The Self-Regulated Teacher

Our personal journey towards self-regulation in Kindergarten

Tips for a Successful Student Led Conference: Getting the Most From Yours

The Self-Regulated Teacher’s favourite school day of the year is right around the corner: Student Led Conferences are on Thursday, April 20, 2017 this school year.

Christy and I have been holding Student Led Conferences (SLC) for many years; in fact, my first Student Led Conference as a teacher was here in West Vancouver at Chartwell Elementary School in 1990 when I was teaching Grade 3. We’ve gradually refined our practises to make it perfect for Kindergarten but the core tenets of the Conferences has always stayed the same: to provide an opportunity for students to communicate learning to their parents in a meaningful format; self-reflection for students to identify their personal accomplishments, strengths and areas for improvement; give parents an insight into how their children learn; and an inside look at student work, their classroom and school.

We’ve written extensively about Student Led Conferences at in 2015 and 2016. You can also read about Student Led Conferences in my Grade 3 classroom during my Chartwell days in Evaluating Literacy: A Perspective for Change (1991) by Robert J. Anthony, Terry D. Johnson, Norma I. Mickelson and Alison Preece.

Our Kindergarten Student Led Conferences are a twist on the traditional Student Led Conference. In the years we were teaching Grades 1-4, each student would welcome their parents to his or desk, where a curated selection of work would be waiting in a file. A letter of welcome for parents, plus a class created agenda, provide structure for the Conference time.

In Kindergarten, however, we use a Centre approach, in much the same way we use Centres during the morning Activity Time, Math Centres, or our focus afternoon Centre Time. Parents can expect to see an Alphabet Centre, Math Centre with tasks and participate in the daily Calendar activities as part of our Student Led Conferences.

Kindergarten is a special grade, the first formal schooling for most children, the first Student Led Conference for most parents, and it’s important for us to set the tone and expectations for how the Conferences are conducted because you’ll be enjoying them for the next eight years while at Ridgeview. As one of two informal Communicating Learning opportunities, we want this to be a positive and successful experience for you and your child. The format will be different as you move through the grades, but its value is always the same: priceless.

Here’s our Top 10 tips for a successful Student Led Conference:

1. Sign-up for your child’s Student Led Conference. In Kindergarten, we have a limited number of families we will host in our classroom for each time slot. Kindergarten sign-up sheets are posted outside the classrooms; all other Grades are posted in the main hallway near the Library.

2. Arrange for care for your other children, particularly toddlers and preschoolers, so you can focus on your Kindergarten child. Older children can wait outside on the playground.

3. Arrive on time for your Student Led Conference and remember to bring your child with you. This Conference is for you and your child. We’ve had several instances where our students were left at home with a babysitter, on the playground or at the childcare centre.

4. Give praise and specific, positive comments to your child eg., “I like how you used a variety of colours in your drawing;” recognise that your child might find some tasks difficult so encourage them to keep trying their best.

5. Be mindful of your Conference duration and gently remind your child when it is time to go; other families are waiting for their turn.

6.Keep socialising with other parents to a bare minimum. Your focus is on your child.

7.  Be respectful of the SLC of other students and their parents by keeping your own child close to you at all times.

8. Refrain from engaging your child’s teacher in a discussion about your child’s progress; the teacher is supporting all students during the SLC process and has many jobs to do. If you would like an interview, make an appointment on another day for a mutually agreeable day and time.

9. This goes without saying, but our cell phones are a distraction. Please support us by turning off and putting all electronic devices away. Please do not take phone calls during your child’s conference: it’s disrespectful of the preparation we’ve done with your children; the other families; and most importantly, your children who are very, very excited to be the centre of your attention to share their learning with you.

10. Please do not bring any hot drinks into the classroom. It’s not safe to be carrying a hot drink around with so many small children present, and for the precious schoolwork which we have out on the tables in case of spills.

Our Ridgeview Principal, Mrs. Valerie Brady, has also written about Student Led Conferences. You’ll find an excerpt from this post on the Principal blog.


Student Absenteeism

img_0145Student absenteeism is never an easy topic to discuss. However, discuss it we must because when a student is away from class, it impacts everyone – the individual student, the class, the teacher and the school.

There’s a delicate balance when we start talking about students being away from school.

Sometimes it’s sickness and we definitely want you to keep your sick child at home from school. We know you have to get to work and your child may or may not want to come to class – but we, along with the office staff, are really unable to look after sick children. Your children would actually prefer to just be at home with you recovering from their sickness and then building up the strength to return to school to be full and participating members of the class. The other families in your child’s class, and us, the teachers, do not want to get sick. Your support in helping your children understand that they cannot come to school when they are sick, teaches them to have respect for their own health, the health and well-being of their classmates, and one day, their working colleagues. You can read more here about Your Kindergarten Child’s Good Health.

Currently, our icy and snowy weather and road conditions have made it difficult for some families to arrive at school on time. Add to that our limited parking spots around the school and it can be an exercise in frustration to run in before the bell. However, when your child arrives consistently late for school, and by this we mean 3-4 times a week, he or she misses out on the first routines of the day which are essential for setting the tone in the classroom. The first bell rings at 8:50 am when children are welcomed into the school building. We sing “O Canada” immediately following the 8:55 bell, listen to the school announcements, then take attendance. Finally, we review the Visual Schedule; this helps the children with their self-regulation so they know what to expect and may reduce anxiety about “what’s going to happen next?” The Special Helper, with a friend, start to walk to the office with the attendance. These morning routines take us about ten minutes so there is ample time to get into the classroom. Because it’s Kindergarten, we still give you a lot of leeway: if your child comes in after we have finished the attendance, but before the Special Helper has left for the office, then we will adjust the attendance form to say your child is “here.” Any later however, and your child is marked absent. You need to sign your child in at the office when you arrive at school and your child will be given a late slip.

