Self-Regulation Tool: Time Timer

photo-9Well, we’re not sure what happened here, but it looks like everybody left for the weekend, lock, stock and barrel.  We can see we’re going to need some time to put this back together.

But we’ve got lots of other things to do on a Friday afternoon so we’re just going to allow ourselves a certain amount of time to locate the rest of the family and the furniture.  At home we might use our oven timer, but here at school, we’re fortunate enough to have a Time Timer.  Ours measures approximately 12 x 12 inches.

 

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The Kindergarten love the Time Timer.  They love it so much they’ll even remind us when we’ve forgotten to use it.

The Time Timer is a useful tool to help the children with their self-regulation, in much the same way as the visual schedule does, during our daily activities.  It’s a visual reminder for the Kindergarten to pace themselves during whatever activity they’re involved in, as they see the time ticking down.  Then the children know that we’re approaching a transition and it helps them to mentally prepare themselves for a change.

We like to make our day as predictable as possible to reduce any uncertainty or anxiety, so that the children can just enjoy learning and have fun with their friends.

We use the Time Timer in a variety of ways.

The first time we introduced the Timer was during the morning Activity Time.  When there’s a new Centre, such as new play dough, everybody wants a turn.  But there’s no way in 30 minutes of Activity Time that the whole class can each have a long enough turn to feel that they accomplished something.  So we started turns, or “shifts,” of 12-15 minutes.

When the quiet bell of the Time Timer rings, its a signal for all of us that the group’s turn is over and another one is about to begin.  A typical Activity Time has two shifts; we can accommodate eight children and we start a list of children who are interested in playing at the Centre for the next day.

Using the Timer was so successful in the morning playtime, we decided to also use it during the afternoon playtime as well.  Each afternoon we have a different focus, such as Literacy Centres, Puzzles or Construction Centres. Again, we might run two or three shifts, depending upon the rest of the day’s schedule.

An added benefit of the Timer is for the children who want to finish their work despite the fact Centre Time or the work period is over, and we’re transitioning to the next activity.  We like that it has removed the emotion that can come with our having to keep asking children to stop what they’re doing; instead, we can attribute it to the Timer’s bell signal that we all have to end the task.

We also use the Timer while the children eat during Snacktime  and Lunch hour.  It’s important that the children eat their food when they have the opportunity, to fuel their bodies so they have energy for the next part of the day.  Again, it’s a visual reminder about how much time they have left to eat before they go outside to play.

You can learn more about the Time Timer here.

We’re going to begin transitioning our classroom newsletter from paper to online for our Friday blog posts during the month of June.  We’re going to start exploring some different formats.  If you see something you like, and as importantly, what you don’t like, please let us know.  You can make a suggestion in the comment box below or just speak to us at school.  Thank you for your feedback!

Reading with Your Kindergarten Child: Establish an Atmosphere for Reading at Home

sunshine readersA few weeks ago we started a Home Reading Program for our Kindergarten classes.

It’s just a simple program of emergent books and readers, where the children independently select a book to take home to read with their parents three times a week.   We have our book exchange during Centre time.  We call the children over to choose their book by our “bookkeeping” method of the ziploc bags where we’ve written their names and keep the individual books.  After the children select their new book and put it into the ziploc, they place the book inside their backpacks to go home.

Home Reading is a fun opportunity for our students to read aloud books appropriate for their reading level to their parents. But it’s not meant to replace the nightly bedtime story.

The cozy and comforting routine of a bedtime story is one of our strongest memories. We still have our childhood books: volumes of Mother Goose nursery rhymes, Fairy Tales, Just So Stories and Nancy Drew Mysteries; our favourite books include Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, Little Women and Alice in Wonderland.

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When our own children were born, reading the bedtime story was something we were so looking forward to doing. We were collecting storybooks to read aloud to our classes, and now we would also be able to share them with our children.

So what can you do to support your child’s love of reading and literature?

Create an atmosphere for reading at home

Books should have a place of their own at home, and be accessible at all times. Part of teaching your children to be a good reader and book lover is showing them how to care for books.  At school we have insisted on careful and respectful behaviour towards books.

