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.

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.


The Self-Regulated Teacher’s Top 5 Most Read Posts for Term Two, January-March 2016

IMG_0728We’ve just finished the first week of our spring break, and have taken some time to get caught up on household duties, skiing, concerts, shopping, and future blog post ideas and scheduling.

But it also reminded us it’s the end of Term Two for our classes, and as usual we like to wrap it up with a summary and links to our top 5 most read posts in case you missed them.

IMG_1854Our Kindergarten Classroom Routines

Although teachers typically establish classroom routines in September, we’ve learned over the years that teaching routines is not something that can be done once and never referred to again.  Routines of any kind, for our students and ourselves as adults, need to be practiced and reinforced over and over to become a good habit and part of the natural way we do things.  So it is every autumn that we begin teaching routines to our new Kindergarten students on the first day of the Gradual Entry Program.  Routines provide calm and comfort for the children, particularly for transitions between activities.  The children have a sense of safety and security when they know what is expected not only of them, but their classmates as well.

IMG_2478Math, the Kindergarten Way

We wrote this blog last April and we’re excited that it continues to remain informative for parents and teachers.  We’re still faithful to the basic principles of Math Their Way even after many years of teaching, a variety of new programs and new directions.  Math Their Way is just right for young children:  it is a manipulative based math program that focuses on developing a deep understanding of math concepts at the concrete (manipulative) level before the children start to make the connections between the concrete and abstract.  Every math unit we plan, from Patterning, to Sorting and Classifying, Number and Geometry and Measurement, begins with the manipulatives and planned time for the children to explore over a number of days before we begin direct instruction.

BreathingBallSelf-Regulation Tool:  The Breathing Ball

This little blog on the Breathing Ball (aka the Hoberman Sphere) has been visited often since we originally posted it in February 2015 .  We continue to use the Breathing Ball daily, either after the morning or lunch recess, to provide an important visual for our students for the deep breathing practise that we take so seriously in the Kindergarten.  Our dear SEA who retired last year always said to the children, “your breath is your friend.”  When we are out and about, in a hallway line-up to enter the gym for an assembly, waiting for our turn to perform at the Christmas Concert or anticipating a special snack, we turn to our “friend” and breathe deeply and calmly to help us focus so that we are always relaxed and ready to receive whatever the day is about to bring to us.

IMG_2474Understanding Phonological Awareness as Part of a Balanced Approach to Reading Instruction

A significant part of our Kindergarten program is to build upon the children’s phonological awareness, which has been developing since they were young.  In our school district we assess our students’ early literacy skills at the end of January, such as alphabet names and sounds, initial and final sounds of words and segmenting and blending skills, with a follow-up assessment in late spring.  For us, planning a balanced approach to reading instruction includes developing phonemic awareness and phonics instruction, along with the songs, rhymes and poems, read-aloud stories, environmental print, shared reading and independent reading opportunities that are a part of a rich, oral language experience.

IMG_2584Setting Up the Self-Regulated Classroom

This year we made some significant changes to the physical arrangement of our classrooms based upon suggestions from Stuart Shankar (@StuartShankar) in his book Calm, Alert and learning:  Classroom Strategies for Self-Regulation.  From increasing our use of natural light, soft wall colours, uniform organisation of materials and noise reduction strategies, we are better able to support our students’ self regulation through the creation of a calm and peaceful learning space.


Understanding Phonological Awareness as Part of a Balanced Approach to Reading Instruction

IMG_5068This school year our West Vancouver School District’s Student Support Services held a Professional Learning Series on “Reading Between, Above and Beyond the Lines.”  In November, we were delighted to attend a session on “Accurate & Automatic Decoding and the Development of Phonological Awareness,” led by our Early Learning Principal, Sandralynn Shortall (@slshortall).  It was a great opportunity to gather together teachers of the early years to hear the same key messages and district philosophy, and for consistency amongst common beliefs throughout our Primary teaching staff.

There’s been so much talk and work done currently on inquiry based learning, coding, BC’s new education curriculum and our new report card format, that for Christy and I, it was almost a relief to return to one of the most essential aspects of schooling, particularly for parents and students:  building on the Kindergarten child’s oral language skills before learning to work with print as a reader and a writer (McCracken and McCracken, 1996).  As long-time Kindergarten and Grade One teachers, we know that the work we do now in literacy, during the early years, is paramount for our students over the long-term.

