On May 2nd, the CHP Cooperative Community Support committee (thank you Rose Kob!) with the help of local Kindergarten teachers (thank you Carolyn Rivas and Lesley May!) and Kindergarten parents (thank you Pamela Herper and Kristin Brady) presented an evening to help our parents prepare for Kindergarten.
Here is the hand-out I contributed for the event.
Getting Ready for Kindergarten—Helpful Tips from Carol!
Kindergarten entrance time can be so scary…for grown-ups! We want the best for our children and when the Kindergarten process seems beyond our control, it is upsetting. Take heart, there are many things you can do to make your child’s Kindergarten experience more rewarding-and less stressful for you too.
Here is a list of things I did (or in retrospect wish I did) to help my own children have a successful Kindergarten experience. We all live such busy lives, there never seems to be enough time and it seems like we are always playing “catch-up.” Preparation and planning will go a long way on the road to a smooth transition to Kindergarten.
Where to begin:
- Sleep is important. Set a reasonable bedtime and be consistent. Kindergarten is full-day, full tilt. If you want your child to enter Kindergarten each day at their best, make sure they get enough sleep! Structure is important to everyone, especially to your little Kindergartener. Set a reasonable bed time and stick to it. It would be wise to begin this regime a few weeks prior to the beginning of the school year so that Kindergarten does not get a bad rap for causing an early bedtime!
- Be prepared. To eliminate potential trials and tribulations in the morning before school, make sure your child’s clothing is set for the next day and all their backpack is ready to go. If your child brings his or her lunch, it can be prepared the night before. Prepare lunch and place it in the refrigerator so you have one less thing to in the morning.
- Lunch Prep. If your child has never eaten lunch at school, or if you get a new lunchbox, practice eating lunch out of the lunchbox prior to the commencement of Kindergarten. I fed my own children from their lunchbox the summer before Kindergarten began, and they really liked it! I choose the food they liked for lunch and made sure that they could open the lunch box and containers inside by themselves.
- Eat Healthy. Get up in the morning with enough time to eat a good healthy breakfast. Food is the fuel your child needs to get their day off to a good start. If your kids are well rested and you are not running about looking for their backpacks or arguing over clothing choices, you might find that you have time to eat breakfast with them!
- Morning Activity. There is not enough physical activity in the Kindergartener’s day. If you can, walk to school and even get in a 15-20 minute run in the park or the schoolyard prior to the commencement of the school day.
- GET TO SCHOOL ON TIME! I cannot stress enough the importance of punctuality. Children need to enter the classroom together, to experience the structure and rituals that are part of the advent of each school day. When a child is late to school every day, they enter the classroom disadvantaged, almost as an outsider. Not only will your child benefit from entering the classroom on time, but you must know that our middle schools and high schools are highly competitive. Applicants are screened not only by academic performance but by absenteeism and lateness. Getting to school on time will teach your child to be punctual which will serve them well now and for years to come.
- Get involved. Your child’s teacher needs your help. Volunteer to become a class parent, donate supplies and let your teacher know you are ready, willing and able to do what you can to help out. Remember that your child is part of the Kindergarten community; what you do for your child’s school and classroom will help everyone in the school, including your child.
- Do not overschedule your child. I scheduled my children’s play dates and afterschool activities on Friday and Saturday because Kindergarten was a long day. I felt the most important afterschool activity was to let my children run-off steam in the park before we went home. After a run in the park, we went home and started homework. When you get home, always check your child’s folder for notes and homework. I never found success leaving homework for after dinner, as dinner time was the best time to talk about my children’s day and decompress.
- Have fun! Always remember that YOU are and will always be your child’s first teacher. Talk to your children, read books, visit the library, and broaden your child’s horizon by visiting new places and learning new things together.
I joined Cobble Hill Playschool as a staff member during the 1992/1993 school year. My wonderful director, Kathy Crawford, was the person responsible for bringing the Reggio Emilia philosophy to CHP. Kathy’s husband Bob was the former head of the science department at St. Ann’s. During his tenure there, he was awarded an educational grant from the Geraldine Dodge Foundation and was subsequently hired by Dodge to determine and award educational grant money. Through Kathy, Bob and his affiliation with Dodge, I was introduced to the Reggio philosophy (and Dr. Howard Gardener and Multiple Intelligence theory, too). In the mid-nineties, I knew few educators who were familiar with this philosophy. I was in graduate school at that time and frequently found myself called upon to explain the Reggio approach to classmates and colleagues. Now, almost twenty years later, so many preschools are proponents of this approach.
It has been quite some time since CHP has embraced the Reggio approach; it serves as the foundation of what we do and why we do it. Many of the staff have attended Reggio workshops. Some of the following text is gleaned from those workshops.
Advantages for Exploring the Reggio Approach
The Reggio Emilia approach is not a method or a curriculum; it is a set of principles for integrating children's development and social-cultural environment with the best theory and practice concerning children's education. This approach has created great enthusiasm among parents, teachers and educators throughout the world's educational community.
The Reggio Emilia approach to educating children brings about learning that is inspired by the richness of life. It constantly invokes a child's sense of wonder, evokes his emotions, provokes his thought processes, and nurtures in him an intrinsic desire to learn.
Learning In Flexible, Multiage Groupings
A multiage education program is a union of an organizational structure and unique combinations of teaching and learning strategies. The way learning occurs is made possible by the multiage structure.
