Sunday, 20 November 2016

Part 5: The Four Frames: Demonstrating Literacy and Mathematics Behaviours



The Kindergarten Program 2016: Unpacking the Front Matter - A Six Part Series

Part 5: The Four Frames: Demonstrating Literacy and Mathematics Behaviours



Welcome to Part 5 of my six part series, Unpacking the Front Matter of The Kindergarten Program 2016.

If you missed any of the other posts, you can read them here!
Part 5: The Four Frames: Demonstrating Literacy and Mathematics Behaviours


We are almost at the end, just one more after this! So let’s grab our Kindergarten Program 2016 (HERE) and get started on this second last post of the series.

I apologize in advance for the length of this post, this is an enormous section with A LOT of information to unpack.

You can find this section in the document on pages 64-86) Here we go!

The Frame: Developing Literacy and Mathematics Behaviours


TKP 2016, p. 64
 
This frame is where you will find many of the expectations from the old Language, Mathematics and The Arts learning areas from the draft document. This is an interesting section because it is focusing on two majors areas of learning and has put them together (no wonder the boxes on the Communication of Learning are so large!) When it comes time for reporting it will be easier than you think to fill the box.

What is really nice, is that The Arts are now included as Literacy and Mathematics behaviours. This was never really acknowledged so openly in the draft document.

What are Literacy Behaviours?


TKP 2016, p. 64
 
Literacy Behaviours is a really (massively) broad category, so that means that our traditional view of literacy has to be rethought… it is more than just being able to read and write.

“Thinking about literacy in the broadest possible way is therefore critical to helping children develop their ability to understand and communicate – for example, the ability to understand verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication (including emotional, social and physical cues); to think critically about what they see, hear and read; and to express themselves by using language in a variety of creative ventures.” (TKP 2016, 65)

There is a list of 29 examples of what literacy behaviours might look like for a child in Kindergarten on p. 66-67 of the program document. The list of literacy behaviours ranges from questioning, listening to stories, engaging in pretend play, graphically representing through the arts, using specialized vocabulary leaving spaces between words and developing a sense of voice etc.

This list will be very handy when it comes to identifying key learning for the Communication of Learning. I plan on keeping this close when it comes time to choosing examples for the report.



 
TKP 2016, p. 66-67

Supporting Literacy Behaviours 


As we all know, not all children come to Kindergarten with the same experiences or the same exposure to literacy. 

This means that you may have a child who enters Kindergarten knowing how to spell their own name and can identify all of the letters and sounds in the alphabet... or you might have a child who enters Kindergarten not recognizing their own name and not being able to distinguish between a letter and a number. 

What this means is that we have to support the children we have... where they are. Remember, the major theme of this program document is shifting to an "asset lens" so we have to focus not on what they can't do... but on what they can do.

So for that second child I just described, we now have to view this child not for what they can't do, but for what they CAN do instead. Maybe this child can recognize their name in another language? Maybe this child can draw pictures of the people in their family to communicate how many sisters or brothers they have? 

"In any case, it is essential for Kindergarten programs to build on the knowledge and experiences that children already have when they come to school. It is also essential to keep in mind that children come to school with vastly different experiences and kinds of exposure to literacy. All young children need learning experiences that help them understand the world around them and enable them to develop their ability to communicate." (TKP 2016, p. 68)

There are two main ways that the document suggests to support learners with literacy development, the first is through their families and the second is through the concept of 'Literacy Learning Throughout The Day'.

Parents and Families as Literacy Teachers


TKP 2016, p. 68

One suggestion from the document to include families is that you could share the information from the Ministry to help support parents and families with literacy at home. 

If you view the program document online then you can click the link at the bottom of page 68 to be directed to the Ministry document "Reading and Writing With Your Child, Kindergarten to Grade 6 -  A Parent Guide" in English in a PDF format... or you can click HERE to access the document in 13 different languages. 

TKP 2016, p. 69



The document stresses the importance of encouraging families to support their child's literacy in their first language at home. Having just completed parent-teacher interviews with my families, this was a heavy focus for us as a means to build stronger relationships with our families, but also as a way to help our families understand the critical role that first languages play in the development of literacy behaviors.