Another consequence of being late for school is that teachers need to stop our teaching, or helping a small group or individual, to greet the late arrivals, tell them where we are in the morning and help them to get settled. We also need to remind you that you need to check in at the office if your child has arrived without a late slip This is disruptive to the other students, particularly when we’re teaching the whole class, and the “flow” of the lesson is affected. We understand when you come in late from a dental or doctor appointment; but those are usually infrequent as most of you make them for later in the school day or have given us notice the previous day so we are prepared.

If you are going to be late, please call the school office. Our parent organized school callback line and administrative staff have to phone you, and follow-up with us, when you have not notified them. If you do not remember to sign in your child when you arrive, then the school office must call down to our classrooms looking for your child. We do all of this for the protection of your child so please help us by doing your part.

The other morning, while watching the news, there was a preview of the men’s golf tournament taking place in Kapalua, Maui. You could just feel the heat and sunshine. With the way our weather has been this winter and less expensive flights during the off-season, many of you will hear the siren call of palm trees, tropical breezes and hot sand beneath your feet. While missing two weeks of school is not really ideal, we also understand the need for families to reconnect and bond; and frequently for some that can only happen when they travel. We recognize the importance of family time and creating life experiences with grandparents and other relatives, and that travel is its own unique learning to become a citizen of the world. We can only speak from our perspective as Kindergarten teachers, and the influence of our own personal and professional life experiences.

However, the common understanding we do have with other grades is that we are unable to make up the work your child misses while on holiday. We’re often asked if we could “prepare the work my child will miss while we’re on holiday.” Kindergarten is a difficult grade to send meaningful work along with you. Our read-aloud stories and the class discussions which follow are powerful for the oral language and shared learning that happens among the students. Children are learning their alphabet sounds from the teacher and building vocabulary collaboratively with their peers. When children are working on their number patterns and number centres, they are .using masses of manipulatives that have been specially created or purchased for them. Much of a student’s learning is meant to happen in a larger social context, in addition to an individual one.

As parents, we can create a special activity for our family while travelling. Pack an empty notebook, a small set of scissors, gluestick and fet pens in a ziploc bag and you have all the materials you need to create and write an amazing travel journal. Everytime you go sightseeing, pick up stickers, postcards and brochures and save all your admission tickets. Take some time each evening to reflect on what you did during the day and together, print a few notes about what was your favourite activity and cut and paste in your postcards and brochures. Don’t forget to save one of those cute tourist maps for reference. We know you’ll be taking lots of pictures. You can leave some space for adding a few photo when you get back. If you work on it everyday, on your last day of travel you’ll have a memorable souvenir that your child can bring to school and show the class upon your return.

And while you’re visiting the tourist and gift shops, browse through the children’s book section. When we travel, we always look to see what interesting children’s books, specific to our holiday locale, are available for purchase. A book to read from your holiday destination is another great momento to bring home.

So, snow, sickness and holidays aside, school starts at 8:50 am tomorrow! We’ll see you then.

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Sharing and Special Helper

fullsizerenderOne of the most exciting parts of Kindergarten is to be the Special Helper.  There are many varieties of this special day such as Student of the Week or the VIP (Very Important Person) but we like Special Helper because let’s face it, our Kindergarten children are so very, very special and wonderful…and sweet….we could go on, but we’ve got teenagers at home making noises about dinner so we better get on with writing.

Your child has a few weeks during the fall to observe the roles of the Special Helper and learn about them from the teacher.  Each student gets to be Special Helper about once a month.  It’s an excellent exercise in self-regulation as they see that each child gets a turn but must be patient while waiting for their own.  It’s like Christmas….we all know it’s coming.  We post the children’s names on a calendar on the Parent Bulletin Board so parents know when their child’s turn will be.  We also have an alphabetical list of names in our classroom in the meeting area.  The children see the clothespeg moving down the list each day as the Special Helper has his or her turn and, like the visual schedule, can anticipate when their turn is coming.  We’ve been asked, “How many sleeps until it is my turn?” many, many times and we all help out by counting down the days.

As the Special Helper your child has a variety of roles.  The first is as a Leader and Role Model.  We have seen many times how a student, quiet during class discussions and with gentle interactions among classmates, embraces their leadership position and simply relishes in the role.  Sometimes, we don’t get an opportunity to exercise our leadership until it is thrust upon us.

The Special Helper is the Line Leader anytime we leave, or return, to the classroom.  On certain days, that can be up to 6-7 times during the school day your child gets to be the first one in line, and close to the all action.  The Special Helper never needs to worry about where he or she might stand in the line as he or she is always FIRST.

At the meeting area, your child sits on the Special Helper chair, not on the carpet with the rest of the class.  Special Helpers, like their teacher, get to survey the kingdom…whoops, classroom,  in their role.

The Special Helper leads the Math Their Way Calendar.  First, your child chooses a wand (rather than a pointer) to lead the class, like the teacher. The Math Their Way Calendar is a very special job.  There are four main tasks, with many math skills embedded in it.  We sing the “Days of the Week” song, chant the days and turn over today’s card; count the number of days we’ve been in school while patterning the actions to the monthly pattern, and add to the pattern; chant the colour pattern we’ve chosen, and colour in the next square and print the date; and be the meteorologist by checking the weather and colouring in the weather graph.  

Your child has just led the class in reciting the days of the week; reviewing the concepts of “today, yesterday and tomorrow,” rote counting; extending patterns; showing an understanding of directionality (left to right; top to bottom); statistical analysis and demonstrating their fine motor skills by colouring and printing the date.  WOW!  Our greatest compliment is when we hear students are creating their own classroom and calendar area at home so they can be the teacher to teach their younger siblings and stuffed animals, who willingly act as students.

