The Self-Regulated Teacher

Our personal journey towards self-regulation in Kindergarten

The Self-Regulated Teacher’s Top 5 Posts for Term 3

I’m attending the 2nd Annual SRL “Inquiry Hub Summer Institute:  Developing Self-Regulating Learners” at UBC from July 2-4, so follow us on Twitter (@selfregteacher) to hear what’s happening!  It’s going to be an amazing opportunity to meet other like-minded teachers who are interesting in learning about, and teaching, self-regulation skills to their students.

IMG_1418Bouquets

We have bouquets of thanks to give to those who have supported and encouraged us along our Self-Regulated journey.

Our dear friend and colleague, Cari Wilson (@kayakcari) West Vancouver District Innovation Support Leader.  Cari, thank you for your generous friendship.  You gently pushed us out of our comfort zone, and held our hand along the way.  Of everybody you supported this year through your Tech Job, we were probably your toughest gig:  you taught us the “two finger scroll” on a laptop (who knew?); and you didn’t seem to mind the 83 texts conversations!  Although you’ve now passed the “tech torch” on to Christy, we’re still learning and thanks for being there for us.

Our wonderful Ridgeview Principal, Mentor and Friend, Valerie Brady (@valeriejbrady) for your inspiration, guidance and continued encouragement.  Thank you for your endless patience every time we showed up at your office door with “just one more idea to run past you,” and for the numerous times we asked you to read and edit our draft posts (typically the day of publication) and you always so graciously helped us out.

Our West Vancouver (No. 45, not No. 44) Superintendent Chris Kennedy (@chrkennedy), for your praise and support in bringing attention to our blog and website.  Thank you for the time you spend reading our writing and tweeting out about us!

My husband, Brad Daudlin, WVSS Secondary Vice-Principal (@jbwdaudlin).  Thank you for continuing to be my sounding board and coaching me on the social media part of our website. You’ve helped me to find clarity in our goals, determine our audience and their needs, and to visualize the “look” of the website.  It’s exciting to still be working on projects with you after all our years together.

Christy’s husband, Andrew Campbell. Thank you, Andrew, for enduring the numerous hour long phone conversations, the 131 text message conversations before 9am on the weekend, and taking the messages for “Rainbow, or Cheese, Goldfish crackers for Sports Day?” We appreciate the “quick pick up” at Michael’s Craft Store for the much needed pompoms, Sparkle Modge Podge, and cardstock. Your behind the scenes work has allowed us to be able to write and work on our blog.  We both thank you so very much!


IMG_1411We can’t believe it, but today is our 50th post!  It’s also The Self-Regulated Teacher’s Top 5 Most Read Posts for Term Three, so don’t forget to add us to your summer reading list if you missed these posts earlier this year.

Math, the Kindergarten Way

Christy and I are advocates of Math Their Way, the child-centred, manipulative based mathematics program for young children.  It’s always been at the core of our math programs, whether we taught Kindergarten or Grade Three.  Math Their Way uses a hand-on approach to teach and develop concrete mathematical concepts first, then makes the learning connections to abstract symbols.  Starting with Free Exploration, we teach the careful use of manipulatives, working in a group and rotating between math centres.  From there, we move on to teaching Patterns and Number.

About Us

It continues to amaze us that so many people have read About Us!  Christy and I are Kindergarten teachers in beautiful West Vancouver, British Columbia.  We’ve taught Kindergarten since 2006, starting as half-time teachers in the half-day program, for five years.  When the Full-Day program was implemented at our school in 2011, we had enough enrolment for two classes so we decided to end our job-share to each take a classroom and teach our own class.  If you’re interested in learning about how we started this blog and website, we’ve added Our Story:  Becoming The Self-Regulated Teacher to the About Us tab.

Why We Need to Say “Yes” to English Language Learning for Kindergarten Students

We were privileged to have Donna Neilson, West Vancouver School District’s English Language Learning Resource Teacher, speak to our parent group in January of this year.  Donna answered some key questions ELL parents have about their children, regarding ELL instruction, additional tutoring and loss of classroom time for pull-out programs.  Donna compares learning English to the visual of an iceberg:  the children learn conversational English in 1-2 years, which is the tip of the iceberg.  But it is the academic English, the base of the iceberg that we cannot see, and which the children need for the later grades to cope with the reading and writing expectations, that takes 3-7 years to learn.

A Day in the Life of Kindergarten

A Day in the Life of Kindergarten is exactly that:  a description of how we run a typical day of Kindergarten in our classes.  Although this was not a blog post, but part of our Kindergarten Handbook on The Self-Regulated Teacher website, we’ve had a lot of interest in this piece of writing.  We wrote this originally for our current classroom parents, and incoming K parents to our school, so they would have a better idea of the routines and activities their children do all day.  If you are a new Kindergarten teacher, you may find it helpful to read our explanation of how we organize a Kindergarten day.

