The Self-Regulated Teacher

Our personal journey towards self-regulation in Kindergarten

Global School Play Day:  Thoughts from the Kindergarten

FullSizeRenderLike many others have already done, we were going to write about Global School Play Day  earlier this week ourselves. As you’ve probably read, or heard from your children, Global School Play Day took place on Wednesday, February 3 this year and schools in our district, and all over the world, celebrated in their own way what it means to play.  But we got really busy around the day we usually post (Sunday), and then all these other posts and tweets started appearing, so we decided that we would just follow-up with some observations from our own classrooms, which is always the most fun to write about, because they’re about our own students.

Global School Play Day originated with two California teachers, Tim and Scott Bedley (@BedleyBros, #GSPD2016) last year.  The brothers have taken play, in the purest sense of the word, and given it back to the children, a day where they can play freely, in an unstructured, creative way, without boundaries and pre-determined rules.  Part of Global School Play Day is a “call for toys,” for blocks, Lego, dolls, puzzles, board games and craft supplies.  It’s a focus on student-directed play, as opposed to teacher-led activities and lessons.  It’s also a day away from screen time.

So when we decided at Ridgeview that our school was going to participate in Global School Play Day, Christy and I wondered, how will this day be different from any other day we have in the Kindergarten? We already play quite a bit throughout the day, mixed in with other teacher-directed activities such as Alphabet work, Social Studies and Art lessons.  We have Free Play (Centre Time) in the mornings, when the children are free to choose their activities and move from centre to centre.  We have a specific focus for our afternoon play, such as Constructions (different kinds of building materials) and Literacy Centres (all things alphabet:  we’re playing with language and letters). We intentionally have a limited use of technology for our age group and when we do so, we try to use it creatively.  Would we shape the day to make it seem even more play oriented than we already are?  That would be a lot of playing.

FullSizeRender-2In Kindergarten, we are all about play. Play, like self-regulation, is one of the cornerstones of our Kindergarten Program.  But while play may be a very natural inclination, what children are built to do, it’s important to remember that play is also very hard work.
When our children are playing, they are learning and practising a multitude of skills:

  • Exploring, inquiring, problem solving, investigating
  • Cooperating, collaborating, planning
  • Creating, imagining, designing
  • Sharing, discussing, turn-taking, listening, negotiating
  • Measuring, estimating, building, experimenting
  • Patience, perseverance, resilience, grit

We’re positive this is not even half of what the children are doing.  We just gave ourselves a moment to brainstorm some of the skills the children were learning.  We’re exhausted just thinking about it.

And so were the children.  After playing most of the day on Wednesday, more than a few children asked if they “could take break” or “have a rest.”  From playing?  Yes, they were tired from playing, because play is the work of a child.  All that energy that is needed for sharing and negotiating for toys with your friends, coming up with new ideas for building elaborate structures in a collaborative model, the patience required to draw and colour a multitude of tiny hearts for pretty Valentine cards, the stamina needed for swinging on swings and sliding down the slide…well, after all that energy got used up, some of the children wanted to lie down in the meeting area.  Some wanted to look at a book, or listen to a story at the listening centre.  It actually ended up being a pretty quiet afternoon.

We certainly had fun on Global School Play Day, and the children enjoyed themselves.  But when your little people come home tired, because they’ve been busy playing at school, let’s not forget…they have just worked a full day.

This Week in Our Room:  February 1-4, 2016

On Thursday we had our first skating field trip and did we ever have FUN!  First of all, we have to say thank you so very much to all the parents who came out to help with the skate lacing and helmet fitting.  As you could see, we have a very short turnaround time from arriving at the arena, to getting on our equipment and then heading out to our lesson.

We were so delighted with our children and their positive attitude on and off the ice.  They were so excited, yet as good as gold on the bus ride over.  They stayed super calm and followed their teacher’s instructions very well, remembering to sit down in their seats and speak quietly to their neighbours so as not to distract our driver.

FullSizeRender-1We worked on our February self-portraits this week.  The children continue to improve in their directed drawing, use of details and colour.  We always use our criteria of “Big, Bright and Beautiful” when working on drawings.

 

Big…means fill your space

Bright…means five colours of more

Beautiful…means to do your personal best

Upcoming Events and Reminders

We made our Valentine Card Holders with our Big Buddies and they are currently on display in our classroom.  We sent home a pink notice this week with information about the giving of Valentine cards in our class.  We also included a list of the class names for your division.  If you are giving out cards, please bring them in next week.  We will help your child put them in the correct bags.  We will be having a quiet Valentine’s celebration in our classrooms on Friday.

If you’re in Mrs. Daudlin’s class, you know that February is birthday month in our class.  Next week we are celebrating birthdays EVERY day with sweet treats…something to consider that as you packing snacks and lunches for the coming days.

Monday, February 8 is Family Day.  Enjoy a wonderful long weekend spending time with your precious family.  Every moment spent with our children is to be treasured, so take the opportunity to create lots special memories.  It doesn’t really matter what we do; it’s about being together.

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The Need for Play

It’s another gorgeous autumn day here in Vancouver.  Autumn is typically a favourite season for us, with that magic combination of blue skies, cooler temperatures and the smell of leaves, wood-smoke and comfort foods like homemade soups and stews, all rolled into one. It’s a return to wearing our jeans, cosy wool sweaters and leather boots.  We’re looking forward to spending some time playing outside with our students tomorrow as this amazing weather continues.

There’s been a lot of talk about play lately.

