Learning activities are multilevel where there are multiple ways for children at all stages of development to move forward. Activities are also developmentally appropriate, meaning the curriculum is carefully framed on knowledge of children’s physical, social, emotional and intellectual growth.
Morning routines enable the children to develop their independence and build their sense of responsibility. Our morning routines consist of placing their Take Home Folder in their mailboxes, signing in, completing their morning work, and getting ready for Morning Meeting.
The purposes of Morning Meeting are many. It serves as a transition from home to school, helps children to feel welcome and known, sets the tone for the day, creates a climate of trust, increases students’ confidence and investment in learning, provides a meaningful context for teaching and practicing academic skills, encourages cooperation and inclusion, and improves children’s communication skills
Morning Meeting usually takes around thirty minutes. We begin our Morning Meeting by greeting each other. Your child hears his or name spoken by a classmate or a teacher in a friendly and cheerful manner. After greeting the class has a group share and then engages in a group activity. After our group activity, the class reads the “News and Announcements” and engages in brief literacy and math activities involving the message. Lastly, we end our meeting with reviewing the schedule.
Brookline utilizes the developmentally appropriate writing practices and curriculum developed by Fountas & Pinnell, Mary Ellen Giacobbe, Katie Wood Ray, and Lucy Calkins. Children are given numerous experiences in writing throughout the curriculum. Students will be “writing” daily and any and all attempts are celebrated. Children realize the importance of writing for communication. Students begin with story telling and learning to generate ideas about writing. Slowly we transform the focus from oral story telling to telling stories on paper. They gradually emerge from scribbles, to pictures, to strings of random letters, to using letters to match sounds, to using beginning and ending consonant and spelling some frequently used words, to writing words the way they sound. Developmentally children go through various stages of writing development and all students’ writing will blossom and evolve throughout the year. Reading and writing are closely connected. The more a child participates in each of these learning processes, the more proficient he/she will become.
Since children arrive in Kindergarten at varying levels of writing development, exercises will be designed with the individual in mind. Some may dictate their stories at first, some will use only drawings to tell the story, and some may only have a few words that appear in the corner. Some may write many words – possibly in a sentence format. No matter what level, each child in kindergarten is a natural storyteller! To encourage freedom in writing, “invented spelling” will be employed by your child. This writing form allows children to write words as they think they sound. They stretch out the words and write the sounds that they are able to hear. This kind of spelling is referred to as “Kindergarten spelling” to the children. You will see your child’s writing evolve over the course of the year.
The goal of Writers Workshop in Kindergarten is for children to gain confidence and skills as they learn how to use words and pictures to tell a story. We often begin writing time with a mini lesson focusing on a principle or particular skill and then the students write. The children engage in what we call, “Author Share” (when children share their writing with others). During this time they are able to share what they understand and wonder about their peers’ writing. Sometimes the students write narrative stories and other times they respond to a text that I read aloud to them (reading response). Author share is a time for children to develop confidence sharing their work with a group, and for the listeners to learn how to give specific feedback. I encourage those capable to write in full sentences and others to label with one or two words. I discuss sounds letters make, vowels and consonants, upper and lower case letters, spacing between words, where the text should be written, etc. I encourage children who are ready to plan out a story that spans several days/pages in their to do so. I discuss plot, theme, characters, beginning, middle, and end.
We also engage in other types of writing such as poetry and non-fiction research.
Shared & Interactive Writing
Shared writing involved having the teacher write for the students in a whole group format. Interactive writing involves having the students and teachers write together. These writing experiences involve having the students engage in a discussion as they formulate their thinking. The teacher leads the discussion and guides the students with formulating what they plan to write. Then the teacher supports the students as they write on chart paper or sentence strips. The teacher differentiates whom she calls on based on the skill level of the student and level of skill that is involved. Different subject areas are incorporated into interactive writing, particularly science.
It involves a variety of activities pertaining to literacy. Activities address oral language skills and the emergence of reading. Children will have many opportunities for large and small group discussions as well as individual dialogue. Children will be encouraged to ask questions, share knowledge, and extend their thinking. Children will engage in a variety of areas such as phonics, concepts of print, word study, comprehension, etc. and engage in a variety of literacy activities.
