The Self-Regulated Teacher

Our personal journey towards self-regulation in Kindergarten

Self-Regulation and the Mind-Up Curriculum

Part of our teaching about self-regulation has been to help the children to understand the connection between what is happening in their brain, and the choices they make as a result of their emotions and how they are feeling.  This has an impact on their learning as if the children are feeling stressed about a situation, they will not be able to focus their attention on classroom instruction for learning, refuel and rehydrate their bodies satisfactorily or even enjoy their social play.

A few years ago our staff started using the Mind-Up Curriculum.  We had a school-based Professional Development Day, and were provided with a day of excellent instruction, our own copy of the appropriate curriculum (Primary or Intermediate) and a Zenergy chime by our Principal at the time.

Mind-Up has the children’s overall well-being at its core:  when children are happy and thriving in their learning environment, they are better able to learn.  We teach them how to focus their attention and to be more mindful of their words and actions.  The children become aware of, and learn how to cope with stressors, their emotions and reactions and ultimately, enhance their ability to self-regulate so they are able to access learning.

A better understanding of how the brain functions is necessary to put all of this into practise.  Learning about and loving our brain has been some of the most fun and rewarding lessons we’ve ever taught.  Our classes have always been fully aware of the importance of protecting their brains  They reassure us with confidence that they wear helmets while cycling, skiing and snowboarding and scootering.

Mind-Up has many teaching ideas, strategies and suggested books to read, but we choose those which we think are suitable for the class we have each year.

We started with the first lesson on the three main parts of the brain:  the pre-frontal cortex, the amygdala and the hippocampus.  Mind-Up has an amazing poster that shows and describes each of these parts and their function.

The Pre-Frontal Cortex is the wise leader;

The Amygdala is the security guard who moves into “flight or fight” if it senses a threat;

The Hippocampus is “the memory keeper”.

However, we’ve also had some really fun brain resources to use.

IMG_1819One of the program’s DIY suggestions is to fill a bottle with sand, sparkles and water.  When you give it a good shake, and everything mixes together, the children can see how the amygdala “works.”  Sensory information is blocked (guarded) and cannot flow freely to the pre-frontal coretex, to make a good decision based on external stimuli.  The children were fascinated with how long the bottle took to settle and for the water to be clear (the better part of the day).

We also had a brain that our Principal Mrs. Brady gave me (we’re pretty IMG_1823sure there was no hidden meaning there) and another brain that Christy won at a district Pro-D workshop on self-regulation (sure, go ahead and laugh, Christy won a brain) to pass around so the children were able to see it’s beautiful silhouette.  We asked them to squeeze it super hard three times to release some energy and it was wonderful to watch them practise a moment of self-regulation.  Naturally, this has led to some very, very ridiculous brain jokes between us and the children.

“Do we have a couple of volunteers to go and ask Mrs. Campbell if we can borrow her brain?  We need another one.”

“Boys and girls, Mrs. Daudlin’s brain just was sitting here on my desk just here a minute ago.  Oh no, wait, I think I see it on the floor.  Be careful you don’t step on it.”

“Would somebody please pass me my brain?”

IMG_1824We’re very fortunate to have a brain cell, part of the swag my doctor brother-in-law received at a medical conference.  Unfortunately, the size comparison to the brain cell (large) and the brain (small) made it fairly challenging when we tried to explain to the children that the brain was composed of many, many brain cells.  The furry texture and big eyes of the brain cell raised more than a few questions.

As we progress through the next few lessons, we will be teaching the children one of the most important components of Mind-Up, which is the Core Practise.

The Core Practise is the use of the Zenergy chime and focusing all of our attention on a single note.  Our children will be sitting calmly and cross-legged, palms facing up or down, eyes closed or open while looking at their lap.  They will concentrate on the ringing of the chime, and then we will lead them through a deep breathing sequence.

The Core Practise gives the children a self-regulation strategy to take a moment to focus and quiet the brain.  When stressed, the amygdala will be in its security guard mode — not allowing sensory information to make its way to the pre-frontal cortex to make a rational decision.  By teaching the children to be mindful of how they are feeling within their learning context, they can use a strategy to help themselves, or self-regulate, to calm down, and begin to feel relaxed, focused and ready to learn.

The Core Practise is by no means the only strategy we will teach our Kindergarten students.  We have already begun Calming Countdowns, and will continue to add more to our repertoire, so the children can make choices about what best suits their needs.

Earlier this year we wrote about The Gift of Mindfulness.  We hope it may bring some peace and calm to your day.

