The positive impacts of our Kindergarten teachers: A guest blog by Virginia’s Chief School Readiness Officer, Jenna Conway!

Teaching kindergarten is a most important job. As the mother of a kindergartener in public school, I know how his teacher means the world to him. During spring break this week, he talked about missing her every day! But that’s not all. With the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP), kindergarten teachers extend their impact beyond the classroom. Through VKRP, they help gather the data and build the case to strengthen Virginia’s birth to five early childhood system.

As you know, VKRP provides a clear, consistent snapshot of where your kids are when they enter school. With this knowledge and the accompanying VKRP resources, you can individualize instruction to build on kids’ unique strengths and address their gaps. Your principal has a consistent measure across classrooms and your superintendent across sites, better positioning them to align supports and resources to meet your kids’ unique needs.

But do you know how far your impact extends beyond the kindergarten classroom? In fact, VKRP helps the Commonwealth better connect school readiness to important longer-term outcomes such as third grade results or high school graduation rates. Understanding this relationship helps demonstrate the importance of early investments and paints a clearer picture of student achievement over time.

Equally important, the data you carefully gather and submit helps to strengthen Virginia’s birth to five early childhood system – specifically the diverse set of programs where children are cared for and educated prior to kindergarten like child care, Head Start and pre-K. It’s important to note that VKRP should not be used with stakes or for accountability purposes for individual programs. But, VKRP, when used appropriately, can help influence policy-making and decision-making.

VKRP results can help inspire policy-makers and practitioners to work together to unify and strengthen the early childhood system so that more of Virginia’s children have the opportunity to enter kindergarten ready. Specifically, VKRP can show where quality early childhood programming is correlated with better child outcomes, thus highlighting the return on these investments. VKRP can also shed light on inequities in quality or access so we can close those gaps that limit opportunities for kids. Finally, VKRP can help to promote continuous quality improvement across multiple readiness domains including self-regulation and social-emotional skills, much in the same way as Virginia has approached early literacy. 

Currently, Virginia children do not have equitable access to high quality birth-to-five early childhood care and education. The Northam administration is committed to making significant, sustainable improvements in this area over the next three years. Your work helps make the case for investing early and in quality, especially with Virginia’s littlest and most vulnerable learners.

Jenna Conway was appointed by Governor Ralph Northam as Virginia’s first ever Chief School Readiness Officer. She is charged with working across secretariats and state agencies to unify and improve Virginia’s early childhood education system. A Charlottesville native, Jenna was previously the Assistant Superintendent of Early Childhood at the Louisiana Department of Education from 2012-2018. Click here to read First Lady Pamela Northam’s March blog post on the administration’s vision for early childhood education in Virginia.

More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1

VKRP is launching into spring growth assessments!

Over the past four years, more than two-thirds of Virginia’s public school divisions (almost 2000 teachers, over 30,000 students) have used the VKRP system. We have listened to numerous teachers through observations, focus groups, and feedback surveys and while we can’t meet every individual preference, the team at VKRP is pressing forward with goals that are most common among users. One such goal is the development of growth assessments for “spring” (end of school year).

Over 40 school divisions have kindly volunteered to help us in our quest by piloting the new spring system. The goals for the spring pilot include understanding usability, testing the online system, and as always, obtaining feedback from teachers and other users! The spring pilot will occur during April and May of 2019, so if your division is participating then you have likely heard or will hear soon about it from your division or school leader(s).

For the spring version of the VKRP, many aspects of the program will remain the same:

  • Social Skills and Self-Regulation will be assessed using the CBRS – this tool has been used with success from beginning of pre-K into first grade.
  • Math will remain a one-on-one direct assessment taking approximately 20-25 minutes per student. Bear and his friends return in the spring assessment with different “games” more suitable for end of kindergarten and beyond math skills.
  • Reports will be provided at the classroom and student-level. Family Reports will continue to be available, along with family resources that target skills for the beginning of first grade.
  • Teacher resources will be available and linked from reports, just as they were in the fall.

Here are some things that will be different in the spring:

  • The spring version of the EMAS will contain items ranging in difficulty in order to assess a wider range in students’ skills! There will also be a NEW KIT featuring a flipbook easel, shape manipulatives, and patterning cards.