Sharing is the new phrase we use now, rather than “Show and Tell.”  Show and Tell seemed to almost have a bragging quality to it, so we use Sharing which makes us feel like we’ve been invited to participate in seeing or learning about something special…which we most definitely have.

During Sharing your child is again in a significant leadership role.  Your child is standing up in front of their classmates with all eyes looking.  It’s really exciting to watch your children proudly taking special objects out of their ziploc bag.  Many like to keep the objects hidden away (special cupboard in the classroom, or tucked behind the Special Helper chair).  Sometimes parents send in a few notes for us with extra information which is very helpful if there is a lot to remember – after all, some of us are still just 4 years old.  We are happy to help and prompt your children.  Sometimes, they just need a little support and encouragement.

Your child knows when his or her turn is coming up — the list is posted in the classroom and everyone is checking daily to see when it’s their turn.  Please check the calendar outside on the Parent Board so you know the date and can give yourself some time to prepare the Sharing with your child.  Your children won’t always need or want your help for school assignments but right now, Sharing is a teaching and learning process for them.  

Let us share our experience as parents of teenagers in high school and University:  when your child sees you are interested and involved in their schoolwork, their commitment to their schooling and doing their best is deeper.  We’re not saying to “do the work” for them, but these tiny people have not necessarily had “an assignment.”  Teaching your children that they have a personal responsibility to bring in their Sharing, and that you will support them, is forming good habits about homework.  You’ll always know in advance what the theme for the monthly Sharing is…so start a few days ahead of the big day, give your child two or three choices to bring in for Sharing, and then talk with them about what they might say to the class and make a few notes if necessary.  Have a little rehearsal at home for the parents, brothers and sisters — it’s fun!

Every year we have students who are reluctant to bring a Sharing; but send it along anyways and we will model their Sharing for them with the class.  It’s amazing how quickly the children want to do it themselves once we start doing the talking!  “No, like this!!” is typically how we are interrupted.  We want your children to feel like they are participating fully in class activities, and not to worry…their classmates are always an appreciative audience.

Please note:  We are no longer going to allow the children to bring in their Sharing on another Special Helper’s day, if they forgot to bring it on their own day.  We find it takes a long time to go through up to three sharings if children forget.  If your child is going to be away, let us know and we can try to switch with another student.

Now, our current theme of Holiday (Christmas) Sharing is in progress and we are having FUN seeing your children’s stockings, Christmas ornaments, Christmas storybooks, and decorations!  Thank you to everyone for opening up those Christmas boxes early to accommodate us!

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Kindergarten Home and School Communication

img_1970Today was a beautiful October day.  The leaves were in their autumnal shades of red, orange and yellow, the sunlight shining down through the trees and a beautiful fresh smell in the air telling us that fall will soon be over and winter is coming.  

We’ve already had a particularly busy time this year as Christy and I each have a child graduating from high school.  We’ve already been shopping for evening wear for our kids’ Grad events, making Grad photo appointments and the kids have been attending information sessions about universities, requesting letters of reference and preparing their resumes.  

When folks with younger children ask, “How do you know what to do to get your child ready for Grad?” the answer is simple:  The Grads hear about events and activities at school; but for the parents, we must read the weekly school newsletters (bulletins) and any communication from the Administration.   But the newsletter isn’t just for Grade 12:  we’ve been reading school weekly bulletins since our children were in Kindergarten, so we’ve come to expect that important information regarding Graduation, plus concerts, sporting events and school services will appear here.  

Communicating student learning is a vital part of a successful school experience for you and your child.  Home and school communication can consist of many components, depending upon your child’s school.  In our Kindergarten we have the following:

  • Weekly Ridgeview e-bulletin
  • Weekly classroom online newsletters on our Kindergarten website
  • Weekly blog posts on our Kindergarten website
  • Remind texts from the teacher app
  • Informal parent-teacher interviews with your child’s teacher(s) (by appointment)
  • Parent-Teacher Conferences with your child’s teacher(s) (scheduled)
  • Report cards (three formal reports a year)
  • Student-led Conferences (scheduled)
  • Open House for Holiday events (impromptu)
  • Student work sent home (weekly Alphabet work)

Weekly Ridgeview e-bulletin.  Did you know our wonderful office administrative assistant sends a Ridgeview e-bulletin to your email every Thursday?  If you’re not receiving this valuable piece of home-school communication, please check with the office to ensure your e-mail address is correct in our system.  It’s very important that you read the school newsletter.  There is a great deal of information provided to you that we would not necessarily include in our This Week in Our Room online newsletter because it would make our newsletter too long.  However, to have the complete picture about what’s going on at school for your Kindergarten child, please ensure you read both newsletters. and Remind.  We write a weekly newsletter and weekly blog post (most weeks) on our Kindergarten website specifically for our classroom parents so you are informed every week about the fun and exciting things your child is learning at school.  One of our goals is to provide you with enough information so you can open discussions with your child about what’s happening in class.  Instead of asking your child, “What did you do today?” you can say, “Tell me about how your teacher printed the letter E today,” or “I heard you were making AAB patterns.  Let’s make these patterns with some treasures at home.”  We also try to include upcoming events and reminders so you know ahead of time what you need to prepare with your child.  The Remind texts are simply notes and reminders for you about what we did at school, or what your child might need in the next few days.  We’ve made our classroom communication available online so all parents can have equal access at the same time.