- Allows for flexibility in the grouping of children according to need, ability, or interest; not just by age
- Overcomes problems associated with a yearly transition from one grade to another
- Establishes a more natural learning situation
- Children work at their own pace, the program is not geared to the work of a single year, but can be adjusted over two or more years
- Benefits older children by the quality of leadership and responsibility they develop
- Broadens children’s social experience with increased opportunities to lead and to follow, to collaborate and to make stable peer relationships
- Teaches a child to work cooperatively with others as either “novice” or “expert”
Advantages for Children:
- Is based on children’s abilities, skills and motivation
- Models learning by doing in a more intentional way
- Recognizes children as unique and valuable
- Encourages children to have “voices” –Ideas and thoughts
- Allows children the opportunity to work in small groups
- Respects each person’s point of view while supporting socialization, collaboration and provoking thought
- Teaches children to become better communicators as each child is encouraged to use a variety of ways, both verbal and non-verbal, to symbolically represent thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences
- Records learning process though documentation
- Bases learning, both formal and play-based, on children’s true interests—an interesting and meaningful approach to education
- Nurtures and encourages curiosity in children
- Supports and extends learning through observation and listening
- Exposes children to many materials (clay, paper, paint, shadows, etc.) that offer children tools with which to express themselves—children in turn will be more adept which the use materials as they get older
- Acknowledges through the use of materials, that children are capable of using materials to explore their theories and ideas – children know that they are recognized as capable because of the amazing materials they are given
- Allows children to develop a stronger self-image by providing photographs, videos, displays of children’s work, and by exploring these images as a whole group
- Uses displays for children to see their abstract ideas become more concrete as they are encourages to express themselves through the use of materials
- Develops children’s self-esteem through mastery by building competencies
Advantages for Teachers:
- Promotes teachers’ learning and development as thinking is supported and challenged while given time to reflect and dialog
- Respects teachers’ point of view
- Encourages teachers to have ideas and theories
- Establishes to have ideas and theories
- Exposes teachers to the learning process
- Establishes a sense of community with colleagues
- Creates identity for the school and community
- Extends the ideas of teachers and children
- Recognizes teachers’ as learners and researches as it is modeled for children
- Encourages teachers to work and collaborate in teams
- Exposes teachers to many materials so that teachers develop a sense of exploration and competency
- Supports teachers to become good models for exploration, pursing ideas, and constructing their own knowledge
- Impels teachers to go beyond the textbooks so that they have the opportunity to create and to pursue their own passion
- Shows teachers how to slow down and become more aware, not just children but themselves
- Encourages teachers to respect both process and product
For the Program:
- Is alive and growing as we are always learning
- Uses a collaborative approach with staff, administration, and parents
- Emphases listening too/observing children to extend learning so teachers know the children
- Displays high-quality work by the children so parents, and visitors then are able to learn more about children’s capabilities and potential—this work also promotes the program
- Provides children with amazing opportunities and real materials
- Provokes parents’ curiosity and empowers them to participate in the learning process with children and teachers
- Builds teams through the collaborative approach
Many people in the neighborhood know me as an Early Childhood Director and subsequently, a lover of children's books. Because of this passion, I was invited to read at the LOVE YOUR LIBRARY day last spring. Shortly after the successful event, the Friends of the Carroll Gardens Library group approached me and asked if I would continue to read at the library; they pitched the "Storytime with Carol and Friends" idea. Many years ago, when my children were small, I was a Friend of the Carroll Gardens Library too. Now, almost 20 years later, I agreed to get involved with our little library again by supporting literacy and reading to children.
October 15th is TRY SOMETHING NEW day at the Carroll Gardens Library. This event will be the kick-off for Storytime with Carol and Friends. On October 15th and every Saturday until year’s end, you will find me reading to 3-6 year-olds at the library (hopefully with early childhood colleagues and author/illustrator friends) from 10:30 to 11:30 AM. Reading to children is one of my greatest joys. Ironically, I think I enjoy it more now than I did when I read to my own children!
Hope to see you at the library this fall. “Storytime” is open to everyone in the community, so spread the word. I am hoping some of my young graduates will come back to visit the library. In the last few years, one of my missions for CHP has been to expand our classroom library and to offer staff development in evaluating and selecting children’s books. Whether or not you can attend the library readings, I will continue to share wonderful new books (and old favorites) with our CHP families.
Selecting and Evaluating Children’s Books:
When visiting the library, look through the bookshelves for books you think your children would enjoy, then read them prior to checking them out. It is easy to be enamored by a beautiful cover and catchy title but the old adage remains true: “You cannot judge a book by its cover.” You have to read it to make an informed decision. I have also happily anticipated new books from favorite authors and, on occasion, found once I purchased them, they were not as wonderful as I expected. Before I purchase any book for CHP I preview it. I sit in bookstores and libraries and read. This practice also lends itself to discover a really great children’s book you never knew existed!
New York Library Recommendations: 100 Picture Book Titles for Reading and Sharing.
The titles on this year’s list of Children’s Books were selected by a committee of librarians working in the branch libraries of the New York Public Library
Carol’s Tips for Reading to Your Children:
1. Never read a book "cold." Make sure you have read the book prior to reading it to your child. This way, you can read it with feeling. Have fun and act it out! If you feel there is something in the book that might be hard for your child to understand or might be a bit confusing or scary, you will be prepared to soften the content a bit.
2. Talk about the story while you read it. For example, ask about the names of the animals in the story, count items, talk about the feelings of the characters in the story.
3. Younger children like to hear the same story read and reread. That’s okay. While you are reading, they are thinking, remembering and making predictions about the outcome of the story.
4. Introduce the words "author" and "illustrator." Read books by the same author/ illustrator and compare and contrast the stories.
5. Read to your child when you can devote the time it takes to read that book. You will be a better reader and your child will be a better listener.
6. My own children read their own books now. Remember, there is only a small window of time when you can read together with your child…cherish it!