Thursday, April 11, 2013

Flow of the Day in FDK

We have had a lot of visitors lately in our classroom and many of their questions focus around the flow of the day in Full Day Kindergarten (FDK). It can be challenging to juggle timetables and I am not sure there is a "best" flow of the day. However, I feel that we have worked hard in and in our 3rd year of FDK we are beginning to understand how the day best flows so I wanted to share what is working for us...and what wasn't working for us!

Structure of Our Day - Shaded areas are "prep" periods.
We don't use the times to the minute but they help us to structure our time through the day.

When we began our journey in FDK one of the key messages was "maximum message, minimum time". What we know developmentally about children is that sitting for long periods of time in a whole group is not best practice. How could we possible meet the academic and development needs of children in this way?

We have tried many different things during this whole group instruction time over our journey: read alouds, shared reading, poems, math problems, science experiments, and sharing of learning. We have tried to have specific teaching points that reach all of the students...but we have found this to be a real struggle.

During our whole group time (which we call Focused Learning) we still do many of the above things. We will do a read aloud, share children's thinking, or reflect on a math problem. This year I feel that we have tried very hard to do all of these things with purpose. When we read a story it is because it is connected to the children (e.g., connection to something happening in the room, related to a project or inquiry that we are exploring). We really try to ensure that in those 10-15 minutes (max!) that the learning is connected to the children so that they are engaged and interested in actively participating.

We have 2 large uninterrupted blocks of Learning Centres. During this time so many things are happening: planned and unplanned small group, one on one interactions with educators and children, open and free choice in play, and project work.

When we started 3 years ago we were much more calculated in our timing which I now think was related to our confidence and our understanding of the program. We tried balancing the day by saying "first learning centre - one educator can plan or do small groups and second learning centre - the other educator can plan or do small group". It worked and helped us to structure our thinking. One educator felt that they could focus and sit, while the other floated and extended.

This year, we have taken that structure away...and it is working. Some days we are both engaged in small groups, other days we are both documenting and entering into different learning areas. As we have grown more confident in ourselves and our children we have loosened our structure which has allowed for us to experience so many more incredible learning experiences with the children.

We begin our days outside and we love it. For the past two years we had outdoor play at the end of the day outside, but upon reflection with my partner we realized that many children may benefit from starting the day outside. The children have the opportunity to explore, create, and invigorate their senses outdoors before coming into the classroom. It allows us lots of time to interact with the children, to hear their stories from the night before and for them to interact and talk to one another.

During Outdoor Play, one of us quickly checks children's mailbags for notes, money, forms (all of the fun stuff!). After 20 minutes outside together as a team, I bring 2 small groups of children inside. We strongly believe in filtering children through transitions to avoid chaos and over stimulation. During this short time I do 2 guided reading groups. This allows the children also to have a calm, quiet environment to focus on reading instruction.

When we finish our groups (7-10 minutes for each group), my partner begins to slowly filter the other children in. As the children come in, they know the routine for taking care of their belongings in the cubby area and then they come in and choose somewhere to learn.

We feel it is really important to go right into learning centres (not having a carpet time) for a few reasons. When children are sitting on the carpet waiting for their peers to undress - it is boring and behaviours often arise. Further to that, imagine being a child coming into an exciting learning environment and being asked to sit patiently on the carpet when your hands can't wait to reach for those large wooden blocks.

So...they come in a few at a time (to avoid the busy coat area) and head into their learning centres. I begin to circulate and document. Once all of the children are inside, my partner comes in and begins the same process (documenting, small group instruction, project work).

This happens (as you will see in the schedule above) twice a day. However, the second transition is after lunch. The children rest at their tables and slowly my partners filter them back into learning centres as I come back from lunch. During the second block, my partners take their lunch.

After second nutrition break, our children come in and read books of interest for them for a short time just until we are all settled and ready for music and movement. This is a beautiful time for them to read loudly and excitedly.

