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Murray Journal

Viewmont kindergartners provide snapshot of their learning to parents

Nov 04, 2019 12:10PM ● By Julie Slama

Viewmont parent Brandon Orton watches his son, Harvey, take part in “show what you know.” (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Viewmont kindergartner Sam Barlow likes to count.

“I made it 49,” he said.

Sam was demonstrating how high he could count to his mother, Diana, at the recent “show what you know” evening. He was one of numerous kindergartners who sat with their parents or guardians, completing a specially prepared packet to demonstrate how they could count, recognize sight words, identify letters and numbers, write their names and do other kindergarten activities.

“He’s showing me what he’s already learned in kindergarten and I’m learning the couple of letters and numbers he’s unsure of so I can help him better,” said Diana Barlow, who adds that they regularly go to the library to check out books, then at home, cuddle together with his older brother to read together. “We try to practice reading and math when we can; he even counted the piñata candy he got at a party.”

“Show what you know” has been the norm for kindergarten parent-teacher conferences for at least the past eight years that kindergarten teacher Jessica Felt has taught at Viewmont.

“It shows what the child knows and gives the parents evidence of it,” she said. “I meet with them afterward and the students tell me what they’re good at and I ask the students what they need to work on. I still answer parents’ questions and if they want to meet further, I’m available during the regular parent-teacher conferences.”

Kindergartner Ellie Guerzon’s parents, Jordan Waters and Breeanna Larsen, appreciated the approach.

“We could see where she’s at and how we can help her,” Larsen said.

Waters said that they work with her to recognize sight words and flash cards to learn to count.

“We know what she needs to work on to meet the teacher’s expectations,” he said.

That is part of the idea, Felt said.

“Kindergarten has changed a lot. When I tell people I teach kindergarten, a lot of people think, ‘oh, how fun.’ They think it’s reading out loud, cookies and milk, naptime and add in a little bit of painting. It’s all that, except the naps, but it’s so much more now. They’re reading, doing addition and subtraction and doing quite a bit more,” she said.

David Borg brought his daughter Madi to the evening event.

“I haven’t had a kid in kindergarten for 30 years and it has changed,” he said. “It seems that they are learning a bit of everything every day – their numbers, letters, words, math and they’re trying to make it fun. They’re already learning computers.”

Felt said that teachers are teaching the new core curriculum, which asks students to learn more in kindergarten.

“The kids are able to do it; they’re learning more and we’re expecting them to, across the country,” she said. 

Josh McCleary was appreciating what he saw his child, Jamie, learning.

“I like what I’m seeing these students are learning, how they’re learning their upper and lowercase letters and helping them read and understand what they’re reading,” he said.

Principal Jennifer King said that many parents applaud this approach.

“For a lot of parents, this is their first experience with kindergarten,” she said. “They’re conceptionally seeing what their child knows and what to work on. It’s a real snapshot of where they’re at and they’re able to make that connection. The students are taking ownership of their learning, showing what their strengths are and which ones they need to work on. Then, when they meet with the teachers, they are on the same foundation level and have talking points of the students’ progress and goals for the year.”

King said that during the second “show what you know” in February, teachers prepare a second packet that further challenges students so they can demonstrate to parents and guardians what they’ve learned through the year and what they have yet to master this school year.

“It presents an accurate picture of their child and how parents can help teach and review at home instead of being overwhelmed by data. It establishes a team approach and empowers kids, who are excited about showing what they know,” she said.

Brandon Orton agrees. He learned that his son, Harvey, needs to learn 50 sight words by the end of the year and count up to 100.

“He already has 36 words down so we’ll make a list on a page of ones he doesn’t know, have him learn those and put the words in a sentence,” he said. “He already can count up to 100, and I didn’t know that until tonight.”

Harvey said he liked returning to school to show his dad his progress.

“It’s fun because I love math,” he said about the counting page he just completed. “And I can stay (up) later than usual.”