Self-Regulation Tool: Zen Shorts

IMG_2455There’s something to be said for a clean, calm and spare environment.

Today’s view of the dollhouse found us in a self-regulating frame of mind, and that feeling led us to one of our favourite books, Zen Shorts (2005) by the amazing Jon Muth.

Zen Shorts tells the story of Michael, Addy and Karl, a family of children who meet Stillwater, a panda who has moved into their neighbourhood.  Stillwater shares life lessons in story format with each of the children.  Through his gentleness, grace and wisdom, the children learn about understanding, forgiveness, tolerance and perspective in their own lives.

IMG_2458We wondered how our children might be able to relate to the stories, or if the symbolism and imagery was too sophisticated.  However, we were delighted how each of them was able to not only understand the stories at a literal level, but they also tried to make some deeper connection to their own life experiences in our discussions that followed.

Do you know that blissful sigh that comes after reading a great book, the feeling of satisfaction, the feeling of deep contentment when the words, the meaning and the illustrations, which are just so perfect for the story, all come together beautifully?  Well, we did just that…sigh…it’s just SUCH a great book.

Jon Muth has written several other books with Stillwater, the panda:

Zen Ties (2008)

Zen Ghosts (2010)

Zen Socks (2015)

This Week in Our Room:  January 25-29, 2016

As faithful Vancouverites, we love to talk about the weather.  So for this week, we wanted to note that our children should all have a warm coat to wear, gloves and a hat, if necessary.  A lightweight windbreaker is not quite enough, unless paired with a warm vest.  Most should be able to do up their zipper independently; although we, and our monitors can support the children, if necessary.  We realize that some of the children do not like to go outside when it’s rainy and cold; however, part of Westcoast living means not only enjoying the warm and mild days, but enduring the endless cold, rainy and wet ones as well.

Please check with your child each day to see if you need to take home wet pants and socks after your child changed at recess or lunch.  The wet weather has meant that quite a few children are getting wet from playing or going down the slide, puddle jumping or just the rain blowing sideways.  They need to bring extra dry clothes to change into for the next day in their backpacks.  Please note:  a few children end up changing after the morning recess, get wet again at lunch and need to change one more time to be comfortable for the afternoon.  They should probably have two pairs of pants and socks when it’s really rainy.

FullSizeRender-25During weekly Library time, our Teacher-Librarian, Mrs. Kennedy, read aloud Orca Chief, by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Bud, to our children.

We have been focusing on First Nations animal motifs as part of our Aboriginal Education studies. This month we are focusing on the orca whale.  Last term we had learned about the Bear. 

We learned lessons about thankfulness, and to be grateful for what we have.  We also learned that “orca” is another word for “killer whale.”

IMG_4954We’ve been busy creating more fabulous Winter Art this week.  Here is our “Winter Snowmen at Night” inspired by
Snowmen at Night (Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner) and the “Winter Snowman Collage Art Lesson” by Patti at Deep Space Sparkle. We painted our “snow” backgrounds on dark blue construction paper, then drew the snowmen with pastels using directed drawing instructions.  The children love using pastels more than any other colouring tool because of the intensity and wide variety of colours.  Instead of dusting our snowmen with glitter, we used Sparkle Mod Podge, which we purchase at Michaels Craft Stores.  It dries quickly and gives a really nice finish when you want to add a little sparkle (and really, who doesn’t everyone want a little more sparkle in their lives?  We can never get enough).


Upcoming Dates and Reminders

We’re skating on Thursday, February 4.  Please email your child’s teacher with your child’s skate size if your child is renting skates.  It helps to make the process go much faster at the arena.

Mrs. Daudlin:

Mrs. Campbell/Mrs. Cantlie:

Friday, February 5 is Reading Break and Monday, February 6 is the Family Day holiday.  We will resume school on Tuesday, February 9.

Wash Your Hands!

IMG_0575We didn’t post a blog last week because I (Andrea) was sick with the stomach flu…and what a flu that was!  The entire family, starting with the teenagers, went down within a matter of five days.  That’s how contagious it is.   In fact, our family doctor, when informed that the teenagers were both sick, predicted that Brad and I would also get it.  I thought he was joking.  After all, we’re both dedicated hand washers and we both got the flu shot but he was right:  it was not enough to stop this particular strain.

