The Self-Regulated Teacher

Our personal journey towards self-regulation in Kindergarten

Self-Regulation Tool: The Breathing Ball

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We have a lot going on right now so we’re taking our own advice and having a self-regulatory moment…..

This little beauty came to us from one of our amazing school counselors.  Although it’s called the “Hoberman Sphere,” we call it the “breathing ball” in class.  We ordered it from amazon.ca.

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We try to use the breathing ball everyday, as deep breathing is a strategy we practice as part of our self-regulation to help us stay calm and focused.  The breathing ball is just a means by which to show the children an interesting visual to get them focused on their breath.

We talk a lot about deep breathing and how it can calm us.  It’s important to us that we are providing the children with strategies they can use outside of the classroom, and deep breathing is definitely the best:  you always have it with you.

We often find ourselves deep breathing for self-regulation:  while driving, shopping at busy times of the day, or simply to bring ourselves back to the “patience zone” when dealing with a tricky situation at school.

In class, we begin with sitting cross-legged, palms facing up or down, and focusing on the ball.  We always breathe in through our nose, then gently release our breath through our mouth.  As we’ve improved, we now ask the children to hold their breath for one or two seconds, then to breathe out softly.  “Holding our breath” is to help train ourselves, and our brains, to focus on just that one thing.

photo%203[1]As we breathe in, we expand the breathing ball, and as we breathe out, we collapse it.

We usually deep breathe three times, and it really does make a difference to the reduction of energy in the class.  We feel centred, calm and ready to go on with learning.

Please excuse us, while we get back to focusing on our breath….

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Student-Led Conferences

photo-5There are three formal and two informal reporting periods each school year.   Our Kindergarten students receive their formal written report cards at the end of each term.  Students received their first report card last December, the second report card will be given out on March 6, and the third report will be distributed at the end of June.

This year, the two informal reporting periods are a parent-teacher interview, held last fall, and the Student-Led Conference.

A Student-Led Conference is exactly that–a conference or interview for you and your child, led by your child.  During the Conference, students assume the ownership for reporting and demonstrating to their parents what they are learning about in school.  The teacher, who has supported the students in the selection of student work and practiced the conference with them, stays in the background during the actual Conferences.

During the years we taught from Grades One to Four, our students participated in a teacher-led discussion about the student work they would like to present at the

Student-Led Conference.  A brainstorming session of possibilities would ensue.  There would be suggestions such as a polished piece of writing, the latest math test or a Science notebook; the class would vote on the ideas they liked best and those selections were included in their Student-Led Conference folder.

Depending upon the grade, sometimes we had a combination of “must-have” work and some student choices.  An “art walk” around the school hallways, the latest digital learning project and a mini music performance were other fun choices to round out a Student-Led Conference.

A week or two before the Conference we had our older students write a letter inviting their parents to attend.  The letter would highlight the learning and personal achievements students wanted their parents to particularly notice.  This was a wonderful opportunity for student self-reflection of his or her successes.

For our Kindergarten students we organize our Student-Led Conferences by Centres.  It’s a system the children are familiar with, and one in which we’ve used successfully with this age group.

In the weeks prior to the Student-Led Conference, we review with your children the activities they enjoy most in our day and want to share with you.  We also initiate some discussion on the learning we think you would enjoy seeing as their parents.

We typically include a Language Arts Centre which focuses on the children’s Alphabet and photoWriting Books; a Math Centre to create math patterns and showcase their Math Books; and a Scrapbook Centre to see some of the best work we’ve completed in Kindergarten this year, in the children’s individual scrapbooks.  With the children’s help, we form an “Agenda” of the Centres the children will lead you through.

When you arrive with your child at our classrooms, your child will be given a personal copy of the Agenda and he or she will mark each activity with a sticker as it is finished.  The Centres do not need to be completed in any particular order, but each one must be visited.  We explain to the children that if they see there are many families at one Centre, then they should choose another until it’s less crowded.

During your child’s Conference, parents are able to enjoy looking at their child’s schoolwork and participate in the activities he or she has selected for you.  As parents, giving specific praise and support recognizes your child’s efforts at school.  It is through your comments that you model what you value about your child’s learning.