  • Pick up a book carefully in one hand, or both hands if it’s a bigger book
  • Close the book when you are finished reading
  • Hold the book with both hands against your chest when walking with it
  • Put the book back on the shelf or book rack, right side up and cover facing out

Selecting books. When selecting a book, the most important thing is will your child enjoy it? Introduce new books regularly to your child. If your child has not already signed up for a membership at the Public Library in your community, now is the time. The Kindergarten children have been well taught by our Teacher-Librarian, and are able to conduct themselves appropriately in the library. This includes independently choosing a book.

Have a regular time and place for reading. Routines help us to get things done, and if it’s followed enough times it can, and will, become a good habit. For your nightly read-aloud, pick a time when you are ready to enjoy a story with your child. Many families read a story just before the children go to sleep in their beds. In our homes we sat on the sofa, with a child and book on each side. The bedtime story has to be a priority, more important than checking a Facebook newsfeed or watching “Sports Centre.” Being “present” with your child, enjoying one another’s company with a good story will make reading time very special for parent and child.

Regular modelling of reading by parents and older members of the household is essential. How do you see the role of reading in your life? To foster a love of reading, your children need to see you reading:   books, magazines, newspapers, recipes, comics and even work related documents. A lot of reading seems to be done via a personal digital device these days which is okay, but if you want your kids to read print, then that’s what they need to see you doing.

Choose books of different genres, such as Fairy Tales, poetry, wordless books, non-fiction animal books; and themes such as “Growing Up,” “Families,” holidays, personal interests and hobbies. Reading books of various lengths also teaches young readers that a powerful message or lesson doesn’t always need to be told through a long story.

At this early stage, most children are attracted to picture books or beginning chapter books which will need to be read aloud by you. These books can and should be above the children’s independent reading level. The books you are reading aloud will have the rich, diverse vocabulary and more complex sentence structure that will benefit your child’s oral vocabulary.

Finding books for your beginning reader to read independently is harder; that is how the home reading program tries to bridge the gap as we have access to the “little books” with simple vocabulary, predictable patterns and repetitive, rhythmic and rhyming language. Ask your community librarian to help you find books with these same characteristics at your local library.

We’ve written before that books are a gift that can be opened again and again. Why not consider establishing some new traditions around books like a special hardback book for each birthday with a special inscription from you? Instead of a big chocolate treat for Valentine’s Day or Easter give the joy of a beautiful book which will last so much longer, and just a small chocolate goodie. Suggest to friends and relatives that they also might give books as presents.

Our own children are teenagers now and moving into their senior years at high school this fall. Although we don’t read aloud stories or novels to them anymore, as families we still speak fondly of memories about books read aloud in the past.

Books, laughter, love…we’d call that some serious family bonding time.

Next week we’ll discuss reading to and with your child, and offer some suggestions on what you can do to encourage literacy awareness at home.

Source: “Language and Literacy in the Primary Years,” A Parents’ Information Booklet from Ridgeview Elementary (1997/98). Updated by The Self-Regulated Teacher at theselfregulatedteacher.wordpress.com (2015).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairy Tale Booklist and Royal Kinder Portraits

photo-5We told you last week that we had something very royal to show you.  But before we do, we wanted to share our growing Fairy Tale Booklist.  We’ve read some of these stories already, with more still to come.  We thought you might want to know some of the titles we’ve read up to this point, in case you wished to discuss them with your child.

Rumpelstiltskin (retold by John Cech and illustrated Martin Hargreaves)

The Princess and the Pea (retold by John Cech, illustrated by Bernhard Oberdieck)

Yummy : Eight Favourite Fairy Tales (Lucy Cousins)

The Balloon Tree (written and illustrated by Phoebe Gilman)

Chicken Little (Sally Hobson)

Once Upon a Golden Apple (written by Jean Little and Maggie De Vries, illustrated by Phoebe Gilman)

The Kissed That Missed (David Melling)

Cinderella Penguin or The Little Glass Flipper (Janet Perlman)

Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (Random House)

Hansel and Gretel (Random House)

Somebody and the Three Blairs (written by Marilyn Tolhurst, illustrated by Simone Abel)

We’ll leave you here with what you’ve been waiting for…the gorgeous gallery of Fairy Tale Kinder Portraits.

