We are delighted to be working with your child this year. Kindergarten is a big year for both you and your child. This year is about autonomy. Our goal is to work with each child so he or she can function independently without constant adult control or supervision. “Autonomy in a school setting means governing oneself with an awareness of the needs of the community.” (Denton and Kriete) This is the year when we can give your child the gift of a social curriculum as well as an academic curriculum. Social and academic learning are inextricably connected and both are important. Developmental theorist, Chip Wood reminds us that:
Our beliefs about how students learn rest firmly on a foundational assumption that intellectual, academic, spiritual, emotional, social, and physical aspects of children must be considered in instruction and learning environments. The following beliefs and assumptions stem from this foundation.
The purpose of kindergarten is to enhance learning and social opportunities for students by providing an environment where the student’s natural love for life, play and learning are encouraged, nurtured and intrinsically instilled. Our kindergarten provides a quality learning environment that is meaningful for children by integrating subject matters into units of study that begin with the development of the child’s understanding of the world around him or her. We strive to create a strong sense of community while creating a caring and respectful environment. Our assessments are on-going as we watch and write about the patterns, learning styles, social/emotional tendencies, and academic progress of individual students.
“The six language arts, as designated by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA) (Standards for the English Language Arts, 1996), are listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing, and visually representing. The first four have traditionally been considered to be the language arts; however, since visual media have become more important in everyday life, viewing and visually representing have become more important as means of communicating” (Ross, E. P. 2010).
To teach the language arts in the classroom we use Big Books, library books, beginning readers, class-made books, technology, pocket charts, guest readers, buddies from older grades, and one-on-one volunteers who ‘read’ with the children. Language Arts also includes Writers Workshop, handwriting, Storytime, Story Theater, oral Hebrew time, poetry, art projects integrating topics of study, Jewish and world folktales, and any experience which allows the child to bring their experience to any representation including reading and writing.
In learning about language, we introduce a developmentally, fun approach to the history of the English language, which builds a foundation for reading. Using the Wired for Reading Program, we will learn how to count syllables (rhythmic beats of words) by using our body, and how to use a vowel map to form basic words. We will use both whole language and direct phonics instruction in the classroom.
The goal of Wired for Reading is to develop strong phonological awareness. Through individual assessments the student will demonstrate this awarenes. by applying appropriate, grade level word analysis skills in decoding words, demonstrate an understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes), recognize and produce rhyming words, demonstrate basic knowledge of one-to-one letter-sound correspondences by producing the primary or many of the most frequent sounds for each consonant, associate the long and short sounds with common spellings for the five major vowels, read common high-frequency words by sight, and read texts according to abilities with purpose and understanding.
The Writers Workshop gives children a wide-open invitation into the process of writing. Using this curriculum designed by Professor Lucy Calkins, we cultivate rich conversation, storytelling and detailed drawings during our writing time. The Writers Workshop is an opportunity to make and convey meaning. In the Kindergarten classroom, this is done through drawings and printing. During the year the children have plenty of time to approximate working with print before they are expected to read and write conventionally. The outcome is for every child to believe that he or she is a writer.
During our writing time the children learn to respond to “let’s gather” on the rug for a teacher demonstration of writing. We teach the children to take their pencils, markers and crayons so they can “put themselves on the page.. They may draw turtles, tall buildings, and writing-like squiggles, alphabet letters that float across the page or use words to tell the story on paper. Some students sign their names; others label their drawings, and some record long stories. No matter what they do, the goal is for the children to “put themselves on the page” and by the end of the year every child will be an independent and resourceful writer.
The goal of Writers Workshop is to introduce students to the process of writing. The student will be able to compose a simple narrative, opinion, or informational/explanatory piece using a combination of drawing, dictating and writing.
The purpose and goal for teaching the Handwriting Without Tears Curriculum, developed by Jan Olsen OTR, is to develop key skills needed for writing legibly and with speed. The lessons are visual, tactile, auditory and kinesthetic. We use uncluttered black and white pages. Each child receives his/her individual handwriting workbook. We use a wet-dry-try approach on a slate to give children touch and repetition. We use child-friendly language and music to help the children learn and remember easily. We also use movement with music to teach the letter formation as well as imaginary writing with large arm movements and visual cues. Handwriting skills take several years to develop and these skills begin in Kindergarten. We observe and assess grip, letter formation and legibility. The skills developed to reach our goal are:
Hebrew Reading/Writing and Developmental Readiness — By experiencing the Hebrew Alef-Bet and vocabulary through an integrated, kinesthetic, and experiential manner, each child is able to explore Hebrew reading and writing at the pace for which they are developmentally ready. Language from the Handwriting Without Tears Curriculum as well as Wired for Reading is used when applicable.
