Students learn about reading and writing from hearing stories, seeing others read and write, reading and writing with adults, and having the opportunity to interact with books, writing materials, and other forms of print. All of these experiences occur daily in both formal and informal settings giving Kindergartners the foundation for reading and writing. At the heart of breaking the code to read, however, is explicit phonics instruction. Phonics instruction gives students the skills to decode or “sound out” words as well as encode or write the letters for the sounds they hear. Thus, the relationship between written and spoken language is connected.
The Wood Acres Kindergarten reading series builds on the early literacy reading program taught in our four year old program. Aligned with the National Reading Panel guidelines, the program provides the specific phonics instruction that research has proven significantly improves reading, spelling, and comprehension skills for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Handwriting, spelling, and simple grammar are seamlessly integrated into the reading instruction so children see from the beginning that they can read what they write and write what they read.
Many of Wood Acres Kindergartners are early readers and parents often wonder how does an early fluent or emerging reader fit in a phonics program while other students may still be breaking the code. It is crucial for those already reading to also receive direct instruction in phonics (decoding and encoding skills) so when they do face challenging new words, more complex word and sentence structure, these students will have a deeply planted skills set to continue their passion for reading easily and well. The term Metacognition fits well here as Wood Acres students not only “know that they know it” but they know how they know it- closely related to the actual science of reading growth.
A closer look into the Wood Acres Kindergarten Language Arts program would reveal:
• Connection to the concepts of print
• Development of reading strategies to make sense of text
• Understanding the relationship of text and illustrations to further story development
• Discussions of stories read and heard and demonstration of awareness of parts of stories
• (i.e. plot, character, setting)
• Recognition of letters and connections of sounds to the appropriate letters
• Initial reading fluency
• Use of drawings, letters, and phonetically spelled words to create meaning
• Introduction to different types of writing
• Increased use of oral language through read alouds and classroom presentations
• Discussions about personal thoughts, feelings, and opinions
• Understanding of the meaning of signs and symbols
• Recognition that each Kindergartner is a budding author, illustrator, and reader
Utilizing a nationally recognized mathematics curriculum, Wood Acres believes that math must connect to the student’s world if it is to make sense. Weaving math into their lives and setting the problems in an engaging, real-life context teach math the way children learn best. Problem solving skills are encouraged and developed throughout the year.
A closer look into the Wood Acres Mathematics program would reveal:
• Numbers used to represent quantities and to solve quantitative problems
• Creation of sets with given numbers of objects
• Comparison of sets using both cardinal and ordinal meanings
• Continued work with relative math concepts such as more than, less than, rudimentary estimating, etc.
• Use of effective strategies for answering quantitative questions
• Identification of all shapes for spatial reasoning and construction of more complex shapes
• Problem solving using measureable attributes
• Use of manipulatives to get the feel of math concepts
• Development of student work with number operations
Wood Acres Kindergarten students explore the world around them with a spiraling social studies curriculum that looks at history, geography and culture as key components of an outstanding national curriculum program. The content is linked with age appropriate literature, cross-curricular activities, multi-cultural awareness as well as critical thinking skill development. Students gain an increasing awareness of geographic knowledge that includes a spatial sense of the world, as awareness of the physical processes that shape life, and a sense of the interactions between humans and their environment. They also develop an understanding of relations between place and culture as well as the characteristics of specific regions and cultures. A strong connection of these concepts to the development of their second language learning continues to create a strong base for bilingualism.
In science, students begin to investigate and understand the needs and life processes of plants and animals. Teachers encourage critical thinking by linking both science and social studies to the concepts learned in reading and mathematics. The Wood Acres experiential science program allows students to learn components of the scientific process through observing, exploring, recording data, and recalling findings. A science mini lab has also been established for the primary grades to truly give Wood Acres students authentic, meaningful, hands on science. Students don official lab coats and travel to the science lab, Beaker Jr., for hands on experiments and post experiment lab work embracing the scientific process.
Designed to promote and develop creativity and artistic literacy, the visual arts help kindergarteners appreciate their own abilities. Texture, form, and design elements are introduced to students as they develop the ability to create their own “masterpieces”. Student work is displayed in Wood Acres own student art Gallery with formal shows twice each school year. Community art projects are often components of other campus wide activities.
Music’s melodic and rhythmic patterns awaken and stimulate neural pathways in the brain that help develop memory, math skills, and powers of abstract and creative thinking. Favorite songs and dances build on each child’s natural love of movement and music. By developing a musical “ear”, building the student’s confidence to be musical and just having fun with song and lyric, a child’s musicality is developed and celebrated.
Students develop physical skills and sportsmanship in PE that allow them to participate and derive enjoyment from physical activity. Teamwork, fair play, and doing one’s best are always emphasized as is exercise as a healthy life habit to acquire. Kindergartners enjoy their annual on campus Field Day each May that brings their school spirit, spirited cheers, and fun team activities to the forefront- along with cheering families and popsicles galore!
The study of the Spanish language and culture in kindergarten gives students an early start with a formal sequential curriculum to eventually achieve that which eludes most language students-proficiency. Beginning with basic vocabulary acquisition, students begin to learn Spanish words for the world around them. Songs, rhymes, and activities reinforce the learning each week as the students steadily build a repertoire of vocabulary and simple phrases. Confidence with this frequent exposure to a second language development is critical as is the early exposure to develop an outstanding accent. ¡Olé!