Quiet reading time seems almost like an oxymoron to me...especially at this age! Our children are by no means yelling but the conversations about books and reading together with their peers is so important. So much of their reading development comes from their oral language. They talk about the pictures, the words, the stories, the facts...they talk!

We end our day with music and movement...we have done so many amazing things in this time. We explore instruments, songs, different types of dance, cultural music...

We finish the day with a slow release from music and movement back to the cubby area where one of us dismisses while the other engages the children in music and movement while we wait for families to arrive.

There is so much more that I want to say and share...however, I talk too much which translates sometimes to me "typing" too much. Please ask questions and challenging our thinking - that is how we all learn. As I mentioned early, this is not "the way" but this is "our way" right now...

...exciting news: our planning time teacher is going to write a "guest blog" for us to share her incredible insights on how we structure and use planning time within our school. She is seamless in the way that she comes and leaves the classroom and it works so well!

After presenting and sharing about the flow of the day with many colleagues this year, I thought it would make sense to include our updated schedule.

This year we have minimized transitions to 10 (a long way from the 17+ transitions that we have only 4 years ago). We have shifted outdoor learning to beginning and end of the day so that transitions are more natural for the children as well.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing with such detail!
    It sounds like you have worked very hard with your partners to reflect upon the best way to deal with transitions with a large group - I appreciate the difference that having more than one adult must bring - both the positives and the challenges.

    I look forward to teaching FDK someday, but alas our school is slated to be in the last year possible. I know that teachers like you have had to work hard on making the new timelines work, especially with regards to planning time and sharing the teaching, so I appreciate all the ground work for when it is finally our turn at my school.

    1. Thanks for the reflective comments and continuing to read my blog Laurel! When you get to FDK you are going to love it - but I continue to admire your positive attitude and openness to embracing new learning!

  2. I am currently finishing up the Kindergarten Part 1 AQ course, and I found this post to be extremely helpful when creating a sample timetable. I really like the idea of starting the day with outdoor play and slowly transitioning into the classroom. May I ask how you adapt the schedule on cold or inclement weather days? Does this work well even in the winter months?

    1. Thanks for reading my blog! I am glad that you could connect to my thinking. We continue with this schedule even through the winer. On really cold inclement weather days or rainy days, we will come in and then have a quick discussion about the change in the days structure.

      We will ask the children why we need to change the schedule and talk a bit about what the new day will look like. We then slowly filter into learning centres for an extended period of time.

      We feel that it is important to involve the children in understanding the changes in routines so that they can process.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your schedule! I love to see how other FDK teachers structure their days. I also have been beginning the day outside with my FDK class this year. I can't believe what a difference it makes to helping with a smooth transition to the day. I'd never thought of doing the "slow filter" method. I will have a full-time aid next year (yay!) so I will have to give that a try :) Love your blog, thanks so much for sharing :)

    1. I think you will really enjoy the slow filter of children. It is especially great at the beginning of the year as it really allows educators to support the children in transitioning and understanding routines/expectations.

      Thanks so much for following my blog - I am so glad you can relate!

  4. Thanks for sharing your daily flow. I am in the midst of figuring out ow my daily flow should work.

    At present I have my kiddos come into the class and after a quick sign in they go immediately to a learning centre. Right now it is semi free choice with a language focus. I would like to move to more free choice, however I am struggling with how to ensure the JKs are working with letters and words. I am in a highly Chinese area and many of my kiddos come into kindergarten without any letter or sound recognition.

    I really like how you slowly bring the kiddos in, allowing for a quieter learning environment for small group instruction. I might have to try this when the weather gets nicer.

    I am now a follower of your blog and look forward to continuing to read your thoughts and insights.


    1. Thanks Kim for the follow - I am looking forward to exploring and reading your blog!

      We also have a very high number of students who come into our room with little or no knowledge of letters and sounds, so I can relate. We really respect and understand the importance of literacy.