We consider the term literacy to be inclusive of reading and writing so that whenever we refer to literacy, for the purposes of this and future posts, we mean both processes.  Reading and writing influence each other: children need to know their letters when reading words, but they also need to know them when they’re writing and trying to spell. If we’re talking about just reading or just writing, we will refer to each process by its specific name.

In our school district we conduct an early literacy skills assessment screener for our Kindergarten children at the end of January for our baseline information and then reassess in late May.  We assess the children’s knowledge of alphabet names (upper and lowercase) and sounds, initial and final sounds of words, blending and segmenting skills, phonetic word reading, sight words and literacy awareness.  In the time between the two assessments, based on the children’s initial scores, we know what areas we need to pinpoint for targeted instruction, and if additional supports beyond regular classroom instruction need to be brought in for our students.

In 1997, the United States Congress asked the Child Development and Behaviour Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to work with the U.S. Department of Education to establish a National Reading Panel to review the current research on the best ways to teach children how to read.  In 2000, after examining over 100,00 reading studies, the National Reading Panel concluded that “the best approach to reading instruction is one that incorporates:

  • Explicit instruction in phonemic awareness
  • Systematic phonics instruction
  • Methods to improve fluency
  • Ways to enhance comprehension;”

however, we also know from our own teaching and experience this is only one component of a balanced approach to reading instruction (which is one of our by-words), which also includes a rich oral language base such as read-aloud books and storytelling by the teacher; shared reading experiences of big books, rhymes, poems and songs with active participation by the children and independent reading of books by the children themselves.  To take it one step further, a balanced approach to reading instruction is going to be part of the broader balanced approach to literacy, but that’s going to have to be a whole other topic for another day.

So for now, before we think about planning for reading instruction, we need to understand the differences between these three terms:

Phonological awareness means the child is attending to the phonological or sound structure of language, distinct from the meaning of the words.  Children with well-developed phonological awareness have the understanding that language is made up of sounds (phonemic awareness), syllables, rhymes and words (Trehearne, 2000).

Phonemic awareness is the awareness that speech is the sequence of sounds, specifically phonemes, the smallest unit of sound.  Yopp and Yopp (2000) describe phonemes as “the smallest unit of sound that makes a difference in communication” (p. 130).  Think of the differences in using the word “cat,” or “bat” or “sat.”  Phonemic awareness is the ability to think about and manipulate speech sound units such as segmenting, blending, deleting, and substituting (changing the order of speech sound sequences), and being able to hear and identify sounds in spoken words

Phonics is the instructional approach for helping children learn the relationship between letters and sounds.  Phonics is the relationship between the letters of written and spoken language.  We often refer to it as the “sound-symbol” relationship.

In Kindergarten, when we’re teaching the alphabet letters, and their sounds, how to blend sounds into words, how to segment words into their individual sounds and playing rhyming games, as teachers we don’t want to “squeeze” these activities into a few spares minute at the end of the day; rather, phonics instruction and other phonological awareness skills must be made a priority, and at a good time of the day when the children are attentive and ready to learn.

It can be hard for excellent readers, which can include teachers, to understand what our students are feeling and going through when they struggle with reading.  The children cannot hear the sounds as we do, and our brains are making the differences in meaning.  Even in the simple rhyming activity we played today where some children had difficulty generating rhyming words for “lane,” offering words such as “land” and “lame,” we could tell that they had not discovered yet what is meaningful for them in terms of the sounds.

A lot of children do not learn to read easily, or at least it does not come easily at first.  And we need to think about how we are going to plan for those children in our teaching so that they can all become successful readers and learners.  We’ve noticed not just amongst our students, but in our own families as well, that a rich language environment does not mean that being able to read is going to come naturally.  There are specific skills needed to read, and the skills needed to link the sounds the language to the letters of the alphabet must be learned through cohesive, systematic and direct instruction.

“Direct instruction” is often given a bad rap these days.  For many, what comes to mind is children all sitting in rows, with the teacher at the chalkboard.  Others see it where children are not allowed to talk, it’s just “teacher talk.”  Some envision children working tirelessly, slate and chalk in hand, printing copious lines of letters, like we’re still in the Victorian age.  There’s no play, no laughter, no inquiry, no curiosity.

