Tag Archives: Full Day Kindergarten

FDK Update: Assessment and Communication

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.

Sylvia Clare's portrait of "Woody", the tree the class adopted from the neighbourhood forest.
Sylvia Clare’s portrait of “Woody”, the tree the class adopted from the neighbourhood forest.

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.

 

‘H’ints and ‘H’appiness: Literacy learning in FDK

With the first month of school soon behind us I (Yiola) want to share some examples of my 4 year old daughter’s (Sylvia Clare) literacy learning in Full Day Kindergarten (FDK).

Example 1:  Phonemic awareness.  Sylvia Clare must be learning about the letter H.  On more than one occasion she has demonstrated her understanding of phonemes and phoneme isolation.  I said, “Sylvia Clare you must be hungry”. Sylvia Clare paused and responded, “Mommy, is hungry like Henry? huh huh huh.” I paused in surprise of her observation and connection and simply said, “Yes”.   Later in the evening I said, “Hendrix and Orion are going to visit soon” and Sylvia Clare responded, “Hendrix is like hungry and Henry, right mommy?”

Example 2:  Letter recognition.  One night earlier this week while tucking Sylvia Clare in bed I noticed she was curled in the most unusual position. I observed but said nothing. Just as I was about to pull the bed sheets up Sylvia Clare said, “Mommy, what letter do I look like?”   I respond, “hmmmm, interesting. I’m thinking you look like an I?”  Sylvia Clare laughs, “Noooooo. What letter do I look like mommy?”

She is also taking objects and forming letters. For example, while playing outside, she took two twigs and  placed them together to form the letter “V” and asked, “Does this look like a letter mommy? What letter is this?”

Example 3: Vocabulary development and comprehension.  More and more Sylvia Clare comes home with stories. Vivid stories. Curious stories.  Each day her stories grow in detail and description. The other day she explained she went on a trip to the forest in search of an oak tree. She shared,  “On the way to the forest, I held a boy’s hand [she paused and blushed]. His name is *Sam (changed) and he is in SK (senior kindergarten) so he is bigger.  I fell down on my way to the forest but I did not get hurt and the teacher gave me a bandaid. The forest close to the park mommy, you know the one we always go to.  We went into the forest just a little, not deep in the forest, only at the entrance. There we found a humungous oak tree. It had 4 trunks and they went out like this (uses her arms and points in four different directions). So it really looked like four trees stuck together. We looked at the bark”.  I asked if it was an angel oak tree. She was not sure but she continued to share news about her experience.

Example 4: Confidence.  Sylvia Clare drew a map of the world at home, wrapped it up and took it to school. I thought nothing of this as I dropped her off in the morning. Then I realized I left her lunch bag at home! I scrambled home and rushed back to the school to bring her  lunch.  By the time I returned to the school the children were engaged in outdoor play/education/inquiry.  I saw Sylvia Clare standing with one of her teachers, her map open and making reference to it. The teacher saw me and smiled, “Sylvia Clare is reading her map and we are now trying to find the treasure”.  How wonderful to see play and literacy in harmony. A reader is a person who reads. Sylvia Clare was demonstrating she is a reader. Then, at the end of the day when I went to pick her up she had another paper in hand. I asked, “What did you work on today?” and Sylvia Clare explained that she lost her map so she made another one – she developed a graphic organizer, a way to read, understand and appreciate the world. My thoughts:  thank you teachers, for providing the time and space for Sylvia Clare to engage in what interests her and thank you for appreciating those interests.

On her own, without probe, Sylvia Clare is offering hints of literacy teaching and learning.  With sly enthusiasm she is sharing her learning with me, in subtle, whimsical ways. She is sharing her achievements and understandings and I can tell she is proud that she is learning new things.  What excites me is that her learning is evident; in her sharing, practice and happiness. It is not coming home by way of worksheets or alphabet books.  I look forward to seeing and sharing what the upcoming months hold.

 

First impressions of Junior kindergarten (JK) and big hopes for a successful start

In a previous post I (yiola) shared information about  my experience as a parent with a child entering Full Day Kindergarten (FDK).

https://literacyteaching.net/2014/06/16/chronicles-of-a-parent-teacher-educator-on-full-day-kindergarten/

A letter did arrive from the school in early August that shared information about my Sylvia Clare’s school, classroom and teachers. Drop off and entry routines routines, school hours, suggestions for snacks and lunches, back packs and what to have in them, and kinds of shoes and clothing were all listed in the letter.  The letter was detailed and comprehensive; enough information to get us started and feeling confident. We were also informed that Sylvia Clare’s first day of school is Friday September 5th (a staggered start for the JKs).  Oh the first day of school…. there are so many perspectives, feelings, emotions connected to the first day of school.

sylschool

My family visited the school earlier this week to meet the teachers and check out the classroom.  We walked into the school and were greeted by the vice-principal. “Well hello and welcome! What is your name sweetheart?” asks the vice-principal.  Sylvia Clare rushes to hide her face behind my legs and says “NUFFING!'” (nothing)… I turn a soft shade a red and try to encourage my daughter to say her name… she digs deeper into my back for cover.

