A number of years ago, Ontario, made some radical changes to how Kindergarten is structured. The Full Day Kindergarten was rolled out in stages, with my school being in the final almost 2 years ago. I started teaching kindergarten in the first year of the roll out in my school.
Last summer, I took an additional qualification course in Kindergarten. I am the only Kindergarten teacher at my school to have additional qualifications for Kindergarten, and I have been trying to apply what I learned about the new Kndergarten program in my classroom this year, with mixed success. However, I have also been told that my classroom is the one in the school that most closely resembles what the program is meant to be.
Despite this, next year I have been assigned Junior Spec Ed (Grades 4,5, and 6) half day and Prep (this means that when the classroom teacher is having their prep time, I come in and teach something to their kids.) the other half.
I am not happy, but I understand the rationale behind it. The teacher who has the Spec Ed class I am taking over really, really wanted out, and I am one of the few teachers in the school who also has a qualification to teach Special Ed. So I got stuck there.
Anyways I have been told that I can make suggestions about what I will do for prep next year, though I might not get exactly what I want.
My suggestion is that I give prep to the Kindergartens next year, but in a way that is a departure from how my school has traditionally given prep. I learned about this model in my course last summer, and I know it is common in other boards in the province. I think it is less common in my own board, but I don’t really know.
See, currently prep for Kindergarten is being delivered on a 10 day cycle with the kids getting 4 music periods, 4 gym periods and two library periods. During music, the entire 48 min period is being delivered as full group instruction, the library periods are about 1/2 reading a picture book, and the rest drawing a picture. Gym is like a regular gym class.
There’s a few problems with this. Firstly, The approach to instructional time in Kindergarten favoured by the province is short blocks whole group time, with long periods spent in play based learning activities. This is not what is happening in prep subjects for the most part.
Secondly, the Kindergarten program is a two year program. The kids have two years to meet the expectations of the program. Not that I am knocking Music education in any way, but 4 periods a week for two years to cover the expectations for one of the four arts in the curriculum alone is not a balanced use of time.
Thirdly, transitions can be a major problem from many young children, and lead to difficult behaviour.
I am proposing that I deliver prep in a model where the kids are at their play based learning centres and I just swap in with the teacher. Instead of having 1 subject I teach in that classroom, I cover what needs doing at that point. It might be that I take anecdotal notes around what the students are already doing. It might be that I plan small group lessons and activities to fill a particular need or interest that has been identified for a particular group of kids.
For any Edu-Nerds who want to delve into what I am talking about more deeply, here are a couple of good blog posts on the topic from an Ontario FDK teacher.
Since the program first came out, we have had a draft curriculum program, but coming this fall is the final version, which is an even more radical departure that the draft. Instead of being divided into subjects, this is organized around “The Four Frames”: Belonging and Contributing, Self Regulation and Wellbeing, Demonstrating Literacy and Mathematical Behaviours and Problem Solving and Innovating. It seems to me that continuing to organize the schedule exclusively around subjects when that’s not how the program is going is a bit backwards.
Today I was supposed to have a meeting with the VP, Principal, head of Kindergarten and the teacher who does the scheduling for the primary division to discuss this, but It fell through. (VP left school before the meeting, didn’t tell P she was going and didn’t come back. Seriously. The secretary just knew she had gone.)
I did talk to head of Kindergarten and Scheduler about it while we were waiting and found their responses so frustrating:
1) If we do it this way, the kids will be in the room during my prep time
2) Well, the kindergartens need to learn how to make transitions and sit for long periods in order to be ready for it in Grade 1
I sympathize with point 1, but I am not proposing that all prep be delivered in the room. And while it will inconvience the teachers a bit, it will allow students to spent more time doing the things that the province says it is best practise for them to do.
As far as point two goes, the Province has intentionally, radically changed Kindergarten because the Best Start Panel of Experts on the Early Years says that this is best for the children. Altering the Kindergarten program to serve the needs of Grade 1 teachers seems to me to be backwards. If anything, Grade 1 teachers need to reassess the way they do things in the light of how their students are coming to them from Kindergarten.
Also, last year the the Minister of Education mused about expanding the play-based learning approach into Grade 1. Change is probably headed their way as well.
Well, we’ll see how it goes.