I (Yiola) having been sharing my experiences with the Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) program from a parent’s point of view and here is another update. My wee ones, Sylvia Clare (Senior Kindergarten) and Gallaway (Junior Kindergarten) are trekking merrily along in their kindergarten programs. They are happy — and this makes me very happy. Some updates and observations about FDK and literacy.
- Sylvia Clare got into French Immersion. In our province, not all school board’s hold the same policy on French Immersion. This makes understanding the program less clear. Some school boards/districts give every child the opportunity to go into French Immersion while others (like the one we are in) have a first come/first serve system. The online database opened at 12pm on a set date and by 12:01 Sylvia Clare was 63rd on the list. 42 students are admitted into the program… We were notified last Monday that Sylvia Clare has been admitted and on Tuesday I registered her into the program. What does this mean? Beginning in first grade 50% of her learning will happen in French. She will have 2 classrooms teachers plus a “prep” teacher. Big questions arise: How will this impact her language development in the short term/long term? How will this impact her social development? Will this slow down her reading development? Will this alter her level of engagement? So many questions and uncertainties and I’m not entirely convinced yet much of the literature AND community feedback suggests to go for the French. As a teacher educator I can speak to the general trends of French Immersion programs: students in immersion programs: acquire more vocabulary over time; catch up and often exceed reading levels of monolingual students… and yet when I look at this wee individual child, in spite of what research and theory state, only time and experience will determine if its best for her. I will keep you posted.
- Technology in FDK. Amazing things are happening with the whiteboard in the FDK classroom. I have observed students working individually and in groups: standing directly in front of it, touching it and manipulating shapes, words, images on the screen to solve problems. I have seen students engaged in listening activities and responding with their whole bodies to instructions provided through programs on display on the white board. I have seen attendance being tracked on the white board: all students’s names are in one row and as students enter they go up to the white board and slide their name to the other side — small details to practical use of technology in FDK. I have seen iPads used in the FDK classroom: for gathering research, reading, listening to stories, and playing “games”. And, I have experienced communication with the teacher via REMIND technology. Oh how I love receiving a text with a pic of my son in educational action accompanied by a short text from the teacher. It makes me smile each and every time. The way digital technology is used in the classroom is meaningful, productive, and purposeful. I have also observed that it has just become a way of being in the classroom. It just is.
- My last update on FDK is on the idea of inquiry. I will share my understanding of inquiry in FDK with a anecdote. Yesterday, as we drove on the Gardiner passing the CN Tower, Sylvia Clare explained Mommy we did research at school. Harrison asked the teachers if the CN tower was the tallest building in world and the teachers said they did not know but that it was a good question to research. So we started to research. We looked in books and on the computer and guess what? We found out its not. You know where the tallest building is mommy? Its not in Canada. We also learned the CN tower is a tower but not a building… and on and on she spoke about her research on towers and buildings.
These are some of the key literacy based elements that have me excited about FDK. Am I concerned about how many sight words they know? Not really. I am more concerned with their active engagement in learning and wanting to learn and this is what I see happening in the early years.