Kindergarten is a joyous time of life. Enthusiasm for activities social and intellectual is abundant. Students become increasingly aware of their peers. They are able to engage with friends in creative and exciting ways. Imaginative play, earnest conversation about right and wrong, and sharing of information on a wide range of topics are components of life in the kindergarten classroom. Students are ever more capable and often experience appreciable cognitive and academic growth. Students are beginning to formulate frameworks for understanding the world around them. They are disposed to test their ideas about the way things work. Hands-on learning and time spent in the great outdoors are exceptionally potent catalysts for learning.
Social and Emotional Learning
Kindergarten students are becoming more socially oriented as they learn how to make connections with friends. Recognizing and regulating feelings is an important component of this development. A key aspect of social/emotional instruction is the Zones of Regulation curriculum. Zones of Regulation language and strategies help children grow in their ability to identify challenges, understand their role, and improve their problem-solving abilities. Students come to recognize when they are in different states called “zones.” Each of the four zones is represented by a different color (red, green, blue, and yellow). Students learn to use strategies or “tools” to stay in a zone or move from one zone to another. Students explore calming techniques, cognitive strategies, and sensory supports. Students learn to read facial expressions, recognize a broader range of emotions, and have perspective on how others see and react to their behavior. Appreciating and managing one’s feelings, making friends and being a good friend—these are wonderful and vital skills for life and living.
Language and Literacy Development
Instruction in the language arts is woven into the fabric of every school day.
Stories are read aloud during reading workshop time, rest time, and, in fact, any time we connect a book to something we are learning about. Kindergarteners make predictions about stories as we read. Students practice summarizing texts. Students are taught to recognize connections between and among stories with similarities of character, setting, scene, or plot. Stories may remind students of something that happened to them or something they already learned about—“text to self” connections. Phonics and phonemic awareness skills are taught. Students build on their ability to identify letter sounds. They learn to blend and segment sounds and words. Students are introduced to sight words, growing their list of instantly known words. Instruction in reading is differentiated. Using leveled readers, each student is met with a just-right challenge at her or his individual reading level. Kindergarten students not only study writing, they experience what it is to be an author. Students explore the various ways people communicate through writing. During Writer’s Workshop students create books for our classroom library. They write letters to our friends at the Brandywine Senior Living Center. Students compose text and create illustrations to show what they discover on nature walks. Students draft personal narratives and occasionally make up their own stories. The conventions of writing are introduced while students are engaged in thinking about the importance and richness of their written expression.
Mathematical Thinking and Expression
Kindergarten mathematics capitalizes on the natural curiosity and wonder about the world around them that is so much a part of the life of children this age. Through experiential learning, independent exploration, and cooperative investigation students become knowledgeable about the world and versatile in the way they use the language of mathematics to explain situations of quantity in their everyday lives. Kindergarten math takes as its context lessons inside the classroom, out on the playground, during nature discovery, and as we implement service-learning projects. Regardless of the context, students learn about the world by sorting, categorizing, graphing, tallying, counting and constructing. Multisensory hands-on activities ensure enthusiastic participation by all. Students develop number sense as they count, add, subtract, and otherwise manipulate amounts of things in their heads.
Scientific Thinking, Exploration and Discovery
Exploring and experimenting in the world around them is a powerful way for children to learn science. Time spent outdoors affords each child opportunities to problem solve, expand their creativity, take appropriate risks, and persevere. Learning about the natural world in an authentic and hands-on way is extraordinarily effective. “Forest Fridays” is time we devote to the outdoors. As Kindergarteners, we become dendrologists, investigating trees in the Haverford College Arboretum. We explore animal habitats at Tyler Arboretum in the spring. As we explore, questions arise. Teachers guide and scaffold student learning based on demonstrated interest. “What is it?” “What do you think it is?” What sort of thing is it?” “Why is it here?” These are the sorts of questions, with their respective answers, that help students to build in their minds a framework for understanding our world. In a word, “science.”