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 vkrp@virginia.edu, 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 vkrp@virginia.edu, 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!

Click Here TO ENTER BOOK RAFFLE

 


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

 

…From Assessment to Action – Part 2!

You’ve given PALS… now what? Let’s explore using the NEW Emergent Reader Electronic Lesson Plan (ELP) as a way to organize a week’s worth of differentiated small group instruction for your emergent readers in the areas of Phonological Awareness, Concept of Word in Text, Alphabet Recognition, Naming, & Letter Sounds, and Beginning Consonant Contrasts.

Step #1. Identify emergent readers.

Look at your PALS-K data and your anecdotal observations. Emergent readers are students who…

  • Are not yet automatic with letters and sounds
  • Are developing rhyme awareness, syllable & word awareness, or beginning sound awareness
  • Scribble, use letter-like symbols, random letters, or some initial consonants when writing
  • Pretend read or are not yet accurate when pointing to memorized text
  • Identify no, few, or even many words in context
  • Identify no, few, or even some words out of context

Step #2. Create differentiated small groups.

 Some of your emergent readers may be Developing COW-T and some of them may have Rudimentary COW-T. The very first page of the New Emergent Reader ELP can help you determine which COW-T stage is a better fit. Click on the “eye” to view the COW-T Stages document.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use the COW-T Stages document to determine groups based upon those who have Developing COW-T and those who have Rudimentary COW-T. If you have any students with Firm COW-T, look into using the Beginning Reader ELP with those students.

Step #3. Use the New Emergent Reader ELP to create a week-long plan for each group.

There are four planning pages. You choose:

  1. A text, a COW-T stage, and focus letters
  2. A phonological awareness instructional activity
  3. Words for COW-T instructional activities
  4. Alphabet or beginning sounds instructional activities

Then you can print four Lesson Plan pages:

  1. Week’s Lesson Plan
  2. Personal Reader Text
  3. Word Cards
  4. Word List

There are three documents to help you differentiate instruction:

  1. COW-T Stages
  2. Personal Reader Routine
  3. Literacy Workstations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the last page, you can print:

  1. Each individual lesson plan page
  2. All four lesson plan pages
  3. Teacher pages for selected instructional activities
  4. All supporting documents (100 pages)

Step #4. Implement your lesson plan.

Familiarize yourself with the instructional activities which you have selected for the week. As you teach, think about the feedback you give to your students. Specific feedback will help students learn more quickly.

PALS Resources

Note that you will need to open the New Emergent Reader ELP with Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. If you do not yet have it on your computer, see directions for downloading it in your PALS account. Here are all the resources on the Resources tab in your PALS account:

Plan Instruction page, Emergent Reader section:

Webinars page, Recorded Webinars section:

FAQs & How-to Documents page, Electronic Lesson Plan (ELP) section:

 


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

…from Assessments to Action!

Here are 3 steps (and a little bonus) to get you into your VKRP reports and on to using your data.

#1.  Access your VKRP reports

You can access your reports from the VKRP landing page in your PALS account.  You will find VKRP Reports under the View Results column on the right side of your screen (see below #4 – Classroom-Level Reports; #5 – Student-Level Reports).

  • The Classroom Overview is a great place to start. It shows scores for your entire classroom in math, self-regulation, social skills, and literacy. (You can sort any column by clicking on the header.)
  • Once in the Reports Dashboard you can access other reports from the menu on the left side of the Classroom Overview screen (see below). To see student level reports, you can click on individual students’ names or scores.
  • For a quick overview of the VKRP reports, visit your VKRP Teacher Manual beginning on page 23 or watch the first section of the VKRP Reports & Resources Overview 2017 video .

VKRP classroom overview report

#2.  Explore your data — Look for patterns in the data

Now it’s time to think about what you see.  On your Classroom Overview Report, you can easily see who is At or Above Benchmark (in green) or Below Benchmark (in red). Your VKRP Teacher Manual includes a section on interpreting your reports beginning on page 29.

Ask yourself…

What’s happening in the classroom?

  • Where are students doing well?
  • Where do students need support?
  • Is support needed for the whole classroom in any area?

What about individual students?

  • Do students below benchmark have anything in common?
  • Do any stand out as needing more support?
  • Why might that be?

#3.  Access VKRP Resources from your Reports

Based on your data exploration – you are likely asking yourself: What can I do to support my classroom as a whole?  What can I do for individual students?  VKRP reports include a Recommended Resources section based on your classroom’s data!

classroom overview available resources

Resources are recommended at two levels:

(1) Classroom-level; for example if 50% of more of your students were below the benchmark in Numeracy, your classroom as a whole would be recommended for Numeracy resources (see example),

(2) Student-level; for example an individual student may be recommended for self-regulation resources based on their data in that area (see example 2 below).student overview - focus resources

BONUS:  Also available at the student-level are family- friendly reports that help you walk families through how their children performed across readiness domains and what the scores mean. You can also provide them with family resources in the areas of math, self-regulation, and social skills that include fun and easy ways to support their child’s development in these domains at home. The family reports and resources are also available in Spanish. Some teachers choose to use these reports as helpful guides during conversations at parent-teacher conferences.

Now you know some steps for making the most of your VKRP data!  More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email vkrp@virginia.edu, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1.

