The Self-Regulated Teacher

Our personal journey towards self-regulation in Kindergarten

Happy Easter from the Self-Regulated Teacher

IMG_2674Happy Easter to all of our little Kindergarten Bunnies!  And the Big Bunnies, too.  There’s more than enough chocolate to go around.

Easter was a rather quiet affair this year in the Kindergarten, as the holiday was incorporated into our spring break this year (which we’re still on, until Tuesday).

However, far be it for us to let a holiday go by without some festivities!

We decorated our classroom as always….we know, very un-regulated of us, but it’s the holidays which are part of our tradition to celebrate all of the great festivals in our culture, even if it’s just a little bit.  And we can’t begin to tell you how much the children appreciate the beauty of our Easter trees and all the little decorations.

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In some ways we also consider this an opportunity to teach them that we can appreciate things just by looking, that we don’t have to touch everything.  They love to ask us questions about where we got our pretty objects, how long we’ve had them for, and we are able to teach them the importance of looking after one’s belongings and how to take care of them.  More life lessons from the Kindergarten….

 

IMG_2693We read some very beautiful storybooks about Easter.

  • Max’s Chocolate Chicken (Rosemary Wells)
  • Max Counts His Chickens (Rosemary Wells)
    • The Bunny Who Found Easter (Charlotte Zolotow and Helen Craig)

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We didn’t have a traditional egg hunt, but we filled plastic eggs with jelly beans, Easter grass and some cut out letters to spell a special greeting….

 

Wishing you and your Bunnies a very Happy Easter!

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The Self-Regulated Teacher’s Top 5 Most Read Posts for Term Two, January-March 2016

IMG_0728We’ve just finished the first week of our spring break, and have taken some time to get caught up on household duties, skiing, concerts, shopping, and future blog post ideas and scheduling.

But it also reminded us it’s the end of Term Two for our classes, and as usual we like to wrap it up with a summary and links to our top 5 most read posts in case you missed them.

IMG_1854Our Kindergarten Classroom Routines

Although teachers typically establish classroom routines in September, we’ve learned over the years that teaching routines is not something that can be done once and never referred to again.  Routines of any kind, for our students and ourselves as adults, need to be practiced and reinforced over and over to become a good habit and part of the natural way we do things.  So it is every autumn that we begin teaching routines to our new Kindergarten students on the first day of the Gradual Entry Program.  Routines provide calm and comfort for the children, particularly for transitions between activities.  The children have a sense of safety and security when they know what is expected not only of them, but their classmates as well.

IMG_2478Math, the Kindergarten Way

We wrote this blog last April and we’re excited that it continues to remain informative for parents and teachers.  We’re still faithful to the basic principles of Math Their Way even after many years of teaching, a variety of new programs and new directions.  Math Their Way is just right for young children:  it is a manipulative based math program that focuses on developing a deep understanding of math concepts at the concrete (manipulative) level before the children start to make the connections between the concrete and abstract.  Every math unit we plan, from Patterning, to Sorting and Classifying, Number and Geometry and Measurement, begins with the manipulatives and planned time for the children to explore over a number of days before we begin direct instruction.

BreathingBallSelf-Regulation Tool:  The Breathing Ball

This little blog on the Breathing Ball (aka the Hoberman Sphere) has been visited often since we originally posted it in February 2015 .  We continue to use the Breathing Ball daily, either after the morning or lunch recess, to provide an important visual for our students for the deep breathing practise that we take so seriously in the Kindergarten.  Our dear SEA who retired last year always said to the children, “your breath is your friend.”  When we are out and about, in a hallway line-up to enter the gym for an assembly, waiting for our turn to perform at the Christmas Concert or anticipating a special snack, we turn to our “friend” and breathe deeply and calmly to help us focus so that we are always relaxed and ready to receive whatever the day is about to bring to us.

IMG_2474Understanding Phonological Awareness as Part of a Balanced Approach to Reading Instruction

A significant part of our Kindergarten program is to build upon the children’s phonological awareness, which has been developing since they were young.  In our school district we assess our students’ early literacy skills at the end of January, such as alphabet names and sounds, initial and final sounds of words and segmenting and blending skills, with a follow-up assessment in late spring.  For us, planning a balanced approach to reading instruction includes developing phonemic awareness and phonics instruction, along with the songs, rhymes and poems, read-aloud stories, environmental print, shared reading and independent reading opportunities that are a part of a rich, oral language experience.