In the past I have invited families to join us to help translate classroom materials, to help us to write dual language books and as experts in their fields. This provided my class with the opportunity to engage in meaningful, relevant experiences with their first languages as well as giving parents an opportunity to see the benefits first hand.

Here are just 2 of the 7 reasons that the program document provides for why we need to be advocating for rich first language opportunities for our children.

TKP 2016, p. 69
You can read the rest of the reasons on page 69 and 70 in the document!

Literacy Learning Throughout the Day


TKP 2016, p. 71

One of the big changes that was made to Kindergarten with the roll out of FDK... and now reinforced by The Kindergarten Program 2016, is the idea that we are no longer providing literacy instruction only during a literacy block. This has been a shift for some Kindergarten teachers... and a shift for all teachers coming from a different grade where the day is segmented into different blocks based on curriculum areas. 

The rearrangement of expectations and even the new format of the reporting system (Communication of Learning) all support the idea that literacy experiences happen throughout the day, in all areas of the room.... at all times. 

Does this mean that we don't have short direct instruction in literacy behaviours? No. 

It means that we are not only providing writing and reading opportunities during this time, these opportunities are always available.

How do we do this? The document provides 11 examples of ways to engage in literacy throughout the day, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. 

TKP 2016, p. 71

Worksheets and Pre-Cut Arts and Crafts


When it comes to providing opportunities to children in Kindergarten to develop literacy behaviours, the document is very clear on one subject that causes a lot of debate: worksheets

TKP 2016, p. 72
This topic is one that always gets teacher fired up because it has long been supported that worksheets are a good way for students to practice skills. 

But I ask, in a program where they are already practicing multiple skills and exploring and learning about literacy through play... is there really time for prescribed activities like worksheets? 

For further reading about this topic, you can click HERE to read  "The Worksheet Dilemma: Benefits of Play-Based Curricula" by Sue Grossman.

And while we are on the subject of prescribed activities... 

TKP 2016, p. 52
Now that art is recognized as being a means of communication and a literacy behaviour, it is more important than ever to read this section of the program document. The document has suggested that just like worksheets, generic pre-cut art activities should be avoided. 

If we are providing pre-cuts to be assembled in one way that is 'right', how are we providing art as a means of expression, as a language, as a form of communication, as a literacy behaviour?

For further reading on this topic, I encourage you to check out Diane Kashin's blog HERE for her article "Cut Out the Pre-Cuts: The Trouble With Themes in Early Childhood Education".

Remember, with this new program we need to be constantly rethinking, removing and repeating. If you are using worksheets (even if it is laminated to be used by many children, it is still a worksheet) and pre-cut arts and crafts, what aspects of this practice can you rethink? What can you remove? Is it worth repeating? Why?

Let's move on.

What are Mathematics Behaviours? 


TKP 2016, p. 75



The message about mathematics in Kindergarten is pretty much the same as the message about literacy in Kindergarten. The biggest take away from this section though, is the following  excerpt from the document. Notice how many research papers (eight!!!) have been cited to support the claim that they are making. 

TKP 2016, p. 75
As was suggested in the literacy behaviours section, yes we must be providing opportunities for children to learn through play. They must have the freedom to explore and research, but there has to be short opportunities for direct instruction. As I mentioned, this doesn't mean that math only happens during a math block... this just means that while children are engaged in math opportunities throughout the day, there has to also be a little more structure.

Parents and Families as Math Teachers


The math section also stresses the importance of parents and families as having a vital role in children's development of mathematics behaviors. Just as with literacy, children come to school having differing levels of background knowledge and experience with mathematics. This could range from counting the number of siblings they have, to recognizing numbers, to knowing how old they are or whether or not they are taller than a friend. 

The document provides a list of ways that we as educators can help the families and parents of our children to provide rich math experiences that connect home and school:

TKP 2016, p. 76

Development of Mathematics Behaviours


The program document spends a lot of time discussing the importance of developmentally appropriate math, learning trajectories and teaching complex mathematical skills that push children's learning. 

The document breaks developmental learning into the idea of Initially and Eventually when looking at math (this is important to see math learning in this way in order to recognize growth in learning for the Communication of Learning report).  