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Kindergarten Curriculum Night

Our school’s Curriculum Night was held this past Wednesday.  We usually begin with the Principal’s Talk and then classroom teachers have two 15 minute sessions, to accommodate parents with more than one child in the school, to learn more about their child’s classroom routines and curriculum.

However, we have found since teaching Kindergarten, that 15 minutes is not enough time to say everything that needs to be said!  Particularly for families new to our school, and for first time Kindergarten parents, there is an plethora of information about the classroom and the school.

For the past few years we have held one Kindergarten parent session and it runs for about 30 minutes.  We invite all K parents, from both classes, to one of our rooms and talk to everyone.  That way we can ensure parents are hearing exactly the same information and questions and concerns can be discussed by all the teachers.  We run our session before the Principal’s Talk so all Kindergarten parents are able to attend.  At this time we also give out our jointly prepared curriculum overview.

For the first time ever we used Haiku Deck, a presentation app, for our talk; it was recommended to us by our School District Innovation Support Teacher, Cari Wilson @kayakcari.  After a few false starts, we found it to be very easy, and enjoyable, to use.  We loved the variety of options we had for images, layout and text.

Here is an abbreviated version of our Kindergarten Curriculum Night presentation, September 23, 2015. This year we also welcome our friend and colleague, Charity Cantlie, to our Kindergarten teaching team!

IMG_1857Kindergarten Curriculum Night.  We are really enjoying teaching our classes this year.  The children are settling in well and adjusting to their new teachers and the classroom routines and expectations.  You may find your child is tired at the end of the day and that is for good reason, because they are all working extremely hard.  By the time Thanksgiving arrives, we will all begin to notice remarkable changes in their maturity, and their ability to self-regulate and manage their day.  We remind ourselves every day to be very patient as they make this important transition to being a full-day student.

IMG_8257Pick-up and Drop-off Routines.  The Kindergarten day begins at 8:50.  Please encourage your child to line up and wait quietly by the classroom door. The teachers will open the door at 8:50 am. The children can independently hang up their coats and backpacks. A quick kiss and a goodbye at the door and a prompt exit really helps reduce any separation issues and allows us to start our day on time.

“O Canada” is sung by our entire school population promptly at 8:55 am.  If you are dropping off at that time, please assist your children by encouraging them to come in silently and limit conversation in the cloakroom or hallway.

If you arrive after 9:00 am and the attendance has been sent up to the office, your child is considered late. You will need to walk up to the office with your child, sign in, and then bring him or her back to class. You must also sign your child out at the office if you need to pick up early.

Your children should know each day how they are getting home.  Sometimes they tell us they don’t know who is picking them up, or wonder if they are going to the after school care centre.  We always reassure the children that we will look after them, but they will feel more secure and confident throughout the day knowing who will be there to greet them at 3:00 pm.

At dismissal, we make sure we see a parent or caregiver before we dismiss your child. If there is a change in pick up, such as with another child’s family, please let us know.  If your plans change at the last minute please call the school office, not another parent in the class.  Our school office will communicate your message directly to us.  We are able to release your child to another parent only with your permission.

IMG_1859Snack and Lunch Routines.  The children should use a lunch kit to bring their food to school.  It’s very awkward for them to be taking numerous containers and a water bottle out from their backpack and juggle them into the classroom.  Their lunch kit then goes into their backpack, which is also used to hold their weekly library book, notices and artwork for home.

We have snack twice a day.  We eat morning snack at 10:20-10:40 am, when the rest of the school is having outside recess time.  Our Kindergarten classes go out for recess from 10:40-11 am, and the children are supervised by playground supervisors as that is when the teachers take their break.  Our second snack time is around 2:40-2:50 pm, after our afternoon outside recess.

You might consider placing the morning and afternoon snacks in separate ziplocs or label the snacks to make it easier for your child.  Please tell your children what bag or container is for snack, and which one is for lunch, because sometimes they do get confused as they are still very young.

Please send a water bottle that is non-spill and refillable.  We are allowed to use the hallway water bottle refill so the children can drink fresh, filtered water.  We encourage you just to send water, rather than juice, as it’s healthier and part of our healthy eating philosophy

Lunch begins at 12:00 pm and the children have about 25 minutes to eat. Currently they are supervised by a lunchtime teaching assistant and Grade 7 monitors.

We encourage your children to eat but we cannot make them eat and finish their lunches.  We always send home the uneaten food so you are able to see what your child is eating on a daily basis.  Have a discussion with your children about what they like to eat, and have them help you to choose what goes in their snacks and lunches.

