I did my final assessments last week.
20 of 23 of my students were reading emergent readers. 18 of 23 students could write to 120 and beyond. 20 of 23 can solve 10 addition and subtraction problems within a minute. I have no idea what these stats must look like to anyone outside of early childhood, but to me, they make me want to do a cape-wearing victory lap.
In 2012, I was teaching letters up until the last day of school, scrambling to cram in every bit of handwriting practice and fine motor skill I could before shipping them off to first grade. Now, in 2017, we’re reading. We’re READING!!!!!!!!!!!!! And we’re WRITING. Oh, I wish I could show you their writing. Their non-fiction reports about animals, or their opinion sentences when we play Would You Rather, or their imaginative stories featuring a character, problem and solution. I am overwhelmed at the beginning of each year thinking of all we have to accomplish in the months ahead, and it’s at this point in the year when I remember what the struggle is all for.
Back in September, I wrote briefly about the first day of kindergarten. People, we aren’t peeing our pants anymore. We aren’t crying hysterically because we’re tired (although sometimes we cry hysterically because we throw shoes on the roof, or because we drop our lunch trays). We aren’t biting, we aren’t hitting, we aren’t falling out of our seats for absolutely NO REASON AT ALL. I literally have the “preach” emoji in my head all day long in June.
Any huge change in standards will always have its opposition, and I can tell you that the early childhood folks have been majorly against the developmentally inappropriate nature of CCSS since the beginning. With the dawn of CCSS, many in the community have felt that rising standards require a loss of traditional kindergarten activities, like center time, sensory activities, painting, singing, GLITTER…
I am here to tell you that CCSS does not equal the loss of those things. 11 of my 23 students are ELL, level 2s and level 1s according to WELPA. 4 of my students receive SPED services, and 17 of my 23 did not attend preschool. It has been an insane balancing act, but I am proud to say that old kindergarten can totally be intertwined with kindergarten CCSS-style. Here are a few tips and tricks I will continue to tweak as the years go on to make sure kindergarten keeps up with the rigorous pace of
- Keep center time. Whatever you do, keep it. Prioritize it. In September, keep it traditional: blocks, painting, cutting, play dough, picture books. This is where you class will build bonds, learn to socialize appropriately, and learn the routines of center time. By November, make sure those center time activities are on point with CCSS. I keep 6 centers and a strict rotating only routine to ensure everyone gets a turn at every station. Make certain they have access to reading books (even if their reading is just narrating what’s shown in the illustration) EVERY DAY, and give every kid the chance to hear a book read to them 5 days a week.
- Don’t lose the sensory stuff. It’s not part of CCSS, but you can easily provide sensory activities as a part of your center rotations. While one group is writing to 120, another can be immersed in sand play or rice play. Keep these sensory stations available during “fast finisher” time or during non-academic times, such as lunch. Sensory play is tied to the scientific process but it is so easily cut out of the kindergarten curriculum. If we expect kids to be reading those NCSS standards in later grades, we have to actually let them explore and experience.
- Sing. LOUDLY. We all know the brain learns best through song. Kindergarten, once well known for its sing-songy rhymes and rhythms, has kept up with the times well! Jack Hartmann and Harry Kindergarten on YouTube are AMAZING at pumping up Common Core knowledge and keeping it cool with raps and other jams. Not going to lie, I usually have one of their songs stuck in my head as I’m doing the dishes in the evening.
- Don’t feel bad for doing an extra read aloud or for letting them “play” more than you think you should. The academic stuff comes FAST when they’ve had enough play in their day. It’s like fueling up for a big marathon! Kids are ready to learn when they’ve had enough time to move and talk in their day.
If you haven’t heard it yet, kindergarten is the new first grade. That’s daunting when you look a little five-year-old nugget in the face, and they can’t even focus on you long enough to tell you how old they are. Yet, here we are, in June, reading, writing, and doing science like bosses. It’s possible. Keep up the balancing act because we can.
My dog also has an Instagram, and it's better than anyone's. @mrdarcy_theiggy