When flu season begins, it’s always in the back of our minds with the Kindergarten.  Because we share all school supplies and learning resources, from pencils to crayons to puzzles to the individual write boards, we are well aware of how quickly germs can spread in the classroom, and then to students’ families and beyond.  There are lots of toddler and preschooler siblings, plus many grandparents in our school dropping off and picking up so we are well aware of the far-reaching impact the flu can have.

One of the most important things we can do to help prevent the spread of germs is to wash our hands.  We’ve always been diligent about hand washing, trying to find the balance between common sense hygiene and borderline fanaticism.  We don’t wish to appear as germophobes, nor do we want to create a sense of anxiety around it for the students.

So we’ve created routines around hand washing in class, before we eat at snack and lunch, always after using the bathrooms, and after nose blowing.  Thank you to all the parents in our classes who have been teaching their child to independently wipe, or blow, his or her nose.  If the children forget to cough in their elbow and cough into their hands instead, we’re also asking them to wash their hands.  As the adults in our children’s lives, it’s important for us to teach and re-teach, model and follow through on good hand washing etiquette ourselves.

To learn more on protecting yourself and your family to stay healthy, please visit the Vancouver Coastal Health website at

Upon my return to the classroom, we had a little discussion about why, when I was sick, did I stay at home instead of coming to school, even though I really missed the class.  The children knew right away that I wasn’t feeling well so that’s why I stayed at home, but some of them also understood that I did not want any of them, or their family, to get sick.  By staying home and getting better, so I felt healthy and had the energy and stamina to be teaching all day, to be able to calmly and patiently deal with any problems, meant that when I was back in the classroom we would all enjoy ourselves.

Last year Christy and I wrote a very popular post, “Your Kindergarten Child’s Good Health,” that we’re reblogging here today.  If your child is sick, please keep your child at home until they are feeling strong enough to cope with the full school day.  Whether teacher or student, coming to school healthy is for the mutual benefit of us all.

Your Kindergarten Child’s Good Health

barbieWe have worked hard at reminding your children to wash their hands after blowing their nose, using the bathroom and before eating, but Kindergarten children are five years old and cannot possibly remember every instruction every time. We appreciate your support in reminding your child about these good habits when at home and school.

With our return to school, and the advent of flu season upon us, we thought it would be a good time to talk about when your Kindergarten child is sick.

Every year we are informed by parents at drop-off time that their child has “a little cough,” “a little fever” or “a bit of a runny nose” but is still well enough to come to school.

When a child is sick, as parents we have a responsibility to not only to care for our child but we also have a responsibility to the classroom and school communities.

A sick child should stay at home, for the mutual benefit of the child, the classroom students and teaching staff. It is good parenting to decide that your child should rest and recover quietly in bed. A child who is given one, two or even three days, to stay at home will get better faster, and be stronger and more able to fight the next cold or illness in the classroom.

We realize as working parents ourselves that it is not always convenient to have your sick child stay at home, as it means taking a day off, or more, from work. However, there are many implications of having a sick child at school.

A sick Kindergarten child often feels fragile, prone to tears and wanting his or her parents. Sending your children to school sick and feeling poorly sets them up for failure, not success.

When the children are sick, they do not have the energy to focus on the lessons of the day. It is very difficult for them to self-regulate their emotions in the classroom context. They lack the patience, because they do not feel well, to cope with challenging schoolwork, possible conflicts with their friends and making good choices.

Sometimes a sick child may still wish to come to school. But in the classroom we are very close to each other in proximity. The children are playing at Centre Time quite close together. They sit close together while eating at the tables. They still hold each others’ hands. Because our supplies are shared, including crayons, scissors, gluesticks and pencils, a sick child at school increases the risk of spreading infection to the rest of the children in the class.

Your child will enjoy their school experiences much more when they return to school rested and healthy!


Winter is the Season

FullSizeRender-23This Week in Our Room:  January 19-22, 2016

The January days are really speeding by.  We couldn’t believe that we’re already three weeks into this month with only one more to go!

While the first term at school has traditionally been a time to focus on classroom routines and expectations, developing pro-social skills and positive work habits, and growth in self-regulation and emotional maturity, the second term is our opportunity to deepen the children’s learning and understanding of the core concepts and competencies.  And with our Kindergarten classes well settled into their classes, self-regulation strategies practiced and in use, it’s time to move forward in their study of different themes and areas of inquiry.

At this time of year, our Unit of Inquiry: Penguin Edition continues to be a joint collaboration with our Grade 7 Big Buddies.  We enjoyed another week of teaching questioning skills and using the 5Ws What, Who, When, Where, Why (and How?) to help the children reframe their guesses into questions when trying to solve the puzzle of the Mystery Box.  We completed another page using Book Creator on Penguin Habitat after completing some research about the Antarctic with our Buddies.

