The Grammar School
Kindergarten is a time to wonder, experiment, discover, discuss, listen, question, observe, and grow. The goal of our program is to teach five- and six-year-olds the skills to make choices, solve problems, navigate social activities, collaborate with others, explore artistic creativity, and develop literacy skills. Independence is encouraged, and there is a strong emphasis on harmony and respect within the group. We cultivate a positive and nurturing environment to help children realize their potential and develop their natural curiosity as they strive to understand the world.
In addition to regular class time in each grade, our kindergarten and preschool programs work together during the year in our Early Education Collaborative, an initiative designed to meet the diverse needs of children ages 3 – 6. Having three teachers between our two classrooms allows each of us to work closely with children on specific curricular and developmental goals. Small-group individualization enables us to meet each child where s/he is on the developmental spectrum. Tailoring the composition of the groups allows for differentiation and individualization in ability, interest, age, and opportunities for socialization. Our schedule includes two centers periods per week where children enjoy theme-related exploration and discovery activities. These centers are designed to promote early literacy, sensory activities, math and numeracy investigation, art projects, music and movement activities, and much more — all within a framework of child-centered and teacher-guided exploration, collaborative effort, age-and-skill appropriate activity, confidence building, and fun.
With an emphasis on the four language arts strands (literacy, letter/sound relationships, communication, and writing), the kindergarten day is rich with words spoken, heard, seen, and written. Children look at books independently, hear stories read aloud, and discuss characters, plot, and action. Songs, poems, and rhyming games expand vocabulary and increase awareness of the sound and rhythm of language. There is an emphasis on strengthening the comprehension of letters and their sounds. In addition, the children tell stories for dictation and write group accounts of activities and adventures. In doing so, the children see written language used and sense its importance. Dramatizing our favorite books or poems and sometimes performing for an audience are favorite extensions. Beginning attempts in writing are encouraged and supported, and children are taught correct letter formation. Children make their own books, compose stories and poems, and keep journals. We use the program Handwriting Without Tears to teach correct letter formation and letter/sound relationships.
The goal of the kindergarten math program is to introduce key mathematical concepts and show children how to use them to make sense of the world. Topics cover six major content domains: number sense, algebra, measurement, geometry, data analysis, and probability. These concepts are reinforced through language, communication, social interaction, tools, and manipulative materials. Depending on the activity, work is done independently, in cooperative groups, or with a partner. Our morning meeting time is an important part of the daily routine, giving us the opportunity to review the class calendar and daily schedule, explore ways of counting and learn about place value. This helps build understanding over time and grows more challenging based on each child’s needs.
Students also create and replicate patterns, work with coins, learn simple graphing and estimating skills, and play number games to reinforce mathematical concepts. These daily routines, hands-on experiences, and games are vital in building conceptual understanding and relating how math applies to their everyday activities. With the Common Core Curriculum Standards as a guide, we use the Everyday Mathematics curriculum as a base for our work in mathematics.
Science and Social Studies
The kindergarten class explores different themes that stem from ideas and questions from either the teacher or students. With an emphasis on hands-on materials, each theme is integrated into our day through literature, music, art, or math when appropriate. Units of study in science often involve the natural world, allowing us to investigate our beautiful surroundings and collect natural objects right outside our door. Topics covered may include insects and worms, bats and other nocturnal animals, plants, or the seasons. Our social studies investigations explore the ways in which we are the same and the things that make us each unique. Throughout the year, we honor the traditions and celebrations that reflect who we are as individuals and as a group. Many of these activities occur within the larger school community. The people and places in our own community become more familiar as we study the homes and towns in which we live. In addition, we find out about the kinds of homes people live in around the world. For example, the kindergarteners will participate in our annual schoolwide Global Education Theme. This year we will study the culture of South Africa.
The goal of our kindergarten program is to introduce our youngest students to ideas they will study again in subsequent years and provide an intrinsic way of supporting children as they explore their identity and find their places in the world.
The kindergarten class deals holistically with topics of self-esteem, conflict resolution, personal safety, family diversity, emotions, friendships, and decision-making. These topics are integrated into our work together and flow naturally through the day and school year. We enhance our social skills work with strategies outlined by The Northeast Foundation For Children in the books The First Six Weeks of School and Teaching Children to Care. We study the roles people can play in a community, whether within our own school or the larger realm. We, too, become community helpers as we contribute to our school in a positive way or participate in service learning projects.
Art is another means of expression for children, one as important as language and physical skills. In kindergarten, art is integrated in the classroom as part of the everyday learning experience. The goal of the kindergarten art program is to create a climate where children can explore different materials in many ways, with a sense of enjoyment in the process. Art materials are always available. Throughout the year, projects revolve around units of study and we may experiment with textiles, wood, weaving, sewing, clay, papier-mâché, or printmaking.
Kindergarteners, who continue to use art as primary means of classroom investigation, become more familiar with colored pencils, crayons, and tempera paint in art class. We learn by experimenting, and students begin to have a sense of when and why an artist might choose one medium over another. Tactile integration is a strong focus, as is sensory experience; we work on several projects that describe a sensation with another sense, such as drawing the shapes, patterns and colors of different kinds of music. We also build sculptures from found materials, looking at the work of Louise Bourgeois, John Chamberlin, and Henry Moore. Kindergarten art is an opportunity to share materials with peers as well as to develop vocabulary to describe what we see and sensitivity to different styles. Early exposure to artists from many periods and places helps students have a sense of the diversity in the art world.
The kindergarten music classes focus on creative movement and the elements of rhythm and melody. Students begin to play Orff xylophones and other classroom percussion instruments. Movement work is based on Dalcroze Eurythmics, a system of feeling the beat and moving creatively to tell stories and express emotions. Singing games and beginning circle and line dances are an introduction to international folk dancing. Modern dance, physical warm-ups, improvisation, and theater games highlight the focus on drama and live stage performance.
The K-3 Chorus meets weekly and focuses on folk and contemporary songs, singing games, creative movement, dancing, and drama activities with performances at the K-4 Winter Concert and K-6 Spring Concert.
In preschool and kindergarten, students learn French through singing, coloring, miming, and dancing. Stories are told using the felt board and picture books. Topics will include animals, numbers, colors, simple verbs, the house, and more. Classes are lively and interactive, and meet once a week for half an hour.
Kindergarteners join preschoolers to listen to stories and do an activity with the librarian once a week. On another day each week, they meet in the library to choose books, practice listening skills, and do various activities designed to familiarize them with the library. Kindergarteners are introduced to the parts of a book and types of literature. They are introduced to the difference between fiction and nonfiction and how to identify the title and author of a book. And as part of the Red Clover Award program, they evaluate literary material by text, illustration, and information.
Physical Skills Development (PSD)
The kindergarteners work daily on the development of fundamental movement skills, perceptual motor skills, and basic fitness. Morning meeting often includes stretching, yoga, or dance. In addition, there is a PSD class three times a week: two combining kindergarten, first and second grades and one combined with the preschool. Our activities range from hiking on TGS trails and movement exercises in the gym, to organized games and strength-building activities such as running, jumping, throwing, and catching, which use the Presidential Fitness Challenge standards as a guide. In the winter, we cross-country ski with the rest of the school community.