We’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.
Our 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.
Math, 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.
Self-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.
Understanding 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.
Setting 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.