Hebrew — Students will gain Aleph-Bet recognition. Students will recognize and write their own Hebrew name. Students will begin to build an oral Hebrew vocabulary including colors, body parts, family, Jewish objects and activities in the home, in the classroom and in the synagogue, weather, Shabbat, and holiday terminology. Students will listen to and respond to classroom directions and conversation in Hebrew.
The purpose and goal of Storytime is to build a sense of community as the teacher and children share the power of language through written and oral story. Storytime can be either a read aloud with pictures, a shared reading experience where the children are invited to read along, or an oral story where the children can ‘act’ out different parts of spoken tales. Reading aloud and oral storytelling are important to a young child’s success in learning to read and in comprehending language. Assessment during Storytime involves observing large and small group discussions. Can the students retell familiar stories including key details? Do they ask questions about unknown words? Can they recognize common types of texts (storybooks, poems, information). Through prompting and support can they name the author and illustrator? Can the students compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in familiar stories. Can they actively engage in the group reading activities (read-alouds, acting out, singing, performing). Can they respond to Hebrew vocabulary cues? Does the child make connections between the stories they experience in Storytime with their own experiences at home, in Synagogue, etc.. Storytime works on listening skills, vocabulary and invites students to participate in language before becoming proficient in the language.
In Kindergarten, the approach to math is mostly individuated using the Everyday Math Mathematics curriculum. Our goal in math is to work with the child to establish a firm foundation in number sense, and the following aspects of the kindergarten curriculum ensure that all students are included in significant mathematics learning:
In Kindergarten class, talking about mathematical ideas and sharing work from a math activity are as much a part of the classroom culture as sitting together to listen to a story, talk about a new activity, or anticipate an upcoming event.
Kindergarten Math Goals:
By the end of Kindergarten, students will be able to:
Home Links are part of this program. Students will be bringing home family letters and extensions that can be done at home to support the math activities in the classroom.
“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.” (NCSS Task Force on Standards for Teaching and Learning in the Social Studies). In kindergarten we strive to create an understanding of a democratic society and what it means to be a good citizen. To do so we incorporate the following into the classroom community: Dereh Eretz, Ladder of Success, Responsive Classroom, Morning Meetings, the Mitzvah Guard, as well as teaching to recess to establish consistent expectations.
We look to our classroom community for our social studies curriculum. If a family member is from a different country we will explore that country. If we have several religions represented in the classroom, we briefly explore and discuss those beliefs. The child brings an important contribution to our social studies curriculum. If something significant has happened in a particular country or state during our time together, we will explore that country and event. When we are studying a particular artist or author, we will bring his or her culture into the classroom in a developmentally appropriate method.
We look to our Jewish community experiences to develop our self-identity, to connect to our family, and to connect to the Jewish People.
Students will be exposed to blessings related to eating, holidays, Shabbat, and other mitzvot that arise.
Students will be introduced to the Jewish holidays using an integrated language-arts teaching model, including stories, books, Big Books, art projects, food, drama activities, and music.
Students will become familiar with symbols found in the Jewish home, such as the Mezuzah, siddur, Kippah, Kiddush Cup, and candles.
Students will recognize Israel as a home for all Jews. They will study and experience many places of Israel, including Jerusalem, the Kibbutz, Eilat, and archaeological digs. They will culminate their study with an all-school “trip” to Israel.
Students will become familiar with the symbols, foods, rituals, and concepts of this most important holiday.
Students will be introduced to the parts, people, and purpose of the synagogue. They will identify parts of the Torah’s dress in Hebrew and English.
Students will gain familiarity with prayers leading to memorization, especially through song. There will be a special emphasis on the Shema and the V’ahavtah. Students will gain sight word recognition of important Hebrew words from such prayers as the Shema, Modeh Ani, and others. Students will make and use their own siddur (prayerbook) with the central prayers. Students will apply their developing understanding of reading and tracking to their siddur use.
Students will be introduced to many stories in Torah, particularly those relating to specific holidays. We will study Bereshit (the story of Creation), Adam and Eve, Joseph, Moses, Miriam, the Exodus, and the receiving of the Torah at Sinai. Schedule allowing, we will also learn about Noah and the Ark, David and Goliath, and other great Biblical leaders of Israel including Deborah and King Solomon.
Dereh Eretz — Dereh Eretz, literally “path of the land,” and used to mean polite behavior, kindness, and respect. It is the outstanding value that is taught throughout SJCS. Dereh Eretz is taught in all the grades as a practical, tangible practice of polite behavior, respect, and caring for others and our world.
