Kindergarten

Levels

Post 140

Your child has been in school for at least a few days now. Things seem to be settling down. Hopefully, those first day jitters (for both of you😀) are subsiding and routines are being established. That’s great! You are exactly where you should be and all is well.

So, sometime this week your son/daughter may “mention” that he/she sat with the teacher and “played some games”. Right about now teachers are starting to evaluate their students academically. We see where the class is overall. That drives our instruction. I always tell my students we are “playing games”. And, actually, it is fun. Teachers really get to know each student better by spending some one on one time with them. And, of course, we are checking where each child is in order to set up reading groups.

That’s where a lot of parents worry that their little one isn’t where he/she should be, especially in Reading. Relax…teachers expect children to be at different levels. For first graders that’s especially true after all of the online instruction last year. Added is the fact that most students fall back at least one level over the summer break. For kindergarteners, reading levels range from maybe knowing some of the letter names to reading simple books. Educators know all that and plan whole class instruction to introduce and reinforce concepts while individualizing teaching in small groups. That’s what we are trained for and love to do. It’s our “super power”. 😀

The point is don’t worry if your son/daughter sits with his/her teacher for a bit. It’s not disciplinary (unless you are contacted…a whole different story, lol). It’s all part of the beginning school year.

Take Care.

*If there is any topic you would like discussed, please type it in the comments. If it is on your mind, chances are it is on other parents’ minds, too. I would love to hear from you.

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children, education, First Grade, Kindergarten, new school year, parenting, parents, preschool, school, teachers, young students

Routines

Post 139

School has started or will in the next day or two. Your Kindergartener (First Grader, Preschooler) will be getting on the bus with a minimum of tears and you both will be getting used to a somewhat normal routine. Hopefully Covid won’t be as interfering as last year. Masks may need to be worn and seats in school will need to be a certain distance apart but at least children are in a physical classroom and not online.

These first few weeks of school are ones I like to call classroom management weeks. 😀 This is the time teachers set up routines for students to follow all year. It includes an overall daily plan so children know what to expect when. We also cover basics such as bathroom and lunch routines, how to walk to special area classes, what to do during a fire drill or intruder alert, how to get on and off the buses, how to ask a question, and so on. These routines give structure to the school day and help our classes feel secure in knowing what to do and what is expected of them.

The same is true at home. Now is the time to set up the routines that will make this school year go smoothly. Start with the morning. Decide on a wakeup time that will allow your son/daughter to be relaxed when getting ready, eating breakfast, and going to the bus stop. That starts the day well. When he/she arrives home after school, have a routine for eating a snack and doing any homework. And, most importantly, try to have a regular time for your little one to prepare for bed and sleep. Of course, things change and your best plans sometimes don’t work. But try to get back to your child’s normal schedule as soon as you can when that happens.

Starting and keeping a schedule now will help make this year a happier one. I have found that students in my class feel more secure when they know what to expect each day. The same applies at home. And if you start now, when your child is in Kindergarten, these routines will be so ingrained that they will carry over into his/her later school years . They will just be a part of life. And that’s a good thing. 😀

Take Care.

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children, children's fears, children's feelings, education, First Grade, Kindergarten, new school year, parenting, parents, preschool, school, school readiness, teachers, young students

Welcome To School

Post 138

The first day of Kindergarten (or First Grade or Preschool) is either today or soon depending on your district. It’s so exciting! There are new clothes to be worn, pictures to be taken, bus lines to stand on…and then your little one is gone. Off to the exciting world of school. Suddenly there is a hole where you didn’t know there could be one. Yes, he/she will be back this afternoon but what about now? It has been my experience that even if your child is upset leaving you, he/she won’t remember it in a few years but you will never forget it. And that’s ok. It’s totally normal. So, if you are missing your son/daughter right now, remember, he/she is coming home to you. You haven’t lost him/her. It’s just a first venturing out into the wider world beyond home.

Chances are your child might have been a bit upset getting on the bus…I promise you no school or teacher will let a student cry for the whole day! Usually tears last about 5 minutes and then they are over. Kindergarten teachers are very skilled at distraction and making the day fun for their students. We are used to this and know what to do. And if your child couldn’t wait to get to his/her class…celebrate! He/she is off to a great start. 👍

But however your son/daughter left this morning (or will leave in the next week, depending when school opens) expect him/her to be VERY tired when he/she comes home. Expect some crankiness, too. Children try very hard to be good listeners and hold everything in when they are in school. So where do they let it all out? At home! And that’s totally normal, too. This tiredness will probably last a few weeks until your little one gets used to the routine of going to school. Try to be a little more patient and keep to dinner and bedtime routines. It won’t last forever and has no bearing on how your child is doing in school. Soon your son/daughter will be back to his/her normal cheery self.😀

Take Care and good luck this week (or next)!

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children, children's feelings, coronavirus homeschool, education, First Grade, Kindergarten, new school year, parenting, parents, preschool, school, school readiness, teachers, young students

Beginnings

Post 137

August seems a bit early to be posting about “Back To School”. But, for most of us, this is the year students begin school before Labor Day. And when school ended, we had all hoped that Covid 19 and all its variants would be just about gone by now. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Administrators and teachers are dealing with the best way to open and keep children and staff safe. Whether or not you agree with your school’s policies, please try to discuss your feelings away from your child’s hearing. Teach your little one to make the best of it. Let him/her tell you his/her worries but stay positive. Your attitude will determine your child’s. Thankfully, most five year olds are not too bothered by masks and hand washing. They are more concerned with whether or not their friends will be in their class and where they will sit. Although these fears seem small compared to the pandemic, they are very real to your son/daughter. Give him/her the support you would in any year. In the end, he/she will be fine. (No teacher is going to let a child cry all day without calling you!) Even the most upset student calms down and participates after a few minutes. (The kids usually do better than the parents on the first day of school. 😀)

Also, please do not get overly stressed by the supply list you have probably received by now. If you can’t find everything on it, relax. Supplies can be sent in at any time. Usually there is a drop off day the week before, often when your child goes to visit his/her classroom. If not, send the supplies in a few at a time during the first week. No one is going to penalize a little one for not having the correct pencils, I promise!

So, good luck to both you and your Kindergartener (Preschooler, First Grader) next week. Get him/her to bed at a decent hour the night before, try to have him/her eat a good breakfast, put on those new clothes, and get on the bus. And remember to smile!

Take Care. 😀

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Kindergarten

Happy Summer

Post 136

Happy Summer! Well, technically it’s not summer yet but since most schools are winding down, this will be my last post for the year.

This school year has been anything but normal. Schools, teachers, and students have had to adapt in ways that no one ever expected. All of us have been faced with obstacles that no one ever thought of when planning a Kindergarten curriculum. And everyone has been worried that all students, especially our littlest ones, would fall far behind.

But children are resilient and they have shown it over and over this year. From wearing masks when at school in person to becoming experts on Zoom, they have learned and adapted in ways we never thought possible. They have gained a lot this year in independence and are ready for First Grade.

But they (and you) are also ready for a rest. So, enjoy this schedule-free time with your child. But please keep reading, too. As I mentioned last week, most boys/girls tend to drop back a level over vacation. Please find a way to keep your little one reading where he/she is right now whether that is through the library, online, with you, or a combination of all three.

Happy Summer! You’ve earned it!😎 (See you next school year.)

Take Care! 😀

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Kindergarten

Summer Reading

Post 135

With the change of the month, it seems as if the end of school is within grasping distance. And it is! Schools are starting to wind down and some, depending on where you live, are already on summer vacation. Most students (and teachers) feel “done”. It’s very hard to keep focused in the classroom when summer is peeking in the door.

But some planning is in order. First of all, if you have any concerns or questions about your child’s progress this year, talk to his/her teacher either in an email, note, or phone call. Now is the time to look ahead to figure out how to help make next year an academic and social success. Most K students don’t need academic tutoring but many students fall back at least one reading level over the summer. So it’s a good idea to plan some sort of fun reading/writing activity to help prevent that from happening. I always recommend the free library programs. They’re encouraging and offer incentives for children to keep reading regularly. With the pandemic still going on, many have adapted to remote or at home schedules. And some are running them in the actual library with proper distancing.

Another suggestion is that many districts have online reading programs such as Raz-Kids that students are already signed into and can use over the summer. They are a great way to keep reading skills up.

And, of course, there’s the most important one…reading with a parent or another adult. Just the one on one time makes that one of the most effective reading “tools” there is.

Whatever you decide is best for your son/daughter, be sure to let him/her know how proud you are. This has been a rough year for everyone. And our littlest students have certainly shown their resiliency through it all!

Take Care. 😀

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Kindergarten

Next Year

Post 134

It was such a glorious weekend here that it’s difficult to get back into the groove today. Schools are so near the finish line that it’s hard for everyone…students, teachers, and parents…to stay focused. But as I wrote about in my last post, keeping to set routines as much as possible helps.

But what about next year? In my district, placement meetings are being scheduled. That’s when teachers and administrators get together to decide which classes students will be in next year. This placement is not done randomly. Teachers make up lists putting students with teachers they feel will work well together. Care is taken to be sure that each child has members (preferably friends) of his/her present class in the new one. Then, at the meeting, children are placed and each potential class is balanced according to boys/girls, academic levels, and behaviors. Districts and schools may be different depending on the number of students, classes, etc. but that’s the way we handle it.

So, as a parent, how much input do you have? My feeling is that if you have a legitimate concern or request, make it in a positive way. For instance, if you know there is a teacher your child would flourish with, then write a letter or email requesting him/her. I would send it to both your child’s teacher and the principal. Some schools allow names, others ask that you write the type of person your child would do well with. My advice would be to never criticize a teacher you would prefer your child not have. And your request should be honest, not based on a popularity rating.

The same goes for asking that your son/daughter be placed or not placed with another student. Make sure any request you make is legitimate. Most schools will try to honor them. But again, it depends on the school and district policy.

I know it can be overwhelming. If you really have no preferences or concerns, then let the school handle next year. As I said, placement is not done randomly. Teachers really know their students, even if school was virtual this year. We get to be with your child for a good part of the day and really care about him/her. And educators want their students to succeed. We call our classes “my kids” for a reason. Because they are. 😀

Take Care.

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Kindergarten

Spring Fever and Routines

Post 133

It’s May and most students…virtual or in-person…are experiencing Spring Fever. And so are their parents and teachers! It’s been quite an unusual year and we are all looking forward to a break this summer. With vaccinations available for Covid 19, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. There is an optimism about school next year that most of us haven’t felt in over 14 months. It’s looking good!

But there is still a month or so (depending what part of the country you are in) of school left. Although the temptation to let it all slide is there, I would suggest just the opposite. We all want our little students to finish strong. In school, I try to keep to established routines and I would suggest you try to do the same with your son/daughter at home. Keep those homework and bedtime habits that you’ve worked so hard to establish in place. The consistency of them will give your child something to hold on to. In the classroom, I keep to the same daily timetable but try to incorporate lessons that are outside and have more movement. (For example, we go on a Five Senses Walk and mark on individual charts on clipboards when we use a sense.) At home, maybe your son/daughter could sit outside while doing his/her homework. But the idea is to continue to do homework, snack, playtime, dinner, bedtime at the already established times and more or less in the established way. Even if he/she seems resistant, it really does help him/her to feel secure. And we are so close to the end, let’s finish this year strong!

As always, please comment with any thoughts or suggestions you have. I really would love to hear them.

Take Care. 😀

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Kindergarten

Virtual to In-Person School

Post 132

A number of schools have made the push to transition from online learning to in-person school for what is remaining of the school year. The idea is to get students back to “real” school while ironing out any issues that they will be facing next year. (That’s assuming schools open normally in September. 🤞) Parents have been given the option to have their child continue online or in-person.

If you have opted for consistency and are letting your son/daughter finish out the school year virtually, that’s great! Your little one has had an experience that while not what we normally think of as Kindergarten, has been unique and valuable in its own way. There are so many special moments in that first year of school that he/she has been able to share with you that you would otherwise never have had. I truly feel that to get to spend time in a 5 year old’s world is a privilege that most people, other than K teachers, don’t get. And you and your child have experienced them in a way that would never have been possible without this year of homeschooling. For all its ups and downs, it’s very special.

But if you decided to let your student get a taste of what it is like to be in a classroom for a few weeks, that’s awesome, too. Expect your son/daughter to be tired at the end of the day the way he/she would have been in September. Children tend to be “on” in school in a way they don’t have to be at home. And most Kindergarteners try very hard to be good listeners and do what the teacher asks. They hold themselves together and kind of let go when they come home. Seeing other students in class is wonderful but overwhelming, too. There’s a whole different dynamic involved in sitting at a shared table versus seeing classmates on a computer screen. Again, lots of fun but can also be overwhelming. And new students need to get used to walking in the hall, going to special area classrooms, the gym, cafeteria, etc. depending on how their school handles such things pandemically.

So, whichever option you chose for your child to finish out the school year, the main thing is to continue to support him/her. Let your son/daughter know how proud you are of all the work he/she has done and how much he/she has learned this year. Try to keep bedtime and routines at home consistent. This has been a very different year for everyone but you and your child are almost there. Congratulate yourself and him/her!

Take Care. 😀

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Kindergarten

More Math

Post 131

Last week we talked about some basic Math concepts that can be reinforced when your child is playing at home. There are a few more that are worth mentioning.

Basic 2D and 3D shapes are something Kindergarteners should be able to recognize. These include squares, circles, triangles, rectangles, hexagons, cubes, cones, cylinders, and spheres. They can easily be found around the house. Think cereal boxes, glasses, balls, party hats, etc. Try sending your child on a “shape hunt”. You could give him/her a paper with the different shapes on it to check off as he/she finds them . Or, point to a shape while he/she is eating breakfast and ask your little one its name. (You might slip in the word “vertices” for corners while you are at it.)

Coins are introduced in Kindergarten and what child doesn’t love sorting through the change in your pocket? Your son/daughter should be able to identify pennies and dimes and, possibly, nickels and quarters.

The concept of subtraction as “taking from” can be done using fingers, objects, pennies, candy, cereal, toys, etc. Again, this doesn’t have to be a formal learning time activity. It can be as simple as figuring out how many toys are left to clean up after putting 1 away. 😀 (In Education, that’s called “authentic learning”.)

Ordinal number (1st – 10th) understanding can easily be strengthened by lining up toys (or playmates) and asking who is 1st, 5th, 9th, etc. in line. This can also be done with colored M&M’s or fruit.

Please understand I am not advocating that parents reteach the K Math curriculum! The point is that if your child is having trouble with any of these concepts, there are lots of simple ways to help him/her gain mastery while doing ordinary activities. And as an educator, I have found, that applying concepts to the real world is the way to make them “stick”. 😀

Take Care.

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Kindergarten

Kindergarten Math

Post 130

Math in Kindergarten has evolved over the last ten years. It used to be enough to be able to sort objects, write numbers, and count to 20 by the end of the year. Those are still included but it’s so much more. Now students are doing basic addition, counting by 5’s and 10’s, and recognizing numbers up to 100. Graphing and concepts such as “in front of” are also part of the curriculum. Children are expected to be able to write most, if not all, of the numbers 1 – 20. Add to that very basic estimation, shapes, and patterning and you have quite a full program.

The good news is that most five and six year olds really enjoy Math. And that’s great! It is the second most important subject taught in Kindergarten . Only Reading is emphasized more.

So, what can you do, at home, to help your little one with Math? Actually, there are a lot of activities that you are probably sharing already that can be tweaked to include concepts being taught in school.

If you and your son/daughter cook, have him/her count out the number of eggs or cups of flour to be put in.As a way to emphasize one to one correspondence, line up 10 vehicles and ask your child how many action figures would be needed if each one was to have a driver. Let him/her put one in front of each car and then touch each one as he/she counts them. Group candies by color, shape, and any other way they can be sorted. Start a pattern with different cereals and ask your chid to continue it. Put 3 stuffed animals in a pile and then put a pile of 2 more next to it. Ask your child how many you have all together so he/she gets practice with adding. Have your child help you make a list of things you need from the grocery store by writing the numbers 1 – 10 in a column for you to fill in later. Play tan “in front of, in back of, next to” game by challenging your child to put dolls in those different positions as you rapidly call them out.

The list goes on and on. The point is that Math concepts can very easily be emphasized when your son/daughter is playing. There is no need to set aside Math time to do it. And actually bringing these concepts into everyday life makes them more authentic for your child. And ultimately isn’t tha the whole point of any education? 😀

Take Care.

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Kindergarten

Hard to Motivate?

Post 129

Is your child becoming harder to motivate when doing schoolwork? Does he/she resist when told to finish up something you know your little one can easily do? Is everything taking twice as long as it should? Don’t despair! It’s totally normal. Your son/daughter is experiencing what used to be called”Spring Fever”.

Let’s face it, right about now we are all fed up with what we have been doing and are ready for a change. Children are no different. Whether he/she has been in virtual or in-person school, it’s been a long year especially when you add in all the restrictions Covid 19 has brought about.

So, what to do? In school, I always try to include movement in my lessons. Math might involve measurement by combining it with science and making paper ladybug airplanes that fly. We then measure how far they went and estimate how far they will go in the next trial. In Writing, I usually stock the center with new post-it notes, glittery pens, and different markers. During Reading, I let the students pick their own books from an assortment of topics that interest them. We even change seats for new table buddies.

The point is to change things up. Maybe switch where your son/daughter does his/her online learning. Add some new supplies. If you have an outdoor area, let your child do his/her work there instead of inside. And, as always, be sure to let your student know how proud you are when he/she does a good job. You are your child’s main cheerleader and when you are pleased, he/she is too.

Take Care. 😀

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Kindergarten

New Beginnings

Post 128

Spring is the season of new beginnings and many schools are doing just that. As vaccinations continue, districts are trying to have in person learning for the rest of the year. Children who have been learning remotely all year are being encouraged to return to the classroom. Students have missed a lot of socialization and the thought is that at least they will get a little before the school year ends.

This can put parents in a quandary. While it’s good for their little ones to be in an actual school setting, there can be a regret that their exclusive time together is ending. And there is also uncertainty about how children will acclimate this late in the school year.

As a teacher I look at it a little differently. Some of that September excitement when everything is new and things are just beginning will be in the air. Students whom we have only seen remotely will now be occupying desks in the room. Their personalities will be part of our classroom dynamics in a new way and that’s exciting! I always enjoy the way a new student refreshes classroom dynamics and so, having an influx of children who are new but not really will be fun. And I look forward to actually knowing boys/girls whom I have only been able to interact with on the computer. There are a lot of nuances that don’t translate on a screen. Educators will be able to pick up on these to better help our little ones learn.

In the end, your little one is still yours even if he/she spends six hours in a classroom. Worries are a normal part of parenting. But together, you and your child’s teacher, can make the rest of this school year better than any of us hoped for when it started.

Take Care. 🙂

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Kindergarten

Reading Growth

Post 127

Last week I wrote about the academic growth that usually appears in students during March. It’s such an exciting time to be a teacher! But during this pandemic time, a lot of parents and caretakers are assuming that role. Even if your child is attending school in person, I’m sure you look for ways to encourage your little one especially with reading. Here are some ideas that you can use at home:

  • Read together. Let your child turn the pages and cuddle close when you read before bedtime,
  • Go through the book prior to reading and discuss what your child thinks will happen,
  • When reading together, you read a page and then encourage your child to read a page,
  • If that’s too much, you read a line and then your child reads a line,
  • When reading a book that is too hard for your son/daughter, let him/her read the high frequency words as you go along,
  • Discuss your child’s favorite part of the book afterwards,
  • Discuss your child’s favorite character afterwards,
  • Discuss your child’s favorite illustration afterwards,
  • Give your child an old newspaper or magazine and let him/her highlight the high frequency words with a special highlighter.

The whole point of all of this is to help your child move along and enjoy reading. Any of the suggestions above should only take a minute or two of your time together. Of course, if he/she sees you reading,especially for pleasure, that’s a great encouragement. Remember, your little one is always watching and idolizing you, even if it doesn’t seem so at times! 🙂 Your example is the biggest motivation your son/daughter has to be a reader. If you enjoy your reading time together, so will your little one. And that’s what it’s all about.

Take Care. 🙂

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Kindergarten

March Growth

Post 126

March is usually the month that we see a lot of academic growth in Kindergarten. It is the time that all the phonics lessons, all the sight word drill, all the emphasis on sounds that letters make, spaces between words, guided reading lessons, all the Math practices…it suddenly all comes together. It all makes sense and our little students are sailing through lessons and jumping to higher reading groups almost out of the blue. It really is so exciting to see and be a part of. All of their hard work is paying off.

Of course, it happens in different amounts for each child. But the point is, it does happen. And it makes each one so proud. And that spurs him/her on to try harder and keep moving forward…sort of a domino effect.

So, how can you encourage and support your son/daughter at home? Try giving him/her a little more responsibility that uses his/her emerging skills. Let your little one add to a shopping list you are keeping as he/she thinks of things to get from the store. When you are reading together before bed, encourage your child to read a page and then you read a page. Let him/her pick out a birthday card for a friend and sign it him/herself. If he//she is helping you cook, let your son/daughter figure out that if there are 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon and you need 2 tablespoons, then he/she should add 6 teaspoons of something to the bowl and then let him/her do it. Children realize when something is busy work so make it a real task. (It’s called “authentic learning” in educational literature because it is.)

Also definitely keep up the routines you have established. This isn’t the time to change them. Things like doing homework at a specific time ground your child. Just try to put a little more responsibility into them. And enjoy this time of achievement and growth with your little one. He/she has worked hard to get here and so have you! Especially during this pandemic time, we need things to rejoice over. And what is better than celebrating your child’s accomplishments?

