The CYC Kindergarten, as in the preschool classrooms, follows the constructivist approach to learning exemplified by open-ended learning centers based on the knowledge that children learn best by working with materials in a purposeful, playful, hands-on way.Centers include the science table, art table, math table, block area, meeting area, and dramatic play. Materials available in each center allow children to work with them in multiple ways depending on their development. This provides opportunities for children to strengthen their current understandings as they apply them to their play as well as explore new concepts. For instance, children may sort materials at the math table based on color in a preschool classroom and then begin to sort by multiple attributes such as color, shape, and size, in Kindergarten.
As children work with materials they construct their own understandings through self-guided exploration, learn from peer interaction, and further their thinking and use of academic language through teacher questioning and modeling. Writing utensils and texts (i.e. books, menus, magazines, etc) are integrated throughout the classroom to foster their use in authentic ways.
In addition to child-initiated activities throughout the day, children participate in whole group meetings, small group activities and individualized instruction to further support their literacy, mathematical, and scientific development. In Kindergarten children continue to study real-world topics through the Project Approach (Lillian Katz, Sylvia Chard, & Judy Harris Helm), however the projects become more in-depth as they are familiar with these types of investigations, develop more complex thought processes, and can sustain attention to a topic for a longer period of time. Kindergartners are active participants and decision makers through the Project Approach offering and voting on topic ideas, helping to determine how to study their chosen topic, and choosing how to culminate their study and share what they have learned with the CYC community. Previous Kindergarten studies include The Human Body, Musical Instruments, Airplanes, Boats, and Electricity.
The Kindergarten classroom aims to foster confident, motivated, capable readers and writers who understand and value the use of reading and writing. Children are engaged in whole group reading or writing instruction each day during a Reader’s or Writer’s Workshop meeting in which specific concepts are taught and reviewed, as outlined by Lucy Calkins. This meeting is followed by individual and small group participation in reading games or writing activities.
Teachers guide children’s individual writing development through stages beginning with pretend writing and moving toward writing sentences and stories. The combination of invented spellings (sounding out of words) and conventional spellings are supported by encouraging children to sound out unknown words and use resources around the room, such as our Word Wall, to write frequently used words. Games and individual teacher interactions provide authentic meaningful contexts to support children’s growing letter/sound correspondence, concepts of print, memorization of Sight Words, use of letter blends, and other important skills needed for reading and writing. Additionally, chapter books are read before rest time throughout the year and children are encouraged to critically think about and analyze texts read aloud.
During the Spring semester of Kindergarten children work with teachers in small groups on Sentence Journals and one-on-one with guided reading in addition to Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop. Small group instruction takes place to support and challenge children as needed. All stages of writing and reading development are respected in our classroom and children are given ample opportunities to share their writing with the class and display their work.
Children explore mathematical concepts on a daily basis through self-initiated choices in the block area, at the math table, and using tools around the classroom. Teachers provide mathematical language to enable children to explain their creations and observations. Teacher created games and activities often entice children to further work with math related concepts in a more direct way. For example, teacher made board games may require children to add the value on two dice, and beads may be available for making patterned jewelry.
Children are also engaged in math word problems during whole group and small group instruction with the help of concrete materials to solve these problems. Word problems ask children to solve mathematical equations in story form, often based on real life situations, making the problem more meaningful to the children. Once children understand how to solve a word problem, the number sentence is introduced. Throughout the year children are engaged in higher-order thinking while working with materials through teacher questioning that guides them to think in new ways. Children also participate in collecting data through surveys, representing the data in different ways, and analyzing and interpreting the data. During the second semester children meet in small groups to formally explore concepts such as money, weight, estimation, and 3-dimensional shapes in game-like situations.
Scientific thinking is encouraged throughout the classroom by the abundance of living things and interesting materials. The Kindergarten classroom currently has two guinea pigsl of which children interact with on a regular basis. Children are encouraged to observe the world around them, both in and out of the classroom, form questions, and investigate answers to their questions by creating experiments. Each year children have the opportunity to work with large balls and ramps outside of the classroom exploring concepts such as weight, size, force, speed, and balance. Other materials are brought into the classroom reflecting children’s interests.
Fostering children’s social and emotional development continues to be an emphasis in the Kindergarten classroom. We guide children towards independence, modeling problem solving skills and encouraging them to “use their words” to solve problems with their peers before coming to a teacher for help. Children are given responsibilities and we empower them to be positive leaders within the classroom and to the younger children on the playground. Responsibilities such as choosing their own place to sit during group meetings supports children’s growing ability to self-regulate their behavior.
The CYC Kindergarten supports Vygotsky’s philosophy that teachers are facilitators of learning and children should be taught to initiate and direct their own learning. Children are taught to be cooperative members of a classroom community, to be inquisitive about the world around them, to research answers to their questions, and the important roles of reading, writing, and mathematics in their lives, all of which set them on the path to being lifelong learners.
Kathleen Sayers - CYC Kindergarten Teacher