This is a time for positive comments only to your child.

photo-4At the end of the Student-Led Conference we ask our parents to sign the Guest Book.  It’s important for us to have a record of parent attendance and receive feedback every year.  Over the years parents have always enjoyed the Conferences so it’s very rewarding to have the appreciation of your children’s, and our, efforts.

This year the Kindergarten Student-Led Conferences will be held on Tuesday, March 3 and Thursday, March 5.

All Ridgeview students will be dismissed at 1:50 pm on Tuesday only, and the Conferences will begin at 2 pm.  You will have a 25 minute time slot with your child.  A maximum of four-six Conferences will be held at once so families need to be prepared to speak softly.  At the appointed time, we will ring a bell to signal the end of the Conference so that we may prepare for the next group.

Over the years, a few parents have asked why they cannot have an interview with the teacher instead.

To put it simply, the reason why you’re having a Student-Led Conference is because it’s an incredible opportunity and privilege to share in the learning of your child.

You will hear about your child’s learning from your child’s perspective, and have that deep insight into your child’s thinking, motivations and achievements.  You will be engaged in a dialogue rich with the language of a young learner, share the joy of a job well done, and a sense of pride with every printed letter and cut out shape.  And you’ll be able to share in the delight of your Kindergarten child as he or she begins the journey as a life-long learner.

Student-Led Conferences are one of our favourite days of the entire school year. From a teacher’s perspective, we couldn’t be any more proud of our students as they beam with pride at leading their mom and dad into their classroom to share the fabulous work they’ve completed at this point in the school year.

Please make arrangements for siblings so that your Kindergarten child can have your full attention during his or her Conference.

You can sign-up for your Student Led Conference starting Monday, February 23 at 3 pm.

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Winter Celebrations in the Kindergarten

There’s no doubt we’ve been super busy this month.

We’re ice-skating on Wednesdays, our school had Crazy Hat and Hair Day this week and we’ve just had two fun Winter celebrations in our class, Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year.

Valentine’s Day

photo 1-1Valentine’s Day generated a lot of excitement this year in our classes.  We made some crafts, read a few Valentine stories and held a Valentine card exchange.

We made Valentine card holders out of paper bags and decorated them.  In the days leading up to Valentine’s Day the children brought their Valentines for each other and placed them into the appropriate bags.  Our only restriction is that each student, if he or she wishes to give out the Valentines, gives to all the girls, or all the boys, or everyone.  We stapled up the bags to send home as many of the cards had sweets attached to them.  As each family has their own rules for the consumption of candy, we thought it best to let moms and dads decide with their children.

In our class, Valentine’s Day is all about Friendship, and that is illustrated so well in the book Franklin’s Valentine by Paulette Bourgeois.  Franklin’s Valentines fall out of his unbuckled backpack and he’s sad and disappointed, thinking his friends won’t give him a Valentine if doesn’t have any to exchange.  Franklin’s friends all have special cards for him, and he learns that friendship is not about the cards, but the caring and kindness of others.

We had a small party and enjoyed a delicious snack of fruit and veggie trays and cupcakes and cookies, all supplied by our generous parent group.

Valentine Books We’ve Read

  • Franklin’s Valentine (Paulette Bourgeois, illustrated by Brenda Clark)
  • My Heart is Like a Zoo (Michael Hall)
  • I Spy Little Hearts (Jean Marzollo, photographs by Walter Wick)
  • Mouse’s First Valentine (Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Buket Ergogan)

photo 2-1Chinese New Year

Gung Hay Fat Choy!  It’s the Year of the Goat (or Sheep, depending upon your calendar).

We’ve enjoyed sharing some excellent books about Chinese New Year with our students, which have focused on the traditions and symbols of this special time spent with our families and friends.

 

  • Sam and the Lucky Money (Kevin Chinn, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright)photo 1-2
  • D is for Dragon (Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Yongsheng Xuan)
  • The Runaway Wok (Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Sebastia Serra)
  • Dragon Dance (Joan Holub, illustrated by Benrei Huang)
  • My First Chinese New Year  (Karen Katz)
  • Chinese New Year (David F. Marx)
  • Lon Po Po (A Red Riding Hood Story from China) (Ed Young)

 

 

We kicked off our celebrations on Chinese New Year’s Eve with oranges and “ly-cee” bags, the special red envelopes, donated from one of our families.