Take Care. 🙂

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Kindergarten

Report Cards

Post 125

Report cards are probably being distributed soon or have been in your child’s school. What does that mean in Kindergarten? The first thing to keep in mind is that Kindergarten is not what you remember. It’s not even what it was ten years ago. It’s more what First and early Second Grades used to be. That means there are definite targets in each subject at different times of the year. Educators need to “test” to see where each student is in relation to those targets.

So, what does “testing” mean in Kindergarten? Probably your son/daughter has mentioned to you that he/she sat either online or in a separate place in the classroom with his/her teacher and did some special work. Usually there is a standard sheet that is used across the grade level to check on students’ progress. It’s always presented in a fun manner and students enjoy the one on one time with their teacher.

So, about where should your child be right now? In Reading, that’s usually at around a B level. That means your child is reading books that have simple sentences that relate to the picture on the page. The sentences are somewhat repetitious but have a change on the last page. Your son/daughter should be able to recognize at least half to three quarters of the sight words. He/she should know all letter sounds and be able to blend them together to try to sound out new words.

In Writing, your child should be able to write simple sentences that relate to a picture drawn in his/her journal. He/she should be using capital letters at the beginning of a sentence and for his/her name. Periods should appear at the end of a sentence. Your child should also be starting to put spaces between words. And letters should mostly be formed correctly. Spelling will not be perfect but your student should be starting to listen for letter sounds he/she knows and writing them in words.

In Math, your son/daughter should be able to recognize and count almost up to 20. He/she should be able to write at least to 10 and be able to start to write some of the teens. He/she should understand counting by fives and tens and be starting to do that with help looking at a chart. He/she should also understand the concept of addition and be able to “+1”. Concepts such as before, after, next to, in front of should also be understood.

These are the three main academic areas. Subjects such as Science and Social Studies depend on a particular district’s curriculum. Keep in mind that although some form of testing may be going on, your child’s teacher knows where he/she is at, especially in reading. Report cards need some documentation to support grades given but daily reading groups and classwork count heavily.

After all that, remember that students progress at different rates at different times of the year. The best way to view your son’s/daughter’s report card is to look at the progress made from the last one. Keep in mind that more is expected now than in November. So an “on grade level” is just that. Your little student is right where he/she should be at this time. He/she has been learning at just the right rate. If he/she is “above grade level” then he/she is surging ahead and you should be proud. If he/she is “below grade level”, contact his/her teacher about ways to help boost your little one’s skills. But the most important thing is to compare your child to him/herself. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing him/her to other students in the class. All children learn to walk and talk at different rates. The same is true for reading, writing and math skills.

Take Care. 🙂

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Kindergarten

Boredom

Post 124

Is your Kindergartener complaining about not liking school, not wanting to sit through lessons, not wanting to write in a journal because it takes sooooo long? Has your normally cooperative student recently gotten fidgety and a bit obstinate? Relax…it’s perfectly normal. Your child, and the rest of the class, has hit the midwinter doldrums. It’s not serious and won’t last.

In the fall, everything about school was new and exciting, even if it was a bit intimidating. Now routines have been set and even though there is comfort in familiarity, school and homework can seem boring. In class, educators change themes. We switch children’s seats. We introduce new activity centers. We put out new books. We decorate the classroom for Spring. In other words, we change things up to spark that feeling of newness that students had in September. And you can easily do the same thing at home.

Think about changing where your son/daughter does his/her homework or online school. Simple things like a new mat under the computer, new trays to organize crayons, a different light, or even moving his/her seat to another part of the room are all small changes that can spice things up. If your child is tired of writing, try new writing tools. How about cool pencils, ones that have fun toppers, different colors, or how about writing with pens or markers if that’s allowed? Frequently something silly like wearing a reading crown or a writing cape is all a five year old needs to make an assignment fun. (This is the time to recycle any scarves, hair accessories, beach hats, party favors, etc. that you have lying around. 🙂 ) Old jewelry is good, too. I have a number of those beaded necklaces that you get at a party store in my classroom. The boys/girls wear them when they are reading together. They also wear them when they give a particularly good answer. We call them “smart necklaces” and they are so proud to show them off. You might try something like that. The whole point is to change things up a bit.

As I have often mentioned, March is the month that we see great growth in school so this phase won’t last. Students usually jump ahead in reading and writing as everything they have been learning all year suddenly comes together. That’s all very exciting and I think you will find your little one’s attitude will lighten up as Spring approaches. And if you come up with any other solutions that help your child over this in between period, please share them in the comments. We could all use some good ideas right now. 🙂

Take Care. 🙂

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Speaking Up

Post 123

Speaking up, making yourself heard, stating your opinion, whatever you call it, it’s hard. It’s hard for adults and it’s equally hard for children. Add to that virtual school and if your son/daughter is the least bit shy, you could have a problem. Even children who are normally loud and confident have times when they are reticent and reluctant to share thoughts. So, what can you, as a parent or caretaker, do to help your son/daughter if you observe this behavior?

In school, I try to encourage reluctant speakers in lots of ways. One is by using our class bear, Muffin. He’s a puppet who often has problems, social and academic, that my students help him work through. We discuss things as a group and come up with solutions for Muffin to try. I would ask a reluctant speaker for his/her ideas to help Muffin and Muffin would respond to them, usually by doing something funny or “bearishly” cute. That seems to put a hesitant child more at ease. Another way would be to talk quietly with a student about his/her thoughts and then let the rest of the class know what he/she came up with and how “smart’ they were. I would then help that boy/girl build on that during our next group discussion.

But what can you do at home to help along your son/daughter if he/she is reluctant to speak up in class? Online, it’s especially difficult. One thought is to start by picking an instance where your son/daughter made a good observation. This can be either at home or when in class. Tell him/her why it was good and that you are proud of him/her for making it. (A word to the wise here…really mean what you say. Choose something your child has done that you really do think is good. Children can see right through us and sense when adults are “slinging it”.) Encourage your child to give you his/her opinion about things. Urge him/her to share what he/she thinks with his/er teacher in school. Also, give your child opportunities at home to state his/her opinion. Listen to and praise him/her for it. If your little student is in virtual school and you hear him/her make a comment, let him/her know how proud you are that he/she made it. You might also mention to your son/daughter’s teacher that your child is reticent about speaking up in class. Educators welcome any insights on a student and will certainly try to draw a reluctant student more into the classroom conversation.

So, remember, you are always your child’s best advocate and cheerleader. By letting him/her know how proud you are of his/her efforts, you are encouraging your Kindergartener (First Grader, Preschooler) to take a chance and speak up. 🙂

Take Care. 🙂

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Pandemic Valentine’s Day

Post 122

This year Valentine’s Day will be a little different in school. Usually students hand out their cards and little surprises in the classroom and we have a big party. But with all the safety precautions going on because of the pandemic, most schools are making adjustments. It’s hard because you want your students to enjoy the day but you don’t want to unnecessarily expose anyone. If your child’s school is remote, it’s the same thing. How can we make it fun for our little students?

Whatever your son/daughter’s school is doing, remember, our little ones are very adaptable and anything new is fun. And this is a great time to practice those beginning writing skills! Help your son/daughter to write out cards or at least write, or trace, his/her name on them. I’d suggest doing a few at a time and please send in a card for each person in your child’s class. 🙂 If your child is giving out a small gift, let him/her help pick it out and put it into the cards. That’s a great way to emphasize counting skills! Let your son/daughter count out those 24 pencils for you. 🙂

The whole point of Valentine’s Day in preschool and the primary grades is to help children think of others. It’s something that comes very easily to them and this is a great way to emphasize that. Encourage your son/daughter to write/draw a card for the special people in his/her life. I always tell my students that the happy feeling they feel inside from giving to someone they love is even better than the one they feel when they receive something. And that’s something that can be encouraged pandemic time or not.

Happy Valentine’s Day and Take Care. 🙂

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What’s Ahead

Post 121

Hard to believe but your little one (and you) are at or slightly beyond the halfway mark for Kindergarten. It doesn’t seem possible! Back in September, you were probably mostly worried about how your son/daughter would fit in with classmates, adjust to a schedule, learn at a class pace. And now the focus is on how is he/she doing academically? Where should your son/daughter be in reading, writing, math now and at the end of the year?

In February, most schools do some sort of assessment. You probably will have a conference with your child’s teacher to discuss it. That’s where you will find out how your son/daughter compares to where he/she is expected to be. Most Kindergarten students are reading at some level by now. Most know that the words on a page are related to the picture. Most can recognize at least some sight words when they are seen in a text. Most are starting to blend learned letter sounds into words. In my district, we meet in guided reading groups. These are small groups of children (3-5) that are reading on the same level. We use books that have a limited vocabulary, known sight words, pictures related to the words on that page, and words that can be sounded out. These books range from Level A – Level Z. By the end of the year, we aim for most of the students to be reading at a C/D level. Right now, A/B is fine.

Your child is probably writing daily. This is often in some sort of journal writing I look for students to be writing a complete thought in each sentence. I also check that there are spaces between words, periods at the end of a sentence and capital letters at the beginning of one. Known sight words should start to be written. This is where correct letter formation is also emphasized. Drawn pictures should illustrate the sentence. I will encourage the student to put in details such as some sort of background to show if it is inside or outside, night or day, summer or winter. Figures will start to evolve from circles with lines stuck on for arms and legs to stickish figures with eyes, noses, mouths, and clothes. There are also opportunities for other types of writing such as lists or Writers Workshop or something similar. That helps your son/daughter to write a fiction or nonfiction story with a beginning, middle, and end. At this time of the year, I emphasize spacing between words and capital letters for names. I help students listen for the first letter of a word they are writing and then move to the last letter. I start to encourage putting in elements such as grass, sky, and a sun in pictures.

Math used to be counting from 1-20, patterns, shapes, ordinal numbers, placement (first, second,etc.), less, more. It has broadened to include counting to 100, basic addition, subtraction, the concept of 0, counting by 2’s, 10’s, and 5’s, different combinations make the same number (1+3=4, 2+2=4, 3+1=4, 4+0=4, 0+4=4, for example). It is easily the First Grade Math of five years ago. By now, I hope students can write most of the numbers 1-10 and are beginning to recognize 11-20. They should be able to count orally from 1-10. They should also know basic shapes, beginning graphing, and be able to continue a given pattern.

Science tends to be, according to your child’s school or district, a set program of some kind. It usually has a health component (which in this pandemic year has been emphasized ) that includes hand washing, germs, etc. Popular themes for the second half of the year are cold weather animals, insects, seeds and plants.

Social Studies themes are usually months, seasons, holidays, diversity and how we are all alike, to name a few. They often offer more real world practice of reading and writing. Again, these vary by school or district.

As we head into this second half of the school year, remember, look at where your child started and where he/she is now. That’s the important thing. All children progress at different paces. Think of when your son/daughter was little and learning to walk and talk. There were others the same age ahead or behind him/her. It’s the same thing with basic reading and writing skills. Some children are ahead in certain areas and behind in others. The norm is just an average of all children. And in this time of remote and in person learning, the norms are even more skewed. A lot of academic growth occurs over the next few months. Keep doing what you are doing. Encourage your child. You are his/her most important cheerleader!

Take Care. 🙂

*If there is a subject you’d like me to address, please post it in the comments. I am always looking for new topics for this blog.

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Writing

Post 120

Last week I focused on reading. Hand in hand with that is writing. By this time of year, most Kindergarten students are at least writing the letters. (In my district, our reading program includes how to form each letter so it’s included with letter sounds.) And, by now, the concept that “letters have to be in the right order” has been ingrained in most of the children’s minds. So I would expect your little one to be attempting to write words and putting them together in sentences. Don’t be worried if your son/daughter is using invented spelling. That’s when he/she writes the sounds he/she is hearing in a word. Often this won’t include vowels and often it looks a little odd. Thats’s ok! Your student is identifying the sounds in a word and recording them. For a five or six year old, that’s two steps. And if he/she is trying to write a sentence, that’s a lot of words while maintaining a thought at the same time!

There are a number of opportunities for writing in a school day. First and foremost is journal writing. Your son/daughter will have some sort of book or paper where he/she will write a sentence and then be asked to draw a picture about it. Again,”words and pictures go together”. 🙂 Along with journals, writing will appear in other lessons such as science (recording what he/she sees happening with a plant, for example), social studies (writing the name of a friend on a valentine), math (writing the number word of items counted), theme projects ( listing the different types of bears studied). So your child is “writing” even when it is not the primary focus.

One word of caution here. The idea is that “writers become writers by writing”. If your child asks for help with a word definitely give it to him/her. But if you are reading something your child has written, don’t be so quick to jump in and correct his/her spelling. Right now, phonetic spelling is fine. Your son/daughter will be learning rules such as “e at the end of a word makes the vowel say its name” as he/she goes along. Making a Kindergarten student keep erasing and redoing so it’s perfect can have the opposite effect and be discouraging. The idea is for writing to be spontaneous and exciting so your little one gets confident doing it.

And, of course, let your little student know how proud you are of his/her writing. Give him/her opportunities to make lists for you at home, write notes to the special people in his/her life, etc. and post some of those attempts on the refrigerator or bulletin board or wherever you post his/her work. In the end, your pride in your son/daughter’s accomplishments is the best type of encouragement!

Take care. 🙂

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Reading

Post 119

I promised last time to post a bit more about academics. And what is more important in the Primary Grades than reading? It’s what we spend a good part of our day on in Kindergarten. It takes many forms. There are group lessons where the teacher introduces a new concept to the whole class or reinforces one that has been taught before. There are guided reading or small group lessons where students on the same level meet with an instructor to read a specific book and gain ownership of that book. There are times when students read independently either from the general class library or specific books he/she has mastered. There are what we call “read alouds” where a book is shared with the whole class for understanding and enjoyment. And reading is obviously in every part of the curriculum all day long. As a teacher, I often will emphasize a point made in an official morning reading lesson when it appears in the afternoon in a science lesson. You could say reading “flows” through a Kindergartener’s day. 🙂

So, where should your five/six year old be in reading at this time of year in Kindergarten? Different programs have different ways of keeping track of a child’s progress. My district uses Fundations which has levels based on the type of book a child can read independently. But whatever program your child’s school is using, by now most students have learned letter sounds and are blending them together to figure out words. Most students have learned certain sight words (for example, I, me, my, you, etc.} and are beginning to recognize them in print. Most students know that a picture is there to help figure out the text and use it that way. (No, that is NOT “cheating”, as one parent once told me. Lol)

In general, your son/daughter should be able to read a simple text independently. But that’s a very broad “in general”. At this time of year, Kindergarteners range from those reading something like “I see the cat”to those able to read “I can see a big red cat playing with the ball”. That’s a huge range. (And, of course, there are students reading at a higher level and those still trying to learn letter sounds.) I think the biggest thing is to see progress. Look at where your child started in September and where he/she is now. Keep encouraging him/her and praising his/her efforts. Unless there is another underlying problem, all children are reading by second grade. And I have found that usually Kindergarteners make a big leap around March when it all comes together. As a teacher (and a parent) there is nothing more exciting than when a child suddenly “gets it” and can actually read on his/her own. He/she is so thrilled and excited! And since most of you are even more involved with your child’s education this year because of the pandemic, enjoy the journey!

Take Care. 🙂

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Pandemic Thoughts

Post 118

After discussing what we, as parents and educators, should expect from students during this pandemic in my last post, I would like to touch on what our children may be thinking about it as things drag on. Our littlest ones absorb a lot of what they hear even if they seem to not be listening. For example, I know of one five year old who couldn’t understand why she couldn’t go to visit relatives. Her reasoning, “I’m not sick anymore”. (She had had a cold the week before.) Children will often internalize things and even think it is their fault when it truly isn’t. I think it’s important to let them know that what is going on has nothing to do with them personally. I also think it would be a good idea to let your son/daughter know that this is not the first time there has been a pandemic ,(think of Polio in the 1950’s or SARS in 2003), and to emphasize that we are taking precautions now so that it WILL be controlled the way the others were. Of course, phrase this information in a way that’s suitable for your particular child. As his/her parent, you know how to best approach your son/daughter.

These postings started as a place to discuss “all things Kindergarten” (and Preschool and First Grade). I promise they will get more academic in the future. But our world is facing some unprecedented situations right now. And they do affect our four, five, and six year olds. Even if they aren’t “sick” (hopefully!), they are aware of what’s going on. And I have learned in the classroom that students need to first feel secure before learning can take place. And that security can only come when parents and teachers work together.

Take Care. 🙂

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A New Year

Post 117

Welcome back! Hopefully you and your child had a wonderful (I won’t say “restful” lol) holiday break. School, either remote or in person should be back in session. Hard as it is to get back into a routine, a sense of normalcy will return as we all go back to “real life”.

But what is that during a pandemic? I always liked January in school. It was a calm, quiet month after the craziness of December. We always accomplished a lot academically. But this year, Covid 19 makes it and the winter seem to stretch out forever. And that got me to thinking. What do we, as educators and parents, expect of our children? Do we just go along as usual, using the same standards and benchmarks we would in a normal year or do we acknowledge that this is an unusual time and adjust for it? Many districts, teachers, and parents are worried about what the students have missed. I think we need to focus on what they have learned instead. Children’s brains have not been shut off just because they have not been attending traditional school. Many have been focused on what has been happening at home, dealing with loss, isolation, new ways of seeing friends online, etc. They have grown in unprecedented ways, ways we would not even have thought of before 2020. Not to mention, our littlest students have become more technologically savvy than we ever could have anticipated with online learning. (And that’s not a bad thing!) We need to acknowledge what they have gone through and give them outlets to express it…not judge them by the same artificial standards we used before. Children are not “behind”, they are just at a different place. We, as parents and educators, need to recognize that. It is “real life” in 2021.

Take Care. 🙂

**If you would like to read more on this topic, check out this link: https://dianeravitch.net/2020/12/12/teresa-thayer-snyder-what-shall-we-do-about-the-children-after-the-pandemic/?fbclid=IwAR189cEKa8qS2J8uS7k_eIh69E86tD3tfzPQdxanLzRsiHdzELVGCivXgdc

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Only A Few More Days

Post 116

For those of you who celebrate Hanukkah, breathe a sigh of relief! Today’s blog doesn’t necessarily apply since you have already dealt with gifts and giving and the excitement your child felt leading up to it. But if you celebrate Christmas or Kwanzaa, your little one may be slowly “losing his/her mind” at this point. There is so much anticipation going on. Add to that this year’s Covid restrictions. I think it is safe to say we are all feeling it more this year!

We see the same thing at school. I try to channel my students’ energy into making gifts for the important people in their lives. I also plan my lessons around topics relating to the season…reindeer names, the Grinch, Santa, etc. Last week we played the dreidel game, this week we will count and sort presents under the tree. The point is not to increase the anticipation but to go with it and tie in learning.

That can also work at home. Try to let your little one help with some preparations even if it would be easier to do things yourself. Let him/her wrap his/her gifts for loved ones. Let him/her makes cards or pictures while you are addressing yours. Let him/her put out decorations when you are. And, of course, when you are reading with your son/daughter bring out those holiday books and enjoy them together. This has been such a stressful year that looking at the holidays through your child’s eyes may be just the relief we all need. And there is nothing like the magic of Christmas morning when your child comes bounding in to see what “Santa” has brought.

Remember…only a few more days…

Take Care. 🙂

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Holiday Skills

Post 115

Last week we talked about holiday stress and how to deal with it. This week let’s consider how your child can use his/her academic skills around the holidays. Not only will it help keep him/her occupied but he/she will also be using reading, writing, and counting in a real way. (That’s called “experiential learning”…learning through experience.) Plus it’s fun!

One of the main concepts I try to teach my students at this time of year is to think of others. How about having your little one make cards for the important people in his/her life? You could write out a list of names such as Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt, Uncle, Brother, Sister, etc. for your child to copy. Your child, with your help, could also come up with another list of simple sentences to write such as “I love you.”, Happy Holidays”, etc. Fold a piece of paper in half and show your son/daughter how to write using those lists on one side and to draw a holiday picture on the other. He/she could make them and then you could take the learning a step further by having him/her put them in envelopes, address them (with help), put on stamps, and then mail the cards. What a great way to reinforce reading and writing! But, even more importantly, your child is learning to be kind.

Another way to use academics in a real way is to help your son/daughter write out a holiday list. Again, write the numbers 1 – 10 in order for reference if your child needs it. Then make sure he/she numbers each item on his/her list. Again, a very “experiential” way to put budding number skills to work.

These are just two suggestions. I’m sure there are lots of other ways for your son/daughter to use Kindergarten learning at this time of year. And with holiday get togethers being curtailed by the pandemic, your little one’s efforts will be especially appreciated by those receiving them. 🙂

Take Care. 🙂

**If you have any other suggestions for young students to reinforce their skills during the holidays, please post them in the comments below. Thanks!

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Holiday Stress in Kindergarten

Post 114

Holiday preparations are fully underway in school … whether that school is virtual or in person. Lessons are themed on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other December holidays. Projects are geared towards giving to those we love and expectations are high. It’s a wonderful time of year in Kindergarten.

So, why is your five year old suddenly grumpy? Why is the little person who is usually so cooperative suddenly cranky and uncooperative? And what can you do about it?

First of all, your child’s behavior is totally normal. There is a lot going on this time of year normally. Add to that the stress of Covid restrictions and you have a recipe for crankiness. We are all trying to deal with how we are going to handle the holidays this year and your children reflect that stress.

But it’s not all Covid related. As a teacher, I always feel it in the classroom, too. There is so much excitement and anticipation at this time of year. There is a lot going on at school and at home. And Kindergarten students are still trying to do the best they can in the classroom. They “hold in” a lot trying to be good listeners and so, it’s no wonder that it all can explode when they get home!