 

 

 

Building Positive Engagement by Connecting With Your Students

Your students are learning more with each passing day, and you’ve been learning too – about your students’ unique interests, abilities, and needs! The value of getting to know your students as individuals and continuing to nurture your relationships with them throughout the year cannot be overstated. Although it’s true that simply building strong relationships with each of your students will not teach them math and literacy skills, the way they feel about you will influence their confidence and engagement across learning domains. Each interaction you share also provides students with a model for how to interact with peers and other adults. It’s no surprise that students who have strong relationships with their teachers tend to experience better outcomes both academically and socially!

iStock/Steve Debenport

Building warm and supportive relationships with your students is one of the best things you can do to help ease their transition into Kindergarten, but it won’t happen overnight! Here are some tips to keep in mind as you continue to develop yours:

Show them respect.
Demonstrating respect toward your students will help them learn to do the same toward you and their peers. A few ways to do this are:

  • Acknowledging students by name and making eye contact when you address them, both individually and in large groups
  • Kneeling or sitting down and gently leaning in toward your students during interactions to show that you are actively listening and interested in what they have to say
  • Using a pleasant, calm tone of voice
  • Avoiding interrupting or talking over students

    Source: iStock/monkeybusinessimages

Encourage them to share their perspectives.
Taking time to show your students that you value who they are and what they have to say will help them strengthen their social skills and feel more comfortable expressing themselves. A few ways to do this are:

  • Letting students take the lead in conversations and activities
  • Asking them about their thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions, and life experiences
  • Showing your interest by following up with questions to keep the discussion going

Match your efforts to the needs of individual students.
When you are struggling to make a connection with students – particularly those who are experiencing academic or behavioral difficulties – putting extra time and thought into relationship building makes a big difference. A few ways to do this are:

Source: iStock/kate_sept2004
  • Partnering with parents to gain inside knowledge about their children’s interests and experiences so that you can jumpstart your relationships with students who may be harder to reach
  • Keeping calm when things go wrong. Just as we tell our students to stop and think before they act, it’s important to remind ourselves! How you respond to students during challenges will determine whether they feel comfortable in the future with sharing openly, seeking assistance when they need it, and taking academic risks
  • Acknowledging and praising students’ strengths and positive behaviors so that your relationship isn’t solely focused on dealing with problems

When you invest in your relationships with individual students, you’ll also be making an investment toward improving the overall climate of your classroom and learning experiences for all. So, let your warmth be contagious! Establishing a precedent of trust, respect, and mutual enjoyment in your relationships with students this year will benefit them now and for many years to come.


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

Family Connections Build Strong Foundations!

As kindergarten teachers, you are the first contact that many families have with their child’s educational career—they are so lucky to have you! Taking advantage of the opportunity to connect with families helps them to stay positively engaged in their child’s education, which has long- term positive impacts for children.

As you reflect on children’s progress over the kindergarten year, families are eager to hear about what their children have learned in kindergarten, and what they can continue to work with them on over the summer. Your final conversations with families this year may be the most important in setting students up for success in first grade.

These meaningful conversations with families about their child’s progress over the kindergarten year can really help to motivate families to engage with their child in learning activities over the summer and help reduce the “summer slide.”

In this blog, we provide some recommendations for sharing information with families about their children’s development over the year.  Using the information that you gathered from the VKRP assessments in the fall in combination with PALS data and your on-going observations of your students throughout the school year is a great way to share with families where their child started, how they have grown and where they might still need more support.

Using PALS Data: End-of-the-Year Tips:  Part II: Sharing with Families

Put PALS scores to work for you when talking with families!

Source: iStock/Steve Debenport

Sometimes, when talking with families, we just focus on whether students met the Summed Score Benchmark. But PALS tells much more than that! We know that giving families specific information helps them to understand their child’s literacy growth and strengths, and helps to identify how they can assist their child.

Click HERE to learn how you can use students’ PALS reports to create a personalized overview for families including current skills, areas to work on, and ideas of activities they can do together at home to continue learning in the areas of literacy. 

End of Year Math Wrap-up and Summer Fun for Families

You have laid the foundation for students’ mathematics skill development. You have likely witnessed students’ moving from just learning to count at the beginning of the year to now being able to “count on” from numbers besides 1 and “skip count.” At the beginning of the year, students may have struggled with simple addition and subtraction problems, and now there are students who can use multiple different strategies to solve complex computation problems.

As you reflect on your students’ math skills at the beginning of the school year when they completed “The Party Assessment”—Where have they grown? Where do they need more support? and Are they meeting first grade beginning of the year benchmarks? This is important information to share with families so they can help their child continue to grow in their math skills over the summer.

Source: iStock/Nadezhda1906

The VKRP team has created a family-friendly handout that highlights what math skills students have been working to master in kindergarten and what they will be working on in first grade. We have also included fun math activities that will support children’s continued skill development! Click HERE to download and share with families.

Summertime Self-Regulation and Social Skills Activities

From taking turns and resolving conflicts to following directions and persisting on difficult tasks, your students have developed skills this year that will serve them well for years to come! These final weeks are an ideal time to review their scores from the fall self-regulation and social skills assessment and reflect upon whether children who had room to grow have made the gains needed for success heading into the next school year, and whether children who entered with stronger skills have remained on target.

Whether your students’ needs for this summer are to gain or maintain,

Source: iStock/wavebreakmedia

there are enormous benefits to engaging families in continuing to foster their self-regulation and social skills! The VKRP team has created a handout for you to share with families that details the social and self-regulatory skills their child has worked on this year, and how they’ll be building upon them in first grade. We’ve also included directions for some summer games and reading activities to help spark conversations and learning about emotions, friendships, and body awareness! Click HERE to download, print, and share!

A HUGE THANK YOU!

Being a teacher is no easy task and the entire VKRP Team & our PALS colleagues want to take the opportunity to THANK YOU for your hard work and dedication to Virginia’s youngest citizens!

We wish you a happy, healthy, and FUN summer!


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