At first glance, Robert Fulghum’s poem, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, sounds overly simplistic. Can everything someone needs to know really be learned at the tender age of five or six? Yes, we believe it can.
"Play fair. Clean up your own mess. Live a balanced life. Be aware of wonder."
These are big, life-long lessons for everyone, and we are convinced small people have big ideas and are ready for a magical journey full of books, friends, and play.
Our kindergarten curriculum is child-centered, beginning with individual assessments of each child in all academic and social-emotional areas. Teachers work with every one to advance through the curriculum at the child's own pace. The weekly themes are also based on children's interests. Reading is taught with a balance of whole language and phonics. Teachers also begin reading chapter books aloud to the kindergarteners, helping them use their imaginations to create vivid mental pictures. Explicitly teaching this skill creates stronger readers and more creative children.
Reading and writing are not separated; they work in unison. Students write personal narratives, poetry, and non-fiction. Kindergarteners, through Writer's Workshop, begin learning how to revise their work. They share their writing with and receive feedback from their peers. Using peer feedback and their own critical thinking skills, they revise. This is often a difficult skill for any writer, but we believe our children should develop healthy writing habits. In addition to reading and writing, children also develop their numeracy skills, with a strong emphasis on problem solving, place value, and patterns. The math journals they keep reinforce these concepts and develop metacognitive skills (thinking about their own thinking).
As children learn best in small groups, core academic time is spent in learning centers. Our centers are still play-based, which is developmentally appropriate for children at this age. The imaginative play centers change frequently in kindergarten. A veterinarian’s office, grocery store, or post office is not an uncommon sight in the classroom as the year progresses. Not only can students engage in pretend play, but they can practice academic skills. For example, children playing in the post office write letters for family and friends around the country. As they receive responses, they locate each place on a large U.S. map, measuring for distance. They pay for parcel services and use their math skills to count money, laying the groundwork for addition and subtraction. They read the letters they receive and respond - reading and writing for a real purpose. Science and social studies are also incorporated into centers and thematic units. Children hypothesize and devise their own experiments in class and at home. Kindergarteners receive special totes to bring home to encourage students to share their learning with their parents. Children might conduct a science experiment at home, share their writing, read a book or deliver a speech about something they are learning in class. Just as we encourage a strong home to school connection, we encourage children to build a sense of community within the classroom.
In addition to creating future scholars, we want to foster the leader and philanthropist in all students. As our kindergartners begin to gain a deeper understanding of fairness and empathy, they begin to serve as peer mentors to their younger classmates. They might invite a preschooler to participate with them in Writers’ Workshop, serve as an ambassador to welcome new students, or help the younger students tend the garden. Kindergartners, while still working on self-awareness and self-management behaviors, are becoming more socially aware and beginning to manage relationships. At any age, critiquing another’s work or receiving criticism is difficult. Therefore, we teach children how to evaluate work respectfully and receive feedback gracefully. We help children work well together, seek help when necessary, and advocate for themselves. Lend-a-Hand, our community service curriculum, builds on these skills as students examine their communities. They learn to respectfully address problems and collaboratively work with others to better their world.
The kindergarten curriculum carefully promotes all aspects of physical, social, emotional and academic growth through child-centered, high-interest themes. Skills and concepts go beyond a simple connection to the real world; they are refined to prepare children to successfully participate as global citizens. Our children learn another valuable kindergarten lesson penned by Robert Fulghum. “When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.”