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Finding that ‘Just Right’ Kindergarten Experience for Your Child

Is there a more adorable right-of-passage than kindergarten? The hugs, keepsake photos, and tiny backpacks filled with “have a great day” notes certainly help to make sending your little one off to big-kid school a little easier.

So does knowing you’ve found the right kindergarten program for your child.

With so many options out there, finding the right fit can feel overwhelming. But we know just the right person to recommend some school-finding tips. Canyons District’s early childhood education specialist Leigh Ann Fisher has been innovating in the kindergarten space for 17 years, and says one of the best things parents can do is take time to visit a few schools and observe the classrooms in action.

Every parent wants the best for their child and no child learns the same. The best teachers will individualize their instruction to meet a student’s needs, Fisher said. “Evidence of warmth and caring for every student is a must. If you see students talking, laughing and sharing, that’s a good sign.”

One way that kindergarten programs in Canyons personalize instruction, while also building oral communication skills and creativity, is what’s known as the “Oral Language Block.” Think of it as a choose-your-adventure type of activity that empowers students to decide how they want to spend part of the school day. It involves three steps: plan, do, and review.

First, students choose an activity they want to do and make a plan for it. They may decide to paint in the art corner or play blocks, read a book, or do math games. This is what’s known as “intentional play,” during which students are encouraged to talk about the activity with their peers and their teacher. Immediately after, as the students are cleaning up their areas, they will review what they did during “do” time.

“Children’s brains at this age are exploding with language and we understand that oral language development is the foundation for so many things in education. Having meaningful back-and-forth conversations about something students are excited about helps them take pride in their learning while strengthening listening and speaking skills,” Fisher says. “This ‘plan, do, review’ allows for students to make a plan, carry out that plan and talk about what they did.”

Canyons District principals are always happy to share the philosophy of their school and talk about the evidence-based curriculum Canyons uses districtwide, behavioral expectations, daily schedules and other logistics, from busing to school, start and dismissal times.

“Canyons’ schools embrace instructional practices based on the ‘science of reading,’” Fisher said. “Our K-3 teachers have spent two years training on these practices through LETRS.”

Some schools also have early-morning, and after-school child care programs along with free lunch and breakfast. Canyons has a magnet program for advanced learners, and starting in the first grade, some CSD schools offer dual language immersion instruction in Spanish, French, and Mandarin Chinese.

Location is also a consideration. You may want to find a school that’s close to home or work, or maybe you want your child to attend school with his or her neighborhood friends. These early years are when children begin to learn that they are part of a larger community.

“Chances are, you’ll find there are several programs that meet your needs,” Fisher said. “Canyons honors parent choice and works to provide a healthy menu of learning options. But as the top-ranked school district in Utah and Salt Lake County, all of our schools are a safe bet. It just comes down to finding the right fit for your family.”

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Lucie Chamberlain

Alta View Elementary

If a movie about super teachers were ever made, Lucie Chamberlain would be a prime candidate for a leading role. Fortunately for her kindergarten students at Alta View Elementary, she already thrives in a supporting role for them. Parents thank her for being a “super teacher.” She is also described as an “amazing colleague.” Whether students need help in the classroom or from home while sick, Lucie goes above and beyond to help them learn, overcome fears, and feel important and cared for. Lucie is the reason a number of kids went from hating school to loving it, according to parents. The way she exudes patience, sweetness, positive energy, and love for her students with special needs melts is appreciated and admired. One parent noted: “Both my kids wish she could be their teacher forever.” Another added:  “She treats every student like their learning and their feelings are her priority.” Super teacher, indeed!

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