Let’s Play… Blocks!

Block City (1885)
Robert Louis Stevenson

What are you able to build with your blocks?
Castles and palaces, temples and docks.
Rain may keep raining, and others go roam,
But I can be happy and building at home.

Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet be sea,
There I’ll establish a city for me:
A kirk and a mill and a palace beside,
And a harbor as well where my vessels may ride.

Great is the palace with pillar and wall,
A sort of a tower on top of it all,
And steps coming down in an orderly way
To where my toy vessels lie safe in the bay.

This one is sailing and that one is moored:
Hark to the song of the sailors on board!
And see on the steps of my palace, the kings
Coming and going with presents and things!

Written by Robert Louis Stevenson, at the age of 35, 139 years ago, and still relevant today. What an imagination. And I get to witness this imagination and creativity every single day in my classroom. There was one morning not too long ago when one of my kiddos (we shall call him the Architect) started building with large cardboard blocks. I asked him what he was building and he said “a wall”. Then he decided to draw an extremely detailed and elaborate picture (an amazing floor plan, complete with 3D model and rendered perspectives) of what he wanted to build, and how he would build it. 

So, I watched as that wall became a room, and then a house, and then a castle. While the Architect was building, I was observing. He talked to me the entire time (well, at me, because he was so involved in his play!), explaining what he was doing and telling himself a story about the people who live there. 

Meanwhile, across the room… the others in the class were engaged in dramatic play. There was a baby, a dad, a mom, and a cat. The family noticed this beautiful castle being built and decided they’d like to live there. So they went to the architect and asked if they could. He replied with an enthusiastic YES and everyone was so excited they decided to have a party! ALL the “decorations” came out – magnetic tiles, monkeys, dinosaurs, gold coins… if it was in the class, it became part of the play. It was beautiful to watch, and 45 minutes later, it pained me to say it was clean up time. Nevertheless, the whole class continues to build houses, castles, walls, and cities together, and it’s become a favourite group activity! 

I wanted to share this story to give you, dear reader, an insight into how we learn in JK. Play is not just something we do, it’s something we learn from. Block play is an amazing activity that not only involves imagination and motor skills, but it evolves along with the child. It helps build both fine and gross motor skills, as blocks are lifted and manipulated into place. This also develops spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination, visual artistry, math and engineering concepts like symmetry, balance, gravity, and architecture! Building with blocks of all shapes and sizes encourages a lot of communication. Therefore problem solving, conflict resolution, reasoning, thinking, executive functioning, and oral language skills are all being developed through play. There is also a social-emotional aspect to block play, where friendships are budding and strengthening. Leadership, resilience, perseverance, negotiation, teamwork, creativity, and even attention spans are being tested, developed, and enhanced. So in short, block play is a purposeful activity that develops the whole child, and I highly recommend it! 

tu bi’shevat higiya!

What an amazing week of discovery we experienced in honour of Tu Bi’Shevat! From germinating and observing different beans and lentils, to fascinating discussions about the contributions and benefits of trees and forests, and even exploring various fruits and their similarities and differences. Thank you all so much for sending in the wonderful and delicious fruits, and thank you to Ittay who brought in a wonderful book about our very favourite things: monsters and fruit! We used our five senses (and three languages!) to celebrate Tu Bi’Shevat to the fullest! We even decorated little planters as new homes for our sprouted beans and lentils, and gave them as birthday gifts. We discovered that our Lima beans needed more time to sprout and hypothesized that it’s because they are the biggest beans and got so big by drinking a lot of water. We decided to keep them in our window until they sprout, and then we will plant them too. We wish our plants a happy Tu Bi’Shevat, happy birthday, and may you grow big and strong in your new homes!



Homework alert!

We have been getting ready to celebrate Tu Bi’Shevat (**special homework after photos**). We’ve done some beautiful art, read stories, learned some songs, and learned about Shivat Haminim. Here’s another story from our very own amazing librarian, Brigitte, that you can enjoy at home together. We also started germinating some beans and lentils, and we will be planting them on Thursday or Friday, depending on how long their roots get.

HOMEWORK: This Thursday, January 25th, in honour of Tu Bi’Shevat, we will be having a “favourite fruit” show and tell. Please send your child with one or two types of fruit that they enjoy, packaged separately from their lunch and snacks. Please leave stems, peels, and seeds/pits as we will be exploring each fruit as well. Thank you!

This Friday, January 26th, we will be having a dress down day in support of JNF. Please send a loonie or a toonie. See flyer below.


just another Wednesday here in JK…

Even though it was too cold to play outdoors, it didn’t stop us from expanding our horizons indoors! We worked on our letter of the week, P, and named SO MANY words we know that begin with P. We did some name writing practice, built with all kinds of blocks, talked about Tu Bi’Shevat, learned some new words (trunk, branches, leaves, and roots), learned about shivat ha’minim (the seven species), and started preparing window frames for our upcoming germination project.


And then…

JK was so excited to receive this AMAZING pack of accessories for our light table, through Scholastics Rewards from the book fair. Thank you Brigitte, and thank YOU parents for your Scholastics books purchases!! This morning we checked out the translucent shape beads and used them to measure animal x-rays. We can’t wait to experiment with all of the other cool things: eye droppers, test tubes, translucent patterns, and paint scrapers. This kit even came with translucent overlays that we can paint on directly, and then wash off to experiment and play with another day!

Tu Bi’shevat higiya!

Welcome back from winter break! Your children adjusted really quickly to being back in the classroom and were excited to jump right back into learning! We kicked off with a discussion about the upcoming holiday of Tu Bi’Shevat. We talked about what trees provide for humans, animals, and the environment. We looked at our empty, frozen, snow-covered Canadian trees, and beautifully blooming almond trees in Israel, talked about the similarities and differences of Tu Bi’Shevat in Canada and in Israel, and then translated that learning into some beautiful art. Take a look!