So, what to do about this totally normal but very hard to live with behavior (if your little one is acting this way)? What I have found works best both in the classroom and at home is to stick to established routines as much as possible. Try to keep your child on the same bedtime and wake up time that he/she is used to. Try to keep homework and dinner times when they usually are. I know it’s hard this time of year but routines, no matter how much your son/daughter rebels against them, give your child a sense of security. I do the same thing in the classroom. We are doing lots of exciting creative things but I try to keep the students on the established schedule they are used to. And this is the one time that Covid rules may actually help. A lot of the running around we usually do at this time of year is cut back so it may be a little easier to keep those routines in place. But there’s still a lot of excitement so don’t be surprised if your son/daughter acts up. As I mentioned earlier, it’s to be expected. And it will end… in January. 🙂

Take Care. 🙂

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School Insecurities

Post 113

By now, parent/teacher conferences are pretty much over. You probably have a good idea of where your child stands academically and socially in school. If he/she is doing well, great! If there are some weak areas, hopefully you have worked out a plan to help strengthen them. Those are the big things. But what about those little insecurities that you observe at home? Chances are, if you are seeing them in your child, other children in the class are exhibiting the same thing, too.

For example, maybe your child is online part of the week. Frequently in school an assignment will be given and a certain amount of time allotted for its completion. Young students often think that if they’re not done in time, they are in trouble. They will start to panic and get upset. This happens in the classroom, too. As a teacher in a physical school, I can see when this is happening. And, usually, if one child is not done, there are at least four or five others in the same boat. That’s when I tell the whole class that they can put it away and finish it later. So what do you, as the parent do, if you notice this happening with your son/daughter when he/she is online? If it’s an isolated incident, let him/her take a break and then finish his/her work. Encourage your child to do his/her best and let it go. But if it becomes a pattern, I would encourage you to let your child’s teacher know. We are getting used to online education, too, and really appreciate the feedback. As I said, if one child is having a problem, chances are that there are others experiencing the same thing. And, sitting on the other side of the screen, we won’t know about it unless someone tells us. That way, lessons can be adjusted. In this case, I would either tell the whole class that they can finish it later or I would give them extra time.

This is an isolated example. But my point is if you notice your child having a problem with something school related, don’t be hesitant to discuss it with his/her teacher. Educators never feel upset with a parent who is truly concerned about an issue their son/daughter is having. A lot of parents who are “new” to school worry about bothering the teacher. They don’t want to be “that parent” always complaining, etc. But if you have a legitimate concern, teachers want to hear about it. We, like you, are there for your children, all of them. And, in the end, we both want the same thing…for them to be happy and successful!

Take Care. 🙂

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Pandemic Thanksgiving

Post 112

As we begin Thanksgiving week, I found myself thinking how different it is in Kindergarten this year than any other year. Usually we host a class celebration with parents/caretakers invited to see our “show” (songs and fingerplays) and we do a whole math lesson around making corn bread that the children bring home for their Thanksgiving tables. It’s a lot of fun and fosters the partnership between school and home that is so necessary for a good Kindergarten experience.

Unfortunately, this year none of that can happen. But when I started to feel sorry for present day Kindergarteners and all they would miss, I realized that they don’t know that. This is their first experience with a holiday in school. They have no preconceived ideas of what should happen. I have found that five year olds live very much in the moment. So, as parents and teachers, I think we need to focus on what we CAN do and not what is lost this holiday season. In school, hand turkeys can still be made. Lists of what we are thankful for can still be written. ” ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving” can still be read. Children are very adaptable and your little one will take his/her cue from you. Celebrations will undoubtedly be smaller this year, but they will still happen. Playdates can still happen using technology. (I know of one five year old who had a 4 1/2 hour “playdate” over Zoom. They went from room to room, moving the computer, and even had a snack together!) And your child can still learn the concept of being thankful for what he/she has. After all, that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

Take Care and Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂

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From the Other Side of the Desk…

Post 111

Conference time in most schools is here. That’s when you meet with your child’s teacher to find out how he/she is doing academically and socially. As a parent, it can be a stressful or pleasant experience, depending on how your child is doing. But what about as a teacher? This is when we get to meet with the caregivers of all the little people we spend our days with. We want to give you our best assessment of your child’s progress and answer any questions you may have. It’s overwhelming in a lot of ways for us, too. A lot of thought (not to mention paperwork) goes into those assessments you are handed (paper or remote). The grades given are based on schoolwork, observation, and assessments, along with other factors. We want them to be a reflection of your child’s performance in school. We also want to hear what you are seeing with schoolwork at home, help with any problems, and applaud achievements made by your child. And all of this should take place in 10 – 15 minutes, for each and every student. No wonder it’s a bit stressful!

In talking with colleagues about conferences, there seems to be a common theme. Basically, it’s a “Don’t panic if your child is behind” one. Also, it’s a “If a parent asks how a child is doing, I tell them.” Some children are dragging because of Covid closures. Educators have expected that. But students WILL catch up. Teachers will make sure of that. And if the recommendation is that your child might need an assessment for something like Speech or OT, please don’t ignore it. I know it is hard to hear but if a child were diagnosed with a medical condition, most parents would not hesitate to treat it. Think of this in the same way. Those type of assessments would benefit the student so much more if done sooner rather than later. A lot of frustration could be avoided. Educators are trying, like you, to help your child in the best possible way. So, when you meet with your child’s teacher, listen, ask questions, and together decide on a learning plan that is best for your son/daughter. That’s the whole point.

Take Care. 🙂

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Plateaus

Post 110

So, now it’s November, your child has been in school…virtual or in-person…since August or September and things are going as well as possible. You’ve had a conference, or will have one soon, with your child’s teacher and know where he/she stands academically. Your son/daughter has had playdates, on the computer or socially distanced, and it seems as if things are actually working out. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, your little student “hits a wall” and doesn’t seem to be interested or progressing in school. What’s going on?

First of all, don’t get too upset. Children, like adults, plateau academically. That’s normal. Think about when your son/daughter was learning to walk or talk. He/she made great progress and then seemed to level off for a bit. (That probably even happened with his/her weight gain as a baby.) The same thing happens with reading, writing, and math. Think about it. Your child has been bombarded with all sorts of new things since school started. He/she has been learning how to behave in a school setting, that letters have sounds, letters form words, how to print letters, write in a journal, counting, sorting, and on and on. At some point, even if it’s been fun for your child, it’s typical for him/her to need a break. It gives the mind time to reset, to get ready to learn more.

What to do when this happens? Just keep doing what you have been. Encourage your child to do his/her best. Praise his/her schoolwork. And keep going. Try not to get upset and realize that “this, too, shall pass”. It probably won’t go on for very long and your child will be back to being his/herself fairly quickly.

Take care. 🙂

(Any thoughts? Please post in the comments.)

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Frustration

Post 109

As we start November, your child’s schooling is probably in one of two places. Either things have settled into a smooth routine and are going well or you and your son/daughter are getting very frustrated with the whole educational process! Actually, from what I have seen, most parents/children are somewhere in the middle. And that’s ok!

If everything is moving along and your child has settled well into in-person, virtual, or hybrid learning, congratulations! Just keep on doing what you are doing and be thankful! But if you are part of the majority and you and your little student have good and bad days, please realize that is normal. That happens to teachers, too. Some days are wonderful and others you just have to power through and realize that tomorrow will be better…it has to be! Teachers are constantly reevaluating themselves, their students, and their teaching methods. Sometimes a different approach is all that’s needed. Other times, it’s evaluating whether a student has a learning style that isn’t being taken into consideration. A lot of times, it mean revamping a lesson so that it is more interesting to the the students, more tied into something they can identify with. Whatever the reason, it means taking a step back and re-examining what is trying to be accomplished. What is the end goal?

If you are feeling that level of frustration, what I have found works is doing just that, take a step back. Take a breather. There is a lot going on in our world right now (try Covid 19, elections, etc.) that is putting pressure on everyone. Maybe even take a day off from school. Give yourself and your child a “mental health day” and come back to it with fresh eyes. Schools have holidays, why not at-home schools? If that’s impossible, realize that what you are feeling is being felt all over. You are doing the best you can and so is your child. That’s all you can ask. Remember, children are remarkably resilient. When school finally gets back to “normal”, they will bounce back. Educators will reevaluate and see where their classes are and where they need to be and get them there. All any of us can do right now is our best. And that will be good enough!

Please, if you have any thoughts or solutions, post them in the comments.

Take Care. 🙂

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Kindergarten

Halloween

Post 108

Halloween is probably the first holiday your Kindergartener will celebrate while in school. It’s usually so much fun! Of course, this year, it will be different but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a happy day. As parents and teachers, that’s what we all will be aiming for. And remember, even though it may not look like a traditional Halloween, your son/daughter hasn’t really had that many trick or treating experiences to compare it to. So a celebration of any sort will be exciting to him/her.

If your child is in in-person school, you’ll be given guidelines about costumes, masks, etc. I have always found costumes worn over clothes to be the easiest. That way, your child can take them off and be able to move around comfortably in school. If that’s the case, make sure to include a bag for your son/daughter to put his/her costume in. If possible, I would also recommend play shoes over any other foot covering. Again, that’s for safety and comfort. Your child’s teacher will let you know what the “rules” are for his/her particular classroom. 🙂

If your child is in virtual school, I’m sure his/her teacher will have something special going on. Of course, you don’t have to worry about costumes being worn over clothes, etc. so that’s a plus. Again, your little one has not had that much exposure to Halloween so emphasize whatever he/she is doing instead of what he/she can’t do this year. As always, you are the most important person in your child’s life and your attitude will set the tone for your child’s day. 🙂

Finally, I have heard of some very creative ways to celebrate Halloween during this Covid time. Some people are hosting virtual parties and parades. Others are doing spooky movie nights. And there’s always pumpkin decorating, scavenger hunts, and Halloween themed treats that you can make as a family at home. If you have additional ideas for a safe, fun Halloween this year, please post them in the comments. Working together, teachers and families will still be able to still make this a special time of year for our little students!

Take Care, 🙂

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Kindergarten

Conferences

Post 107

Conferences…meeting with your child’s teacher can seem overwhelming, especially if this is your oldest child’s first conference. In my school, they occur in November but I am hearing of some schools, especially those that are online, holding them now. They can be strictly adults with no children or your child may be involved. That depends on the district.

Usually these early conferences are to assess how comfortable your child is with his/her school situation. With online learning playing such a big part this year, that’s especially important. I always ask parents what they are seeing at home. Your little one will be tired initially until he/she gets “into the groove”. And if your son/daughter is learning online, you’ll be tired, too! But I believe if a student is comfortable and happy in school he/she will learn. So that’s the first thing.

Then, in my school, we usually touch on academics. If your child is in First Grade or higher, he/she will be expected to be at a certain reading level, be able to perform certain functions in Math, etc. In Kindergarten, it’s more of meeting your child where he/she is at and then building on it. As a parent, you will probably want to know how your son/daughter compares to the other children in the class. Is he/she where he/she should be this time of the year? (As a side note, there is a great range in Kindergarten. It extends from children who are reading fluently to those who don’t know a letter from a number. And that’s ok. Teachers expect it. And that’s exactly what I mean by “meeting your child where he/she is at”. Compare your child to him/herself. Look at the progress he/she has made since September and don’t worry about where the other children are right now. Kindergarten is a year of great growth, both socially and academically. Give it time to happen.)

Lastly, and often most importantly, socialization is discussed. If your child is in a traditional school setting, then you want to know about how he/ she is interacting with the other boys and girls. If your child is in a virtual setting, that’s trickier, but you can still discuss how well he/she waits his/her turn, listens to the teacher, and seems interested in his/her classmates. Some children have been starting online playdates with friends from class which is a great way to socialize safely during this Covid 19 time.

Finally, don’t be afraid to bring up any concerns or questions you may have. No teacher is ever put off by a parent who is involved with his/her child. It actually help us to understand our students better. And if you have a question, probably five other parents are thinking the same thing. If it’s too involved, a private meeting can be set up for another time to discuss it.

So, when you do have your child’s first conference over the next month or so, go into it realizing that both you and your child’s teacher are working towards the same goal…helping your son/daughter have the best school experience he/she can!

Take Care. 🙂

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Kindergarten

Sight Words

Post 106

Let’s think about academics in Kindergarten. (Preschool, First Grade) In all grades, along with social/emotional health, that’s the reason children are in school! Right?! And sight words are a big part of learning to read in the primary grades. These are words that readers constantly come across. Words such as…it, in, like, can, see, to, me, you, etc. As your son/daughter learns letter sounds, some can be sounded out but, in general, they aren’t meant to be. So please don’t feel your little one cannot sound out words if he/she has trouble with the sight words. They should be automatic so the best way to learn them is good old fashioned memorization and drill. And whether your child is learning virtually or in person this year, sight words will be part of the curriculum (at least inKindergarten and First Grade).

I call them “popcorn words” because they “pop up all the time”. In school, I have a big bowl on my bulletin board and as each sight word (or as they are also called, high frequency words) is introduced, it is put above the bowl on a popcorn picture. We can then play games with them. I would encourage you to do the same thing at home with your child. One is to write the words on index cards and have your child pull from the pile. Correct ones go to the side and the incorrect go back in to the pile. I tend to limit the number of words so my students don’t get tired. But make sure there are a LOT of known words in there. Add each new word one at a time so your son/daughter isn’t overwhelmed. Keep pulling that card after each known word to drill your child on it. Confidence is the name of the game here. And as your little one learns more words, his/her confidence will grow.

Another quick reinforcement of high frequency words is to let your child find them in a newspaper or magazine. I keep both in my classroom. Let your child choose any color highlighter and highlight any of the “popcorn” words he/she can find. It’s fun, educational, and makes him/her feel grown up to be “reading” something he/she has seen you read.

Sight words are a part of life in the primary grades. The better your child knows them, the quicker he/she will learn to read. They are a step along the way so you and your son/daughter might as well have fun with them!

Take Care. 🙂

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Kindergarten

Parent Help (Part 2)

Post 105

After my last post, I received a couple of comments from parents who are homeschooling their children. It seems that teachers are relying on the fact that parents are in the background, sort of a safety net. Parents need to be in the same room, too, so as not to miss something important they need to know for their son’s/daughter’s independent work. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it definitely puts more pressure on the parent/caregiver. This is especially true for Kindergarteners who are just starting out. Add to that the technical difficulties all students are experiencing with online learning and it’s a lot on both parents/caregivers and their children.

The good thing is that being that physically close helps the parent/caretaker know what is going on and he/she is able to reinforce what their student is learning in school. But it is a lot of pressure on the person responsible for the child.We all wish we could be a “fly on the wall’ when our children start school but this may be a little too much! Lol . I have talked to some colleagues who are teaching virtual classes and their feeling seems to be that parental involvement will decrease as the children become more familiar with routines and technology. Hopefully, parents/caretakers will be able to be within earshot but not necessarily right next to his/her child.

School right now is a learning experience for students, teachers, and parents. But, in the end, we are all working towards the same goal, to make your son/daughter’s school day the best it can be. As they say, “we are in this together”!

Take Care. 🙂

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Kindergarten

Parent Help

Post 104

How’s school going? I mean for both you and your child. And, make no mistake about it, whatever grade your son/daughter is in, you are, too! And, honestly, that’s not all that bad. It’s kind of amazing to experience it all again through his/her eyes. It adds a whole new perspective to school. (As a teacher, that’s why I chose to teach preschool – primary grades. It’s a privilege to live in that world for a while.)

But how much should a parent be doing…especially during distance learning? How much should you leave your son/daughter to do on his/her own? Will he/she do it if you leave him/her alone? How much should you push? Those are great questions that unfortunately don’t have a universal answer. In general, I would say if your child is learning at home, pretend he/she is in a regular classroom. How much help could you give him/her if your little one was not there? Definitely not much for lessons learned in school. So, try to treat it that way. If your child is in a classroom meeting, leave him/her once you know technology-wise, all is ok. If you can physically be in another room (within shouting distance for online issues), that’d be perfect. (Of course, you’re going to peek in. And, of course, you’re going to listen at times. You’re a parent. 🙂 Just don’t make it obvious.) Let your child have the independence he/she would in a normal school setting. Let him/her learn to be in a teacher-led environment and how to interact as much as possible with classmates. If your little one is nervous and needs you there for support, be there for a bit. Then gradually move physically away, a few feet at first, then to a sofa on the other side of the room, next right outside the door where you can still be seen, to, finally, another room. (It sort of sounds like when you were getting your son/daughter used to sleeping in his/her own room. And it is! 🙂 )

Homework is another story. How much should you push your child to do it? And how much should you help with it? In general, it should be the student’s work. But, certainly, if he/she doesn’t understand something or needs help doing it, explain it and give help up to a point. For example, if your son/daughter is having trouble writing letters, lightly dot them in or write them in a light marker for him/her to trace over. If his/her paper is super messy, show your son/daughter how to make it neater. This is a great time to set a general standard for work that is to be handed in at school. Just don’t totally do it for him/her.

Another homework related worry is how much you should leave your son/daughter to do on his/her own? How much should you push if your chid doesn’t want to do it? I have always found it’s easier to do homework relatively soon after school. Let your little one have a snack and decompress a bit and then do his/her homework. Things are fresher in his/her mind then rather than waiting a few hours and trying to switch back to school mode. Again, that’s a good habit to start now. It will make life so much easier for both of you especially when your child is in the higher grades if he/she gets used to doing homework right after school. If you feel the amount being given is overwhelming your child, contact his/her teacher and find out how much is really expected to be completed. I would also suggest setting a timer, having your child concentrate until it goes off, take a break, and then come back for another block of time. Kindergarten homework should not take more than 20 minutes in general. But, then again, each school is different and each teacher’s expectations are different. So, as always, check with your child’s teacher. Never be hesitant to contact im/her. we welcome parent involvement!

I hope this answers some of the questions I’ve received. Please post any thoughts in the comments.

Take Care. 🙂

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Kindergarten

Different Children…Different Levels

Post #103

School has begun and, hopefully, you and your little one are settling into a routine. It takes time. Whether your child is physically in the classroom, attending school virtually, or doing some sort of hybrid program, it will take a bit before both of you are totally comfortable. That’s perfectly normal, especially for the beginning of Kindergarten. (We teachers often refer to September as “classroom management” time…time for the students to learn to follow routines and rules. Add in the changes for Covid 19 and we all need “management” time. 🙂 )

One question that often comes up at Back to School meetings is anxiety about students being at different levels academically upon entering Kindergarten. I find this is even more of a concern for parents whose students are learning virtually. There is no way to tell if your son/daughter is where he/she should be. And if your child is in physical school, all you see is the work he/she brings home. How does that compare to the rest of the class?

What I can tell you is not to be overly concerned about that. Teachers expect it. Children entering Kindergarten range form those who don’t know a letter from a number to those who are able to read sentences and everything in between. Probably your child’s teacher will do some sort of assessment to see where he/she is. This in no way reflects on your son’s/daughter’s abilities. It is just a way to know how to plan lessons. I tend to teach to the middle of the class during whole group instruction. In small groups, I can instruct students at their actual level. But even in whole class lessons, I always have parts geared for children at all levels. Everyone gets something out of it. I read online that that’s a teacher’s “superpower”. We are able to meet a child where he/she is academically and instruct them from there. And that’s exactly what we try to do.

As always, if you have a major concern, contact your child’s teacher. Ask him/her if your child’s work is where it is expected to be. No teacher minds that, in fact we welcome concerned parents. It means the student is getting support at home. And with help at home and at school, your little one will have a wonderful first year of school. And isn’t that what it’s all about?!

Take Care. 🙂

(If there are any topics you would like me to address, please post in the comments. Also, if you have any thoughts to share, please post them. This is a crazy year and if you have questions, be sure other parents have the same ones, too. We can all gain from each other’s experiences. Thank you!)

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Kindergarten

Second Day of School

Post #102

Around my area, this is the second day of school…virtual or regular. So, how’s it going? Everyone emphasizes the first day but school keeps going on. (When one of my kids started K, he was so excited the first day…couldn’t wait. When I woke him up the next day for school, he said, “I have to go AGAIN?” Lol) Hopefully, your little one had a good experience and was happy to go today.

I’ve read some online reactions to long car lines at drop off, temperature taking, mask wearing, etc. If you ran into any sort of problem, give it a week for things to iron out. Schools are doing their best and issues are bound to occur. And, remember, your child’s teacher didn’t make the rules. He/she has spent the summer trying to figure out how to implement them in the most “fun” was he/she can for his/her students.

That being said, if you have a concern, write, email, or call your child’s teacher. I personally like some sort of written communication so I can give it my full attention during a break in the day. Whether it be academic, social, or to do with the new rules, no teacher is ever upset by a truly concerned parent. And, chances are, if you are worried about something, so are five other parents in your child’s class. It helps the teacher to understand what is going on in the minds of his/her students. So, contact the teacher. 🙂

The other thing to remember is that young children are extremely flexible. What, to us, is abnormal, to them is perfectly normal. Preschool and Kindergarten children haven’t the experience to be too upset by restrictions placed on schools by Covid 19. And first graders, although more used to school, still don’t have a “normal” day ingrained in them the way an older child might. So, be positive and encouraging. Be excited and happy. Be interested in your child’s work just as you would be if none of this craziness were happening. Your son/daughter will copy your attitude. As long as he/she has you to anchor him/her, it will all be fine.

Take Care. 🙂

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Kindergarten

Welcome Back

Post #101

Welcome back to a very different type of school year! I know it’s been a tough decision but whether you have chosen in-person, virtual, or hybrid learning for your child, embrace it. I have been talking to a lot of parents and been reading online about the anguish this decision has caused. But now that it is made, go full steam ahead and put those doubts that we all have aside. Let your child see you confident in your decision and excited for him/her to learn.