Our Readers Workshop program includes the following:
Systematic Phonics Instruction & Handwriting
We utilize a systematic phonics instruction program named, Fundations, which is derived from the Wilson Reading System. Wilson is a systematic, explicit, structured, multisensory instruction program that provides research-based materials and strategies essential to a comprehensive reading, spelling and handwriting program. Wilson Fundations makes learning to read fun while laying the groundwork for life-long literacy. Students receive a systematic program in critical foundational skills, emphasizing the following: Phonemic awareness, Phonics/Word study, High frequency word study, Reading fluency, Vocabulary, Comprehension strategies, Handwriting, Spelling. The Wilson Fundations program will replace our Handwriting Without Tears handwriting program.
Reading literature to the students (fiction and non-fiction texts) utilizing intentional conversations where the teacher guides and shapes the conversation so that the students learn more about the strategic actions readers use. Reading to the children promotes oral language and concept development, adds to students' store of information about the world, helps students develop a sense of story and build comprehension.
We often read picture books, but we also read chapter books. We discuss plot, characters, and theme. Children share their feelings about the story, make predictions, contrast and compare the story with others, and listen to each other’s ideas related to a piece of literature. I use both fiction and nonfiction selections and we talk about the difference. I often read a big book to the children, which has large text and is a vehicle for stimulating pre-reading behaviors and skill development. During big book reading, which is a form of shared reading, I use a pointer to read the text while children follow along or join in. We might make predictions about words, notice words that rhyme, find certain letters or words we know, discuss punctuation, talk about what word would come next that makes sense in context, draw attention to the pictures to inform our reading, etc. I might also use this time to explore poetry with the children. Story time is fluid and used to stimulate literacy through a variety of methods and by use of different materials.
Predictable big books, poems, chants, songs, which have repeated patterns, refrains, pictures, and rhymes. Teachers use engaging texts and authentic literacy experiences to help children develop the strategies necessary for effective, independence reading.
The students read independently during quiet reading.
We gradually incorporate books at students’ independent reading level into their reading folders.
Students read with a partner
Instructional support by teachers during the later part of the year, I will begin to informally engage in guided reading with your children according to their readiness and will assist your child with decoding and comprehension skills. Children will be coached according to the level that they are and will be encouraged to independently read books at their independent level and will be instructed at their instructional level.
Brookline is in a transition stage regarding math and is in the process of evaluating and adjusting our math curriculum. Presently we are utilizing Kathy Richardson’s Developing Number Concepts, Number Talks curriculum, which develops mental math thinking and strategies, Math Journal activities created by Brookline math coordinators and other supplementary materials to meet the Common Core standards in math. In math, we build students’ conceptual and procedural understanding in the following content areas:
Computation: (number, operation, and quantitative reasoning)
Algebra: (patterns, relationships, and algebraic thinking)
Geometry: (shape, orientation, and spatial sense)
Measurement: (time, money, length, area, temperature, weight, volume)
Data: (probability, statistics, and data representation)
We build conceptual understanding by focusing on the following processes:
Problem Solving: Within the activities students work out ideas and relationships through high-interest sequences of concept-building problems.
Reasoning and Proof: Students build new mathematical ideas upon those already learned, and they learn to show reasons for new procedures and results.
Communication: Students “talk math” in every lesson. They learn to speak, read, and write ideas at their level using conventional mathematical forms of communication.
Connections: We build interconnections among concepts. Related operations grow from the same roots. Algorithms arise from earlier ideas. Students learn to look for and expect links between old and new learning.
Representation: We build vocabulary, symbols, and conventions in context to help students more naturally acquire the meaning of representations. Students translate among representations using concrete materials, pictures, drawings, graphs, and symbols.
There are also other math activities, games, and lessons that are incorporated into the math curriculum. Math instruction is delivered in different manners: whole group, small group, partners, individual, direct instruction, Math Choice Time, Math Interest Centers, play, whole group, and small group.
Math Centers are part of our everyday math routines and experiences. We generally have a whole group lesson and move onto Centers when students are able to apply the skills they have learned during the lesson and reinforce various skills at the various centers. Students are able to engage in various math activities and games to reinforce concepts and skills. The students rotate throughout three centers.
Math Choice and Math Interest Centers
Students are able to self-select activities that reinforce concepts and skills derived from the curriculum and supplemental material. Children are also able to gain reinforcement of math skills and concepts through engaging in math games and activities.