  • Grade-appropriate benchmarks will be provided for math, self-regulation, and social skills, along with new “scaled scores” to help in measuring mathematics growth from fall to spring.
  • Additional reports that track growth are in development, we hope to launch in May for pilot participants to experience and provide feedback.


  • There is a NEW VKRP Landing Page! In response to your helpful feedback, we have been working to make the landing page more intuitive and user-friendly.


  • NEW Online Training Modules will be available! Again, in response to your feedback, our Instructional Design colleagues have been working to create a lean online training experience with interactive modules, a full assessment demo of the new EMAS, and links to the VKRP Program Manual and other helpful documents.

With growth comes changes!

In order to program all of these wonderful features into the current VKRP system, we have been closing sections of the VKRP webpage. Now, we will need to close the entire VKRP web portal on April 1, 2019. When the system re-opens on April 9 – only spring pilot teachers and divisions will be able to access the VKRP. We apologize for the inconvenience, but hang tight! On May 28th, once the spring pilot window has closed and some adjustments have been made, the new VKRP Landing Page, Training Modules, and Practice Assessments will be available to everyone. We realize some of you will be out of school by then (Congrats!), but the system will be here waiting when you return in late summer.

Besides being down for a brief period in July, the VKRP online training, videos, and practice assessments will be accessible through your PALS login from May 28th into the fall. When you return in the fall, you will receive your NEW VKRP BOX (kit) with even more new features, but let’s save that for August.

We are SO EXCITED for this next leg of our journey, and so grateful for:

  • The numerous teachers, students, and administrators who allowed us to visit their classrooms this year in creating and testing the new EMAS versions and filming for the new training modules!
  • Our spring pilot group- 48 divisions and almost 800 teachers who will help us make sure the spring assessments become a reality.
  • Every teacher, administrator, leader who has provided feedback to get us to this point!


More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1

A Vision for Early Education in Virginia: Guest Post by First Lady Pamela Northam

Since January of 2018, I have had the honor and privilege of serving as the First Lady of Virginia when my husband, Ralph Northam, became the 73rd Governor of Virginia. I began my professional career in San Antonio, Texas as a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, where I met Ralph during his pediatric neurology residency. I later spent twelve years as a science educator in Hampton Roads before retiring to work at a local environmental nonprofit. Throughout our professional careers, Ralph and I have experienced the joy of sparking curiosity and igniting a passion for learning in young minds. We see the incredible potential in every child, especially in those first five years when about 90% of brain development occurs.

Photo: Office of the Governor of Virginia

In Virginia, we are proud of our education system and that we are consistently ranked among the best states to raise a family. However, the numbers show we can do better at educating our youngest and most vulnerable citizens. According to the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Project (VKRP) 40% of children are not entering kindergarten fully ready with the literacy, math, self-regulation, and social skills needed for success throughout their K-12 years. We also see that 70% of underserved families with children under five lack access to an affordable early childhood care and education option. We can do better. Every child is capable of succeeding in school, and beyond, if he or she has access to quality, affordable early education. Virginia can lead the nation in early childhood education.

Over the past year and a half, we researched all aspects of our education system and visited classrooms in every corner of Virginia. Last August, in particular, our team embarked on an ambitious “Back to School” tour that would take us to all of Virginia’s eight superintendent regions to visit child care, Head Start, Early Head Start, Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI), and elementary classrooms. After nearly 2,000 miles on the road, it became clear that the challenges facing our early education system are diverse, and unique to each community. However, even in some of the most economically depressed communities, we found warm and supportive classroom environments receiving teacher-student interaction scores that put them among the highest rated in the nation.  And their children were thriving.  Dedicated teachers, engaged families, and committed leaders made these programs a success.

Photo: Office of the Governor of Virginia

We are so grateful to talented teachers, who truly hold the future in their hands. We know that every teacher, whether they are working with infants or teenagers, has the ability to make lasting impressions on young minds. Kindergarten teachers play an especially important role as they introduce many students to their first classroom experiences and start them on a journey toward higher education or the workforce. Our administration knows we must provide educators with the compensation and professional development opportunities they need to do their best by our children; that is why we proposed, in the Governor’s most recent budget, a $268 million increase in education spending, including a 5% pay increase for teachers. We also heard concerns that approximately 1,500 VPI+ slots were set to expire this year, which is why we worked with legislators from both parties to include $6 million in state funding to sustain these vital slots starting next school year. These are good first steps, but there is far more work to do.

