The Self-Regulated Teacher

Our personal journey towards self-regulation in Kindergarten

A Huff and a Puff

FullSizeRender-21This week in our Fairy Tales study, we focused on “The Three Little Pigs,” illustrated by Georgien Overwater.  We’ve read several versions now, as a few children brought this story in for Sharing, and their choice has been our daily read-aloud book.  Each time we have a different retelling of a fairy tale, it’s been a wonderful opportunity to compare and contrast the characterizations and plot lines of the individual books.  In “The Three Little Pigs,” we read how the pigs are either eaten by the wolf, or safely club together in the brick house; different ways in which the wolf meets his end (each of them gravely acknowledged by the children) and observed additional details provided by the illustrator to enhance that particular version.  We’ve also read The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig (Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury), a reversal of the characters’ roles, to enhance our knowledge of the original story.

For our class activity, we recalled the main story events, illustrated each one, then cut apart and sequenced the pages in our mini-books.  Everyone was able to share their drawings and read their book aloud (from memory) at the carpet.

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We also each made a pig and hung them up with our wolves from “Little Red Riding Hood.”

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All of these stories create a rich and diverse understanding of Fairy Tales, which we consider an essential building block in the foundation of a child’s knowledge of children’s literature.  In the ensuing years, many books the children will read will make references to fairy tales, and they need some basic knowledge of the stories to understand at a deeper, more complex level.  The universal themes of good versus evil; the triumph of courageous, valiant young people over older, wicked archetypes (wolves, foxes, witches, uncles wishing to take over the throne); patterns of 3 (The Three Pigs, Goldilocks and The Three Bears) and “home is best” are ones that occur repeatedly in books.

We have a few more fairy tales to read over the next few weeks, and look forward to sharing our love and knowledge of these timeless, classic stories with our students.

This Week in Our Room:  May 24-27, 2016

Always after the Victoria Day weekend, the days just start to fly by.

IMG_0945Our bean plants really took off while we were away, and some had reached significant proportions.  We sent home the beans earlier this week as they were definitely ready for transplanting.  The pots are compostable so can be planted directly into a garden bed.  The beans could also be planted into a larger container at home.  But regardless of location, the plants should be staked so the vine does not get twisted on itself.  Happy growing!

Sports Day is now just a week away.  We sent home an information letter for you on Thursday this week.  Division 15 is on the Red Team and their letter was on red paper; Division 16 is on the Blue Team and their letter was on blue.  Please note that dismissal for Kindergarten is at 12 pm.  If your child is going to Camp Ridgeview for 12 pm, we ask you to please notify them as soon as possible so arrangements can be made.

A special Hot Lunch can be ordered for Sports Day. The link for this was in the Ridgeview Bulletin last Thursday, May 19.   If you decide to order lunch for yourself and your Kindergarten child, you can pick up your lunches at the kitchen (near the gym).  Please feel free to picnic on our school grounds as our classrooms will be closed.  The children know the location of the waste sorting bins on the playground to sort your lunch packaging after you’ve finished eating.

As we informed you last week, today we sent the children home with their first Home Reading book to read aloud to you.  Your child may find the book is too difficult;  in that case, please read the book aloud to your child, focus on a few specific skills (eg., look for words that begin with the same letter as your child’s first name, what is the letter name and the letter sound?).  Your child can tell us on Monday if the book was too hard, too easy or just right, and we can adjust.  There is further information for you in a letter in your child’s Home Reading ziploc.

 

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Kindergarten Home Reading Program

FullSizeRender-19We’re going to start our Kindergarten Home Program next week.  This will involve your child independently selecting a book from our Home Reading book collection to read at home with you.  We will be doing the book exchange on Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s.

We will start by selecting a book for your child which we think is in their reading range.  Your child can let us know at the next book exchange if it was too hard, too easy or just right.  We’ll do our best to adjust the books.  A letter will be included with your child’s first book, with more details and our expectations of the program.

Every child reads at his or own own level, and develops reading skills with practise and as they are developmentally ready.  At school, we have directly taught phonological awareness.  We’ve taught the alphabet letter names, alphabet sounds, identifying beginning and ending sounds and blending and segmenting skills.  These are skills which can all be reinforced at home.  Some of the children are continuing to learn their sounds, some know the basic sight words, and some are already reading.  We have found that this is the nature of the Kindergarten child:  as a class, their reading ability is pretty much all over the map.

