children, Christmas, Christmas presents, Hanukkah, holidays, Kindergarten, kindergarten books, kindergarten reading, Kwanzaa, Literacy, parents

Books As Presents? Absolutely!

Post 46

If you celebrate Christmas or Kwanzaa, you already know…….one week to go! (If you celebrate Hanukkah, you’ve gone through all this already this year so you can relax 🙂 ) In school, it’s hard to keep the students focused on learning but we do try. Think of how excited your child is at home and then multiply that by 22 or 23! Can you imagine the chaos if we didn’t stick to a routine? (Please read Post 17.) And so much teaching can be done around a holiday or winter theme. As I’ve said before, this is one of the most magical times in Kindergarten. As educators, it’s a privilege to be able see it through the class’s eyes. (And, believe me, we are told a LOT! I’ve sent home many a note letting parents know what their child has whispered to me that he/she hopes Santa is bringing….just in case! )

That brings me to the reason for this post. As Kindergarten parents, you are probably constantly being advised to read, read, read with your child. So I’m sure you are putting some books under the tree. And why not? That’s such a good idea on so many levels. If books are placed side by side with toys, you are sending the message that they are fun! So many children in the higher grades look on reading of any kind, even novels, as a chore. If reading is presented to be as pleasurable as playing with a toy, Kindergarteners will think of it in that way. Hopefully, they will continue to look at reading that way as they get older. And, besides, it is really special, after all the craziness of Christmas morning, to cozy up with your child and together look at the new books Santa has brought.

In that spirit. I have been talking to some educators and parents to find out some books that their Kindergarteners especially like. I have also added some that are annually popular with my students. Obviously, this is not a definitive list. It’s just a suggestion. You know your child best and what will appeal to him/her. Please feel free to post any titles you and your child especially like in the comments. That would be so great! If your boy/girl enjoys them, others will, too.

 

Pete the Cat Saves Christmas                        Hungry Caterpillar’s Christmas 123

The Gingerbread Man                                    Llama Llama Jingle Bells

The Polar Express                                           Olive the Other Reindeer

Merry Christmas Big Hungry Bear              It’s Christmas, David!

Countdown to Christmas                                Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins

The Nutcracker Ballet                                     Llama Llama Holiday Drama

Bear Stays Up for Christmas                          The Animals’ Christmas

Twas the Night Before Christmas                 Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Bell 

 

These are just a starting point. Have fun! I hope you enjoy many, many happy moments with your wonderful children this holiday season. Happy Holidays and see you next year!

Take Care.  🙂

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children, Christmas, Hanukkah, holidays, Kindergarten, Kwanzaa, school

Giving and Receiving in Kindergarten

Post 45

So, here we are, right in the middle of the holiday season. Whether you are finishing up Hannuka or getting ready for Christmas and/or Kwanzaa, we are in  the midst of one of the busiest, most exciting, most exhausting times of year. And you and your child are supposed to enjoy it?! Right!! You can’t help but be stressed and so is your child. I can remember thinking that my own kids were lucky I loved them so much because otherwise Santa would skip our house for sure! Lol. And then, on Christmas morning, it was all so worth it. 🙂

Now, think of a Kindergarten classroom with, say, 24 children all at varying levels of excitement and you’ll get a picture of what school is like these next two weeks. Not that any K teacher would trade his/her grade level for anything. The wonder and excitement are a couple of the reasons we choose to teach 5 year olds. It’s magical! But it’s also, shall we say, extremely “busy”! (Please check out earlier posts #15 & #16 where I go into easy ways to tie in academics with your holiday prep and how to handle your child’s holiday moods. I don’t want to repeat myself here.) What I’d like to go into today is the thought of giving vs receiving.

Most children have been making lists of what they’d like to receive for the holidays. And that’s great! And lots of parents/caretakers go out of their way to help a child come up with ideas for gifts for the special people in his/her life. And that’s wonderful! Another aspect of giving that I try to emphasize in school is how good it feels to give someone something. We talk about that “feeling you get inside” when someone opens up a gift you have made or bought just for them. I tell the class it’s as good, or even better, than the feeling you get opening your own gifts. And my students love it! We try to make at least one simple gift a week during theme time so that each child has at least 3 – 4 gifts to bring home and give to the special people in his/her life. They are thrilled to have made something and they really look forward to giving it to a loved one. It’s awesome to see the children take them home and even better to hear the stories of what was said and how surprised their families were when they received their gifts.