Foundations of the practice in Kindergarten:
We teach directly to Dereh Eretz using the Ladder of Success, the Responsive Classroom curriculum and Morning Meetings.
Jewish Values In addition to “Dereh Eretz” (kindness and respect) students are introduced to many other Jewish values including; “Bitahon” (a place of safety), and “Shem Tov” (developing a kind, respectful reputation and manner in interaction with others).
Mitzvot Students will experience and integrate mitzvot related to daily living experiences as well as those that are holiday specific, including hazan et hakol (feeding the hungry), tzedakah (giving to those in need), sh’lom bayit (peace in the house), kibud av v’em (honoring your father and mother), kibud zekenim (honoring the elderly), hahnasat orhim (welcoming guests), n’kayon (cleanliness) bikur holim (caring for the sick), tz’ar ba-alei haiim, treating all creatures with dignity, and g’milut hasadim (acts of love and kindness).
Ladder of Success is both a visual model and a language model that is used throughout the school to enable children to understand that everyone encounters “everyday problems” and to provide children (and adults) the tools to become independent problem solvers. The goal of the Ladder of Success is for students to understand the connection between their emotional and physical responses. Ladder of Success provides students the opportunity to take responsibility for one’s part in any problem, while also building empathy for “the other.” As in any curricula, the expectation of independence and mastery varies from grade to grade.
Foundations of the model in kindergarten:
We teach directly to logical consequences and problem solving. The most important guideline for logical consequences is that the consequence is respectful of the child and is supportive of his/her efforts to learn how to fix a mistake. We help the students solve problems by modeling coming to calm, and asking for what is needed. By the end of the year, our goal is for every child to know how to make amends.
Responsive Classroom offers guidelines for working together as a school and community to solve academic and social problems. Academic learning happens best within a positive social context. This approach also teaches students skills for solving problems and increasing independence. The components of a Responsive Classroom are:
Morning Meeting allows us to begin each day as a community of caring and respectful learners. All classroom members gather in a circle, to acknowledge one another. This morning time creates opportunities for the development of social and academic skills. We notice who is absent and who is present, what bird we may have heard on the way to school, who is smiling and who is sad. We briefly grapple with problems that may be challenging and we are informed of the events in the day ahead. Morning Meeting allows us to begin each day as a Gan community that may also include family members.
Morning Meeting is made up of four, sequential components. These are:
The goals of Morning Meeting are to be recognized as a member of the classroom community, as well as the ability to take notice of other classmates. We also develop the skills of attention, listening, expression and cooperative interaction.
Kindergarten joins 1st and 2nd grade twice weekly. We join them for Havdalah on Monday afternoons and Tefillah on Wednesday afternoon. At Havdalah we learn the rituals that are performed in the home to separate the holiness of Shabbat from the regular work week. On Wednesdays we learn the morning liturgy. In addition to some rote learning, children experience these prayers through song, yoga, reflective activities, and story telling.
Kindergarten also prays together in our own classroom on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The purpose of our field trips is to complement our units of study. We usually try to have two to three field-trips a year.
The most talked about curriculum of the day. Recess is a time to incorporate the whole body. It is a time to release the imagination in safe and constructive ways through play. On the playground children interact with each other outside of the classroom. This is the place where children practice social skills, build friendships and learn how to cooperate. They can run, shout and breathe fresh air and come back to the classroom environment invigorated, alive and ready to learn.
We teach directly to recess. We introduce whole group games, complete with modeling and practice. During the school year, we slowly build a repertoire of familiar games. After recess, we allow time for discussion. These sessions enable children to share reflections of the play experience and to comment on what they learned and enjoyed at recess. We also encourage children to establish safe, nonthreatening ways to discuss and solve problems.
Recess provides an opportunity to learn the skills of mediation and problem solving with a teacher. These are skills that will carry over into all areas of life.
As part of our assessments, we provide journals for students to draw/write/discuss the recess experience.
Life on earth today is strongly impacted by science and technology. The foundation for literacy in these areas is a hands-on experience, using multisensory methods, where naturally curious kindergarten students are free to observe, explore and describe.
Small group explorations foster an interchange of ideas and a sharing of exciting discoveries.
Our goal is to instill a love for nature through the study of science that builds a natural curiosity and interest in the physical world, combining classroom investigation and the exploration of the outdoors.
We also integrate science with Jewish Studies. For Rosh Hashana we study apples and bees, for Sukkot, farming and harvest, for T’Bishvat we study trees, and for our study of Israel, we explore rocks and earth science.
We will be using the school grounds for many of our observations. The kindergarten students will explore life science and specifically the study of bees, spiders, worms, snails, and fish. We will engage in the study of the Northwest environment and learn how to identify native trees, plants and animals.