      We have found that working through projects this year with students has created an environment for genuinely/authentically engage in literacy. I usually get really hung up and worried about letter sound knowledge and writing, but this year have felt more confident in seeing the engagement through projects.

      I hope that the schedule has helped you to be reflective about your daily structure - I love to hear and see other classrooms daily flow, helps me to reflect on ours!

  5. I am new to your blog and I'm so excited to see so much great information posted!
    Currently our school is looking at some schedule changes for Septmeber 2013 so that we too can have a more "seamless" transition with "prep" teachers and a better flow for the children's day.
    I have a few questions:
    Who supervises the students during nutrition breaks?
    Are kindergarten students outside with other students?
    Does your "outdoor play time" take place in the same area as your nutrition break outside time?
    When do you and your partner take your regularly scheulded breaks and for what duration?

    Any info. you'd be willing to share would be much appreciated!

  6. Who supervises the students during nutrition breaks?

    Our day is structured so that during nutrition break I am on lunch and my ECE partner is with the students. After nutrition break my partner takes her lunch. This provides less transitions and less adult contact for our children as well. We try to minimize the number of adults, which in turn minimizes the number of "messages" that the children are getting.

    Are kindergarten students outside with other students?

    We have a designated Kindergarten area in the front of the school. However, we do use the general space at the back where other students spend their nutrition breaks. However, we alter our outdoor play times so that we are not overlapping. Next year, we have decided as a team not to go outside during nutrition breaks at all, instead we are having a full period of outdoor play at the beginning and end of the day (this will also minimize transitions in and out). In place of going outside, the lunch will be extended a bit and then students will flow directly into learning centres.

    Does your "outdoor play time" take place in the same area as your nutrition break outside time?

    Yes and no! (haha, sorry that may not be helpful). We do have a designated K area as I mentioned, however we often use the back of the school especially when it is too muddy to use our front play area. Generally, yes we do use the same area and it is designated for our K students. We also have 6 sections of Kindergarten and our space is not large enough for that number of students. So one set of 3 classes has outdoor play in the AM and the other set of 3 classes has it at the end of the day (same goes for NB - one set goes out 1st, other set goes out 2nd).

    Next year as we hope to move to 1st and Last period Outdoor Play, we will divide as well so that 1/2 of the classes will use the front area and 1/2 will use the back and then flip at the end of the day.

    When do you and your partner take your regularly scheulded breaks and for what duration?

    Because of the need to adhere to a school wide duty schedule, I take my breaks (and cover duty) over the nutrition breaks. My partner takes her lunch in the middle block. She doesn't schedule in her breaks and takes them as needed (always based on when it is best for the kids) - which is why I love her. We are both very flexible and try our best to be in and out of the classroom during times that are best for the kids.

    Hopefully that helps, please ask for clarification if it doesn't make sense!

  7. Thanks so much for your response. My teaching partner and I have put forth a proposal about schedule changes for September to our administrator. After reading your response I feel we're on the right track to minimizing transitions and the "messages" our students will receive.
    Always finding something new to reflect upon after visiting your blog. Keep up the great work!

  8. Wow...what a great resource for those of us venturing into the full-day world! I just had a couple of things I was curious about...

    1) When the children arrive at school, do they automatically bring their bags into the classroom and then transition into the yard? I was just wondering how you are able to check their mailbags while they are outside?
    2) I was just wondering if you could clarify what happens after the nutrition breaks. Just going by the schedule it looks like the nutrition break is a 40 minute block. I'm assuming that the children do not need the full block of time and so what kinds of activities do they do while their are sitting at their spots?

    Thanks so much for sharing what you have learned in your FDK journey!

    1. Thanks for the questions and for reading.

      1) When the children arrive at school, do they automatically bring their bags into the classroom and then transition into the yard? I was just wondering how you are able to check their mailbags while they are outside?