So, the point of this is to remind ourselves of the joy that comes with giving and that Kindergarteners can experience that, too……in the truest sense. As one child told me, “My heart felt so good!”

Take Care.  🙂

 

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children, ELA, homework, Kindergarten, Literacy, parent teacher conferences, parents, school, Writing

Supporting Learning at Home

Post 44

By now most Kindergarten  conferences are either over or will be by the end of this week. We’ve talked a lot about adjustment and social concerns but I realized I haven’t really gotten into academic concerns. Years ago, academics in Kindergarten meant letter and color recognition, number counting, and maybe reading at a Level A by the end of the year. Boy, has that ever changed! Now Kindergarteners are expected to be reading at a C or D level (more on leveled reading in later posts), doing basic addition and subtraction, writing in sentences, etc, etc.,etc. (Don’t panic! It’s only December. Most academic growth occurs from Feb. – May.) That’s why K teachers get so annoyed when someone says,”Oh, it’s only Kindergarten. What can they possibly learn?” A lot…that’s what!

So what can you do to foster learning at home? First of all, read, read, read to your child. Even if you can only set aside 5 – 10 minutes a night, that’s great. Reading readiness is the main focus of Kindergarten right now and nothing says it’s important (and fun) to a five year old than spending time with a parent who values reading. Letter and sound recognition are important prereading skills that you can easily help with in fun ways. Some are:

* When riding in the car with your son/daughter, point out the first letter of store signs (ex. K….Kohls, S….Stop and Shop, etc.) . Ask your child the letter sound and then take turns listing other words that begin with that sound.

* When reading with your child, ask him/her to find and point out a specific letter (“all the s’s, m’s, f’s, etc.). This can progress to all the letters that make a specific sound, and then to high frequency words if your child knows them. Another way to do this is to ask the same questions but in a book or magazine you are reading. Nothing makes a child feel more important than to be able to “read” grown up material!  🙂  (As a quick note…I did this with one of my sons at 5 years old years ago when we were out for a snack after school using the NY Times. A couple of people in the diner thought he was reading it. Lol. He was finding the word “the”. )

* Rhyming is another prereading skill. Again, when you are driving or out for a walk, make up lists of rhyming words together (ex. cat, bat, sat…..boy, ploy, soy, etc.) In academic terms these are “word families”……another thing your child will learn this year.

* When you are making a list to go food shopping, ask your child to “write” something down for you so you don’t forget it. Even if it’s not perfect, you are validating prewriting skills. Help him/her to “stretch out” the first sound….for example, mmmmmmmilk. (Quick note here…..writers become writers by writing so don’t be too quick to insist on perfect spelling right now. That will come later on in the year. Just get your child to write something even if it’s “f” for milk. That’s ok.)

* Help your child to sign holiday cards or pictures he/she draws for relatives, etc. (Grandparents are great recipients!) Try to make sure he/she starts with an upper case letter and then uses lower case letters for the rest of his/her name. You can dot the letters in for your child to trace over if needed. Again, right now don’t worry too much about neatness. That will come as your child writes letters more and more this year.

Some ways to help with Math skills are:

* To reinforce patterning, when your child is playing with cars, have him/her make a blue car, red car, blue, car, red car pattern with them. Switch it around to a big car, big car, small car pattern. Keep making the patterns progressively more complicated. This can be done with anything….M&M’s, Dolls, dinosaurs, etc. Let your child come up with his/her patterns, too.

* Help counting skills by having your child touch each toy and count them to see how many he/she has. This can be with blocks, action figures, toy dishes, etc.

* If your child writes to Santa, show him/her how to number each request. (Santa has to keep count, doesn’t he?)

Cutting is another Kindergarten skill. An idea to help with that is:

* If your child has trouble cutting, give him/her paper that you have drawn  straight lines on. Help your child follow them by putting you thumb and pointer/middle finger on either side the place where the scissors are held together. That way your child can cut but you can help guide if needed. Try to help your child to understand how to cut smoothly and not keep stopping. Progress from straight to wavy lines. You can also just give your child paper to cut randomly. Put those cut pieces into baggies for him/her to keep.

The point of all of this is to reinforce academic skills in a quick, fun way. You don’t have to sit down with your child every day for an hour to do so. We all lead busy lives and these are ways to help your child while doing everyday activities. (If you have any other good ideas, and I’m sure you will, please post them in the comments any time this year. If they work for you, someone else in our group will want to try them.)

As I’ve said before, you are your child’s first teacher and his/her best cheerleader. Remember to let him/her know how proud you are of how he/she is progressing in school. Maybe some of these suggestions will help you to do so.

