Full-day kindergarten gives students a strong academic foundation and provides them time for social interaction and creative enrichment. The schedule is constructed to maximize learning with literacy and math lessons occurring in the morning followed by a daily physical education class. The afternoon is filled with time to collaborate and create as the students enjoy science, social studies, and a variety of related arts classes.
The main components of literacy – listening, speaking, reading and writing – are taught through centers, cooperative groups, and differentiated instruction with a multi-sensory approach so that students are learning by doing. Literacy centers fill each nook of the classroom, and a significant portion of time every morning is devoted to reading and writing activities. We teach a sequential phonics curriculum, and phonemic awareness is built via multisensory techniques which help children to sound out and eventually write words of increasing complexity. The Units of Study for Teaching Reading program developed by Lucy Calkins in conjunction with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project provides students with guided instruction as they embark on the challenging task of learning to read fluently. In addition to this, every student reads one-on-one daily with a teacher, allowing continuous assessment and tailoring of content to each child’s level. The Writing Workshop model developed at Teachers College by Lucy Calkins serves as the map for creating small moment narratives, how to stories and informational texts. Children proudly read their published stories to classmates. At the conclusion of each unit, our kindergarten writers celebrate their accomplishments by sharing their stories at an “Authors’ Tea.”
Mathematics is presented daily with hands-on centers and math enrichment activities. Some of the topics covered include comparing and ordering numbers; skip counting by 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10s; identifying a sorting rule; identifying and extending patterns; and learning basic addition and subtraction facts. In addition to curriculum, children also spend time working on math learning centers which are differentiated to allow children to move at their own pace and begin to build advanced computational skills. Teachers integrate math into all aspects of the daily routine, with a goal of fostering the development of problem-solving and number sense.
Kindergarten students enjoy science classes several times a week. Through an inquiry-based model, teachers follow the interests of children and guide them as they discover how the world around them works. Science units of study include: the five senses, life cycles of plants and animals, water, land air, states of matter and motion. Students also have the opportunity to develop their engineering skills through incorporation of materials from the Engineering is Elementary program from the Boston Museum of Science. Students use the scientific engineering process in order to design the most effective hand pollinator, create a healthy home for butterflies after they hatch.
The social studies curriculum is child-centered and focused on the theme of community. Students explore their school community and the attributes of a good neighbor. Lessons encourage children to investigate an essential question, while field trips extend that learning beyond the classroom walls. Project-based learning is incorporated regularly, providing teachers multiple opportunities to differentiate the program and integrate disciplines in order to create meaningful learning experiences. Students apply their understandings to service learning projects, including baking for our grandparents and special friends, working with the Seeing Eye, and making pumpkin bread for the Community Food Pantry in Morristown.