This Week in Our Room, June 22-25, 2015

This is our last classroom newsletter for the 2014-2015 school year.  It’s always bittersweet to say good-bye to our Kindergarten classes as we grow so fond of them, but we also know it’s time for them to move on to Grade One.  We give a run-down of our last week at school, from our Beach Bubbles Year-End Party, to our role in the Grade 7 Promotion Ceremony, to a brief explanation of the fabulous schoolwork our children have brought home to show their parents.

We will be re-posting some of our earlier blog posts this summer while we’re on holiday.  You can follow us on Twitter (@selfregteacher) to find out when they’ve been posted.  But we’ll be back in September, writing about our new classes and more to do with Kindergarten.

Andrea and Christy

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The Gift of Mindfulness

IMG_1449School finished yesterday, the children have gone home for the summer and the classroom is empty.

But we’re starting the final clean-up and it’s time to put away the dollhouse.

It’s tidy…and looks so clean.  And a much neater place than the rest of the classroom (who owns all this stuff, anyways?). It’s a tiny piece of calm right now.

We’ve always known that the state of the dollhouse is reflective of how we’re doing.  What a wonderful place for those children to be in their thoughts and minds, where they could demonstrate their feelings about how they felt exactly at that moment as they finished playing with the dollhouse.  They must have felt very calm and relaxed.

Have you ever noticed how some people are just so incredibly calm?  Even when it’s the height of busyness all around, and you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, these special individuals exude calmness. You feel better when you’re around them, listening to them speak and realizing “everything’s going to be alright.”  What is it that makes these folks so calm….and peaceful?

We believe mindfulness is the key.  The mindful person is always in the moment, living in the present and just enjoying every feeling, thought and spoken word that is happening right now.

At a workshop presented last year by one of our district counsellors, Dr. Aron White explained mindfulness as a means of paying attention in a particular way, purposefully being in the present and non-judgemental.  Derived from Buddhist traditions, Dr. White described the three core components of mindfulness as attentive awareness, receptive attitude and intentionality, which can be cultivated in any situation or environment.

When we are mindful, we want to stay in the present.  Being caught up in the past, worrying about the future, or just being on “auto-pilot,” leads to a preoccupation in our thoughts with things, instead of experiencing them.  We lessen our experience of contentment, peace or even fleeting happiness if we are wishing for our circumstances to be other than what they are.

So what can we do to cultivate mindfulness in our classrooms through everyday teaching?

Take some time everyday to be mindful of the present.

In our classrooms, that means creating a routine to practise controlled, deep breathing sequences as a self-regulation strategy for the children to quiet themselves, and focus their minds on the here and now.  We build our stamina, starting in September for about 45 seconds, to the three minutes where we are now at the end of June.

We’ve managed to keep this routine fairly consistent so that everyday after the morning recess, the children gathered in the meeting area to listen to quiet music and were led by us in mindful breathing.  The children get ready by sitting cross legged, a straight back and eyes closed or looking down.  It’s a routine we teach and continue to refine and reinforce all year.

IMG_1441A change-up to this routine is to use a Zenergy chime at the beginning and end of each deep breathing sequence instead of music.  When we use the chime, we call it the “Core Practice,” which is part of The MindUp Curriculum.  We play the chime once, and ask the children to focus on the sound until they can’t hear it.  Then we start the deep breathing sequence, and meditate on moments of pure quiet and calm. We end with playing the chime again, being mindful of the sound, and the children are to keep their eyes closed until they can no longer hear the chime.

We don’t watch the children as they’re breathing; that would be a distraction.  Instead, we’re modelling the behaviours we expect from the children.  We’re using this time for ourselves to focus on the present, and to be mindful of where we are and what we’re doing.  We feel as refreshed as the students, calm and peaceful, and it makes a positive difference to our teaching.

We talk about being mindful quite often, and within the context of the classroom and playground.  We want the children to be aware of their words, actions and surroundings as they move through their day and how those same words and actions affect not only themselves, but others as well.

A wise Kindergarten child once shared that when we’re focused or concentrating on what we’re doing, we’re not thinking about anything else.

Calm.  Peaceful.  Mindfulness.

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Today’s post was inspired by our Ridgeview Principal, and dedicated to our dear Education Assistant who retired this June.  From our hearts to yours, we will miss you.

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This Week in Our Room:  June 22-25, 2015

We are moving on to Grade One!

We are moving on to Grade One!

A Good-bye for our Kindergarten Students

It’s the last newsletter of the school year, and it is always with mixed feelings that we write the final one for our current classes.  We’ve had a wonderful year with our Kindergarten children.  They’ve been absolutely fabulous and we have so enjoyed coming to school every day to teach them.  We appreciate, so very much, our classroom parents, and their support and help throughout the year.

This morning as we were having our final Meeting Time, we shed some tears.

When you’re a Kindergarten Teacher, you take care of your students.

You love your students.

You teach your students about self-regulation, making friends and cooperating with others.

