Kindergarten Curriculum Night

Our school’s Curriculum Night was held this past Wednesday.  We usually begin with the Principal’s Talk and then classroom teachers have two 15 minute sessions, to accommodate parents with more than one child in the school, to learn more about their child’s classroom routines and curriculum.

However, we have found since teaching Kindergarten, that 15 minutes is not enough time to say everything that needs to be said!  Particularly for families new to our school, and for first time Kindergarten parents, there is an plethora of information about the classroom and the school.

For the past few years we have held one Kindergarten parent session and it runs for about 30 minutes.  We invite all K parents, from both classes, to one of our rooms and talk to everyone.  That way we can ensure parents are hearing exactly the same information and questions and concerns can be discussed by all the teachers.  We run our session before the Principal’s Talk so all Kindergarten parents are able to attend.  At this time we also give out our jointly prepared curriculum overview.

For the first time ever we used Haiku Deck, a presentation app, for our talk; it was recommended to us by our School District Innovation Support Teacher, Cari Wilson @kayakcari.  After a few false starts, we found it to be very easy, and enjoyable, to use.  We loved the variety of options we had for images, layout and text.

Here is an abbreviated version of our Kindergarten Curriculum Night presentation, September 23, 2015. This year we also welcome our friend and colleague, Charity Cantlie, to our Kindergarten teaching team!

IMG_1857Kindergarten Curriculum Night.  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 as they make this important transition to being a full-day student.

IMG_8257Pick-up and Drop-off Routines.  The Kindergarten day begins at 8:50.  Please encourage your child to line up and wait quietly by the classroom door. The teachers will open the door at 8:50 am. The children can independently hang up their coats and backpacks. A quick kiss and a goodbye at the door and a prompt exit really helps 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.  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. You will need to 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 care 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 3:00 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.

IMG_1859Snack 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 at 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 2:40-2:50 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 refill 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 a lunchtime teaching assistant 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.

We’ve had many parents ask about the Hot Lunch Program.  In the next few days there should be news.  We ask that you do not use the Hot Lunch Program as an opportunity for your child to try new foods here at school.  If you are going to make some selections, 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 drinks.

IMG_1867Pack In/Pack Out.  We call our waste management system at “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_1861Self-Regulation
.  Self-regulation is the foundation of our Kindergarten program.  One of our primary roles is to be a model of self-regulation.  Our ability to stay calm and focused, and to regulate and articulate our own emotional state, means we are better able we are to assist your children with regulating their optimal state.  Your child’s optimal state is one that is calm, focused and relaxed — ready to learn.

We are teaching our children to be aware of, and understand, their energy, emotions and feelings.  They are learning that different situations require different responses depending upon the context of the current social situation.  We practise “up-regulating” our energy if we’re feeling tired during a lesson; and “down-regulating” our excitement if we’re returning to our classroom after PE or being outside.

We’ve made many references to the Zones of Regulation and no doubt you have heard them already at home.

When we’re in the green zone we are feeling calm, focused, relaxed and ready to learn.

When we’re in the yellow zone we are scared, excited, frustrated or getting carried away.

When we’re in the red zone we are feeling very frustrated, angry and our body is out of control.

When we’re in the blue zone we are feeling sad, tired or sleepy.

We actively refer to the zones throughout the day, to describe how we are feeling, what we observe about the energy in the classroom or where we should be for a specific activity and what should we do to get there–up-regulate or down-regulate.

We practise a variety of self-regulation strategies in class, including calming countdowns, deep breathing and listening to quiet music.  We use self-regulation tools such as the breathing ball and Zenergy chime to teach and practise those strategies.

You might consider creating an area for self-regulation for your family in your own home.  Taking that time for a “self-regulatory moment” is very healthy, leaving one feeling refreshed for the next part of the day.

IMG_1862Self-Care.  The children are managing their washroom situations, which is washrooms located  in Division 15’s classroom, and the children in Division 16’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.

When 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, this past 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 be 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.

IMG_1863Remind.  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.  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 3 pm if we need to share something with your briefly  or talk about your child’s day

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

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Email.  You can also email us should you wish to contact us.  If your child is in Division 15, 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.  They are a great way to stay connected with

Thank you very much for coming out this evening!  We’re looking forward to great year of fun and learning with your children.

This Week in Our Room:  September 21-24, 2015

Thank you for attending our Curriculum Night.  We have now sent home our curriculum overviews with all students.

We finished our first Alphabet Letter!  We’ll be sending home an alphabet page and craft every week.  Our children are also working in their beautiful Alphabet Books which will be a special keepsake from Kindergarten.

We started Patterning this week in our Math groups.  September’s pattern is AB.  You can ask your child to create some AB patterns for you using simple object at home, or look for them in the natural environment.

Next Wednesday, September 30, is our annual Terry Fox Run/Walk.  Our children will run or walk on the school field with their Grade 7 Buddies. Show your Ridgeview spirit by wearing red and white!  We are collecting donations for the Terry Fox Foundation.  Our school goal this year is $2000.

Remember to return your Homework Calendar this week for a sticker!

A reminder that it is Early Dismissal for all students on Wednesday, September 30 and Thursday, October 1 for Parent-Teacher Intake Interviews for Grades 1-7.

