A Place Called Kindergarten

June 2019

To Our Dear Kindergarten Children,

We are nearing the end of our Kindergarten year and we find ourselves thinking about you and everything that made our year together special, unique and really “us.”

As you were drawing and writing your June Self-Reflections, we were reflecting on the first day Kindergarten, and the many days that have followed.  We met you at the door each morning:  sometimes you came in with a story to share, sometimes with tears as you say good-bye to your parent, sometimes just with a smile and a big “good morning.”  But you always come inside the classroom, and you stay.  So that got us to thinking… what is this place we call Kindergarten?

Kindergarten is a place we know is safe.  Adults call it “predictability,” but in Kindergarten it means you could always count on the classroom to be the same each and every day, and just knowing that made you feel safe.  Your teachers, your classmates, your toys, blocks and art materials.  You always knew how things were going to be:  You knew our expectations and love for you would be steadfast and sure, no matter what.  

Kindergarten is a place that echoes with our laughter.  We’ve seen your wonderful sense of humour developing over this past year.  We’ve had some pretty awesome jokes, laughter and lots of winking!  Thank you for laughing with us during Storytime with our many character voices.   We love your giggling as you’re making coffee and breakfast pizza for the teachers in the House Corner.  How fun is it to get carried away with laughter because your teacher is laughing at her own jokes?

Kindergarten is a place inspired by your curiosity and wonder.  Boys and Girls, you are a very curious group of children!  Oh my goodness, we must have dozens of wonderful questions everyday!  Each time we brought out a new exploration you gathered around filled with questions and speculations about what we might do.  Our Mystery Box Inquiry, when you were developing your questioning skills, was a very exciting growing time for your brain as you were learning how to ask questions.

Kindergarten is a place rich in language and literature.  This has been one of the best years ever in the appreciation of a good book.  We have never had such an enthralled audience vie for the front of the carpet whenever we had a story to read aloud. We’re also proud to say, we’ve had more books brought in for “your choice” Sharing than ever before.  We’ve tried to read to you only the very, very best in children’s stories to build a solid foundation in all things literary.

Kindergarten is a place surrounded by love.  We have seen your love and affection for your friends.  We know you hold the hand of your classmates to bring comfort.  We see you walk the long upstairs hallway to get ice and a bandaid for a friend who got a bump.  The love in your eyes for your Big Buddies as you handed them a flower at their Promotion Ceremony speaks to your deep attachment for one another.

We have loved being your Kindergarten teachers this year, teachers who helped you to find out about yourselves as learners, teachers who led you to new discoveries and teachers who inspired you to dream that anything is possible.  You’re going to Grade One now, but we will always be here looking out for you.  You’re our Kindergarten children, and we love you very much.

We wish you a happy, wonderful, safe summer filled with sunshine and fun, your family and friends and lots of good books!  You’re in our hearts, forever and always,

Love, your Kindergarten Teachers

 

Big Buddy Grade Seven Promotion Ceremony

Image from Google

It occurred to me this weekend that we do not have a child graduating this year.

I’ve been pretty busy until the last two school years with teaching Kindergarten, layered with a busy home life of my own with children going to school, performing in the Fine Arts and playing sports. I was in a non-stop graduation mindset for 24 months.  My daughter graduated from high school in 2016, then Christy and I had the double whammy of her daughter and my son graduating in 2017.  THAT was a very busy year.  There’s a lot of shopping for special occasion clothing, driving kids around for graduation events and watching them fill out University and mandatory (in our minds) Scholarship Applications (yes, it’s a lot of work but there is scholarship money available for students if they are willing to put in the effort).  

I can put it all behind me now until University graduation.  This year no one from my home is graduating.  Christy has a year of reprieve until her youngest graduates next year so for now we’re breathing a big sigh of relief.

But, we do have our Kindergarten children’s participation in the Grade 7 Promotion Ceremony to look forward to on Friday, June 21.  

So you are not rushed this week, here are our expectations for Kindergarten attire for the big event:

Girls– dress or skirt and top, dress shoes or sandals (no flip-flops)

Boys– a button-up shirt with a collar and tie or bowtie if you have these items(please do not go out and buy them), pants or shorts (not athletic wear), dress shoes or cleaned up runners.