Take Care.  🙂

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children, holidays, Kindergarten, parent teacher conferences, parents, school

Holidays and Kindergarten Expression

Post 43

Thanksgiving is over so now there is a little down time in school before intense holiday preparations. (Think making presents for loved ones, applying new ELA skills to writing cards and letters, using Math to countdown to Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, etc. ) The children are already excited so usually I try to introduce winter instead of holiday themes right now. Of course, that will depend on your district and what is allowed.

After meeting with families during conferences, teachers have a clearer picture of the children in their class. It’s always so cool to see where certain traits and habits come from. I can usually see the parent in the child both physically and attitude wise. And that is a big help in knowing how to approach a child academically. You are truly your child’s first and most important teacher.

That brings me to another thought. Children in Kindergarten are, obviously, 4, 5, and 6 years old. For so long, their whole lives, in fact, parents and caretakers have answered for them at doctors’ visits, school orientations, with friends, relatives, etc. It can be hard to realize that your son/daughter is able to speak up when asked a question. As a parent, I always wanted to present my child in the best way possible. That’s normal. But a Kindergartener can and will answer if given a chance. And now is the time to take a (very little) step backward and let your child respond on his/her own when talking to an adult. Of course, if he/she looks to you for help, jump right in. Just don’t always answer for him/her. I think you’ll be surprised at what your little one has to say….in a good way!

We are coming into one of the most exciting seasons of the year. Try to keep up with the routines you’ve already established like sleep, meals, homework and reading time. That will go a long way toward keeping him/her on track right now. And remember to enjoy it!

Take Care.   🙂

For more thoughts on the holidays with your Kindergarten child, please check out posts #15 and #16.

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children, children's feelings, holidays, Kindergarten, parent teacher conferences, parents, school, Thanksgiving

Conferences and Thanksgiving

Post 42

A few more thoughts about Parent Teacher Conferences…….if you’ve already met with your child’s teacher and everything is going well , congratulations! Your child (and you) have overcome the first hurdle…..adjusting to Kindergarten. He/she is in a great position to learn all the wonderful things Kindergarten has to offer both socially and academically. If your child’s teacher voiced some concerns, listen to them. Small problems that are recognized and attended to early in the year avoid much bigger ones later on. Even though we parents don’t always admit it, in our eyes our offspring are perfect. (Come on, deep down you know that’s true 🙂 ) So if an outsider (teacher) comments on a shortcoming, it hurts. First for your child and what he/she is experiencing, and secondly because you can’t “fix it” in a day in most cases. But it’s part of a teacher’s job to help your child to grow into the best version of him/herself he/she can be. So if there’s a problem, brainstorm ways to help your child overcome it. His/her teacher will have ideas, try them. Come up with your own, too….after all, you know your child better than anyone. And stay in touch with your child’s classroom teacher. He/she will welcome the concern and let you know what is and isn’t working. And if you haven’t had conferences yet, get there early (the time schedule is usually tight), ask any questions you have in the back of your mind, and listen to the answers with an open mind. Remember, we teachers truly want all the children in our class to succeed. (Please check out posts #13 and #41 for more Conference info.)

Thanksgiving is so close! Can you believe it? Most likely your child has a party or show this week which is so much fun. If he/she is apprehensive about it, try to reassure him/her that it’s a fun part of school. No one is going to be upset if he/she doesn’t perform perfectly. Make sure your little one knows you will be proud of him/her, no matter what. (And FYI…..they all usually pull it off very well!) Please check out Post #14 for more on Thanksgiving in Kindergarten and how it’s taught.

Have a wonderful week with your Kindergartener, enjoy all the fun and Happy Thanksgiving!

Take Care. 🙂

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children, children's feelings, Kindergarten, new school year, parents

Conference Questions

Post 41

Parent Teacher Conferences should be coming up sometime this month in most districts. If you look back at Post 13, you’ll see I’ve tried to cover format, what to expect, and how to follow up your child’s conference if needed. In this post, I’d like to discuss questions that are appropriate to ask at this first meeting with your child’s teacher.

First of all, anything that is on your mind about your child in school is “appropriate” to bring up. That includes social or academic questions. Typically, though, this conference centers on social and adjustment concerns. If your child is comfortable (well adjusted to Kindergarten) at school, he/she will be able to learn.  September and October are usually the months when the primary focus is adjustment. One teacher used to call it “Classroom Management Skills”……learning to walk in line, transition to Special Area teachers, sitting and listening to a  teacher, etc. Even if your child went to preschool, Kindergarten is a much larger setting with more children and a bigger school, etc., which takes some time to become comfortable in.

