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!!!!


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

Let's talk,