Science in Kindergarten is also an area where the curriculum is “hands-on”. Children will build upon their natural love for the sciences by acting on real issues, problems, and experiment. My primary goal for the children is to instill in them a curiosity for exploration and a respect for active questioning. The children will continually practice the skills of scientific observation, exploration, investigation, description, experimentation, and recording in their science endeavors.
Some units of study include: Structure, nature, and water.
Sensory activities will also be provided within the Sensory and Science Area.
Discovering ourselves and others is a natural study of the social world. We will explore the community of our classroom, the school at large, and the surrounding environment. Together we will create the rules, which govern our class and build a small world where each child feels safe, comfortable, and empowered. We will explore the diversity and similarity that exists among us. Cooperation and sensitivity to others will be celebrated and encouraged through many cooperative learning exercises and in the daily routine of the classroom. Some of our units of study are Celebrations (What people celebrate), Geography (Our place on the Map), Economics (How we get the things and the help we need), Civics (Rules to Citizenship to Government), History (Now and Long Ago).
Lauren Tavares, our speech and language pathologist will be facilitating a Social Thinking curriculum, a treatment framework developed by Michelle Garcia Winner that teaches the “why” behind our social behavior. Social thinking lessons are intended to help all children develop the skills they need to be flexible social thinkers and social problem solvers. Through the lessons, children will learn about the social mind and social expectations. They will also learn about their own thinking (and that of others) to help them make better decisions when in the midst of social play and interaction. General concepts, including “Whole-Body Listening,” having your “Body and Brain in the Group,” and following a “Group Plan,” help to explicitly teach children how to be successful learners within the classroom environment.
Academic Choice Time
Children learn best when they are given choices about what they’re learning. It’s important for them to have plenty of opportunities to explore, to make decisions, to take risks, and to make mistakes.
During this time, children choose their learning activities within a range of choices structured by the teacher, which encompass all curriculum areas. The children are able to work at their own pace and level of ability.
The children eat snack while listening and responding to a read aloud (story) or times students have a talking snack when they are able to engage in conversations among their peers while enjoying their snacks.
With Kindergarten being full day, the children need a moment during their busy day to wind down, relax, while enjoying some quiet choices. This provides a welcome break from the many transitions that are part of a full day program. They are able to view and read books, write, draw, utilize quite time activities (playdoh, links, beads, Cuisenaire rods, put togethers, etc.) while they relax. Later on during the year, this will also be a time when we provide group phonics and Guided Reading instruction.
Daily review is a time each day when we talk about how things went during the day. We discuss things that went well and things that did not go so well and then talk about how we can make them better next time.
A very social, unstructured time when children exercise their bodies on the playground and interact with children from other Kindergarten classes. Recess is one of the most dynamic times of school, ripe with opportunities for children to enjoy physical activity and self-directed play, to connect with the natural world, to interact with a diverse peer group, and to practice essential social skills. The curriculum of recess includes weighty goals: developing children’s social competencies and fostering their imaginations while meeting their need for safety, movement, and fun.
K-2 Morning Meeting Assembly
Children have the opportunity to come together with students from different grade levels, teachers, and administration to share, learn and celebrate students’ accomplishments. They are able to learn how to demonstrate good listening skills in a large group setting, sing together, share work, and recognize and applaud others’ work. We follow the Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting format that we follow each morning within the classroom (Greeting, Share, Activity, News and Announcements).
A number of jobs have been established within our classroom. Several students each week are assigned to a job. These students are responsible for their assignment throughout the duration of one week. Children are able to develop a sense of responsibility and understand what it means to be part of a community.
The Peace Area is used for a variety of purposes. Sometimes students utilize this area for breaks, when they may need some time alone or to problem solve. Sensory materials are also available in the Peace Area for students who may benefit from a sensory break.
8th Grade Science Partners
Science Partners is an ongoing collaboration between the 7/8 grade science teacher and the kindergarten teachers. Kindergarten students will participate in this unique opportunity with the 8th grade students. Sometimes the kindergartners will visit the science lab and other times the 8th graders will visit the kindergarten classes to work with their assigned partners on inquiry-based science activities. Each kindergarten class is paired with an 8th grade class, which will collaborate approximately twice per month.