 


Invest Early and Often

IMG_1733We’re going through an exciting transition in our family life as our oldest child is graduating from high school this year.

In addition to all the school activities such as watching her final season in Senior Girls Field Hockey, grad photos, purchasing tickets and dresses for grad events, it’s also the last year we are able to contribute on her behalf to her Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RESP) and be eligible for the basic Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG). Canada Revenue Agency guidelines states that the calendar year in which your child turns 17 is the final year to receive the grant money for your contribution.  The minimum contribution per year per child is $2500 to obtain the maximum grant money of $500, or a 20% guaranteed return on your investment.  Considering the cost of post secondary schooling these days, every little bit helps. For more information on RESPs and basic, and additional, CESG, click here.

We’ve learned that investing early, and often, can make a significant difference.  And that’s not just in our personal finances.

At school, we’ve begun to settle in to our Kindergarten routines.

Our children wait quietly for their teacher by their classroom door at the start of each day. They know where their hooks are in the cloakroom and are independently hanging up their own coats and backpacks.

At the meeting area, we notice the children are looking towards the Visual Schedule for the day’s events.

The children remember there is only four at a time at an Activity Time Centre, and let us know if they would like to be next for a turn at a favourite activity.

At the end of the recess time, when we blow our whistle the children walk quickly to line up, single file, to return quietly to our classroom.

It seems pretty remarkable that after only two weeks in school that our students can do all these things.  They’re developing independence, listening to and following the teacher’s instructions and making good choices.  So what’s our strategy?

We invest early, and often, in our students.

We’re investing in our Kindergarten students by ensuring we are taking the time particularly during these early September days and certainly for the next few months, to practise, reinforce and if necessary, re-teach our class routines and self-regulation strategies so that they are able to become independent, self-regulated learners.  We never rush in Kindergarten.  We always take the time to do things right.

We start by quickly learning the children’s names, by the end of the first day of the

Kindergarten Gradual Entry.  When we know the children’s names we can call and speak to them specifically, and this will contribute to our overall classroom management.

We stand at the door to greet the children as they walk in each morning.  They settle quickly on the carpet with a storybook, a routine we taught them on the second day of school.  We check in with them frequently as we also watch for more children entering the classroom.

We monitor the children during Activity Time, walking around the classroom to have a few words with each one, letting them know we are here for anything they might need, reassuring them we’re here to look after them.

We make our biggest investment during the eating times of snack and lunch, the least structured times of day inside the classroom.  We take the time to ensure hand washing is done correctly and before we eat. The children understand that the good hand washing we do following the Activity Time and a work period, when we’ve all been sharing materials, means reducing germs which is an investment in our good health.

We supervise the children to ensure that they are eating.  As we have said previously, eating is a calming and self-regulating activity.  When the children have eaten, and have fuel in their bodies, they will be better able to self-regulate their emotions and behaviour for the next part of the day.  We’re making an investment in their ability to have fun during their outside playtime, and for the afternoon’s activities.  The children are excited to play, but our encouragement to eat at snack and lunch can make all the difference between just nibbling or having a satisfying lunch.

We schedule in our timetables time to teach self-regulation and self-regulation strategies.  We’ve introduced the language of the Zones of Regulation these past two weeks and weave it throughout our days with reference to the children’s, and our own, emotions and actions.  

We firmly believe in the teaching and reinforcement of classroom routines in the beginning part of the year.  We know that practise is key and through the use of consistent actions and language, our students are learning to transition calmly between activities, especially walking to the carpet, lining up at the door, using the washrooms and in their general conduct in the classroom.

As parents and teachers, our investment of time and energy during the early years to build a solid foundation for our future global citizens and students of the world, is ultimately an investment in the whole of their schooling.

We’re investing for the long term.

We know that this investment in our children is going to pay off.  Big.

A Day in the Life of Kindergarten

IMG_0368We are super excited about tomorrow, our first full day with our whole class!

For three days last week our Kindergarten class participated in our school district’s Kindergarten Gradual Entry where half of the class each came to school for two hours a day.  Each child has an opportunity to meet their teacher and classmates, learn about the classroom routines and activities, all in a gently paced manner that best suits their needs as new learners in BC’s public school system.

Although we realise that the children are very eager to begin school with a full day, we use this time to teach and reinforce the classroom routines that form an important part of our classroom management, the foundation of good teaching practice. When the children are familiar and comfortable with these routines, they feel more confident and secure in knowing what to expect.  This knowledge helps them with their self-regulation so they feel calm, focused, relaxed, happy and ultimately, ready to learn.

Our Kindergarten children have started to walk the road to independence.  We always carefully think through each of the routines we wish to teach our new students.  Here’s some of what we did last week:

The children learned where their cloakroom hook is to place their backpacks, coats and extra bag of clothes, and how to line up patiently at the door for their teacher.

The children learned routines for how they wash and dry their hands before eating times.

The children learned how we manage our Activity Time play centres with four to a group, to share and take turns cooperatively, and to speak quietly and kindly our friends.

The children learned at Meeting Time that we listen with our whole body:  our eyes are looking at the teacher, our ears are listening to the teacher, our mouths are closed and our hands and feet are still.  One person may speak at a time so we can all enjoy listening to each other.

