Finding the Rhythm in Our Kindergarten Day

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Posted on the wall of our classroom is our daily schedule or plan as we call it.  It lists the big learning blocks of our day.  Yet, there is a rhythm to our time together that is less visible.  As we move through our days, I am constantly checking this rhythm and making adjustments as needed.  A change of seasons, as well as children's overall growth and development, may throw off our rhythm, requiring it to be tweaked a bit.

Kindergarten Day Schedule

In Waldorf Education, this intentional rhythm is often likened to an "in and out breath" as you alternate between drawing children in for lessons, stories, songs, etc. (inhalation activities) and then releasing them for independent practice, exploration, or play (exhalation activities).

Kindergarten Day Schedule

When our rhythm is good, the day flows smoothly, calmly, lightly and everyone is happy and well-adjusted.

When our rhythm is off, the day is bumpy, chaotic, heavy and we feel cranky and unbalanced.

When I returned from Christmas break, our rhythm was off and I could feel it.  I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was, but I knew I needed to make changes.  I began by observing what was and wasn't working as we moved through our day, jotting down notes on my plans.  At the end of the day, I sat down and reflected on what I observed.  I did this for several days while considering the "in and out" breath of our current learning blocks and schedule.

Kindergarten Day Schedule

The workshop model, continued to be a good choice for us as it had that nice "ebb and flow" built into it.  You gather the children together for a mini lesson, then send them off to practice, and then bring them back for sharing.  Yet, I was having trouble getting it all in (sound familiar?).

So I decided to alternate between reading and writing workshop each day.  I found that in my attempt to include both, I was not doing either as well as I would have liked.  Sharing time, which I consider a powerful part of the workshop, was often "cut off" because we ran out of time.  I also noticed that most children were able to read or write for longer periods and I was pulling them back in sooner than I needed, because it was time for the next block on our schedule.

The removal of one workshop made it easier to keep my commitment to daily shared reading and add in a short inquiry time for children's questions, research and project work.  These were good "inhalation" choices for us, because the children are highly engaged during these times and they both fit nicely in small blocks before lunch and between outside play and specials.

I also added Cosmic Yoga to our morning arrival to create a "softer start" to our day.  You can read more about soft starts from a previous post.

If you think you might be in need of some changes, choose one week to observe your own daily rhythm.  As you look over your notes, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is working well? Why is it working?
  • What is not working well? What would make it better?
  • How is the balance in my day between "in and out breath" activities?  Am I offering too much of one and not enough of another?
  • How can I change the order of things to better improve our rhythm?
  • What is my own daily rhythm like and how does that affect my school day (think eating, sleeping, planning, preparation, etc.)?
  • Are there specific students who need individual modifications not needed by the rest of the class? 

Don't be afraid to be unconventional and think outside the box.  Maybe your children would benefit from doing math in the morning and reading in the afternoon?  Maybe morning meeting works better in the middle of your day? Maybe snack comes too early or too late?

Keep in mind that it won't always be perfect and is forever a balancing act, but acknowledging this rhythm is the first step to improving the flow of your days.

Kindergarten Day Schedule
For more information about learning blocks and a daily plan, check out Kindergarten Kick Off Deck 5.   

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Daily Intention and Reflection

Friday, 29 December 2017

Looking for a way to build intention and reflection into your day? Try taking a page out of Ben Franklin's book!  He began each day with a morning question:

And ended with an evening question:

You might ask children to quietly visualize themselves "doing good" or invite them to turn and talk with a friend about their intention/reflection.

If your school focuses on a character trait or strength, you could also incorporate this into the routine.  For example, "How will I show perseverance today?/What perseverance did I show today?

Might be a nice way to kick of the new year!  Or wait until January 17th, and begin on Ben Franklin's birthday!

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Christmas Kindness

Sunday, 24 December 2017

It's so easy to find yourself at the end of December asking, "What did we actually accomplish this month?"  So this year, I decided to be a bit more intentional about the holiday hullabaloo and created a daily routine that would encourage kindness and a season of giving.

During the last week of November, we began to prepare for our Christmas Kindness Countdown.  We each decorated an ornament using art supplies a friend had donated to our class.

We then passed the art materials along to another kindergarten class and this became a good first example of "paying it forward."

We hung the ornaments on our Christmas Kindness Tree along with a few candy canes.

A neighboring class strung them on a garland, which works better to illustrate the countdown aspect of the routine.

Each morning we read the Christmas kindness for that day and I invited the children to picture themselves doing this kindness.  Children shared what this would look and sound like.

Holiday projects were coordinated with the kindnesses.  We made bookmarks to secretly hide in someone's book.

We surprised family members by hiding candy kisses in their pockets.

We decorated bags to be filled with charity donations.

Some wrote cards and thank you notes for family and friends.  Find the freebie templates HERE!

We made cookie plates as holiday gifts for families.

The most fun was "sneaking" into another K classroom, while they were out, to leave them a secret surprise!

Some days were crazy December busy and we were not able to do more than just read the kindness, while others brought more time and we were able to explore the kindness further.  Either way, the daily routine kept the focus on a season of giving and this made my holiday heart happy!

If you would like to bring some Christmas kindness into your classroom, you can find the packet here!

Wishing you all a happy holiday! Hope you are able to find time to rest and renew during the break!

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