Well, direct instruction can and does involve a lot of play, and laughter and inquiry and curiosity…the difference is that we, the teachers, are directly teaching the concepts in a systematic way to the children, checking their learning to ensure they understand and made connections to that which they already know.  We want to build on their prior experience; that’s why the shared learning experiences we have in class are so important so that we have a common base from which to build.  Then, we try to build on their newly acquired knowledge, scaffolding their learning along the way, mastering concepts and moving on.

Yes, sometimes the children have to sit at their tables or desk to complete their alphabet or literacy tasks.  We’re not sure when that became a bad thing, because ultimately, it’s all about creating balance whether we’re talking about teaching or learning.

In a balanced approach to literacy, we will have a greater opportunity of meeting the various learning styles and needs of all learners.

Thank you so very much to our Principal, Valerie Brady, and our WV Early Learning Principal, Sandralynn Shortall, for their feedback in the preparation of today’s post.

Food for Thought

a delicious homemade sandwich

a delicious homemade sandwich

Hot Lunch is available to order again for next term.  However, before you decide to order, please have a conversation with your children about how they feel about their hot lunch.  Many of the children do not like their main course.  We try to send home the uneaten food so you know if your child does not like it.  We know it’s easier to order the lunch than preparing it at home, but a lot of food is being wasted and not worth the expense.

You might not know that:

  • We pour out a lot of milk and juice the children do not drink or have time to finish
  • We pour out the remaining TCBY yogurt, and wash down most of the half melted frozen fruit bars down the sink
  • Rarely is all the ordered lunch eaten.  You might considering ordering less and supplementing with homemade food.

The children are not missing out if you decide not to order the hot lunch.  Many children in the class do not order the hot lunch, or receive hot lunch just once a week, and then it is a treat and something special to look forward to.  Some families have just ordered the TCBY yogurt for their child once a week.

Here are the Kindergarten children’s favourite selections based upon what we have observed our classes eating for the past three months:

  • BBQ Beef Sliders
  • Jumbo Beef Hot Dog
  • Cheese Quesadilla
  • Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Baked Chicken Strips
  • 4” Turkey Sub
  • 4” Ham Sub
  • Vegetable Cup (assortment of fresh garden vegetables with a side of creamy ranch dressing)
  • Fruit Cup (assorted fresh cut fruit)
  • TCBY frozen yogurt cups (all flavours)

These are the foods most frequently left behind, or disliked by our classes:

  • Mac and Cheese
  • Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Meatballs
  • Butter Chicken
  • Chicken Fried Rice

Although there are some new items on the menu this term, we cannot give any opinions about them at this time.

We recommend not ordering the milk and juice as we usually have to pour out every drink which is ordered into the sink. The children are very content to drink water which truly quenches their thirst and helps them to stay better hydrated throughout the day.

It is very distressing when the children pick at their food, or eat only a few bites.  We are unable to make them eat, and keeping them inside longer at lunch to eat, thereby shortening their outside playtime, is not the answer.  Their young bodies need to be refuelled properly at lunch, or they will not have the energy to keep going for the afternoon.  This affects your children’s self-regulation as it’s very difficult for them to focus and learn when they are hungry.

This Week In Our Room:  December 7-11, 2015

Christmas Concert

We sent home a note today (on green paper) with your children explaining what will be happening for the Christmas Concert dress rehearsal, matinee and evening performance.  Please let us know if you have any questions.

Reindeer GamesFullSizeRender-7

We had a very successful Reindeer Games this week.  Thank you so very much to our wonderful FullSizeRender-8parent helpers.  We had lots of fun participating in five different activities:  we made reindeer food for Christmas Eve, a reindeer gift bag, a reindeer placemat, coloured in our reindeer colouring books and played with Christmas play dough.

Leaving Early

Please let us know if you are leaving early for the Christmas holidays. We would like to be able to gather together your children’s crafts to send home with them.

Early Dismissal

We’re dismissing at 2 pm on the last day of school, December 18.  If your child attends Camp Ridgeview that day, please let them know of the earlier pick-up time.

The Self-Regulated Teacher’s Top 5 Most Read Posts for Term One, September-December 2015

Beautiful shadows on a beautiful late autumn day!

Beautiful shadows on a beautiful late autumn day!

Well, time has flown by again.  Who can believe we are already finished the first term of the school year and now we’re in the countdown to Christmas?

Today marks the 80th post for and as we do at the end of every term, we highlight the top five most read posts (according to our stats) for you to read in case you missed them!