      When the bell rings, the children come inside and hang up their backpacks. They sit in 2 lines in our cubby area to listen to announcements, sing O'Canada and then do attendance. While one educator does attendance and chats with children, the other takes out mailbags and begins to go thru them. One educator will head out with the children and the other finishes up quickly with mailbags before heading outside. By the end of the year we were so quick at checking mailbags that we could usually both get outside with the children together (other than in the midst of field trips!)

      2) I was just wondering if you could clarify what happens after the nutrition breaks. Just going by the schedule it looks like the nutrition break is a 40 minute block. I'm assuming that the children do not need the full block of time and so what kinds of activities do they do while their are sitting at their spots?

      Our lunch routine is close to 40 minutes. By the time we slowly transition them into lunch (washing hands a few at a time), eat, and rest it is close to 40 minutes.

      All of the children start and finish eating at the same time. They are given a 5 minute warning and then tidy up their area. They put their lunch bag in their backpack (which is on their chair) and then they rest.

      My partner puts on slow, soft, yoga/quiet music and the children put their heads down on the desks. They rest their bodies for about 10 minutes. It is really important to have peaks and valleys in childrens days - this is a great opportunity to encoruage calmness and a "valley".

      While resting, we quietly tap students on the head. One at a time they put away their backpack and chooose somewhere to learn. This supports another slow transition.

      Hopefully that makes sense and helps!

  9. Thanks for sharing your ideas about FDK. I'm looking forward to trying them out in September. I wanted to ask you a few questions:
    1) What does your first week of school look like? Do you go right into your flow of the day chart you shared?
    2) Do you use any routines on a daily basis, e.g. visual schedule, morning message, counting the days of school? If so, where do they at place in your day?
    3) I teach in a kindergarten pod where two classes are in one large area. There is a wall that divides the class about halfway. Otherwise it is wide open. How would you address that? Would you have joint focused learning and learning centres even though it is a very large number of children?

  10. Thanks for your questions - I am hoping to write a post about how to begin the year, I did write a few reflections this past year that may be helpful.

    Patience @ Paint:

    I would also like to document the set up of our new room. Excited to be changing spaces next year, will be a challenge.

    With regards to the POD and having 2 classes in one...that is a challenge. Oddly enough, my first year in FDK I had a room that adjoined with another room. We had a folding wall but chose at the beginning of the year to keep the door open (in hopes of creating an open concept space).

    Our plan somewhat backfired and was a bit more challenging than we anticipated to manage. With almost 60 children it was a bit too much to come together for learning centres. It was also a challenge to foster relationships and a sense of community with such a large number of children.

    I would recommend keep the spaces and environments seperate. The biggest thing you would need to do is somewhat coordinate your schedules. Perhaps both rooms could do learning centres and focused learning at the same time, but sepearately. Timing will be important to keep in mind!

    Hopefully that is helpful, would love to hear how things go with the open concept...definitely an exciting challenge!

  11. Hi there!

    I taught FDK last year, with 15 students and no ECE. I had a wonderful year, and it was quite a learning experience as I went from being a Learning Resource Teacher to FDK. This year I will have a SK/Grade 1 split, with approx 22 students (and no ECE because it's SK/Grade 1, and not just FDK) and I'm just wondering if you have any thoughts or insights on this split.

    Right now, I'm trying to figure out how my day will flow and how to make sure that both my SK's and Grade 1's are getting everything they need. I think that my school board is slowly moving towards the inquiry based learning model for grades 1 and 2 and possibly beyond, but we're not quite there yet. I however, will be implementing it in my classroom for my grade 1's (and I should mention that my board supports this, and will be meeting with myself and other teachers who have SK/Grade 1 splits to help us through this journey).

    I am also seriously considering implementing The Daily 5 literacy program to make sure that my Grade 1's are on track when they leave me in June (as well I think it will benefit the SK's). Any thoughts on Daily 5 in a FDK/inquiry based classroom? Do you think it works with FDK? I don't plan on long, drawn out periods of time doing Daily 5, it would be much shorter than the book suggests, to allow for the appropriate amount of free choice/learning centres/inquiry centres.