We will be talking about the different types of learning here so I would appreciate any input you feel comfortable making. If you are new to Kindergarten 23, scroll back through the previous posts for more info on starting school. As they say, “we are in this together”, and we are. We are all in this for one person…your child. 🙂

Take Care

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children, coronavirus homeschool, education, First Grade, homeschooling, Kindergarten, parents, preschool, summer vacation

When The Kids Are Home…#15

Post 100

Happy Summer! Since most schools are closing this week (or already have), this will be my last post until the new school year. Who knows what that will look like?! But, for now, I think everyone should congratulate themselves on a job well done. Parents, teachers, and students have all come together to make this odd school year work. In so many ways, we have all grown, certainly in technical abilities (lol), but also in a better understanding of each other’s roles.

What to do for the summer? Usually I am recommending library programs and other activities for your little one. Parents now have a better understanding of how to take advantage of a teachable moment when out walking with their child or playing indoors. You know…when your son/daughter sees an insect and you count the legs or body parts or when he/she draws a picture and you encourage him/her to label it or sound out the letters in its name. At this point, I’m sure a lot more than you realize of that comes naturally. Certainly, keep it up!

But, in my opinion, everyone needs a break. This has certainly been one of the most stressful times most of us can remember. So, as I’ve often written here, enjoy your time with your child. Whether he/she is 4 ,5, or 6, it goes by very quickly. As teachers, we are privileged to be part of that special world every year. (That’s a good part of why we chose to teach those ages.) So, enjoy your summer with your son/daughter. Take those walks, read those books, enjoy the simple moments. Relax and most of all, have fun!

See you next year.  Take Care and Sta

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children, education, First Grade, homeschooling, Kindergarten, parents, preschool

When The Kids Are Home…#14

Post 99

I hope your time as a homeschool teacher has gone well. Classes are winding down so maybe this is a good moment to reflect on what went well and what could have gone better. As teachers, that’s something we do all the time, as I’m sure you do in your work and daily life.

Probably most parents have a better appreciation for what teaching involves and what their children are doing each day when they are in school. It involves a lot of preparation before, during, and after school. But what makes it the hardest and, at the same time, the most rewarding is the emotional connection with students. Educators are with their students for six hours every day. They are a big part of our world and that is what teachers miss the most right now.

So many schools are holding some sort of graduation. From preschool to college, that’s important. Students, parents, and teachers need closure. We all need to feel the school year is finished and that we have done the best that we could. And we have. Teachers have implemented new ways of learning that wouldn’t have been thought of six months ago. Parents have stepped up and taught their children daily far better than they ever would have imagined possible. And children have figured out that they can learn wherever they are. It’s been a group effort. And, in my opinion, a successful one. Yes, there have been doubts, some things could have gone better, but for the most part, students have flourished. And that’s what education is all about. It’s a partnership between students, parents, and schools. In the end, we all have the same goal in mind…making learning the best it can be…for your child. Let’s keep working together.  🙂

Take Care and Stay Safe.  🙂

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children, children's feelings, children's moods, coronavirus homeschool, education, empathetic children, First Grade, homeschooling, Kindergarten, parenting, parents, preschool, school, young students

When The Kids Are Home…#13

Post 98

Kindness…such a simple thing and yet so complicated. There is a lot going on these days…Covid 19, riots, protests. It’s all over the news and can’t help but affect you and filter down to your child. But how much do you share with your 4,5, or 6 year old? As always, you know him/her best. From my point of view, I would emphasize kindness. That is a concept children understand and really latch onto. In my classroom, I have always emphasized it and what it means, what it looks like. We have brainstormed kind words and kind actions. We have made pictures and books of examples, written in journals about kindness, been aware during playtime and recess of how to act kindly with each other. Throughout the year, the students learned to say, “I’m happy for you, my friend”. (That, by the way, came out of the mouth of a little girl in class a few years ago. What a smart kid!) If we were in school right now, that would be my approach.

And there are so many ways to promote kindness at home. A good way to start would be to help your son/daughter make a list of what he/she thinks kindness looks like. Let him/her take the lead and guide him/her to concrete examples of what he/she can do to be “kind”.  It could be as simple as feeding a family pet. You could tie kindness in academically by writing letters or sending pictures to a loved one. Your child could “help” a family member with chores such as setting the table. There are all sorts of ways your child will come up with. Then, when he/she asks questions about what is going on, you have a base for an answer…about how we all need to be kind to each other…no matter how old we are. A parent once gave my class the greatest compliment. She said that it was as if the students were “in a big hug all day”. That’s what kindness does. And don’t we all need a “big hug” right about now?

Take care and Stay safe.  🙂

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When the Kids Are Home…#12

Post 97

The “school year”, such as it was, is beginning to wind down. A number of districts, at least near me, are cutting it short since requirements for the number of days completed, final exams, Regents, some AP exams, etc. have been lifted. Teachers are trying to do placement for next year in online meetings. Final report cards are being written and classrooms have been closed, usually in one day with no one else around due to social distancing. It’s all very strange.

So, how to finish out these last weeks of homeschooling with your child? There’s a movement in education called “self directed learning”. It’s the basis of the Montessori Method and is now making its way into the public schools. Basically, an individual curriculum is built up based on each child’s interests. As you can imagine, that is very tricky and time consuming to do in a class of 25 students. But it’s very doable at home with your Kindergartener (or Preschooler or First Grader).

I’ve been seeing a lot of photos from the weekend of boys and girls drawing, playing with toys, doing “what they choose”. I started thinking why not educate the same way? If your child is into trains, why not gear his/her schoolwork that way? Maybe add the number of cars, maybe have him/her write in his/her journal about that train set. Sounding out words that have to do with something he/she really likes is a lot more interesting than assigning a random topic. (* I am reminded of a student I had who had absolutely no interest in journal writing until suddenly, one day, she started writing about crop pants! She was very into fashion for a 5 year old. She absolutely took off, her writing improved, and to this day, she is always in style.  🙂  ) One of the key concepts in Kindergarten is that “words and pictures go together.” So he/she could draw a “train picture” and then write a sentence about it. There are lots of books and videos online about trains that you two could explore together. And when libraries are open again, that would be a good section to steer your little one into.The point is that there are a lot of ways to incorporate learning into your child’s interests. If your son/daughter loves to draw, you could staple papers together to make a book. He/she could choose a character, draw pictures in sequence, and then write his/her own story. Writing a story, fiction or non-fiction, that has a beginning, middle, and end is a Kindergarten end of the year goal. Numbering the pages with a pencil would be good practice in forming numbers. Again, Kindergarteners should be able to write the numbers 1-20 and recognize and count by 1’s, 5’s, and 10’s the numbers 1-100 by the end of the year. There are a lot of ways to let your child “lead the learning” based on what excites him/her. And why not finish the school year incorporating a love of learning based on your child’s curiosity?

I hope these ideas spark ways for you and your child to have a fun and educational end of the year.  🙂

Take Care and Stay Safe!

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When the Kids Are Home…#11

Post 96

How are you doing? Getting confused yet? Between trying to homeschool, work, run a household, quarantine, and probably twenty other things, both parents and teachers are getting a little (?) overwhelmed. At least we know it’s a universal feeling! Lol. Districts are trying to figure this out just like you are so mixed messages may be sent. In my district, they are not encouraging K teachers to hold Zoom meetings but the superintendent does book readings over it. So, of course, parents don’t understand why classes can’t at least “see” each other over Zoom for closure (and fun). And teachers want so badly to connect with their students. I think we just have to acknowledge that this is all so new that everyone, districts and teachers and parents, are figuring it out as we go.

I’ve been reading about “gentle parenting.” It could also be called “empathetic” parenting which is what we all try to do. What struck me was that the post ended with “they’re (children) human”. I think that’s what we need to remember, too. We…teachers, parents, children, administrators, are all human. We will make mistakes and that’s ok, as long as we learn from them. It’s not terrible if you go about helping your child with some schoolwork the “wrong” way. When you realize it and find a better way, do it. If your child’s teacher doesn’t do the same thing as your neighbor’s, that’s ok. He/she is teaching the best way he/she can figure out right now. There is quote from a teacher, Monte Syrie, that says in part, “I am just better than I was…I keep chasing better.” In my opinion, that’s all we can all do. And that’s enough.

Take Care and stay safe. 🙂

***I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Please post in the comments or IM me. 🙂

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children, education, First Grade, Kindergarten, parenting, parents, preschool, school, teachers, young students

When the Kids Are Home…#10

Post 95

We are getting closer to the end of the “school year” (such as it is) and thoughts are naturally turning to next year. Normally, Kindergarten teachers are concentrating on finishing up with a bang and placing students in the best classes for First Grade right now. Part of that is still going on. Placement meetings will be held…remotely…but held nonetheless. Your child’s teacher will still be making sure he/she will be in the best possible situation in First Grade. Generally, most schools do not encourage that you request a particular teacher but you can always email your child’s teacher and ask for a certain type of environment, etc. Some schools favor placing your child with a teacher his/her sibling has had. And if you think that would be a favorable placement for your Kindergartener, you can always mention that in your email. We are all still planning as if schools will be open as normally as possible in the Fall. The above applies to current First Graders, too. If your son/daughter is going from Preschool to Kindergarten, let him/her know how nice the teachers next year will be to help with nerves (and maybe mention all the toys that are in a Kindergarten classroom  🙂  ).

This is where it gets so hard…for students and for educators. All of the teachers I have spoken to, and am seeing online, miss their students very much. To a person, they all had hoped for at least a few weeks to be able to be with this year’s classes. To be able to wrap things up and say good-bye and send “their kids” onto the next grade with a smile. As I’ve mentioned before, to a teacher the students in his/her class are his/her “kids”. We get very attached to them and, like you, want to give them the best we can. We can’t give them closure this year. So that will have to come from you. When your little one starts to worry about next year, make sure to remind him/her how proud you and his/her teacher are of all the good work he/she has done this year. Remind your child how “smart” he/she has become and that next year’s teacher will be there and can’t wait to meet him/her. (And that part is really true!)

As they keep saying, we will get through this together. In the end, we all have the same thing at heart, your child.

Take Care and Stay Safe!  🙂

 

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children, children's fears, children's feelings, children's moods, coronavirus homeschool, education, First Grade, homeschooling, homework, Kindergarten, parenting, parents, preschool, school, teachers, young students

When The Kids Are Home…#9

Post 94

It seems as if some homeschooling parents are reaching a breaking point. Most are chugging right along while a few are actually pulling their children out of online learning and saying ,”Enough, we’re done”. Being that it’s now May, they have even emailed teachers taking their sons/daughters out of class. One educator emailed back saying, “You can’t”. Another had a different approach advising the parent to keep the child online but she, the teacher, would’t insist the student hand in as much since it was overwhelming. I think that’s a better approach…keep the student “going” to school but lighten the load.

This doesn’t apply to a 4,5,or 6 year old as much. But it still does in a way. Last week we discussed how to tailor learning to your child’s personality, not necessarily keeping it the way it is taught in a normal classroom. There’s a lot going on right now and young children feel that even if they don’t totally understand it. They are hearing adults and TV use scary words like pandemic, death, illness, hospital, etc. To your son/daughter the big thing is probably that he/she can’t play with friends. One little girl I know keeps asking, “I’m not sick anymore. why can’t I go visit my grandparents?” In her mind, she had a cold, now she’s better,so let’s go. If this whole situation we are in is confusing to us, imagine it through a 5 year old’s eyes.

The good news is you are still the most important being in your young child’s world. It’s very hard to know how much to explain to him/her about what’s going on. My personal thought would be to go with a less is more approach…not hiding anything but also not giving him/her more information than he/she wants. It’s kind of like the old story of the child who asked where he came from and meant the city he was born in not the birds and the bees! As long as your child has you there, he/she will be all right. And trust your own good judgement. You know your child best. You can sense how much information he/she needs. You can tell if he/she is becoming frustrated with schoolwork and when to take a break. Also, don’t be hesitant in reaching out to your son/daughter’s teacher for guidance. As we keep hearing,”We are all in this together”. And your child is still both your’s and his/her teacher’s first priority.  🙂

Take Care and Stay Safe.  🙂

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When The Kids Are Home…#8

Post 93

I was talking to a parent recently who mentioned being afraid that he wasn’t teaching his child the right way. I think that’s a concern a lot of people have right now. Homeschooling is new to most parents. How do you know if you are doing it “right”?

First of all, you know your child best. You know what he/she gets excited about. You  know what will make his/her eyes glaze over and what will make them sparkle. There is no right or wrong way to homeschool. The idea is to get from Point A to Point B. How you get there isn’t as important as getting there. If your little one enjoys sitting at his/her own special place to learn, then do it. If he/she responds better working on the floor, that’s the way to go. I know there needs to be a certain amount of structure so help your child do the worksheets sent home. But there are all kinds of learners. Some learn visually, some learn by hearing, and some learn better when moving. Frequently learners are a combination of the three. As I mentioned last week, a lot of lessons can be incorporated into playtime, nature walks, special projects, etc. Let’s say, for example, your son/daughter should practice writing his/her letters correctly. Making a special card to send to a relative or friend is just as effective at doing that as writing a sheet of the alphabet. Addition and subtraction can be emphasized when playing with legos or Barbies. A new way of teaching called Project Based Learning (PBL) has been taking hold lately in education. The student learns by choosing a topic he/she is interested in learning more about and lessons are built around that. The idea is that the direction of the learning is set by the student’s interests. What we are talking about here is the same thing. You can be incorporating education into your child’s play. That can be taken a step further by helping your child with a project that he/she is interested in and wouldn’t normally have the time for. It can be as simple as planting seeds or baking. (A lot of Homeschool math happens in the kitchen.  😉  ) Just be aware that there are lots of ways to “teach’ during the day.

I hope this helps! Take Care and Stay Safe.  🙂

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When The Kids Are Home…#7

Post 92

I’ve been thinking a lot about emotions lately…ours and our children’s. I read a piece put out by NYSUT that was a fictional letter from “all the teachers on planet earth” to parents. It said in part: “Don’t stress about schoolwork. In September, I will get your children back on track. I am a teacher and that’s my superpower. What I can’t fix is social-emotional trauma that prevents the brain from learning…” I have found that children are mirrors of the emotional state of the adults around them. They may not understand why their adults are feeling the way they are, but they absorb and reflect those emotions. And right now there are a lot of emotions flying around out there! I know, as parents and as teachers, we try to keep things as ordered and calm as we can for our kids. So, don’t stress or feel guilty if you are not getting in every lesson that your son/daughter’s teacher has included in his/her packet. The idea is to get him/her from point A to point B. It doesn’t really matter how you get there. For example, counting can be done online or on a worksheet. It can also be reinforced on a walk where your child counts the number of rocks he/she collects. At this point in the year, we are usually beyond “3 plus 1 equals 4” and heading towards “how many more would you need to add to 3 to get to 4”. Try having your child figure that out when playing with legos. (“We have 3 blue legos on this side of the building and 4 red ones on the other side. How can we make the blue side as high as the red one?”) The point is to get the idea across, not to necessarily finish a worksheet. Another example…we want preschoolers to understand that the words on a page tell a story and “go with” the pictures. You can demonstrate that by running your finger under the words as you read. And if your son/daughter starts writing by drawing letters and lines on a piece of paper while telling you his/her “story”, he/she has gotten it! What I am trying to say is that homeschooling doesn’t necessarily have to look the same as learning in a classroom . That’s why it has the word “home” in it. If you approach it feeling more relaxed, confident, and happy, your child will reflect that. Tie it into the “fun” things you are trying to provide for your son/daughter. This is also a great time to allow his/her interests to develop in a way they can’t in a more structured setting. I saw another post put up by one of the members of this group (Andrea Damiano-Femoyer), a very caring preschool teacher. She calls our children “little heroes” who have had their “whole worlds literally turned upside down.” They are trying to make sense of things just the way we are. The difference is, they have you to help them through this. And as the NYSUT letter says, “No kids are ahead. No kids are behind. Your children are exactly where they need to be.”

Take Care and Stay Safe!  🙂

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When The Kids Are Home…#6

Post 91

I hope your Spring Holiday…whether Easter or Passover…was happy. I’m sure it was different as we all try to navigate these crazy times. But having little ones who depend on you really makes you have to “rise above” the daily news and make sure their world stays steady. Being a parent right now is hard but it is what will get you through each day. I really believe that the stress of the world can go away when it is viewed through a child’s eyes. How many of us went for a walk or hike over the weekend? I’m sure your son/daughter stopped many times to pick up a rock, flower, stick, etc. (Some may have even found “bunny fur” which proved the Easter Bunny really came !) How many of us somehow put together an Easter basket, a special meal, a cake, a Passover Seder last week? The point is…let yourself get caught up in these moments. And encourage your child to get caught up in them, too. These moments of enforced togetherness have their good points, too. Even though there are times that I know are trying, days spent with a 4,5,or 6 year old have an innocence that will disappear as he/she gets older. They may be frustrating days. They may be loud days. But they are special days. Cherish them.

Take Care and Stay Safe.  🙂

 

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When The Kids Are Home…#5

Post 90

Homeschooling, something that would have seemed impossible a few months ago, is now part of our daily lives. We are all trying to adapt…children, parents, and teachers. So, while we are on the subject, I’d like to talk about it from a teacher’s perspective.

As teachers, we feel responsible for each child in our class. If you notice, most teachers refer to their classes as “my kids”. That’s because, for about 6 hours a day, they ARE our kids. We worry about them…scholastically, socially, and emotionally. We are responsible for their development. They are a major part of our daily lives. And we really care about them. So now, when we are separated, it’s very strange. We still feel that responsibility and that love but we are trying to continue it over a computer and/or take home packets. This is new for everyone. So I’d ask you to please understand that teachers are doing their best, too. Hours are spent trying to figure out how to upload videos, adapt lessons to a new format, use other new technology, and still keep that warm togetherness feeling we have each day in our classrooms with “our kids”. (Not to mention online faculty meetings and professional development.)  Add to that the fact that most teachers have their own families to deal with at this time. Everything from trying to find wifi connections in the house, jockeying for space to “teach”, helping our own kids with lessons and schedules, to changing a poopy diaper are all part of what is now a “typical” day. Then throw in the stress of Covid 19 and all that involves and you can see, we’re all in the same boat. Just as you are juggling work, kids, family, and fear of the unknown, so is your child’s teacher. We are trying to provide what you are right now for your child…a stable, safe environment. As I’ve said before, we are both working together for the same thing…your child. He/she is what is most important to all of us.

Take Care and Stay Safe! 🙂

 

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When The Kids Are Home…#4

Post 89

How is the homeschooling going? At this point, it should start to seem somewhat doable. Hopefully, you and your child have settled into a routine. You have a basic schedule and resources to keep your little student learning during this crazy time.

I’ve been hearing a lot of innovative ideas about how to keep your son/daughter socially engaged during this time. Parents have set up FaceTime “playdates”. That can be anything from talking to showing each other favorite toys to actually playing a board game together. One teacher had an online Zoom meeting where she taught the children and then gave them a few minutes to “talk” where they shared important news such as losing a tooth, etc. Of course, that was through the child’s district. Not all districts are set up for remote learning. But the point is that anything you are able to do to encourage social bonds is valuable at this time. It can even tie into schoolwork. How about having your child write to his/her friend? He/she could draw a picture, write a sentence about it (with your help, if needed) , and mail it to a classmate. That way you are combining a literacy activity (writing letters, using phonics, making sure “words and pictures go together”…an emergent literacy concept) with a social one. Or take another drawn picture,help your child to cut it into shapes and mail it as a puzzle to a classmate. These are just a couple of ways to keep your son/daughter socially engaged with friends. If you have any other good ideas, please post them in the comments so we can all benefit.We adults need that contact right now and so do our children. And we WILL get through this together.

Take Care and Stay Safe!  🙂

 

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When The Kids Are Home…#3

Post 88

How are things going with your child’s homeschooling? It can seem daunting but I think everyone is doing what they can with all the craziness going on. And that’s what we need to remember, do the best you can and let the rest go.

In that spirit, I’d like to share something a homeschooler posted online. An “elementary age child only needs 1-2 hours of school per day. Middle school is 2-3 hours and high schoolers 3-4 hours.” It makes so much sense! Students are in a traditional school setting about 6 hours/day. Built into that time are recess, special area instruction, reading time, playtime, and lunch on the elementary level. In high school, study periods are added in. So actual instructional time is less than that 6 hours. Of course, the social interaction of regular school can’t be emphasized enough, whether it’s in a learning or free time period. But in these days of social distancing, that’s not an option. So this whole homeschooling thing doesn’t need to last all day . Playtime (indoors and outdoors) should be part of the day. So should reading time. You can  incorporate math into cooking with your child. And something like legos is certainly time well spent! There are also a lot of online resources that are fun and educational for your child. The point is, as that wise homeschooler says, “Be gentle with your babies and yourselves. If it gets frustrating, walk away.”

I do think a schedule is important,too. Children thrive on structure. It helps them feel safe to know what’s going to happen each day. It can be as structured or unstructured as you choose. You know your child best. If he/she would benefit from a posted hour by hour list, then by all means post one. If he/she would do better just knowing that working on lessons sent home is done after breakfast, followed by outside time, followed by lunch, etc., then do it that way. Whatever works for you and your little one is best.

And, remember, teachers will go over these lessons in school whenever it reopens. We try to meet each child where he/she is at and that will continue again. Your son/daughter won’t lose out in the long run.