We’ve had many parents ask about the Hot Lunch Program.  In the next few days there should be news.  We ask that you do not use the Hot Lunch Program as an opportunity for your child to try new foods here at school.  If you are going to make some selections, please continue to send some snacks and a lunch from home until it’s certain that your child will eat the preordered food.  It creates a difficult situation when your child will not eat their Hot Lunch and there is no other alternative in their lunch bag.  Please send your child’s water bottle everyday, even if he or she orders lunch and drinks.

IMG_1867Pack In/Pack Out.  We call our waste management system at “Pack In/Pack Out.”  Children can bring a ziploc bag to collect their organic garbage and packaging waste to take home.  Many children simply put the garbage in their lunch bag which they seem to be comfortable doing.


IMG_1861Self-Regulation
.  Self-regulation is the foundation of our Kindergarten program.  One of our primary roles is to be a model of self-regulation.  Our ability to stay calm and focused, and to regulate and articulate our own emotional state, means we are better able we are to assist your children with regulating their optimal state.  Your child’s optimal state is one that is calm, focused and relaxed — ready to learn.

We are teaching our children to be aware of, and understand, their energy, emotions and feelings.  They are learning that different situations require different responses depending upon the context of the current social situation.  We practise “up-regulating” our energy if we’re feeling tired during a lesson; and “down-regulating” our excitement if we’re returning to our classroom after PE or being outside.

We’ve made many references to the Zones of Regulation and no doubt you have heard them already at home.

When we’re in the green zone we are feeling calm, focused, relaxed and ready to learn.

When we’re in the yellow zone we are scared, excited, frustrated or getting carried away.

When we’re in the red zone we are feeling very frustrated, angry and our body is out of control.

When we’re in the blue zone we are feeling sad, tired or sleepy.

We actively refer to the zones throughout the day, to describe how we are feeling, what we observe about the energy in the classroom or where we should be for a specific activity and what should we do to get there–up-regulate or down-regulate.

We practise a variety of self-regulation strategies in class, including calming countdowns, deep breathing and listening to quiet music.  We use self-regulation tools such as the breathing ball and Zenergy chime to teach and practise those strategies.

You might consider creating an area for self-regulation for your family in your own home.  Taking that time for a “self-regulatory moment” is very healthy, leaving one feeling refreshed for the next part of the day.

IMG_1862Self-Care.  The children are managing their washroom situations, which is washrooms located  in Division 15’s classroom, and the children in Division 16’s class use the hallway washrooms.  We’re very diligent about hand washing and we try to check in with the children as they are returning from the washrooms.

We do remind the children at every break opportunity to use the washroom, but many of them are so excited to go outside or they don’t want to miss anything in class so they try to wait.  This is an important discussion for you to have with your child.

In the case of a bathroom accident, your child should have an extra set of clothes to leave at school in a small shopping bag to hang on his or her hook.  It’s a good idea in the event of rain or puddles or muddy spills to have clothes here.

When Should I Keep My Sick Child at Home from School?  We have found over the years, that even though a child is not feeling well, he or she still wants to come to school.  However, your sick child does not have the patience or energy to deal with the demands of the school day, friendship issues or school work expectations.  For the mutual benefit of the children, the children’s families and our teaching staff, a sick child needs to stay at home.

We spoke with Vancouver Coastal Health as they developed their new poster “When Should I Keep My Sick Child Home for School?” when we were writing our blog post, Your Kindergarten Child’s Good Health, this past January.  Please keep your children home from school if they have are vomiting, have a fever or diarrhea.  This includes known communicable diseases such as pink eye, chicken pox, strep throat, measles or an undiagnosed rash.

If your children have a very runny nose they cannot manage independently, or a bad chesty cough, those might also be reasons for them to stay at home.  We understand fully as working parents ourselves that it is not always convenient to take a day off from work to stay home with your sick child; however, we are unable to look after a sick child at school, nor are we able keep sick children inside during the playtime breaks.  A child who has taken a day or two to rest and get well at home is going to be back to health faster and be more able to fight a future illness.

If your child is sick, we ask you to call the school call back line each day your child is away.

IMG_1863Remind.  This year we will be using “Remind,” a communication system to keep you informed through text messages or email.  Please subscribe if you have not yet already done so, and remember that this code is for parents and caregivers only.  Please feel free to come and see us about your child at any time during the year.  We are usually available for a quick chat after school.  If you would like to speak with us and need a longer time, please arrange a meeting time with us. We will often call parents in at 3 pm if we need to share something with your briefly  or talk about your child’s day

theselfregulatedteacher.com. We also author theselfregulatedteacher.com, our Kindergarten website for keeping our class parents informed.  We post twice a week; we will send you a link through “Remind” so you can see what we’re learning and thinking about in Kindergarten.

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Email.  You can also email us should you wish to contact us.  If your child is in Division 15, please copy your emails to both teachers.