So what will we be doing tomorrow?  We’re going to share with you a page from our Kindergarten Handbook, “A Day in the Life of Kindergarten,” so as you are busy in your work day, you will have a sense of what your child is doing in school.

IMG_0635A Day in the Life of Kindergarten

Our day starts at 8:50 am when the children are gathering outside their classrooms. Parents are supervising their children until the teacher arrives and supporting their children in self-regulation by reminding them to wait quietly and calmly. Students are not to knock on the door. Students may be holding their library books to place in the library book bin, monthly homework calendars or other forms to return. At 5 years old, your children can independently bring those school items into the classroom.

When the teacher arrives, the children come into the classroom and may look at storybooks until the 8:55 bell rings. At Ridgeview our whole school stands and sings “O Canada.” During this time, students and parents in the hallway are expected to stop and sing, or quietly observe the national anthem.

School announcements from the office follow for the teachers and students. The teacher takes attendance, and that form is taken to the office by the Special Helper and the previous day’s Special Helper. The teacher then reviews the daily visual schedule so students know what to expect throughout the day. The visual schedule also helps the children to self-regulate through the day, as they can note the completion of each activity and see where break opportunities occur.

Activity Time, or Centres, provides a time for the children to play and socialize. There are a variety of activities available, from puzzles to drawing to the House Corner. Four children at maximum may play in a Centre at once. We try to regulate the Centres so that everyone who wants to play at a given activity gets a chance.

Our first Meeting Time of the day occurs after clean-up. Here, we sing the “Hello My Friends” greeting song, and then the Special Helper leads the class through Calendar Time, focusing on the days of the week, counting and patterning the dates and graphing the weather. We usually complete Alphabet, Theme related or writing activities, before recess.

At Ridgeview, the Kindergarten children eat their morning snack while the rest of the school is outside at recess. We always wash our hands before we eat. During snack time the children eat quietly while listening to music, and socialize quietly with their table friends. When Grades 1-7 return to their classes, we go outside to enjoy the playground on our own with the playground supervisors.

After recess is a time for quiet reflection before we begin Math activities. We may listen to quiet music, or complete the Core Practice (deep breathing) to relax and calm our bodies in anticipation of the next lesson.

The use of math manipulatives to develop conceptual understandings of patterning and number forms the basis of our Math learning. The children also learn to print their numerals with correct formation, study the basic geometric shapes and measure using non-standard units.

The Kindergarten visits the Library once a week for a lesson and book exchange. Our teacher-librarian bases her lessons on the Kindergarten themes, as well as a focus on fiction and non-fiction.

Additional lessons in Health and Career (HACE) occur on a weekly, or as needed, basis. During this time we teach Self-Regulation strategies, and lessons in Social Responsibility, empathy training, impulse control and problem-solving.

Our lunch routine is similar to recess in that the children place their lunch kits on the tables, wash their hands and then sit down to quietly enjoy eating their lunch with their peers. We try to keep the eating times quiet as eating is a self-regulating, calming activity. After eating, the children play outdoors on the playground with the rest of the school. The Kindergarten has a designated play area and are supervised by Ridgeview playground supervisors.

Each afternoon is a little different, but it usually begins with afternoon attendance and then a read aloud story and Sharing by the Special Helper. Depending upon our schedule, our class may have Physical Education, Music, Buddies or Art. We also typically have a Centre time which is focused on either Constructions (building), Literacy (reading, writing and math), Puzzles (group sharing and cooperation), Discovery Tables (inquiry) or Imaginary Play.

A short playtime and snack round out our busy day. We often have a short reflection time of our self-regulation, and take the time to appreciate ourselves and others.

Every Kindergarten day is a day filled with growing, learning and sharing.

Reading with Your Kindergarten Child: Establish an Atmosphere for Reading at Home

IMG_4073School’s out, our classrooms are tidied up and we’re officially on holiday, and that includes writing for our blog! But we’re reposting some great articles over the next two months that you may have missed, to read and catch up with the website.

With the summer break and the hot weather we’re having right now, we love to spend some time out of the sun doing one of our favourite activities: reading. Just the thought of freedom to read whatever we want, for as long as we want, is a delicious moment to savour! It’s a great chance to visit your local library, favourite book stores, or even peruse old favourites from your home library, for reading material.

Exploring secondhand bookstores is another fun thing to do with your family. We both love to buy old books to complete collections of series we started in childhood (I own every copy of the original 65 Nancy Drew books; and Christy, the entire A.A. Milne Winnie the Pooh series); or old copies of a favourite English series, Thrush Green by Miss Read, wonderful books about a fictional Cotswold village. The two schoolteachers, Miss Watson and Miss Fogerty, remind us that although our methods and curriculum might have changed, the sheer delight in working with young children remains the same.

Visiting new and used bookstores while we travel is a must. If you’re in Victoria, British Columbia, you must visit Russell Books, on Fort Street. It’s just up a few doors from the delectable Dutch Bakery where you can indulge your sweet tooth.

If you’re going down the coast, Village Books in Fairhaven, Washington, is a great destination. They have a wonderful children’s book section, and a lovely gift shop with an old fashioned candy area.