Take Care and Stay Safe.  🙂

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When The Kids Are Home #2…

Post 87

Homeschooling…are we having fun yet? With schools closed and children home, we are all suddenly involved in teaching our children. For better or worse, that’s the way it is right now. First of all, for those of you who are not teachers, don’t panic. Just do the best you can and follow whatever guidelines that were sent home from your son’s/daughter’s home district. (And for those of you who are teachers, don’t despair. Lol. You know a student always acts up when his/her parent is in the classroom so why would yours be different?) The bottom line is that you are the parent and know your child best. Also don’t forget to schedule in some “outdoor recess” and free time for him/her.  I do think a posted schedule is the best idea. Children thrive with structure and it would just make things easier all around. I will talk more about schedules in my next post. But one idea I saw that I loved was a schedule that had a flexible bedtime…8:00PM in general, 9:00PM for the “students” who followed the schedule! 🙂

There have been a lot of postings online of educational websites parents can use during these crazy times. The following is a list of some I have used in school or checked out that seem to be especially good. I have tried to stay away from “free subscription” ones or those that cost money. It is by no means complete. If you have found any especially good ones, please post them in the comments. If you take a look at the comments following last week’s post, there are some excellent ideas posted by fellow parents of educational and interesting projects for your child.

(*  I’ve used in school)

Good websites:

starfall.com                                                excellent for reading, language arts, math *

gonoodle.com                                            wonderful website for movement breaks *

preschoolinspirations.com                     preschool themes

IXL.com                                                       PreK-12th Grade language arts and math

abcya.com                                                   letters, numbers, holidays, and more

storylineonline.net                                   books read aloud by actors

scholastic.com/learnathome                   fiction/non fiction read alouds/read the book

dogonalogbooks.com/printables.com   free printable board games/activities

buggyandbuddy.com                               crafts and science

kids.sandiegozoo.org                               activities/stories/live animal cams

Take Care.  🙂

 

 

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When the Kids Are Home…

Post 86

With all that is going on with the corona virus, there is a very real possibility you may have your little one home for a bit over the next few weeks. Hopefully, not sick but as a precaution so that schools can be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. I don’t think anyone really objects to this. And, in general, it is recommended that you not send your child to school when he/she is fighting a severe cold, etc. So it makes sense now.

But what to do if your son/daughter is home for an extended period? Especially if the usual fallbacks; parks, indoor fun places, etc. are off limits for awhile? Even playdates may need to be eliminated for a period of time.

First of all, thank goodness we are getting into the good weather. Your child can at least get outdoors. This might be a good time to do some nature study. How about a walk in a nature preserve (or even the back yard) with a “Can You Find Me?” list. This is much like a treasure hunt where your child is looking for various outdoor items to “collect”. Things like seeds, leaves, a stick in the shape of a “y”, a flat rock, etc. Or make it even easier and have him/her write a list of items he/she finds and puts in a bag. (Might as well keep those writing skills going!) I find children in the classroom love “accessories” so maybe jazz it up with a clipboard, a special writing pencil, fake glasses, and/or a “scientist hat” to be used when exploring. This can also be the time your son/daughter works on a new skill such as hitting a ball off a T, practicing jump roping or hopping, etc. outside.

Inside, this might be the time to let your little one “help” around the house. Young children love to be useful and there’s no reason they can’t clear the table, smooth out the bedspread, use glass cleaner to polish surfaces, to name a few ideas. Make it more fun by giving your child a sticker chart to mark each time he/she helps. Another idea is to have your son/daughter make “collections” by sorting favorite toys (Math skill again!) into groups. He/she will probably come across a long forgotten toy to play with. Of course, reading is way up there on the indoor activity list. Maybe let your child read on a device for a change of pace. Again, sorting books into piles by topic will spark interest in looking at the pages.

These are just a few ideas to keep academic skills up while your Preschooler, Kindergartener, or First Grader is home. I’m sure your child’s teacher will also send home things for him/her to do. And if you have other suggestions, please post them below. Everyone is in the same boat right now. And I’m sure we can all benefit from each other’s ideas!

Take Care and Stay Well.  🙂

*Here’s another idea I frequently use in school. Young children love to use different types of writing materials. Give your son/daughter a highlighter or gel pen and have them highlight high frequency words in a “ grown up” newspaper or magazine. It’s fun and reinforces reading and penmanship skills. 🙂

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Progress Reports

Post 85

Lately I’ve been writing a lot about the emotional side of  your son/daughter’s school life. But at this time of year, progress reports (commonly known as report cards  🙂 ) are probably going to be distributed soon. So I think we need to pay attention to academics this week.

In Preschool, the emphasis is usually on social abilities. In Kindergarten and First Grade, that is still important, very important, but academic progress is equally so. March is usually a time of great growth, especially in Kindergarten. The children are used to routines, have made friends, are comfortable in school, and it seems as if everything gels. The learning they have been exposed to all year comes together and suddenly they begin to “fly”. It’s very exciting as a teacher and satisfying as a parent to see your little one really put it all together. Keep encouraging your son/daughter by hanging up those projects on the refrigerator, reading together, checking homework, etc. In other words, keep doing what you have been doing.

So what should you expect with this progress report? In my district, they are online at a certain time for parents to view. Please look at it! I know it seems unbelievable, but I have had parents who never check their child’s report card. One told me, “I figured you would tell me if there was anything wrong.” Of course, if there was anything super out of place, your child’s teacher would contact you. But don’t just go by that. Your son/daughter’s progress report is a snapshot of how he/she is doing academically and socially. We teachers put a lot of time into them, often sweating over what grade to give a student. Please take the time to review it. Some schools may also have a parent/teacher conference scheduled. If so, go to it if you possibly can. Have any concerns in mind and bring them up. Listen to what your child’s teacher has to say about him/her. Follow any suggestions and give feedback as to how they go.

If, after reviewing your child’s report, you have concerns or questions, please contact your child’s teacher. It is never a bother and educators welcome parents’ involvement. Remember, we are both there for the same purpose….your child. At this time of year, check what reading level your Kindergartener (First Grader) is on. Although the adage is that “everyone is reading by Second Grade”, there are goals set for the end of each grade level. See where your son/daughter is and if there is anything you can do to help or enhance his/her reading.

As always, if you have any thoughts/question, please post them in the comments. Also, check out posts #25 and #54 for more thoughts on report cards.

Take Care.  🙂

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Dealing With Loss

Post 84

In my district we are dealing with a significant loss. Our beloved superintendent passed away last week. He was very special, one of a kind, and truly beloved by staff, students, and parents. The tributes that have been popping up online and around the schools and homes in the area show how much he meant to everyone who came in contact with him. I was very lucky to have known and worked for this man.

All of this got me to thinking…how do young children deal with loss? Kindergarteners coming into school today will see bows and decorations all over the front of the school  in honor of Dr. Rella. Flags are flying at half mast. As a teacher, how do I answer my class’s questions as to why the pretty bows are there? How much should I say? Some will have no clue, some will know all about it, depending on how much has been discussed at home . Children with older siblings will have heard more than those who are the first in their families to go to school.

As a teacher, I usually let the students lead the conversation. I try to talk one on one with children who know more and are struggling with questions. That’s not to be evasive. It’s just that I feel information about topics such as death should come from a young child’s family. I try very hard not to “announce” anything in a group setting. Each 4,5,or 6 year old is ready to hear something different and you, as the parent, know your child best.

I have also found that young children usually deal very well with topics that we, as adults, find hard. They are very matter of fact and often present a viewpoint that helps us older folks deal with a tough situation. In school, loss usually comes up with the death of a pet. One child will announce, “My dog (cat, bird, turtle, etc.) died” and everyone chimes in with some animal they knew who died. We all say how sorry we are and how wonderful it is to be lucky enough to have had a pet and usually move on. Again, I will try to talk privately to the grieving child if he/she still seems upset. Drawing pictures or writing in a journal often helps a young child express his/her feelings, too. Again, I try to be aware of this.

If your child has suffered a loss, I would definitely recommend you communicate with his/her teacher. Just giving a heads up helps him/her to be more tuned into that student. Frequently young children don’t know how to express what is bothering them. It can come out in lots of ways…behavior problems, tears, being extra sensitive with friends, etc. Knowing what’s going on really makes a teacher more sensitive to a particular student’s needs. When in doubt, let the teacher know!  🙂

As I said, my school community is facing a tragic loss this week. I hope the tone of this post isn’t depressing but gives you some thoughts on how to help your little one cope when and if you are in a similar situation.

Take Care.  🙂

 

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Pressure

Post 83

Pressure…we all feel it…parents, teachers, students. And each group has its own problems when it comes to school.

Besides all the normal worries about their children, parents have all the minutiae prep for kids in school to think about. That can be everything from what sneakers to wear, what snacks to pack, to where and when do we get to the bus and does he/she have his homework?

Teachers worry about the social and emotional well being of their students on top of meeting academic criteria. Add to that an enormous amount of paperwork and record keeping along with meetings and other duties and you start to get an inkling of what goes on “behind the desk”.

And then there’s students. Along with trying to learn and follow routines, they have social acceptance to deal with. In Kindergarten, that is having someone to play with and sit next to. Not being accepted usually comes out as being told, “You’re not invited to my birthday party.” These social pressures just increase as children get older.

So, what’s the point of all this? Just to be aware of what the person, or child, sitting next to you is dealing with. School is. and should be, a wonderful time in your little one’s life. And it is, for the most part. It should also be awesome for teachers and parents. Again, it usually is. As teachers, we feel privileged to be able to spend our days in the world of children. (As a K teacher, it’s the wonderful world of five year olds.  🙂  ) And, as a parent, I’m sure your son/daughter thrills you every day with his/her discoveries and abilities. But I think we all need to be aware of what is going on in each other’s lives. It gives perspective and promotes tolerance. And that makes school and all that surrounds calmer and more conducive to learning and growing.

Take Care.  🙂

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Worries #2

Post 82

I saw this quote on Facebook recently and it really struck home…

Children don’t say,

“I had a hard day, can we talk?”

They say,

“Will you come play with me?”

It’s a good one, isn’t it? Last week’s post was about understanding that your five (or four or six) year old’s worries are real. And the way your child deals with them is real, too. Little ones don’t always have the vocabulary to tell you “what’s wrong”. And he/she may honestly not know exactly what is. It may just be a feeling of something not being right. So, how do you help your son/daughter? Sometimes it’s just by being there. Your presence may be enough. But if you are present, be really present. Turn off the phone, stop checking emails, be totally there with your child. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, your child can tell if you are really listening or just placating him/her. Very often, during play, what is bothering your child will come out. Then you can talk about it with him/her.

The other thing to remember is that children talk when it’s right for them. Translated that can often mean not for you…before bed, after being tucked in and lights out, on line at the food store, when you are rushing to get to soccer, and so on. (You get the picture. Lol) But I have found you have to be ready to talk when they are if you want to get to the bottom of what’s bothering your child. And actually, it’s a complement to you that your little one trusts you enough to feel that you can make things better by talking. So, even if it’s not a great time, make it available, if you can, to your child.

Also, be glad your son/daughter turns to you for help. If that pattern is reinforced now, it will continue when he/she is older. And better that any information or advice come from you than anyone else!

Take Care. 🙂

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Worries

Post 81

Worries. We adults have them all the time. And so do young children. But adults have learned to gloss them over while with 4, 5, and 6 year olds, “what you see is what you get”.

So, don’t be surprised if your son/daughter is reluctant to go back to school after a vacation or illness. In my area of the country, we are coming up on February Break where schools are closed for a week. It’s a welcome hiatus in the middle of winter but very often children regress when going back to school. Some of the old worries about fitting in, doing the work, making friends may very well surface the night before returning to the classroom. Just remind your child of all he/she likes at school and how smart he/she is becoming. Also let him/her know that you are proud of all the “good work” he/she is doing. Those emotions are totally normal.

What about other worries? A child returning to the classroom after being sick may be nervous that “everyone will ask why I wasn’t there last week”. Or he/she may be scared of using the bathroom in school, sitting in a loud cafeteria, using school computers, or something else that we, as adults, think is strange. But these concerns (and others) are very real to a 5 year old. And, to be honest, don’t “grown-ups” have them, too? We’ve just learned from experience that they aren’t that big a deal. (On a side note, I had a student who used to go into the bathroom and “talk” to the fire alarm and tell it not to go off. He was scared of the loud noise it made in such a small space. Funny but VERY real to that little boy!)

The bottom line of all of this is to realize that the worries your little student has are just as big to him/her as ours are to us. Listen and try to calm those fears as you always do. Then send him/her off as usual. Nine times out of ten, your little one will come home with a big smile and lots of stories about what a “fun” day he/she had at school.  🙂

Take Care.  🙂

 

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Reading Skills

Post 80

My last post focused on reading and what to look for in books that your child might choose to read independently. This week I’d like to concentrate on a few things you can do when reading with your child to strengthen his/her skills.

  1. As I’ve mentioned before, the pictures are there for a reason. They are meant to complement the text and tie in with the words. Have your child take a few seconds to look at them and think what the story might be about.
  2. Run your finger under the text when reading to your child. That encourages reading right to left and helps to train your child’s eyes to read that way.
  3. If your pre-reader decides to “read the pictures” to you, encourage it. In Kindergarten, I always tell the children that there are lots of ways to read a story and one of those is “reading the pictures”. Don’t be in a rush to correct if your little one doesn’t tell you exactly what happens in the written story. The idea is to encourage him/her to gain confidence and fluidity in “reading” words.
  4. If your child is actually reading to you and seems to be getting tired, mix it up. Maybe you can read one page and he/she can read the next one. It’s a lot of work for a 5 year old to read so rather than let him/her feel he/she failed by not finishing, make it easier for him/her to succeed.
  5. “Readers become readers by reading” is a rule we believe in. Encourage your child wherever he/she is in the reading process. Don’t be too quick to correct in the interest of making your child perfect. If he/she misses a word but gets the main idea, let it go. Perfection will come later.
  6. By the same token, if your child is struggling with a word, help him/her to sound it out or get it from inference using the story and/or illustrations.
  7. If figuring out words is slowing your child’s reading down to the point that he/she is losing the gist of the story, tell him/her the word to keep things moving along. Your child’s ability to figure out words will grow as he/she becomes more a proficient reader.
  8. Point out the spaces between words.
  9. Relax and have fun with your child during reading time. The idea is to convey that reading is a fun activity that you both enjoy.

I hope some of these ideas will help you help your son/daughter with his/her reading.  🙂

Take Care.  🙂

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Little Books

Post 79

Today I’d like to focus on one of the main academic goals of Kindergarten…reading. If your child is in preschool, he/she is being introduced to letter sounds in preparation for reading. If he/she is in First Grade, your student should be well on the way to reading comfortably. And by Second Grade, everyone is reading, some better than others, but everyone is reading.

As parents, we all try to help our children along. Most of us read to our children at some point during the day. As they move along, most of us try to encourage independent reading. And that’s perfect.

What I’d like to concentrate on today is the type of book you get for your child to read on his/her own. So often, I see a student with a physically small book that he/she struggles with. Small doesn’t necessarily mean easy. The term “easy reader” doesn’t necessarily mean the book is simple to read. It can just mean the text is short.

The thing to look at is the writing. What words does the author use? Are they repeated throughout the text or only used once? Are high frequency words such as am, are, you, like, I, me, so, my, see, included? (These are taught in Kindergarten so your child should be able to recognize some of them.) Do the pictures complement the text? I had a parent once tell me he covered the pictures because he thought it was “cheating” if his daughter used them to figure out the words. Lol. The pictures are there for a reason especially in leveled readers.

And what’s a leveled reader? It is very different from an “easy” trade book. Leveled readers use certain words that a child on that level should know or be able to decode using letter sounds and picture clues. They also use appropriate high frequency words. These books range from level A – Z. At an “A” level, the text on one page may be something like “I like the cat” with a picture of a cat. The next page might be “I like the dog” again with a dog’s picture. It would go on like that until the end where it might read “I love the horse”. A “B” level book would read something like “My little cat likes to run, My little dog like to eat” and have an appropriate picture on each page. It could also introduce high frequency words such as he, she. When a student gets to a C level there’s a big jump. The words and pictures still go together but there is a lot more decoding and inferring going on. The text on one page might say “Sam was running in the street” and show a picture of a dog running. There could also be two lines of text per page. Words would be repeated but they would be mixed up. And the end of a C level book usually has a twist such as “Woof” said Sam.

That’s a little in depth but the point is that a small or short number of pages doesn’t always mean your five year old should be able to read a particular book on his/her own. So don’t feel something is wrong if your Kindergartener struggles with what is listed as an easy reader. Help him/her to look at the pictures and infer from them what the text might say. Then try to phonetically sound out new words.

Most importantly, keep reading with your child. Big books or small books, lots of words or a few words, colored pictures or black and white ones, keep him/her reading!

Take Care.  🙂

Any thoughts? Please comment below. I’d love to hear from you.  🙂

 

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Getting Back to Normal

Post 78

Happy New Year! I hope your holidays and vacation time with your little one were wonderful. Now it’s time to get back to reality.

I’m guessing there was regret but a (tiny) sigh of relief when you put your 4, 5, 6 year old on the bus (or dropped him/her off) this morning. And that’s ok. While the Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa holidays are wonderful, they are stressful. (Check out the previous post, Happy Holidays.) And, just as you are trying to get your head into real life again, so is your child. This can manifest itself in lots of ways. You may have had a battle getting him/her out of bed today. Your son/daughter may have dragged his/her feet getting ready for school. He/she may have seemed fine and then may have suddenly gotten weepy when it was time to go out the door.

But the most disturbing is often what a Kindergartener says. It can even seem as if he/she is wallowing in depression. Words such as, “Nothing ever goes my way”, can break your heart. Often things that don’t seem super important to you, like winning a trophy, can stay in a young child’s mind and rear up when he/she is trying to cope with the letdown after the holidays. So, don’t be too upset if your son/daughter has been a bit emotional over the last few days. As we’ve discussed before, adults have learned to put “a brave face” on things. But children let it all out. Lol.

The good news is that this is very normal. As teachers, we are aware of it and find the best thing is to get the class right back into routines in school. While we certainly discuss what went on with our students over vacation, we jump right into new themes and learning that keep the students moving ahead. My guess is your Kindergartener will come home with his/her normal positive point of view which will continue to grow this week. There may be some setbacks but as home and school return to normal, so will your child.

Happy New Year and Take Care.  🙂

 

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Happy Holidays

Post 77

Happy Holidays! Whatever holiday you celebrate…..Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or another cultural celebration….this is an exciting, happy, exhausting, thrilling time of year. And, just as you get overwhelmed, so does your child. As adults, we try to “put the best face on it” and appear as if we have it all under control. But young children can’t! So don’t be surprised if your child acts out, gets loud, doesn’t listen during the next week. He/she is just reflecting what’s going on around him/her. It’s all very exciting but very overwhelming at the same time.

The best way I have found to handle it all is the way I handle it in the classroom. Believe it or not, learning IS going on in school this week. Keeping to class routines while incorporating holiday themes helps to keep the excitement under control. Young children need those routines to feel safe and, as a teacher, I am responsible for that…..AND helping them learn! (Lol) So, as much as you can, I suggest you try to keep to normal routines….bedtime, homework, etc. , at home, too. And realize that things settle down in January and get back to normal.

I was recently with a young family who has emphasized that “the season isn’t just about getting gifts, it’s also about giving them”. Their six year old was very serious but, at the same time, thrilled with that concept. It’s a theme we do in the classroom, too. Young children (and older ones) love to give to the important people in their lives. So, have your child make or wrap a present for his/her brother or sister, grandma or grandpa, Aunt Betsy, etc. Or practice those writing skills by having him/her write a note on your holiday cards. There are a lot of ways to make your little one feel included in your preparations and highlight thinking of others.

Another thing that will help your son/daughter handle the season (and it’s a little harder for you) is one-on-one time with you. Maybe it’s reading a holiday book at bedtime or perhaps doing a quick craft or baking cookies together but those few minutes will help your child feel safe and calm. And my guess is that will be a memory you will cherish. Because this is a very special season and you only have a short amount of time when your son/daughter believes. That’s the wonder that we are all looking for. Enjoy it with your little one and, again, Happy Holidays!

Take Care.  🙂

For more thoughts on this subject, please check out posts #17, #45, #46.

 

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Holiday Excitement

Post 76   

The holiday season is in full swing! Whether your family celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or some other December celebration, we are in the middle of it! And that’s wonderful. It is a beautiful time of year. Schools  reflect that joy with special projects, assemblies, parties, etc. In Kindergarten, I try to emphasize the giving to others aspect by having our craft time filled with making presents for those we love. I also bring in the season by helping the children to write cards to relatives, letters to Santa, counting the candles on the menorah, looking at the Kwanzaa colors, reading holiday books, playing with dreidels, making wreaths, and so much more. But we keep going back to the giving theme and how “it makes you feel so good inside when someone opens your gift to them.” Four, five, and six year olds are thrilled with the idea that even though they are little, they can make the special people in their lives happy. It really is magical!

But……along with all of this excitement comes reality.  LOL. Your son/daughter can be feeling overwhelmed by all that’s going on (especially when you realize that it’s only his/her fourth or fifth holiday season and he/she probably doesn’t remember the first two)! And when small children become overwhelmed, they aren’t like adults, they let it out…loudly! So, don’t be surprised if your little one is crankier after school than usual. Remember, he/she is still trying to do his/her best in class, listen to the teacher, follow the rules, AND , all the while, is getting very excited for the holidays. It’s a lot to process. And, as adults, we get overwhelmed so it’s not surprising that our children are, too.

As much as you can, try to keep your child’s at-home schedule going. In school, I find that maintaining our normal routines help to keep excitement under control. Also try to make bedtime at your child’s normal hour. Predictability and rest will go a long way to helping your child cope with mounting excitement. Things will come up this month….just do the best you can. And, it’s amazing but once January gets here, everything settles down. It’s one of the quietest, most gratifying months in Kindergarten.  🙂

Remember to enjoy this very special season with your little ones.  It’s amazing to see it through their eyes.

Take Care.   🙂

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Parent Teacher Conferences

Post 75

Parent Teacher Conferences should be coming up soon. This is the time you get to sit one on one with your child’s teacher and talk about how he/she has adjusted to Kindergarten. In First Grade, it’s more academic. You will hear if your child is where he/she should be in reading, math, and other subjects. But, whatever the grade, your son’s/daughter’s social adjustment will also be discussed.