This year, we will begin a unit of study using our new garden. We are in the initial stages of developing this curriculum.
Gan students experience art lessons weekly from the beginning of November on, where we will explore many types of artwork and media. Most lessons will take place in the Gan classroom, however in January and February they will be held in the Art Room. Please help your children remember that art is messy and to choose clothing that can get dirty. Smocks are available but students don’t always choose to wear them. General Studies and Judaic Studies in kindergarten include a great deal of creative play and art exploration, so art lessons will expand on these experiences. Art is fun, of course, but it’s also hard work, and students sometimes get frustrated. Learning new things can sometimes be uncomfortable, but it’s a positive sign that children are actively engaged in the classroom. Below is a general outline of areas covered in art over the course of kindergarten. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. I will be at SJCS on Mondays and Wednesdays during the 2013-14 school year. In case you’re wondering where I am the other days, I am at McDonald International School interning as part of pursuing my MAT at SPU for visual art instruction. Morah Bibi email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media and Skills
Art Appreciation and Reflection
Listening and Appreciation
Creative Expression & Movement
Health Education plays a key role in the development of the whole child. Students will develop movement skills, the ability to work as part of a team, overall fitness, and build character. This year the curriculum will emphasize cooperative games, team sports, health and fitness, and creating an atmosphere of mutual respect through positive language and sportsmanship. By incorporating music and engaging activities, the program encourages students to be healthy and active, and fosters lifelong appreciation of fitness.
Daily Routine and Curriculum at a glance
Students will start each session by entering the gym and sitting in their assigned role spots. At this time there will be a review of previous skills learned as well as an introduction of new skills that the class will be using in the day’s activity. Some of the units we will cover this year include soccer, various takes on dodge ball, softball, handball, gaga, basketball, volleyball, and cricket. PE class will conclude by students returning to their role spots where I will wrap up the day’s lesson. In addition, students in grades second through fifth will have fitness days once a week. These days will focus more on activities designated to increase the students’ overall fitness level rather than their skill level.
Dress Code: Running shoes and clothing that is comfortable for physical activity are a must. Look through your child’s wardrobe for a couple of t-shirts that can get dirty and sweaty and dedicate them to PE. Footwear such as boots and flip-flops are inappropriate. Remember to dress for PE on the right day. There is a handy reminder below.
The focus for this group will be developing motor skills, eye-tracking, and balancing. Students begin learning games and start thinking about rules and strategies. The concept of good sportsmanship is modeled, reinforced, and practiced. Gan has PE on Thursday.
In Kindergraten-2nd grade, children experience, practice, learn, and demonstrate all of the elements of movement: Body (body parts, action words), Shape (fantastic shapes, puzzle shapes with a friend or group, and changing the shape of the whole body while moving), Space (low/middle/high levels, directions in space, small/medium/big movements, spatial relationships of over/under/in front/behind/beside/around, straight/curved pathways) and Energy (smooth/tight/powerful/delicate/unhurried). During these lessons, students explore and demonstrate these skills using stories, props, movement exploration, working alone or with a partner as they play movement games and assess/coach one another’s skill development. In addition to making simple choreography projects, students begin to learn to read written movement notation for locomotor actions and directions as they develop their locomotor abilities. During these years the students learn to roll up and down through the spine, to stretch the legs fully, to point the toes while jumping and develop a strong proficiency to balance on one leg in varied positions as they learn about having a center and edges. Students learn a great deal about working with partners and learn a few simple folk dances, which coordinate with the movement concept they are studying.
Gan students will have the following curriculum introduced to them:
Kindergarten days are full, exciting, and stimulating. Your children are busy learning how to grow into healthy, compassionate, inquisitive citizens of our planet.
Hot Lunch – Please pack extra food at the beginning of the year just in case your child does not like the hot lunch.
Field trips – We go on several field trips throughout the year. If you can drive, please let us know when and what days of the work best.
Mornings – Please try to be on time. Please let your child be responsible for his/her backpack and materials.
Volunteers – If you would like to volunteer in the classroom, please let us know. On Thursday morning we welcome parents for one-on-one reading with the students. We also love to have you visit and share your expertise.
Oneg Shabbat– All families will be assigned a date to celebrate their child. Families are encouraged to invite family members and friends who are important to their child to our Oneg Shabbat. The Oneg begins 45 minutes before dismissal. Families are encouraged to bring Shabbat objects that are special to their child and to make a donation to the office to cover the cost of challah and juice.
For other classroom protocol issues, please refer to the Nuts and Bolts handout from the first day of school.