Setting Up the Self-Regulated Classroom

We decided to make further changes in setting up our classrooms this past September, to better support the children’s self-regulation.  We started with reviewing Stuart Shankar’s Calm, Alert and Learning: Classroom Strategies for Self-Regulation to consider what distractors and stimuli could be changed or removed to enhance a calm and peaceful classroom environment.  We made purposeful wall colour choices (ocean blues and forest greens), increased the natural light, considered other attractive lighting options (pretty lamps) and new storage containers (all matching) for a more pleasing visual appearance.  Click here for the full version.

Our Kindergarten Classroom Routines

Classroom routines are extremely important in the day-to-day running of the classroom.  Let’s face it:  we all want to have fun at school whether we are the teacher or the students, and classroom routines help us to make it so.  The children feel safe and secure in their classroom, and with their teacher and classmates, when they know the expectations.  They know they can explore, play and learn within the established boundaries.  As teachers we create the routines every year for the students;  we know based on our own teacher training, and professional and personal (we’re parents, too) experience, what children in this particular age group can do independently, and what they can learn successfully with teaching and practise.  Click here for the full version.

Self-Regulation Resources

It’s exciting that our link to self-regulation resources has been visited many times, as that means more of us are thinking about self-regulation and how we can support our students.  We have a list of self-regulation sites for you, in addition to links to self-regulation tools we use ourselves in the classroom, and curriculums to consider.  We update this page on our site about once a term so check in regularly. Click here for the full version.

About Us

Christy and I are long-time teachers in the West Vancouver School District and have dedicated our professional lives to teaching primary-aged children.  We’ve been friends and colleagues for many years.  I was teaching Grade 3 at Chartwell Elementary in 1994 when Christy was hired there to teach Kindergarten, having just completed her student teaching right here at Ridgeview.  We became Buddy teachers and I also acted as a teacher mentor for Christy as she was a beginning teacher.  Today, congratulations are in order for Christy as she was honoured in September for having completed 20 years of teaching in West Van!  You can read more about us Our Story:  Becoming the Self-Regulated Teacher.  Click here for the full version.

Self-Regulation Tool:  The Breathing Ball

We’ve been using the “breathing ball” for over a year now, and continue to find it a useful tool to practise deep breathing with our classes.  We introduce it quite early in the school year and like most things we do, we incorporate it into a routine.  This year, we try to use the breathing ball daily after the lunch recess.  We expect the children to walk quietly to the meeting area in the classroom; they sit down on the carpet and we practise deep breathing with the breathing ball as a visual aid before we read our afternoon story.  Although it takes time and thought to set up, and persistence to shape each routine, teaching and practising strategies is a necessary building block to helping children develop self-regulation.  Click here for the full version.

Our Rights, Role and Responsibilities…as Canadian Citizens:  Kindergarten Social Studies

IMG_2120One of the Big Ideas from the new BC Social Studies Curriculum for Kindergarten is “Rights, roles, and responsibilities shape our identity and help us build healthy relationships with others.”

This month, as a prelude to our class work about Remembrance Day, we decided to start exploring this Big Idea through the lens of what it means to be a Canadian citizen and how our rights, roles and responsibilities as Canadians shape our personal identity.

In Kindergarten we begin with where the children are in their learning, and preferably shared learning, so that we all have the same common base from which to build knowledge.  The children then bring their personal experiences, which makes the discussions rich with language and images, as they connect their understandings to their new learning.

Our practice is built on schema theory, or how we make sense out of new experiences and new information by activating our prior, or background, knowledge.  The new experiences and information are interpreted by what we already know, our schema.  Schema refers to a person’s knowledge.  Our knowledge has been developing since we were infants, through our senses and growing with each new experience.  We need to have the appropriate schema to “hang” the new knowledge on, in order to make sense of what we do not know or understand. 

We make sense of our new experiences and learning through assimilation, which is (like the Borg) when we have to extend our prior knowledge to integrate the new knowledge or accommodation, when we change what we know to integrate the new knowledge. Schema theory is significant in the area of reading comprehension, as we need to bring the appropriate schema to new text in order to make sense and understand what we are reading.  The role of schema theory in reading comprehension is due to the work of educational psychologist, Richard Anderson.

That is why, so often, teachers will use brainstorming, KWL (what we Know, what we Want to know, what we have Learned) or a class provocation to build a common schema before starting a new unit of instruction.