This then leads into a discussion of teaching math in the context of the 7 Mathematical Processes (these processes are important for mathematics learning in all subsequent math instruction in older grades). The Math Processes are:
  • Problem Solving
  • Reasoning and Proving
  • Reflecting
  • Selecting Tools and Strategies
  • Connecting
  • Representing
  • Communicating
The document then provides an example of  a rich math question that requires complex thinking from children, but is still developmentally appropriate.

This is a hugely important section of the document that requires a good read, it is on pages 76-80. I strongly encourage you to read this section if you haven't already. 

For further reading about math development and learning trajectories, you can click HERE for a link that opens a PDF file  of "Learning and Teaching Early Math: The Learning Trajectories Approach" by D.H. Clements and J. Samara (2014).

Mathematics Learning Throughout The Day


Just as with the literacy section, the program document is suggesting that a model of relevant, varied opportunities for children to engage with math throughout the day, in all areas of the classroom, is one that will have the most benefit for children's learning. 

The different math strands and concepts that children will learn in Kindergarten are all interconnected and overlap, so it is important to remember: just like math instruction doesn't happen in isolation, neither does instruction of different concepts. 

Here are some suggestions that the document gives for different ways to engage children in meaningful math experiences throughout the day:

TKP 2016, p. 83-84

A Reminder to Avoid Worksheets


The Ministry has taken a very firm stance on worksheets in the program document... such a firm stance in fact that it is mentioned again that worksheets are no longer considered best practice, this time in relation to math.

TKP 2016, p. 84


The document has clearly stated now that prescribed activities should be avoided in math, language and art.  

So I repeat.... 

Remember, with this new program we need to be constantly rethinking, removing and repeating. If you are using worksheets (even if it is laminated to be used by many children, it is still a worksheet) and pre-cut arts and crafts, what aspects of this practice can you rethink? What can you remove? Is it worth repeating? Why?


The Overall Expectations



TKP 2016, p. 181-182
The overall expectations, conceptual understandings (kind of like the big ideas) and the specific expectations can be found on pages 181-254. It is a massive section.

These pages are structured the same way as in the old draft version with:
1. Overall Expectation
2. Conceptual Understanding (big idea)
3. Specific Expectations

Children: Saying, Doing, Representing
Educators: Responding, Challenging, Extending

Going Forward

Thank you to all of my readers for your support as we work through this document together. There has been a lag in between part 4 and part 5 and I appreciate your  patience. I am preparing to facilitate my first Professional Development session this week and I couldn't be more excited!!!!

Anyway...


Check out Part 6 of the six part series! Part 6: The Four Frames: Problem Solving and Innovating.




Let's talk,



Shannon








Sunday, 16 October 2016

Part 4: The Four Frames: Self-Regulation and Well-Being


The Kindergarten Program 2016: Unpacking the Front Matter - A Six Part Series

Part 4: The Four Frames: Self-Regulation and Well-Being



Welcome to Part 4 of my six part series, Unpacking the Front Matter of The Kindergarten Program 2016.

If you missed any of the other posts, you can read them here!

Part 4: The Four Frames: Self-Regulation and Well-Being


Let’s once again grab our Kindergarten Program 2016 (HERE) and get started!

The Frame: Self-Regulation and Well-Being



TKP 2016, p. 54
 
This frame is where you will find many of the expectations from the old Personal and Social Development learning area as well as basically the entire Health and Physical Activity learn area from the draft version of the program document. Essentially, this frame is all about communication, social skills and movement as a way of self-regulating and developing a sense of well-being.

This frame is a very exciting addition to the program document because it discusses some incredibly important material that wasn’t really discussed deeply in the draft version (or at all). As you might be aware, there has been an enormous push in the last few years in education, in society really, to become more informed about mental health and to discuss it in order reduce/take away the stigma that is attached to mental health.

This section in the program document discusses openly the need for educators to be well informed and knowledgeable about issues of self-regulation, well-being and mental health in order for us to be able to best serve our children and our school community in general.


What is Self-Regulation?


There are a few of misconceptions about self-regulation and what exactly that means. So let’s start off with some clarification:

Self-Regulation is not the same thing as self-control.


