Friday, September 12, 2014

25 Ways To Ask Your Kids 'So How Was School Today?'

This is a great article!

25 Ways To Ask Your Kids 'So How Was School Today?' Without Asking Them 
'So How Was School Today?'
As my kids get older, I know I am going to have to work harder and harder to stay engaged with them -- but I know it's going to be worth the work....
1. What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)
2. Tell me something that made you laugh today.
3. If you could choose, who would you like to sit by in class? (Who would you NOT want to sit by in class? Why?)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Teachers on strike in British Columbia

The Vancouver School Board has quietly settled a multimillion-dollar lawsuit that raised questions about the role class size and composition — key issues in the ongoing teachers' strike — might have played in an incident that left a Grade 5 student brain damaged.

This is what happens in very large classes with special needs students. A child is not getting immediate help. The teacher doesn't know her students well. The article states that this large, heavily loaded class, had between 28 and 30 students, three had autism, and one or two had severe learning disabilities.

Class size, class composition and support for special needs students are the barriers to negotiations between teachers and the B.C. government. They tried to take this away in the past, yet teacher negotiate for a maximum class size in collective agreement, giving up higher pay in lieu.

The B.C. government has been charged and convicted of bad-faith bargaining.

The B.C. school board is compensating the parents, who now need day care, by sending them $40 per day per child. Some parents are donating the money to the union, some to individual teachers who consistently spend their own money topping up thin classroom budgets.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Full-day Kindergarten: an ill-thought out plan

My granddaughter's class has 33 children in a room that isn't big enough. There isn't enough room for the kids to all go to the cubbies at the same time. This will impact on the school day.

I wonder what the building code says. The kids don't all fit into the cubby area at one time. They'll have to get ready to go home in waves. I shudder to think about the stress of lockdown practices, or fire drills, when two adults usher 33 kids out the door in the minute and a half the fire marshalls require.

We cannot afford this type of day care. Nor is it the best plan for our 3 and -year-olds.
Day Care Centres are going to close.
The social and emotional pressures are high in crowded classrooms.

Here are the stats:

 Ontario has staked its reputation on the success of the program, even though critics have characterized it as an expensive form of government-subsidized daycare that the Liberals, facing a $12.5-billion deficit.

  • 640 kindergarten classrooms, or 8 %, had more than 30 children in the past academic year, 
  • One SK classroom at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board had 40 children. The board told The Globe that it ended up dividing the class. 
  • the government is spending more than $1.45-billion in capital costs to expand and retrofit schools, on top of millions in operating dollars.
Pre-school 'worksheets'
this is NOT learning
 In letters to ministry officials, parents described classrooms as “understaffed daycares,” “chaotic,” “overcrowded” and “hostile” environments for learning. One parent opted to put a child in a daycare kindergarten program, which has a lower student-teacher ratio (legislated at 1:8). Another parent kept her four-year-old daughter out of school.

This is art: doing a free drawing.
This is representation of an experience.
This is pre-reading: having a scribe to write your story.

Full steam ahead for full day kindergarten 

September 10, 2014 

The cost of all full day kindergarten projects for this implementation came to $4,100,332, which was a grant allocation from the Ontario Ministry of Education.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My questions about full-day kindergarten

Good old days 
I have written much on this topic. I am most concerned. When they instituted open-concept classrooms in the 70s, all were excited. Teachers were not well-prepared for it and they closed the walls up in the 80s. When they created Whole Language strategies for improving literacy (reading/writing skills), they failed to train staff properly. Not enough people asked questions and many jumped on the bandwagon. They adopted the train-the-trainer model, and teachers sent off for PD were expected to come back and train staff. It failed miserably, since they didn't teach to the very end, where phonics were most important for the at-risk learners. Then, they had to write books on encouraging boys to read.

Even in Day Care Centres, and in Nursery Schools, they limit the numbers of children in a
My 4-year-old granddaughter's class has 33 children. Granted, it is in a newly renovated room, with a fortune in new equipment, and kiddie washrooms, but this is just wrong.
SK class, lots of room for only 20 kids

Parents really need to be asking some questions.  

In my 25 years teaching, armed with a 4-year degree in Early Childhood Education, I found that few teachers were trained in being Kindergarten teachers. They are simply untrained for preschool education, which requires much inservice. They are trained to teach, not facilitate play-based learning. "Today, we are all going to try to print our names." (Which is traditionally left to later years.) Are we hurrying our children too much?

sand box
Read me a story
Too many JK/SK teachers force kids to do printing and other reading skills, and skip the pre-reading skills. The same is true for numeracy. This might be part of the problem with our kids in math. They laud discovery learning in elementary school (proven to be unsuccessful) but fail at this in the kindergarten years.