We do know that daily reading aloud at home, where you are reading to your child, does make a difference.  They are learning literacy awareness, but more importantly, you are fostering a love of literature and reading that will stay with your children their entire lives.  When we consider what gifts we can give to our children, we’d say that one ranks near, or at the top of, the list.

This Week in Our Room:  May 15-19, 2016

Our beans have sprouted, and like any good gardener, we take so much joy in the small things.  Naturally, this generated a lot of excitement so we pulled out the magnifying glasses so we could get a closer look at exactly what’s going on with these tiny seedlings.

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We read “Little Red Riding Hood” this week for our Fairy Tale study.  We enjoyed reading several versions and looking for the common elements across the stories.  One of our favourites was the from the fairy tale collection, Yummy by Lucy Cousins.

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We’re continuing our work in Geometry, focusing on circles and spheres, squares and cubes.  Next week we explore rectangles.  

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As part of our unit, we read Shapes That Roll (Karen Sagel and Steve Wilson), Perfect Square (Michael Hall) and Mouse Shapes (Ellen Stoll).  

We really try to take advantage of the excellent children’s literature available to us as a way to enhance our lessons.  It provides us with another opportunity to model a love of reading and reading behaviour (what does a good listener do?), oral expression (a chance for us to use a variety of voices when reading aloud, pacing, statements versus questions) and a shared understanding of vocabulary and concepts.

Reminders and Upcoming Events

We are collecting donations of $2 or more between May 16-27 to support Cops for Cancer. West Vancouver Schools are partnering with the West Vancouver Police Department to support Cops for Cancer’s Tour de Coast ride, taking place in September 2016. Donations made to the Canadian Cancer Society through Cops for Cancer are used to fund life-saving research and support programs for children suffering from cancer.

There is Professional Day tomorrow, Friday, May 20th.  School is not in session.  Monday, May 23rd is Victoria Day.  We wish all of you a wonderful long weekend and look forward to seeing the children back at school on Tuesday!

On Friday, May 27th we will be starting our home reading program. Each Kindergarten child will be bringing home a home reading book in a Ziploc bag and a letter outlining how the program will work.

Friday, June 3 is Sports Day! We will be dismissing the Kindergarten at 12pm that day. You’ll be receiving your information letter on Thursday. Division 15 will be on the RED TEAM and Division 16 will be on the BLUE TEAM.

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Mystery Box Inquiry: Plant Edition

IMG_2819We’ve had a busy time working on our current Inquiry study on local plants.  It’s been beautifully timed with the gorgeous early summer weather we’re having right now in the Lower Mainland and so many flowers are in bloom.  This is one of our favourite units to teach as Christy and I are both avid gardeners ourselves, and we love to share our passion for plants and growing things with our students.

We try to teach by theme and connect as much across the curriculum as we can to give a rich learning experience for our students.  We love it when the vocabulary and content can be tied together within the curricular competencies.  So for our most recent round of “Sharing and Special Helper,” we asked all the children to bring in a “Sign of Spring” and many of them brought their favourite plants or flowers from their gardens.  Our students brought in rhododendrons, azaleas, tulips of all colours, daffodils, bluebells, wild poppies and a huge blossoming branch from an apple tree.  By the time we started our plant study, our class had all been exposed to a great variety of flowers and shrubs.  This is particularly important so that we have some similar experiences to refer to during our lesson discussions in the days to follow.

As we’ve mentioned earlier in our previous weekly newsletters, we started our Inquiry with a walk around our extensive school grounds. We stopped to name and discuss some of the plants we have growing in our school garden, and if the children had those same plants at home.  We listened for birds and the sound of our creek.  We also heard the springtime sounds of construction and lawnmowers.

Back in the classroom, we read  Living Things, by Melvin and Gilda Berger, to help reinforce the idea that living things grow, need food and often look like their parents when they grow up, as opposed to non-living objects.  We recalled the things we had seen on our walk, looked around for everyday things in our classroom and sort and categorised those items into living and non-living things, which the children recorded on their charts.

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In our next lesson, we read the delightful chapter, “The Garden,” from Frog and Toad are Friends (Arnold Lobel) which sent everyone, including the teachers, into hysterical laughter as Toad tries to grow his garden as beautifully as Frog.  After yelling at his seeds to GROW, Toad thinks he has scared his planted seeds so they are now afraid to grow.  Toad reads stories, poems, plays music and keeps the seeds company in the evening with candlelight.  The children concluded (and knew) that water, air, soil, food, time and love are essential plant needs.