On Thursdays our school issues the weekly ebulletin.  Please speak to our Administrative Assistant if you are not receiving these newsletters.  They contain important reminders and updates for our school, and community news as well.  They are a great way to stay connected with

Thank you very much for coming out this evening!  We’re looking forward to great year of fun and learning with your children.

This Week in Our Room:  September 21-24, 2015

Thank you for attending our Curriculum Night.  We have now sent home our curriculum overviews with all students.

We finished our first Alphabet Letter!  We’ll be sending home an alphabet page and craft every week.  Our children are also working in their beautiful Alphabet Books which will be a special keepsake from Kindergarten.

We started Patterning this week in our Math groups.  September’s pattern is AB.  You can ask your child to create some AB patterns for you using simple object at home, or look for them in the natural environment.

Next Wednesday, September 30, is our annual Terry Fox Run/Walk.  Our children will run or walk on the school field with their Grade 7 Buddies. Show your Ridgeview spirit by wearing red and white!  We are collecting donations for the Terry Fox Foundation.  Our school goal this year is $2000.

Remember to return your Homework Calendar this week for a sticker!

A reminder that it is Early Dismissal for all students on Wednesday, September 30 and Thursday, October 1 for Parent-Teacher Intake Interviews for Grades 1-7.

 


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Invest Early and Often

IMG_1733We’re going through an exciting transition in our family life as our oldest child is graduating from high school this year.

In addition to all the school activities such as watching her final season in Senior Girls Field Hockey, grad photos, purchasing tickets and dresses for grad events, it’s also the last year we are able to contribute on her behalf to her Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RESP) and be eligible for the basic Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG). Canada Revenue Agency guidelines states that the calendar year in which your child turns 17 is the final year to receive the grant money for your contribution.  The minimum contribution per year per child is $2500 to obtain the maximum grant money of $500, or a 20% guaranteed return on your investment.  Considering the cost of post secondary schooling these days, every little bit helps. For more information on RESPs and basic, and additional, CESG, click here.

We’ve learned that investing early, and often, can make a significant difference.  And that’s not just in our personal finances.

At school, we’ve begun to settle in to our Kindergarten routines.

Our children wait quietly for their teacher by their classroom door at the start of each day. They know where their hooks are in the cloakroom and are independently hanging up their own coats and backpacks.

At the meeting area, we notice the children are looking towards the Visual Schedule for the day’s events.

The children remember there is only four at a time at an Activity Time Centre, and let us know if they would like to be next for a turn at a favourite activity.

At the end of the recess time, when we blow our whistle the children walk quickly to line up, single file, to return quietly to our classroom.

It seems pretty remarkable that after only two weeks in school that our students can do all these things.  They’re developing independence, listening to and following the teacher’s instructions and making good choices.  So what’s our strategy?

We invest early, and often, in our students.

We’re investing in our Kindergarten students by ensuring we are taking the time particularly during these early September days and certainly for the next few months, to practise, reinforce and if necessary, re-teach our class routines and self-regulation strategies so that they are able to become independent, self-regulated learners.  We never rush in Kindergarten.  We always take the time to do things right.

We start by quickly learning the children’s names, by the end of the first day of the

Kindergarten Gradual Entry.  When we know the children’s names we can call and speak to them specifically, and this will contribute to our overall classroom management.

We stand at the door to greet the children as they walk in each morning.  They settle quickly on the carpet with a storybook, a routine we taught them on the second day of school.  We check in with them frequently as we also watch for more children entering the classroom.

We monitor the children during Activity Time, walking around the classroom to have a few words with each one, letting them know we are here for anything they might need, reassuring them we’re here to look after them.

We make our biggest investment during the eating times of snack and lunch, the least structured times of day inside the classroom.  We take the time to ensure hand washing is done correctly and before we eat. The children understand that the good hand washing we do following the Activity Time and a work period, when we’ve all been sharing materials, means reducing germs which is an investment in our good health.

We supervise the children to ensure that they are eating.  As we have said previously, eating is a calming and self-regulating activity.  When the children have eaten, and have fuel in their bodies, they will be better able to self-regulate their emotions and behaviour for the next part of the day.  We’re making an investment in their ability to have fun during their outside playtime, and for the afternoon’s activities.  The children are excited to play, but our encouragement to eat at snack and lunch can make all the difference between just nibbling or having a satisfying lunch.

We schedule in our timetables time to teach self-regulation and self-regulation strategies.  We’ve introduced the language of the Zones of Regulation these past two weeks and weave it throughout our days with reference to the children’s, and our own, emotions and actions.  

