When I tell people that I teach kindergarten, I often get a sly smile. “Lucky. You get to finger paint all day!” people will say. I understand where this comes from, (and I certainly do paint a lot, so they aren’t wrong), but I resent the implication. Just six years ago, kindergarten was half day. We taught our letters, tracing, cutting, name writing, and number recognition. If we were really good with time, we got in some science every now and again. We painted and sang and developed emotionally.
Kindergarten today is drastically different. We hit the ground running in September teaching sight words and letter fluency. By February, we are reading books, writing multiple sentences on one topic, and adding within one minute.
One of these changes has been making the adjustment of self-reflection in kindergarten. In order for the students to reach the rigorous standards of CCSS, a transparency of objectives had to occur. One of my favorite parts of this has been teaching the kids to be critical of their own learning, and to self-reflect upon skills that are tough.
Before we got out for spring break, we did an exit task that looked like the photo below. I read the prompt and the kids were to “do their sounds” to write their response. I collected all the responses for my own reflection over break. EVERYONE was able to participate in this activity. My two students who are still quite non-verbal had to opportunity to do this with me one on one quickly during recess.
Rather than assign a ton of homework over break (which most parents want), I gave every student the task of picking one tough skill. Their responsibility was to communicate with their parents and practice it at home. I know, it sounds ridiculous to let kids communicate with their parents about their struggles, but in kindergarten, the kids are often still so excited about learning they do a pretty good job of telling their parents. Still, I took a picture of everyone’s goals and posted them to our parent communication app Bloomz.
Yesterday as an entry task, I gave each student a half sheet to complete that went along with their goal to see if they had worked on it over the break. The kids were so excited to talk to each other about what they worked hard on! I really could not have been more proud of them. Even if some students didn’t quite master the skills they were practicing, the self-reflection (and goal setting) was evident. It gave the kids a great opportunity to write, practice and talk about what is the most difficult for them.
Here the reflection of a level 1 ELL student:
HOLY MOLY, I was so happy that she spelled all the words correctly on this entry sheet, and most importantly, SHE was thrilled with herself when she saw that she was able to complete a tricky task after one week of dedicated practice!
One of my non-verbal students (level 1 ELL & speech delayed) completed this task for me. I sat with him one on one to complete the sheet and I wrote for him. His huge challenge was communicating to me what he wanted to write, but he did it!
After break, he was so excited to show me he could trace! This is a great example of the different skill sets we are working on in K. We have some kids who are writing paragraphs, and some kids who are still working on fine motor skills.
Here is an example another student’s reflections:
Again, she was PUMPED that she could successfully finish the sheet without support.
My last example comes from my highest achieving student in both reading and math. He is so used to being good at academics, he has a really tough time with self-reflection. He usually wants to say everything is easy. Just recently, he has been drastically improving with receiving helpful criticism, and I was so impressed when he easily identified something that is tricky: staying in the lines. He might be one of the “best and brightest,” but basic kindergarten skills, like tracing, drawing, and handwriting are very difficult for him.
Whether you teach seniors in high school, sevies in middle school, or babies in kindergarten, kids need the opportunity to face their challenges head on. Having those discussions with them on how to improve and tackle what’s difficult is incredibly valuable…especially alongside teachers who are learning to improve and tackle CCSS, as well.
My dog also has an Instagram, and it's better than anyone's. @mrdarcy_theiggy