FullSizeRender-22This term we are working on developing the concept of Number in Math.  The children are using a variety of math manipulatives, including those they are comfortable and familiar with through previous explorations, patterning, and sorting and classifying activities, along with the addition of some new ones, to create number sets, count, sequence, add-on and take-away from a specific number.  They use the manipulative objects to demonstrate their learning at the concrete level, and then again at the connecting level through drawing and recording their observations.

A blog post from us is never complete without a quick mention of our ArtIMG_2424 and Literature theme on Winter.  The children’s Mitten and Snowman hangers was another chance to revisit Patterns on our mittens, and some fun mixed media for the snowman.  Our inspiration for this project were the books The Mitten by Jan Brett and Snowballs by Lois Ehlert.

IMG_2423The Snowglobes were an absolute joy to make with our classes; many of the children brought in a snowglobe for their Christmas sharing so we were pleased to be able to build on our shared experience with this detailed and sparkling rendition.


Upcoming Events and Reminders

Please remember to return your ice-skating permission forms as soon as possible.  We would appreciate as much parent help as possible on our two days, Thursday, February 4 and 18,  with the skate lace-ups so please mark these days on your calendar.

Our classes are expected to go outside for the morning recess and lunch, even when it’s raining.  Although we occasionally keep the children inside if it’s an absolute deluge, part of enjoying living on the Westcoast is the lovely temperate weather and with that comes the rain.  Your children should wear their boots and a jacket, preferably with a hood (or hat), for the rainy season at school.  When we come inside, children are expected to change their boots to inside shoes which they can put on independently; it’s important to us to keep our classroom carpets as clean and dry as possible as we sit and play on the carpets everyday.  If your children prefer to wear lace-up runners, please take some time to teach them how to tie their own laces as this is not a skill we teach in Kindergarten.  We do not allow the children to use umbrellas on the playground as it’s a safety issue, so these may be kept at home.

If you child has an upcoming birthday and would like to bring a nut-free/peanut-free snack for the class, please let us know, particularly if you are in Mrs. Daudlin’s class, with our upcoming 7 February birthday celebrations (a new all time high for birthdays in a single month).


IMG_0689At the end of the Christmas holidays, our West Vancouver School Superintendent Chris Kennedy (@chrkennedy), proposed through his blog for educators to think of a single word that might reflect their hopes and goals for the new year, a single word that would link their professional aspirations and personal pursuits….

It’s typical of us to take a journey, creating our own pathway as we always do, as we searched for that one word (which turned out to be pretty elusive in the end) that would capture the essence of what we hope to accomplish this year.  And no, our one word did not turn out to be journey.

Admittedly, our first attempt at a word that reflected our personal hopes and goals was minimalism.  But that was because we were both in the throws of packing up Rubbermaid containers with Christmas decorations and dealing with a fridge full of uneaten leftovers.  The laundry baskets were overflowing (could any of these pieces of clothing be worn more than once before washing?) and the dishwasher was running twice a day (note to the teenagers:  it’s ok to wash dishes by hand).  We don’t think minimalism in the professional sense should be misconstrued as working less or less hard; but rather, prioritizing what’s most important to focus on fewer goals and successfully meet all of them.  But we weren’t quite sure if minimalism was the one word for us, even though it’s a movement we very much admire.

So then we thought about some words we associate with self-regulation:  calm, peaceful, and focused.  We love all of those words and certainly work towards creating calm and peaceful classroom environments for our students to support their self-regulation so they can focus on classroom learning.  From a professional standpoint, we know that the teacher’s ability to be self-regulated, to be able to communicate one’s thoughts and emotions and how we work through those emotions (down-regulating from upset or frustrated to calm; or up-regulating from tired or sleepy to focused) is a major factor in how well our students learn to self-regulate.  It’s a professional goal that would also have many positive personal implications (and vice versa) but we’ve been teaching with self-regulation as the foundation of our Kindergarten program the past few years and it feels like we’re cheating if we select one of these words which already embodies who we are and what we do.

