The Self-Regulated Teacher

Our personal journey towards self-regulation in Kindergarten

This Week in Our Room:  February 20-24, 2017

img_0178We’re riding along a fast moving Alphabet Train as we finished “S is a snake this week.” These cutie snakes are a favourite as the children are very independent as they work on their individual designs.  We were really pleased with the children’s effort for the printed letter “s.”  It’s not easy with its curling backwards and forward motion but there was a lot of perseverance demonstrated in completing the assigned printing tasks.  Some of our more experienced printers have taken up our challenge to have all printed letters sit on the line, with consistent spacing and shape, and a sense of proportion between upper and lowercase letters.

We’re almost finished our second unit of instruction on Family in Social Studies.  This week we referred back to the family photos and accompanying notes from the children’s Sharing theme on “My Family” to talk about the favourite activities we do with our family.  Everybody chose the one that was most meaningful to them, drew a picture with our criteria of Big, Bright and Beautiful, and then dictated an accompanying sentence.

The next challenge was in sorting out our ideas and classifying them into different kinds of family activities:  celebrate together, read together, eat together, grow together were some of the labels we used.  The children understood each of the labels and decided where to sort their drawings.

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Wednesday was double the fun as not only was it Pink Day (a focus in the Kindergarten on pro-social behaviours) and Big Buddy Day.

Thank you to everyone who helped their children find a pink or white shirt in support of Pink Day.  We read aloud What It Means to Be Kind by Rana DiOrio and Stephane Jorisch as our inspiration, but our children already have a very good concept about kind, gentle, polite behaviours.  They all understood that kindness does not mean buying or giving someone gifts.

Rather, we talked about, and put into action, some of these pro-social behaviours:

Saying “please,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome.”  “You’re welcome” was new for some students but we all know now to use that phrase following “thank you.”

Holding the door open for the student or adult behind us, and make sure we look behind us to ensure that person has a hand on the door.

At home some of the children have learned “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” and carefully explained that if you do not have kind words to say to another person, do not say anything.  You can say the words to yourself in your thoughts, but they do not come out of our mouth.

When another student or the teacher is clearly in need of help, it’s a kind gesture to go and offer or volunteer to help.  We have to say beyond a doubt, that this particular age group is among the most helpful we have ever found in our years of teaching.  We know we owe it to you, their parents, for having raised such socially conscious children.  Truly, Christy and I have more help from our children than we have little jobs for.  But the pleasure the children take from being “the teacher’s help” is enormous.

Wednesday morning also found us working with our Grade 7 Buddies on our digital literacy project, our penguin iMovies.  We’ve spent three weeks preparing for today, with two sessions on fact collection and one session on image collection before starting to create the iMovies, which will take a couple of weeks.  We have an upcoming blog about Kindergarten Digital Literacy:  the Next Step where we will describe the process in detail.

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Friday was the big day that we all savoured with anticipation, waited patiently for and counted down the sleeps…Popcorn Day!  Popcorn Day is definitely an exercise in self-regulation.  The huge trays of popcorn bags we purchased on behalf of the children tempted us all late morning until mid-afternoon but not word was said by the children except how looking forward they were to eating theirs.  Thank you for supporting this Grade 7 Graduation Fundraiser.

Upcoming Events and Reminders

Please remember to wear (or have) runners at school for PE.  It’s not safe for the children to wear any other kinds of footwear besides runners in the gym.

Tuesday: Library Book Exchange.  Please remember to have your child bring his or her book into the classroom and place it in the Library Book Bin.  Although we ask everyone to check their backpack before we leave for the Library, some children do not know their book is in their backpack, only to find out after Library is over that their book was there the whole time!  As a result, those children were browsers during Library time and did not get to borrow a book.  The children should place his or her Library book in their backpack tonight or Monday night so they know the location of their book.  Although the children are just 5 years old, they are certainly ready for personal responsibility and independence in dealing with their Library book.

Thursday:  We are going to see DreamRider Productions “Zero Heros” on Thursday morning.  This production will focus on reducing waste, including food scrap composting; reusing and recycling and the impact of our actions today on tomorrow’s future.

 

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This Week in Our Room:  February 14-17, 2017

 

fullsizerender-2Our week started with all things sweet and delightful…and we are definitely talking about the Kindergarten!