Mrs. Kennedy, our teacher-librarian, started reading The Runaway Wok with the Kindergarten and will finish our story next week.

We decorated some pretty flowering branches to symbolize the upcoming spring and all things new and growing.

We made Chinese dragons in Art, like the dragons in the Chinese Dragon Dance.

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We celebrated Chinese New Year’s in our classes on Friday.  We read the amazing book, Lon Po Po, by Ed Young.  It is similar to the fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood, but set in China.  We illustrated our favourite part of the story in pastel, and we’ll give our pictures a watercolour wash next week.  Then we’ll cut the pictures into panels and back them onto construction paper.  This Chinese art form will be similar to the pictures in Lon Po Po, where the illustrations are featured as panels.

The Chinese New Year banquet is of great importance, as food is in all of our great cultural celebrations.  For the Kindergarten, we ate a delicious Chinese New Year’s “snack” provided by our wonderful parents.

We ate noodles for a healthy, long life, and dumplings.photo 4

We ate oranges, which stand for prosperity and good luck.

And of course, what makes a Chinese meal for the children?  Fortune cookies!

And we had “ly-cee,” the special red envelopes which symbolize prosperity, filled with a special candy.

Thank you so very much to all of the families who donated food and their time to support our Kindergarten program.

Gung Hay Fat Choy to all of you, good health, good luck and prosperity in the New Year!

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Start the Kindergarten Day Off Right!

 

photo 2Last week we talked about how we establish routines  for our Kindergarten class and why they are so important for your child’s sense of security and familiarity at school.

Parents are always so pleased to hear how well their children are managing in Kindergarten.  We attribute that to the classroom routines.  Because the children are so successful with them at school, if you haven’t already set up your routines, here are some you might consider for home.

Preparing for School the Day Before

We’ve learned not only for ourselves, but for our own kids, the importance of starting to prepare for school the afternoon or evening before.  Although this may not seem as relevant right now with a Kindergarten child, as your children move through the grades it will make a huge difference to them (and you).

When your children are leaving for early morning classes, and have a sports team practice or club meeting after school, they will need a lot of things to bring with them on a daily basis.  It’s more than just their lunch:  it’s homework, uniforms, text books…the list could go on and on.

Helping your children while they are young to review their next day’s schedule, and to gather all the belongings they need the night before, is teaching them how to plan and to be prepared.  Together, you are creating a foundation of good habits and organization so that one day your children can be independent and do this for themselves.

For your Kindergarten child, the late afternoon or evening routine might look like this:

Lunch preparation photo 1

  • you, or you and your child, prepare the next day’s snacks and lunch together
  • your Kindergarten child can help to select the snacks, wash the fruit or veggies, butter the bread for a sandwich
  • pack food that does not need to be refrigerated, and any utensils, in the lunch kit
  • water bottle is clean and ready to be filled

Backpack organization

  • library book
  • forms to be returned
  • homework calendar
  • sharing (if it’s your turn)
  • popcorn money
  • extra change of clothes
  • indoor runners if it’s raining
  • ice-skating with your class?  You’ll need you skates, snow pants, gloves and helmet packed in a separate bag, and a pocket snack

You can show your child how to neatly organize all of the items needed for the next day in his or her backpack; take advantage of the multiple compartments and pack food items separately from papers and books.  Who doesn’t love a well-organized bag to take to work or school?  Then, place the backpack beside the door so all that’s left to do is add your child’s lunch and water bottle in the morning.

Bedtime Routinesphoto 3

Establishing the bedtime routine is important:  the children need to get enough rest each night to stay healthy.   When the children are sleeping they are growing, and when they have enough sleep they awake feeling fresh and ready for school the next day.

As parents, we all want and need our own time to relax.  However, it is a commitment upon us, as parents, to be consistent with the bedtime routine.  Sometimes, we may need to delay our own gratification of the things we wish to do, so that we can be at home and putting our children to bed on time.