By 2022 we envision a Virginia where more children enter kindergarten ready to learn and succeed in their school careers. Now, with the support of business leaders, Superintendents, and other community stakeholders, there has never been a better time to make significant and sustainable improvements. It is one of the most important investments we can make for a brighter future for all Virginians. We can and should be a national leader in early education. Virginia’s remarkable educators give me hope for the future, and I look forward to meeting many more of you as we continue traveling the Commonwealth.

Look  for a future blog post from Jenna Conway, Virginia’s first ever Chief School Readiness Officer, with additional information about our vision for a more unified early education system aimed at providing greater support for teachers and more information for parents and families.

More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1

Growing Strong Readers with your PALS

Springtime in the classroom can feel like one of the busiest times of the year. It seems like there is just so much to do—and there is!

But as the weather warms up, everything and everyone is starting to bloom—and that includes your students! Those wee, shy kindergarteners who came into your classroom in the fall will soon be confident, rising first graders. They have grown in so many ways, including their literacy skills.

Your PALS spring scores can help you understand just how much and in what ways your students have grown from the fall. And, they can give you even more information about how to continue to grow strong readers this spring!




One of the important areas of growth to consider in kindergarten is Concept of Word (COW). Statewide data show that students who leave Kindergarten without firm COW in text are delayed in acquiring a reading vocabulary and may struggle to read in 1st grade. We can see this difference when we look at the fall PALS sum scores of these students when they enter first grade. The better students did on Kindergarten COW, the higher they scored on the PALS overall when they entered first grade.

Surprisingly, some children who are above the benchmark overall in PALS, and who may not even be on your radar as ‘at risk’ can show difficulties around concept of word. Giving these children a boost can make a huge difference in their transition into first grade.

At this point in the year, we want to target the kids with rudimentary COW  because they have the basic skills in place and with a few extra “nutrients”, they are ready to bloom! They are so close!

So, how do you help move your students from rudimentary to firm COW? After you administer the PALS-K Spring Assessment, use your “Performance By Task Report” to consider those who score between 4-6 on COW Word List. Depending on your number of students, here are some suggestions:

For just a few students…
1. Small group
2. Strategically call on them during whole class lessons
3. Individualized instruction
What Activity?
1. Buy My Sentence
2. Treasure Hunt
3. Make a Book
For lots of students…
1. Shared reading time
2. Circle time/calendar/morning meeting
3. Interactive writing
What Activity?
1. Sentence Sleuth
2. Morning Message
3. Sentence a Day




Enjoy tending your garden of beautiful, growing readers this spring!




More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1

How can the VKRP Data and Resources Support Student Learning of the 2016 Mathematics Standards of Learning in Kindergarten?

In September 2016, the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) approved recommended revisions to the Mathematics Standards of Learning (SOL).  These recommendations stemmed from the work of a group of teachers and mathematics leaders from around the Commonwealth with feedback provided by many teachers, administrators, and parents.  The VBOE approved these changes and K-12 teachers across the state began fully implementing the 2016 Mathematics Standards of Learning this school year.

The 2016 Mathematics Standards of Learning for kindergarten places emphasis on developing the concept of number by counting; combining, sorting, and comparing sets of objects; recognizing, describing, and creating simple repeating patterns; and recognizing shapes and sizes of figures and objects. Students will investigate measurement through direct comparisons, collect data, and create graphs.

The concept of fractions is introduced through sharing experiences.  Problem solving is integrated throughout the content strands. The development of problem-solving skills is a major goal of the mathematics program at every grade level. The development of skills and problem-solving strategies must be integrated early and continuously into each student’s mathematics education.

In 2018, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that requires all kindergarten students be assessed using the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP) by the end of the 2019-2020 school-year, and annually thereafter (HB5002, Item 128, H.).

