Learning to read serves as the foundation for all other learning. For young children, the stepping stones to literacy are many: letter recognition, phonics, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, comprehension…. Five- and six-year-olds may enter Kindergarten knowing a lot in some of these areas and little in others. Our teachers’ job is to recognize each child’s academic needs and stretch her towards growing levels of mastery.
As your child’s teacher reads a story to the class, she will ask literal, fact-based questions to reach some students (“What can you tell me about the setting of this story?”) and deeper, inference-based questions to stimulate others (“Why do you think the main character in the story made the choices he did?”). Techniques like “turn and talk” with a partner give extroverted children a chance to answer every question and shyer children a chance to practice talking before they speak in front of the group. The teacher may write a letter on the smartboard with a few mistakes sprinkled in—some right on-level, others extra challenging. She will invite students to fix a misspelled word or punctuation error, matching each mistake to that student’s skill level. Small group workshops will allow your child to read and discuss a favorite book with his peers. And reading bins divide the classroom library by level so your child can always find a “just-right” book—one that’s challenging but not overwhelming. Because we know that’s exactly where a child learns best.
Kindergarteners learn early on that we write for a purpose: to tell our readers what we want them to know. For young children, writing begins with illustrations, spreads to words, stretches into sentences, blossoms into paragraphs, and bursts into books. Some incoming Kindergarteners arrive on day one at each of these stages—which is completely expectable. Our teachers are ready to reach each student where she is and help her move to the next step. Will this hold back students who are farther along? Not a bit! Writing workshops are designed so your child can always work at his own level. If your child is ready to write more, he can delve into more detail or add more pages to his books. Kindergarten students also learn our motto for writing: “When you think you’re done, you’ve just begun.” It means revising is an integral part of writing. One day, she may learn that stories come to life through dialogue, so she may think about what her characters might say and add speech bubbles. The next day, she may review her book to correct spelling or punctuation. A third day, she may focus on choosing vivid verbs. The editing process also involves others, so your child will share his book with a writing partner and learn to give and receive feedback. At every step, he is learning to think critically about his work and how to make it better. You know children are exuberant writers when the teacher tells the class it’s time to put away their writing folders and they reply, “Do we have to?”