Informal interviews with your child’s teacher.  In the same way that we make appointments to see our family doctor or dentist, we ask that you contact us to make an appointment to schedule an interview.  We really want to talk to you when you ask us for a few minutes as you arrive at the door with your child, but it’s not a good time.  We have five minutes, from the time the entry bell rings to when the school starts singing “O Canada,” to welcome each child, gather papers and library books and then settle them into their first routine of the day.   If we’re talking to you, then we are not welcoming or supervising the children, who are our priority.  Let us know in the morning if you want to get together to chat; send an email, or write a note to ask for an appointment, and we’ll get back to you when we can to arrange a mutually agreeable time.

Five reporting periods per school year.  We just finished our Parent-Teacher Conferences this week.  It was the second conference following the Parent Intake Conferences (as part of the Kindergarten Gradual Entry) we held in September.  Therefore, it’s easy to understand the confusion that these conferences might occur monthly.  Rather, these scheduled conferences where we dismiss the entire school early occur once in the school year, in the fall.  We have additional interviews by appointment only, typically on an as needed basis which will differ between families.

Schools provide five reporting periods per school year:  there are three formal written report cards (at the end of each term); and we have two scheduled informal reporting periods.  At Ridgeview the October Parent-Teacher Conference was the first informal reporting session; and Student-Led Conferences, the second informal reporting session, will be held next Spring.  

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Meet the Kindergarten

img_5893Our school held a “Meet My Teacher” information afternoon this year, rather than our traditional school Curriculum Night.  Organised much like our Student Led Conferences, students were dismissed early; parents made an appointment for themselves, and their child introduced their parents to their teacher(s) and informed them about the classroom routines and curriculum.  The Kindergarten did not participate in this event as we had our Parent Intake Conferences the same week.

However, in Kindergarten there is always so much information for parents new to Ridgeview and parents new to Kindergarten and Ridgeview, that we’ve taken classroom routines and expectations from our Kindergarten Curriculum Night presentation and put it online.  

Meet the Kindergarten.  We are really enjoying teaching our classes this year.  The children are settling in well and adjusting to their new teachers and the classroom routines and expectations.  You may find your child is tired at the end of the day and that is for good reason, because they are all working extremely hard.  By the time Thanksgiving arrives, we will all begin to notice remarkable changes in their maturity, and their ability to self-regulate and manage their day.  We remind ourselves every day to be very patient with our classes as they make this important transition to being a full-day student.

Pick-up and Drop-off Routines.  The Kindergarten day begins at 8:50 am.  Children should wait quietly with their parents outside their classrooms. The teachers will open the door at 8:50 am. The children can independently hang up their coats and backpacks. A quick kiss and “goodbye” at the door, and a prompt exit by parents, has really helped reduce any separation issues and allows us to start our day on time.

“O Canada” is sung by our entire school population promptly at 8:55 am (in English Monday-Thursdays; in French on Fridays).  If you are dropping off at that time, please assist your children by encouraging them to come in silently and limit conversation in the cloakroom or hallway.

If you arrive after 9:00 am and the attendance has been sent up to the office, your child is considered late.  Please walk up to the office with your child, sign in, and then bring him or her back to class. You must also sign your child out at the office if you need to pick up early.

Your children should know each day how they are getting home.  Sometimes they tell us they don’t know who is picking them up, or wonder if they are going to the after school childcare centre.  We always reassure the children that we will look after them, but they will feel more secure and confident throughout the day knowing who will be there to greet them at 2:55 pm.

At dismissal, we make sure we see a parent or caregiver before we dismiss your child. If there is a change in pick up, such as with another child’s family, please let us know.  If your plans change at the last minute please call the school office, not another parent in the class.  Our school office will communicate your message directly to us.  We are able to release your child to another parent only with your permission.

fullsizerender-20Snack and Lunch Routines.  The children should use a lunch kit to bring their food to school.  It’s very awkward for them to be taking numerous containers and a water bottle out from their backpack and juggle them into the classroom.  Their lunch kit then goes into their backpack, which is also used to hold their weekly library book, notices and artwork for home.

We have snack twice a day.  We eat morning snack from 10:20-10:40 am, when the rest of the school is having outside recess time.  Our Kindergarten classes go out for recess from 10:40-11 am, and the children are supervised by playground supervisors as that is when the teachers take their break.  Our second snack time is around 2:30-2:45 pm, after our afternoon outside recess.

You might consider placing the morning and afternoon snacks in separate ziplocs or label the snacks to make it easier for your child.  Please tell your children what bag or container is for snack, and which one is for lunch, because sometimes they do get confused as they are still very young.

Please send a water bottle that is non-spill and refillable.  We are allowed to use the hallway water bottle refiller so the children can drink fresh, filtered water.  We encourage you just to send water, rather than juice, as it’s healthier and part of our healthy eating philosophy

Lunch begins at 12:00 pm and the children have about 25 minutes to eat. Currently they are supervised by an adult lunchtime supervisor and Grade 7 monitors.

We encourage your children to eat but we cannot make them eat and finish their lunches.  We always send home the uneaten food so you are able to see what your child is eating on a daily basis. Have a discussion with your children about what they like to eat, and have them help you to choose what goes in their snacks and lunches.

The Hot Lunch Program began this past week.  The children seemed to enjoy their food but we ask that you do not use the Hot Lunch Program as an opportunity for your child to try new foods here at school.  Please continue to send some snacks and a lunch from home until it’s certain that your child will eat the preordered food.  It creates a difficult situation when your child will not eat their Hot Lunch and there is no other alternative in their lunch bag.  Please send your child’s water bottle everyday, even if he or she orders lunch and a drink.