As part of VKRP, students’ mathematics skills and understandings are assessed through the use of the Early Mathematics Assessment System (EMAS).  The EMAS aligns closely with the expectations of the Kindergarten SOL by addressing the areas of numeracy, computation, patterning, and geometry.  The student data provides teachers with greater insight into students’ understandings of early mathematics concepts and their progress towards the Standards of Learning.  The VKRP resources allow teachers to strengthen their own knowledge of the skills and concepts that are key in developing early mathematics understanding.  Located within the VKRP data reports, there is a link to resources that, when implemented in the classroom, can support further student development.  While the individual resources may vary slightly in format, most provide the following:

  • an overview of the mathematics skill or concept, including its importance, and how it develops
  • lingo associated with that concept and definitions for those terms
  • strategies to support the development of the skill or concept
  • suggestions for integrating the skill or concept throughout the day (through routines, transitions, meals, outdoor time, centers, etc.)
  • common errors (with suggestions for remediating the errors)
  • links to sample additional activities that support development of that skill or concept

Where can you find these great resources?  You can access these resources from the Classroom Overview report (as shown below). The reports “check” resources based on your students’ scores (sample below – “Recommended Resources” box). During an assessment window you can easily access the resources by just clicking on the domain/subdomain name on the list.

You can also access VKRP resources directly from the View Resources section on your VKRP landing page “My Resources” button (see above).  Information regarding the VKRP Resources can be found beginning on page 32 of the VKRP Teacher Manual.

Sample Connections between VKRP Recommended Resources and the Mathematics SOL

The Recommended Resources provided within the VKRP links to great instructional strategies and activities closely aligned to the skills and knowledge being assessed.  For instance, in SOL K.6 students are expected to model and solve single-step story and picture problems with sums to 10 and differences within 10, using concrete objects.  The VKRP Resource titled “Computation – Adding and Subtracting” (link) provides information for developing early problem-solving in Pre-K through Grade 1.

The VDOE Mathematics Team encourages you to take a look at the VKRP Recommended Resources as these can become great instructional tools for furthering students’ early mathematics understanding.

Debbie Delozier
Mathematics Specialist
Virginia Department of Education
Office of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1

More Reasons to Love Shared Book Reading

Mathematics can be a worrisome subject for some students, but with the use of picture books during shared reading, it doesn’t have to be. Children’s literature is a spring board to capture students’ interest in math. Integrating mathematics and literacy can decrease math phobia because it’s no longer just about numbers and shapes; students can begin to apply what they understood and learned from the story to the math lesson.

According to Marston (2010), there are three types of math picture books:

1. Explicit – Books that are written for the purpose of teaching and learning math.
Math Fables (Tang, 2004)
Equal Shmequal (Kroll, 2005)
The Greedy Triangle (Burns, 2008)

2. Perceived – Books that teachers identify as containing math concepts, therefore, easily lending themselves to math teaching and learning.
Caps for Sale (Slobodkina, 1987)
The Doorbell Rang (Hutchins, 1989)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Carle, 1994)

3. Embedded – Books that encompass math concepts, but their main purpose is to entertain readers rather than actually teach math.
Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday (Viorst, 1987)
One Duck Stuck (Root, 1998)
One Leaf Rides the Wind (Mannis, 2002)

As educators, we know that students learn best when lessons are presented to them in a meaningful way. Students have an easier time grasping concepts when they can make connections. There are many reasons to use literature in teaching mathematics, but let’s focus on how shared reading, using picture books, achieves all five mathematics process standards for students:

Figure 1. Mathematics process standards for students as recognized by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)

1. Picture books connect math to the real world. When students are exposed to stories involving math concepts, they are more likely to see how math is present in their everyday life. This expands their experience and improves their performance in the classroom because math becomes more interesting since a connection can be made between the story and the world around them.

2. Picture books supply concrete, pictorial, or symbolic representations of math. When picture books containing numbers, graphs, tables, or other math symbols are used as an introduction to a new lesson, they provide students background knowledge and context so they have a basis for their thinking. As a result, students are better able to retain information and establish meaning.

3. Picture books allow math talk. When students are engaged in a story, they become equipped to discuss math as it relates to the books’ illustrations and storylines. Students are able to express their understanding and thinking in words along with numbers.

4. Picture books encourage problem-solving. Storylines have the ability to grab students’ interest that may stimulate them to ask their own questions and search for answers. As a story progresses, students are able to think through the plot and develop or consider different strategies in solving a problem based on evidence and clues found in a story.

5. Picture books help with reasoning and thinking. When we connect math and literacy, students are able to build language skills and explain reasoning. In addition, students begin to note patterns and similarities between mathematical situations and real life, which help them discover proof that leads to an answer along with other discoveries as well.