On Valentine’s Day, we were very busy helping our sweet young things with their precious Valentine’s cards for their friends.  We have to mention that we were very impressed with all of the printing of names which the children had independently completed.  Quite a feat, as we know all too well the time, effort and care required in printing neatly a class set of names.  All the cards were carefully tucked into the beautiful cardholders, with lots of treats and goodies, to take home and open and admire with families afterschool.  Since we’ve been teaching Kindergarten, we’ve decided to have the children open their Valentine cards at home.  Many children like to give a little gift with their cards, such as a chocolate or tiny box of stickers or tattoos.  We know how sad the children can become if they lose track of the cards and small treasures so it’s best that the card opening happen safely at home.

We had a delicious snack of cupcakes and fruit, thanks to our classroom parents.  And for the rest of the week many of our children kept saying how February 14 was “the best day ever” at school so it looks like our Valentine’s affair was truly a sweet memory.

We’ve so enjoyed the respite from the snow the past few days.  How easy it’s been just to switch to rainboots (and sometimes not even those) and a jacket for playtime.  We had a wonderful afternoon on Thursday with lots of children demonstrating their strength on the swings and how well they can “pump” after getting a big initial push from the teacher.

We’ve been having lots of fun with our Alphabet as we motor towards the last few letters.  This week was r is a rainbow” and the children loved colouring them in and reciting the colours in order.  As part of our Alphabet practise, we print the letter of the week in upper and lowercase, draw a few pictures beginning with that letter and label them.  We also do a lot of brainstorming, encouraging the children to look around the classroom for environmental print from the multiple alphabets we have up in the classroom, think of words in categories (animals that begin with “r”? food? sports? numbers?) or the objects around them.

The children love to print their own labels and we have really been emphasising over the last four weeks listening to the order of sounds in the words, particularly the CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words to spell words independently.  For example, cat what’s the first sound? “c,” the second sound “a,” and the last sound “t.”  We want the children to listen for those important first and last sounds of words.  It also gives us an opportunity to talk about spelling patterns such as -at.  We can generate a whole lot of words with that specific spelling patterns (bat, cat, fat, hat, mat, pat, rat, sat), but more practise with rhyme and manipulating the individual sounds in a word.  We want to develop the children’s phonological awareness to help them be successful readers and writers.  We’ve written about the importance of phonological awareness here.

Upcoming Events and Reminders

Library day on Tuesday!  Don’t forget to return your books for book exchange.

PE Days:  Division 15 (Monday/Thursday), Division 16 (Monday/Wednesday).  The children must have runners on these days!!

Pink Shirt Day on Wednesday, February 22.  The entire school is encouraged to wear pink shirts in recognition of anti-bullying.  A white is shirt is ok too.

Popcorn Sale on Friday, February 24.  The Kindergarten will be participating so please send in $1 sometime this week so we can pre-order a bag for your child.  It will be a fun Friday treat to have a popcorn snack outside with all of our Kindergarten friends.

 

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This Week in Our Room: February 6-February 9, 2017

img_0169Love is definitely in the air. We’ve been talking a lot about love these past few days.

To start off, there’s Big Buddy Love. Valentine’s Day is around the corner so on Wednesday we saw our beloved Grade 7 Big Buddies to make our beautiful Valentine cardholder bags. They are just gorgeous. We still really enjoy these kinds of crafts, using simple materials like paper bags, construction paper, glue and scissors. We did get a little fancy with the foam hearts and stickers.

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Then there’s Classmates Love. Well, we need something to fill those cardholders so our children have been very busy printing Valentine’s at home for their classmates. We ask the children to bring a card for everyone (or at least all the girls or all the boys) so everybody feels good about their first Valentine’s Day at school. The children have been bringing in their finished Valentine cards for their friends and are so excited to be placing the cards in the bags. This is a new experience for many children, and an opportunity to talk deeply about friendship.

img_0170And now we can talk about Family Love. The Big Idea about Families in Kindergarten is that “Stories and traditions about ourselves and our families reflect who we are and where we are from.” We did some brainstorming about what it is we love about our families. Whether it be soccer, skiing or baking, the common thread through all of the children’s ideas is that they love to spend time with you. No wonder why people call it “the gift of time.” There’s never enough time to spend with the ones we love.

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Upcoming Events and Reminders
Saleema Noon Parent Presentation on Wednesday, February 15th 6:30 at 8 p.m. in the library.

Library book exchange for both classes on Tuesday. Don’t forget to bring your books back and put them in the class book baskets.

Last call for February Scholastic Book Orders. Please return any orders by Tuesday, February 14.