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Time for a Mystery Box Inquiry!  We placed a variety of seeds in the Mystery Box.  The children asked some great questions to determine what was inside.  Even better, we had the first “checking questions” being asked…questions the children asked to confirm whether their idea was correct, or not.  Wow!  Talk about amazing curiosity and wonder.  The children loved sorting the seeds into groups and then matching them to the seed envelopes.

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We made our own seeds from a National Geographic learning resource we had on seeds.  We are enlarging our vocabulary to include seed coat, plant embryo, roots, stem, seedling, leaves, blossoms, germination and pollination.  

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The most exciting part of learning about plants, of course, is to plant our own seeds.  We’re growing Scarlet Runner beans because we can count on them to sprout (favourite word in the Kindergarten right now) quickly.  We purchased small compostable pots and brought in a trug full of potting soil and a small potting trowel.  After a few mishaps …lots of soil on the table and floor… we quickly realized a quick lesson on how to handle the trowel was needed.  Here are our beautiful little pots with their bean plant markers.  

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That’s Miss Pink, by the way, our trusty snail watering can, looking on.  We’ll follow up in a newsletter with how our beans have grown.  When thinking about the integration of curriculum, our bean plants will be a useful reference point when we teach “Jack in the Beanstalk” from our Fairy Tale literature unit, so the children can imagine where the giant’s castle is located.

By the time you read this post, we will have taught our last lesson on how seeds travel.  We’ve learned over the past few weeks from a variety of books that seeds can travel by air, water, on our clothing or dropped by animals after eating the surrounding fruit.  We were fortunate to have dandelions which had gone to seed brought in for Sharing and the children were all very familiar with what happens when they blow on those “puffballs”  and how the seeds travel.  Some of the children also knew about seeds clinging to their clothes after forest and meadow walks.

Here’s our current book list of plant books that we’ve been reading aloud to our classes, and some other beautiful stories with gardening and plants as interwoven themes.  We’re hoping you and your little gardener enjoy many happy years of gardening and reading together!

  • Once There was a Seed (Judith Anderson and Mike Gordon)
  • Living Things (Melvin and Gilda Berger)
  • Seed to Plant (Melvin and Gilda Berger)
  • All About Seeds (Melvin Berger and Anna DiVito)
  • Linnea in Monet’s Garden (Christina Bjork and Lena Anderson)
  • Grow Flower, Grow! (Lisa Bruce and Rosalind Beardshaw)
  • Flower Garden (Eve Bunting and Kathryn Hewitt)
  • Flowers (Vijaya Khisty Bodach)
  • Leaves (Vijaya Khisty Bodach)
  • Roots (Vijaya Khisty Bodach)
  • Seeds (Vijaya Khisty Bodach)
  • Miss Rumphius (Barbara Cooney)
  • In My Garden (Ermanno Cristini and Luigi Puricelli)
  • Growing Vegetable Soup (Lois Ehlert)
  • Planting a Rainbow (Lois Ehlert)
  • From Seed to Plant (Gail Gibbons)
  • Round the Garden (Omri Glaser, Byron Glaser and Sandra Higashi)
  • Nora’s Roses (Satomi Ichikawa)
  • How a Seed Grows (Helene J. Jordan and Loretta Krupinski)
  • The Carrot Seed (Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson)
  • Frog and Toad are Friends (Arnold Lobel)
  • Who is in the Garden (Vera Rosenberry)
  • This is the Sunflower (Lola M. Schaefer and Donald Crews)
  • Tops and Bottoms (Janet Stevens)
  • A Tree in a Forest (Jan Thornhill)
  • My Garden (Kevin Henkes)
  • Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt (Kate Messner)

 

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Just Another Week in the Kindergarten

We’ve had a really busy few weeks so it’s wonderful to get back to our regular timetable and everyday routines.  We appreciate structure, knowing what’s going to happen next and a certain amount of predictability.  It helps us personally with our own self-regulation and we know our students thrive on it.  Although there is excitement in the unknown, being flexible (one’s ability to self-regulate, cope and manage changes in a day) is a skill that is learned over a lifetime and one that we most certainly teach in the Kindergarten.  But we need to teach those concepts within the context of what familiar days and patterns look like so when our schedule is stable, we can accomplish a great deal.

What have we been up to?

