Last Thursday was “Kindergarten Parent Information Night” at the school my Sylvia Clare is going to attend in September. I (Yiola) hugged my children goodnight at 6:45pm and I made my way over to the local elementary school. As I walked to the school I felt excited and interested to attend the information session and to hear about the priorities of the school. I know there are going to be at least 5 kindergarten classes; so, 5 x30 children equals 150 sets of parents… that makes for a room full of curious listeners. I walked into the school just past 7:00pm and was greeted in the front lobby by the principal. In the gymnasium sat about 80 parents and in the course of one hour we heard from the principal and all 5 kindergarten teams (teacher and early childhood educator).
Parts of the presentation that stood out :
1) Emphasis on Intentional Play – The principal provided wonderful examples and rationale of what play-based learning is about and why it is a powerful approach for early learning.
2) Emphasis on Inquiry – The principal spoke a lot on inquiry as part of the play-based program and that through intentional play children are engaged in inquiry
3) Outdoor time – Children explore, inquire and play outside everyday, for a good part of the day.
As an experienced pedagogy researcher and a teacher educator I was happy to hear all that was shared and felt that “in theory” this school has the elements that are not only in keeping with Ontario Ministry guidelines but are also evidenced-based best practice. I was hoping to hear more about the balance and connection between literacy and numeracy development and intentional play and inquiry. The principal spoke about how students develop language and literacy skills through intentional play but I also wanted to hear about time spent on phonics and phonemic awareness and whether or not these fundamental skills were taught with focus.
The teams of teachers shared rules and routines for kindergarten and the early years schedule. The schedules will go something like this:
Open Entry 8:40 – 8:55
Outdoor Play 9:00 – 9:30
Intentional Play/Inquiry 9:30 – 11:30
Lunch and Outdoor Play 11:30 – 1:00
Intentional Play / Inquiry 1:00 – 3:00
Outdoor Play 3:00 – 3:25
During the intentional play 6 curriculum areas are covered: Language, Mathematics, Science/Technology, Health and Physical Education, the Arts, Personal and Social Development. Again, how lovely it was for me to see a schedule that was designed for authentic integration of curriculum.
I then had the opportunity to tour the classrooms. Gone were bright primary colours and in their place were neutral tones and a good amount of natural and wood materials. Very little plastic. No “toys”. I sensed a good deal of Waldorf influence in the aesthetics of the room. I was able to see that the child is at the centre of the classroom — student work displayed throughout in tasteful and meaningful ways. Almost everything in the classroom, including the alphabet was student made, not store bought. Images of the children, their photos were also present in the room. The classrooms, 4 out of 5, were bright, spacious and inviting.
Next step: a letter is to arrive in the mail with details of an interview. Sylvia Clare and I are going to meet with her new teacher and be introduced to her classroom. This is to happen in August.
Overall I was impressed with what I heard and saw. I enjoyed speaking with the principal and some of the teachers. I am going to look into scholarly articles that discuss literacy development and intentional play so I am better prepared for what to expect in the daily life of the classroom. I am also going to write articles based on my own research — coming soon! Parents/grandparents/teachers/principals/teacher educators with early years/kindergarten experience — share your insights of FDK and interesting articles that connect FDK with literacy development.