunities for children to engage with these concepts.

Have a read!

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Choosing an Easel

When Kindergarten teachers go hunting for furniture for their classrooms, an easel is one of those pieces that strikes high on the priority list (at least it does for us!) When it came time to choose an easel for our classroom, we chose your typical Kindergarten tripod easel – it’s at the eye level of our students, is nicely angled, and is what we considered a lovely venue for painting. Google “Kindergarten easel” and you will of course be inundated with photographs of a traditional, angled easel. We had never challenged this type of easel, and placed one in our classroom for September.


Painting on a Tilted Easel


One day, the idea of a “Flat Easel” was brought to our attention. This was a thought-provoking idea for us. Why should children paint on a surface in which their work would drip? A flat easel (simply a table dedicated to a space for painting) would provide a space for children to paint without the worry of their paint dripping and ruining their pieces.

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We do have both easels in our Kindergarten classrooms, and see the value in both. We often bring pastels to our tilted easel and paints to our flat easel, but this changes often. What type of easel do you think will work best in your space?

A+ Book List

We are often asked by other educators to recommend a professional text to read. There are countless books that we have been inspired by and it is often difficult to pick our favourites.

This being said, a few standout and are often the ones we suggest as”first reads”.

Here are our top three:

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Bringing Reggio Home highlights an american educator’s experience on an year long internship with the preschools of Reggio Emilia.  A variety of projects are described, highlighting the guiding principles of the approach. We feel that this is an accessible entry text when beginning your own journey with the Reggio Emilia approach.

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Beautiful Stuff is a must read for any early childhood educator! A fantastic text with beautiful colour photographs and stories guiding you through an engaging and emergent project. We feel that this project acts as a beautiful provocation to begin your school year with young children.

Click here to see our post on the Beautiful Stuff Project.

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A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Fiction in the Primary Years has been an excellent resource as we transition into the grade one setting. Heard and McDonough share with the reader how reading and writing development can be inspired by children’s natural curiosity and wonder about the world around them. Practical ways to nurture this development are outlined and excellent open ended graphic organizers are included.

Happy Reading