There are a couple of things to remember, whatever your child’s grade. First of all, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Listen to what your student’s teacher says first and then ask any questions you have on your mind. No teacher is ever put off by inquiries about academic or social behavior. That’s what we are there for….your child.  🙂 I would suggest writing down any concerns beforehand so you don’t forget to bring something up.

I would also suggest writing down notes during the meeting. These could just be jotted quickly on a post-it or small piece of paper you bring with you. You will be getting a lot of information in a short amount of time. It’s a way to keep it all straight.

Time…please realize that teachers are trying to talk with a large number of families in a short amount of time. Meetings are usually scheduled pretty close together with no room in between. So, please be on time, even a little early. Also, if there is a need for further discussion, please set up a time then to meet later in the week. Or schedule a phone call with your child’s teacher. Conferences are meant to be an overview of each student’s performance. Any in depth talks need to be done when there is time to really concentrate on one child, not when there is a line of people waiting at the door.  🙂

Above all, relax. Realize that this is a conference about someone you and your son’s/daughter’s teacher care a lot about – your child. It’s meant to be a pleasant experience on both sides, hopefully celebrating his/her adjustment to school.

Take Care.  🙂

For more in depth thoughts on Kindergarten conferences, please refer to previous posts #13, #41, and #42.

 

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IPads, IPhones, and Computers…Oh, My!

Post 74

This is such a volatile topic, I am almost afraid to approach it. Your children are surrounded by tech every day. How much of it is “good”, how much is “bad”, should any type of screen time be limited, if so when, where, and on and on……

First of all, tech is a part of their lives. Whether, as a parent, you like it or not, it’s there. Think about it. Most 4,5,and 6 year olds don’t even know what a landline is. They’re growing up in a era when everyone uses cell phones. (Quick note….in school I sometimes pretend to “call” a parent when a child is upset so that so that his/her parent, caretaker can “tell” me he/she should remain in school and that everything will be all right. Now I have to use my cell phone and half the time the child wants to video chat with his/her mom/dad! Gotta think fast when that happens!) IPads and laptops are just a part of life for them. Computers are used in schools as a learning tool as are frequently some form of hand held electronic device. And they’re great. Lessons and reinforcement activities can be streamed and modified for each particular student. The same can be said at home. Especially as your child gets older, he/she will be using online resources to enhance (not replace, that’s important) classroom instruction.

All that’s well and good. No problem. The worry comes when your child wants to spend all or a good part of his/her free time online instead of in face to face interaction with family and friends. Also, technology can become a very convenient babysitter where screen time can suddenly extend to 2 or 3 hours. What, as a parent, should you do? Your child is growing up in a technological era. You don’t want him/her left behind. It’s part of his/her world. But you also want your little one to go out and play!

I think it’s sort of like when TV’s were first introduced. Way back then, there was the fear that children would sit in front of them all day. The same was true for Atari, Nintendo, and all the video games right up to Fortnite. None of this is inherently “bad” for a child. I feel they actually help with reflex time, increase imagination, and, in the case of Fortnite, encourage interaction with other players. But, like anything else, screen time needs to be limited. And that’s the problem. How do you do that? By starting now….while your child is young. If you limit times to go on the iPad and encourage the use of certain games, you will set a pattern that your child will respect and be used to as he/she gets older. It will just be a part of life. It will be an accepted routine. And even if your child objects, he/she wants routines and limits. They are a form of reassurance. They help make a child’s world safe and orderly. They also show you care or you wouldn’t bother to enforce them. Will there be times when your son/daughter will be on the iPad longer? Of course. It happens. Give and take is important. But, in general, set up a routine and stick to it.

I would really like your thoughts on this topic. Please comment below or message me about it. Thanks!  🙂

Take Care.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Homework

Post 73

Homework in Kindergarten? Yes, your child will have and probably has brought home some things to do.  (This probably doesn’t apply to preschool.) Usually it will be something that reemphasizes what is being taught in the classroom. As teachers, that’s what we try to do. Right now, it’s probably some fun coloring sheets or a project that is theme based. The idea is to get your child used to doing school work at home and to make it a pleasant experience.

What I would like to emphasize in this post is that if you start your child doing homework the way you would like him/her to handle it all through school, you will save both of you a lot of grief further down the road. By that I mean if you can get your child into the habit of sitting down right away after school at a particular place, it will set the tone for his/her whole school career. This can be at a desk or even the kitchen table. The main idea is that your little one gets into the mindset that this is something he/she does right after school. The other important thing is to make sure all materials (pencils, erasers, crayons, scissors, glue, etc.) are easily accessible. Nothing is more distracting  than having to scrounge around for supplies.

Why? Because as children get older, the work increases. If it is already an established routine for your child to do his/her homework when he/she is freshest he/she will do his/her best work in the shortest amount of time. And it will make the homework experience a lot more pleasant for both of you.  🙂

All that being said…..yes, there will be days that dance, soccer, karate, etc. are right after school and homework can’t be done until later. That’s ok. It will happen. But if you have a routine established for most days, that won’t really upset it. The point is to establish a good homework practice now that will set the tone for future grades. Trust me…..you, and your child, will appreciate it later on!

Any thoughts?

Take Care.  🙂

For more information on this topic, please check out posts #9, #19, #20.  🙂

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Halloween

Post 72

Halloween is coming and will probably be the first real celebration your child will have in school. It’s a lot of fun and I strongly encourage you to be there if you are invited. But there are some questions that may come up.

First of all, what type of party is your child’s class having? Some schools have adopted the idea of having the children dress up as their favorite literary character. If that’s the case, go for it! Let your son, daughter go through his/her books and find one that he/she likes. Then get as close as possible to copying that character’s clothes, hat, accessories, etc. Sounds self evident, right? Not always! Sometimes making a Dogman or Pinkalicious costume can seem daunting. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect! Your son/daughter will be thrilled if his/her costume is basically the same color as the character’s. And teachers do not judge you by your costume making skills! It’s the idea that everyone participates and helps bring reading alive. That’s what’s important.

If, on the other hand, your child’s class is having a traditional party, that’s great! Again, there are a couple of things to be mindful of. First of all, if he/she is encouraged to wear a mask, please make sure your son/daughter can see through it! We don’t want anyone tripping and falling on Halloween! Secondly, if accessories are involved, please make sure they won’t cause problems in a school setting. (think swords, bats, etc.) Also, make sure to send in a bag for them to go in during the day so nothing gets lost. Thirdly, if your Kindergartener’s (Preschooler’s, First Grader’s) costume is very special to you, or you don’t want it possibly torn for later in the day, consider sending him/her in another costume that’s just for school. Or maybe send in clothes for him/her to change into if the parade/party is early in the day. (Make sure they are ones your child can handle by him/herself.) Again, a bag to put the costume in is a good idea. Backpacks tend to get filled with party treasures.

Lastly, enjoy this first “event” in your little one’s school “career”. Even if you can’t attend, make sure you ask about it so you can be there vicariously. Have fun and Happy Halloween!

Take Care.  🙂

 

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Getting Used To It All

Post 71

Your child has now been in school at least six weeks. He/she has spent that time mainly getting used to routines….getting up in the morning, getting out of the house, making the bus on time (mostly), coming home, eating snack, having dinner and going to bed at a decent hour (most of the time), then getting up and doing it the next day all over again. That’s homelife. And, basically, that’s what your child has been doing in school, too….getting used to routines. He/she has had to learn to get off the bus, line up, go into a classroom, unpack, listen to a teacher, sit in circle, share, go to specials, eat in a cafeteria, get back on the bus, get off at the right stop, and do it all over again the next day. It’s a lot but, for the most part, students “get it” and adjust well.

Right now, besides the above mentioned classroom routines, Kindergarten teachers are trying to teach their students how to behave in a class that is probably about twice the size of a preschool one. It’s hard for a five-year-old to understand that there are other children in the room who deserve as much attention as they do. They have probably been in a setting where the teacher/student ratio was higher. Or, if they didn’t attend preschool, they definitely had someone’s undivided attention! So it’s very difficult to learn to wait their turn. This is seen in a lot of shouting out instead of waiting to be called upon in the classroom. The idea of having to be given a turn to share an idea or thought can be very odd to a child. He/she may interpret it as the teacher not liking him/her or being “mean”. Or he/she may shut down a bit and not try to answer in class.

What can you, as a parent, do to help your child understand that his/her thoughts are important…. teachers want to hear them (we really do!) but he/she has to wait for his/her turn to speak?  Model (look at the last post 🙂 ) it at home. When you are talking and your son/daughter interrupts, ask him/her to wait until you finish your thought. Then give him/her your complete attention and really listen to what he/she has to say. I have found that holding a child’s hand while finishing talking is a good way to help a young student understand that you are not ignoring him/her. It shows you are aware he/she wants to speak and is waiting patiently.  That can be modeled the same way at home. You could hold your child’s hand, put an arm on his/her shoulder, sit him/her on your lap….whatever signal would work to convey the thought wait until I’m finished then I’ll give you my full attention. It’s a hard but necessary lesson your little one needs to learn. And the best person to help him/her learn it is you, his/her parent.

As always, if you have any other strategies that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments. (Also, FYI, this post was written at the request of a Kindergarten teacher who has five or six children who constantly shout out in class. She wants them to share ideas and enjoy school while letting their classmates have a turn, too.  🙂  )

Take Care.  🙂

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Modeling

post 70

Modeling??? No, I don’t mean the kind that is done for a magazine! In this post, I am talking about giving your child concrete examples of how to act in certain situations. This can be applied to both social and academic ones.

For example, let’s say your child is having trouble making friends at school. He/she is rather shy and doesn’t feel comfortable around children he/she is just meeting. Honestly, I think that is normal for everyone. It’s just the degree of uncomfortableness (is that a word?) and how it’s handled that is different in each case. The normal thing would be to say something like, “Go up to another child and ask him/her to play.” That’s fine. But how about giving your little one the actual words to use? How about, “Go up to Joey and say, ‘We both really like Spiderman so let’s pretend we are swinging from webs.’ ” See what I mean? You are actually scripting what your child would say. You’re not trying to micromanage. You’re trying to give your child a boost with something he/she finds hard to do. Another example would be to tell your son/daughter, “Ask Amelia, ‘Would you like  to look at my book about dinosaurs?’ ” Again, you are giving your child the actual words to use.

Maybe your child doesn’t know something basic such as to smile when going up to a new friend. Remind him/her of that. It seems such a normal thing but 4,5, and 6 year olds don’t always know basics yet. You might also suggest he/she share a toy with another student and say, “Would you like to play with me?” In Kindergarten, we talk about being a good friend and brainstorm words to use to do that. And that’s exactly what you are doing with your child when you model these situations. Even suggesting that your son/daughter help another student during clean up time, “Let me help you do that”, is a way to give your child the support he/she needs socially.

This same concept can be applied to academics. If you know your child is having trouble sounding out words you can obviously write to the teacher and ask for help for him/her. You could also have him/her say during Guided Reading time, “I couldn’t figure out this word. Can you show me how to do it?” (This is even more applicable when your child gets older and needs to understand what he/she did wrong on a test. He/she could bring the test to the teacher and ask him/her to explain the mistakes. But that’s a few years from now!)

The point is to give your little one the words to use to help him/her over rough spots. This type of modeling is just one step further than I’m sure  you are already going when trying to help your preschooler, kindergartener, or first grader. You are the first one your child goes to when he/she has a problem. This is just another “tool” for your “help my child toolbox”.

Take Care.   🙂

If you have an example of how you’ve helped your child in a social or academic situation that you’d like to share, please post it in the comments below. Thanks 

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Testing

Post 69

Somewhere in the last month or coming up shortly, your child’s teacher will probably be doing some baseline testing. That means trying to find out where each student in the class is academically. It’s not a reflection on your child, just a way for the teacher to know where to start with each one and the class as a whole in reading, etc.

But what if your child’s teacher mentions something to you that has come up in the course of the testing? If it’s academic, such as, “Your son/daughter doesn’t know the difference between letters and numbers. Maybe you could reinforce it by….”, follow the suggestion. That’s pretty obvious. But what if it is a little more vague? A comment such as, “I noticed your son/daughter couldn’t sit still long enough to complete the page in one sitting”. That can be upsetting and lead you to start worrying about hyperactivity, focusing problems, etc. What should you do, if anything?

First of all, think about your child at home. Can he/she focus on a project  or story and stay in one place long enough to complete it? Remember, that length of time varies with age. Maybe a 4 year old has only a 10 minute attention span where a Kindergartener should be able to sit for 15 minutes at this time of year. (It increases as the year goes on.)

The other thing I would strongly encourage you to do is to talk to your child’s teacher. So many parents are afraid to be “that parent” and bother the teacher, especially at the beginning of the school year. No teacher ever minds talking to a parent who is concerned about his/her child. That’s what we are here for! Also, remember, as an educator, we are obligated to let parents know anything we may observe in a student that could affect his/her academically. Before you get overly worried, find out if this seemed serious or if it was just something that occurred during the testing situation and is no big deal. That way you can either catch a possible problem early or relax and realize all is well. Either way, find out exactly what was observed before you react.

In the end, you know your child the best. If a comment seems strange, ask! There’s no point in worrying or waiting until conferences to find out what’s going on. Better to straighten it out now.

 For more on this topic, please refer to Post #27 (Fear of Testing). I would also recommend reading Post #6 (Regression). It doesn’t deal with today’s topic but is very applicable to children in Preschool, Kindergarten, and First Grade at this time of year.

Take Care.  🙂

 

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Naps

Post 68

I’ve heard a number of comments in the last few weeks about resting in school and how tired students are after school so I’d like to address those topics today. First of all, most children are usually very tired initially after being in school. This may take the form of everything from falling asleep in the car or bus on the way home, not wanting to discuss school, and even being cranky and uncooperative. You may be thinking to yourself, “What happened? Where is that sweet child who lived here all summer?” Don’t worry. It’s so normal! Think about it. Students are supposed to follow the rules in school and most children really try to. As a result, they hold a lot in during the day and have to let it out somewhere after school. Unfortunately, that’s usually when they are with you and you bear the brunt of it. But, the good news is, they will adjust and you will get your normal child back again. I promise.  🙂

In First Grade, rest may just be some quiet time after outdoor recess. It may also involve some free reading time. By now, your child has been in school for a year and will probably be fine with that.

In Kindergarten, rest time is usually a bit more. At this time of year, it can often mean putting heads down after drinks and outdoor play. This may be for 10 – 20 minutes or so. It gives the children a mental and physical break. (I’ve often commented during this time, “I wish someone would tell me to rest” when students complain. Invariably some kind soul says, “Rest, Mrs. Dunn. Put your head down.” LOL)

In Preschool, it often depends on the length of the day. During most half day sessions, there isn’t rest time. There is no time for it. For longer school days, those that go approximately from 9AM – 3AM, there can be a nap-time that lasts about 45 min. – 1 hour. Most require children to be quiet during that time. Often soothing music will be played. Children may be allowed to cuddle with a toy from home. In schools with longer hours, nap-time may last longer, up to 2 hours.

The question in longer nap-time situations is what does the staff do with children who do not nap or have not napped since they were maybe 2 years old? That’s a hard one. I would give the teacher a couple of weeks to figure out who is really not a napper. If your child hasn’t napped for a few years, I would let the staff know. Chances are, they have made arrangements for that. Some schools let non-sleepers look quietly at books, listen to music or stories through headphones, or move those children to another room. You might also offer to send in a quiet activity to keep your child occupied. It depends on the school. If it becomes a problem, I would really recommend that you set up a time to meet with your child’s teacher to discuss the situation. You know your child the best and are his/her prime advocate.  And teachers really want the best for their students and for them to benefit from their school experience. Together you can work out a solution for your particular child.

Please post any comments or solutions that you have come up with for your child’s rest-time in the comments. We can all benefit from them. Thanks!

Take Care.  🙂

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Recess Play

Post 67

About now your child should be going to school in the morning with little or no complaints. He/she should be starting to get used to the routine and things should be getting easier as far as separation goes. You should also be beginning to hear about his/her friends, table buddies, teachers, etc. So should you be concerned if your child isn’t playing with someone at recess time? Hmmm…….

First of all, how did you hear about this? Is it from the teacher or from your child? That’s important. If your information comes strictly from your child, I’d selectively worry. You know your child best but to a four, five, or six year old, standing alone for 5 minutes seems like forever. He/she may have observed the other children for a few minutes and then started playing. If you are still concerned, contact your child’s teacher and ask.

Also, it’s not unusual for a student to be shy on the playground at first. Think about it. Most outdoor play areas are pretty big. Add to that 50 to 100 or more children running around and it’s intimidating! If your child is in Kindergarten or is in a new school, I wouldn’t be too worried. Give him/her time to make a few friends and get the “lay of the land”.

Something I would recommend is to try to think of ways to talk to your child about how to make friends. Most students need things modeled for them. Talk about how his/her face looks when your child doesn’t smile and how great he/she appears when he/she does instead of something vague like “look pleasant”. You son/daughter might not understand that when other children run by and yell, they may be asking him/her to join in. Give your little one words to use such as, “Hi, my name is…..”, or “Would you like to play with this ball with me”. or “Who’s your favorite superhero?”, so he/she knows what to say. In other words, try to give your child concrete ways to act and talk when he/she feels shy.

And, as I mentioned before, if you are still concerned, ask your child’s teacher. No teacher is going to get annoyed with a parent who is truly worried about his/her child. Your child’s teacher may have other ideas to help your son/daughter ease into play based specifically on him/her. And that can only help!

I hope this answers some questions I’ve received. If you have other suggestions that have helped your child, please post them in the comments. We would all benefit from sharing ideas and that’s the whole point of this blog (group).

Take Care.  🙂

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Twins and Younger Students

Post 66

I had a couple of very interesting questions come in that I think are very applicable to a lot of readers. Should twins be separated or kept together in school? Should younger students (not yet or just turned 5) be held back? What if one twin seems ready for school but the other doesn’t?

Questioning if your child is “ready for school” is a dilemma all parents face. First of all, each child is unique, of course, and there is no blanket rule. That being said, I feel it never hurts a child to start later rather than earlier. It gives them more time to mature and be able to handle the demands of school. If your child is academically ready but socially immature, it will allow him/her to “grow up” and be able to understand/cope with situations better all through his/her school years. It also enables your son/daughter to be physically more mature when it comes to trying out for teams later on (and it never hurt to be one of the first ones to get a drivers license rather than the very last one in high school!  🙂  ) So, yes, when in doubt, I think it is better to hold a student back before Kindergarten rather than push him/her ahead.

Twins multiply that doubt by two. What if one is “ready” but the other is not? Again, what does “ready” mean? Socially, academically, or both? Again, I would lean towards giving both the extra year to grow up before starting school. I personally feel the twin bond is more important than starting Kindergarten “on time” if one twin seems ready ahead of his/her brother/sister. I would always start twins together. Think of further down the road and having to explain to the one held back why he/she has the same birthday and age as his/her brother/sister but is behind him/her in school. That could possibly lead to some real self esteem issues. (Of course, if one is held back further down the road, that’s a different story.)

Separation of twins in school is more flexible. Some districts have a general rule that twins should be separated, others do not. The idea is that each should be given a chance to develop his/her unique personality, skills,etc. without depending upon having his/her brother/sister there. And I think that is a good thing as both move along in school. But as far as Kindergarten goes, you know your children best. If you truly don’t want them separated, speak to the principal before school starts, preferably at registration. Most districts will honor your wishes. Again, though, if you decide to keep them together in Kindergarten, I would highly recommend they be separated from First Grade on. (They  will “see each other” on the playground, in shared classes, at assemblies, and other times throughout the day.) It really is good for them.  🙂  *A note here, separation of twins is not as vital in Preschool classes, in general. Again, districts and schools have their own recommendations. It may also be a matter of class size. Check beforehand.

Any parents of twins, preschool, Kindergarten, First Grade, or older….please feel free to comment on this post. We will all benefit from your insights. As I said, your thoughts are every parent’s multiplied by two!

Take Care. 🙂

** If you would like to read posts on the second week of Kindergarten, please refer back to  #5 and #40.

 

 

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Beginning

Post 65

OK.  You’ve gotten your child out the door, onto the bus, and off to his/her first day of Kindergarten. There were a few tears (mainly yours). Maybe you’ve even poured yourself a second cup of coffee. Now what??

First of all, he/she is still yours! Yes, your son/daughter may have taken that first step out the door into the bigger world but, trust me, he/she will be back…and much sooner than you think.  🙂  I know it seems odd right now but soon all of this will be normal. Your child’s (and your) life will expand to include the wonderful world of Kindergarten. And it really is wonderful! There will be lots of opportunities this year for your child to make friends, play, learn, and grow. And those will open opportunities for you to grow, too. You both will expand your horizons in ways you never thought possible as the year progresses.

But your child will still need you to come home to, to help him/her over the rough spots, to celebrate accomplishments with, to share moments with…..all the ways a parent parents!

So, drink your coffee and get on with the day. That school bus will be pulling up sooner than you think and you want to be able to hear all about your student’s first day of school.  🙂 And please use this blog as a place to discuss and comment on any concerns and/or stories about Kindergarten. Whatever your child is experiencing, others are, too! And it helps to share, whether it is good or bad. That’s why I am writing it weekly. Also, please let any other parents who might be interested know about it. The more, there merrier!! (First Grade “alumni” or older grade parents, please stay with us. We can all benefit from your experience!)

Happy School Year and Take Care.  🙂

***For more first day of school thoughts, please read posts #1,2,3,4,35.

****This year I am planning to incorporate Preschool concerns so please pass our address on to any preschool parents who might be interested.