We made our way to the classroom. It is the smallest classroom of the five I wrote about earlier. The room will host 30 students.  This concerns me. The teachers greeted us and we had some time to explore the classroom together. Everything, according to my teacher education self, looked fantastic: neutral, calm colours, brand new wooden materials and furniture, accessible shelves, colourful and plentiful picture books, walls free of borders and posters ready for students to share their learning.

The classroom teacher showed Sylvia Clare where she would enter and how she was expected to arrive into the classroom. We went into the “cubby room” where there were 20 cubbies for 30 expected students. Here Sylvia Clare will need to drop off her jacket and backpack, unload her lunch bag into the cubby above the hook and put on her indoor shoes. We then went to the carpet area where the teacher explained some of the basic school routines: school entry, attendance, outdoor play or physical education, followed by ‘free play’.

In terms of literacy development the early childhood educator (ECE) explained it would be taught subtly. For example, children’s names would be shared on the board and students, together, identify their names and the first letter of their names. It would be done through games and in ways that were free of pressure. This delighted me. I was assured that there would not be the pressure of the ‘sit down, work sheet’ style of learning literacy and numeracy.  The teachers explained that student inquiry will drive the program. While students freely explore the materials in the classroom and build and share their ideas and interests teachers will design the content.  Language and vocabulary will be built based on student interest. It was also explained to me that one-on-one and small group time would be developed so literacy lessons could take place with one of the teachers while the other teacher would work with the larger group on my inquiry/play based programs. 

Sylvia Clare drew for her teachers a picture as we spoke about assessment (there is a new provincial report card coming out this year!), portfolios, field trips, volunteer opportunities, and the importance of validating and appreciating Sylvia Clare’s ‘uber’ long last name.  

I’m not entirely sure how Sylvia Clare felt about her very first visit. She hasn’t said too much about it either way. I want Sylvia Clare to feel happy. I want her to jump out of bed every morning and say “Hurry mom! Let’s go to school”. I want her to make friends and to play freely and securely each day. If these things happen in the first months of JK,  my hopes for my Sylvia Clare will have been met.

Her first day is this Friday and again, I will share from time to time what I am seeing and learning about literacy teaching in the early years from a parent (and teacher educator) perspective.

Full Day Kindergarten in Full Swing

Tis the season for parents  with children turning 4 years old to become acquainted with formal schooling and the Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) expectations. Ontario, Canada has implemented full day Kindergarten for all students across the province.  I (Yiola) am experiencing first-hand the excitement and apprehension of sending my child, a darling, vulnerable, sensitive, sweet girl (Sylvia Clare), to school for 6.5 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Jumping online, I have read reviews — some for and some against — FDK and many focusing on children’s language and literacy development.  See below for some examples:

http://globalnews.ca/news/1237501/full-day-kindergarten-children-score-highest-in-vocabulary-self-regulation/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/full-day-kindergarten-offers-no-academic-advantage-study-says/article17715532/

As a parent, my worry is not so much if my Sylvia Clare’s academic achievement will be more or less. As a parent, my worries are related to her well-being. Will she be happy? Will she love herself even more? Will she make friends and learn how to work/play with others well? Will she come home each day and share stories of interesting things she did and learned.   I most certainly want to her read and write, but in good time. I feel there is no rush and I want a pressure-free learning environment for her.

In a recent article  http://www.mykawartha.com/news-story/4397024-why-full-day-kindergarten-has-better-prepared-our-kids-for-grade-1/,  educational consultant Joan Ruf comments:

“One of the wonderfully positive things about full-day kindergarten is the appreciation of the whole child,” she said, explaining the program is successfully marrying the concepts of academic and emotional growth. “So it’s not just about reading and math. It’s about how are they doing. What are they doing for themselves.”     This statement gives me some comfort.

Schools in Ontario are now inviting parents to attend FDK information sessions in order to prepare ‘us’ for the year ahead.  I will be writing about my experiences going through this process and journaling Sylvia Clare’s experiences as she begins FDK in September.

As a professor of education, through the researching and teaching and writing and sharing,   what lies at the centre of my work  are the children and their development as happy, healthy, thoughtful, literate human beings.

The issues surrounding FDK: its purpose, process, and outcomes are vast. With a political election looming the topic of FDK is front and centre and how it will be managed and maintained is up in the air.

Victoria Embraces FDELK

FDELK is the acronym for the new Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten program in Ontario and it represents much, much more than just going to school all day. The program is based on the Reggio Emilia Inquiry approach to learning, which has been in existence in Italy for over 50 years. It is a new teaching/learning approach for Ontario, however, and some teachers are still working out a few of the kinks. It is well worth the effort, though, as the results I am seeing in the schools are very exciting.

Imagine how delighted I (Cathy) was when I visited one of my practicum schools to observe a student teacher working in a FDELK placement and discovered not only had she embraced the inquiry learning process, she was sometimes leading the teachers in the approach. Her mentor teacher proudly showed me some of the things our student teacher, Victoria, had created for the class. While exploring 3D shapes, Victoria created for an with the students a: 3-D Bingo game; 3-D shape story; 3-D treasure hunt ; 3-D survey; and, 3-D art.

I knew the 3-D exploration was working too. As I watched a small group of K’s make sets of counters to add up to ten, one of the boys suddenly exclaimed, “Look! I made a rhombus !” Ahhh, to be so smart at 5. But it takes good teaching to guide them there.

VictoriaVictorias anchor