You teach your students a love of language and literature.

You foster creativity, curiosity, and an appreciation of logic and how to make sense of the world.

You help to establish a solid foundation upon which to build a lifetime of learning.

And then you let them go.

And you cry because these children have been your little school family for a year.  We’ve loved them like they were our own children.  But you can’t stop them from growing up and moving onto Grade One.

We wish everyone a happy and safe summer, and look forward to seeing you back at Ridgeview in September.

This Week

IMG_1401Beach Bubbles Party

It was gorgeous Monday morning for our classes to enjoy their end of the year, “Beach Bubbles Party.”  We opened both classrooms and the playground between our rooms for all the Kindergarten children to mix and move freely in the three areas.  With the California surfer music of the Beach Boys playing in the background, and the bubble-making machine going full tilt, our water tables, bubble blowing centre, sand and shells table were in steady use.  Some children enjoyed colouring and rubber stamping on a sea theme, while others were involved in imaginary play with sea creature figures.  We ate ice-cream cones with sprinkles in the afternoon.  It was pretty much a perfect day!

Grade 7 Promotion Ceremony

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as our most senior students each received a flower from their Kindergarten Buddy during the Grade 7 Promotion Ceremony on Wednesday.  Our Buddy Classes have met weekly this year to make seasonal crafts, read stories, and work on digital projects together, so we know them well and have a strong relationship with them.  As we watched the Big and Little Buddies walk down the centre aisle hand-in-hand, Ms. Cari Wilson, one of our Grade 7 teachers, called us the Grade 7 graduating class of 2022.  That brought tears to our eyes, as it reminds us how quickly time goes by and how precious these days are when our children are young.

FullSizeRenderA Treasure Trove of Student Work

We don’t send home a lot of student work through the school year.  Instead, we’ve been saving it all up to make the beautiful scrapbooks for our Kindergarten children!  We’ve kept the best of the best all year and organized the children’s work into a monthly format of their artwork, writing and cute little crafts.  Each month starts off with their self-portrait and you can follow your child’s progress through the year and see the noticeable improvement in their printing, drawing and cutting.

From our blog posts, you know we also completed some fun units on the 5 Senses, Fairy Tales and Growing Things (plants).  The children also have their Alphabet Book, Writing and Math notebooks to bring home as well.  We’re so very proud of everything they’ve accomplished this year!

Reminders

Students who received Creative Children school supply orders for Grade One:  we attached a note about how to label your school supplies for Grade One.  Here is the information again.

Please label for your incoming Grade One child:

Each individual pencil crayon, crayon and felt pen

Whiteboard markers

2 pencil boxes

Scissors

Pastels

Scrapbook

Please do not label notebooks, duo tangs, erasers, glue, or pencils.

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Outdoor Play

IMG_1120It was brought to our attention recently that Rick Cluff, host of the CBC’s Vancouver morning show “Early Edition,” had a segment on this year’s ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth.

Rick spoke with Allana LeBlanc, an exercise physiologist, who works with ParticipACTION. Here are some of the main points we were able to take away after listening to the podcast ourselves and looking at the highlights from the ParticipACTION report.

“The Biggest Risk is Keepings Kids Indoors.”

The report explains that children need 60 minutes a day of physical activity, but their surveys on how much activity kids (5-17 years old) actually get indicate that only 9% of Canadian children meet the criteria.

This is a complex situation because it’s not just about the lack of physical activity, but the increase in sedentary behaviour.  Kids just aren’t moving around like they used to with more access to television and video games.

“Get out of the way and let kids play.”

One of the findings of the report is an increased fear of allowing children to play outdoors unsupervised.  We want to protect our kids and keep them safe from harm. Yet, when our children do play outside unsupervised, they take more risks, independence increases and physical and social skills can improve.  There is a difference between “danger” and “risk” and certainly no one is advocating dangerous or reckless behaviour.  But children need to be allowed a certain amount of freedom to test their personal boundaries.

ParticipACTION has also written a “Position Statement on Active and Outdoor Play,” and makes recommendations for children to have access and freedom to outdoor play and to play in nature, in all childhood situations from home to day care to school. This statement applies to all children from 3-12 years old.

Children who play outdoors, in a natural playground that includes dirt and sticks, are more active than when playing on a pre-fabricated playground.  In fact, children who take PE outside, are more active than when they play indoors.

Sometimes we think it’s safer and healthier to keep our children inside where we can closely supervise them.  But it’s not.  There are many risks to staying indoors: our children will not learn the fundamental movement skills of running, kicking, throwing and jumping.  They need these skills for their healthy growth and development; without physical activity, there is an increased risk for health concerns down the road.  We need to teach our kids positive health habits for their life time.

Click here to hear the original CBC podcast.

We’re very fortunate at Ridgeview to have a natural playground.  Located beside our adventure playground, the natural playground has a variety of shrubs; a long, shallow, meandering creek with slow moving water and rocks for crossing, and large trees with overhanging branches providing shade and cooler temperatures during these warm days.