For your Kindergarten child, the bedtime routine might look like this:

  • bathe children
  • choose clothes for the next day
  • sometimes another small snack
  • teeth brushing
  • bedtime read aloud (parents reading to the children) and cuddles (lots)
  • time for bed–the children, that is!

Morning Preparations

The morning start, even on a school day, can be a relaxed and easy affair with the right amount of preparation from the prior evening.

There is no doubt you will need to supervise the morning routine.  Let’s face it:  the children are five or six-years old, and we are all distractible in our own way.  Left to their own devices the children could have decided, while still in their pyjamas, to start the greatest Lego castle ever but that doesn’t help with getting to school on time.

For your Kindergarten child, the morning routine may look like this:

  • breakfast
  • change into school clothes
  • brush teeth, wash face and brush hair
  • put lunch kit and water bottle into backpack
  • coat and shoes to head out the door

The last point to consider is this: what do the children do if they are ready early, and waiting to leave home for school?

A transition activity from the time of getting ready to heading out the door might be something to think about.  Each child is different, so activities could range from reading a book to shooting pucks into a net in the basement.  The most important factor would be that the children know that when it’s time to leave, they must stop what they are doing.

The key to creating and establishing routines is time, practice, consistency and persistence.  Every family develops their own routines, and adjusts them as the children grow older.  For the Kindergarten child, and for ourselves as professionals in the workplace, a smooth start in the morning sets the tone for a good day at school.

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Digital Literacy in Kindergarten

penguinsOver the last number of years, our Kindergarten groups have been the Little Buddy classes to the Grade Seven students.

We love working with our Big Buddies. There is a true bond that develops between each Kindergarten and Grade 7 student(s). There are more Grade 7 students than Kindergarten children per class, so some Kindergarteners have two buddies.

The benefits are mutual for Big and Little Buddies. Kindergarten children have a close connection to senior students who act as positive role models. The Grade Seven students are the lunch and recess monitors, so it’s exciting to have two or three of them in our classroom everyday helping us with our snacks and giving out the Hot Lunch. The older students also help the Kindergarten on the playground to facilitate play, problem-solve conflicts, or take them to the office for a bandaid.

The Big Buddies learn patience and empathy when working with young students. They begin to develop an understanding of the power of influence and setting a good example for our school population.

We see our Buddies about once a week. During our Buddy time together we might work on seasonal crafts, listen to stories, or just play together on the playground. Sometimes there are special events, like the Terry Fox Run, where our Buddies participate with us and teach us how things are done at Ridgeview. Or we may get together to work on a special project, which is exactly what we’re doing right now.

For the past three weeks we have been working on a fun digital literacy project with our Big Buddies. We are learning about page 1penguins as part of our Polar Animals study. Each Grade 7 and Kindergarten Buddy group is creating a digital book on an iPad using the app “Book Creator.” We are researching each of these areas with our Buddies: Penguin Habitat, Penguin Appearance, Penguin Babies, Penguin Diet and the Penguin Life Cycle. We’ll create a “page” for each topic with pictures and write a short, descriptive sentence.

We look forward to sharing our digital projects with you during your child’s Student-Led Conferences on Tuesday, March 3 or Thursday, March 5. This will be the second informal reporting period for our students. There will be more information about Student-Led Conferences to follow on a future post.

In talking with the children about this project, we learned that many of them have access to an iPad, home computer or other device. We’ve also noticed the increasing competence and confidence by which children navigate their way through technology.

We are well aware of the concerns regarding the excessive use of “screen time” for young children. Indeed, our aim is to use technology as a tool in a creative and purposeful manner with our students.

Joshua Becker recently posted 9 Important Strategies for Raising Children in a World of Technology on his blog, becomingminimalist.com. He provides a thoughtful perspective on our role as parents and how we can support our children who are growing up in a technological world far different than our own.

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Our Kindergarten Classroom Routines

 

photo-12It’s been a really busy time in the Kindergarten.  In addition to our regular schedule, Christy and I have been out of our classrooms a couple of times each week for the last few weeks, completing our school district’s Kindergarten/Grade One Literacy Screener with our students, completing the Early Development Instrument (EDI) for participating students and attending Professional Development sessions.