IMG_2584Setting Up the Self-Regulated Classroom

This year we made some significant changes to the physical arrangement of our classrooms based upon suggestions from Stuart Shankar (@StuartShankar) in his book Calm, Alert and learning:  Classroom Strategies for Self-Regulation.  From increasing our use of natural light, soft wall colours, uniform organisation of materials and noise reduction strategies, we are better able to support our students’ self regulation through the creation of a calm and peaceful learning space.

 

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Waiting for Spring

FullSizeRender-1Well, we’ve certainly given our boots and raincoats a workout this week.  The weather has been it’s usual Vancouver self – rainy, moody and tempestuous.  The playground has been soaked with rain and we’ve brought more than our share of woodchips into the hallways and cloakroom areas.  We’ve been creative in using our outdoor undercover play space for running games, eating cupcakes and chalk play when the rain is pelting down just a little too hard.

IMG_2684But we know Spring is just around the corner.  The air is cold, but softer than the icy winter wind. The children want to take off their jackets which is a sure sign.  We’ve tried to take advantage of every burst of bright sunshine glowing behind the clouds to get outside and play.  And we’ve got daffodils blooming in the school gardens so the gardeners among us are getting excited about the upcoming planting and growing season.

IMG_0692Another sign of Spring is the celebration of Nowruz, the Persian New Year.  And so this week we celebrated Nowruz, in our classrooms.  Thank you to all our parents for their wonderful planning and organization to make this a special day for our Kindergarten children and for teaching us about this important cultural event.  Nowruz traditionally occurs around the first day of Spring.

In addition to some fun crafts, colouring and snacks, our parents set up a beautifully decorated display, the “Haft Sin” table.  In the Farsi language, “Haft Sin” means the Seven S’s, as there are seven items on the table that begin with the letter S.  Each of the items is a symbol of an important aspect in life:

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  • Sabzen (wheat sprouts) for Rebirth
  • Sib (apple) for Beauty and Health
  • Sir (garlic) for Medicine
  • Serkeh (vinegar) for Age and Patience
  • Sumac for the Colour of the Sunrise
  • Senjed (silver berry) for Love
  • Samanu (sweet pudding) for Affluence from “Nowruz (SimplyExplained)”

There were many other lovely items on the table including a hyacinth, fruit basket, sweets, mirrors, coins, decorated eggs, candles and a glass bowl with fish.  One of our parents explained that the fish represented movement, or moving forward into the new year, leaving the old year behind.

This Week in Our Room:  March 7-11, 2016

The children were able to take out a library book this week for the two-week spring break holiday.  Here are some important and helpful reminders from Mrs. Kennedy, our Teacher-Librarian:

  • Leave your library book at home while travelling over spring break.  We’ve had some difficulty in the past years when families have taken the children’s library books on planes, trains and automobiles.  The books were left in holiday homes and hotels and (almost) impossible to get them back.
  • Your library book has been borrowed by your child.  Please safeguard your library books from younger brothers and sisters.
  • Please also be mindful of pet proximity to your library book as it will be home for a longer time period than usual

Our classes were not able to complete the Vision, Hearing and Dental screeners with all students, so Vancouver Coastal Health nurses will return after Spring Break to finish checking all the children.

We’re coming to the end of our Penguin Inquiry student, so we made these little cuties!

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We wish everyone a safe and happy spring break, and we’ll see everyone back at school on Tuesday, March 29.

 

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Art Lesson: Snowy Owlets

FullSizeRender-13Christy and I were recently asked if we teach art in small groups or as a full class lesson.  The answer?  Both!  Like most things, it really depends upon the task and if we think the children (and us) are able to manage the art tools, techniques and processes we want to use in a full class setting, which is definitely our preference at this point in the school year.  We’re both well aware that in a few short months our children will be in Grade One and we need to provide them with art experiences and opportunities to be fully independent in a classroom of their peers.  However, if we are at all doubtful, or as circumstances dictate (like this week), we will then opt for small group work; this takes longer, but gives us more control so we can provide the correct level of support for those children who require more.