FullSizeRender-10Pack In/Pack Out Routine.  We call our waste management system at Ridgeview “Pack In/Pack Out.”  Children can bring a ziploc bag to collect their organic garbage and packaging waste to take home.  Many children simply put the garbage in their lunch bag which they seem to be comfortable doing.



img_5937Self-Care Expectations
.  The children are managing their washroom situations, which is washrooms located in Mrs. Campbell and Mrs. Zambon’s classroom, and the children in Mrs. Daudlin’s class use the hallway washrooms.  We’re very diligent about hand washing and we try to check in with the children as they are returning from the washrooms.

We do remind the children at every break opportunity to use the washroom, but many of them are so excited to go outside or they don’t want to miss anything in class so they try to wait.  This is an important discussion for you to have with your child.

In the case of a bathroom accident, your child should have an extra set of clothes to leave at school in a small shopping bag to hang on his or her hook.  It’s a good idea in the event of rain or puddles or muddy spills to have clothes here.  Mrs. Campbell and Mrs. Zambon’s class can use their bathrooms to change, and Mrs. Daudlin’s children may use a staff washroom so they have space and privacy.

img_1821When Should I Keep My Sick Child at Home from School?  We have found over the years, that even though a child is not feeling well, he or she still wants to come to school.  However, your sick child does not have the patience or energy to deal with the demands of the school day, friendship issues or school work expectations.  For the mutual benefit of the children, the children’s families and our teaching staff, a sick child needs to stay at home.

We spoke with Vancouver Coastal Health as they developed their new poster “When Should I Keep My Sick Child Home for School?” when we were writing our blog post, Your Kindergarten Child’s Good Health last January.  Please keep your children home from school if they have are vomiting, have a fever or diarrhea.  This includes known communicable diseases such as pink eye, chicken pox, strep throat, measles or an undiagnosed rash.

If your children have a very runny nose they cannot manage independently, or a bad chesty cough, those might also be reasons for them to stay at home.  We understand fully as working parents ourselves that it is not always convenient to take a day off from work to stay home with your sick child; however, we are unable to look after a sick child at school, nor are we able keep sick children inside during the playtime breaks.  A child who has taken a day or two to rest and get well at home is going to be back to health faster and more able to fight a future illness.

If your child is sick, we ask you to call the school call back line each day your child is away.

Communication through Remind.  This year we will be using “Remind,” a communication system to keep you informed through text messages or email.  Please subscribe if you have not yet already done so, and remember that this code is for parents and caregivers only.  Please feel free to come and see us about your child at any time during the year.  We are usually available for a quick chat after school; in the morning at drop-off time is difficult for us to talk as we are trying to welcome and settle the children in the classroom.  If you would like to speak with us and need a longer time, please arrange a meeting time with us. We will often call parents in at 2:55 pm if we need to share something with your briefly or talk about your child’s day

Communication through We also author, our Kindergarten website for keeping our class parents informed.  We post once or twice a week; we will send you a link through “Remind” so you can see what we’re learning and thinking about in Kindergarten.

Communication through Email.  You can also email should you wish to contact us.  If your child is in Mrs. Campbell and Mrs. Zambon’s class, please copy your emails to both teachers.

On Thursdays our school issues the weekly ebulletin.  Please speak to our Administrative Assistant if you are not receiving these newsletters.  They contain important reminders and updates for our school, and community news as well.

We’re looking forward to great year of fun and learning with your children!  Our Kindergarten Curriculum Overview will be sent home as a hard copy later this week.




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snack and lunches should be packed in a food bag

snack and lunches should be packed in a food bag

This week we completed our first week in the full day Kindergarten program.  One of the most important things we do in a full day, compared to the half day program, is have your children eat lunch at school.

After many years of watching children each lunch in our classrooms, there’s one thing we know very well: eating at school can be a complex, social affair.

In terms of the children’s self-regulation, eating is calming.  If the children are tired and running low on fuel, a snack is often what they need to help them up-regulate from the blue zone to the green zone.  When the children sit down to eat after a busy morning of learning, eating at lunch to fill up hungry tummies is just the thing they need to stay relaxed, calm and focused for the next part of the afternoon.  In these early weeks of September, we have a “last snack” time for the children around 2:35 before we dismiss at 2:55 pm.  Most of the children partake of a few pieces of fruit or crackers, or the last bites of a sandwich, and everyone wants long drinks of water to help them rehydrate.

When students eat snack and lunch at school, the social dynamics are very different than eating at home, or even in a restaurant.  We try to set up a calm, self-regulated environment for eating:  quiet music is playing in the background, the lights are turned down low and there’s the initial quiet as children are settling down to eat.  There will be some quiet conversation and even a bit of laughter.  But the expectation is that the children know and remember that their job at that time is to refuel first, then go outside to play.

a great idea to label snack containers in the food bag

a great idea to label snack containers in the food bag

At the tables, there is not typically an adult who sits down beside students to assist or cajole them to eat.  At school, even in Kindergarten, the children have to be able to eat independently which includes using a spoon or fork.  We have an adult lunchtime supervisor and Grade 7 monitors (who need to eat their own lunches) to help children with opening tight lids and or well sealed packages.  We will not, and cannot, make a child eat.  There is no negotiating, but we might give a gentle reminder:  “eat one more bite,” “two more mouthfuls” or “finish half your sandwich.”  So if your child is bringing home uneaten food, please know we have tried our very best.

As expected, the children are talking with their seatmates during eating times.  However, if there is too much talk then there is not enough eating.  The children are very eager to go outside to play on the playground, but our expectation is that a “reasonable amount” of food is consumed before going outside.  As teachers and moms of teenagers, we have a lot of experience dealing with kids and food and a pretty good idea of how much each child should eat to sustain his or her energy.