IMG_2785Well, we officially finished our Alphabet Books last week with the “Z” page and painting zebra stripes for our “Z” craft.  But many children had missed out on some alphabet pages due to travel, sickness or a late start at Ridgeview.  So we had three days of finish-up for all the pages missed.  You can see from the photo that we had our alphabet charts displayed on the wall (and on the floor) for children to fill in their pictures, labels and printing.  The children were meticulous in diligently going through their books to figure out what pages were incomplete.  

This massive undertaking was taking place alongside preparations for Welcome to Kindergarten (Parent Information Evening on April 25; new Kindergarten student participation on April 27 and 28), our fabulous Student Led Conferences (May 4), Mother’s Day paintings (May 5) and classroom preparation (May 6) for our school’s Mayfair (May 7).  Our classrooms usually looks like this:

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But for the Silent Auction (my classroom) and Book Sale (Christy’s classroom), our classrooms looked like this:

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We want to thank the Kindergarten children and Grade 7 students for helping us to not only take down the classroom on Friday for Mayfair, but also for restoring the classroom again on Monday morning.

This Week in Our Room:  May 9-13, 2016

Our big excitement this week was taking our class photos and our school panorama photo!  It’s a special moment for us and our students to gather together for a photo the children will always remember as “my first school picture.”

IMG_2797We’ve been working hard on our Inquiry study on local plants.  We learned about how plants grow (germination, roots, stems, leaves, pollination) and we crafted our beautiful Plant folders.  We also had a Mystery Box Inquiry where we placed a selection of seeds in the Mystery Box and asked ten questions before guessing.  Then, we sorted and classified the seeds and matched the seeds to the plant envelopes.   We finished our last lesson today with “How Seeds Travel” and planted our bean seeds.

 

IMG_2807-1We started our next Math unit in Geometry.  We brainstormed all the geometric shapes we know and read Brown Rabbit’s Shape Book by Alan Baker.  We’re now starting to learn about the individual two and three dimensional shapes and their properties, beginning with circles and spheres.

 

We also launched our Fairy Tale literature study with Once Upon a Golden Apple by Jean Little, Maggie De Vries and Phoebe Gilman.  This delightful story makes plenty of references to nursery rhymes and fairy tales and we had lots of fun reciting the nursery rhymes we recognized and identifying the fairy tale titles from the hints in the story.  

Upcoming Events and Reminders

Friday, May 20, is a Professional Day for teachers.  Students are not in session.

Monday, May 23, is Victoria Day and school is closed for everyone.

Friday, June 3, is our Ridgeview Sports Day.  Please note that Kindergarten students will be dismissed at 12 pm that day.  If your child attends Camp Ridgeview, please be sure to let them know we will be dismissing early.  We will send out more information about our student expectations for Sports Day in the next two weeks.

 

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all of our classroom mothers!  We hope you enjoyed a lovely day with your children and the special art project your Kindergartener painted in celebration of you!

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This Week in Our Room:  May 2-6, 2015

We enjoyed seeing everyone at our Student-Led Conferences on Wednesday.  The Conference is a wonderful way for your children to communicate their learning to you, where you can experience first hand their learning environment, come to know the routines and expectations we have for them and enjoy their fabulous school books and projects.  The children were so excited all day and eagerly anticipating sharing their learning with you.  We noticed lots of happy faces, children and parents alike.  Some of the children said they wished their Conference could go on and on, which indicates to us how much they love coming to school and on the path to becoming a lifelong learner.

We’ve been outside in the forest area and the grassy hill which runs along Mathers Avenue.  We’ve explained to the children they are not to go too close or over the fence.  They are enjoying these shadier areas for playtime instead of being in the direct sun.

We’ve started our Inquiry of Local Plants, and compared living and non-living things, and a plant’s needs.  This week we learned about the parts of a seed and made our own seed.  We also had a Mystery Box Inquiry with a mixture of seeds, and the children asked excellent questions (the 5Ws) before successfully guessing.

 

 

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Communicating Learning: Student-Led Conferences

This article was originally posted on February 23, 2015.  We’re reblogging today with updates to reflect this current school year.
IMG_2771We communicate student learning in a variety of ways:  through this website, our Remind texts, the curriculum overview and Meet the Teacher Night, and the three formal and two informal reporting periods each school year.   Our Kindergarten students receive their formal written report cards at the end of each term.  Students received their first report card last December, the second report card was given out in March, and the third report will be distributed at the end of June.