Proud Canadians

A common experience for all of our Ridgeview school population is that we sing, “O Canada,” every day at school (we sing in French on Fridays).  In our classrooms we stand facing the Canadian flag.  The pride with which the Kindergarten sings the national anthem is extremely moving.

To create a common body of knowledge for our students, we started a provocation with a small Canadian flag and asked the children what it meant to be a Canadian citizen. Words and phrases such as “maple leaf,” “Canadian flag,” “maple trees” and “red and white” were among the first ideas to be shared.  Many children also knew that a Canadian citizen was someone who was born in Canada.

We introduced the concept of “role” to the children by asking them, “What do you think is one of your jobs as a Canadian citizen?”  Some of the children said they were proud of Canada.  When asked to “tell us more about that” one student said he was dreaming of the Toronto Blue Jays.  That led to more pride as we discussed the BC Lions, the Vancouver Canucks and totem poles.

We defined “rights” as something you “should” have, when talking about the children’s rights as Canadians.  They children responded quickly with “clean water to drink” and “healthy food.”  But just as important as those ideas, was the right to “having a great family.” A five-year old child can have a very wise soul….

Kindergarten children of today are socially very responsible.  The concept of recycling “pack out garbage; we recycle; we reuse” and water conservation “be careful with water use” are familiar to them, having been modeled and discussed by their parents and teachers their whole lives.

So what did we take away from our initial lessons?

We learned that right now our children see their role as Canadian citizens as being proud Canadians, proud of teams and symbols that represent their country.

We learned that right now our children see that their rights as Canadian citizens include a loving, supportive home and a healthy diet.

We learned that right now our children see that their responsibilities as Canadian citizens are to be good stewards of their planet Earth.

That’s about as Canadian as it gets, eh?

FullSizeRender-3Assemblies – Expected Behavior

Ridgeview has many assemblies during the school year.  Sometimes they are to celebrate an occasion such as Hallowe’en, other times they might commemorate a special day as in our Remembrance Day Assembly upcoming on Tuesday, November 10.

Each assembly has a different purpose; however, students are always expected to walk into the gym quietly, sit patiently while waiting for the speakers and applaud appropriately.  At no time will shouting, hooting or yelling be tolerated.  These are not games.  Rather, it’s an opportunity for our student school community to come together as one.

You can help prepare our Kindergarten children by discussing with them the expected behaviour  for this week’s assembly.  Your child’s self-regulation is important, and these are routines that we have practiced repeatedly during the first few weeks of school, and will continue to teach and reinforce throughout the school year:

  1. Walk quietly in line with their teacher, facing forward to pay attention to where the teacher is walking
  2. Stay together as a line, so there are no gaps
  3. Mouths are closed and hands are at our side
  4. In the gym, sit quietly on the Kindergarten bench, hands to self, feet are still and on the floor

Occasionally, parents are invited to the school assemblies.  We welcome your attendance and interest in our school activities! 

You can support us by not waving, calling or trying to get the attention of your children.  We have instructed the children not to wave, call out or respond to others while walking to, or during, assemblies.  Developing focus, patience and waiting without complaining, are life-long skills our children will need as teenagers, adults and in their social relationships.

Parent Volunteers in the Kindergarten Classroom

IMG_2041-1Our planned Hallowe’en Centres party for this week has generated a lot of excitement not just among the Kindergarten children, but for our classroom parents as well as it’s the first opportunity for them to volunteer for a classroom activity.

Most Kindergarten parents are very keen to volunteer in their child’s classroom.  They seem to have an innate sense that teaching a Kindergarten classroom can be very busy and wish to able to support their child’s teacher in any way they can, even if it’s just cleaning paints and brushes (and that is very much appreciated).  Many parents come from Parent Participation Preschool backgrounds so they are used to volunteering frequently in many capacities.  Sometimes parents wonder how their child is doing and wish to see them in action.  Although we know that everyone has different reasons for helping, what is most crystal clear to us is this:  parent volunteers can improve the quality of their child’s education, support the classroom teacher and the school, and model the importance of giving back to their community to their children.