IMG_4067For those travelling through Oregon, you have to go to Powell’s Books in Portland Oregon. Go upstairs to the coffee bar for a coffee and cookie–absolutely fabulous! Warning: we spent only a morning at Powell’s and felt rushed. If you have a family of book lovers, you’re going to need time as it is takes up an entire city block! We bought 18 books on our last visit, and Christy’s family a mere 14, and getting down to those numbers was a huge challenge at best.

So now that you’ve bought all your books, time to start reading at home.

The Self-Regulated Teacher

sunshine readersA few weeks ago we started a Home Reading Program for our Kindergarten classes.

It’s just a simple program of emergent books and readers, where the children independently select a book to take home to read with their parents three times a week.   We have our book exchange during Centre time.  We call the children over to choose their book by our “bookkeeping” method of the ziploc bags where we’ve written their names and keep the individual books.  After the children select their new book and put it into the ziploc, they place the book inside their backpacks to go home.

Home Reading is a fun opportunity for our students to read aloud books appropriate for their reading level to their parents. But it’s not meant to replace the nightly bedtime story.

The cozy and comforting routine of a bedtime story is one of our strongest memories. We still have…

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Outdoor Play

IMG_1120It was brought to our attention recently that Rick Cluff, host of the CBC’s Vancouver morning show “Early Edition,” had a segment on this year’s ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth.

Rick spoke with Allana LeBlanc, an exercise physiologist, who works with ParticipACTION. Here are some of the main points we were able to take away after listening to the podcast ourselves and looking at the highlights from the ParticipACTION report.

“The Biggest Risk is Keepings Kids Indoors.”

The report explains that children need 60 minutes a day of physical activity, but their surveys on how much activity kids (5-17 years old) actually get indicate that only 9% of Canadian children meet the criteria.

This is a complex situation because it’s not just about the lack of physical activity, but the increase in sedentary behaviour.  Kids just aren’t moving around like they used to with more access to television and video games.

“Get out of the way and let kids play.”

One of the findings of the report is an increased fear of allowing children to play outdoors unsupervised.  We want to protect our kids and keep them safe from harm. Yet, when our children do play outside unsupervised, they take more risks, independence increases and physical and social skills can improve.  There is a difference between “danger” and “risk” and certainly no one is advocating dangerous or reckless behaviour.  But children need to be allowed a certain amount of freedom to test their personal boundaries.

ParticipACTION has also written a “Position Statement on Active and Outdoor Play,” and makes recommendations for children to have access and freedom to outdoor play and to play in nature, in all childhood situations from home to day care to school. This statement applies to all children from 3-12 years old.

Children who play outdoors, in a natural playground that includes dirt and sticks, are more active than when playing on a pre-fabricated playground.  In fact, children who take PE outside, are more active than when they play indoors.

Sometimes we think it’s safer and healthier to keep our children inside where we can closely supervise them.  But it’s not.  There are many risks to staying indoors: our children will not learn the fundamental movement skills of running, kicking, throwing and jumping.  They need these skills for their healthy growth and development; without physical activity, there is an increased risk for health concerns down the road.  We need to teach our kids positive health habits for their life time.

Click here to hear the original CBC podcast.

We’re very fortunate at Ridgeview to have a natural playground.  Located beside our adventure playground, the natural playground has a variety of shrubs; a long, shallow, meandering creek with slow moving water and rocks for crossing, and large trees with overhanging branches providing shade and cooler temperatures during these warm days.

In the beginning of the school year, our classes use only the adventure playground during the morning and lunch recess, with adult playground supervisors in attendance.  When school starts in September, we typically have 40-44 four- and five-year old children between our two classes.  Since the full-day Kindergarten program started, our children have their own recess time in the morning, after Grades 1-7 have finished their playtime. We’re fortunate to have school administration who understand the needs of young children and have specifically allotted resources to enable this to happen for the entire school year.

The children still have their lunch recess with the rest of the school and when we take an afternoon recess playtime, we are often joined by some of the other classes.  Our school population is currently > 400 students.

As part of learning to play, inside or outdoors, we establish classroom rules and routines, create a self-regulated classroom environment and directly teach the expectations and behaviour we want first, and we teach them as a whole group.  Kindergarten children come to us with a wide variety of preschool, daycare and home experiences.  Kindergarten is the first opportunity to develop a constant model for self-regulation and behaviour for the next eight years at our school.  Our teaching experience has taught us that when we have the respect, rules and safety expectations in place, then our students can have freedom within those boundaries, and we can all have a fun and enjoyable time.

Our only rule for the natural playground is that the children who want to play in the creek wear their rain boots, so they can still have dry socks and shoes to wear in class.  You’d be impressed to see how quickly children can change their shoes and boots when the recess bell rings.

Now here we are in June, and we’ve seen some amazing outdoor play.

We’ve seen children crossing the rocks across the creek, arms outstretched for balance.

Children are scrambling up the banks of the creek, clinging to shrubs.

We have children endlessly filling up and emptying containers and ziploc bags with creek water.

We noticed that a group of children has engineered a shallow trough down the length of the creek, right in the middle.

We see children running, jumping and negotiating their way around big tree roots.

Yes, we’ve had some tumbles and lots of scrapes, but nothing that a hug, a band-aid and a drink of water couldn’t fix.

And we also know that the closer the connection our children have to nature and the outdoors when they’re young, the more likely they will want to protect and look after their environment when they grow up.

