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Carolyn Wilson

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First Day of School: Getting Ready for Kindergarten

Posted by Carolyn Wilson

Aug 14, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Kindergarten is a big milestone for children—and for parents, too! Besides buying a new backpack and lunch box, how else can you help your child feel prepared and excited for the first day?

Emotional readiness: limiting those “firsts”

15_-_7Most children are excited about starting school, but the transition can still be bumpy because they simply don’t know what kindergarten is all about. At age 4 or 5, young children don’t have a bank of experiences and memories to draw from. They don’t have the depth of experiences to imagine, realistically, what kindergarten will actually be like. If you say, “your kindergarten experience will be magical,” your child really might expect the teacher to do magic tricks.

Whether your child is excited or has some natural jitters, here are a few simple ways to create realistic expectations over the week or even weekend leading up to day one:

1. Meet other new families

If you haven’t already, schedule a playdate or two with other incoming children. And if your school has arranged play dates, take advantage! This helps your little one bond with some of her classmates, which will only make that first day more exciting.

2. Visit the school together

15_-_4Take a mini trip together to your new school. You can walk around the block, look at the building, or visit nearby parks that the school visits and note, “this is where I’ll drop you off in the morning,” or “this is where you’ll play with your friends.” This helps your child mentally imagine himself in the new environment.

3. Practice her new daily routine

If your child tends to struggle with new routines at school, you can try “playing school” together by going through the school day, including signing in, recess, lunch, and group time. The emphasis here is on “play” — make it fun! Start by modeling at-home morning and bedtime routines. If your child always sleeps in until 8am and she’ll need to wake up at 7am to prepare for school, it’s time to practice that early wakeup the week prior! I’d also recommend preparing as much as you can the night before. Before bedtime, pick out clothes, pack lunch, and put everything in the backpack.


4. Schedule drop-off with a friend

Try to schedule arriving at school at the same time with one of her friends. This makes the first day feel more like a scheduled play date for your child, and she will have a built-in buddy to get the day started. Not to mention, you’ll have a buddy too.

5. Make a daily download part of the routine!

Make sure after that first day and week of school you’ve built in a ritual to discuss and download the day. Questions like, “What was your favorite part/hardest part of the day?” or “Who did you play with today?” or “Will you show me what you learned?” can help get the conversation started.

Model the confidence you’d like to foster in your child

Tears? Oh yes, there may be some. (I’m talking about you, not your little one). But as best you can, say goodbye with a smile and wipe your tears away when you round the corner. Remember, your child will look to you for guidance on this big day. By modeling the right kind of excitement— positivity and confidence— you’ll help embody the right energy to make that day a successful one.


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Topics: School, Lower Elementary, kindergarten

What I Learn from Listening to Students

Posted by Carolyn Wilson

Apr 11, 2014 4:00:00 PM

Screen_Shot_2014-04-11_at_2.14.05_PMGiving and receiving feedback is a key skill for children to learn.

In most classrooms, however, feedback is a one-way street. Students receive grades from teachers, but are much less likely to give feedback on their own learning experience.

As Director of Education and a teacher in our Upper Elementary program this year, I know that the regular feedback we get from students is crucial to helping me craft a bespoke education for each of them.

A recent Edudemic article reminds us:

The feedback students give teachers can be much more powerful than the feedback teachers give students.

We want students to feel comfortable giving feedback about their weekly playlist activities, as well as higher-level feedback about their educational journey. This helps me understand whether their learning activities are engaging and at the right level of challenge. It is also rewarding to see a student's sense of self-awareness and reflection grow throughout the year. 

Here’s what I've learned lately from feedback given to me from some of my students: 

A Growing Artistic Passion:What I learned at AltSchool is art. Back at my other schools, I didn't feel like an Artist. Now I feel like one.”

This student enjoys daily access to various artistic mediums through which she can express her ideas. She is deeply engaged when we study works of art in class and on field trips. Through study and self expression, she is discovering an area of passion and can see her own strengths in a new light.

An Exciting Challenge in Math: “I like doing math because it's challenging. I try not to give up.”

Finding precisely the right level of difficulty for a student can be a delicate balance. This student has been tackling work well above grade level, but is in the sweet spot where he is feeling challenged. He is also taking pride in his ability to persist.

A New Sense of Self-Regulation: “I am learning to get things done without someone telling me to do them all the time.”

When students drive their own learning, it is more meaningful to them. Sometimes they take detours, but when they find their own way they acquire more than a new skill or factoid. They develop grit. I am impressed by the multiple dimensions of this student’s growth and am working with him to include time management goals in his Personalized Learning Plan.    

Increasing Optimism: “Math is hard for me, but by the end of the year I think I will be able to do long division problems with ease.”

This student is not only getting stronger at math, he is developing an understanding of his learning profile.  As he manages his time and devises strategies for problem solving, his confidence grows in an area that historically has been a struggle. Mastering long division this year is a goal he set for himself and I’m excited to help him achieve it and track his progress.

What’s important about this process is that students recognize that feedback is not about saying the “right” things or seeking praise. Feedback is important information about how students are doing in reaching their learning goals. This feedback is equally valuable to share with their teachers as it is to share with themselves.

Through regular feedback, students acquire one of the most important skills of all - to be in the driving seat of their own learning.


(Photo credit: An AltSchool student collage of "Things I Enjoy Learning")

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Topics: AltSchool Innovation