In the beginning of the school year, our classes use only the adventure playground during the morning and lunch recess, with adult playground supervisors in attendance.  When school starts in September, we typically have 40-44 four- and five-year old children between our two classes.  Since the full-day Kindergarten program started, our children have their own recess time in the morning, after Grades 1-7 have finished their playtime. We’re fortunate to have school administration who understand the needs of young children and have specifically allotted resources to enable this to happen for the entire school year.

The children still have their lunch recess with the rest of the school and when we take an afternoon recess playtime, we are often joined by some of the other classes.  Our school population is currently > 400 students.

As part of learning to play, inside or outdoors, we establish classroom rules and routines, create a self-regulated classroom environment and directly teach the expectations and behaviour we want first, and we teach them as a whole group.  Kindergarten children come to us with a wide variety of preschool, daycare and home experiences.  Kindergarten is the first opportunity to develop a constant model for self-regulation and behaviour for the next eight years at our school.  Our teaching experience has taught us that when we have the respect, rules and safety expectations in place, then our students can have freedom within those boundaries, and we can all have a fun and enjoyable time.

Our only rule for the natural playground is that the children who want to play in the creek wear their rain boots, so they can still have dry socks and shoes to wear in class.  You’d be impressed to see how quickly children can change their shoes and boots when the recess bell rings.

Now here we are in June, and we’ve seen some amazing outdoor play.

We’ve seen children crossing the rocks across the creek, arms outstretched for balance.

Children are scrambling up the banks of the creek, clinging to shrubs.

We have children endlessly filling up and emptying containers and ziploc bags with creek water.

We noticed that a group of children has engineered a shallow trough down the length of the creek, right in the middle.

We see children running, jumping and negotiating their way around big tree roots.

Yes, we’ve had some tumbles and lots of scrapes, but nothing that a hug, a band-aid and a drink of water couldn’t fix.

And we also know that the closer the connection our children have to nature and the outdoors when they’re young, the more likely they will want to protect and look after their environment when they grow up.

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This Week in Our Room: June 15-19, 2015

The Queen is off duty!

The Queen is off duty!

Prince and Princess Day

We had Prince and Princess Day, and all things royal, on Tuesday this week.  It was marvellous!  Just so much fun with a delightful, might we say, adorable, group of tiny princes and princesses.

Among the many wonderful aspects of teaching Kindergarten, is how the children really embrace any idea or suggestion for a new and fun activity.  We’ve been hosting a Prince and Princess Day since our job-sharing days, and again the children did not disappoint.

What fun to open the door and see so many princesses in gorgeous gowns, and handsome Knights and princes at every turn.  The children who didn’t want to wear a costume still came dressed up in lovely dresses or smartly dressed in pants and button down shirts.

We started off with a heap of giggles as we greeted each child, as we do every morning, during the attendance with, “Good Morning, Princess Nelli,” or “Good Morning, Prince Ryan.”  The children could barely speak because of the laughter as they each responded back, “Good Morning, Princess Mrs. Daudlin.”  That was their own idea, and it really set the tone for our fun day.

The Royal Family, as we called ourselves all day, went on to “the Royal Centres,” followed by the “Royal Meeting Time.”  We wrapped up our fairy tale unit with “Hansel and Gretel” and we drew a story map to help us in our retelling and comprehension of the story.

We decided to celebrate the July birthdays on this day as well.  In our classes, we sing “Happy Birthday” to the birthday children, mark it on the calendar with a special birthday cake cut-out and present them with a birthday certificate and sticker; then they walk up to the office for a birthday pencil.

Our July birthday children all brought sweet treats for the class which we throughly enjoyed.  Of course, all that sugar made our self-regulation a little more challenging but by keeping our routines the same, and our expectations clear, we were able to keep ourselves focused and on-task.

This Week:

We had an excellent field trip on Thursday to the Vancouver Aquarium. Have you been to the Aquarium lately?  It’s been recently renovated and they’ve done a first-rate job of providing a stimulating educational experience on aquatic life and conservation, with a focus on BC’s coastal waters.

We have only high praise for our wonderful Kindergarten children  on their first “big” field trip and they represented Ridgeview so well.  Our classes were respectful of the animals, exhibits and the many other visitors who were also in attendance on a warm and sunny June day.

Watching the penguins at Penguin Point

Watching the penguins at Penguin Point

The children were able to enjoy several shows as a class including watching the “Caring for Belugas” while we ate our lunch, and an informative talk at Penguin Point.  Between the scheduled shows, we spent a lot of time visiting the many species of frogs; saw a sloth and exotic birds in the Amazon Gallery; admired the luminous jelly fish; watched turtles, sharks and sting rays; and meditated on the graceful swimming movements of the beluga whales in Canada’s Arctic.