The two informal reporting periods are a parent-teacher interview, held last fall, and this Spring’s  Student-Led Conference.

There’s a lot of excitement and wonder surrounding Student-Led Conferences, and for good reason.  Having your child lead the conference, not the teacher, is a shift in mind-set, particularly if this was not part of your school experience growing up.  But we know this will be one of the most delightful learning experiences you will share with your children, as it will be for them to demonstrate their independence and leadership with you.

A Student-Led Conference is exactly that–a conference or interview for you and your child, led by your child.  During the Conference, students assume the ownership for reporting and explaining to their parents what they are learning about and how they are doing in school.  The teacher, who has supported the students in the selection of student work and practiced the conference with them, stays in the background during the actual Conferences.

During the years we taught from Grades One to Four, our students participated in a teacher-led discussion about the student work they would like to present at the Student-Led Conference.  A brainstorming session of possibilities would ensue.  There would be suggestions such as a polished piece of writing, the latest math test or a Science notebook; the class would vote on the ideas they liked best and those selections were included in their Student-Led Conference folder.

Depending upon the grade, sometimes we had a combination of “must-have” work and some student choices.  An “art walk” around the school hallways, the latest digital learning project and a mini music performance were other fun choices to round out a Student-Led Conference.

A week or two before the Conference we had our older students write a letter inviting their parents to attend.  The letter would highlight the learning and personal achievements students wanted their parents to particularly notice.  This was a wonderful opportunity for student self-reflection of his or her successes.

For our Kindergarten students we organize our Student-Led Conferences by Centres.  It’s a system the children are familiar with, and one in which we’ve used successfully with this age group.

In the weeks prior to the Student-Led Conference we review with your children the activities they enjoy most in our day and want to share with you.  We also initiate some discussion on the learning we think you would enjoy seeing as their parents.

IMG_2770We typically include a Language Arts Centre which focuses on the children’s Alphabet and Writing Books; a Math Centre to create math patterns and showcase their Math Books; and a Scrapbook Centre to see some of the best work we’ve completed in Kindergarten this year, in the children’s individual scrapbooks.  With the children’s help, we form an “Agenda” of the Centres the children will lead you through.

When you arrive with your child at our classrooms, your child will be given a personal copy of the Agenda and he or she will mark each activity with a sticker as it is finished.  The Centres do not need to be completed in any particular order, but each one must be visited.  We explain to the children that if they see there are many families at one Centre, then they should choose another until it’s less crowded.

During your child’s Conference, parents are able to enjoy looking at their child’s schoolwork and participate in the activities he or she has selected for you.  As parents, giving specific praise and support recognises your child’s efforts at school.  It is through your comments that you model what you value about your child’s learning.

This is a time for positive comments only to your child.

IMG_2772At the end of the Student-Led Conference we ask our parents to sign the Guest Book.  It’s important for us to have a record of parent attendance and receive feedback every year.  Over the years parents have always enjoyed the Conferences so it’s very rewarding to have the appreciation of your children’s, and our, efforts.

This year the Kindergarten Student-Led Conferences will be held on Wednesday, May 4.

All Ridgeview students will be dismissed at 1:50 pm, and the Conferences will begin at 2 pm.  You will have a 25 minute time slot with your child.  A maximum of five-six Conferences will be held at once so families need to be prepared to speak softly.  At the appointed time, we will ring a bell to signal the end of the Conference so that we may prepare for the next group.

Over the years, a few parents have asked why they cannot have an interview with the teacher instead.

To put it simply, the reason why you’re having a Student-Led Conference is because it’s an incredible opportunity and privilege to share in the learning of your child.

You will hear about your child’s learning from your child’s perspective, and have that deep insight into your child’s thinking, motivations and achievements.  You will be engaged in a dialogue rich with the language of a young learner, share the joy of a job well done, and a sense of pride with every printed letter and cut out shape.  And you’ll be able to share in the delight of your Kindergarten child as he or she begins the journey as a life-long learner.

Student-Led Conferences are one of our favourite days of the entire school year. From a teacher’s perspective, we couldn’t be any more proud of our students as they beam with pride at leading their mom and dad into their classroom to share the fabulous work they’ve completed at this point in the school year.

Please make arrangements for siblings so that your Kindergarten child can have your full attention during his or her Conference.

You can sign-up for your Student Led Conference now outside of our child’s classroom.  Grades 1-7 sign-ups are in the main hallway across from the office.

 

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