At this time, we are still trying to fix the exact time our children will be walking the Grade 7s down the aisle.  We know for sure it will be in the morning, around 11:30 am.  You are welcome to come and watch and shed a few years with us as we realize how quickly this magical year has gone by.   We suggest you arrive for 11:20 am and wait for us in the hallway to pass you. Then follow us in.  As soon as more details are shared with us, we will inform you.

 

Boho Birds

As you know, all Ridgeview students participate in the RPAC (Ridgeview Parents Advisory Council) fundraiser, “theCardProject.”  Each student creates a piece of art work, which is then used as cards, journals and other stationery items. You’ll be able to purchase these items with your child’s art in the next few weeks.  Right now, we’re in the process of completing our project.

For the Kindergarten, we are making these delightful boho birds, based on Pattern Birds from DeepSpaceSparkle, an outstanding website and resource of art ideas for educators.  We belong to the “Sparklers Club” (of course we do) which gives us further access to amazing projects we can make with your children. These projects are multi-step, complex and incorporate the fine motor skills not all children have had the opportunity to develop.  We do a lot of tracing, cutting, pasting, drawing and painting in class. The activities also require the children to use the “big” skills of focusing on a task, listening carefully to instructions and following teacher directions. It also requires the children to “peer reference” which means look to others if you’re not certain of what you’re doing, or to confirm that you are on the right track!

These spectacular birds took us two full art classes and two small group sessions to complete.  On Day One each child drew a large “U” or smile shape with pastel on their ½ sheet of construction paper for the bird body.  Then they drew a stitching line on the inside of the smile line and cut the body out independently.

We had painted paper earlier in the week.  One of the many great things about working with Christy is we like to divide and conquer so can get twice the benefit for our children.  We each painted paper for two colours, cut the strips and shared them between our classes. We’ve been working on patterns in Math so the children created an AB pattern with the open space and painted paper (any opportunity to integrate and layer the learning, we will do). The children glued on the painted paper strips, turned the bird over and trimmed off the extras.  The final step was teaching a variety of lines (stitched, wavy, zig zag) and dots to make the pastel pattern lines in the open spaces.

After we had finished our first session, one of the children asked, “Were we in the green zone?”  And our answer? A hearty “YES!” because we know the depth of self-regulation this art project required, and we were so pleased the children were concentrating diligently to follow the steps in sequence.

Day Two saw us working as a class on the bird heads.  After choosing their pre-cut head, we gave each child a small black construction paper dot to glue onto white construction paper to cut and make an eye.  They each chose five diamond shapes we pre-cut from scrapbook paper to form the crown and beak. We asked the children to put gluestick on half the diamond and place it on their bird.  After we glued the head onto the bodies we felt our birds were really taking flight.

We worked in small, teacher-led groups during Activity Time to finish our birds.  We asked the children to select, fold and cut scrapbook paper for the legs, cut out construction paper claws and glue on the paper feathers for the tail.

On our last day we had some fun layering in feathers on top of the paper feathers and let the white liquid glue dry overnight.  

We weren’t sure we were going to make the deadline of October 11 to finish our sweet birdies. But make it we did, although we never like to rush in Kindergarten.  The children are learning that time and patience are necessary requirements to make something they take can pride in, and want to say, “I made it myself!” We’ve said several times we like projects that take several days to complete so our children can learn about pacing themselves, anticipation and enjoyment of the process.  Nothing is worse than rushing and feeling that completion of an assignment is a competition, where everyone must be first.

In thinking back on our boho birds, creating and expressing themselves by making great art is another excellent self-regulation strategy for the children.  While we may choose to walk, run or deep breathe, Christy and I also know (as long time crafters) that the sight, smell and textures of paint, coloured paper, pastels and scissors goes a long way in helping us to down-regulate after a tough situation or long day.  Our hands are busy, our minds focus on the task at hand and the possibility of “what might be” after our efforts hovers over us.

One of the things we love as teachers is being to share our love of fun and creative activities with our children, so they can use them to help lift their mood, or simply relax.  So when we get to work on a fun mixed media project such as this, we think we’re headed in the right direction. We’ll be making another big project soon, so check back with us to see how it’s going.

Thank you again to Patti Palmer of Deep Space Sparkle for her inspiration!

 

Literacy, Language and Story:  What’s Ahead for Kindergarten in Term Three

sweet stories for Spring

The final term is always an exciting one for any grade because our students are quite a bit more mature than the start of school, they have greater independence and more developed skills.  