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We’ve mentioned it many times before, but it’s worth repeating again.  The children’s ability to self-regulate their behaviour, specifically assessing their social situation; following directions; delaying their personal wishes for the needs of the group; and taking turns to view the animals and cooperating with their friends, made a huge difference for all of us, adults and children, to being able to thoroughly enjoy our field trip.

We had a rehearsal Friday afternoon for the Grade 7 Promotion Ceremony.  As part of Ridgeview’s annual tradition of celebrating our Grade Sevens, the Kindergarten classes will be presenting flowers to their Grade 7 Big Buddies during the ceremony.  The school will provide the flowers.

Upcoming Events:  

Monday, June 22:  Beach Bubbles Party at school.  We’re going to have some fun, summer-themed centres with both Kindergarten classes in the morning between recess and lunch.  We’ll have a special ice-cream treat in the afternoon as well.  Please note that this fun day happens at school on our playground.  We will not be going to the beach, so there is no permission form.

Wednesday, June 24:  Grade 7 Promotion Ceremony.  Kindergarten students should come to school wearing their “party best” for this formal occasion.  Kindergarten parents may come and watch us.  Our part in the programme is around 11:40 am.

Reminders:

The Home Reading program is now finished.  If you still have a book at home, please return it for Monday.

Library Books are now overdue.  Please return any books you may have at home.

If you are leaving before Thursday, June 25, please let us know as we are putting the children’s scrapbooks together for them to take home on Wednesday, June 24.

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The Classroom Newsletter: “This Week in Our Room” and the Importance of Modelling Writing for Our Kindergarten Children

FullSizeRender-3We officially retired our “This Week in Our Room” paper newsletter last week.  We’ve now started an online newsletter that we will write and post on this website on Fridays.  We’ll try to write about one or two topics of interest from the classroom, in addition to the usual wrap-up of the week, upcoming events and reminders.

We’ve been writing a classroom newsletter every Friday, every school year, since we started teaching.  For me, that means since September 1987 (although I missed one year while I was teaching Learning Support).  Christy has been teaching in the classroom (mixed in with Learning Support, as well) since March 1994, so we’ve written many newsletters between us.  It’s been part of our weekly routine, and one that signalled the completion of a week’s worth of work, well done.

We began writing the weekly newsletter as student teachers.  Our supervising teachers sent one out on Fridays, and it was part of our teaching responsibilities to write the newsletter every week during the final practicum.  You certainly feel like you are the classroom teacher when you’re responsible for the main communication line between home and school.

But times are a-changing and there’s a lot of pressure from everywhere to send out newsletters and bulletins electronically to reduce paper and be more environmentally responsible.  It’s a good thing and makes a lot of sense.

In my class, I wrote the weekly newsletter during Friday lunch.  I often sit at a table with the children while they’re eating and they are always amazed to see me filling in the page with print.  They can’t believe I write a newsletter every week (“Didn’t you write that last week?”) and they sometimes think it’s a lot of work.  But I always explain to them the newsletter is for their moms and dads so that they know what’s happening at school.  They love to know what I’m writing, so I always read it aloud to them.

We know that modelling writing is imperative to encourage children to begin writing themselves.  They need to see how much we value this process, similar to reading.  For some light lunch conversation, I would ask my little table group for ideas I might write about in the newsletter; they were delighted to make suggestions, watch me write, and read it back for their approval.  Children really want to know what the words say.

It’s also fun when I’ve already written up an idea they had.  It shows we’re all thinking the same things are important. The children are learning a sense of ownership from participating in the writing process, even just at the idea stage.

Our classes love writing so much because they see us writing all the time.  With the paper newsletter, the children were learning firsthand the newsletter was purposeful communication to be read by a specific audience, their parents.  We were modelling that for them every step of the way, as we wrote it, and handed out the copies for them to take home “for your parents to read.”

They haven’t seen us writing yet on the iPad (we’re currently using Pages for writing all the posts on The Self-Regulated Teacher, but will probably switch to Google Docs soon) since we’ve transitioned to our online newsletter, but that time is coming and we’re sure an interesting conversation will revolve around it.

With the advent of summer, here are a few things you can do to develop and maintain your child’s fine motor skills and interest in writing:

  • Have a supply of pencils, crayons, pencil crayons and felt pens available for your child to write and draw
  • We love to use oil pastels in class which are great for drawing and colouring because they’re so bright (warning: can be challenging to remove if it gets on your clothes)
  • Have some supplies like an individual paint set, glue sticks and child safe scissors ready
  • Recently, our classes enjoy having access to a stapler, tape dispenser, hole punch and string or wool to make “hangers” for their drawings
  • Gather an assortment of little notebooks, or booklets that you can make yourself with scrap paper and a stapler to write in; sheets of paper in all sizes and colours
  • Get your children involved in purposeful reading and writing activities such as grocery lists; to-do lists; writing and sending notes and cards to family and friends; copy a simple recipe for Grandma
  • Our classes love to use rubber stamps and stamp pads, fantastic for fine motor development

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These activities are going to be the most fun when you sit down with your child, so enjoy this time together and write-on!