*****First Grade alums….please post any concerns or questions. I will discuss with my First Grade colleagues and get back to you. 🙂

 

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End of the School Year

Post 64

Congratulations! Your child (and you) has made it through his/her first year of “real” school! Right now you are probably up to your eyeballs in end of the year activities….school graduations, parties, field days, class trips, etc. It’s a whirlwind but it will end soon and suddenly summer vacation will be here.

So, what to do when your child is home for ten weeks? First of all, let him/her rest. All of you need a change in routine. That’s what vacation is for. It’s s time to recharge and get ready for next year and First Grade.

Speaking of First Grade…..it’s different from Kindergarten in that there is not as much playtime. But do the children still play? Of course. They are only six, after all. But they are expected to do academics from day 1, so it is definitely good to keep your child “on track” this summer. How to do that? KEEP READING with your child!!! That is the single most important thing you can do. Whether it’s regular before bedtime reading and/or interspersed throughout the day, reading books is vital. And, don’t forget, there are all sorts of “reading opportunities” around the house. If your son/daughter needs encouragement, there’s always the cereal box to read. Games and stores also offer teaching moments where you can help your little one decode words. Playing rhyming games in the car when you are driving around not only keeps your child occupied but helps strengthen reading skills. The point is to keep your (now) First Grader from sliding backwards in his/her literacy skills over the summer. (Most children lose a reading level or two.) Another thought would be to join one of those summer reading clubs at your local library. They are free and offer incentives (stickers, small prizes) for children to read either independently or with an adult. It’s a wonderful and easy way to keep your child’s skills up.

And don’t worry if your little one is bored by the third week in August. That’s a good thing. It shows he/she is ready to take on the challenges of First Grade.  🙂  But, most of all, enjoy the summer with your child. It’s your time together without a lot of obligations. And it will pass quickly!

I have enjoyed our time together. I hope you have, too. If you have any thoughts or questions over the summer, please feel free to post them in the comments and I will try to answer as quickly as possible. I plan to start up again by the end of August so if you know any incoming Kindergarteners whose families would like to join our group, please refer them. I hope you will continue to be part of this group. Your insight would be very helpful for incoming K parents and we can certainly cover topics that are pertinent to your child as he/she progresses through First Grade.

Have a wonderful summer!

Take Care!   🙂

(For more thoughts on summer, please refer to post #34.)

 

 

 

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Perfect Teachers

Post 63

First of all, Happy Father’s Day to all you dads! Enjoy your day with your wonderful children. You deserve it!

This week I’d like to write a companion post to Post 61 (Perfect Parents). Teachers today are under a lot of pressure. We all try to do the best we can for the children in our class, “our kids”. Because that’s what they are when they are in our rooms. They are not our students, they are “our kids” in the truest sense of the words. And just like parents, we often stretch ourselves thin for them.

Teachers today are expected to be psychologists, family counselors, lunchroom monitors,  peacemakers, teach to the state standards, fill out reams of reports on each student, keep everyone motivated, keep everyone smiling,  learn and implement flawlessly every new educational strategy that comes along and do so immediately, answer to administration, and twenty other things, all with a smile and using an “indoor voice”. Most teachers really do try hard. We want the best for our students and attempt to treat each one as special. We are there before and after school, weekends and, believe it or not, over the summer. (Try visiting your child’s school in August!)

My point is, when your child’s teacher delays in answering a note or a phone call, please realize it is not intentional. We usually have a list planned for each free period and before and after school times. If you are held up at conferences, please realize that your child’s teacher probably spent an extra 20 minutes with the parents of a child who is having trouble academically or socially. Before you write because you are sure your child is being overlooked in class, think about the twenty-four other children who need attention.  We are there for your children first, before all else.

So, when you say good-bye to your child’s first school teacher in a few weeks, please remember we try every day to do our very best for the boys and girls in our classes, just as you try to do your best every day for your child.

We both put the same thing first….your child!

Take Care   🙂

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Kindergarten Graduation

Post 62

(I haven’t posted in a few weeks for a good reason…..family wedding. All went well!  🙂  )

Kindergarten Graduation……or Moving Up Day…..or Fun Day….or whatever your child’s school calls it….is right around the corner. Within the next few weeks you should be invited to your child’s school to witness this ceremonial transition. Should you go? Absolutely! It’s an important day in your son or daughter’s school life and you want to be a part of it.

You can usually tell how big a deal a particular school makes of it by how much notice you are given. I always let parents know the date as soon as I have it…usually in September or October. That’s because we make a REALLY big thing of it. We put on a play and sing songs, which is typical, but then we have an end of the year picnic with food and games on the school lawn. I am always afraid one child will be left with no one to sit with on the grass or to go around with to the different stations. We also release the children to caretakers early if they so choose. So, if you were given the date early in the year, chances are your child’s class is doing something similar. (Did I mention we have a videographer film the “production”?)  If however, you found out about the end of the year celebration on the baseball or soccer field from another parent, it’s probably not that big a thing. More than likely, it’s another special day like Field Day or Flag Day.

My point is, try to go if you can. But if something prevents you from attending, relax. As I said in a previous post (Perfect Parents), we all try our best and do the best we can. You may remember a year from now that you didn’t go but your child will have forgotten it. And, again, you can sort of tell how important it is by how much notice you were given. (Check those backpacks!)

So, what to do if you can’t get to school that particular day? Maybe there is a relative who has the time to attend? Even if they’re working, a lot of grandparents can take off and would love to go. The same goes for an aunt, uncle, babysitter, family friend… some adult who is special to your family and child. A word of caution here….some schools encourage siblings to be taken from class to attend, others frown on it. Find out your school’s policy, don’t assume. From what I’ve seen, most allow younger siblings at performances. But, again, double check with your child’s teacher if you aren’t sure.

Enjoy this crazy end of the school year time. Summer is coming with a release from all those schedules and things can relax a bit. Keep to whatever routines you have established right now and make sure your child knows how proud you are of all he/she has accomplished this year!

Take Care.  🙂

 

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Perfect Parents

Post 61

This time I’d like to do something different and talk a bit about parenting. You try your best, you make decisions, you worry, you change your mind, you’re strict, you’re not strict enough, you set boundaries, you change those boundaries, you say,”yes”, you say, “no”, etc.,etc. It’s tough being a parent, right? And how do you know if you are making the right decisions? How do you know if they are the right ones for your particular child? In other words, how can you be perfect in this, your most important job…raising your son/daughter?

The answer? You can’t! You can’t be perfect. You will make good decisions and you will make some bad ones. But you’ll try your best and that is all any of us can do. (My personal theory is that once you have children, you are guilty for life. So just accept it! Lol)  I have seen so many parents stressing over everything from whether their child eats enough at lunch to whether he/she does enough independent reading at home. Then throw in if he/she should sign up for dance, baseball, soccer, karate or whatever after school and guilt over not having playdates or enough quality time and you could go crazy! And that’s just a few stressors parent feel. There are lots more, as I’m sure you know.

Now, don’t get me wrong. All of these questions are valid. All of these concerns are real and I’m not trying in any way to belittle parents wanting to do the best for their children. My point is…there is no such thing as a perfect parent. And it concerns me when I see a good parent belittling his/herself because of a decision he/she made concerning his/her child that didn’t work out. Hopefully most of your decisions concerning your child will end up on the plus side but a few will land on the negative one. That’s just life. The good thing is though you may never forget it, your child will probably never remember it.

Ultimately, as always, you know your child best. Guide him/her the as well as you can and relax! What your son/daughter needs most is your love and support. And children see right through us to our core so, as they say, if “your heart is in the right place,” your child will sense that. And that’s what he/she need most!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Give yourself a pat on the back for an (ongoing) job well done! (Dads….you can, too!  🙂  )

Take Care.  🙂

 

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Independent Kindergarteners

Post 60

It’s April. Your child has been in school for eight months. Back in September you were worried about how well he/she would like school, get along with friends, adjust to a new academic setting, not be overwhelmed, etc., etc. So how come now that sweet boy/girl is suddenly giving you a hard time at home? That child whom you thought had the best manners in the world is answering you back, challenging everything you say, resisting set rules and so on?! Answer…..he/she is growing up. (Alert…if you aren’t experiencing this with your son or daughter right now, great! You can either skip this post or read on for the future. Chances are you will need it at some point.  🙂  )

I have found that just when you think you have all the answers as a parent (or teacher), children suddenly change and you feel as if you are starting from scratch. In other words, they “grow up”. Not totally, of course, but they make a mental growth spurt that can leave you gasping. Where did his/her manners go? Why is he/she so fresh at home? Why is my former introvert so pushy at a birthday party? Why is he/she picking up a friend’s bad habits? Relax. As hard as it is to accept, it’s all normal. Your child is pushing the boundaries, trying to find out how far he/she can go. It’s all a part of growing up. And I’ll bet if you think back, you can remember some times you did the same thing to your parents!

This is all well and good but….. what to do? Continue what you have been doing all year long. Maintain your rules, stay consistent, support your child, listen to him/her, love your son/daughter, and be the parent. Even though it doesn’t seem so, your boy/girl wants the boundaries. He/she wants to know that you are setting them. As much as it doesn’t seem possible, boundaries give your child a sense of security. They define his/her world. And knowing you are in charge takes a weight off that no five/six year old should have to bear.

Of course, it’s not easy. But the light at the end of the tunnel is that just as quickly as it started, you will suddenly hit another period of calm with your son/daughter and things will be fine (for a while,lol). Of course, listen to your child. Try to work through these new moods with him/her. Chances are he/she is “good” in school and you are the only one seeing these behaviors. Again, it’s trying but very normal.

Remember, you are the most important person in your child’s life right now. He/she really wants to please you and make you proud. Use that to your advantage. Keep letting your child know you are proud of him/her and how much you love him/her. This will all work out. It’s part of being a parent. And we all experience it.

Take Care.   🙂

 

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Kindergarten Words

Post 59

In school, when a child uses what are commonly called “potty words” or any other “inappropriate language”, I remind them to use “kindergarten words”. We’re all on top of that.  🙂  But what about those other times when your son/daughter says something that makes you stop short? (Is he/she truly that mean? Or is he/she really traumatized by that?)  For example, a student once told me that, “Sometimes I laugh at people who look funny.” “Funny” in this case, meant disabled. Another child was drawing a picture of himself in class after he had broken his arm. He didn’t include the cast. I was concerned that he was embarrassed even though the children had tried so hard to help him. We had even read a book about breaking arms and legs, etc. When I brought it up and asked him (delicately) why he didn’t include his cast in his self portrait he answered, “Oh, I didn’t know how to draw it”!  Lol.

And that’s the whole point. In my experience, with five and six year olds, what you see is what you get. I think I’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating. So often, as adults, we tend to project grown up feelings and points of view onto our children. We can’t help it. It’s normal. But children are very honest. The Kindergartener in the above example about looking at disabled people didn’t mean they were funny looking. She just meant that she was aware of their differences and looked at them. (Normal, right?) So maybe in that case, give examples of how to be aware but polite. Look the person in the eyes as you would someone without a disability.  In other words, teach your child manners.

Just be aware that your child is still very young. To most Kindergarteners the world is very black and white. They don’t see shades of gray yet. So, the next time your son/daughter seems unkind or says something that horrifies you, stop a minute and ask yourself if maybe you are giving an adult interpretation to what is really a child’s view. Chances are you really are raising an empathetic child!

Take Care.   🙂

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Baseball? Soccer? Dance?…

Post 58

We’re getting into the season of Spring sports and all that entails. Fun but also a commitment….on your child’s part and on yours. So how do you know when and if your child is ready to be signed up for an “extracurricular activity”? And what do you sign him/her up for? There are a lot of choices. Which one is best for your particular child?

First of all, in my opinion, don’t overdo it. It’s very tempting to put your son/daughter in three or four different activities especially if his/her friends are involved. You don’t want your kid to miss out, right? And colleges start sending scouts younger and younger these days so it’s good to start ’em early, right???

Yes and no. Remember, your Kindergartener is still only 5 or 6 and only has so much stamina. (Although I know his/her energy seems boundless at bedtime! LOL) Children also can get burned out if they are run from one activity to another too much. Think about yourself. You can only do so much in a day and get worn down when too much is piled on. Your child is the same. He/she can only handle so much. And, of course, he/she still has school and all that entails.

So, as usual, use common sense. You know your child better than anyone. What are his/her likes and dislikes? Does he/she make friends easily or have trouble adapting to new situations? My guess is that your son/daughter has grown up a lot this year and may surprise you by walking out onto the baseball field with hardly a backward glance. Maybe there is an older sibling who is involved in something that your Kindergartener can’t wait to get into. That’s a good start. Or maybe it would be better for him/her to have his/her own thing. Just realize there is a time commitment, usually during the week and on weekends. Maybe there is a carpool you can be part of that will help with that. This whole thing is supposed to fun, right?

The other thing to consider is how much your child has grown emotionally this year. Does he/she need to learn how to be part of a team and not be too dominant or too reticent? I really think that’s the value of team sports. Everyone has to learn to work together to win. And, let’s face it, very few children make it to scholarships or the pros.(Although it can happen, especial with Title Nine. But that’s really far down the road.) Right now, think about:

a) What your child would like to do,

b) What your child needs to do to help him/her socially,

c) What would be fun to do,

d) What you, as a family, have time to do.

Using your own good judgment, I think you will find this to be a fun and rewarding season with your child.   🙂

Take Care.  🙂

*Any topics you would like covered? Please leave a comment below or email me at pdunn23@optonline.net  Put “blog post” in the subject.

 

 

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Time Management in Kindergarten

Post 57

How do you help your child finish his/her work in a timely manner in school when you are not there to hurry him/her along? Maybe your child got a P (progressing) in “Manages Time Effectively” on his/her report card or maybe the teacher mentioned that your child isn’t finishing work on time to you at conferences. But somehow you are aware that this is becoming a problem. You definitely want to nip it in the bud and help your Kindergartener before it becomes a habit that will be harder to break later on.

First of all, as always, talk, write, text or email the teacher. The two of you will be able to map out a plan to motivate your child to get his/her classwork done quicker. Strategies might include moving his/her seat away from close friends (we are all “friends” in Kindergarten 🙂 ). Unfinished work can also be sent home for extra homework. (Please make sure that you check it so your child sees you are holding him/her accountable for completing it.) There could also be a consequence for not finishing work…doing it during playtime, for instance. (I don’t usually give a tangible reward for finishing work at this time of the year. Students are expected to get their work done by now. Of course, I always praise a child for finishing who has been struggling with that.)

You can support time management at home by expecting your child to finish chores, homework, etc. in a certain amount of time. If you need to move him/her along, try a countdown 15, 14, 13…… Another thought would be a sticker chart where he/she can put one on for each task accomplished within the time limit. Or maybe using a timer would help move him/her along. Again, your praise means more than anything else to a 5/6 year old. Remember, you are the most important person in his/her life.

I hope this helps. If your little student is having this problem, please don’t ignore it. It can quickly get out of hand in the later grades.  Any thoughts or solutions????

Take Care.  🙂

 

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Arguments

Post 56

Sooooo….your child has come home from school and has told you:

a) He/she got “spoken to” for not listening,

b) He/she was sent to time out,

c) He/she doesn’t like his/her previous best friend at school,

d) Any/all of the above or something else out of the ordinary but equally as upsetting.

Relax. This is normal. The correct educational terminology is “they are getting antsy from being stuck indoors all winter”. Lol.  Teachers expect this. Think about it. Twenty-something five and six year olds have been together 7 months now of which at least 3 have been too cold to go outside on a regular basis. Add to that they have been trying very hard to follow behavioral and academic rules and learn at the same time. It’s no wonder they are getting upset with each other and acting out a little. It’s called cabin fever! As adults, we’ve learned to filter our feelings and try to hide them. Kindergarteners have no such filters. What you see is what you get!

What’s the answer? Springtime! It’s amazing how quickly all the tension in the classroom disappears once the children are able to go outside and play regularly. Everything calms down and those sweet natures reappear until the end of the year. 🙂 In the classroom, I also try to shake things up a bit by planning curriculum that allows the boys and girls to move around a bit and try new things. This is the time of year I set up a magnet table to explore, have the class plant seeds and record their growth, introduce new toys and books, etc.

What should you do, though, if your child comes home and tells you one of (a) through (d) above? What you always would, sit down with him/her and try to get the whole story. If it seems like a Spring Fever episode, wait and watch. If it seems more, or you’re not sure, contact the teacher. He/she will tell you exactly what’s going on and if you need to be concerned. Again, we are never “bothered” by a parent who is truly concerned about his/her child. It may be nothing or there may be a problem, but we will always welcome your interest and will work with you.

Happy Spring and as always,

Take Care. 🙂

 

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Responsibility

Post 55

Responsibie at five?? Yes, to a certain level, your child should be developing responsibility.  In school, we foster it by having a list of classroom helpers posted. The children are expected to look at it and be in charge of that area for the week. Do I go over it during our morning circle? Of course. But after that, if we need the scissors, the scissor monitor gives them out. The same goes for the glue monitor, paper monitor, bathroom monitor (who makes sure the “open sign”…a happy face….is turned around when it should be), etc.

Another way  teachers encourage individual responsibility in school is by expecting each student to take care of his/her own backpack, snack, and lunch when arriving in the morning or leaving in the afternoon. Again, do I help with difficult zippers or flyaway papers? Certainly. But every child is expected to do most of it on his/her own. That’s what we’ve been working toward all year….gradually letting the boys and girls manage their own things.

And once a child can start to have control over daily tasks, that responsibility can carry over into academics. Most of the class now knows that when it is Guided Reading time and I am working with a small group, they are to follow certain Workboard jobs on their own. (Each Kindergarten program is different. In my school, we set up Workboards…a list of academic tasks identified by pictures under each child’s name that the students know how to do independently.) If your school doesn’t employ Workboards, your child’s teacher probably uses some sort of independent activity when he/she is conducting reading groups. And each child is accountable for doing the work and handing it in. The point is that five year olds (or six year olds) are ready to and enjoy being responsible.

How does this carry over to home? Now would be a good time to give your child some chores that he/she can handle. Maybe putting away toys on his/her own, setting the table for dinner, putting his/her dishes in the sink, feeding the cat or making sure the dog has water, etc. You know what’s best for your particular son/daughter. The point is, Kindergarteners love to help out, especially when it’s done in a fun way. So how about making a sticker chart he/she can fill up each time a chore is completed? It doesn’t have to lead to a reward. It can just be for the feeling of accomplishment that he/she will feel upon seeing all the stickers. And don’t underestimate how powerful praise from you is. Just knowing that you are proud of the good job he/she is doing is often more than enough for your child. You are the most important person in his/her life and your opinion is supreme!

So, let your little one help out at home. He/she is more than ready for it, would love it, and may just surprise you with how capable he/sh has become.  🙂

Take Care.

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Report Cards

Post 54

This is the time of year most schools will be sending out their second round of report cards. What should that mean to you as a Kindergarten parent? First of all, read it! Make a big deal about it with your child. If you truly believe that your child’s work at school is important (and you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you didn’t) then take the time to go over your child’s report card with your son or daughter. Five year olds love to please and emphasizing that you are interested in his/her grades will lay the foundation for your child striving to do well academically his/her entire school career. I know everyone is busy so do this when you can….but do it. It’s really important.

What should you be looking for? Academically, that your child has all S’s (or the equivalent of “Satisfactory”) or higher. You should be especially interested in Reading, Writing, and Math grades. If a reading level is listed, your child should be at least in a “B” by now…heading for a C or D in June. If it’s not listed, now would be a good time to ask what level your child is on.

Socially, your child should, again, be all S’s. I feel this development is equal to academics in Kindergarten. Your child is learning the basic skills that will set him/her up for life. A number of districts have implemented SEL (Social Emotional Learning) development for their students to foster this. Take a good look at your child’s report.

If all is well….congratulations! You can rest easy tonight knowing your child is on the right track. Keep doing what you are doing at home to encourage him/her.  🙂  And if there are problems (in the form of “U”…”Unsatisfactory”)? Get in touch with your child’s number one school person…..his/her teacher. No teacher is going to be upset with you if you question what you can do to help your child either academically or socially. We actually hope parents will take note of weak areas now and will gladly work with you to help your child to overcome them. That’s part of the reason for report cards.

A quick note here….Some areas on your child’s report card may be marked as “Developing”. That’s tricky. Sometimes it means that it’s a skill that the class is not expected to master until the end of the year. But sometimes it’s a nice way of saying your son/daughter is below level in that area, especially if it is a social skill. If you aren’t sure, check with the teacher. It could be absolutely nothing or it could be an indication of a possible problem. So, find out!

Good luck with report cards! Hopefully, everything is fine and your little student is moving right along. Happy Spring!

Take Care.  🙂

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March

Post 53

I’ve mentioned before that March in Kindergarten is a time of great academic growth. This is the time of year that it all comes together. All the drill on high frequency words, all the coaching on how to write, use capital letters, leave “finger spaces” between words, all those guided reading lessons, all the Math practice…it all suddenly seems to gel. It is amazing to see students who, at the beginning of the year, couldn’t manage to walk down the hall in a line, become self assured and able to take control of their work and excel at it.

Of course, this happens in different amounts for each child. The point is, it does happen. As a teacher, it is so exciting to see the children become more independent and able to take charge of their own work. They also become very proud of what they can accomplish. And that pushes them to try harder and accomplish more…sort of a domino effect.

So, how can you encourage and support your child at home? There are a few ways. Give your child a little more responsibility that uses his/her emerging skills. For example, have your child write a thank you note, make and number a list when you are going shopping, read to you or another family member, keep a journal where he/she draws a picture and writes 1-2 full sentences about it. Children sense when something is made up busy work. So make it a real task. This is called authentic learning because it is.