We firmly believe in the teaching and reinforcement of classroom routines in the beginning part of the year.  We know that practise is key and through the use of consistent actions and language, our students are learning to transition calmly between activities, especially walking to the carpet, lining up at the door, using the washrooms and in their general conduct in the classroom.

As parents and teachers, our investment of time and energy during the early years to build a solid foundation for our future global citizens and students of the world, is ultimately an investment in the whole of their schooling.

We’re investing for the long term.

We know that this investment in our children is going to pay off.  Big.

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First Week

We’ve had a very busy first week in Kindergarten, filled with many new classes and activities.

IMG_1739First lunch.  We had our first lunch as a whole class on Monday!  There was a lot of hand washing going on in the washrooms and classrooms before we sat down to eat.  The children are free to choose their own tables to eat with their classmates, compared to when we assign tables for working.

We’re enjoying listening to a variety of music from the songs of “Frozen” to the Jazz strains of Vince Guaraldi from “Happy Anniversary, Charlie Brown,” while quietly eating and chatting with our table mates.

We’ve compared our bodies to a car.  The children know that a car needs gas or fuel to move; without it, the car goes nowhere.  In the same way, food is fuel for our bodies. If we do not eat enough, our brains and bodies may have difficulty “running.”

We’ve written further about our lunch routines in our Kindergarten Handbook.

First Fire Drill.  Imagine our excitement at participating in our first fire drill on Monday morning!  We front loaded the children by telling them ahead of time that we would be having a fire drill and that it was just practice.  Our classes exit through the back doors and we walk across the playground, down the stairs and onto the grass field.  The expectation is that no one is speaking at that time as the teachers take attendance and students from each class report back to the Principal.  We are timed on our exit, and student behaviour is carefully observed to ensure that we are all following the safety rules.

First Library Class.  During our first Library Class Mrs. Kennedy, our Teacher-Librarian, reviewed her expectations for student conduct in the Library.  We will be able to borrow a book weekly.  Children will be allowed to borrow a new book each week provided they have brought their book back from the week prior.

First Music Class.  We have Music twice a week with Mrs. McKanna, our Music Teacher.  All Music classes take place in the Music portable.  It was very fun for our children to walk across the playground and then up the ramp.  The children learned some new songs and were treated to wonderful demonstrations of percussion instruments by Mrs. McKanna.

IMG_1759First Alphabet Letter.  We’ve started our Alphabet work beginning with the letter A.  Each week we usually teach a new letter and we’ll be going alphabetically from A to Z.  A short school week, or schedule changes, can result in a letter being taught over two weeks.

We teach each letter name and sound, and the correct printed letter formation for upper- and lowercase letters.  We also brainstorm words beginning with the letter of the week, draw and label pictures and make a special alphabet craft to bring home.  You can save each alphabet craft and make your own Kindergarten alphabet wall at home with your child.

FullSizeRender-2First Self-Portrait.  At the beginning of each month the children draw a self-portrait.  Each portrait is glued to a themed background that the children have made.  

Our criteria for each drawing is “Big, Bright and Beautiful.”

Big means to fill your space on the paper.

Bright means to use five crayon colours or more.

Beautiful means to do your personal best.

We display these adorable pictures for the month and save them for the Kindergarten scrapbooks we send home at the end of the year.

This Week in Our Room:  September 14-18

Thank you again, Moms and Dads, for arriving promptly for pick-up at 12 pm on Thursday and Friday.  We were able to start our parent-teacher intake conferences promptly.  We’ve enjoyed meeting and chatting with you.

We’ve had several parents ask us about rainboots.  When the rains inevitably arrive, we will still be going out for recess.  It’s preferable for the children to have a pair of rainboots to change into for outdoor play as we try very hard to keep our carpets clean and dry.  Please feel free to leave an older pair of boots in your child’s cloakroom space.

Please remember to speak personally to your classroom teacher if you are not picking up your child after school, particularly if another parent will be taking your child home.  If we are not informed directly by you, or if plans change (such as you must work late), we must be informed by the school office.  Please call Mrs. Lytle, our Administrative Assistant, at the school office and then she can inform us. The safety of your child is our highest priority.

Monday, September 21 is Individual Picture Day.

A reminder that next Friday, September 25, is a Professional Day.  School is closed for students.

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A Day in the Life of Kindergarten

IMG_0368We are super excited about tomorrow, our first full day with our whole class!

For three days last week our Kindergarten class participated in our school district’s Kindergarten Gradual Entry where half of the class each came to school for two hours a day.  Each child has an opportunity to meet their teacher and classmates, learn about the classroom routines and activities, all in a gently paced manner that best suits their needs as new learners in BC’s public school system.

