Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) Blog #4 tells the literacy teaching story from the perspective of a first time Full Day Kindergarten parent (Yiola). In this post I share elements of the assessment process and how my child’s development has been communicated.
Here in Ontario it is “Parent-Teacher Interview” time. First term report cards have been written and parents and teachers, and sometimes students, are meeting to discuss student progress. There are a number of ways the interviews are conducted: student-led conferences are now quite popular processes and the more traditional teacher-led conference sans student are still in effect.
When I received the school newsletter and read that report cards and interviews were about to take place I was surprised and a little anxious; I felt it was too early to have the teachers share my child’s development… I knew my Sylvia Clare was learning a lot but to put in writing her ‘levels’ or acquired learning after 8 short weeks of school seemed far too soon. Well, I was right. The report cards and formal interviews were meant for students in grades 1 and up, not for kindergarten. Phew! That made more sense to me. As a parent of a child in kindergarten it makes good sense that children in the early years are not formally assessed … well, too early. From a parent’s perspective, I wonder if I would feel the same way if my children were in first or second or third grade?
What the FDK program has established is an “observation” time where each parent/guardian is invited to visit the classroom in action, to observe the daily life of the classroom and their child in the classroom. During the observation time the teacher offers some time to discuss questions or concerns with the parents/guardians. I was thrilled with the sounds of process as I was feeling so very curious about the sounds and vibes of the classroom and how Sylvia Clare got on inside that environment. A first hand eye-witness makes such good sense.
A short note arrived home a week before the observation. We were assigned a half hour observation time the following Monday morning. This worked well for me, but I did wonder, how do full-time working parents without flexible schedules manage the observation?
Monday morning arrived and off I went to visit the classroom. Alive with children’s voices, questions, and energy I walked into a vibrant room filled with learning. I was welcomed by the Teacher and Early Childhood Educator. Sylvia Clare’s face lit up when she spotted me as she hustled over with excitement. I quickly slid into the flow of the room and began to learn what it was my child did in the FDK room. Sylvia Clare was working with another student building the 100s chart on the huge carpet area. She had the 70s cards and while the Senior Kindergarten student was building from the 40s, she watched and waited patiently for the 70s to turn up so she could add to the massive chart… a wonderful, collaborative learning experience. When done, she showed me around the room: building centres, reading nooks, sand table, art table, writing table, snack table and well organized low rise shelves embodied the room. The room was as I remembered it back in August (neutral colours, natural light, natural materials) but now evidence of student learning lined the walls; drawings, colourings, writings were on display and I could see Sylvia Clare’s work.
Children working in pairs, in small groups, independently on a variety of tasks throughout the room. The room was bustling yet highly organized. The room was loud but not noisy. I was thrilled to see so many “languages” brought to life (Reggio Emilia’s notion of the 100 languages in the classroom) ~ art opportunities everywhere; all purposeful and engaging. Everyone, including my Sylvia Clare had a place in the space and was engaged in the life of the room. The teachers encouraged Sylvia Clare to show me her portfolio (a binder with evidence of her work). Then Sylvia Clare led me to her interests where we explored and worked together. Once well settled into the observation, the teacher sat down next to me and asked, “Do you have any questions or concerns?” This was such an open and welcoming way to start our discussion. My questions:
Is Sylvia Clare happy at school?
Does she have friends and is she social? Who does she play with the most?
Where does she spend most of her time in the room?
I see she is learning a lot from all that she shares at home. What do you think?
The teacher provided specific description of Sylvia Clare’s work in the classroom: what she talks about, who she plays with, what she enjoys doing, and how she interacts in the classroom. It was clear to me the teachers have a good sense of who Sylvia Clare is, what she likes, areas she has shown significant growth already and areas for improvement. Then I asked:
What can we work on at home to support her learning?
Continued literacy development, focusing on sound/letter recognition. I realize now, as a parent of a child who is developing their reading skills just how complex the process is for children. It takes time. Some children acquire skills faster than others; some struggle but all children need time, exposure, practice to basic skill development. In theory, I knew this. To witness it through the lens of a parent however is somewhat different. Experiencing literacy development in one young child in live time, watching her gain letter recognition, one letter at a time, one sound at a time, is quite fascinating. Sylvia Clare is getting there. Beyond the daily read alouds and story telling I need to work through phonic games and drills with Sylvia Clare.
After our brief conversation I felt comfortable and confident that my child has adjusted to full day schooling and getting along well. Sylvia Clare then ushered me over to the snack table and we chatted while some of her friends came over to meet me. Shortly after, I said my goodbyes and was on my way.
It was remarkable observing my child in this setting; a setting outside our home, a setting in which I am but an observer and Sylvia Clare is the participant. The observation experience provided very clear, detailed description of my child’s work at school, far more than I would have gathered from a formal report card.