We have started our next round of Sharing. Our theme is “Alphabet”. A schedule and information sheet are posted on the Parent Board.

Enjoy your Family Day weekend!

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Great Expectations…Kindergarten Style

IMG_1861Sometimes people think that as a Kindergarten teacher you are talking quietly and gently because the children are young and perhaps a little uncertain about coming to school.  Of course we want them to feel welcomed, comfortable and loved.  Embedded in every word we say is a statement, a declaration, an intention about expectations.  Having taught many grades over the years, we bring with us the experience and the knowledge that clearly stating our expectations and boundaries for student behaviour is paramount to a self-regulated classroom.

What do we mean?

We’ve been teaching the Zones of Regulation curriculum to learn strategies for self-regulation.  Read how we’re using it in our classrooms here.  We use the vocabulary of the Zones, Blue (sad, sick, scared, tired): Green (calm, happy, focused, ready to learn): Yellow (excited, getting carried away, frustrated) and Red (very angry, very frustrated, my body is out of control), as a structure or organizer for our feelings and emotions.  At the start of school, and certainly throughout the year, we talk about how we’re feeling, how we interpret the energy (and Zone) of the class and what strategy for up- or down-regulating we should use to bring ourselves back to the Green Zone.

An understanding of the Zones is important so that when children are expressing their feelings, they are doing so in a manner appropriate (or inappropriate) to the specific social situation. How and when a child demonstrates his or her feelings and emotions plays a large part of a child’s social awareness. Lately, we’ve been emphasising expected behaviours and unexpected behaviours.

“Expected behaviours” are “Behaviours that give people around you good or comfortable thoughts about you” (The Zones of Regulation (2011), p. 14).

“Unexpected behaviours” are “Behaviours that give people uncomfortable thoughts about you.” (The Zones of Regulation (2011), p. 14).

These definitions are Social Thinking vocabulary developed in Thinking About YOU Thinking About ME (2007) by Michelle Garcia Winner.

Even at five- and six- years old, many Kindergarten children are socially aware enough to know they are at school to learn, have fun with their friends and that they will receive the privileges that come with expected behaviour.  So right now we’re connecting for our students how expected behaviour or unexpected behaviour can give the other people around you (the other students in the class) comfortable or uncomfortable thoughts.  

We’re trying to make it explicit for the children how expected behaviours, such as listening to and focusing on the teacher, following the teacher’s instructions, keeping their hands and feet to themselves, walking quietly in line and staying in-bounds during playtime not only make them feel good, but gives the other children in the class “good or comfortable” thoughts about you.  When students show expected behaviour, everybody in the class feels happy, calm, and safe – now we’re in the green zone and ready to engage in learning.  When a child perceives others to be following the classroom rules and routines, he or she has a sense of security and predictability about the classmates who will be his or her friends.  This gives a child confidence and a desire to play with those children he or she feels safe.

Conversely, we’re also making it explicit for the children how unexpected behaviours, such as talking during teacher instruction, touching others students in class, racing to be first or budging in line or drawing on another child’s paper gives the other children in the class “uncomfortable thoughts” about you.  When a child demonstrates unexpected behaviour, the others students feel scared, uncertain, reluctant, and frankly, many just do not like it.  The children become distracted from the lesson, they don’t want to miss the instructions and they are reluctant to play with a child who will not listen to the teacher.  

For example, when we see unexpected behaviour in class, we observe by saying, “It’s unexpected to see students running down the hall.”  Then we teach by saying, “It’s expected that students will walk quietly down the hall.”  We do not refer to behaviour as good or bad, but rather expected or unexpected.  

We know that unstructured time (Centre Time, recess time on the playground, transitions between activities, lining up) is a challenging time for Kindergarten and that’s where we will see unexpected behaviour the most.

By establishing classroom routines, we try to make the unstructured time more predictable to reduce unexpected behaviour so that children who are a little bit nervous, worried or anxious know not only what they should do, but what is expected of their classmates.

 

Developing social awareness starts at home during the early years. Although we teach pro-social curriculums such as the The Incredible Flexible You, our focus is on lessons for the individual child in the social context of the classroom such as following “The Group Plan” (as opposed to following your own plan) and keeping your “Body in the Group” (instead of straying from the group). Specific social skills such as maintaining eye contact, personal space and speaking pleasantly to others can and should be introduced, reviewed and reinforced at home.  