Although we realise that the children are very eager to begin school with a full day, we use this time to teach and reinforce the classroom routines that form an important part of our classroom management, the foundation of good teaching practice. When the children are familiar and comfortable with these routines, they feel more confident and secure in knowing what to expect.  This knowledge helps them with their self-regulation so they feel calm, focused, relaxed, happy and ultimately, ready to learn.

Our Kindergarten children have started to walk the road to independence.  We always carefully think through each of the routines we wish to teach our new students.  Here’s some of what we did last week:

The children learned where their cloakroom hook is to place their backpacks, coats and extra bag of clothes, and how to line up patiently at the door for their teacher.

The children learned routines for how they wash and dry their hands before eating times.

The children learned how we manage our Activity Time play centres with four to a group, to share and take turns cooperatively, and to speak quietly and kindly our friends.

The children learned at Meeting Time that we listen with our whole body:  our eyes are looking at the teacher, our ears are listening to the teacher, our mouths are closed and our hands and feet are still.  One person may speak at a time so we can all enjoy listening to each other.

So what will we be doing tomorrow?  We’re going to share with you a page from our Kindergarten Handbook, “A Day in the Life of Kindergarten,” so as you are busy in your work day, you will have a sense of what your child is doing in school.

IMG_0635A Day in the Life of Kindergarten

Our day starts at 8:50 am when the children are gathering outside their classrooms. Parents are supervising their children until the teacher arrives and supporting their children in self-regulation by reminding them to wait quietly and calmly. Students are not to knock on the door. Students may be holding their library books to place in the library book bin, monthly homework calendars or other forms to return. At 5 years old, your children can independently bring those school items into the classroom.

When the teacher arrives, the children come into the classroom and may look at storybooks until the 8:55 bell rings. At Ridgeview our whole school stands and sings “O Canada.” During this time, students and parents in the hallway are expected to stop and sing, or quietly observe the national anthem.

School announcements from the office follow for the teachers and students. The teacher takes attendance, and that form is taken to the office by the Special Helper and the previous day’s Special Helper. The teacher then reviews the daily visual schedule so students know what to expect throughout the day. The visual schedule also helps the children to self-regulate through the day, as they can note the completion of each activity and see where break opportunities occur.

Activity Time, or Centres, provides a time for the children to play and socialize. There are a variety of activities available, from puzzles to drawing to the House Corner. Four children at maximum may play in a Centre at once. We try to regulate the Centres so that everyone who wants to play at a given activity gets a chance.

Our first Meeting Time of the day occurs after clean-up. Here, we sing the “Hello My Friends” greeting song, and then the Special Helper leads the class through Calendar Time, focusing on the days of the week, counting and patterning the dates and graphing the weather. We usually complete Alphabet, Theme related or writing activities, before recess.

At Ridgeview, the Kindergarten children eat their morning snack while the rest of the school is outside at recess. We always wash our hands before we eat. During snack time the children eat quietly while listening to music, and socialize quietly with their table friends. When Grades 1-7 return to their classes, we go outside to enjoy the playground on our own with the playground supervisors.

After recess is a time for quiet reflection before we begin Math activities. We may listen to quiet music, or complete the Core Practice (deep breathing) to relax and calm our bodies in anticipation of the next lesson.

The use of math manipulatives to develop conceptual understandings of patterning and number forms the basis of our Math learning. The children also learn to print their numerals with correct formation, study the basic geometric shapes and measure using non-standard units.

The Kindergarten visits the Library once a week for a lesson and book exchange. Our teacher-librarian bases her lessons on the Kindergarten themes, as well as a focus on fiction and non-fiction.

Additional lessons in Health and Career (HACE) occur on a weekly, or as needed, basis. During this time we teach Self-Regulation strategies, and lessons in Social Responsibility, empathy training, impulse control and problem-solving.

Our lunch routine is similar to recess in that the children place their lunch kits on the tables, wash their hands and then sit down to quietly enjoy eating their lunch with their peers. We try to keep the eating times quiet as eating is a self-regulating, calming activity. After eating, the children play outdoors on the playground with the rest of the school. The Kindergarten has a designated play area and are supervised by Ridgeview playground supervisors.

Each afternoon is a little different, but it usually begins with afternoon attendance and then a read aloud story and Sharing by the Special Helper. Depending upon our schedule, our class may have Physical Education, Music, Buddies or Art. We also typically have a Centre time which is focused on either Constructions (building), Literacy (reading, writing and math), Puzzles (group sharing and cooperation), Discovery Tables (inquiry) or Imaginary Play.

A short playtime and snack round out our busy day. We often have a short reflection time of our self-regulation, and take the time to appreciate ourselves and others.