The first time we ask for Kindergarten parent volunteers is at the end of October, although it can be later depending upon the children.  We’ve tried several times to ask for helpers in September; but the truth is, not all children are ready to have their parents come into the classroom in the early days of school.  We monitor separation issues between children and parents, and observe how the children interact with you before and after school.  We want your volunteer experience in the classroom to be positive one, and it can be hard if your child is clinging on to you and you are unable to fulfill your role.  We need to feel secure knowing that your children understand that when their mom or dad volunteers in the classroom, their parents are there to help the teacher.  The teacher is the one who is in charge and the class expectations are still to be followed.

There was a time when the classroom teacher needed parent helpers, she would post a sign-up outside the classroom.  But the problem with this method, as we found out both as teachers and working parents, was that the same parents would always get to volunteer as they would drop-off and pick-up their children so they could sign up first.  Back in our job-share days, when our children were still in elementary school, we often missed out ourselves to volunteer in the classroom because we happened to be teaching when the sign-up was posted.

We understood that the dates for classroom events might conflict with a teaching day for us; that’s just reality of the working parent.  It’s far easier for the teacher to hang up that sheet of paper, but the “first come, first served” model just doesn’t sit well with us.  We want to make volunteering more equal for all parents if we can.

When we plan a classroom event and require parent volunteers, we ask our classroom parents personally.  For each group of volunteers we have, we’re consciously trying to create a balance of new and former parents (of children we’ve taught previously), and parents with a second language to support the children who are learning English.  We try to accommodate parents’ work schedules, childcare for siblings and utilize parents’ talents, and we can only learn this through talking to them.  We try to give as much notice as we can for working parents so they can try to switch workdays if necessary.

Ridgeview, like many other elementary schools, has volunteer Room Parents for each division.  The Room Parents can support the classroom teacher in a variety of ways:  preparing teaching materials, sorting craft supplies for activities, asking for volunteers in the classroom or a field trip, or organizing the classroom parents to sponsor a school event (this last one is more for the older grades).

Because we speak to the parent volunteers ourselves, Christy and I ask our Room Parents to keep track of which parents have come in so we can be certain that each family has had at least one opportunity to volunteer for a classroom event during the school year.  Although we realize everyone would love to volunteer more, as long-time experienced professionals, we are quite accustomed to and truly enjoy planning, preparing and teaching everything ourselves.  But when we have a special activity for our students, and need more support, then we are able to provide an opportunity for parents helpers.

It’s important to remember that it’s a privilege to volunteer in your child’s classroom.  For many children, the classroom is a safe and special place, typically inhabited by just the teacher and the students.  We have our own rhythm, our own little jokes, our own way of doing things and an established set of expectations.  We’re like our own ecosystem where everything is in balance and it’s the classroom teacher’s responsibility to maintain that balance for each and every child.  But we also understand and value that parents want to, and should be, involved in the learning that happens in the classroom, and we want to include you.  

We expect that you will be involved with all the children you are working with, not just helping your own child.  It can be challenging because the teacher will probably have a task she wants you to accomplish with everyone and your child may want all your attention.  But as a classroom volunteer, your child will need to understand that you are there to assist everyone so that might be a conversation you have ahead of time at home.

Your classroom teacher is depending upon your discretion.  Sometimes the children in your group may have difficulty with their self-regulation.  Perhaps it’s hard for them to listen and follow your instructions.  Working with a small group of children in the classroom setting is not the same as having a play date at your house.  We are watching all the groups and will intervene as necessary.  But we’re trusting you not to talk about the children’s behaviour, nor their schoolwork, to the child’s parents or other parents.  

Please remember that in your role as a classroom volunteer, you are not there to compare your child to the other students.  It goes without saying that every child is unique, from a different background and a different set of early learning and parenting experiences.  As Kindergarten teachers, we love and accept every child where they are in their growth and development and try to nurture each one along from where they are through this special year in school.

Waste Management Revisited

We’re attending the Leadership Roundtable presented by the Canadian Self-Regulation Initiative, (@CSRI_SelfReg), “Building School Capacity to Support Student Success:  Creating Quality Learning Environments Through a Self-Regulation Lens,” on October 23, the Provincial Professional Day.  We’re looking forward to a day of shared learning on exploring meaningful change and the best teaching practices, supported by emerging research, in the area of self-regulated learning environments. We’ll be tweeting from @selfregteacher throughout the day to keep you informed.

Well, we’re back again to talk about garbage and waste management in the classroom.  This is an updated version of our original post, Waste Management, Kindergarten Style.