Source: Attard, C. 2017, ‘Teaching mathematics through picture books’, Scan, 36(4), pp. 6-10

Click here to enter for a chance to win one of the books pictured below to use during your next shared reading. Suggested activities included.

To learn more about Exploring Math through Literature, visit National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

For a list of math-themed books for children categorized by skills, visit The Best Children’s Books.

For more ideas on incorporating math across the school day (and more), visit Teaching Math to Young Children by the What Works Clearinghouse, Institute for Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1

Teaching Social and Emotional Skills Through Shared Book Readings

Shared reading is one of the most powerful and versatile tools in a teacher’s toolbox. This is because the way a teacher reads a book can make a huge difference in what students take away from the experience. For example, if a teacher, while reading, ‘peppers in’ 3-5 comments about the letters or words on the page, students learn more about letters, even while they continue to enjoy the narrative and story. Or, if a teacher pauses while reading to ask questions about the story and talks with children after the story to further extend the book, students’ vocabulary and language skills grow faster as a result of these interactions. In fact, using books in an interactive way creates a platform for teaching all types of different content.

Many books geared for kindergarten students provide rich opportunities for social and emotional learning when you emphasize to students how the characters in these stories have feelings just like them, and how they also face challenges with managing their emotions and behavior, getting along with others, and making friends!

Using the social and emotional content of stories to generate large- and small-group discussions is a fantastic way to help your students build the vocabulary and strategies they will need in order to understand, manage, and communicate their emotions as well as navigate social situations with peers and adults.

Here are two of our favorite books for teaching about emotions!

Interested in winning a copy to use in your classroom?
Read on to the end of this post to enter in our raffle!

In addition to the stories above, there are countless books, both fiction and non-fiction, from which social and emotional themes and discussions can be drawn.

Many basic strategies to support students’ higher-level thinking skills and language skills during reading can be focused specifically on social-emotional content within books. As you are reading with your students, try using the strategies below to focus on the ideas of perspective-taking, empathy, and social problem solving:

  1. Consider text-to life connections: What would you do if (a particular event in the story) happened to you?
  2. Help students go beyond the book or make inferences: How do you think (a character) felt when (an event) happened?
    • Once your students are able to identify the character’s feeling, see if they can predict what the character might do next based on how they are feeling!
  3. Have students engage in hypotheticals which build upon the book: Would you have treated (a character) the same way that the other characters in the book did?
    • Why or why not? What would you have done differently?
  4. Have students engage in ‘what if’ scenarios that extrapolate from the book: If you and (a character) were friends, what might you do to try and help her/him feel better?

Here are examples of questions that may help to spark a broader discussion about identifying feelings and the contexts in which they may be felt:

  • Can you think of a time you felt the way (a character) was feeling?
  • What does it look like when someone feels ______?
  • How does their face look?
  • How does their body look?
  • How does your body feel when you are feeling _______?
  • Where do you feel it in your body?

These discussion questions can easily be transformed into prompts for drawing and writing activities, as well as math and science activities! For example, you could:

  1. Encourage students to create their own feelings books based on feelings you discussed during your book reading! Each page can be dedicated to a particular emotion word, and students can draw people, events, or things that make them feel that emotion.
  2. Ask your students to make a prediction about how many individuals in the classroom are feeling one of four different emotions (e.g. calm, excited, sad, or angry). Then have students place sticky notes or color in squares on a graph to indicate the way they are feeling, and count up the number of students in each category. Have students explain their predictions, and discuss the outcome and students’ reasons for feeling the way they do.

Finally, remember to enter our raffle!! Lucky winners will be mailed a copy of one of the books mentioned in this post.
The deadline to enter is Tuesday, January 29th, 2019. Please click on the link below to fill out our entry form!



More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1

So Much To Do – But What About YOU?

As you know well, working with young children involves a host of diverse and complex skills. A day in the life of providing care and education for young children includes helping them with basic needs like eating and ensuring their safety and comfort, while at the same time introducing them to academic domains as well as supporting them to build essential social and emotional skills. Being an effective early childhood educator can be immensely satisfying, but also the intensive days can be stressful! How, then, can we find that critical balance needed to take care of others and also take care of ourselves?