Eating in multicultural classrooms such as ours, where many different kinds of foods are brought to school, is a wonderful, global experience for everyone.  This year, your child can be sitting at a table of four where all four children are eating the food specific to their home country!  You can imagine how delicious it might look and smell in our rooms.  Some children are naturally very curious to try each other’s food, or wish to share their own, but we have reminded our students there is to be no sharing of food.  We are “nut aware” classrooms and as allergies can be known and unknown, we do not wish to take any risks of an allergic reaction.  You can help us by reinforcing this important message at home.

Preparing Snacks and Lunch at Home

After years of preparing lunches for our own children, and teaching many Kindergarten classes, we know that pleasing the particular and somewhat discerning five-year old palate, is not easy.

For the most part, we know the children are more than content to eat home prepared food.  They love to tell us if they are eating last night’s leftovers, or that their mom or dad got up early to prepare a favourite meal for them.  We love it when children bring food from home because most times they would have eaten at home first and are confident they will still like the taste at school.

Snacks are easy.  The children are often very satisfied with their yogurt, sliced fruit or veggies or small sweet treat such as a cookie, to go alongside their healthy food options.  Snacks are easy to present in a finger food format.  There are also many ways to purchase snack food that is manageable for children; for example, the “100 calorie” food packages of crackers or cookies, “cheesestrings,” small fruit cups and containers of yogurt (please remember to send a spoon for yogurt and fruit cups).  Healthy, fun food can go into a small, reusable containers such as popcorn, fish crackers, cucumber slices, olives and pickles or a fruity muffin.  Hummus is a great dip for veggie sticks.

a great assortment of healthy and fun food for snack time

a great assortment of healthy and fun food for snack time

For beverages, we prefer the children drink water from their non-spill water bottles.  Fruit juices, while sweet and tasty, are very sugary and spilled juices on the carpet and floors bring the inevitable ants to our classrooms.  Fruit juice boxes also create a lot of garbage.  We have access to taps and water bottle fillers to refill so fresh, cold water is always available.  Please send a water bottle everyday; it’s much cleaner for your child to drink from their own water bottle than use the water fountain, no matter how careful they are when drinking from it.

Eating lunch can be just as fun as snack time.  Again, a finger food format for presenting your child’s lunch is very appealing to them.  Last week we saw delicious wraps and sandwiches, made with special breads or buns and fillings, emerging from your child’s lunch bag.  When your children see this lovingly prepared food, cut into small quarters or halves just right for small hands, it’s like they are eating at a picnic or tea party, and how fun is that?  We see yummy slices of cold pizza, quesadillas, bagels and creamcheese, slices of meats, cheese and crackers that we know are very appreciated.  You can make eating time easier for your child by simply cutting your child’s food into small, manageable pieces for them to eat, such as a sandwich cut into halves or triangles.  Thank you to everyone for using reusable containers and bags for your child’s food, and for sending along a ziploc to catch the garbage in so we can send it home.

a ziploc bag is helpful to collect food packaging

a ziploc bag is helpful to collect food packaging

Sometimes the children want a warm lunch and a small thermos of soup, pasta or last night’s rice casserole are great options.  You can help us by remembering that when you place the lid on a hot container of food, it creates a strong seal which we often cannot open ourselves.  Please allow the food to cool for a minute or two to make the seal less strong.  As well, if your child is eating rice, a spoon is a better utensil to send to school as it can be tricky to use a fork because the rice always falls off.

Hot Lunch Program

This coming week begins a shift in our eating experience at school with the advent of the Hot Lunch Program starting on Monday.  This program, albeit very convenient, is not always met with the same enthusiasm by the child once he or she begins to eat.  “It doesn’t taste right,” is a phrase we have heard many, many times.  We encourage you to send along some extra food in your children’s lunch bags, in case they do not like their ordered lunch, until you know for certain that they will eat it.  We will let you know in a few weeks time what is popular and well-eaten by our classes.  All children must still bring snacks and water to school, even if they order a hot lunch.  It’s too long for a child to go from breakfast to lunch without anything to eat.   A hungry child is a child who is not self-regulated and without self-regulation, will have difficulty focusing and learning.

Finally, the hot lunch program creates some garbage.  Your child should bring their lunch bag and/or a large ziploc bag to contain the garbage and leftover food which we will be sending home, except for frozen treats or anything with a lot of liquid.  We will dispose of what we can at school and send the rest home with your child.


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Kindergarten Basics

fullsizerender-19This week we’re going to bring your attention to an important part of, and that is the category of Kindergarten Basics.

Here we categorise the posts we believe form a basic part of Kindergarten life at Ridgeview.  We cover many different topics, from what we might do on a typical day in Kindergarten, to reading with your child, to the importance of play.

At the beginning of the school year, here are three important blog posts that you may find informative to help you understand what we’re thinking about.

Start the Kindergarten Day Off Right! (February 16, 2015)

Like the routines we create and follow at school, having routines at home helps us to be organised so everyone knows their job, mom, dad and kids.  We establish a strong classroom structure to provide predictability and ultimately, security for our children:  when the boys and girls know what’s expected of them and the other children, they feel much more confident in knowing what’s going to happen.  It’s very exciting when they remember the routines and it all just seems to magically happen!  We know it’s not magic, but rather the result of methodical planning and consistent behaviour on the part of the teacher.  The same can be said for home where the children have afterschool, dinner time and bedtime routines.  In the same way classroom routines make for a smoother and more enjoyable day, so can the ones related to getting up in the morning, preparing for the school or work day, and probably the most important, getting to bed on time!  Click here to read the original post.