From Deep Space Sparkle...

From Deep Space Sparkle…

Fairy Tale Royal Kinder Portraits

Fairy Tale Royal Kinder Portraits

Victoria Day

Our class began a new art project this week.  We started our theme on Fairy Tales and what better way to decorate our castle…uh, classroom, than with Fairy Tale Royal Kinder Portraits.   The children’s work is in progress and in a few days we should have something very royal to show you.

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Fairy Tale Royal Kinder Portraits from Deep Space Sparkle

So from our castle to yours, enjoy your May long weekend.  Happy Victoria Day!

Kindergarten Art Auction Preview

Our Kindergarten classes have created some exceptional art pieces over the past few weeks.  This artwork has been specifically commissioned and designed for the Ridgeview Casino Night Fundraiser, a gala event for Ridgeview parents, and will be coming up for sale on Saturday, May 23, 2015.

Our paintings will be part of the Live Auction, along with artwork created by the other classes at our school.  Classroom parents will have an opportunity to bid on their child’s class’ artwork at this time.

We thought you might enjoy a preview of your child’s collaborative artistic creations.

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“Kinder Garden” by Division 16

Estimate:  Priceless

The term Kindergarten has a charming origin from the German educator, Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852).  Kinder means “children” and garten is “garden.”  Kindergarten can be literally translated to mean “children’s garden.”   Froebel took the term and used it to mean “a garden of children” and it was how he referred to young children as learners.

Froebel believed that each child was to be carefully nurtured, much like gardeners treat their plants.  Plants need to be placed in the right spot in the garden, with attention to soil, water, food and other environmental conditions.  Growing a strong and healthy plant is often a result of “the right plant in the right place,” an old gardeners’ saying. 

In the same way, in order to “grow” strong and healthy Kindergarten children, teachers work to create a calm, caring and supportive classroom environment for their young students.  We try to ensure we are giving them the time for play, positive attention, intellectual and creative stimulation, and the love they need in order to thrive.

So it is fitting that with parent helpers we were able to create our own “Kinder Garden.”  A classroom Mom sketched her design in pencil on a 14″ x 29″ canvas (measurements are approximate) and mixed colours for us using Artist’s Loft Acrylic Paints.

Our children were given specific sections to fingerprint.  We made a key with the names and fingerprints of every child so we know who painted each part of our painting.

We’re delighted with our efforts, and grateful to our volunteer parents who were able to help us create this gorgeous piece of art.  Our Kinder Garden is able to grow and flourish with support from our wonderful Ridgeview families.

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“The Senses” by Division 15 

Estimate:  Priceless

Our artist facilitator was a classroom Grandma!  We’d like to take this opportunity to “thank you” for her involvement in this very inspirational project.  Here is an excerpt from her description of “The Senses.”

“Our hope is that this work will remind the viewers to appreciate their senses and see the joy the children have in their expressions.

This Group Fine Art Watercolour Painting Collage was inspired by the class study of the five senses they use to interpret the world around them.

Each child was offered artist quality watercolour materials, instruction of various techniques, colour theory and an introduction to the concepts of the theme on two different weeks.  They spontaneously grasped the concepts of translating their personal experiences with taste, smell, touch, sight and hearing onto the paper….

A challenging process of editing and cropping their work to represent each student’s efforts was then channeled into these two pieces…..Each child has a large and a small painting, one in each frame so the whole class is represented in each.  There are twenty paintings in each frame, ten large and ten small with the opposite complement in the other frame.”

Please join us for this special night!

Ridgeview Parent Advisory Council presents:

Ridgeview Elementary Casino Night Fundraiser

Saturday, May 23, 2015, 7-11 pm

Ridgeview Elementary School

Tickets are $75 available at www.munchalunch.com

Email:  ridgeviewfundraiser.gmail.com

All proceeds directly benefit the children at Ridgeview Elementary School

Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid: Part 2

We hosted our Welcome to Kindergarten Event (WTK) last week, and as part of the handout package for parents, we included the Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid.  Last week we began to reflect, with reference to the Readiness Pyramid, on how our Kindergarten students have matured since their WTK experience one year ago as they head towards Grade One Readiness.

