How many times have you heard teachers complain about class sizes? I don't think you'd find anyone that would disagree that smaller class sizes have advantages. But smaller class sizes mean more teachers, more classrooms, more resources... MORE MONEY. Class size is not something that is in the control of the classroom teacher. This is up to the governing bodies (unions and government) to decide. Nonetheless, large classes can cause anxiety and large problems for classroom teachers. Large classes mean more assessment, which means more time spent on report cards. Large classes also means the space is more full: More full of noise, of bodies, of conflict. So how can we work around some of these struggles?
The Kindergarten Addendum to the Growing Success document is the written policy on assessment, evaluation and reporting in Ontario. It mandates the distribution of three formal written reports. They are called the 'Communication of Learning' rather than report cards and they are to be written in a narrative form. As public education continues to implement narrative style report card comments, the ease of writing them will become more and more evident. From a play-based learning stand point, we understand that learning is often done in collaboration with others. When we couple collaboration and narrative report card writing, we can quickly see how writing a learning story about one child will most likely be transferable, with few adjustments, to several other students, thus making report card writing for 31 children seem like writing for half that, or even less. This doesn't solve the issue regarding the redundancy of a kindergarten report card. Good educators stay in constant communication with parents and students about their progress so report cards shouldn't have anything new to tell parents. Maybe in time the school records (paper copies of everything about a student since the first day they registered in public education), which are kept in the office, will become digitized and educators will be able to upload video documentation at a required time in the school year, and parents will be able to access the student record from home, whenever they want. We will touch on report cards again in the assessment and evaluation section.
With a classroom filled with children, managing the space is important. Clutter free classrooms allow children more opportunity to be creative. But beyond that, what are other strategies to help manage the volume, energy and your own sanity when it comes to large class sizes?
At my current school we share the burden amongst all the kindergarten classes. All the kindergarten classes spend a good portion of the day outside, together. Each day, each educator is given 15 minutes for 'resolution free' assessment time. I suggested wearing a 'I'm thinking' hat to let the kids know to talk to another educator if they really need something, but my team doesn't like hats. During this 15 minutes, the educator is not on a break, they are present, but they are not available for conversation. They are spending time assessing children. This may look an awful lot like they're just playing with children, but as the curriculum guides say, we must let the children take the lead in their learning. Our job is to question and push the learning that has already been instigated, and this is done most effectively by entering into their play.
During the warm up section of this website, you were introduced to The Web of Rights. The Web of Rights, when developed with the children, provides children with accountability for their actions. Students use the Web to solve conflicts and manage their decision making in order to make the most positive choices they can When children police themselves, they are not only building strong societal skills but it also makes the room feel much larger than it is. Later on you will learn about the Summerhill school and see further how children policing themselves has its advantages.