Waste Management, Revisited (October 19, 2015)

You’ve probably already heard from your child that we are asking them to put specific items in the organics garbage can in our classrooms.  Right now, it’s mostly just wet paper towels after handwashing.  The odd fruit pit or cupcake wrapper ends up there which is ok, but we really need everyone to participate fully in the waste management system at school.  We’ve been doing this for three years now, and we need to ensure good habits are in place in Kindergarten as this will be the system for your child’s Ridgeview school life.  Currently, we are asking children to put the food packaging garbage back into their lunch bags to take and sort out at home.  Better still, please send your child’s food in recyclable containers to eliminate any garbage.  A small ziploc bag, or vegetable plastic bag might be more preferable for your children to take home fruit peels and pits if they don’t want them loose in their lunch bags.  Click here to read the original post.

A Day in the Life of Kindergarten

This is probably one of our favourite pages in the Kindergarten handbook that we’ve ever written because it sums up what a day in our Kindergarten life looks like.  It can be hard to imagine what we’re doing all day, although we will reassure you that your children are playing and working extremely hard.  By the end of last week, the children were very tired; indeed, there were many small heads drooping at the morning assembly.  Sharing, turn-taking, negotiating, compromising, cooperating, speaking kindly to your neighbour, listening to your teacher and paying attention to the many social cues that go on around you telling you what you should do next takes tremendous energy and self-regulation.  We do as much as we can through play, within our classroom structure, as the children become better acquainted with each other, their teacher, and themselves as a learner.  As the days go on and the temperatures become cooler, we will see remarkable growth in our Kindergarten students!  Click here to read the original post.


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First Week: Introducing Clasroom Routines, Rules and Expectations to the Kindergarten

IMG_2089Our students started their Gradual Entry for Kindergarten this week, with smaller groups attending for a shorter time so that all of us, teachers and students, have an opportunity to get to know each other in a calm, gentle and relaxed environment.  We’re fortunate to have this time to be with our students, so they can socialise and play with their new classmates and we can introduce and settle them into our classroom routines.

When we are establishing routines in our classrooms, we begin the first day of Gradual Entry with our small groups.  We believe that routines, in conjunction with setting up a self-regulated classroom, can underlie the children’s self-regulation:  when they know what’s expected of themselves and others, and have a sense of predictability about their day, they feel safe and secure in knowing what’s going to happen next.  The children feel calm so they can focus on the teacher’s instructions and participate fully in class.  We want to reduce uncertainty and anxiety as much as possible so our little learners are able to do the job they come to school for:  to learn.  As we said many times before, when our children are relaxed, focused, calm and happy, they are ready and in their optimal state for learning (the green zone).

We have two different groups of children (morning and afternoon) so it’s very important we’ve taught the routines and stated the expectations in the same way (hopefully exactly) for consistency for when the entire class is together (which for us is tomorrow).  We still carry around our dayplan during these first few important days so we do not forget anything.

We met our new students on the playground and led them to our respective classrooms to hang up their school bags in the cloakroom.  It is here, at the classroom door, that we teach the first routine for children to wait with their parents or caregivers for the teacher to open the door in the mornings.  We remind the children there is no knocking or banging on the door; rather, they are to wait quietly with their adults, no running or loud voices.  

We have books waiting on the alphabet squares of the carpet in the Meeting Area.  As we welcome the children into the classroom and direct them to the carpet they may look at a book for a few minutes if we are helping a reluctant child at the front door; yet we’re still able to see the class.  We eventually modify this routine after a couple of weeks and ask the children to select their own book from the book rack.

We introduce three big sets of classroom routines, rules and expectations for getting along together on the first day, and review the use of the washrooms and lining up.  At first this might seem like a lot but we find the children always rise to the challenge, as they have already done this week.  

Typically, whenever we enter our classroom, including the start of the day, returning from recess, Library or PE, our routine is always to walk and sit down in the Meeting Area.  The Meeting Area is an important area in the classroom:  we use it for curriculum instruction, Storytime, Sharing and whenever we have something very important to say to our class, such as introducing rules and expectations; therefore, we must be able to cooperate well as a group.

  1. Getting Along Together at the Meeting Area
  • Sit cross cross on your alphabet square in your personal space bubble
  • Raise your hand if you wish to speak
  • Only one person can speak at a time
  • Hands and feet to self
  • Listen for the teacher’s bell – what does listening to the teacher look like?  Turn your body to face the teacher, ears are listening to the teacher, eyes are looking at the teacher, hands are still.  We call this “listening with my whole body”
  • Sometimes we (the teacher) will use the word “stop” or “freeze”

We have a brief chat about “stop” and “freeze” and what that means and looks like before we move to discussing Centres Time expectations.

  1.  Getting Along Together during Centre Time
  • Four children to a Centre at a time
  • Centres are “open” or “closed” (we teach them what that looks like for different Centres eg., no paper on the easel means painting is closed for today)
  • Inside voices are quiet voices
  • Walking feet
  • Gently and quietly select toys and materials from their baskets
  • We treat our Centre activities and each other with kindness and respect, share and take turns
  • When the clean-up music comes on, then we must stop what we’re doing and begin to tidy.  We also give a 2-5 minute warning before the clean-up song and show it on the Time Timer

We give a tour of the classroom, which includes a visit to the washrooms, and practise walking to the different Centres and review what is “open” or closed” for today.  During the children’s playtime, we circulate around the classroom, practise the routine of listening for the teacher’s bell and what “listening with my whole body,” “stop” and “freeze” look like and sound like.  We also try to enforce the clean-up routine as we know this routine must be firmly in place in order to make Centre Time successful for everyone.  We praise the children for following our commands and gently assist those who need more support.

Before we head to Snack Time, we gather at the Meeting Area to introduce the Snack Time rules and review the expected behaviour when using the washrooms.