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Kindergarten Readiness are the skills incoming Kindergarten students should have in place when they arrive at school.  The foundation of the pyramid is Self-Care and Motor skills, or the ability to look after one’s personal care.  These skills are taught during the early years while the children are at home with their parents.  In Kindergarten, children are expected to independently use the washroom and wash their hands, feed themselves and change their own clothes and shoes.

The second layer of foundation blocks are Self-Regulation and Social Expression.  Self-Regulation is the children’s ability to regulate their emotional state and behaviour so it is appropriate to their current social situation.  It includes the ability to listen to others, exhibit impulse control, and demonstrate an understanding of commands and boundaries, all necessary skills for the safety and emotional well-being of the entire class.

Let’s look at the last two sections of the Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid:  Social Expression and Kindergarten Academics.

The Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid we refer to in both of these blog posts was originally used in a research study on children’s readiness for Kindergarten in the Silicon Valley.  It has been modified slightly to fit our needs at Ridgeview.

Social Expression

In this context, Social Expression refers to the oral language skills children will use in the classroom.  At school, we can see and hear the impact that adults have on oral language development with their children.  The time parents spend with their children in the early years talking, discussing, explaining and questioning around dinner tables, during car rides, at bedtime and the myriad of activities in between, is significant.

This year we listen to our Kindergarten children express their opinions, stories and questions, which have been shaped and influenced by their parents, family members, and other adults, in every class discussion.  The children’s sense of wonder and curiosity becomes apparent in what they notice and often bring to our attention.  As part of our Inquiry Based Learning, we have begun teaching them how to ask questions to obtain the answers they are looking for.

It is through the children’s Imaginary Play that they are using and practising the oral language, and re-enacting situations, that are familiar to them.  Centres such as the House Corner allow the children to assume roles in their play.  The children bring together their diverse experiences to create a plan or goal for their creative play and use their words to cooperatively bring it to fruition.

Our Kindergarten group interacts with many adults in the school building.  In addition to the classroom teachers, our students have frequent contact with our Education Assistant, Music Teacher, Teacher-Librarian, Administrators, Office Staff and Playground Supervisors.  With their ever expanding vocabularies and natural charm, the children are learning that language is their means of communicating their needs and wants.  The relationships between themselves and the important adults in their family life builds a base of experience, confidence and security as to how well they can relate to adults outside of the home.

Kindergarten Academics

Over the years we have seen a growing love of books from the Kindergarten children.  We know this deep love of literature has been carefully nurtured from the time their children were infants by all of our classroom parents, who understand the importance of reading aloud to them.  Indeed, the bedtime story ritual is one of the most precious times spent with our children.

In class, not only do we have Story time every day, but we often introduce a lesson with a book to teach or review concepts.  The children enjoy the read aloud time, and we’re always amazed at how well they can sit and focus.  We engage with books multiple times in our day.  As this school year has progressed we’ve noticed an increasing number of children in our class who choose to independently read books, listen to stories at the Listening Centre or “read” the room with a reading wand, in a sustained way during Activity Time.

Many children come to Kindergarten able to print their first name, usually in uppercase letters.  As part of our Kindergarten program, we teach each letter name, sound and correct upper-and lowercase letter formation.  As each child begins to print his or her name correctly with a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, it becomes a day of pride, independence and celebration.

We also practise and build upon the children’s knowledge of phonological awareness skills, including rhyming, syllables and initial sounds.  Although for some children the Alphabet lessons may be a review, they are all receiving teacher directed instruction as a whole class which helps to prepare them for the later grades.  We extend our Alphabet teaching with drawing, colouring and labelling pictures of words beginning with the Letter of the Week.

Our students are a long ways away now from the Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid.  For this final term at school we’ve been fondly calling them our “Grade Ones in Training.”  But in our hearts, they’ll always be our Kindergarten children.

 

Safety Week in the Kindergarten

IMG_3809We’ve been practising safety of all kinds this week at school.

Elmer the Elephant and Bicycle Safety

On Wednesday we welcomed Elmer the Elephant and Ruff the Dog.  Elmer and Ruff come to us from the North Shore Safety Council.  They are puppets, voiced by the amazing Mrs. Young.  The children are enchanted with these delightful and endearing puppets.

