Building Independence – September 2022: Lower School

Dear KSDS LS Parents,

Openness to Risk-Taking
Growth Mindset

Every step that our young children take in their growing independence works in tandem with these character traits. In the elementary years, taking on independence is a necessary component in our children’s development, but we all know that does not make the process simple or easy – for students or for parents.

 Building our young students’ capacity for and comfort with increasing independence and self-advocacy is a major goal of the carefully-scaffolded routines and activities throughout their Lower School years at KSDS. Here is a sampling of how our LS teachers shared that they purposefully create opportunities for emerging independence and growth of the character traits that support independence:

Building independence by having responsibility for myself, my needs, and my things

  • Students in Kindergarten are responsible for packing and unpacking their own backpacks and belongings. After a few weeks of routine and reminders, they learn which items go home and come back to school.
  • In 1st grade, students are expected to gather their own class materials for the day by retrieving them from their designated box in the back of the classroom. As the next step in independence from kindergarten, where books and supplies were often handed out to them, students are now responsible for making sure they have everything they need before we start an activity! 
  • In 2nd and 3rd grade, we continue to practice increasing independence in keeping materials organized, taking care of their needs; this may be to sharpen a pencil, get supplies, get tissues if needed, etc. 
  • 4th graders focus on increased responsibility for their work such as making sure headings are correct, rubrics are followed, and work is turned in on time; 4th graders use Google Classroom to check for homework when needed.


Building independence by having responsibility towards others

  • In my classroom each student is given a job to be responsible for which benefits the whole class. 
  • Students practice how to keep their cubbies tidy, and where to put their belongings in the classroom! Our classroom is our kehillah, our community, and we are all responsible for keeping it clean and safe. 
  • Students take turns leading tefillah, cultivating a leadership role responsible for the experience of the group.

 Building independence for my own learning

  • We offer choice in how and where students learn in many activities, including choice menus with differentiated paths, or self-selected research project topics. 
  • Teachers direct students to look for environmental clues to answer questions or see what directions had been given, asking guiding questions to help students progress to the next level and encouraging students to test their own questions to discover answers, rather than simply providing an answer from an adult
  • We practice with students how to use various learning tools – Hebrew vocabulary lists, math toolboxes, charts, information sources, manipulatives, checklists, and more – so students can practice utilizing available resources for themselves when they have an assignment or a challenge. 
  • Students are given a new text and first see what they understand from the text before any class discussion, by answering some general questions. From what they already understand, we proceed to what is more difficult. This helps students build their metacognition – their self-awareness of their knowledge and areas for growth.
  • We teach students how to proofread and edit their own work.

Building independence within a growth mindset environment

  • We cultivate a supportive community for taking academic risks and giving everyone permission to fail and try again.  
  • Teachers model independence for the students, often doing “think-alouds” to share their adult thinking and decision-making as an example
  • We praise students’ independence, even when something didn’t work out perfectly, reflecting with them about what they tried and maybe what they could do next time, with praise and encouragement

Especially at the start of a new school year, we as parents note the many ways our children have grown in their ability to do things independently, over the course of the past year, past month, or even past week! We remember that last year we had to help them out of the car, and this year, they unbuckle themselves and open the door themselves. We remember that last week our kindergarteners needed help to walk in the building and find the right room, but already – just a week later – they are more comfortable walking in on their own, finding the right destination, and asking for help if they need it. While it might make us a bit wistful as parents, to see the places where our children need our help less and less, it is expected and desired that they do so, and it means we have done a great job in helping to build – one small step at a time – the trust our children can place in themselves to move through life, problem-solve, self-advocate, and take risks.

We know that you, our parents, find ways to practice and promote your children’s growing independence at home as well. Whether you have your children be responsible for small household chores or self-care (putting away clothes, packing their own snacks, helping with dishes, making and following a morning or nighttime checklist of responsibilities for personal hygiene, organization and cleaning), you are building your children’s self-confidence with every step towards greater independence, supporting at home what is expected of them in school as well. Thank you for continuing to give your children space and opportunity to demonstrate their independence, to try and still make mistakes, and to grow from the process.  

Have a wonderful Shabbat,
Dr. Robyn Blum