We find ourselves thinking and talking a lot about garbage because we do create some in our classrooms.  Nothing unreasonable, but certainly enough to give us pause and remind us to address this always timely topic.

For parents new to Ridgeview, here’s a brief overview of how we handle garbage at our school focusing specifically on the Kindergarten.

When we returned to school in September 2014, West Vancouver Municipality, like the rest of Metro Vancouver, had declared anything from plants and animals (and biodegradable) to be considered as organic waste and not garbage.  Therefore, organic waste must be separated from the regular garbage collection.

Similar to last year, we have 21 students in each of our Kindergarten classrooms, eating two to three times a day when you consider snacks and lunch.  However, we have increased the number of packaged hot lunches from four to five times a week this school year.  As you can imagine, we create a fair amount of waste.

As experienced teachers, Christy and I know, and greatly value, the importance of routines.  We cannot underestimate the power of how routines will affect us in our daily lives, from our organization, ability to be productive to our sense of accomplishment.  For our students, having routines provides them with a feeling of security, increases their confidence and contributes to their overall happiness and independence when they can say, “I know what to do and I can do it by myself!”  Truly, that is the sweetest song for their ears and our own.

So when we start any routines with our new class each year, we want to ensure we’ve done it right.

It is an expectation that our entire student body at Ridgeview, from Kindergarten to Grade 7, learn to separate organics, dry paper recyclables, and garbage/waste items at school.  

Under our Principal’s leadership, our school has implemented three main systems in our classrooms:  an Organic Waste can, the blue Recycling Bin and a Pack In/Pack Out Initiative for recess and lunch.

In our classroom there are two sorting bins:  

FullSizeRender-7Organic Waste Can 

In the Organic Waste can, only four items can be thrown in:
•Paper towels
•Wet paper
•Pencil shavings

We don’t have a monitor for our Organics Garbage Can, as our children are typically checking with us first if something can go in.  They are learning this routine well,
developing independence and looking to the other students if they are uncertain about what to do.

FullSizeRender-8Blue Recycling Bin for Mixed Paper 

We’ve noticed the children are very used to the blue recycling bin.  So much so that they are often asking if they can put plastic containers in it like they must do at home.  Unfortunately, we cannot do that at school.  It’s only for dry paper, paper scraps, and charts we’ve finished using in class.

Recess and Lunch–Pack In/Pack Out Initiative
This has been the most challenging of all the waste management initiatives because it’s one where all of us must work together.

Students are responsible for all food items that they bring into Ridgeview.

Essentially, any waste our students create from the food they’ve packed into school (food packaging, peelings and cores, napkins, leftover food) must be packed out at the end of each school day.  All waste must go home to be sorted.

We need you, the children’s parents, to support your child (and the classroom and school routines) by sending a ziploc, or plastic bag, everyday to school for your child’s pack out.  

Some parents have arranged with their children to simply put the food waste and packaging from the day’s food loose in the lunch kit and so far, that seems to going well.  If you do not send a lunch kit to school with your child, then you must send a ziploc or plastic bag for the food waste.

Other parents send snacks and lunch in reusable containers, thereby eliminating the food packaging, and any uneaten food stays in the container.

Here’s what your children are doing with the pack out of the food waste and packaging.

We have to say that the Kindergarten children have taken quickly to this system and are very proficient at getting their food and packaging waste into the ziploc.  They have shown considerable improvement at getting the bags “zipped” closed.

Hot Lunch
The Hot Lunch days have proven to be trickier.  There is a lot of packaging associated with this program.  

As you can see, sending your child with a large ziploc is better if he or she receives a hot lunch.


Food containers and paper wrapping are sent home everyday.

TCBY frozen yogurt and Max Frozen fruit bars, if not finished, are disposed of in the sink, and the packaging sent home.

Milk cartons, juice boxes and soup containers, if not finished, are disposed of in the sink, and the packaging sent home.

If the soup has not been open, and your child brought a ziploc bag, we try to tape the container closed and place it in the bag to go home.

We’re extremely proud of the Kindergarten.  The children know their lunch routines well; they know them as the only way to manage their food waste at school. The Kindergarten is also the only grade in the entire school which does not have to change habits of old because they are able to start fresh every year.

Change is healthy, but we all know change can be hard as well.  Therefore….we won’t comment specifically on how the teaching staff is coping with food waste and sorting in the staffroom, but let’s just say that old dogs can learn new tricks….albeit slowly.