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This Week In Our Room:  June 8-12, 2015

Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum…It’s Time for “Jack and the Beanstalk” and Growing Things

We seem to be on a bit of a mini-theme this week with our on-going Fairy Tale unit and our newly started Growing Things Science unit on plants.

Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

FullSizeRenderSince wrapping up “The 3 Little Pigs,” we started our next Fairy Tale, “Jack and the Beanstalk.”  We read a delightful, lift-the-flap version, where the children’s sharp eyes ensured we didn’t miss a single flap!

Instead of a craft, we decided it was time to plant some beans to try and grow a beanstalk of our own.  So in small groups we planted beans, while the rest of our class designed their plant markers.  We’ve been talking a lot about the needs of a plant, so we asked the children to draw all the things a plant needs to grow in a healthy way:  soil, water, sunshine and love.

FullSizeRender-1To add to the festivities, Miss Pink made her annual visit to help water our newly planted seeds.

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We launched our Growing Things unit last week by going for a walk around the school to look for examples of living and non-living things.  We defined “living” as things that grow, and “non-living” as things that do not grow.  We saw some wonderful roses and trees growing on our school grounds, a butterfly and a huge bee in a California lilac shrub.  We saw many non-living things:  soccer nets, doors, cars and rocks.

The children understood that when a branch is attached to a live tree, it is living until it gets broken off.  In the same way, when they saw a dead worm on a school path, the children knew in their own small world that life is fragile and can quickly change from living, to not.

We finished up our week with another lesson on seeds.  We read The Surprise Garden by Zoe Hall.  It’s a fun story where a mom gives her children a variety of seeds to sort and then plant.  The children grow a variety of plants and vegetables to eventually make a lunch of salad, sunflower seeds and watermelon.

This Week:

The West Vancouver Memorial Library gave a presentation on their Summer Reading Clubs for 2015.  This year theme is called “Build It.” We encourage all Kindergarten families to register at the Library and participate in this great annual summer tradition.

While older children and independent readers can read their own books, younger children can participate in the “Read-to-Me” Club and be read to by a parent or sibling. The most important idea is that the children read, or be read to, every day for 15 minutes, for 50 days.

Summer Reading Clubs

Summer Reading Clubs

The children can read picture books, chapter books, comics or listen to an audio book.

There are small special prizes given out every week and special challenges for each club.  After July 6, the children can go to the library every week to collect their prize.

Two books that were shared with us were You are Not Small by Anna IMG_1237Kang and The Spider by Elise Gravel.  The children loved the humour of  The Spider which is also part of a series so that might be a fun collection of books to start reading.

Your children’s librarian is a valuable resource to you to help you find interesting books, at an appropriate independent reading level for your child. You can talk to the librarian and she will help you to join the reading club that best suits your child.

Sports Day 2015:

The Kindergarten children had an amazing day today at Sports Day.  We were so proud of them and their stamina, calm and ability to self-regulate and negotiate a highly energetic day.  Congratulations to our little athletes for demonstrating great team work and sportsmanship!

Upcoming Events:

Tuesday, June 16:  Prince and Princess Day in the Kindergarten.  Children may dress up if they wish!

Thursday, June 18:  Vancouver Aquarium Field Trip for Kindergarten.  Please return your permission form by Monday latest.  We’ll send home a special notice about this trip next week.

Monday, June 22:  Kindergarten Beach and Bubbles Party.  This will be a fun morning of beach and summer themed activities for our Kindergarten students at school.

Reminders:

All Library Books must returned the week of June 15.

Next week, June 15-19, is the last week for the Hot Lunch Program.  Starting June 22-25, children will need to bring prepared lunches from home.

June 15-19 is the last week for the Home Reading Program.  Book exchange is on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  All books must be returned by Friday, June 19.

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Once Upon a Fairy Tale

IMG_3890Fairy Tales is one of our favourite genres to read and explore with our Kindergarten children.  They form an important part of our literary culture going back to the stories of French author and poet, Charles Perrault (1628-1703) and the Brothers Grimm, Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859) of Germany.

Perrault took eight existing folk tales of the time, which were shared through storytelling, and wrote them down as stories creating a new genre, fairy tales.  He is known for what might be considered the “classic” fairy tales including “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Sleeping Beauty.”  He published Tales or Stories from Times Past, with Morals (subtitled Tales of Mother Goose) in 1697 under the name of his son, Pierre.

The Brothers Grimm were scholars who were also interested in recording the storytelling tradition of fairy tales. Stories such as “Hansel and Gretel,” Rapunzel” and “Rumplestiltskin” were published in the volume Nursery and Household Tales (1812),  and eventually retitled as Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  One interesting fact is that these stories were originally not written for children as the content was considered to be too harsh.  However, over time the stories have been revised as to be suitable for young readers.