The Vancouver Sun recently reported on a study by Dr. Denise Buote for the North Shore Community Resources Society, that North Shore neighbourhoods are part of a trend that found young children to be at an “increased risk of struggling at school.”  Factors included a lack of opportunity for play, increased time spent on technology and structured activities, and over involvement by parents in activities children can, and should do, independently.  The study revealed that approximately 30% of those children entering Kindergarten were not developmentally ready; thus, did not have the school readiness skills to be fully ready to learn.

“Unstructured play is this natural opportunity for children to engage with others and have opportunities around social skills and exploration and develop curiosity and all those good things that really help children learn and grow,” Buote said. “Play is a big concern and there’s not enough of it going on.”

Since 2011, Kindergarten children at Ridgeview have been attending a full-day program along with the rest of the province.  In the five years previous to that time, Christy and I job-shared two half-day programs. Many of those children in the morning program would stay to play after school with their friends and parents would have an opportunity to chat and get to know one another; others would go home for a nap.  In the afternoon class, sometimes students would come early to play and eat their lunch on the playground before their 12:30 start or stay after school.  Sometimes a play date among several friends might be arranged.  It’s not to say the children and parents do not do some these activities today, but it certainly seemed less rushed.

In an effort to provide more unstructured playtime for our students, we have built it into our program through Centre Time, which we have twice a day, and throughout the subject areas.

IMG_0521Our Centre Time is an opportunity for the children to choose their own activities, form their own groups, let their imagination take flight and use the language of social play.  We observe incredible collaborations between groups of children building with Lego, blocks and creating puzzles.  The children display their natural curiosity whether exploring found objects in nature with a magnifying glass or in their thinking as they learn to ask powerful questions.  They exercise their imaginations writing books and designing artistic creations at the Imagination Station; or creating an elaborate social play with friends in the House Corner.

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The children love their outside recess time on our beautiful playground.  We’ve fortunate to have a Principal who understands the need for our little people to have unstructured play time on their own, and has reallocated Teaching Assistant time away from the office to Kindergarten supervision.  As a result the Kindergarten has their own morning recess, with adult supervision, at a time separate from Grades 1-7.  With our school population of 415 students, this is significant.

IMG_1784Our children play with just Grades K-4 at lunch on the playground, and we have our own recess every afternoon, supervised by Christy and myself.  We could never have done this without the support of our staff so naturally we are very grateful.  Although we will eventually join the rest of the school for our breaks later on this year, we are working hard to meet the play needs of our littlest learners.

We know that more and more children every year in Kindergarten are becoming very tech savvy.  We realise this through the information they share such as the television shows they watch, the number of children who have their own iPads and mini-iPads and their familiarity with apps. We can only conclude that with the amount of time they spend using technology, that they are not doing something else.   Although it might seem like they are “playing,” the reality is that the children are being entertained through the rapid stimulation of their brain.  They are not using their brain in the same way they would if they were engaged in outdoor pursuits, dramatic play, reading a book, painting, dancing or listening to music.

We know this is only the beginning of a larger discussion about play and young children.   This could be the moment for everyone, from parents to schools to our community resources, to come together for the betterment of all families.

Some excellent reading on play:

The Secret of Play (2008)  (Anne Pleshette Murphy)

Playful Learning (2011) (Mariah Bruehl)

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Summer Play

IMG_4063It’s been a glorious summer here in Vancouver and we’ve certainly been taking advantage of all this holiday time has to offer to play.

We know that children need lots of time for unstructured play where they can use their imagination, explore and engage in conversations with others.

Well, what about adults? We need unstructured play time as well. It’s not just about sports and physical activity, although a lot of people might default to that definition.

What other kinds of activities can we do which allows our thoughts and ideas to roam free, where we might use our creativity?

Since the beginning of April, we’ve been playing in our gardens, designing, planting and caring for our plants. We both love perennials, but the hot summer weather has made looking after them very challenging. We’ve been resourceful with our limited water supply for the plants (using partially finished glasses of water and water bottles, and recycling the old ice from the ice maker in our freezers), while allowing the grass to go dormant. It’s been a joy to visit the gardens of family, friends, parks and the community and see the creativity and love that’s been poured into these welcoming spaces.

We’ve been playing in our homes, cleaning from top to bottom IMG_4413and purging unnecessary items. After our end-of-the-school-year “classroom clear out,” we often find it hard to relax right away so we carry that energy into our houses and start sorting, organizing and tossing. Although not everyone enjoys this kind of activity, we find it extremely therapeutic. A lot of stress seems to subside when there is less to maintain and clean. We’ve been painting, rearranging furniture and decorating to ensure every room is a calm and peaceful place to be.

We’ve been playing hard in the kitchen. Cooking for teenagers, particularly a teenage son who resembles an eating machine, is endless. The teenagers can’t help it if they’re hungry all the time; they’re growing and playing hard themselves. So the past few weeks our kitchen has seen some intensive cooking and baking lessons for the teenagers, as well as the advanced “washing/drying/loading the dishwasher with everybody’s dishes, not just your own” course. We’ve only had a few mishaps: sorting out the differences between “muffin method” and “cake method” mid recipe; no texting while frying; and going from “golden” to “burnt” can happen quickly if you’re not being mindful. It’s actually been really fun and we’ve shared a lot of laughter.

There’s been lots of other kinds of playing going on as well. We’ve had a lot of music being sung and played on instruments. We’ve been drawing and crafting. Even writing this blog post is playing–with words, phrasing and humour.

So what is play? Something we do, or a state of mind?

Below is a reblog of an earlier post we wrote, on the importance of outdoor play for our children.

The Self-Regulated Teacher

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…

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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.

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