    I guess I'm just looking for any feedback you may have about this type of split. Anyone else out there in this position? Your thoughts?

    Love your blog & I will be following it regularly!


    1. Heather - I missed a few comments earlier in the summer! How are things going this year, as by now it has started! I am always curious about a Gr 1/SK blend. I would love to try it - I think you could run it similarly to an FDK classroom for sure. Most of the instruction in Gr 1 comes through small group or interaction with children in play.

      I am not a big advocate for Daily 5, or any other program that has prescription to it. However, there are elements of all resources/programs that I do like! I have seen others use Daily 5 in Gr 1 and really like it. I wonder if you could invite children to "play/learning centres" while you do small group instruction - so a bit of a similar structure to daily 5?

      Thanks for reading - would love to hear how things go! What a cool opportunity!

  12. Hi There :)

    I just came across your blog and it is wonderful. I am just starting my FDK journey and this is such a great resource :)

    I do have one question wrt your Focused Learning Lessons. I noticed they come after the Learning Centers. Can you explain how these Focused Learning lessons work? Are they a summary of what was done during the learning centres or do they have a focus on the upcoming learning centers?

    Thanks for your help!


  13. Thanks for following Lyndsy! I am glad that our reflections are helpful!

    During our Focused Learning time many things can happen! That is the main reason we call it focused learning. We will often plan something for this time, however when things come up in learning that are inspiring or that should be shared we will often use the time for the children to discuss the learning that just happened.

    Many times we will have an inquiry circle - we may look at photos, videos, or books based on a project that is happening in our room.

    Sometimes we will have a math or language focused lesson/activity at this time, but that is more rare. We find that when trying to reach all learners it is quite difficult to plan a lesson - thus we focus on math/literacy through small group instruction and in learning centres.

    Hope that is helpful!

  14. What a great blog! I like how the kids come into the room and straight into learning centres. I agree with your comment about waiting at the carpet and behavious occurring. I also find that I sometimes struggle to make this initial meeting time "purposeful" and "relevant" to the children. I like the idea of them coming in slowly and getting settled instead of all of them wanting to go the same areas once I "dismiss" them to learning centres. The "inquiry circle" idea intrigues me and I think I will incorporate the "looking closely" idea that I read about on Mrs. McKay's blog

  15. Hi, Thanks for your blog!
    You describe learning centres as a time for small groups/ projects/... and I assume choice play as well? What does this look like in action? I find that pulling children away from play to a small group activity, for example, can hinder the play's flow and keep the child distracted/ less interested during small group.

    Are math and literacy skill the focus of learning centres, or a few of many learning centres? Do you have a message time, calendar, or other daily activities?

    I am struggling to find ways to plan for and document play experiences but get caught up in either/or thinking as the demands in my (American) school district get ever more intense.

    Thanks again for your blog. As soon as I figure out this blogging thing, I plan on starting my own! :)

  16. Yes Learning Centre time is first and foremost a time for the children to choose where they play and learn. They will often make the choice to work on projects as well when interest is there. We will invite children into small group for a variety of purposes as well.

    We try not to pull children out of play when possible - thus we try to start with a small group at the beginning of Learning Centre time rather than part way through. For guided reading, we bring in a few staggered small groups in the morning from outdoor play to support in the transition and to provide quiet time for reading instruction.

    Math and literacy flows into all learning areas - all of the curriculum, in my opinion, comes out through play when we take the time to slow down and watch. There are absolutely pieces that need more direct instruction than others, but it is there! :) We will provide materials that will support the development of those skills, but no worksheets or pre made activities - always open ended materials.

    Our "Focused Learning" time is whole group instruction on the carpet. We use this time to talk about inquiries in the room, personal/social skill development, and other skills that are applicable to the whole group.

