Tag Archives: kindergarten

‘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.


Guest Blog: Monica McGlynn-Stewart

How Does Learning Happen?

Monica McGlynn-StewartOn April 25th, Ontario’s Ministry of Education released a new Early Learning Framework called How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years. http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/atkinson/UserFiles/File/Policy_Monitor/ON_25_04_14_-_HowLearningHappens.pdf
It is a learning resource for early years settings such as childcare, child and family support programs, and before-and-after school programs. In some ways, it is a departure from the previous early years curriculum framework, Early Learning for Every Child Today (2007). http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/earlychildhood/early_learning_for_every_child_today.aspx
In addition to a statement of principles and guidelines for practice, the older document includes a section referred to as the continuum of development which has separate sections for infants, toddlers, pre-school/kindergarten and school-aged children. Each age group is further divided into five domains, social, emotional, communication, language and literacy, cognitive and physical. Each domain includes a list of specific skills, what educators might see that would indicate that skill, and suggestions for how educators might support those skills. In other words, it is quite detailed about how children develop and how educators can support them. The new document, How Learning Happens does not have this developmental section. It appears to be inspired by New Zealand’s national early childhood curriculum Te Whariki. Like Te Whariki, How Learning Happens focuses on children’s relationships, well-being and inquiry learning, and educator’s collaboration and critical reflection.
As a professor of early childhood education, I think a combination of the emphasis on reflection, relationships, and inquiry learning from Te Whariki and the continuum of development from Early Learning for Every Child today would be helpful, the latter particularly so for new early childhood educators. Over the last 25 years I have seen similar swings in the school curriculum in Ontario. When I first started teaching elementary grades in the late 1980’s, there was an incredibly open-ended primary curriculum which allowed excellent teachers to run fabulous programs, but left less informed and skilled teachers with little to go on (and some less than effective programs). We then had a conservative government in the mid to late 1990’s who introduced a much more prescriptive and reductionist curriculum, making it more difficult to be creative and to integrate the curriculum, but it could be argued that it supported new teachers. Now, with the school curriculum revisions in the last few years, and the new full-day kindergarten play-based curriculum document, we are moving back towards less prescriptive outcomes, subject integration and inquiry learning. I think new educators/teachers need support and explicit guidance, and more experienced, knowledgeable educators/teachers need more freedom to be creative and spontaneous. The question is, how you capture this in a one-size-fits all curriculum document?