Elmer spoke to us about bicycle safety.  An important reminder is

And here's Ruff!

And here’s Ruff!

that the children should go shopping with you to purchase their new bike and helmet to ensure everything fits perfectly.  Although it’s a wonderful surprise to bring home a special bike for your child, it’s necessary to get a bike that is the right size.  A helmet must fit correctly, with the front edge above the eyebrows.  The strap should always be fastened under the chin.

Here are some of the highlights from Elmer’s talk:

  • Slow down and stop your bike, if necessary, for pedestrians if you are riding on the sidewalk.
  • Stop and check before crossing a driveway to see if a car is backing up.
  • Ride in a single file line; a sidewalk is for sharing.
  • Stop your bike at the crosswalk.  You get off your bike and walk it across.  It is much safer than riding because you do not want to fall down in the middle of the street.
  • Taking a break is ok in the middle of your ride.  You could be tired, or there could a lot going on around you such as construction.  Elmer emphasized to the children that learning to know their limits is part of learning to look after themselves.
  • Look in both directions before you cross the street, and look behind you to see if a car is coming up on your left.
  • A bike carrier or backpack is necessary to carry your things.  Ruff explained that the children need to balance and steer their bike with two hands so they need somewhere to store their belongings.
  • Bike storage must be dry and safeWe repeated these words after Elmer: “My bike ride isn’t over until my bike is put away.”

 

Earthquake Preparedness :  The Emergency Release Drill

Drop, Cover and Hold!

Drop, Cover and Hold!

We had our first Emergency Release Drill yesterday.  It can be a little worrisome for the Kindergarten because they’ve never done this before at Ridgeview, so we tell our children exactly what will happen during the process in the days leading up.  An

Emergency Release can be used in any type of emergency, and this week our school was practising it in conjunction with a simulated Earthquake drill.

Although the Kindergarten children are used to listening to follow our directions and instructions for things like class work, lining up or dividing into small groups for PE stations, an Earthquake or Fire Drill is different.  This is a emergency situation where the children need to be able follow the teacher’s directions quickly; we tell them that our explanations will be quite abbreviated.   We teach the children that we will have to move quickly; we won’t have time to wait for them to finish whatever they might be working on.  When it’s time to go, we must go.

We have these drills to practise as a school in the event of a real emergency but it also gives us an opportunity to see who can quickly follow our commands in a new situation.

We can see how well we have taught our students to listen, follow instructions and focus on what we’re trying to accomplish as a group (get out of the building) instead of our individual needs.

When we heard the signal (rumbling earthquake noises) over the public address system (PA) the children immediately ceased what they were doing to follow our directions of “Duck, Cover and Hold” under the classroom tables.  We walked quickly to the tables, mindfully pulled the chairs out and kneeled down under the tables, fingers intertwined and over the back of our necks, elbows covering our ears.

We count to 60 as a class, as most earthquakes don’t last more than a minute.  Then, we carefully came out from under the tables.  Sometimes there might be a few more earthquake noises coming from the PA so we would quickly go back under the tables and begin counting again.  We had already taught the children that there can be aftershocks, and to be prepared for a second round of counting.

Our Principal, Mrs. Brady, spoke on the PA to ask us to prepare to exit the building.  The teacher brings the emergency backpack which is filled with supplies and the children line up behind us.  Before we leave our classroom, we place a green “OK” sign in the window so if this was a real emergency situation, staff members would know we were all safe and had left our classroom.

Our school population gathers on the gravel field.  We complete our attendance and wait to hear if the building is deemed safe by our Damage Assessment Team.  In this instance our school was declared safe, and students were allowed to return to the classrooms.  Once we were settled, we waited for Student Runners to come and collect the children after their parents had checked in at the Student Release Centre/Parent and Student Reunion Area.

We were really proud of the Kindergarten students; they did a fantastic job from the way they walked carefully down to the gravel field, waited patiently for the Damage Assessment Team to finish their survey to staying calm and focused throughout the entire drill.

We know that it’s not “if,” but “when” the Big One will come.  And when it happens, our practise and preparation with our students means we will be ready.