    We have eliminated calendar based on research and our understanding of how children learn about the passage of time. Often times we as educators use calendar to teach skills such as patterning which are much better explored in natural, real play experiences.

    It is essentially a big balancing act - challenging and exciting each day! Wish there were words to say it is "easy" but it isn't! I feel your pain in balancing instruction and play, but the more you trust in the children and take the time to slow down the more you will let go of the old ways!

    It is a journey, enjoy it! :)

  17. Thanks so much for providing us with so much great information! I love your idea about bringing in a couple of groups to do guided reading. Just a quick question for you...when you are reading with one of the groups, what is the second group of students doing?? Thanks again for sharing this with all of us!

  18. Great blog! With tidbits from different children across the curriclum strands - how are you and your teaching partner recording these events so that you can track who has accomplished what? I love open centres and so do the children - just not sure how not to end up with 30 focussed at a glance sheets when I become FDK in the fall. Any advice on what/how you observe/assess develoment during learning centre time? Thanks

  19. Q: When you are reading with one of the groups, what is the second group of students doing??
    A: At the beginning of the year I may set out some simple table top activities (e.g., puzzles, books, writing materials). As the year progresses the other group re-reads their familiar texts and plays literacy games that were designed for their particular group while one of us reads with the first group.

    Q: How do we track?
    Every couple of weeks we profile out all of our documentation (looking at our Noteability files, pictures, and videos). We look at areas of need/strength for children in terms of small groups or individuals. It also allows for us to plan purposeful and intentional provocations. We just use a blank profile and talk about what we have noticed about each child. To structure it a bit more you could look at each domain of curriculum too.

    I would really like to create a post on documentation and assessment, but it is such a massive topic that I can't quite seem to decide how to write it!

  20. I absolutely love your blog! I found your blog upon taking my Kindergarten AQ through York University and ever since then I have been looking at different blogs but yours seems to always have the most detail and clarity.

    I'm new to FDK and was wondering what happens when you have other teachers come in for prep coverage? Are they to teach a different subject or do they carry on with what your schedule says? If my students are at playful learning centres and I have prep coverage, are my students to continue working on whatever they were working on before? What is the prep teachers role if he/she is carrying on with what was already going on in the class? Is he/she to document as well or should he/she stick to probing the students thinking only? I hope that makes sense and I apologize if you have answered this before.

  21. Your blog is amazing!

  22. Hi Tracy. Started following your blog recently. Couldn't stop reading. Thank you so much for taking time and sharing in such details! I've heard that some teams are implementing staggered entry. Sounds great! My present team is the 1st year FDK. I'm the third as RECE. My dream is to get to the level when the members of the team are not only about one-to-one assessments and report cards. I'm optimistic that we will get there!

  23. Hi Tracy,
    Your blog has been very helpful! Could you share more about what materials you provide during your learning centre time? Is it the same in both the morning and afternoon chunks? Also, when you are documenting, how or what are you documenting? I am finding it hard to fully grasp how to provide more free play/exploration while documenting that the students are meeting the learning outcomes. Thank you!!

  24. Awesome Blog... I have taught Kindergarten for years but I am starting to see it in different ways great ideas, thanks....
    Question about how do you deal with the school/boards expectations that are not related to FDK like must be reading at end of kindergarten certain level?

    Do you teach formalized writing, how to write a story, using animated literacy or printing programs?

  25. Hi Tracy,

    I'd like to hear more about how you follow balanced day. Up until know FDK has not really been following balanced day in our school... we'd like to move towards doing this as it will make scheduling a lot easier (teachers are on the duty schedule and have to pop out of the room at weird times). IN your new schedule where the kids have longer chunks of outdoor play at the beginning and the end of the day... how do use the "nutrition break" time where you are out of the room? Thanks :)

  26. We are looking at changing our flow-of-day for next year. When the children have their "nutrition break" twice--is one a recess outside???