We held our annual Welcome to Kindergarten Event (WTK) last week to welcome the incoming Kindergarten students for 2015-2016. It’s amazing to think that a year has already flown by from the first time we met our current Kindergarten students.
One of the handouts from the Welcome to Kindergarten package was the Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid. It was interesting to revisit this again and reflect on how very far our “Grade Ones in Training” have come along through their Kindergarten year.
We value this pyramid because it clearly illustrates one of our core beliefs about Kindergarten Readiness: that a strong foundation of basic self-help, self-care and motor skills; the ability to self-regulate and demonstration of social expression are necessary before the children can access the academic learning at the top of the pyramid. Although the tendency is to focus on the academic skills as an indicator of Readiness, in Kindergarten we begin with a solid footing in how to independently help ourselves.
Today we’ll look at two sections of the Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid: Self-Care and Motor Skills, and Self-Regulation.
Self-Care and Motor Skills. We share school supplies, toys and books in class so germs can spread quickly in the Kindergarten. Most children come to Kindergarten knowing about hand-washing because they have learned this skill well at home and had it reinforced in preschool or daycare. It’s wonderful to see how quickly our children organize themselves now at the various sinks and washrooms to wash their hands, once they understood the routines we created at school.
Although it might be faster to help the children on with their jackets, our classes love their independence to do up their coats themselves. We’re pleased to note how easily our classes can change their own shoes and boots, and change their pants and socks if they get wet on a rainy day. When children have Velcro or slip-on shoes, they can maintain their independence; laces are not a practical option for Kindergarten.
With the Full Day Kindergarten, the children eat their lunch at school every day. Many children eat finger foods for lunch, which is great because it’s like they’re on a picnic! But a thermos full of warm food is also a nice change; however, the children must be able to use a fork or spoon as we do not teach this skill at school.
Self-Regulation. We’re always amazed at how our classes embrace practicing self-regulation strategies. Although they might not have called it “self-regulation” before Kindergarten, many of the children we are teaching this year are used to “lying down to rest,” or “looking quietly at a book,” or “playing Lego in my room by myself” at home. They have been taught, or developed, strategies to help them to feel calm and relaxed.
When the children started school, they understood that we were also teaching them additional ways to stay self-regulated as a class. They recognize that the self-regulation strategies they use at home are sometimes different than the strategies we use at school because of our social situation.
When the children are calm and focused, they can pay attention and follow the teacher’s instructions. This is especially important in the area of “obeying commands” and respecting rules and boundaries. There are times during the day when the teacher might say “no,” “stop” or “wait” and we expect the children to respond quickly; we cannot always wait for a student to finish colouring a page or building with the blocks because we often move on to the next activity as a whole class. Sometimes we just have to be patient, work through our frustration and delay our gratification, all important skills for self-regulation.
We have clearly established rules and routines for classroom play. Rules and routines provide security for our students because they establish boundaries around expected student behaviour, their own and others’. Routines make the school day predictable, and may reduce some anxiety about “what will happen next.”
Our Kindergarten students love routines. They love the routines so much that if we have a change in our day, they can appear to be troubled. But change is important because part of their learning is that they can still be self-regulated while being flexible.
On our playground, we have specific boundaries for where the children must play during morning and lunch recess. These rules are to ensure their safety, and they can play where we know they can be easily seen by the playground supervisors.
The children need to respect the playground rules, as it is only through their ability to follow them that we would consider increasing those boundaries. This year the Kindergarten is doing an outstanding job. We just extended our students’ playground boundaries to include the forested area on our school property, a natural playground of trees, shrubs, and a shallow creek. We take a recess time separate from the rest of the school population, and only allow the children to play there when it’s just our two classes and under our direct supervision.
Every year our classes come to understand that although we might not like the rules, we need the rules to keep us safe. Rules are to be followed by everyone for the greater good. When we feel safe, we are happy. When we are happy, we are calm, relaxed and self-regulating. Now we’re in the Green Zone: focused, alert and ready to learn.
Thank you to our Ridgeview Principal, Mrs. Valerie Brady, and our Kindergarten teacher colleague, Lorraine Hartley, for bringing the Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid to our attention. The Pyramid was originally used in a research study on children’s readiness for Kindergarten in the Silicon Valley. We have modified it slightly to fit our needs at Ridgeview.
To learn more about Kindergarten Readiness, read this blog by our Ridgeview Principal.
Next week we’ll continue our reflection of the last two parts of the Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid: Social Expression and Kindergarten Academics.