TKP 2016, p. 57
 
So what is it then?

“Self-Reg is a powerful method for understanding stress and managing tension and energy.” (Shanker, Stuart. 2016. The MEHRIT Centre. https://self-reg.ca

“Children’s ability to self-regulate – to set limits for themselves and manage their own emotions, attention and behaviour...” (TKP 2016, p. 55)

Self-regulation is best described by Dr. Stuart Shanker’s six elements for “optimal self-regulation.” They give a good idea of what self-regulation means: 


TKP 2016, p. 54
 

Who is Dr. Stuart Shanker?


Dr. Stuart Shanker is a big deal. He is the most important person in the world of Self-Regulation right now. His work in the realm of Early Childhood Education and self-regualtion has had an unprecedented impact. 

Remember that family of documents I mentioned in the first post of this series? (if you haven't read it, check it out HERE ) He contributed an article titled 'Calm, Alert, Happy' in the Think, Feel, Act document. (You can read it HERE)

·      he is the founder and CEO of The MEHRIT Centre (a resource rich learning centre to teach children, teachers and parents about self-regulation)
·      he is a professor at York Univeristy
·      he is an author of 5 books  (you can find out more about his latest book, HERE)   
·      he has 5 degrees from U of T and Oxford
·      he is very active on Twitter (check it out HERE)
·      he (through The MEHRIT centre and with other thinkers and educators) has a blog (you can check it out HERE)
·      Bonus… he is Canadian!!
 (The MEHRIT Centre, 2016.  https://self-reg.ca/about-us-4/dr-stuart-shanker/)


Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life”, Penguin Random House Canada, 2016
 

For more information about Dr. Stuart Shanker you can visit his website HERE 

Why Self-Regulation?


Self-Regulation is an absolutely essential skill for young children (really for all people of all ages) to have. Specifically for children, “self-regulation is central to a child’s capacity to learn. It is ‘the cornerstone of development and a central building block of early learning’.” (TKP 2016, p. 54)

Not all children learn to self-regulate at the same time or in the same way, so we as educators need to be aware of this fact. “Being attuned to individual differences in children’s development of self-regulation… enables educators to establish the kind of nurturing relationships that strengthen children’s capacity for learning.” (TKP 2016, p. 56)

Sound familiar? This ties in very nicely with the Belonging and Contributing frame, emphasizing the diagram at the beginning of the document that shows how the Four Frames are interconnected. 


TKP 2016, p. 14

 

Developing Self-Regulation


“Some children will have begun to develop self-regulation skills before coming to Kindergarten, but many will not.” (TKP 2016, p. 56)

The program document suggests that there are 2 key things that educators can do to help develop self-regulation in children:
1. noticing and naming the learning of self-regulation
2. choice

As with all learning in Kindergarten, The Kindergarten Program 2016 has placed a lot of emphasis on the idea of noticing and naming the learning to help children identify their learning while they are exploring and playing. The same applies to self-regulation, “I noticed that you refocused. How did that help you?” (TKP 2016, p. 57)

The other pillar of The Kindergarten Program 2016 is choice. The topic of choice pops up in every section of the program (the word choice appears 65 times in the document). “Providing children with choice in the learning environment is a key to supporting their emerging ability to self-regulate. When children have access to a variety of materials, tools and spaces in the classroom, they gradually learn to select the ones that provide stimulation or a calming effect.” (TKP 2016, p. 57)


(TKP 2016, p. 57)
 
When helping children to develop their self-regulation skills, there are 5 domains, as described by Dr. Stuart Shanker in his book ‘Calm, Alert and Learning: Classroom Strategies for Self Regulation” (2013) that are outlined in the program document on pages 55 and 56. Here I have pulled one line of description from each of the domains, you can check out the rest of the description in the program document.

Biological: “can be described as the ability to attain, maintain, and change one’s level of energy to match the demands of a task or situation.” (TKP 2016, p. 55)

Emotional: “refers to the ability to monitor and modify intense emotional responses, feelings and mood.” (TKP 2016, p. 55)

Cognitive: “refers to the ability to monitor and modify behaviour related to mental processes such as memory, attention, the acquisition and retention of information and problem solving.” (TKP 2016, p. 55)

Social: “refers to the ability to recognize, understand, assess and act on social cues.” (TKP 2016, p. 55)

Prosocial: “refers to the ability to emphathize with others and to demonstrate behaviours that lead ‘towards positive social activities.’” (TKP 2016, p. 55)


TKP 2016, p. 56

What is Well-Being?