And yes, we still remind our own kids in the high school years about all these values because we as their parents, are their first teachers.  We want them to go into the world not just with their leadership skills and academic smarts, but with the social awareness and a strong moral compass so that no matter where they are, they can respond with the respect, empathy and compassion needed today.

 

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This Week in Our Room: January 30-February 3, 2017


img_0163It’s been a power packed week of activity in the Kindergarten.

So it’s pretty clear we’re having a great time finding new ideas for our alphabet crafts. The children were so happy with their “o is an octopus” last week and were tickled pink with their “p is a pig” this week. As we head into the latter half of the Alphabet, the children are using familiar strokes to print the letters so we’ve noticed a nice uptick in the consistency of correct formation of lowercase letters. We’re continuing to focus on size and spacing of letters, and an uppercase letter followed by lowercase letters for names.

img_0158Monday was a joyous celebration for the Year of the Rooster. The children came dressed in red (for good luck) with several students wearing traditional Chinese clothing. We started our day by welcoming each child with “Gung Hay Fat Choy” (I grew up with Cantonese speaking parents but I regret my own Chinese is very, very limited) during the daily attendance and were delighted at how every child tried to repeat the greeting back to the teachers, and so warmed our hearts.

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Over the years we’ve amassed some very fun crafts and Centres for ourimg_0162 children, including banners with beautiful Chinese symbols, tangram puzzles, a colourful dragon and lucky money envelopes.

A homemade dragon constructed by Jacob and Benjamin

A homemade dragon constructed by Jacob and Benjamin

We read a traditional favourite of ours, Ed Yeung’s Lon Po Po, a Chinese version of “Little Red Riding Hood” which fascinated the children with its twists and turns. The children gloried in representing the story in pastels with a watercolour wash. We’ve cut the watercolour paintings into panels, a Chinese art form. We’re beginning to use pastels more often as we recently learned at a webinar by Patty Palmer of Deep Space Sparkle, that pastels and crayons are actually better colouring tools than felt pens for young hands as they give the range of depth of colour and texture the children are trying to achieve.

Finally, we ate a delicious Chinese “banquet” provided by our classroom parents. The children enjoyed the Chinese noodles (they emptied a huge pan) and fried rice; many tried the dumplings, eggrolls and meatballs and everyone ate the oranges and fortune cookies. Juice and fresh fruit rounded out our meal. All the children took home a “lucky money” red envelope filled with candy. We wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

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As many of you know, we had our lockdown drill this week. This is an important procedure for the school, particularly the Kindergarten if it’s the first time they’ve been through a lockdown. We’re practising for what we would do if there was an intruder in our building. Our classroom doors are locked from the hallway side and the lights are turned off. The children sit against a designated wall and are asked to stay quiet until we are released when the West Vancouver Police Officers open our classroom door to find us.

We are proud to say the Kindergarten was very self-regulated and extremely calm during the entire lockdown. We explained to the children what to expect (listen carefully to the teacher; stay quiet in your spot and breathe deeply to keep your body relaxed; there will be a loud knock at the door and the police will come in; the teacher is here to look after you and will let you know when you can talk). And they followed our instructions perfectly. The police officers were so pleased with how quiet we were and said so several times. This reminds us again the importance of pre-loading our children with the information or knowledge they need to know before they try something new. When we are clear and make explicit our expectations our children are able to respond appropriately.

As if all this wasn’t enough, we still had Library, Music, PE and met with our Buddies to continue researching for our digital literacy projects. Your Kindergarten child has been been playing and learning very hard this week so time to rest this weekend is very much in order.

Upcoming Events and Reminders
Save the Date: We’re going to have a small Valentine’s Day Party in class. The children will make Valentine cardholders with their Buddies next Wednesday. They can bring their Valentine cards for their classmates on Thursday, Friday and the following Tuesday. We will help them put the cards in the cardholders, which the children will bring home and open with you afterschool.

So there are no hurt feelings, when you are printing the cards with your child please remember to give Valentine’s to all the boys or all the girls or everyone. We will send home a class list of first names next week.

Children will need their running shoes for PE and Library Book Exchange is Tuesday. Please help your child by reminding them to bring the Library Books into the classroom; do not leave them in their backpacks. We have a book bin in the classroom to collect the books.

It’s Reading Break on Friday, February 10 and school is not in session. School is also closed on Monday, February 13 as it’s BC’s Family Day. Enjoy your long weekend!

The February Scholastic order forms went home this week. Please return any orders by Thursday, February 9th.

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