By the third term in Kindergarten, the children’s development is rapid and vast:

-their bodies are bigger, taller and stronger

-their fine motor skills (printing, drawing, painting) and gross motor skills (running, skipping, throwing) have really increased and improved

-their sense of humour is developing (until lately, only Mrs. Campbell and I were laughing at each other’s jokes)

-they are beginning to understand stories at an inferential level (reading between the lines)

-they can follow a classroom discussion and contribute on-topic comments

-they can demonstrate an understanding of school life and classroom culture through their self-regulation (calm, focused, ready to learn) and social awareness (understanding that everybody, children and adults have feelings; and realizing they are one of many students in the class)

Of course, there’s much more than what we listed but these are some of the constants that we have noticed over the course of our teaching careers.

From last week’s newsletter, you’ll know that we are now in the Final Four…finishing the last four letters of our Alphabet.  We’ve been working really hard on teaching letter names and sounds, correct letter formation when writing, and developing the children’s phonological awareness.  Phonological awareness is important because it is an indicator of the children’s readiness for reading.

When children have strong phonological awareness, that means they have an understanding that language is made up of sounds (phonemic awareness), syllables, rhymes and words.

In class, we directly teach phonemic awareness (the ability to think about and manipulate speech sounds) and its accompanying skills of blending (c-a-t = cat); segmenting (cat = c-a-t); deleting (children repeat a word without the initial or final sound) (cat/ca- or -at) and substituting (children substitute different sounds in a word) (c-an/f-an/r-an/ra-t/s-at).  This forms a large part of our Alphabet instruction.  

Although we will soon be finished this direct Alphabet teaching, we will continue to review the letters (particularly sound production).  Our regular classroom activities such as Sharing, class discussions and Mystery Box Inquiry, all contribute to developing the children’s oral language (speaking and listening), a necessary part of a balanced approach to reading instruction, and are on-going for the rest of the school year.

In addition, we will support the children in refining the children’s printing skills during their daily work, focusing on correct letter formation, shape and space between letters and words, and writing on the line.

It’s also a time for us to explore literary themes.  Our big literary theme in Kindergarten is Fairy Tales.  We choose Fairy Tales as we believe it to be one of the most important genres of childhood literature, along with Nursery Rhymes and Folk Tales.  In our daily lives, through our speech (idioms), books we read and pop culture eg., “If the shoe fits, wear it” (Cinderella), many references are made to Fairy Tales; and a firm understanding of these familiar tales is essential when discussing literary archetypes and characterizations, plot patterns and common themes to fully understand the subtle nuances in current literature.  We’ve written more about Fairy Tales here.

The next big literary event in our classrooms will be our Home Reading Program.  This is a very fun and wonderful opportunity for our children to take home beginning readers three times a week, and read the books with you.  We have home readers at a variety of reading levels. We will have the children read books at a couple of different levels, and report back which is “best” for them.  We have been revamping our Home Reading Library and buying new books for the children with our Scholastic Bonus Money we earn from your purchases. So thank you to everybody who’s made a book buy this year!  Home Reading will start at the beginning of May, following Student-Led Conferences on Thursday, April 26.

As in all childhood development milestones, our children will achieve the reading and writing milestones in their own time, when they are ready and with interest, modeling, experience and exposure from the adults in their lives at home and school.  Although most children will know most of their letter names, sounds and printing formations by the end of Kindergarten, not all children will. As parents and teachers, we want to support our children as best as we can.

Although it is not a direct cause for concern at this time, it’s important to keep providing literary and language opportunities at home.  For now, modeling reading and writing, read-alouds every night, taking the time to answer your child’s questions and reading environmental print are some manageable strategies which you can incorporate into your day.

We will talk about more specific ways you can support your child’s literacy and language at home in the upcoming weeks.

 

Up for Auction Tonight!

This Friday, May 26, is Ridgeview Elementary’s Parent Gala in support of our Library Modernization Project. Each class was asked to create a piece of art to be put up for auction and sold to the highest bidder.

Christy and I have had a lot of experience teaching art and one thing we know for sure: children’s artwork is highly developmental and extremely personal. It’s one of those opportunities where we can teach a variety of skills (using scissors; holding a paintbrush; cutting with a template) and techniques (printmaking; wax crayon paint resist) but how the children interpret the task is really their own, as it should be.

However, when we are commissioned, as it were, to create something specific to be sold, we need to find a balance between teaching our children skills and techniques, allowing them to express themselves at a personal level and yet make a product attractive enough to get parents to bid and spend their money.

