We are very excited that our school has now launched it’s Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) program along with 33 other schools in our board. The FDK program is an important part of the Ministry of Education’s renewed vision for education across our province Achieving Excellence: A renewed Vision for Education in Ontario. It is also an important component of our board’s Early Years Strategy.
What is Full Day Kindergarten?
That question is fairly difficult to capture in a single blog post and likely will be something I revisit throughout the year here. To start off, we need to consider the Ministry of Education Kindergarten program. It is a comprehensive curriculum that our teachers and Designated Early Childhood Educators use to plan their programs collaboratively to cover six main focus areas:
- Personal and Social Development 50
- Language 68
- Mathematics 92
- Science and Technology 112
- Health and Physical Activity 128
- The Arts 140
Our teachers and DECEs partner together in incredible ways to offer children rich learning opportunities. Our students are guided through play based learning, inquiry and also opportunities for whole group instruction, small group guided lessons and independent learning opportunities. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with professionals in the FDK program for four years now at another school and concur with the latest research findings on the program. I want to congratulate our team of educators for a wonderful start to our school year and to our FDK program.
So, what does it look like?
Here are but a few examples of our work in our FDK program.
Last week, one of our DECEs Mrs. Fleischman was working with a small group of students in our school’s Artists’ Studio. The children had been exploring the concept of self portraits in art but also through talk. In the Artists’ Studio, the children began to explore portraiture by drawing Mrs. Fleischman on the whiteboard. It was incredible to watch the students draw, erase, draw again, think out loud while Mrs. Fleischman guided their talk through questions. In a short time, students had touched on many of the overall expectations of the Arts program, including:
– demonstrating an awareness of themselves as artists through engaging in activities in visual arts
– using problem-solving strategies when experimenting with the skills, materials, processes, and techniques used in visual arts both individually
and with others
– communicating their ideas through various visual art forms
When I dropped by Mrs. Jacob’s and Mrs. Miyazaki’s classroom I engaged in a fascinating conversation with students exploring patterns. Many of our classes are looking at patterns in mathematics now. The children used various materials to explore patterning and also encouraged me to do the same! We know that children young children have a conceptual understanding of mathematics and of mathematical thinking and reasoning. We foster this “Big Idea” through hands on, explorations that allow students to make their thinking visible. In a short time on the carpet, students demonstrated clearly to me the following expectation in mathematics to “explore, recognize, describe, and create patterns, using a variety of materials in different contexts”.
Down the hall in Mrs. Cresswell’s and Mrs. Walker’s class, I was intrigued to see a Senior Kindergarten student writing a great deal of text quickly. When I spoke with him, he shared that the DECE, Mrs. Walker had been sharing a poem on fall colours with a group of JK students. He loved the poem, and decided to write it out himself for display. The student demonstrated a number of skills including: “demonstrating an interest in writing” (I would argue a strong interest), “communicating in writing, using strategies that are appropriate for beginners”, “demonstrating an awareness that writing can convey ideas or messages”, “beginning to use classroom resources to support their writing” and finally “experimenting with a variety of simple writing forms for different purposes and in a variety of contexts”. A ton of expectations touched on in one task! Part of our challenge as educators is to document such learning and then assess student learning over time. In this case, the student provided a “product” of his thinking for educators to use to inform their overall assessment in the class. It is important to note that no single piece is ever used to “define” a child’s performance. Rather, our work is to assess over periods of time using a wide variety of our “observations of student learning”, “conservations with students in their learning” and “products of student learning” to get the most complete picture we can of how a child is progressing.
Three short visits to three separate classes over the course of last week provided a lot of evidence of the impact of the FDK program. Having visited all six of our classrooms several times now, I am amazed to see unique examples of the program happening each time I visit. These are just three, four and five year olds correct? Yes, indeed!
Our team has worked very hard in a short time to establish learning environments that engage learners, foster thinking and are fun places to be. This week, our wonderful team had the opportunity to meet with other schools starting FDK for the first time. Our professional dialogue and learning that day was rich. We look forward to continued learning as we implement Full Day Kindergarten at Robert Munsch P.S.