Kindergarten is a joyous time of life. Students become increasingly aware of their peers and 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 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. Two key aspects of social/emotional instruction are the Zones of Regulation and Responsive Classroom curricula. These frameworks allow children to grow in their ability to identify challenges, understand their feelings, feel valued, and improve their problem-solving abilities. Appreciating and managing one’s feelings, making friends and being a good friend are wonderful and vital skills for life and living.
Language and Literacy Development
Literacy is authentically and meaningfully woven into all parts of the school day. Our goal is to encourage a love of reading and writing as students begin a more academic program in kindergarten. Teachers select texts and writing projects that inspire students’ creativity, encourage their interests, and provide the children with opportunities to build their emerging literacy skills.
Literacy instruction at Friends School Haverford is intentional, research-based, and cross-curricular. To provide our students with a strong foundation, Kindergarten teachers use the Fundations curriculum to systematically teach phonics, phonemic awareness, and handwriting. This whole class experience is supplemented by daily small group guided reading sessions. In these differentiated learning opportunities, students work closely with a teacher to engage with books at their level. This allows us to intentionally and actively support the needs of each child. Additionally, teachers provide students with many shared reading opportunities and read alouds that connect to different areas of the curriculum. Kindergarten students not only study writing, they experience what it is to be an author. Students explore the various ways people communicate through writing by engaging in meaningful writing opportunities. For example, students use their developing writing skills to create books, write letters, record scientific observations, draft personal narratives, and share their own questions and interests. 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. In Kindergarten, teachers use the Math in Focus curriculum to frame the students’ learning. The concrete, multisensory experiences allow the kindergarteners to develop a strong number sense. Even more importantly, our goal is to encourage children to see themselves as problem solvers who can use numbers, patterns, and shapes to understand the world around them. Kindergarten math takes as its context lessons inside the classroom, out on the playground, during social studies and science lessons, and even when we experience the arts.
Social studies is at the center of the kindergarten program. During this exciting year of transition from early childhood to elementary school, students are given intentional opportunities to examine who they are, their cultures, the environment, and what it means to be a positive leader. They also are encouraged to begin to critically examine the world around them using tools such as maps and graphs to tackle the idea of needs versus wants. Kindergarteners also are often interested in what is “fair." Teachers use this curiosity as a foundation to discuss important topics such as equity and advocacy in an age appropriate way.
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. 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.