The Stress You Feel is Real

Source: iStock/SIphotography

Let’s first think about what we know about teacher stress. While all of us experience some stress as a normal part of life, challenges arise when teachers experience prolonged work-related stress. On-going stress can lead to “Burnout:”  a series of symptoms such as emotional frustration, fatigue, strain, and a negative perception of others. Recent research [article link  or  full brief link] shows that forty-six percent of teachers report high daily stress. This might be especially true during certain times of the year, like when holidays bring additional stressors, professional and personal. On-going stress can compromise health, sleep, quality of life, and even teaching performance. Teachers experiencing this high level of stress report difficulty focusing, planning effectively, and more conflict with students. As a result, burnout contributes to teachers’ lack of well-being and negatively impacts the children they are aiming to support.

What to do? Take care of YOU!  

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” Sydney Harris

Don’t let the news about teacher stress stress you out! The good news is:  evidence-based self-care routines exist and can support you in taking care of yourself right now, so you can feel better and continue to positively impact the lives of the young children in your classroom.

As you review your holiday to-do list, consider adding some of these strategies – just for you!

  • Breathe: Breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques can be very

    Source: iStock/PeskyMonkey

    powerful. Calming the body and mind through breathing and movement can lead to reductions in physiological stress, including lower levels of cortisol and blood pressure, and positive effects on sleep quality! See UVA researcher Tish Jennings demonstrating mindfulness techniques here (link to video) that you also can use in the classroom!

  • Move: Being physically active allows stress to naturally exit your body while also producing endorphins to improve your mood. For an added bonus, go outside! Nature provides the sights and sounds to enable your body to return to a more peaceful state.
  • Sleep: Your body heals and recharges when you sleep, so creating routines that will allow you a time of relaxation and rest are key. Consider:
    • Setting up a bedtime: people tend to sleep and rest better when they have a consistent time to go to bed. Try, as much as possible, to respect this time every night and aim for 8 hours of sleep.
    • To bed, and nothing else: Avoid activities that are sleep-incompatible when going to bed, such as reading, watching TV, eating, problem-solving, among others. Protect your bedroom environment from these distractors and allow yourself to fully rest.
    • Avoid stimulants before bed: (e.g., caffeine, nicotine) and active exercise late evening; ventilate your bedroom before sleep, in order to have fresh air; and set up your room temperature to be comfortable, not too hot or too cold!
  • Socialize: Spend time with others, laughing, connecting, and just having fun! The holidays are a time to connect with others and enjoy. Being with others, and laughing in particular, reduces tension and improves heart health.
  • Be thankful: And, when you can, pause to reflect on the things in your life for which you are grateful. You can take this one even further by sharing what you are thankful for with others. Feeling and expressing gratitude can help you savor the positive and put into perspective the other things in your life, enabling a more balanced and bright outlook.

Source: iStock/Steve Debenport

Reducing stress feels good for you and helps the children you work with! Just one more way you can make a difference in the lives of others while also promoting your well-being too!


As 2018 comes to a close, we, here at VKRP, are thankful for you and your partnership! Sending you and yours our best wishes for a smooth conclusion of the fall school term, a wonderful winter break (with time to take care of YOU), and a dynamic beginning to the new year!

More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1.

Supporting Self-Regulation Through Play

Kindergartners are in the middle of a cognitive “growth spurt.” They’re starting to make the connections that lay the foundations for reading and math, of course, but they’re also gaining more control over their cognition and behavior. Parents and teachers can see this growth almost day-by-day, as children learn to wait their turn, pause to think, correct their mistakes, follow directions, and settle themselves down after being active or getting excited. These skills are often grouped together under the term self-regulation, because they represent a shift from children depending on adults to help them regulate their thoughts and actions to gradually taking control themselves.

There are a lot of individual differences in how children develop these skills, though, both in terms of timeline and overall level. Some children seem naturally thoughtful and measured from a young age, while others have trouble resisting distractions or remembering instructions. Some of those distractible children will outgrow it in time, while others may always tend to be a bit scattered or impulsive.

A lot of the development of self-regulation seems to unfold automatically through maturation. No special input required! We also have social structures and routines in place that support children’s growing self-regulation – for example, children let each other know when their behavior is out of line, and having to wait for a turn may teach children impulse control. Certain computer games and types of classroom instruction can also support self-regulation. But another, powerful way to support growth is through play.