Day Nurseries Act limits group size

Ny questions for school boards and the Ministry of Education

  1. How many school have put portable in place in order to accommodate and retrofit full-day classrooms for JK/SK?
    free play in the kitchen
  2. What are the learning outcomes for FDK?
  3. What are the prerequisite qualifications for teachers of FDK?
  4. How many unqualified staff, i.e., part-time vice-principals, are teaching FDK?
  5. How many principals are familiar with Day Care and FDK Key Experiences, and appropriate ages and stages?
  6. How are teachers coping with toilet training, or are ECEs taking care of this issue?
  7. How often does bullying occur in FDK? 
  8. Are staff trained to recognize the signs of stress in preschoolers, e.g., regression in toileting behaviour, biting, lack of control, and anger management issues in young children?
  9. Why is it that FDK can violate the well-researched Day Nurseries Act, which applies to preschool-aged children (20 children per classroom)?
  10. How have they shown that having one teacher and one ECE in a classroom is justifiable according to good pedagogy? 
    role play
  11. Why are FDK classes funded based on a class size of 26 children, when many have far more than this?
  12. How well do FDK teachers work with ECE? Is there give and take? Is there respect? This is not always the case in many classes with, for example, Educational Assistants.
  13. How are FDK students nutritional needs being supervised? Day Care provides hot meals.
  14. What happens when FDK children become sick and there is a need for parents to leave work, and come and pick them up? We know preschoolers are germ factories. 
  15. Are children required to visit each learning centre or are they able to make their own choices?
  16. Can kids, who need to, take a nap? Many fall asleep on the bus ride home. 
  17. How can two staff manage 33 kids in a lockdown or a fire drill?
  18. These suggested schedule, see below (The Full-Day EarlyLearning–Kindergarten Program, 2010–11.), suggest that kids must be learning all day. Is this not overextending the children who need to just be?
  19. Are FDK staff prepared to do identify special needs children and accommodate accordingly?
  20. Are children attending assemblies?
    Principals do not understand
    preschool education strategies.
    This in one heck of a long day, even for me. I was usually in school form 7 a.m. until 3:30. That's all I could stand.
    learn, learn, learn from 7 - 9 a.m.
    learn, learn, learn from 3:30 -  6:00 p.m.
    A preschool is a complex child,
    who needs more than science and tech information

  1. Ministry Propaganda - not based in Early Childhood Standards

  2. Classes under the government's full-day kindergarten program differ from other primary classes by having two educators – one teacher and one early childhood educator – working side-by-side during the day in the classroom. Full-day kindergarten classes are funded based on an average of 26 students per class or a ratio of 13 students to an adult.
    Smaller Class Sizes - Ontario

    Feb 23, 2012 - In 2008-09, we reached our goal of all primary classes having 23 or fewer students and 90% ... Why not limit all primary classes to 20 students? 
  3. The Extended-Day Program – Full-Day Early Learning – Kindergarten Program (draft)

    The Full-Day Early Learning–Kindergarten program consists of six areas of 

    learning – Personal and Social Development, Language, Mathematics, Science and

    Technology, Health and Physical Activity, and the Arts. These areas of learning are
    based on five developmental domains – social, emotional, communication/language,
    cognitive, and physical. The “big ideas” given with the six areas of learning are
    the broad, important understandings that children should retain from their
    participation in the Full-Day Early Learning–Kindergarten program. The chart 
    on page 2 illustrates the relationship between the areas of learning, developmental
    domains, and big ideas. For details of the program, see The Full-Day Early

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Debate around Full-day Kindergarten still rages

Play-based learning is nothing new. Activity-based learning, discovery learning for math programs, all have shown some issues and an impact on students in later years. FDK isn't any new curriculum. It does duplicate the Primary years curriculum, and rather than focusing on pre-literacy and pre-numeracy, these kids are being whipped into shape, skipping many of the joys that can be had in open-concept, open-ended activity centres.

 They are learning routines, how to walk in a line, how to behave in an assembly of 200 kids, listening to bells go off every 40 minutes. These are the Key Experiences that kids should learn in JK/AK, not reading and writing.

Kindergarten teachers think this is a creative craft.
They all look the same., pre-cut butterflies.
Classification, seriation, representation, expressive and receptive language appropriate for their age
 and stages. Playing with hands-on activities, running, touching, playing with water, sand, cooking, listening to music, singing, making rhymes, cutting and pasting, role play. Even their art work all looks the same in JK/SK classrooms. It isn't open-ended, personal expressions. Teacher precut materials in order for the kids to all have a piece of art work that looks acceptable.
Grandkid's art

It's not so much that kids are 'mastering' gr. 1/2 curriculum. The likely problem is the JK and SK teachers are using gr. 1/2 curriculum in the JK/SK settings. I saw this with my own daughter, now 35 years old, who entered Kindergarten knowing how to read. She did endless worksheets where she circled all the things that were red.

Learning to read involves much pre-reading prep, and identification of letters and numbers. We didn't teach them to write their names until later in SK. These kids come to school, from families who work at this, already printing their names, doing art work, using scissors, and coloured pencils, rather than crayons.

My other issue with FDK is the size of the classes. My granddaughter is 4 and she is going into a class of 30 JK/AK students. Granted there is one teacher and two ECEs (to provide before and after-school care, as well) but what a zoo this will be. They don't know how they will cope. How do you do crowd control for a group of 30 kids? ECEs are used to having a Day Care ratio of 1:8.
Some of these kids aren't fully toilet trained. Some are still 3 years old, in a class with kids as old as 5. How does one encourage activty-based learning, free play, when they are going to have to monitor the numbers of kids in the activity centre, block centre, art centre, dress-up centre, book centre?
This massive experiment, in lieu of good day care, is having an impact on our wee ones. I fear for their generation.

Full-day kindergarten (FDK) impacts Grades 1, 2

Ontario kindergarten students are so ahead in their learning that it's prompting school boards to revisit the curriculum for subsequent grades. [Kristin Rushowy  ]

With the final phase of the full-day rollout happening this week, school boards say that over the past five years of implementation, they’ve had one big kinder surprise: teachers in Grades 1 and 2 now find their lessons no longer work for children steeped in play-based learning — kids who are more confident, ask more questions and who are used to setting the agenda in the classroom.
The Ontario government now plans to expand play- and inquiry-based learning throughout the elementary years as part of its new action plan.
Ontario Rolls Out FDK
Not all the full-day kindergarten classrooms are currently available, though the program is now fully rolled out, according to Ontario Education Minister Liz sandals. There are 265,000 kids enrolled this fall in the program for four- and five-year-olds at 3,600 schools. (CBC)
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