The Classroom Newsletter: “This Week in Our Room” and the Importance of Modelling Writing for Our Kindergarten Children

FullSizeRender-3We officially retired our “This Week in Our Room” paper newsletter last week.  We’ve now started an online newsletter that we will write and post on this website on Fridays.  We’ll try to write about one or two topics of interest from the classroom, in addition to the usual wrap-up of the week, upcoming events and reminders.

We’ve been writing a classroom newsletter every Friday, every school year, since we started teaching.  For me, that means since September 1987 (although I missed one year while I was teaching Learning Support).  Christy has been teaching in the classroom (mixed in with Learning Support, as well) since March 1994, so we’ve written many newsletters between us.  It’s been part of our weekly routine, and one that signalled the completion of a week’s worth of work, well done.

We began writing the weekly newsletter as student teachers.  Our supervising teachers sent one out on Fridays, and it was part of our teaching responsibilities to write the newsletter every week during the final practicum.  You certainly feel like you are the classroom teacher when you’re responsible for the main communication line between home and school.

But times are a-changing and there’s a lot of pressure from everywhere to send out newsletters and bulletins electronically to reduce paper and be more environmentally responsible.  It’s a good thing and makes a lot of sense.

In my class, I wrote the weekly newsletter during Friday lunch.  I often sit at a table with the children while they’re eating and they are always amazed to see me filling in the page with print.  They can’t believe I write a newsletter every week (“Didn’t you write that last week?”) and they sometimes think it’s a lot of work.  But I always explain to them the newsletter is for their moms and dads so that they know what’s happening at school.  They love to know what I’m writing, so I always read it aloud to them.

We know that modelling writing is imperative to encourage children to begin writing themselves.  They need to see how much we value this process, similar to reading.  For some light lunch conversation, I would ask my little table group for ideas I might write about in the newsletter; they were delighted to make suggestions, watch me write, and read it back for their approval.  Children really want to know what the words say.

It’s also fun when I’ve already written up an idea they had.  It shows we’re all thinking the same things are important. The children are learning a sense of ownership from participating in the writing process, even just at the idea stage.

Our classes love writing so much because they see us writing all the time.  With the paper newsletter, the children were learning firsthand the newsletter was purposeful communication to be read by a specific audience, their parents.  We were modelling that for them every step of the way, as we wrote it, and handed out the copies for them to take home “for your parents to read.”

They haven’t seen us writing yet on the iPad (we’re currently using Pages for writing all the posts on The Self-Regulated Teacher, but will probably switch to Google Docs soon) since we’ve transitioned to our online newsletter, but that time is coming and we’re sure an interesting conversation will revolve around it.

With the advent of summer, here are a few things you can do to develop and maintain your child’s fine motor skills and interest in writing:

  • Have a supply of pencils, crayons, pencil crayons and felt pens available for your child to write and draw
  • We love to use oil pastels in class which are great for drawing and colouring because they’re so bright (warning: can be challenging to remove if it gets on your clothes)
  • Have some supplies like an individual paint set, glue sticks and child safe scissors ready
  • Recently, our classes enjoy having access to a stapler, tape dispenser, hole punch and string or wool to make “hangers” for their drawings
  • Gather an assortment of little notebooks, or booklets that you can make yourself with scrap paper and a stapler to write in; sheets of paper in all sizes and colours
  • Get your children involved in purposeful reading and writing activities such as grocery lists; to-do lists; writing and sending notes and cards to family and friends; copy a simple recipe for Grandma
  • Our classes love to use rubber stamps and stamp pads, fantastic for fine motor development

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These activities are going to be the most fun when you sit down with your child, so enjoy this time together and write-on!

Reading with Your Kindergarten Child: Literacy Awareness – A Book is More than a Story

photo-10Do you love reading as a pleasurable, down-time activity?

Do you have a list of books to read that will take at least two lifetimes to complete?

The importance of regular modelling of reading by all us, parents and teachers, cannot be taken too lightly.  The children are looking to us to see if we place a high value on reading through our words and actions.

Last week we wrote about creating a home environment that places reading as a priority to foster a love of reading and literature in our children.

As teachers, our students see us reading a lot.  From the attendance form to story time books, teaching books to charts and labels, our students see us doing a great deal of purposeful reading in our day.

Here are some things we think about as we are reading to and with our students that you can do during your own daily reading with your Kindergarten child at home.

Reading to Your Child

  • Fluency.  As teachers and parents, we want to read aloud the story as fluently as possible.  We get a lot of practise with some of the favourite read-alouds we’ve read to students many times over the years.  However, when we can, we still read new stories to ourselves first before reading them aloud to the children.  Of course, this is more difficult when you are reading longer texts and novels but for picture books with a lot of dialogue, we want to get the intonation of the character voices “just right.”
  • Expression. Demonstrate your interest, enjoyment and enthusiasm in your children’s selected storybook, and you can make even the most banal of words sparkle with excitement for them.  We really try to have fun with the character voices in a book, and take a great deal of delight in the children’s laughter (sometimes we are laughing so hard at our own reading we have to stop the story…really!). After all, who doesn’t love creating the Wolf’s voice as Grandma in “Little Red Riding Hood”?