We dug a little deeper still, and in thinking further about our goals for this year we paused at the word self-reflection.  As professional teachers we engage in a great deal of self-reflection:  we’re always reflecting on the lessons we taught, how we might have taught a concept in a different manner and what we will have to change in our reteaching.  We reflect on what motivates our students to engage in a particular lesson, or what the circumstances were that caused unexpected behaviours amongst the class.  Writing this website has played a large part in our professional growth and development as we read, research and reflect on our teaching practise to write about issues and topics that pertain to Kindergarten.  As for personal goals, the amount of time we’ve already spent in self-reflection and self-recrimination for not having met those goals has determined that what our one word for this year should be is balance.

We find ourselves talking a lot about balance.  It’s something many of us strive for…but is it really attainable?  On a consistent basis?  Like most others, we’ve been trying to find the perfect “work/life balance” to balance work life, family life and personal wellness for years.  It’s a journey, if you will, of being mindful and fully present of where you are in your day, an awareness of what you’re balancing at that exact moment. It’s a unicorn we struggle with on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis depending upon our time, age and circumstance.  Professionally, we try to balance the children’s time for play, time for literacy, time for math, time to just allow their imaginations to run free; personally we try to balance family time, personal time, maintenance time for home and garden, time for health, spiritual and mental wellness.  Is balance our one word, that will link together the goals for our professional and personal lives? We’re not sure, it doesn’t leave us feeling completely happy or satisfied with our choice.

So we thought that maybe happy is our one word.  

Because isn’t happy all any of us ever want, hope or aspire to be, no matter where we are in our lives?  We know that being happy doesn’t mean that everything is going to be easy.  Life is full of challenges that serve only to stretch us, to help us find our best possible self.  But even though those times may be difficult, hopefully we can still come out ok on the other side.  We think happy fits.  It’s where we want to be.

We choose happy, and to be happy, as our word for 2016.


Happy New Year!

IMG_2389We’re back to school and ready to go!

It’s always such a delight teaching the Kindergarten, and none more than in January when we see such a huge jump in the children’s growth and maturity.  They are very ready to return to their classrooms and able to take on more and new learning challenges.  It’s an exciting for them as we begin to explore more deeply mathematical understandings, the rich language of themed based literature and using small equipment in PE activities.

As well, we’re starting our first digital literacy project on Penguins with FullSizeRender-10our Grade 7 Buddies on our school iPads using the app Book Creator this month.  We will be combining our weekly Buddy session with a Mystery Box Inquiry, where we place a mystery object in a special box, and the children ask questions to figure out what is in the box.  Developing strong questioning skills will be a focus for our classes as part of inquiry based learning here at Ridgeview.

After an absence such as the Christmas holidays, it’s important to return to a routine and no one appreciates that more than Christy and myself.  We love routines so much at school, and home, that we’ve written a couple of blog posts about them.

Our Kindergarten Classroom Routines

Start the Kindergarten Day Off Right!

Our children are settling well back into their classroom routines with some gentle reminders.  Thank you as always, for your kind support, in helping us to teach your children to be the best that they can be!

This Week in Our Room:  January 4-8, 2016

Thank you very much for reading our post Food for Thought and reflecting on your child’s lunch food choices.  We are noticing more children are eating and enjoying homemade lunches, and those eating food from the hot lunch program are finding their orders delicious and manageable.  For your interest, many families reduced their hot lunch order or opted out of the program this term.

Our classes were delighted to be able to take out a Library Book this week and we look forward to listening to many good books with Mrs. Kennedy.

We also made our January self-portraits this week!


Upcoming Events and Reminders

Monday, January 11, is Canucks Spirit Day!  Please wear your Canucks gear, or green and blue, to give our local National Hockey League team some support!

We sent home the ice-skating permission forms this week.  Please return your child’s form and cheque soon.  We would so appreciate as many parents as possible to meet us at the arena on our skating days to help lace the children into their skates.  It’s a very big job and made so much easier for everyone with extra adult help.

We are both still missing report card folders in both classes.  Please check one more time at home if you still have yours at home.  We would like to be able to use folders for the second and third term report cards.

Here’s a reminder again about the children’s schedules:

Division 15 (Mrs, Campbell and Mrs. Cantlie)

Monday: Library (please return your library book)

Tuesday: Music; PE (please bring runners to school to wear in the gym)

Wednesday: Big Buddies (most Wednesday’s)

Thursday: Music; PE (please bring runners to school to wear in the gym)

Division 16 (Mrs. Daudlin)

Monday:  PE (please bring runners to school to wear in the gym)

Tuesday:  Library (please return your library book); Music

Thursday:  Music

Friday:  PE (please bring runners to school to wear in the gym ); Big Buddies (most Friday’s)