Well-Being is connected to self-regulation because having the ability to self-regulate is a determinant of developing a sense of well-being.

TKP 2016, p. 58
 
Other determinants of health and well-being in a classroom are the learning environment and the educators. “Educators play an important role in promoting children’s well-being by creating, fostering, and sustaining a learning environment that is healthy, caring, safe, inclusive and accepting.” (TKP 2016, p. 59)

“The World Health Organization declared… that health is a state of complete physical mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
 (TKP 2016, p. 59)

The World Health Organization identified several factors that can have a “significant influence on a persons health.” (TKP 2016, p. 59) While “children have little or no control over these factors, it is important to be aware of them as contributing elements in a child’s development and ability to learn.” (TKP 2016, p. 59)

Determinants of Health (TKP 2016, p. 59)

 

Developing Well-Being



TKP 2016, p. 60
 
As discussed, many of the factors that determine health and well-being are out of a child’s control, but there are still many things that we can do in classrooms to help children to develop overall well-being. The areas that can be developed are cognitive, emotional, social and physical (in many ways this mirrors the development of self-regulation).

The following diagram shows how these 4 areas are all connected through environment/context with “an enduring (yet changing) core – a sense of self, or spirit – that connects the different aspects of development and experience (TKP 2016, p. 59)


TKP 2016, p. 60
 
On pages 60 and 61 there is an in-depth look at the different ways that these four areas of development can be enhanced and built upon in classrooms. The main theme of these development areas are choice, student voice, growth mindset, inclusion and responsibility.  I encourage you to look at the suggestions in the program document for ideas of how you can help to develop a sense of well-being in your classroom.

Mental Health


“Mental health touches all components of development. Mental health is much more than the absence of mental illness.” (TKP 2016, p. 62)

Mental health is an extremely important section of the document, which makes me a little sad that it is only half of a page. I feel that maybe this part of the document should have been more robust, but really the discussion of self-regulation and well-being is a component of mental health… so I suppose technically there are 9 pages on the topic… but still.

Mental health used to be a dirty word that struck shame into the hearts of many people and many families. Thankfully, this is slowly starting to change with amazing public campaigns and with school programming that are starting conversations with children from a young age to reduce/get rid of the stigma that follows mental health.

“What happens at school can have a significant influence on a child’s well-being. With a broader awareness of mental health, educators can adopt instructional strategies that contribute to a supportive classroom climate for learning, build awareness of mental health, and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.”
(TKP 2016, p. 62)

The number one strategy that the document supports for building a supportive classroom climate is self-regulation.

“When educators allow children to self-regulate – to cope with stressors, and recover – they are enabling them to develop resilience, a powerful protective factor with respect to positive mental health and emotional well-being.”
(TKP 2016, p. 62)

If you haven’t had a chance yet to read any of Dr. Stuart Shanker’s work then I strongly recommend that you do. As is illustrated by this section in the program document, self-regulation is incredibly important (actually, self-regulation appears 129 times in the program document).

A child’s academic and social success, mental health and well-being are all connected with and dependent on the ability to self-regulate. This is not something we can ignore.


The Overall Expectations 



TKP 2016, p. 154
 
The overall expectations, conceptual understandings (kind of like the big ideas) and the specific expectations can be found on pages 154-180.

These pages are structured the same way as in the old draft version with:

1. Overall Expectation

2. Conceptual Understanding (big idea)

3. Specific Expectations
Children: Saying, Doing, Representing
Educators: Responding, Challenging, Extending


Going Forward



There is a fabulous list of indicators for developing well-being and a sense of self.  I encourage you to read them as they may be really helpful.


TKP 2016, p. 62
 
At the end of the section there are some really great reflective questions that may be helpful for considering how you are developing well-being in your classroom and with your families. 

 

TKP 2016, p. 63
 



Let’s talk,


Shannon