We are looking forward to returning to a regular routine with our students.

Last week we wrote about the importance of getting your child to school on time.

Over the next two posts we’ll explore, as teachers and parents, our thoughts about routines you can establish at home to help your child get organized in the evening so the mornings are not so rushed, an important factor in arriving to school on time. Which brings us back to our greatest comfort, routines.

Let’s start with how we establish routines in the Kindergarten.

Classroom routines are necessary for successful teaching and learning.  From our perspective, classroom routines are one of the pillars of excellent classroom management which, in turn, is the foundation of successful teaching. Classroom management includes clearly established expectations and routines (sometimes called classroom structure); management of desired student behaviour; and organization of lessons in order to maximize student learning, process and productivity.

In Kindergarten the classroom routines are established by us, the teachers.

Partly from experience, and partly through learning about our new class each year, we create routines around student work (eg., Alphabet Books), student activities (Meeting Time, Centres) and any transitions in our class.  A transition would be any time students are moving between activities or subject areas.

Routines give our students security because routines establish boundaries around expected behaviour.  The children know what is expected of them, and the other students.  They feel safe because they know what they are allowed to do, and we teach them to peer-reference (look to others) if they are uncertain.  The children want to please their teachers, they want to do the right thing, and when they feel safe and secure in their classroom environment, they flourish.

Routines give our students predictability.  Being able to predict or know, exactly what is going to happen next, allows the children to relax and be calm and contributes to their self-regulation.  When the children are able to self-regulate their behaviour, all of their attention and positive energy can be focused on listening and learning, following the teachers’ instructions and having fun with their friends.

Here is the visual Daily Schedule from our classrooms.  We read it in three columns: the first column is the activities from the start of the day until snack time; the second is from morning recess to the end of the lunch hour; and the third is the afternoon.

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The children love the schedule because they know what’s going to happen in class next, when their breaks will be and when we get close to home time.  The children often ask when they can go home during the afternoon as the full day in Kindergarten can be a long one.  When we can show the children on the schedule how many activities there are before home time, they feel they can cope because they can count them down.

Reviewing this visual schedule is part of our morning routine right before Centres.  Sometimes we remember to change it the day before, but lately we’ve started changing it with the children so they can see, and hear from us, how their day will unfold.  The children are developing a sense of the passage of time, which we believe helps them to pace themselves throughout the day.

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We added the “I forgot…” card to the schedule because inevitably, we will forget something
resulting in a change in the schedule (eg., we forgot the gym is in use during our PE time for a school-wide event or we have to miss Centres to go to an assembly).  Each time we use the “I forgot…” card, it is an opportunity for us to teach our students about being flexible.  We just place the card in front of the activity to be missed or moved to another time or day.

Although there might be disappointment, a five-year old child is old enough to understand that sometimes what we planned for is not going to happen. Kindergarten children are able to learn to be flexible, adjust and accept the circumstances of a given situation.  We try to positively use these experiences in class to teach our students to express their feelings and use a self-regulating strategy to help deal with their emotions.

We begin teaching our classroom routines on the first day of Gradual Entry for Kindergarten.  We start with a routine for how to sit at the carpet during Meeting Time (walk to the carpet; listen with your whole body: sit cross cross on your Alphabet square, hands in your lap, eyes are looking at the teacher, ears are listening to the teacher, mouths are quiet).

We carefully explain what our expectations are, specifically praise the children for showing us the expected behaviour and in the days and weeks to follow, continue to practise and positively reinforce the desired routines and behaviours with more praise.  From there we add our routine for Centre Time (walk to a centre, four to a group, quiet voices, share), and continue building in more routines through the months of September and October.

Our students are becoming independent in the classroom as a result of learning routines.  They are able to do many things for themselves and take a lot of pride from that independence. It’s certainly one of the big goals we want for our children as they grow up and move through the school years.

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Literature Based Winter Art

For this week’s book post, we thought we’d share with you some of the beautiful artwork our classes are creating based on two amazing books we read in class on the theme of Winter. You’ll recognize these titles from our post Time to Cosy Up with a Good Winter Book.

nightSnowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner, illustrated by Mark Buehner.

