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.
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