There are often references to fairy tales in more recent literature, so it’s important that our students have a firm foundation in these stories to understand what they are reading now, and in the future.

We always start our Fairy Tale theme by reading Once Upon a photo 1-3Golden Apple (1991) by Jean Little, Maggie De Vries and Phoebe Gilman.  This is a fairy tale that incorporates elements from a variety of well known stories and nursery rhymes and can test the knowledge of a children’s literature expert.  We ask the children to try to name as many of the fairy tales and nursery rhymes they know that are referred to in the book.  This year we were amazed at how many they identified.  We spent a fun morning reciting and laughing our way through familiar nursery rhymes such as “Humpty Dumpty,” “Little Miss Muffet,” “Little Boy Blue” and “Jack Sprat” among others.

Our discussions revolve around common elements in fairy tales such as how most stories begin (“Once upon a time….”) and end (“And they all lived happily ever after.”).

We’re looking at some of the more well-known archetypes of heroes and heroines (typically wise children who make good choices) the Baddies (usually an adult of some type, or large furry creature) and talking animals.  Sometimes we find there is a magical person (fairies, wizards and witches) or objects (apples, mirrors and wands).

We also focus on how the number 3 is important in fairy tales (3 Pigs; 3 Billy Goats; 3 Bears, Goldilocks does 3 things (eats porridge, sits on chairs, lies on beds) at the Bears’; the evil step-mother visits Snow White 3 times) as we read each of those stories.

photo 2-3This month’s Sharing Theme has focused on Fairy Tales.  We’ve asked each Special Helper of the Day to bring a fairy tale to school for us to read aloud to the class at Storytime.  What a delightful assortment of volumes, stories and vintage books that have come our way!  Some of our students have brought their parents’ childhood fairy tale books (really fun to look at); we’ve seen the entire Disney Princess line-up; and we’ve been introduced to a collection new to us, Mary Engelbreit’s Nursery Tales: A Treasury of Children’s Classics.  We love it when two or more children bring the same fairy tale as it’s a wonderful opportunity to compare and contrast the different versions.

For teaching purposes, the first story we read was “Little Red Riding Hood,” to teach about story structure (beginning, middle and end) and we worked on our Wolf craft.

Our second story was “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” to reinforce our learning about how stories are organized.  We made stick puppets of the Bears to practise retelling the story in our own words.

This week we read the “The Three Pigs,” and sequenced the main events in a little booklet.  We see some interesting times ahead now that our “Little Red Riding Hood” wolves have met up with the our “Three Little Pigs.”

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We hope it’s all going to end happily ever after….

A reminder to moms and dads, that it’s Prince and Princess Day in the Kindergarten on Tuesday, June 16.  Boys and girls may dress up in their “royal” attire to celebrate the end of our study on Fairy Tales!

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Sports Day 2015

Kindergarten Parents, we’re transitioning to an online classroom newsletter for Fridays so we have included a few updates and reminders for you.

photo-11Sports Day:

Another great tradition, the Ridgeview Sports Day is next Friday, June 12.  We will start promptly at 9 am, following the singing of “O Canada,” so please arrive on time for school.

Division 15 (Mrs.Campbell and Mrs. Tsumura) is on the Red Wildfires Team.  Division 16 (Mrs. Daudlin) is on the Blue Tidal-waves Team.  Children should wear t-shirts in their team colour, shorts and running shoes with socks.

You’ll notice some older students enjoy painting their hair and faces in their team colour for Sports Day, and if your Kindergarten children would like to do so at home, they can let their team spirit shine!

Please ensure you have put sunscreen on your child before school, and send along a hat in case the weather becomes hot.

Our teams gather on the paved area of the playground, so that is a great place to watch our team cheers.  We will then move in to our mini-teams to participate at a variety of stations and you can follow your child around the events.

Following a Popsicle/Freezie snack around 10:30 am, all Kindergarten children will be called to meet their teachers on the playground and we will head back to our classrooms to have our regular snack time, and Activity Time.

Kindergarten students are dismissed at 12:00 pm from our classrooms.  If you were planning on ordering lunch and staying for the rest of the day to watch your older children, your lunch orders can be picked up from the school kitchen which is located near the gym.  Parents can order their lunch through munchalunch.com.  Please feel free to bring a blanket and have a picnic on the grass field.

If your child attends Camp Ridgeview, please make arrangements with them for an early pick-up from the classrooms.

This Week:

We saw a Grade 10 Drama class from West Vancouver Secondary School perform six Robert Munsch stories.  They used simple props from home and school in their excellent Story Theatre production.

We went to visit the hatching chrysalis in Mrs. Bird’s and Mrs. Tsumura’s Grade 2 classroom.  The butterflies were beautiful!