We might be your child’s Kindergarten teacher, but we’re also realists who understand we’re creating art for a fundraiser and we want it to look good.

We were working on a very tight timeline this spring between Easter, Student-Led Conferences, Mother’s Day and Welcome to Kindergarten and the preparations that each of those major events in our Kindergarten calendar entailed.

So with a lot help from our parent helpers, our friends at Bella Ceramica, and our Grade 7/District Innovation Teacher (Technology) Ms.Wilson, up for auction are two gorgeous platters made by this year’s Kindergarten children with great skill and precision.

We used another printmaking technique, our fingerprints, to create the delightful little flowers scattered on these serving dishes. The centres of each flower was made with the eraser end of a pencil. Ms. Wilson painted in the vines to show how each of us is connected to one another with love (the leaves). On the back are the fingerprints of your child’s teachers and Educational Assistants with a few words to commemorate the place and year.

We hope you have an opportunity to bid on these wonderful pieces of art.

Sold!

Earth Month 2017

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, we can smell the flowers in the air…finally. Although we’re a little late, April was a month with many special events for our Kindergarten. We celebrated the Persian New Year Norooz, Easter, our students with Student-Led Conferences and then our planet Earth, for Earth Month.

We’ve been waiting to post this blog for you…you’ll see why at the end.

We invited 365GIVE founder Jacqueline Way (and a parent in Andrea’s classroom) to help us celebrate Earth Month by giving something special to the Earth, Kindergarten style.

Jacqueline shared with us how she began a year’s worth of giving with her oldest son, Nic, when he turned three years old. Starting on his birthday, Jacqueline and Nic committed to 365 giving acts to the world. On the 365th day, Nic’s brother Tyler (and our Kindergarten student) entered their lives–the last give in a remarkable year.

We started with a discussion about who helps our planet. The children knew the firefighters and policemen keep them safe, and that the SPCA helps to look after animals.

But the children didn’t realise that they, too, can help the planet. They can give back to the Earth in just as powerful ways as our community helpers.

So as part of our celebration of Earth Day and Earth Month, our Kindergarten would think about what they could do to give back to the Earth. How could they help the planet?

Well, thanks to the high profile of recycling programs at home and school, our children knew right away that recycling is a significant act of giving.

Jacqueline explained that when we don’t recycle, all the garbage goes to the landfill, sits there and makes the planet sick.

The children suggested using both sides of the paper is an important way to reduce paper consumption, and the cutting down of trees. We get oxygen from trees and food from the trees, and those same trees provide shelter for a variety of animals.

When we recycle bottles, cans, metals and plastic, new bottles, clothing and toys are made from these products. The metals we recycle today are tomorrow’s scooters and bikes.

When we recycle food scraps or organic waste and put them into the compost, it decomposes into soil, goes back into the Earth and makes our planet healthy.

Keeping our school grounds litter free is a daily give we can easily do. Our children eat their snacks and lunch in class and so with our school waste management program, the Kindergarten manages quite well in not contributing to garbage on the playground. However, we are all aware that animals do come to eat the garbage, evident by the number of crows we see after recess and lunch. Just as serious is the garbage left at the beach; garbage which flows into the ocean can be eaten by the local fish, and then if we end up eating those same fish…their understanding was evident as our children were very wide-eyed, quiet and thoughtful.

Another way to give back to the Earth is to plant a garden. If you grow a garden, you can just walk to your garden to get your fruits and vegetables. You can’t get any more local than that!

Our children had quite a bit to say about gardens. Besides fruits and vegetables, we can also plant flowers. Jacqueline explained how important flowers are for bees. Bees drink the nectar so they can make honey. As the bees fly from flower to flower, they are also gathering pollen on their bodies and spreading the pollen around which fertilizes more flowers and trees.

Bees fly from tree to tree and pollinate the flowers which will grow into fruit. Without bees, we do not get flowers, honey or fruit. Jaqueline also explained that the bees are in trouble, many are dying, and they need our help! Some of the children said they were afraid of bees but we were quick to explain that honey bees do not actually like to sting people. If they sting, they will die. If you stepped on a bee, it might sting you, but that’s because it’s scared.

We need flowers to help the bees stay alive so for our Kindergarten give, our way to help our planet, we planted sunflowers!