One of our favourite painting projects is the Snowy Owls from Patty Palmer’s fantastic website Deep Space Sparkle.  (You can click on the link for her lesson description with lots of examples).  We’ve taught this art piece several times and always enjoy it as a full-on painting experience with the Kindergarten.  However, one of the children made the observation that these were baby owls, not adult ones, so we renamed our project to Snowy Owlets.

We like to use soft, bright colours for the painted background.  We had previously set the tables with paper and paint while the children waited at the carpet.  We always go over our expectations during a meeting time at the carpet before the children move to their seats, as there can be too many distractions on the table for them to listen fully to the instructions.  The children were assigned to tables with the understanding that “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset” in terms of background colour.  We use that expression a lot and the children always accept it with good humour.

We have a real mish mash of paintbrushes this year.  Lots of long handled paintbrushes and not enough short handled ones for small hands.  Quite a few children were willing to work with a full size brush, even though it can be unwieldy because of the length of the handle. These children felt they could manage because of their previous painting experiences and they did a great job!  The children’s self-regulation while we handed out brushes and individually negotiated sizes was remarkable as this task takes some time.

Time now for a little Bach and Vivaldi and let the painting begin!

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After all the backgrounds are painted and dry, we flatten them out by placing the stack of papers under the puzzles for a few days.  A mostly flat surface, with no curling edges, makes painting the owlets much simpler.

Next, the children painted snow and the owlet bodies in white.  For the first time, I painted mine in small groups this year because we had no block long enough for me to paint with the whole class this week, so I squeezed in small groups during the morning Activity Time.  Christy painted her owl bodies with the whole class and you can see how beautifully all the children’s work turned out.

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The last step is the fine details.  Again, in groups of four, the children managed one palette of yellow, orange, brown and black paint between them.  They all painted the eyes yellow; the beaks orange; the branch brown; and finally did the outlining in black, in that order.  The children were troubled about dipping their brush into the next colour without cleaning it first, but they soon saw that the darkest colour absorbed the lighter ones they had used previously.

We just love our little owlets, real and painted!  Aren’t these super cute?!

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This Week In Our Room:  February 29-March 4, 2016

We’ve had lots of fun and excitement this week.

We had some very special visitors from West Vancouver Fire and Rescue come to see us on Wednesday.  Captain Marcia James and Assistant Chief Jeff Bush gave us a short talk on the role of firefighters in our community and some of the tools they use for fighting fires.  One of the most important things we learned is that firefighters do much, much more than just put out fires.  They are helping people all the time, from those who are very sick at home to those who might be injured in some way.  That is why we call them West Vancouver Fire and Rescue.

We had a special treat when the fire truck pulled onto the playground and the children were all able to climb up into the truck and sit on one of the seats.  Some of the children wore the firefighters’ headsets and very cute they were indeed!

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We saw the yellow hoses, played with one of the water valves, carried the jaws of life and tested out the weight of a firefighter’s helmet.  And we had quite a long discussion about the blocks used to stop the fire truck from moving, or rolling backwards, while the firefighters were working.

We will be writing more about our West Van Fire and Rescue visit in an upcoming blog post.

It might seem like we are on a bit of a bird theme (we’re not, but this just occurred to us) as we decided to get started on our March self-portraits using a penguin background.  How about these cuties?

On Friday we also welcomed the West Vancouver Secondary School Concert Band and Concert Choir.  Many members of these musical groups are Ridgeview alumni so it’s always wonderful for the school staff to see how beautifully our former students have grown up and continuing to pursue their musical passions.

Upcoming Events and Reminders

Ideally, we would have all Library Books returned before Spring Break, so please try to return your book on your appointed Library Day.  Division 15 Library Day is Monday and Division 16 Library Day is Tuesday.

We will be sending home the children’s report cards on Friday, March 11.  We are unable to send them home earlier than Friday.

Mayfair is Saturday, May 7, this year and it is always very fun!  We’re asking everyone for a donation of two goodie bags for the Tombola Challenge, so please return your two bags when you can.  We have examples in our classroom if you wanted to see some.  Thanks to those families who’ve already brought their bags to school.

School will dismiss early on Friday, March 11 at 2 pm.  This marks the beginning of Spring

Break, which includes Good Friday and Easter Monday this year.  School re-opens for the Spring Term on Tuesday, March 29.

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