Reading With Your Child

  • Take a “book walk” with your child before reading a new book.  Ensure that your child can see the pages, and that you have one hand free to “track” the text (point to the words) as you are reading and to focus on key details in the pictures which may aid in your child’s comprehension of the story.
  • Draw attention to the title of the story by helping your child find the front cover of the book.  Point out the differences between the front and back covers.
  • Make predictions about what the story will be about based on the title.
  • Look at the author’s and illustrator’s names and discuss the differences in their roles, in addition to their names.  Make connections by trying to think of books you’ve already read by them, or anyone you know who has those names.
  • Comment on the title page and the dedication page.  Speculate on who the people mentioned in the dedication might be.
  • Gradually develop your child’s awareness of where stories start (Where is the first word on this page?) and which way the print goes (Show me which way you read; Show me where we read next).

Interacting With the Print

Drawing attention to the print should be an incidental, rather than a continuous activity.  In other words, it’s not necessary to use all of these suggestions each time you read a story; instead, just pick and choose what you and your child enjoy most.

  • The beginning and endings of the story, eg., most Fairy Tales begin with “Once upon a time….” and end with “…and they all lived happily ever after.”
  • Unusual print in the story, eg., words in upper letters (BOOM!); words in speech clouds (speaking aloud) or thinking bubbles (silent thoughts); animal sounds (Woof, Meow, Mooooo).
  • Names and names of places, eg., all start with an uppercase letter.
  • Repetitive words, eg., “Sometimes it looked like a Rabbit.  But it wasn’t a Rabbit./Sometimes it looked like a Bird.  But it wasn’t a Bird.” (From It Looked Like Spilt Milk, by Charles G, Shaw)
  • Rhyming words, eg., “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

Encourage Your Child to Participate in the Reading

You can encourage your child to participate in the story by:

  • Pausing at certain points to enjoy the rhythm of the language, admire a beautiful picture or count the number of times the “Letter of the Week” occurs on a page.
  • Being careful to read aloud at a pace that allows for your child’s participation.
  • Engaging in “echo reading,” eg., you read a phrase or sentence and your child repeats it, or your child completes the next rhyming word or line (we use this second idea a lot with rhyming text in class).
  • Taking turns to read the character’s dialogue, eg., sharing the Wolf’s big scene, “The better to hear/see/eat you with” in “Little Red Riding Hood.”
  • Giving your child the opportunity to “read” as much of the story as possible, particularly repetitive text or dialogue, eg., Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle).
  • Praising any participation in “reading” the story by your child.
  • Enjoying the cozy time you have spent together, parents and child, reading aloud a great book.

Source:  “Language and Literacy in the Primary Years,” A Parents’ Information Booklet from Ridgeview Elementary (1997/98).  Updated by The Self-Regulated Teacher at theselfregulatedteacher.wordpress.com (2015).

Reading with Your Kindergarten Child: Establish an Atmosphere for Reading at Home

sunshine readersA few weeks ago we started a Home Reading Program for our Kindergarten classes.

It’s just a simple program of emergent books and readers, where the children independently select a book to take home to read with their parents three times a week.   We have our book exchange during Centre time.  We call the children over to choose their book by our “bookkeeping” method of the ziploc bags where we’ve written their names and keep the individual books.  After the children select their new book and put it into the ziploc, they place the book inside their backpacks to go home.

Home Reading is a fun opportunity for our students to read aloud books appropriate for their reading level to their parents. But it’s not meant to replace the nightly bedtime story.

The cozy and comforting routine of a bedtime story is one of our strongest memories. We still have our childhood books: volumes of Mother Goose nursery rhymes, Fairy Tales, Just So Stories and Nancy Drew Mysteries; our favourite books include Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, Little Women and Alice in Wonderland.

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When our own children were born, reading the bedtime story was something we were so looking forward to doing. We were collecting storybooks to read aloud to our classes, and now we would also be able to share them with our children.

So what can you do to support your child’s love of reading and literature?

Create an atmosphere for reading at home

Books should have a place of their own at home, and be accessible at all times. Part of teaching your children to be a good reader and book lover is showing them how to care for books.  At school we have insisted on careful and respectful behaviour towards books.

  • Pick up a book carefully in one hand, or both hands if it’s a bigger book
  • Close the book when you are finished reading
  • Hold the book with both hands against your chest when walking with it
  • Put the book back on the shelf or book rack, right side up and cover facing out

Selecting books. When selecting a book, the most important thing is will your child enjoy it? Introduce new books regularly to your child. If your child has not already signed up for a membership at the Public Library in your community, now is the time. The Kindergarten children have been well taught by our Teacher-Librarian, and are able to conduct themselves appropriately in the library. This includes independently choosing a book.

Have a regular time and place for reading. Routines help us to get things done, and if it’s followed enough times it can, and will, become a good habit. For your nightly read-aloud, pick a time when you are ready to enjoy a story with your child. Many families read a story just before the children go to sleep in their beds. In our homes we sat on the sofa, with a child and book on each side. The bedtime story has to be a priority, more important than checking a Facebook newsfeed or watching “Sports Centre.” Being “present” with your child, enjoying one another’s company with a good story will make reading time very special for parent and child.

Regular modelling of reading by parents and older members of the household is essential. How do you see the role of reading in your life? To foster a love of reading, your children need to see you reading:   books, magazines, newspapers, recipes, comics and even work related documents. A lot of reading seems to be done via a personal digital device these days which is okay, but if you want your kids to read print, then that’s what they need to see you doing.

