“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” ~ William Butler Yeats
This post is for parents wondering how to address their child’s concerns about COVID-19, and make their well-being a priority while ensuring that learning continues to happen at home. This is a lot to manage, and no doubt parents have already looked to the Internet for ways to do this. Given the gravity of the world’s situation, I did not hesitate to add my latest blog post to the list of resources available. But even with a curated collection of links to explore, this is a lot of information that does not really provide a map for parents to follow. In this post, I have tried to create such a map. Parents have much to do while staying/working at home and trying to maintain a routine for their child. I hope the information here will make supporting your child’s learning easier for you. I have created a sample week-long plan – essentially a window into what kindergarten lesson planning can look like. Each day of the week – and for the learning areas of Literacy, Math, Science/Inquiry, Music, Art and Mindfulness – activities have been suggested for you, that are all on-line. I have even built Adventures, Guest Speakers and Mystery Readers into the schedule! Curriculum planning is something I love and my goal is to help you create your own. There is no pressure to do all of these activities or to do them in any special order; this is a suggested way to plan for some daily learning time. Instead, be inspired and empowered by the resources provided, find ideas that you and your child like the most, and then continue to build your own collection of learning experiences from there. This is a place to begin, to provide a sense of how to touch on each of the learning areas in ways that are simple, enriching and fun. I know you’ll be amazing as you rise to the challenge during this teaching and learning journey. Be healthy, be safe and keep being curious and creative!
On a typical day in kindergarten, educators try to ensure that a variety of opportunities are provided to give children different entry points into learning how to read and write. Here I will provide some examples of different things you can do each day to help your child continue to build the skills they need, and all activities that are probably already familiar to them! On Monday your child could practice letter tracing to become familiar with letters and how they are formed, and to work on their pencil grasp. On Tuesday your child could enjoy a writing prompt. This could be anything – what they are thinking about, what interests them, a book review, a letter, a list of words that start with an ‘s’. What’s important is that they see writing as a useful way to express themselves and to communicate. On Wednesday you could read a Poem of the Week and make a game of looking for sight words. These are high frequency words that children will memorize and eventually read automatically. Remember also to read other poems, because there are many kinds to explore. On Thursday read a leveled book together to practice essential reading skills (e.g., letters make specific sounds, words and pictures are connected; reading in English goes from left to right, top to bottom; how to point to each individual word). On Friday take a break from working and invite a Mystery Reader into your home, just to have the pleasure of listening to somebody read to you! There are many more things you can do, but these basics will keep your child connected to the things they usually do in kindergarten, and as parents, you will enjoy them too.
In Kindergarten, children get an introduction to basic concepts such as numeracy, representing numbers, patterning, measurement, capacity, 2D and 3D shapes, 5 and 10 frames, money, data management and addition and subtraction. Or they get further practice of any of the math skills they possess already. For this week of planning I have chosen to focus on counting, though you can follow your child’s lead based on their interests and prior knowledge. On Monday you can introduce (or reinforce) the concept of counting. Children can learn the names of numbers, identify them, practice writing them, understand that each object gets one count. Once they can do this. they can count just about anything around the house! On Tuesday they can learn about one-to-one correspondence and counting forward and backward. On Wednesday they could practice writing numbers, working on their pencil grasp and number formation. On Thursday they can enjoy reading a picture book featuring numbers, like One by Kathryn Otoshi. This book also has a beautiful message about how to play nicely and be a good friend. On Friday learn a new counting rhyme, to see how beautifully music and math go together. There are all kinds of fun and hands-on ways to discover, explore and enjoy counting!
Science and Inquiry
Children are keen observers and ask great questions about all kinds of things, like living creatures, outer space, the weather, wonders of nature, machines and more. In Kindergarten, an important aspect of Inquiry-Based Learning is how to guide children in thinking like a scientist and reflecting on what they see, think and wonder, as we help them look for answers to their questions. Because spring is here (and parents likely have the materials at hand) I have chosen planting seeds as a focus of inquiry. But again, if something else interests your child, follow their lead, using these suggested activities as a guideline. On Monday take a moment to watch a seed grow and take note of any questions this might generate. On Tuesday enjoy listening to the Garden Song which celebrates the miracle of planting seeds and watching them grow. On Wednesday enjoy a picture book about gardening, like Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert. On Thursday conduct a simple bean planting experiment. Track the bean’s growth; draw pictures and write down what happens! On Friday go on a neighbourhood nature walk if you can, and play an I Spy game where you look for signs of spring. A child’s curiosity can be inspired in simple and hands-on ways!
Music can be enjoyed and experienced in so many ways. We can listen to music. We can move to music. We can make our own instruments and become musicians. We can explore musical concepts like beat, tempo, pitch, volume and timbre. For this post I thought it would be fun to focus on the orchestra, the experience of attending a concert, and recognizing instruments by the sounds they make. On Monday, join George in learning about the orchestra. Meet a conductor and different musicians in the orchestra who talk about the instruments they play. On Tuesday, read a picture book about musical instruments like Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss. This lovely story teaches us about different instruments and ensembles while reinforcing number concepts. On Wednesday, make your own musical instrument, using items available to you from around the house. On Thursday, go to a concert and enjoy sneaking back stage with Bleeckie! On Friday, test your listening skills and see if you can recognize a musical instrument by its sound. By focusing on a particular aspect of music you can help children to explore it fully and know the joy that music brings into our lives.
There are a number of ways to approach providing art experiences for young children, which can include exploring different techniques like drawing, painting, printmaking, working with clay. The possibilities are endless and many Internet resources are available to help you follow your child’s interests. For this post I have focused on colours, and colouring, and I’ve included a component of looking at art. On Monday, enjoy a picture book like The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. This is a funny story about a drawing tool that children really love and it also teaches about colours. On Tuesday, as a supplement to creating open-ended drawings using crayons, consider Zen colouring pages for a calming experience. You can colour while you listen to your favourite music! On Wednesday visit a virtual art gallery. There are many available and you could go to a different one each week! On Thursday learn the names of different colours and about colour mixing. On Friday use crayons and pastels (if available) for drawing and compare the results. This would be a chance to talk about how the different mediums of wax and oil work, and to do your own colour mixing using pastels. These are just a few simple ideas to help you link art experiences to different areas of the curriculum including literacy, music and science.
This is just a small collection of strategies for helping children to self-regulate and feel calm at times they may be feeling anxious or if they need to find a way to feel settled down after a period of excitement. These do not have to be done in any special order. Explore ways that work for you and for your child. On Monday, try some belly breathing. On Tuesday go on a Cosmic Yoga adventure. The instructor guides children through different yoga postures as she tells great stories that keep them engaged, (sometimes for up to half an hour!). On Wednesday, relax your body and enjoy a guided meditation. On Thursday, discover how 4-7-8 Breathing can help you feel calm and to still your thoughts. On Friday, try making your own Glitter Jar. This is a fun science activity and the result is a tool you can shake and look at to feel peaceful inside whenever you need that. And you could read a beautiful picture book about mindfulness like I am Peace by Susan Verde whenever you like. Listen to mindful music any time you feel you need to, because music can have the power to make you feel relaxed. These are all simple ways to take care of your well-being. Find the ones you prefer and turn to them as often as you need to do so. Above all else, take care of yourself.
“As a homeschooling parent, I have often wondered who learns more in our family, the parent or the child. The topic I seem to be learning the most about is the nature of learning itself.” ~ Jan Hunt