Every Kindergarten day is a day filled with growing, learning and sharing.

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Ridgeview Kindergarten Communication

We’ve been working to provide a variety of streams of communication for our parents so that they are fully informed about their Kindergarten children’s progress, classroom and school.

This year our Kindergarten students will receive three formal, written report cards at the end of each term, in addition to the Parent-Teacher Intake Conferences and Student Led Conferences.

However, there is also a great deal of information to be shared about the children’s daily activities in the classroom and important school events and programs.  Last December marked the beginning of an exciting journey for Christy and I as we launched our Kindergarten website and blog, theselfregulatedteacher.com.

Although we write this website and blog for our Ridgeview Kindergarten classroom parents, we’ve been delighted by the warm reception we’ve received from our colleagues and the wider digital education community.

theselfregulatedteacher.com replaces our former weekly paper newsletter, incorporates our Kindergarten Handbook and blog posts.

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Blog Posts.  We usually post a new blog twice a week.  Sunday’s blog typically focuses on Kindergarten curriculum and Kindergarten related topics.  Friday’s posts will discuss what we’re doing in class, and include important classroom and school reminders and upcoming events.

About Us.  You can learn About Us, and our full story, “Becoming the Self-Regulated Teacher,” here.

2015-2016 School Year. All relevant information for this current school year, including links directly to the class newsletters, will be posted here.

Kindergarten Handbook.  We’re beginning to write, and collect in one place, important information for parents new to Ridgeview Kindergarten.  Here we give an overview of “how things work,” including school assembly expectations, playground expectations and recess and lunch routines.

Resources.  The foundation of our Kindergarten program is in the teaching and practise of self-regulation.  Under Resources there are links to self-regulation sites, a professional reading list and some of the supporting materials we use in the classroom.

Social.  Parents in our classes can subscribe to Remind to receive the text messages from their Kindergarten teacher.  But you can also follow us on Twitter @selfregteacher to learn when the latest blog has been posted.

Remind.  Remind is an app used by teachers to relay information to students (if they over 13 years of age), or in our case, parents of our students.  We use this app primarily for reminders such as Library Book Exchange or if the children need their runners for PE.  However, we also use Remind to send our parents the link every time we post on our blog.  Parents, if you have not yet subscribed to Remind and wish to receive the text messages for your Division, we sent home an instructions page with each student today.

FullSizeRenderThis Week in Our Room:  September 9-11, 2015

We’ve had a wonderful opportunity to get to know your children in the past three days through the Kindergarten Gradual Entry.  We’ve been able to carefully review the classroom expectations and daily routines, and practise them in a small group format.  The children have benefited from the slower pace as they’ve adjusted to their new teachers, classmates and classroom.

We are looking forward to beginning our regular Kindergarten program on Monday with our whole class.  Our children will need two snacks and lunch each school day, as we usually have a break in the afternoon, in addition to the morning recess.  Please note we begin at 8:50 am, although students are welcome to enter the main building at 8:45 am.

Please also pack an additional change of clothing to leave at school for your child in case of a bathroom accident, rainy day or playground mud.  You may leave it in a small bag to hang on your child’s cloakroom hook.

We spent some time going over the playground rules for Kindergarten.  The children know that although there are some areas of the playground they might be allowed to visit with their parents, as a class we would not be able to due to supervision concerns.  More information about the Ridgeview Kindergarten playground boundaries can be found here.

Reminders:

Today the verification packages were sent home.  You’ll need to complete these forms and return them to school.  Please note that the adults you designate for your emergency pick-ups does not preclude you from informing us if you are not picking up your children on a specific day.  We like to know specifically if you are not meeting your children at the end of the day so that we can ensure their safety by releasing them to the correct adult.

We sent home the September Homework calendar today.  Please consider doing these fun little homework activities, check each one off and bring it back completed for a sticker on October 1!

Parent-Teacher Intake Conferences will be held for Kindergarten students only on Thursday, September 17 and Friday, September 18.  Dismissal will be at 12 pm for both days.  Today we sent home the Developmental Questionnaire for you to complete for your child.  Please bring this questionnaire with you to school for your scheduled conference. The sign-up schedule will be posted outside of our classrooms on Monday.

We begin our interviews at 12:10 pm so please pick-up your child promptly on our conferences days.  If you are not here to pick up by 12:05 pm, please collect your child from the school office.

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Setting Up the Self-Regulated Classroom

Although it’s the first day of school across British Columbia, here in West Vancouver our Kindergarten children do not start school until tomorrow.  Their Gradual Entry Program begins on Wednesday when we will welcome small groups into the classroom over the next few days, and provide the children with time to familiarize themselves with us, the classroom routines and their new classmates in a gentle and unhurried manner.