So, what to ask? Probably your child’s teacher will give you a rundown of what he/she sees happening with your child and then ask what you are observing at home. Start with the positive, if your son/daughter seems happy to get on the bus, feels comfortable with the teacher, talks about friends, is proud of his/her work, etc. Then, if something is on your mind, bring it up! Maybe your child had a problem on the playground. He/she might think the other children don’t like him/her. Ask if your child plays with other children or sits alone. Maybe your child isn’t eating at lunch or snack. Ask if there is someone who can help him/her open juice boxes, etc. Maybe your child tells you that he/she is afraid to use the bathroom at school because of the automatic flusher. Let the teacher know so that he/she can cover the sensor. Maybe you are concerned about your child’s speech and would like a Speech teacher to just listen to him/her informally and see if there is anything that needs to be followed up. The point is, ask. No Kindergarten teacher is going to get upset with you or your child if you do. We want your child to be comfortable and confident in school so that he/she can learn well and be happy doing so. Also, by bringing up a small problem now, you may be helping to avoid a much larger one later on. Trust your instincts. You know your child best. If something is nagging at you, talk about it with your child’s teacher. If you need more time, request a follow up appointment or phone call when you and your Kindergartener’s teacher can go more into depth about what’s going on with your child. Of course, if your child seems fine and well adjusted, listen and enjoy this first face to face with the person your child spends a good part of his/her day with.

Remember, Kindergarten is a partnership between you and the teacher/school. We all want the same result…….a happy, productive year for your son/daughter.  🙂

Take Care.

 

 

 

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children, children's feelings, Kindergarten, parents, reprimands, school

Reprimands

Post 40

It’s been a couple of months now and hopefully your child has gotten used to school and has settled in nicely. Everything seems to be going along great when suddenly he/she gets “in trouble” at school. What do you do?

First of all, there are all levels of “trouble”. There’s being sent to the principal’s office (take it seriously) all the way to being told to “use your inside voice” (most children are told that at some point). Try to find out from your child the exact circumstances and what was said. Was it specific to your child or directed at the whole class? Did the reprimand come from his/her classroom teacher, a special area teacher, another child? Where did it happen….in the classroom, the hallway, cafeteria, library, etc? That will give you a sense of whether it was said to the group as a whole during a particular rowdy part of gym, for example, or if your child was really acting up for some reason.

Of course, some children are more forthcoming with answers than others. Some are guilty or upset and can’t wait to tell you about it. And some internalize worries and won’t say a word about them. You know your own child. I gave you a whole list in the above paragraph but I wouldn’t bombard your child with that many questions even if he/she is a talker. Try to get him/her to tell you about the incident in a quiet place, maybe over a snack or cuddled on the couch, and really listen. You’ll get a sense of when and where. The biggest thing to find out is if it was class directed or really meant only for your child. Most five year olds that I have known take any kind of teacher correction very personally. In one incident, a student of mine went home constantly telling her mom that, “The Gym Teacher keeps yelling at me.” This went on for weeks until the child was afraid to go to Gym. The mother finally wrote to me (she hadn’t wanted to “bother” me before) and I brought it up to the Gym Teacher. It turns out she hadn’t been “yelling” at the child at all. The Gym is a very big place and she had to speak loudly for the children to hear her. Add to that the fact that they were riding on little wooden tricycles all over the Gym and you can see why she  “yelled”. But this particular child took it all personally. When we figured it out, the Gym teacher sat the class down and explained why she had to speak loudly. She also made sure to give the little girl some extra TLC in class. In the classroom, I used my bear puppet, Muffin, to have the children help him brainstorm what to do if he was reprimanded in school. The point is…try to find out exactly what happened. Don’t assume the worst. Usually it’s a rebuke said either to the whole class or in a group situation even if it is directed at your child (stop talking, hands to yourself, let’s share, etc.) If your child really won’t tell you what happened, contact his/her teacher or the special area teacher or both. No one is going to think you are being a pain for being concerned about your son/daughter. If there’s really a problem, you can work together to correct it before it gets out of control. But probably you will find out that it was no big deal. Then you can reassure your child that he/she is doing a good job in school and has nothing to be worried about. Either way, you are keeping a little problem from becoming a big one!

PLEASE post any questions, problems, comments,( or good things about Kindergarten that you’d like to share) in the comments. If you have them, other folks do, too. And I’d love to address them in these posts.

Take Care.  🙂

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