A Week in Kindergarten with Ms Holland
by Jenni...from the US
Kindergarten is a place where play is the work of children.
We learn through art, song, movement, experimentation, creative thinking, and practice... lots of practice.
Each year my students enter kindergarten with a wide range of skills and experiences. This year I have 23 children in my classroom. They range in age from 4 to 6 years old.
All of the children are eager to learn and excited to be at school. I have a number of students with special needs, their learning styles are varied and the teaching techniques I use are flexible. It is important to me that I am able to meet the diverse learning needs of the children in my classroom.
In a typical week, kindergarten is a very busy place. We like to sing, create, and explore our way through the day.
During whole group instruction the children receive guided practice in the skills and concepts we are working with. Whether we are singing the Month Macarena or moving our bodies to the names and sounds of letters, the children are learning with me as their guide.
In small groups the children have a chance to work with their peers and explore the concepts we are learning in a hands-on way. For instance, while learning about our five senses the children had a chance to explore the room with magnifying glasses, taste and compare different foods, and play a 'guess my smell' competition.
Topics are often explored in depth with thematic units. For instance in March we garden and grow as we learn about the life cycle of plants - watching seed transform is an amazing experience in kindergarten. In January we paper mache and paint a 3-D representation of our solar system.
Along the way the children ask a million and one questions about gravity and space exploration. We do our best tocollect as many facts as we can, while also trying out science concepts that are most pressing on our minds, like 'How do magnets work?' and 'What does space food taste like?'
This week in kindergarten we are learning about the letter Rr.
During centers we will make a life sized Red Rectangle Robot. Each child will have the chance to paint a cereal box red and add it to our robot sculpture. Once all the pieces are in place we will add buttons and levers, just to give it a 'realistic' feel. We will probably also use our Robot voices during calendar time. Each child that comes up to be the teacher must use robotic movements and voices, the kids LOVE this.
For the letter Rr our class also focuses on the name and sound of the letter as well as how to form the letter correctly. We use our SMART board during whole group instruction, so that the children have a chance to come up to the board and practice grouping pictures by beginning sound or forming the capital or lowercase letter correctly. Practice is important. There is time for individual and group practice throughout the week.
In math, we are learning about patterns.
In small groups the children are exploring patterns with musical instruments, movement, shapes, and colors. My favorite group was the musical patterns. We used instruments to make patterns. The kids loved trying to repeat my pattern and especially creating their own pattern with the drums, maracas, or sandpaper blocks.
Movement patterns were also pretty fun and great gross motor practice for the kids. We sat in a circle creating different movement patterns for the group to copy. While my group was making some noise one of the other pattern groups were creating patterns with blocks of different shapes and colors and another group worked on a skills sheet from the math workbook.
Math explorations take many different forms, tap multiple intelligences, range from the concrete to the abstract, but all are important to learning.
In science we are learning about our five senses.
We will be exploring with our five senses using a pumpkin next week. The children will feel, smell, touch, look, and listen to the sounds of a pumpkin, learning to use their describing words as they discuss and draw their experience. Then we will taste different food that come from a pumpkin.. pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, maybe even pumpkin soup.. it depends on what parent contributions we can get.
Predictions are an important part of any science exploration. I love to see what the children think will happen next. 'What do you think the seeds will feel like?' 'How many seeds do you think will be inside?' 'What would happen if I planted one of the seeds?' Another exciting aspect of science is allowing the children to develop their own questions. It is a surprisingly difficult skill and it takes time and practice to develop.
Literature is also an important source of learning in kindergarten.
During Mm week, we read the story Go Away Big Green Monster, then we used a SMART Board activity to recreate the monster in the sequence of the story. The children enjoyed taking turns to come up to the board and manipulate the parts of the monster.
In centers, the children then painted a large picture of the monster from the story- using the colors, shapes and sequence from the story. Each monster turned out to have its own creative flare and personality, but each developed from our story.
We also use lots of informational text to gather facts and answer questions about our science and social studies units.
One fun activity that we do is learning satchels. During the month of October for instance, each child has a turn with the Batty Bat Satchel. In the satchel is a non-fiction book about bats, a journal, and instructions for the parents. The parent is to read the book to their child, then decide upon one fact to write and illustrate in the journal. The child gets to share their fact with the class the following day at school. This is a high interest home/school connection for the kids and their families.
Community building is another constant part of the kindergarten week. Our three rules are 'Be Safe, Be Kind, Be a Leader.'
There are many opportunities to explore these concepts as children learn to use kind words with their friends, walk on the sidewalk, or to make good decisions for themselves- despite what their best friend is doing.
We learn about words like independence and responsibility as the children learn to return library books on time or remember to turn in a homework activity. We role play, learn to give compliments during community circle, practice our routines and procedures so that no mess is left behind, and always say please and thank you.
As you can see, there is lots to do, see, and explore during one kindergarten week. The kids are exhausting, but oh so much fun. Learning takes many forms, from the complex to simple route to constructed.
The children have the opportunities to interact with one concept in many different ways. This gives the students experiential knowledge, something to base new learning on, making the learning - deeper.
Once a child can feel it, touch it, question it, test it... then they can begin to know it.
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