Great expectations.

Teaching kindergarten can be a funny endeavor. Friends who don’t have a clue think you do nothing but play with puppets and make macaroni necklaces all day long (sorry Brad, I do use puppets a lot, but it’s always academic). No doubt, there is a playfulness and innocence in kindergarten. For many children, it’s their first school experience and for others it’s the first time they’ve been away from home all day long five days a week.

A kindergarten teacher has to find a balance between catering to the needs of the sprouts spreading their tender leaves for the first time and the increasingly rising academic standards set for us by the Powers That Be. As the sign in our classroom says, we want to work hard, but have fun.

I’ve realized kindergarteners can do amazing things… and not just with glitter and macaroni. In our class, everyone reads independently for close to thirty minutes. Yes, you read that correctly, thirty minutes. To be clear, this was a months long process of teaching, re-teaching, modeling, discussing, tweaking, and practicing. Walk into our classroom during arrival and you’ll find an almost silent room of children getting themselves ready for the day and then quickly grabbing a book bag, finding a good spot, and reading. It's an affirming and peaceful way to start each day.

But kindergartners can’t read!  Um, yes they can. From day one they can. In our class you can read the pictures, read the words, or retell a familiar story. By using The Three Habits of Highly Successful Reading Teachers (really, I don’t get a cut of sales), our class already knows forty sight words. FORTY. We’re starting our second list and we’ll know eighty pretty soon. That’s double what the rest of the kindergarteners in our school will know by years end. My mom always taught me not to brag, but sometimes you’ve just got to.

Don’t get me started on writing. While the standard for the end of the year is for children to be able to write with most sounds coached by an adult, that’s not good enough for us. We’re looking for independent writers… and we’ve got most of them there or really close already. As my friend David told me when he finished his second book this week and eagerly got another piece of writing paper to start another, “I’m an AUTHOR!”

Please understand we have fun in our classroom. We sing, dance, play games and have wonderful discussions together. We’ve become a real community of learners who take care of each other. If the number of hugs given instead of test scores measured success, our class’ accomplishments would be immeasurable. I’m not too worried about our scores, I’d just prefer to see some data on hugs.

Again, I’m sorry Mom for bragging. I am constantly in awe of what my little friends are capable of achieving. Reflect on your expectations. Raise them just a little and your sprouts will find the sunshine and nourishment to reach them.


Beth said...

I always say that my classroom has a floor, but no ceiling! I want to see that hug data, too. :-)

Plants seeds of knowledge...for our future! said...

Yes, the little guys are AMAZING! They rise to the challenge and learn new things about themselves throughout the year! We have learned 40 sight words too and will learn 80 at the end of the year. We have individual reading time but it is broken up throughout the day! I would be interested in your procedures or the way you start your 30 minute reading at the beginning of the year. Would you blog about it?

Sara said...

I would LOVE to see their writing samples :)

I adore your blog, your class stories...but, I will be honest...sometimes it makes me sad. I teach at a school with 95% of kids on free lunch, my class is 100% English Language Learners, I have 8 at risk right now...
Your stories make me wonder what it would be like to teach with a different population. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my school, I love my kid and their families...but, I sometimes second guess myself when I don't see the results I want.

(Geez, what a downer, eh?)
Keep doing what you are doing...I need some funny stories!

Dorothy Shapland said...

Yes! Kindergarten is a remarkable time when the expectations are high! And tell your mother that it isn't bragging, it's DATA!

KellyTeaches said...

Your kids ARE awesome :) I think it's okay to brag about kids... I mean, sure you got them there, but they had to put in some effort too, right?

Mrs. Pearce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs. Pearce said...

I wanna see the hug data too!!

Thanks for the link to the book. Gonna check that out. We require 43 sight words in KG here plus color and number words...which is a big jump from the 21 we required two years ago.

I always say that the biggest challenge in teaching KG is to find that perfect balance between the academic push and developmental appropriate practice. My KG team strives for that every day.

ChiTown Girl said...

Brag away, Baby, brag away!!!

Even though I keep telling myself I can't read your blog anymore, because it makes me SO sad about not being in kdg. this year, I find myself checking in every day, then leaving with that green-eyed monster staring me down. :(

Anonymous said...

I too would like to know the procedure you used to teach the 30 minutes of reading. Please let us in on the secret! :)

Miss Trayers said...

Amen! I actually like when I share an idea and people tell me my kiddos won't be able to do it. Boy, do we show them! :) You have to high expectations and people don't realize the work you have to put in to get them where they need to be. Bravo to you and your little sprouts!