What If We All Took Some Lessons From Kindergarten?

Today, our Board was inservicing instructional coaches on the finalized Full-Day Kindergarten Program document. A friend of mine, Bill Forrester, is an instructional coach, and he mentioned me on many tweets from today. Bill asked a number of great questions, and while I tried to reply to some of them during my prep and nutrition breaks today, I realized that some answers require more than the 140 characters allowed by Twitter. I told Bill that I was going to blog about some of my thinking, and this post is a result of that promise. 

The first question that caught my attention was this one.


I think that are are many things that we can do to help with this.

  • Make math and literacy meaningful and purposeful. Help students see some real world connections to what they’re learning. Remember too that in many ways, their real world is the play that’s happening in the classroom. This real world learning may include creating signs to save structures, counting money collected (whether it be for Terry Fox, popcorn, or pizza), discussing topics that matter to them and building new vocabulary as a result of this, and reading facts about topics of interest.
  • Creating open-ended activities where all students have an entry point. It’s important to remember that there is a continuum of learning for math and literacy skills. If students feel as though what’s being expected of them is too challenging, they will stop seeing themselves as mathematicians, writers, readers, and communicators, and instead see themselves as failures. We need to create learning opportunities, where all students can show what they know. While our view of children is as “competent and capable,” they also need to see themselves this way. 
  • Celebrating successes. Students often need to feel successful in order to keep working and enjoying what they’re doing. We try to celebrate success with kind words of encouragement, specific examples to show how their skills have developed (e.g., “Last week, you were writing with just random letters. Now you’re using first sounds.”), and opportunities for students to highlight their own growth and feelings of accomplishment. Sometimes this happens as a full class, and sometimes this happens during a small group or one-to-one sharing time. It’s these kinds of experiences though that lead to students sharing what this child shared a few weeks ago.

  • Whenever possible, trying not to make literacy and math separate from other learning. We want students to see that all day long they can develop these skills. When literacy and math skills are developed/supported through play, students see the value in these skills because they can make more connections to why we’re using them. 
  • Looking beyond a level. This very topic came up when I blogged about levelled texts earlier in the month. If students only see themselves according to a level, they may not always feel positive about what they can do. This connects to my second point about honouring all students and providing meaningful play opportunities with multiple entry points. 

The second question that intrigued me was this one.


I happened to read this tweet shortly after I took these two photographs today.

A large part of co-constructing an environment with children is believing that students will tell us and show us what they need, and then we need to be responsive to what they say and do, even if this may be contrary to our initial plan. I’m thinking now about the changes that our classroom environment has undergone since September and the reasons behind these changes.

  • We moved a large table out of the dramatic play area to create a bigger writing/drawing table because students wanted more room to draw and write.
  • We pulled our sensory bin away from the wall and out into the middle of the floor because more students wanted (and needed) these sensory experiences.
  • We moved the big pillows away from the carpet because they were restricting the room on a small carpet, and students wanted more space to sit. 
  • We moved the light table into the dramatic play area because the students were not using it in the Book Nook area, but wanted a table space, for various purposes, in dramatic play.
  • We’ve sometimes created a second snack table because more students are hungry at the same time of the day, so this additional table provides more eating room. It’s flexible depending on hunger. 
  • We added a table for painting because there is so much interest in painting that a two-person easel does not provide enough room. 

These are just the big changes. Small changes — like the ones we pictured today — happen every day in the classroom.

I realize that these topics are being discussed because of the roll-out of the finalized Full-Day Kindergarten Program document, but I almost feel as though the questions asked here and the answers provided should be considered for every grade. What impact might this have on how students perceive school and how students perceive their own abilities? How might this impact on their attitude towards school? It was when I moved from primary to teaching Grades 5 and 6, that I finally realized (and appreciated) the value in play-based learning. I learned a lot from my Kindergarten PLN in these junior years. I can’t help but wonder if all of us couldn’t learn a little something from a “play-based Kindergarten model.” What do you think?


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