For the past week we’ve been busy setting up our classrooms, and we’ve been doing so with an eye to the children’s self-regulation.

Of course we will be specifically teaching the children about the Zones of Regulation, identifying feelings and emotions and exploring mindfulness.  But there are also some things we can do to prepare the physical environment of our classrooms to support self-regulation.

Stuart Shanker, in Calm, Alert and Learning: Classroom Strategies for Self-Regulation, reminds us that a classroom environment with reduced visual and auditory distractors can help students to concentrate better.  Here are some of his main points, and what we’ve been doing in our classrooms.

Lots of natural light.  We both have lots of windows to appreciate the natural light which flows into our classrooms.  Sometimes we will lower the blinds but in the “open” position so we can still have light.  Our windows also have a special reflective coating on them so the children can see outside; however, others are unable to see in.

Minimum of artificial light.  We keep the overhead lights IMG_4498“off” in the classroom generally, although the grey, cloudy days make the room quite dark.  Sometimes one bank of lights turned is on because it’s necessary for reading and printing!  We’ve purchased several lamps (or cast-offs from home) to provide some atmosphere and they make the classroom feel warm and cosy.

Soft paint colours in a non-gloss finish.  As teachers we don’t often have a lot of choice in the paint finish of our classrooms; we both have the standard “white.”  Christy’s cupboards are a soft blue and mine are naturally finished so we are fortunate in that regard.  We’re just happy to freshly painted classrooms and that our classrooms schools are beautifully maintained by our District Facilities group.

IMG_1654No vibrant colours.  Not living with colour in the classroom is something we have both struggled with.  We love colour:  colour energizes us, inspires us, provokes creativity, brings us happiness, and is necessary for our mental well-being.  We know there are many self-regulated classrooms which have gone with a neutral colour scheme, but that wasn’t for us.  We spend many hours in our classrooms so our compromise has been to decorate our classrooms in a blue (to suggest the sky or ocean) and green (to suggest fields and forest) colour scheme, both of which bring a sense of calm and tranquility to our teaching, and therefore, the children’s self-regulation.

This year we also tried something different.  Instead of using paper to cover our bulletin boards, we used broadcloth to help absorb the sound better, plus being more environmentally responsible as fading should be less and the fabric won’t need to be replaced every year or two.

IMG_4500Organise everyday materials and put away other supplies.  In continuing with our blue and green colour scheme, we have primarily blue and green baskets to organise the children’s table school supplies, plus some pink for fun.  We place all daily school supplies (crayons, gluesticks, scissors, felt pens) in their baskets in a designated, labelled bookcase, and teach the children in the first weeks of school how to give out and put away the baskets.

The rest of the children’s school supplies for the year are stowed away in the cupboards.

We use clear tubs of for organizing Math manipulatives and Activity Time toys and shelving/tub systems for areas such as the Imagination Station.

Reduce wall clutter.  We don’t like any kind of clutter; we find it overstimulating and not helpful in our own self-regulation.  We use our bulletin boards for displaying student art work.  The children, and us, need to be surrounded by the beauty of their own creations, and to develop an appreciation of their own, and others, efforts.

We display only what we deem essential:  Alphabets, number line, our Math Their Way calendar, math rotation groups and the Visual Schedule.  Although we are often printing Alphabet letters, recording our brainstorming and demonstrating art projects, these charts usually come down or are put away soon after we’ve finished using them.

IMG_4502Tennis balls (“Hush-Ups”) on the chairs.  The sound of the chairs banging against the table legs and floor was one we endured for many years until we were able to order these “Hush-Ups”  through a Parent Advisory Council (PAC) grant for self-regulation materials last year.

 

 

Carpets on the floor.  My classroom is carpeted so the noise level is generally quite low.  Christy’s classroom is not carpeted but she was able to purchase, through the PAC grant, additional small carpets for some of her play areas to reduce the noise.  All the teachers in our school were fortunate to be able to select a beautiful, decorative carpet for our classrooms, paid for by our PAC.

Room organisation.  Although it seems logical that every classroom needs a quiet area for Meeting Time, sitting and discussion, the physical classroom itself does not always lend itself easily to determining where that might be.  Our Alphabet carpet area is the quiet space, and we’ve tried to surround it with low storage units or bookcases and the Special Helper’s chair to make it feel safe and enclosed.  We both have our quiet space deep into the classroom and well away from the door to help eliminate unnecessary distractions.

Well, our classrooms are ready, supplies are in their baskets and the activities are on the tables for the children.  We’re all ready for the Kindergarten and looking forward to facilitating their new journey as self-regulated learners.

 

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