That doesn’t mean you need to change the routines that you have worked so hard to establish with your Kindergartener. Keep up with things like daily reading and doing homework at a specific time. Just see if there are ways to put more responsibility into them. (A quick side note….I recently had a question about reading to a child who is able to read well. Reading together should be a pleasure. If your child prefers to have you read to him/her so that he/she can enjoy the story, do it! There’s nothing wrong with the two of you enjoying a story together just because your boy/girl can now read. If you are really worried, have your child read the high frequency words when you come upon them.)

Enjoy this time of growth with your child. Rejoice in his/her accomplishments. Your Kindergartener has worked hard to achieve them. And so have you!

Take Care. 🙂

 

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Winter Doldrums

Post 52

As I’m writing this, snow is falling. Beautiful? Sure! Snow days? Great! Tired of winter? Absolutely!!! And not just you, your child is, too. At this point, at least in the Northeast, we’ve all had it and can’t wait for Spring.

In school, teachers try combat this by introducing themes that are exciting for the children. I usually rely on dinosaurs to liven things up. 🙂 By now, the class is able to read at least a bit. So they are able to enjoy dinosaur books and even look facts up. This is also a great introduction to nonfiction for five year olds. Science is always changing and dinosaurs are no different. There is always something new being discovered about them. (Did you know they were bright colors and probably had feathers and/or fur?!) We often look things up on the computer and I make sure to have lots of different dinosaur books for the children to reference. Add to that dinosaur projects and toys and the fact that we can’t go out at lunchtime doesn’t seem so awful.

But what about at home? Your child comes bouncing in after school loaded with energy and he/she is stuck inside. So maybe try the same thing. This is a great time to help your child become an “expert” on a subject that interests him/her. Start by brainstorming things your child would like to know more about. Then take a trip to the Library or bookstore (gets him/her out of the house away from TV and devices) and load up on fiction and nonfiction books about his/her topic. Your child might even have toys that he/she can rediscover on his/her subject. From there you (or your son/daughter) can find craft projects online that relate to it. The trick is once your five year old is excited about a topic, let him/her lead the way. If he/she is crafty, go that route. If books excite him/her, get lots of them. If the best thing for your son/daughter is toys, see if he/she can adapt some he/she already has to help explore the chosen topic. Then let your son/daughter tell everyone about his/her “discoveries” at dinner or on a visit to grandma’s. You can even expand this to making a book or poster on the subject.

I’ve mentioned before that March is the month that I frequently see the most growth academically in school. All that the students have been learning suddenly comes together and they frequently surprise even themselves with what they can do. So don’t think that your child might not like to explore a topic that interests him/her at home. Your little one might just surprise you! (And make sure to let his/her teacher know!)

Take care.  🙂

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Reading in Kindergarten

Post 51

Reading in Kindergarten…. books have been written about it and whole courses have been taught on it. I have even posted about it previously (post 21…Reading Levels). Learning to read is one of the most important things your child will do academically this year. But I’d like to address another aspect of reading….love of reading.

All children will learn to decode (be able to “figure out” an unknown word) at some point. But developing a love of the printed word is something else. Each child is different. Some seem to be born with a love of books and absolutely relish them. They are the children who can get lost in the pictures and words of a story. They are also the ones who can’t wait to go to the library and take out tons of books. If your child is like this, thank your lucky stars. It makes academic life so much easier!

But each child is different. And that’s ok. In fact, it’s better than ok. It’s good! Some children don’t enjoy a story. They want to read to acquire knowledge or to learn facts. These are the children who read to find out how to build something or to care for a puppy. They want to learn about dinosaurs or the solar system. They are the ones for whom nonfiction books are written! But, for some reason, this isn’t always seen as “real reading”. I can remember being that type of reader and feeling I wasn’t as good as my friends who could curl up and read a storybook for hours. But, you know what…it’s fine. Reading of any sort is valuable. As teachers, we try to use all kinds of books, fiction and nonfiction. When we design lessons around a theme, we try to include story and fact filled literature. And, actually, that’s good for all readers. They are exposed to different varieties of books and often find new ones they like.

So what do you do if your child is lukewarm about reading? That may just be his/her make up. But if you can find a type of reading that is fun for your Kindergartener, it will really make learning to read easier for him/her. Start with storybooks about a topic your child is into. Take dinosaurs, for example. Danny and the Dinosaur is a classic most five year olds enjoy. Follow with fact filled books about dinosaurs. There are tons of those out there and they keep changing as new discoveries are made. You might also expose your child to magazines like “Ranger Rick” that contain a combination of fiction and nonfiction. And what about comic books, and as your boy/girl gets older, graphic novels? I had a student who really felt bogged down reading books, magazines, etc. But when he discovered comic books, it all changed! He started to read by choice because he enjoyed it. It was wonderful to see!  🙂

The big thing to remember is that each child is different. What inspires one may be a big bore to another. Try not to compare your child to another (even to a sibling). I know it’s hard not to but each one is unique in his/her own way and that includes what he/she likes to read!

Take Care.  🙂

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Progress Reports

Post 51

This is the month of Progress Reports. They usually come out in February at some point. Depending on your child’s school district, they may or may not be accompanied by a meeting with your Kindergartener’s teacher. How important are they? Since they give you an overview of how your child is doing in school both academically and socially, I’d say very!

So, what should you expect? Most Progress Reports are in an envelope that comes home in your child’s folder (unless they are handed to you at a teacher meeting). Often you may need to sign something to show that you received it. (One child tried to forge her mom’s name and did a pretty good job….except that it was in purple crayon!  🙂 ) They are usually a single sheet with categories such as ELA (reading, writing), Math Skills, Social Studies, Science, Fine Motor Skills, Library, Physical Education, Art, Music, and the “biggies” Social Skills, and Work Habits. Grades are usually one letter such as S (satisfactory or secure), D (developing), B (beginning or below grade level), NA (not assessed at this time), N (not meeting the state standards), U (unsatisfactory). These are a few but be sure that the first thing you do is to read the Legend which explains exactly what each letter means. There is also a place for Attendance which will list days absent and times tardy. Frequently there is a spot for comments which, depending again on the district, may or may not be filled out. (Here, if it is at the teachers discretion and there is nothing written but your child is doing well, relax. It’s very possible that only children who have academic or social issues are commented on.) It always seems amazing to me that a whole half year’s worth of growth can be put on one sheet of paper. So, yes, I’d say it’s important!

When should you get upset? When should you be proud? If your child has all S’s (or higher) academically and socially, be proud! That means your little one has adjusted well to Kindergarten and is moving along as he/she should be. Yay!!! But if there are areas of struggle, either academic or social, contact the teacher if you have not already done so. This is the time to get to the bottom of the problem. Don’t wait until the next Progress Report to see if things have gotten better! If nothing is done, they won’t. And the best person to outline what is really wrong and to make suggestions for improvement is your child’s teacher. Call, write, or set up an appointment. Go to it with a list of questions and be ready to listen to the answers. Implement any of the interventions you feel appropriate and stay in contact with the teacher. Keep on top of it and check if improvement is noted in school. Hopefully, by the time the next report is sent home, your child will be showing progress.

Just for understanding….in some areas most of the children will be “developing”. If your child receives that for a grade, clarify with the teacher if that is where most of the class is or is that something specific to your child that you should be concerned about. Also, some teachers believe in keeping the first report on the low side so that the students have room for improvement. (I, personally, don’t subscribe to this. I believe a child should get what he/she earns regardless of the semester.)

In conclusion, Progress Reports are a first mirror of how your child  is doing in school. Take them seriously and take the time to really read and digest them. (For more on this topic, check out Post 25 Report Cards.)

Take Care  🙂

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Mid Year Check In

Post 50

It’s hard to believe but your little one (and you) are almost halfway through Kindergarten! Where has the time gone? Take a moment to congratulate yourself on helping him/her navigate the rough waters of beginning academia. Whether it’s been smooth or rough sailing you both have gotten this far. Nice!

So, what’s ahead? What should you expect to happen over the next five months? That is the time that most academic growth takes place. Kindergarteners are used to the routines, have settled in socially, and feel comfortable with the teacher. They are very receptive to learning and enjoy most lessons. Reading and Writing are still the primary focus. Second is Math. Social Studies and Science are  usually worked into a theme lesson.

In ELA, your child will be progressing steadily by reading more challenging trade books and teacher-made books. He/she will be learning more sight words. When reading aloud, your child will be told to stop at the period and take a breath. His/her reading should become more fluid and less choppy. He/she will be able to sound out unknown words. Digraphs such as  “sh”,”ch”, “th”,etc. will be introduced and used in reading. Silent “e” and the fact that it “makes the vowel say its name” will be an important concept.  Your Kindergartener will be writing on a daily basis in a journal. He/she will be expected to start using vowels and spelling the words he/she is writing correctly (as opposed to phonetic writing). Letters should be formed correctly. The use of punctuation such as periods and commas will be encouraged as will the proper use of capital letters for names and at the beginning of a sentence. Your child will be expected to add more details to the pictures in those journals. For example, figures will evolve from a circle with arms and legs stuck on to stickish figures to people with two eyes, a nose, mouth, and some sort of clothes. Backgrounds such as a sky, sun, trees, and grass will be encouraged. Other types of writing such as writing a nonfiction (“real”) or fiction (“made up”) story with a beginning, middle, and end will be introduced. Your Kindergartener will be told to add “words that help me see your story” (adjectives) to his/her writing. It is so much fun to read what your child writes. Be prepared to be surprised and proud!

Math used to be counting 1-20, patterns, shapes, ordinal numbers (first, second,etc.), placement such as….in front of, in back of, bigger, smaller, less, more, etc. Just as in the other grades, Math has been broadened and Kindergarteners are now expected to do basic addition and subtraction. That includes being able to understand the concept of using different combinations to get the same number (such as 1+3=4; 2+2=4; 3+1=4; 4+0=4; 0+4=4) The concept of zero is taught. All of this is demonstrated in a lot of lessons in school so expect to see homework of some sort on it. By June, your child should  be able to recognize the numbers to 100 and to count to 100 by 1’s, 10′, 5’s, and 2’s (often called “skip counting”). Basic graphing skills are also part of the Math program. Kindergarten Math is now easily what First Grade was five years ago.

When I said that Social Studies and Science were usually worked into themes, that’s true. But it really depends on your district. I have seen a number of Science programs come and go in Kindergarten but they all seem to have a health component…washing hands, germs, etc. Popular science themes for winter and spring are cold weather, mittens, snow, snowmen, winter animals, insects, nursery rhymes, space, plants, seeds, and more. Weather is usually taught on a daily basis.

Social Studies tends to be the months, seasons, days of the week, holidays, diversity and likeness, along with other topics mandated by the district.

So, that’s an overview of what the next five months will bring. Again, all Kindergartens are not the same, all districts are not the same, so it will vary. And, remember, it happens over five months! Your child may be barely reading on an A level right now but the growth (especially in March, for some reason) is amazing. Just keep encouraging your Kindergartener in all his/her schoolwork. Five (almost 6) year olds want to please and love praise. And you are his/her most important cheerleader!

Take Care.  🙂

Sometime soon, I’d like to post about the social aspects of Kindergarten. If you have any thoughts feel free to post in the comments, IM me, or send a private email to pdunn23@optonline.net. Just put Kindergarten23 in the subject line.  🙂

 

 

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children, children's fears, Children's Illness, illness, Kindergarten, kindergarten sickness, parents

Illness

Post 49

‘Tis the season of colds, flu, etc. It’s also the season of,”Do I send my child to school? Is he/she sick enough to stay home? Should he/she try to go and feel better? And so on and so on…….. Unfortunately, children in Kindergarten seem to get sick quite a bit. When you think of it, it’s often the first time they have been exposed to germs on a continuous basis in a public setting so it makes sense. Preschool is usually a smaller environment as is daycare so there are less chances of exposure. I have to laugh when people say they are building up immunities. Of course, they are. But try to tell that to a child who is throwing up all over the living room rug! It doesn’t really help!!

As a parent, it’s up to you to decide when to keep your child home. You don’t want him/her to get sicker but you also don’t want him/her to miss a lot of school. (And that’s not even factoring in home coverage if you are working.) What to do?

As a general rule, if you are able, I would advise keeping your child home. You know your own child best and can tell if he/she is really sick. What’s the worst that will happen? He/she will get an extra day of rest and one on one time with you. Also, it may very well keep your child from catching something more if his/her immunity is down. Of course, that’s the best case scenario. A lot of parents don’t have that luxury. Keeping a child home from school often means a frantic search in the early morning for someone to stay in the house with your child. And it can be very frustrating when it turns out to be “just a cold”. But consider how much harder it would be to get that call from the school nurse and you have to leave work to pick up your son/daughter. All you can do is your best. Have a plan in place for illnesses, someone who can step in, if possible, and go with it.

In school, we teachers try to keep the room as germ free as possible. We are always wiping things down. Custodians clean every day after school. Frequently, we are told we can’t use things like Clorox Wipes and Lysol because of exposing the children to chemicals. That’s why Kindergarten teachers ask for donations of tissues, baby wipes for hands, liquid soap, etc. One of the first lessons I teach in September is how to “cough or sneeze into your elbow.” (As an aside, there’s great demo where you mix a little glitter into hand soap and then “sneeze” into your hands. The glitter soap is your sneeze. The glitter represents germs. You then shake hands with all the children. Of course, the glitter is spread around the class. It’s a really good motivation to wash hands after sneezing!) Washing hands is so important! I personally think it’s one of the best ways to stop the spread of germs.

If your child is sent home ill, please keep him/her at home for at least 24 hours. I know it can be frustrating if your child seems to get better quickly but there was a reason or the nurse wouldn’t have called you. And consider the other children in the class. They don’t need to be exposed to whatever your child is getting over. Not to mention, your child may get a repeat illness if he/she goes back to school too quickly. (In my school, the nurse calls and insists a child be picked up if it’s under the 24 hour rule.)

How worried should you be if your Kindergartener misses school? If it’s a day or two, not too much. Kindergarten teachers are very adept at making sure children stay caught up with lessons. He/she may send home makeup work with your child. Make sure your son/daughter does it and he/she will be fine. You can usually take a few days on that. If your child misses a longer period of time, call the school or email the teacher. See if you can pick up missed work or have another student (sibling, neighbor) bring it home to you. That way, your child can begin to catch up on work as he/she starts to feel better. That serves two purposes…..he/she won’t be as far behind and it helps with boredom! (It also helps get a child mentally prepared to go back to school.)

Finally, when your child is healthy enough to go back to school, send him/her back with a smile! Children will often build up in their minds that they’ve missed so much they won’t do well or their friends won’t play with them, etc. If your little one seems super anxious, let the teacher know. We try to give extra TLC to children who are worried and it certainly can’t hurt. Think about it. If you haven’t seen a friend for awhile, it can seem awkward initially. Children feel the same way. And always write a note explaining your child’s absence.

But let’s hope your child stays healthy!

Take Care.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Your Kindergartener Tells You Something Upsetting

Post 48

I always include the following suggestion to families at Back to School Night in September…..”I’ll believe half of what your children tell me about you if you believe half of what they tell you about me.” I can’t take credit for it. This came from a (very wise) teacher my children had when they were in school. And it’s so true. We briefly touched on this in September when we talked about taking a deep breath if your child came home and said he/she was “in trouble”. At that time, my advice was to try to get the real story of what happened before you got upset. That’s still true.

But what do you do when it’s not the teacher but another child who is saying questionable things your son/daughter tells you? It can be anything from, “My mommy won’t let you come over to my house” to one I’ve heard recently, “I had a stepbrother but my stepdad killed him.” This particular statement was followed by, “I have a button which turns me into a superhero,” as the child then “flew” away on the playground. Funny…… or is it? That’s the problem. As adults, when should we take children’s statements seriously?  And when should they be ignored? In my opinion, we should always really listen and treat a child’s words with the respect that we would an older person making the same announcement. Usually there is some truth in what a child tells you. You just need to determine how much. (I once had a child declare during Show and Tell that, “Mommy is mad at Daddy because he’s sleeping with somebody else and my dog died”. Both statements were very true but, obviously, the first was not meant to be shared. ) Children are inherently truthful. So the first thing you need to do is try to figure out how much truth is in what your child is telling you.

In the three quotations above, it’s clear we can skip over the superhero one as just fun.  But what about the other two? According to the first one, some child’s mom won’t let yours come over for a playdate. How do you handle that? Is it because of something your child has done? Is the other child just being “mean”? Or, just maybe, the mom said that meaning today wasn’t a good day? Or maybe she didn’t say it at all. As always, try to get as much information about the circumstances and what was going on when your son/daughter was talking to the other child. Were they playing on the playground, was it in the classroom, had they just had a fight, was it a doll “talking”? I find so many things a Kindergartener thinks is true need to be taken with a grain of salt, as the saying goes. I’ve found children really do believe what they say. They’re not trying to mislead anyone. And usually, if they tell you something, they are bothered by it. But it’s really important to find out the circumstances as much as you can before getting upset. In this case, I would bring it up to the other mom, if you know her well. I would ask her, in a nice way, if she has any objection to your children playing together and take it from there. I know that can be tricky so another approach might be to invite the other child over for a playdate. That way you can watch the interaction between your son/daughter and his/her friend. Also, if the other mom agrees to it, you can be pretty sure things are all right and she was misquoted. All this assumes the child who made the remark is someone your child wants to get to know better. if not, let the comment go and move on.

What about that second remark? Did someone really kill or hurt someone else? As parents and educators, we take talk of killing very seriously. We should. And if your child is telling you something like that, he/she does, too. This one is tricky. Again, find out as much as you can….what were the circumstances, what was said before, after? If it continues to bother you, or your child, I would encourage you to discreetly bring it up with the teacher. Teachers have background knowledge about the children in our classes and can usually tell if something is said for effect or has some truth in it. In this particular case, I would try to speak rather than write to the teacher. Emails, notes, letters can be misinterpreted. Also, I don’t think I would want to put something like that in writing in case it got “lost”. Lots to think about.

Ultimately, take what your child tells you another has said seriously but within reason. Even if you know it’s not true, don’t just dismiss your child’s worries. Take the time to explain the situation to him/her. Children often continue to dwell on things if they are not cleared up. Your child is your first priority. And that’s as it should be.  🙂

Any thoughts?

 

Take Care.

 

 

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children, homework, Kindergarten, kindergarten books, kindergarten reading, Literacy, new school year, parents, school, Writing

Restarting

Post 47

And, we’re back! I hope all of you had a happy holiday break with your wonderful children. Kindergarteners are really a special group. Everything is new and exciting…and, I know, exhausting.  🙂   But, looking back over the last two-three weeks, wasn’t it fun?

January is universally a time for a new start. We make resolutions and try to follow through. The same is true in the classroom. Teachers come back recharged, ready to really……teach. After the craziness of December, January is a relatively calm time. Projects in Kindergarten can center around learning  (versus the gifts of December). The children can concentrate on their work and how they are doing academically. A lot of growth takes place during the winter. By now, routines are accepted and even welcomed, the class knows they are there to learn as well as have fun, they are starting to see how they are improving and are beginning to take pride in that. It’s really a lovely time to be a teacher. We can dig in and get those reading levels up, help the boys and girls use their Math skills to really accomplish something (think adding, subtracting, measuring, counting to 100, etc.), start to have class discusssions about topics that interest them, and much more.

And let’s not forget socialization. Children who were tentative in September usually have found their niche by January. The class has basically learned that they don’t have to like everybody the same way but they do have to treat everybody kindly. Friendships have been made and children actually look forward to seeing each other on a daily basis. (I’m not saying January is Utopia. Lol. But the basics for a harmonious environment are there.)

So, what can you do to foster your child’s learning this month? At some point, make it a priority to find out at what level your child is reading. Most of the class will probably be in a B reader by now. If your child is at a higher level, that’s great! If he/she is lower, that’s ok, too. Just be aware that most schools feel children should be reading on a C/D level by June, with the goal being D. This is the perfect time to go to the Library and take out books on your child’s level along with a few at the next level up. Spend maybe 20 minutes or so a day (when you can) having your child read them to you. Make sure he/she is “finger reading” (finger under the words) on an A or B level, looks at the pictures before reading (they are there to support the content and, no, that’s not “cheating”), and is stopping at the periods. Another tip is to make sure your child can recognize high frequency words (we call them “popcorn words” because they “pop up” all the time when reading.) There are 25 that are basic for all Kindergarteners. (I am including a list of them at the end of this blog.) Of course, your child will be working on more in school. If your son/daughter doesn’t recognize them, make flash cards and play a card game with them. Put known ones in a pile and unknown ones in another. Have your child take 5 from the known pile and 2 from the unknown. Turn them over one at a time and help him/her read them. As a word becomes known, put it in the other pile and add another unknown word. I have found adding about 2-3 words a day works well and is not overwhelming. Make sure to review words at the beginning and end of each session.

Your child is probably keeping a journal of some sort in school. Why not give him/her one to write in at home? In Kindergarten, we stress that “words and pictures go together” by having students write a sentence and then illustrate it. Your child can do the same in his/her home journal. He/she can write about something happening, make up a story, make a list, etc. Just be sure that the picture goes with the words. And this can be done “on the go” in the car, at a sibling’s basketball game, wherever. Also, be sure to have your child show this to his/her teacher. We love to see work from home that is complimenting what we are doing in the classroom. The same goes for any books your child can really read. I try to have a child who brings in something like that show it to the class. It encourages the child and inspires other children to do the same. That’s a win-win as I see it.

All in all, this should be a good month for you and your child. Enjoy the relative calm and let me know if you have any topics you would like addressed. Remember, if you have a concern, someone else in this group does, too. Nothing is to big or too small for us to discuss.

Take Care.  🙂

Kindergarten High Frequency Words

a, am, an, and, at, can, do, go, he, I, in, is, it, like, me, my, no, on, see, so, the, to, up, you, we, child’s name

Extra (but important)

color words, some number words

 

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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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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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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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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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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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