Hunter Park Kindergarten

Welcome to our Blog.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Transition to school Network meeting

You want your child to have a great start at school. To take all the skills, strengths and dispositions to learn and think that they’ve grown at home and kindergarten in their last five years of life and use it to make their start at school a success and so do we.

As part of this the teaching team joined about 40-50 early childhood and primary teachers at a teacher’s network meeting in Napier on Monday night. There Jocelyn Wright and Keryn Davis presented an overview of the work that is happening in Canterbury to smooth out how children move from home and kindergarten to school.

One of the first items they raised is studies showing that what school teachers perceive as the most important things in the role of early childhood teachers in preparing children for school, and what early childhood teachers perceive as most important in their role in a child’s preparation to start school, are often two different things.

In order to bring these differing ideas together schools and early childhood centres need to make sure both are regularly and frequently communicating and listening to each other, in high quality ways, about the things that are important to them, in order to complement each others approaches.

So how is that communication is happening.

There are now strong links between the new school curriculum and Te Whariki the early childhood curriculum. But while the links are strong meetings (like the one we held last year, and the Excellence in new entrants teaching meeting we attended this year) between teachers from both sectors are needed to ensure their interpretations (shaped by differing experiences and pressures) match. After all a diamond and a lump of coal are both made of the same stuff interpreted in different ways. Fortunately these meetings are now becoming more common and frequent events.

Tied to the new school curriculum learning stories (narrative assessment) have started to make their way into schools, both early childhood ones shared by the child of their experiences prior to school and ones written by the teachers, parents, relatives, friends and the children themselves at school. By sharing assessment methods, there is a greater continuity for both the child and the parent.

However when teachers (and parents) are new to learning stories, it is not always easy to know what (if anything) is expected in them, or what information they hold or hold to find and use it. One common question teachers have is how many should I write? Another is how will I find the time? And of course, what am I meant to write? (My sister in law said, my Kindy teachers gave me this piece of paper with photos and a story and I was supposed to write something on it, but I don't know what I'm supposed to put.)

These aren’t so much problems as fears of the unknown. The answer is just start and write something, anything, take a risk and don't worry about making mistakes. Children aren't born afraid, sure they fall over when they toddle, but that doesn't stop them getting back up, the more they do the better they get. So don't be afraid of making mistakes just start and have a go.

Some times it's nice to have a guide though so schools have been sending teachers to visit early childhood settings and learn about how they use and write learning stories. They have also been bringing kindergarten profiles into the school classrooms, watching how children use them, writing their own stories for them and using them as literacy artifacts (reading material) with the children. After all what better stories to read than stories about yourself, that you really have experienced. As an added bonus the profiles themselves have acted as a link and a source of continuity for the children.

A further result of this new collaboration are phamplets, DVD’s and blog sites that are being prepared and developed by schools, parents and kindergartens all getting together. The end product aimed providing the information needed to give children and parents a smooth transition from school to earlychildhood, and this is just great.

One thing I’m especially excited about are the online possibilities to collaborate. While you might not feel able to drive out half an hour or more to have weekly conferences with every rural school your kindergarten feeds into, how easy is it to just click on their blog to find out what’s happened at school that week, exchanged emails, used wiki’s to develop joint understandings and forums to exchange ideas.

Plus when you have links to the school site on your blog, parents and future pupils can become familiar with the school and catch up on old friends, with a simple click.

Naturally the communication goes two ways (and indeed in multiple directions as families, friends and children join the mix) to build the links communities are built on.

Of course not all the learning from the night was strictly from what was presented. One incidental revelation I had was seeing the formulaic term child’s voice: parents voice sometimes seen on learning stories, replaced with real names in some of the stories used. Ben’s voice, Polly’s voice, Grampies voice.

After all what child refers to themselves as child? What child (or person) doesn’t recognise and show an interest when they see their name (rather than a generic label really only meant as a place holder).

Talk about a slap my head and realise that I hadn’t been seeing what was in front of my face, till seen from a new light, moment. I’m not even sure I use "Child’s voice:" but I’ve certainly seen it used, as I have Parent voice, and I’ll be on the watch for it now.

For schools thinking about starting on the learning story journey, Jocelyn and Keryn have offered to put them in touch via email with those already started to help dispel any fears of the unknown that may crop up. We have their emails if you want to get in touch.

Two actions I'll be taking as a result of this meeting (plus seeing it on other kindergarten blogs I've been researching, some ideas I've been playing around with for a while about ipod based e profiles, and the 2 day course in Hastings) is adding links to local schools to our blog, and also experimenting with e profiles.

E profiles are online profiles build as an equal partnership of parents, children and teachers all feeding into an online blog. They don't need to be open, you can choose to restrict access to them to only people you invite, but we will be sharing my boy Ben's e profile as an exemplar as we explore the possibilities with my family and his teachers at Lakeview Kindergarten, and then hopefully his teachers at school just before and after he starts there when we invite them to become contributors too.


1 comment:

Lucas Clan said...

Thanks David for your layout of how to set up a blog, Maria and I have been exploring this topic over the term break and still seem to have so many questions unanswered. What you have posted is very helpful and will provide valuable information for us to re-visit, thanks David, much appreciated.