Jacqueline and Nick had flower pots, soil and seeds all ready for us. The children labeled their plant pots and carefully took turns scooping out the soil and planting their seed. Here they are at the time of planting:

And why we’ve waited until today:

We knew you’d be anticipating what our plants looked like, just as much as the children did every single day. Watching our children check their wee plant pots every morning just warms our gardening hearts. Gardening certainly fosters patience, acceptance and faith that your tiny seed will grow…does this sound a lot like teaching Kindergarten?

Today was an important day for our children to understand the impact one person can have on the Earth. We’d like to thank Jacqueline, Nic and Tyler for all their help in celebrating our planet.

You can read more about 365GIVE here.

Digital Literacy in Kindergarten: Next Step

In the past few years we’ve had an exciting time integrating and focusing on two of the pillars of the West Vancouver School District: digital literacy and inquiry. The third pillar is self-regulation which for us, in Kindergarten, is not only a pillar but our foundation and the arch (or rainbow, depending upon your perspective) which reaches over and encompasses everything we do. (Rainbows have reached almost cult status this year in the Kindergarten…we pattern “in rainbow,” we colour “in rainbow,” we organise our blocks “in rainbow.” All true….you cannot make this stuff up.)

Each year we choose one digital literacy project for the Kindergarten, under the guidance of our West Vancouver District Support and Innovation (Technology) Teacher, Ms. Cari Wilson (@kayakcari). We have always completed these projects with the assistance of our Grade 7 Big Buddies. For the Kindergarten, it means we can raise the bar a little higher by creating a complex, multi-step assignment; and for the Grade 7 students, it’s an opportunity to mentor and be a positive role-model to younger students. Both grades benefit from a special connection across the years; the Grade 7s are also our recess and lunch monitors and help us out on the playground.

This year, Mr. Russ Patterson is our Grade 7 Buddy Teacher. He teaches both Grade 7 classes during Buddy Time and meets with my class (Division 2 Big Buddies) and Christy’s class (Division 1 Big Buddies) in back to back blocks on Wednesday.

Big Buddies are a vital part of Kindergarten Life.

From the Kindergarten Science Big Idea “Plants and animals have observable features,” we decided to focus on animals (we’ll study Plants in Third Term) and we selected the beloved penguin as our animal of choice. A full-grown Emperor penguin is about the size of a Kindergarten child and for that reason alone, we’ve always had great affection for the penguin.

In the past few years we’ve used the app Book Creator on the iPad to create digital books about penguins, their habitat, young, appearance and food sources. Our Big Buddies would work with us to gather images from Google, write a brief descriptive sentence using a sentence frame and the Little Buddies would do a voiceover, reading the text aloud. This year we decided to take the same topic but use the app iMovie as our presentation platform. In her role as Technology Support Teacher, Cari also joined us on our first day of movie-making.

Our Penguin iMovies were a five week project. Christy and I completed a Mystery Box Inquiry before each Buddy class. The Mystery Box allowed us to teach questioning skills using the 5Ws in an interesting, game-like format and to introduce the penguins topics we were going to investigate.

Weeks 1 and 2: Research

The Big and Little Buddies used this graphic organiser to record their research in specific categories. From pictures and text, students would read and discuss their findings; and all information was duly noted.

Week 3: Image Collection

The Buddies searched through Google Images to collect a minimum of three images for each fact. They would not necessarily use every image they found but they needed a bank of pictures to draw from for their movie.

Each Buddy pair was assigned an iPad which they needed to use for the duration of the project.

Weeks 4 and 5: iMovie creation
Each Buddy pair had specific criteria to fulfill: an opening image with a title; images of the specific topics (habitat, appearance, young, food); Kindergarten voiceover describing the images; end photo of the Buddies with Kindergarten voiceover naming the Buddies and credit to Google Images.

This was a really fun project for our children. We love that they are using technology to create something, starting with the planning sheet to help organise thinking and then using it as a stepping off point to make an iMovie. We did have a few technical glitches, including iPads which refused to power on and movies which wouldn’t run. Fortunately, students demonstrated a can-do “the show must go on” attitude (grit and perseverance), pulled out another iPad…and started again. Ah…show biz.

We’re going to premiere our iMovies at Student Led Conferences on April 20, 2017. Families will have an opportunity to sign-up for a Conference led by their Kindergarten child and viewing your child’s iMovie will be one of the Centres you’ll visit.