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In Math, we have started our Measurement unit, and worked on centres about length using non-standard units such as links, Popsicle sticks and multilinks cubes.

photo-12Ms. Wilson, the District Innovation Support Teacher (Elementary), taught our classes how to use the app “Welcome to Draw and Tell” by Duck, Duck, Moose.  We’re using it to draw pictures to make digital picture books about how seeds grow with our Grade 7 Buddies.

Upcoming Events:

Tuesday, June 16:  Prince and Princess Day.  Children may dress up if they wish for our day of  “royal” activities.

Thursday, June 18:  Kindergarten Field Trip to the Vancouver Aquarium.  Permission forms were sent home on Thursday.  Please return your permission form as soon as possible.

Reminders:

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays is Home Reading Book Exchange.

PE is on Tuesday and Wednesday for both classes next week.  Please wear runners.

No Sushi lunch on Tuesday, June 9.

Please check your Remind app texts and emails for any updates or changes.

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Reading with Your Kindergarten Child: Literacy Awareness – A Book is More than a Story

photo-10Do you love reading as a pleasurable, down-time activity?

Do you have a list of books to read that will take at least two lifetimes to complete?

The importance of regular modelling of reading by all us, parents and teachers, cannot be taken too lightly.  The children are looking to us to see if we place a high value on reading through our words and actions.

Last week we wrote about creating a home environment that places reading as a priority to foster a love of reading and literature in our children.

As teachers, our students see us reading a lot.  From the attendance form to story time books, teaching books to charts and labels, our students see us doing a great deal of purposeful reading in our day.

Here are some things we think about as we are reading to and with our students that you can do during your own daily reading with your Kindergarten child at home.

Reading to Your Child

  • Fluency.  As teachers and parents, we want to read aloud the story as fluently as possible.  We get a lot of practise with some of the favourite read-alouds we’ve read to students many times over the years.  However, when we can, we still read new stories to ourselves first before reading them aloud to the children.  Of course, this is more difficult when you are reading longer texts and novels but for picture books with a lot of dialogue, we want to get the intonation of the character voices “just right.”
  • Expression. Demonstrate your interest, enjoyment and enthusiasm in your children’s selected storybook, and you can make even the most banal of words sparkle with excitement for them.  We really try to have fun with the character voices in a book, and take a great deal of delight in the children’s laughter (sometimes we are laughing so hard at our own reading we have to stop the story…really!). After all, who doesn’t love creating the Wolf’s voice as Grandma in “Little Red Riding Hood”?

Reading With Your Child

  • Take a “book walk” with your child before reading a new book.  Ensure that your child can see the pages, and that you have one hand free to “track” the text (point to the words) as you are reading and to focus on key details in the pictures which may aid in your child’s comprehension of the story.
  • Draw attention to the title of the story by helping your child find the front cover of the book.  Point out the differences between the front and back covers.
  • Make predictions about what the story will be about based on the title.
  • Look at the author’s and illustrator’s names and discuss the differences in their roles, in addition to their names.  Make connections by trying to think of books you’ve already read by them, or anyone you know who has those names.
  • Comment on the title page and the dedication page.  Speculate on who the people mentioned in the dedication might be.
  • Gradually develop your child’s awareness of where stories start (Where is the first word on this page?) and which way the print goes (Show me which way you read; Show me where we read next).

Interacting With the Print

Drawing attention to the print should be an incidental, rather than a continuous activity.  In other words, it’s not necessary to use all of these suggestions each time you read a story; instead, just pick and choose what you and your child enjoy most.

  • The beginning and endings of the story, eg., most Fairy Tales begin with “Once upon a time….” and end with “…and they all lived happily ever after.”
  • Unusual print in the story, eg., words in upper letters (BOOM!); words in speech clouds (speaking aloud) or thinking bubbles (silent thoughts); animal sounds (Woof, Meow, Mooooo).
  • Names and names of places, eg., all start with an uppercase letter.
  • Repetitive words, eg., “Sometimes it looked like a Rabbit.  But it wasn’t a Rabbit./Sometimes it looked like a Bird.  But it wasn’t a Bird.” (From It Looked Like Spilt Milk, by Charles G, Shaw)
  • Rhyming words, eg., “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

Encourage Your Child to Participate in the Reading

You can encourage your child to participate in the story by:

  • Pausing at certain points to enjoy the rhythm of the language, admire a beautiful picture or count the number of times the “Letter of the Week” occurs on a page.
  • Being careful to read aloud at a pace that allows for your child’s participation.
  • Engaging in “echo reading,” eg., you read a phrase or sentence and your child repeats it, or your child completes the next rhyming word or line (we use this second idea a lot with rhyming text in class).
  • Taking turns to read the character’s dialogue, eg., sharing the Wolf’s big scene, “The better to hear/see/eat you with” in “Little Red Riding Hood.”
  • Giving your child the opportunity to “read” as much of the story as possible, particularly repetitive text or dialogue, eg., Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle).
  • Praising any participation in “reading” the story by your child.
  • Enjoying the cozy time you have spent together, parents and child, reading aloud a great book.

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).

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