Source: Lyn Lomasi, CC by 2.0

Pretend Play. Researchers think that pretend play, especially complex pretending that involves elaborate scenarios and multiple children, is uniquely linked to self-regulation. As children pretend, they are required to hold key information in mind (I’m a pirate! We’re on a boat! My best friend is really my sworn enemy!). They have to inhibit the natural impulse to act like themselves so they can act like their character (I’m a cat now, so I say “Meow!” for “yes” and “Meow-meow” for “no!”). And they often engage in coordination and planning, which draws on complex cognitive skills. A busy school day may not allow much time for pretending, but you can encourage children to pretend during recess or provide props for role-playing on a theme during stations. (Learn more about pretend play here.)

Stop-and-Go Games. Remember playing Red Light/Green Light or Mother-May-I as a kid? Researchers increasingly see common playground games as natural avenues for learning self-regulation. Games that require children to inhibit one action in order to do another, or complete a series of increasingly complex steps, draw on children’s cognitive self-regulation and may support development. Some even suggest that songs like “BINGO” or “There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” can support inhibition and memory. To be effective, games have to challenge children and increase in difficulty over time – performing the same task over and over doesn’t lead to growth. (Here are some great playground games if you need inspiration.)

Physical Exercise. We don’t totally understand how or why it works, but research indicates that physical exercise – especially pretty intense exercise – can improve self-regulation. Running around or doing aerobics can help children’s memory, attention, and behavior control. For slightly older children, yoga and mindfulness meditation can also be helpful. (Read more on mindfulness here.)  

We know you have a lot to accomplish with your students every day! Hopefully some of these ideas for playful learning strike a chord and will help you support your students’ development of these important foundational skills.

More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1.

… From Assessment to Action:  Part 3

Using Your Data to Share with Families

The Family Information Report is located in the Student-Level Reports section. As a reminder, you can reach your reports from the VKRP landing page in your PALS account.

Once on your VKRP landing page look under the View Results column on the right side of your screen. You will see Classroom Level Reports and then Student-Level Reports (#5 below).

For a quick visual overview of the Family Information Report, check out the  VKRP Reports & Resources Overview 2017 video on YouTube (14:52 -15:55).

Family Information Report Overview

Feedback from teachers across the Commonwealth helped us create a concise report. The report is designed to help you walk families through how their child performed across readiness domains and what the scores mean. Once on the report you can link to family resources (location circled below) that you can download and share with families in the areas of math, self-regulation, and social skills. These resources include fun and easy ways to support their child’s development in these domains at home! As you likely know, our PALS colleagues have a Parent website with many literacy resources. The VKRP family reports and resources are also available in Spanish (bottom left of the Family Information Report). Teachers currently using the VKRP system have shared that they use the reports as helpful guides during parent-teacher conferences.

Preparing to Share

Prior to sharing a child’s scores with his/her family, you will want to dig a little deeper for specific information regarding a student’s skills.

MATH:  The math score shared on the Family Information Report is a student’s overall math score. You can access a student’s scores in the subdomains of math (numeracy, geometry, etc.) by visiting either the classroom-level subdomain math reports or the student-level math report (revisit the VKRP blog on Accessing Your Reports here). You’ll be able to narrow the math resources you share with a family to the ones that align with the specific skill(s) a student is needing to develop.

CBRS:  Keep in mind that your observations were at the beginning of the school year and the CBRS data recorded is a snapshot of your students’ skills during that time frame. You will want to do some follow-up observations (as described in this VKRP Resource) to be able to facilitate a more detailed conversation with the family about where their student needs support, especially for those who are not developmentally where you expect them to be in their self-regulation or social skills (not meeting the benchmark) at entry. We acknowledge that discussing these social emotional skills can be challenging. You may find it useful to help parents understand that these skills are still developing at this age and early supports are incredibly effective in facilitating the development of these skills! In other words, we are not placing a label of “bad” or “good” on a student, rather we want to highlight that kindergarten is an important time to work on these skills to build a strong foundation for students’ future academic and social-emotional skills.

If you need to send the report home, we recommend providing details about student skills as outlined above in writing, in addition to the family resources.  It may be helpful to use a format and template like this one (Making a Plan for Using the Family Report) to facilitate your organization of the information.

We hope this closer look at the Family Information Report has been helpful. As always, if you have questions, VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1.