  1.  Getting Along Together during Snack Time
  • Bring snack bags into the classroom and place them on the designated tables for eating
  • Wash and dry hands at the sink area
  • Stay seated to eat; there is no walking and eating at the same time
  • Eat quietly with small bites and mouths are closed when chewing; swallow our food before the next bite or taking a drink
  • Quiet conversation only with our tablemates
  • Use your spoon or fork correctly
  • When your snack is finished, pack out your garbage and wait to be called to line-up for outside recess

It might be mind-boggling to see all of these classroom routines, rules and expectations in print and wonder, how can our Kindergarten children remember and do all of this?

Well, we’re here to tell you that the children can and will meet our expectations if we have made our expectations clear and explicit, provided multiple opportunities for them to practise, and positively reinforced and praised the desired behaviours we hope to elicit from them.  For the past three days during Week One of Gradual Entry, we have tried to consistently use the same language and routines so the children can internalise their new learning to become part of their natural behaviour.

Our classrooms are ready, we’ve set up a learning environment that supports self-regulation and we’ve introduced our classroom routines, rules and expectations.  Our whole class arrives tomorrow and we are waiting with anticipation…..



Time to Review Our Kindergarten Classroom Routines

We’re back at school this week, setting up the physical space of our classrooms and thinking about our teaching practise.  We will be reposting some of our blog posts for the next few days  to keep us focused on what we need to do when creating a safe, secure learning environment that best supports self-regulation and ultimately, student learning.  Today, we reblog, “Our Kindergarten Classroom Routines” from February 2015.


photo-12It’s been a really busy time in the Kindergarten.  In addition to our regular schedule, Christy and I have been out of our classrooms a couple of times each week for the last few weeks, completing our school district’s Kindergarten/Grade One Literacy Screener with our students, completing the Early Development Instrument (EDI) for participating students and attending Professional Development sessions.

We are looking forward to returning to a regular routine with our students.

Last week we wrote about the importance of getting your child to school on time.

Over the next two posts we’ll explore, as teachers and parents, our thoughts about routines you can establish at home to help your child get organized in the evening so the mornings are not so rushed, an important factor in arriving to school on time. Which brings us back to our greatest comfort, routines.

Let’s start with how we establish routines in the Kindergarten.

Classroom routines are necessary for successful teaching and learning.  From our perspective, classroom routines are one of the pillars of excellent classroom management which, in turn, is the foundation of successful teaching. Classroom management includes clearly established expectations and routines (sometimes called classroom structure); management of desired student behaviour; and organization of lessons in order to maximize student learning, process and productivity.

In Kindergarten the classroom routines are established by us, the teachers.

Partly from experience, and partly through learning about our new class each year, we create routines around student work (eg., Alphabet Books), student activities (Meeting Time, Centres) and any transitions in our class.  A transition would be any time students are moving between activities or subject areas.

Routines give our students security because routines establish boundaries around expected behaviour.  The children know what is expected of them, and the other students.  They feel safe because they know what they are allowed to do, and we teach them to peer-reference (look to others) if they are uncertain.  The children want to please their teachers, they want to do the right thing, and when they feel safe and secure in their classroom environment, they flourish.

Routines give our students predictability.  Being able to predict or know, exactly what is going to happen next, allows the children to relax and be calm and contributes to their self-regulation.  When the children are able to self-regulate their behaviour, all of their attention and positive energy can be focused on listening and learning, following the teachers’ instructions and having fun with their friends.

Here is the visual Daily Schedule from our classrooms.  We read it in three columns: the first column is the activities from the start of the day until snack time; the second is from morning recess to the end of the lunch hour; and the third is the afternoon.


The children love the schedule because they know what’s going to happen in class next, when their breaks will be and when we get close to home time.  The children often ask when they can go home during the afternoon as the full day in Kindergarten can be a long one.  When we can show the children on the schedule how many activities there are before home time, they feel they can cope because they can count them down.

Reviewing this visual schedule is part of our morning routine right before Centres.  Sometimes we remember to change it the day before, but lately we’ve started changing it with the children so they can see, and hear from us, how their day will unfold.  The children are developing a sense of the passage of time, which we believe helps them to pace themselves throughout the day.


We added the “I forgot…” card to the schedule because inevitably, we will forget something
resulting in a change in the schedule (eg., we forgot the gym is in use during our PE time for a school-wide event or we have to miss Centres to go to an assembly).  Each time we use the “I forgot…” card, it is an opportunity for us to teach our students about being flexible.  We just place the card in front of the activity to be missed or moved to another time or day.

Although there might be disappointment, a five-year old child is old enough to understand that sometimes what we planned for is not going to happen. Kindergarten children are able to learn to be flexible, adjust and accept the circumstances of a given situation.  We try to positively use these experiences in class to teach our students to express their feelings and use a self-regulating strategy to help deal with their emotions.

We begin teaching our classroom routines on the first day of Gradual Entry for Kindergarten.  We start with a routine for how to sit at the carpet during Meeting Time (walk to the carpet; listen with your whole body: sit cross cross on your Alphabet square, hands in your lap, eyes are looking at the teacher, ears are listening to the teacher, mouths are quiet).

We carefully explain what our expectations are, specifically praise the children for showing us the expected behaviour and in the days and weeks to follow, continue to practise and positively reinforce the desired routines and behaviours with more praise.  From there we add our routine for Centre Time (walk to a centre, four to a group, quiet voices, share), and continue building in more routines through the months of September and October.

Our students are becoming independent in the classroom as a result of learning routines.  They are able to do many things for themselves and take a lot of pride from that independence. It’s certainly one of the big goals we want for our children as they grow up and move through the school years.

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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.