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.
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.
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.
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.