When the Leader spoke to Kelty Grant, the principal of Iroquois Public School, Thursday, August 30, plumbing and construction work was still undergoing a few last minute tweaks in the school’s three newly renovated kindergarten classrooms, but “everything is going to be finished, everything set up in time for our opening day on September 4. This is going to be a very exciting time here at IPS.”
Tuesday, September 4, Iroquois Public School joins other area elementary schools in offering full day kindergarten every day.
Morrisburg Public School and Nationview already have full day kindergarten. Timothy Christian offers full day kindergarten on alternate days. St.Mary-St.Cecelia’s has two full day programs, kindergarten and their Ready to Learn program, which alternate.
There are currently 25 children registered for each of the three classes at Iroquois Public School. There is a full time qualified teacher and a full time early childhood educator in each classroom.
The teacher and the ECE work in partnership. They plan lessons and do assessments together, combining their skills and areas of expertise. Teachers tend to be more trained in curriculum literacy and numeracy, while childhood educators are experienced in building play based learning and the creation of centres.
“The combination is a powerful and dynamic one,” Grant said, “and the children reap the benefits.”
Additional specialized training was provided for every teacher and the school’s administrator.
“Our teachers and I received several days of fantastic training for the kindergarten program this spring, at Morrisburg Public school,” Grant said. “Our trainer was from the Upper Canada District School Board, but had himself been trained by the Ministry of Education. We all walked away feeling energized and positive.”
How do teachers approach the challenges of full day learning in kindergarten?
“The key thing is that each teacher has to know the curriculum for kindergarten inside out and backwards and forwards,” Grant explained. “Children this age learn, not by sitting in place, but by moving, working at special centres. There can be several activities happening in the class room at once. Some whole group instruction will happen, perhaps in the form of an opening song, or a circle, but then the children are off to various, exciting activities.”
In these situations, thorough knowledge of the curriculum allows the teacher to adapt to whatever activities seem to most engage the small children. Open ended questions such as “What if…?” or “What would happen if…” demand ongoing teacher flexibility.
The emphasis is on hands-on skills.
How does assessment work in the kindergarten curriculum?
“Traditional evaluation me-thods, which require reading and writing skills, are just not possible in kindergarten,” Grant laughed.
Instead, the Ministry has provided teachers with individual Ipads.
Teachers video tape the children’s daily activities, then show the tapes later to allow them to reflect on what they were doing and learning.
“This kind of assessment is visible and learning apparent,” Grant explained. “We are documenting, and assessing the progress of the children’s problem solving skills, and how they are understanding new knowledge. This helps us to know where to go next to build on those growing strengths. The taping also allows us to share with parents.”
The three new classrooms (four old rooms were combined) are self-contained. Each has its own washroom, and cubby areas. There are areas set up for naps for children who need them. Walls in the classrooms currently look a little bare, but that is deliberate.
“The intent is that everything on the walls must be child activity centred,” Grant said. “Teachers will take photos of the children, and these will decorate the walls. Children will be able to look at these displays and make connections with learning activities and their part in the creation of every picture.”
Are there likely to be some tears on Tuesday morning, the first day of school?
“We’re ready for some tears,” Kelty Grant laughed, “maybe even from our parents. The kids will recover fast. They may even find the routine of every day school easier to cope with than the every other day approach of the past. The children are certainly going to find school a very exciting place to be.”