Choose books of different genres, such as Fairy Tales, poetry, wordless books, non-fiction animal books; and themes such as “Growing Up,” “Families,” holidays, personal interests and hobbies. Reading books of various lengths also teaches young readers that a powerful message or lesson doesn’t always need to be told through a long story.

At this early stage, most children are attracted to picture books or beginning chapter books which will need to be read aloud by you. These books can and should be above the children’s independent reading level. The books you are reading aloud will have the rich, diverse vocabulary and more complex sentence structure that will benefit your child’s oral vocabulary.

Finding books for your beginning reader to read independently is harder; that is how the home reading program tries to bridge the gap as we have access to the “little books” with simple vocabulary, predictable patterns and repetitive, rhythmic and rhyming language. Ask your community librarian to help you find books with these same characteristics at your local library.

We’ve written before that books are a gift that can be opened again and again. Why not consider establishing some new traditions around books like a special hardback book for each birthday with a special inscription from you? Instead of a big chocolate treat for Valentine’s Day or Easter give the joy of a beautiful book which will last so much longer, and just a small chocolate goodie. Suggest to friends and relatives that they also might give books as presents.

Our own children are teenagers now and moving into their senior years at high school this fall. Although we don’t read aloud stories or novels to them anymore, as families we still speak fondly of memories about books read aloud in the past.

Books, laughter, love…we’d call that some serious family bonding time.

Next week we’ll discuss reading to and with your child, and offer some suggestions on what you can do to encourage literacy awareness at home.

Source: “Language and Literacy in the Primary Years,” A Parents’ Information Booklet from Ridgeview Elementary (1997/98). Updated by The Self-Regulated Teacher at theselfregulatedteacher.wordpress.com (2015).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid: Part 2

We hosted our Welcome to Kindergarten Event (WTK) last week, and as part of the handout package for parents, we included the Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid.  Last week we began to reflect, with reference to the Readiness Pyramid, on how our Kindergarten students have matured since their WTK experience one year ago as they head towards Grade One Readiness.

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Kindergarten Readiness are the skills incoming Kindergarten students should have in place when they arrive at school.  The foundation of the pyramid is Self-Care and Motor skills, or the ability to look after one’s personal care.  These skills are taught during the early years while the children are at home with their parents.  In Kindergarten, children are expected to independently use the washroom and wash their hands, feed themselves and change their own clothes and shoes.

The second layer of foundation blocks are Self-Regulation and Social Expression.  Self-Regulation is the children’s ability to regulate their emotional state and behaviour so it is appropriate to their current social situation.  It includes the ability to listen to others, exhibit impulse control, and demonstrate an understanding of commands and boundaries, all necessary skills for the safety and emotional well-being of the entire class.

Let’s look at the last two sections of the Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid:  Social Expression and Kindergarten Academics.

The Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid we refer to in both of these blog posts was originally used in a research study on children’s readiness for Kindergarten in the Silicon Valley.  It has been modified slightly to fit our needs at Ridgeview.

Social Expression

In this context, Social Expression refers to the oral language skills children will use in the classroom.  At school, we can see and hear the impact that adults have on oral language development with their children.  The time parents spend with their children in the early years talking, discussing, explaining and questioning around dinner tables, during car rides, at bedtime and the myriad of activities in between, is significant.

This year we listen to our Kindergarten children express their opinions, stories and questions, which have been shaped and influenced by their parents, family members, and other adults, in every class discussion.  The children’s sense of wonder and curiosity becomes apparent in what they notice and often bring to our attention.  As part of our Inquiry Based Learning, we have begun teaching them how to ask questions to obtain the answers they are looking for.

It is through the children’s Imaginary Play that they are using and practising the oral language, and re-enacting situations, that are familiar to them.  Centres such as the House Corner allow the children to assume roles in their play.  The children bring together their diverse experiences to create a plan or goal for their creative play and use their words to cooperatively bring it to fruition.

Our Kindergarten group interacts with many adults in the school building.  In addition to the classroom teachers, our students have frequent contact with our Education Assistant, Music Teacher, Teacher-Librarian, Administrators, Office Staff and Playground Supervisors.  With their ever expanding vocabularies and natural charm, the children are learning that language is their means of communicating their needs and wants.  The relationships between themselves and the important adults in their family life builds a base of experience, confidence and security as to how well they can relate to adults outside of the home.

Kindergarten Academics

Over the years we have seen a growing love of books from the Kindergarten children.  We know this deep love of literature has been carefully nurtured from the time their children were infants by all of our classroom parents, who understand the importance of reading aloud to them.  Indeed, the bedtime story ritual is one of the most precious times spent with our children.

In class, not only do we have Story time every day, but we often introduce a lesson with a book to teach or review concepts.  The children enjoy the read aloud time, and we’re always amazed at how well they can sit and focus.  We engage with books multiple times in our day.  As this school year has progressed we’ve noticed an increasing number of children in our class who choose to independently read books, listen to stories at the Listening Centre or “read” the room with a reading wand, in a sustained way during Activity Time.

Many children come to Kindergarten able to print their first name, usually in uppercase letters.  As part of our Kindergarten program, we teach each letter name, sound and correct upper-and lowercase letter formation.  As each child begins to print his or her name correctly with a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, it becomes a day of pride, independence and celebration.