To create these adorable snowmen pictures, we had our first foray into the world of oil pastels. Pastels are a great art tool for our Kindergarten children. Because the pastels are softer than crayons, the children do not need to press as hard but they still get the vibrant colour when drawing and colouring. First, we drew our snowmen and added the details. Then we used Sparkle Mod Podge to give the snowmen a nighttime sparkle effect. For the backgrounds, we painted white “snow” using blue, rather than black, paper for a more luminous look. The children cut out their snowmen before carefully gluing them to the painted backgrounds.

 

 

night snow

 This idea is from our favourite Art website, Deep Space Sparkle.

 

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr. owlbook

 

We love big art projects, and this one takes several art classes to complete. It’s important for the children to understand that many great things are completed slowly, over time. By undertaking a multi-step project like this, we can help the children to develop patience and an appreciation of the process involved in creating something special.

The children selected magenta or turquoise to paint their background for the first art session. Then, after the paint had dried, the children followed our step-by-step instructions to paint the owl in white. For our third class, we painted in the details.

 

 

owls1

 Again, this art idea is from Deep Space Sparkle.

 We have to admit, painting with 21 students on a big scale like this still makes us nervous. But the Kindergarten always takes everything in stride and as usual, they were fabulous in managing their paintbrushes, the multiple paint colours and the oversized paper on small tables. We didn’t spill a drop of paint on the floor and carpets, and our clothing only suffered minimal damage.

owls2

Is there anything cuter than these painted owls? Of course!…… Our Kindergarten children. They are definitely the cutest!

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Let’s Get To School On Time!

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When we hear the term “parent involvement,” we tend to think about activities such as volunteering in our child’s classroom, helping out with a school fundraiser, or coordinating a PAC committee. All of these roles are important, and certainly much appreciated by the teaching staff, parent group and school administration. After all, our parent volunteers help to make special events such as our classes’ Reindeer Games, or the Hot Lunch program, successful for our students.

But what is the most basic form of parent involvement you can do to support your Kindergarten children?

Arrange to have your child arrive at school on time.

When your children arrive at school on time they have those precious minutes at the start of the day to sort out their belongings, greet their teacher and classmates, and be confident they have not missed out on anything!

Being on time is a life skill, and affects every aspect of living–our jobs, classes and appointments, and even our entertainment such as concerts and sporting events. We all know how important it is to arrive on time for work. Our children’s work is to attend school, and to be on time.

Being on time is respectful to your child’s classroom teacher and the other students. It can be disruptive to the class when your child arrives late as the teacher has already started teaching and the children are involved in their activities. Often the teacher must stop teaching the rest of the class, to get your child settled and brought up to speed. And when your children arrive late, they feel like they are playing catch-up for the rest of the day.

Being on time shows you value punctuality and reliability. As parents, our organizational skills are paramount for modeling to our children that not only must they be on time for school, but we must also show them how to get ready to be on time for school.

There will always be times when your children may be late due to a dentist appointment, you had car troubles or the family stayed out late for a special event. But because we know these things happen, let’s try to be on time for school on all the other days.

If you arrive to school late, after the second bell has rung at 8:55 am, you must report to the school office. You will need to sign the Late Book, and take a “late slip” for your child to give to his or her teacher when entering the classroom.

It is just as important for parents and caregivers to arrive on time for dismissal. Your children have worked very hard during the school day and are excited to tell you all about it at 3 pm. Sometimes, when parents are not at the door to greet their children, the children can become quite upset and worried.

We understand that there are the occasional circumstances that cause a parent to be late for pick up. If you will be late, please phone the school office so that the office can let the teachers know, and then we can inform your child. If you are going to be very late, we will take your children up to the office and you can pick them up from there.

We know that being on time for school requires good planning at home. But what a wonderful gift to give your child, the gift of being punctual, reliable and ready to learn.

In the next few weeks we’ll talk specifically about how we establish classroom routines and how you can establish home routines to help your child be on time for school.

To learn more about Ridgeview’s Kindergarten start time, click here.

To learn more about Ridgeview’s Callback Program, click here.

 

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