We also practise and build upon the children’s knowledge of phonological awareness skills, including rhyming, syllables and initial sounds.  Although for some children the Alphabet lessons may be a review, they are all receiving teacher directed instruction as a whole class which helps to prepare them for the later grades.  We extend our Alphabet teaching with drawing, colouring and labelling pictures of words beginning with the Letter of the Week.

Our students are a long ways away now from the Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid.  For this final term at school we’ve been fondly calling them our “Grade Ones in Training.”  But in our hearts, they’ll always be our Kindergarten children.

 

Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid: Part One

We held our annual Welcome to Kindergarten Event (WTK) last week to welcome the incoming Kindergarten students for 2015-2016.  It’s amazing to think that a year has already flown by from the first time we met our current Kindergarten students.

One of the handouts from the Welcome to Kindergarten package was the Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid.  It was interesting to revisit this again and reflect on how very far our “Grade Ones in Training” have come along through their Kindergarten year.

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We value this pyramid because it clearly illustrates one of our core beliefs about Kindergarten Readiness:  that a strong foundation of basic self-help, self-care and motor skills; the ability to self-regulate and demonstration of social expression are necessary before the children can access the academic learning at the top of the pyramid.  Although the tendency is to focus on the academic skills as an indicator of Readiness, in Kindergarten we begin with a solid footing in how to independently help ourselves.

Today we’ll look at two sections of the Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid:  Self-Care and Motor Skills, and Self-Regulation.

Self-Care and Motor Skills.  We share school supplies, toys and books in class so germs can spread quickly in the Kindergarten.  Most children come to Kindergarten knowing about hand-washing because they have learned this skill well at home and had it reinforced in preschool or daycare.  It’s wonderful to see how quickly our children organize themselves now at the various sinks and washrooms to wash their hands, once they understood the routines we created at school.

Although it might be faster to help the children on with their jackets, our classes love their independence to do up their coats themselves.  We’re pleased to note how easily our classes can change their own shoes and boots, and change their pants and socks if they get wet on a rainy day.  When children have Velcro or slip-on shoes, they can maintain their independence; laces are not a practical option for Kindergarten.

With the Full Day Kindergarten, the children eat their lunch at school every day.  Many children eat finger foods for lunch, which is great because it’s like they’re on a picnic!  But a thermos full of warm food is also a nice change; however, the children must be able to use a fork or spoon as we do not teach this skill at school.

Self-Regulation.  We’re always amazed at how our classes embrace practicing self-regulation strategies.  Although they might not have called it “self-regulation” before Kindergarten, many of the children we are teaching this year are used to “lying down to rest,” or “looking quietly at a book,” or “playing Lego in my room by myself” at home.  They have been taught, or developed, strategies to help them to feel calm and relaxed.

When the children started school, they understood that we were also teaching them additional ways to stay self-regulated as a class.  They recognize that the self-regulation strategies they use at home are sometimes different than the strategies we use at school because of our social situation.

When the children are calm and focused, they can pay attention and follow the teacher’s instructions.  This is especially important in the area of “obeying commands” and respecting rules and boundaries.  There are times during the day when the teacher might say “no,” “stop” or “wait” and we expect the children to respond quickly; we cannot always wait for a student to finish colouring a page or building with the blocks because we often move on to the next activity as a whole class.  Sometimes we just have to be patient, work through our frustration and delay our gratification, all important skills for self-regulation.

We have clearly established rules and routines for classroom play. Rules and routines provide security for our students because they establish boundaries around expected student behaviour, their own and others’.  Routines make the school day predictable, and may reduce some anxiety about “what will happen next.”

Our Kindergarten students love routines.  They love the routines so much that if we have a change in our day, they can appear to be troubled.  But change is important because part of their learning is that they can still be self-regulated while being flexible.

On our playground, we have specific boundaries for where the children must play during morning and lunch recess.  These rules are to ensure their safety, and they can play  where we know they can be easily seen by the playground supervisors.

The children need to respect the playground rules, as it is only through their ability to follow them that we would consider increasing those boundaries.  This year the Kindergarten is doing an outstanding job.  We just extended our students’ playground boundaries to include the forested area on our school property, a natural playground of trees, shrubs, and a shallow creek.  We take a recess time separate from the rest of the school population, and only allow the children to play there when it’s just our two classes and under our direct supervision.

Every year our classes come to understand that although we might not like the rules, we need the rules to keep us safe.   Rules are to be followed by everyone for the greater good.  When we feel safe, we are happy.  When we are happy, we are calm, relaxed and self-regulating.  Now we’re in the Green Zone:  focused, alert and ready to learn.

Thank you to our Ridgeview Principal, Mrs. Valerie Brady, and our Kindergarten teacher colleague, Lorraine Hartley, for bringing the Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid to our attention.  The Pyramid was originally used in a research study on children’s readiness for Kindergarten in the Silicon Valley.  We have modified it slightly to fit our needs at Ridgeview.

To learn more about Kindergarten Readiness, read this blog by our Ridgeview Principal.

Next week we’ll continue our reflection of the last two parts of the Kindergarten Readiness Pyramid:  Social Expression and Kindergarten Academics.