Every morning, you can find a friendly, clean, colorful hallway full of teachers eagerly awaiting their students. The kindergarten teachers greet their students enthusiastically and praise them for entering the hallway on their own and for hanging up their own belongings in the hall. This is just one of the many ways we promote independence. Each student has a responsibility to bring in needed materials and place them in a specific place in the classroom, which is a simple way for students to practice accountability. This is a skill that carries over into the classroom and sets the tone for a successful day.
After a student has completed Morning Procedures, he/she begins Workshops. These are a series of independent activities that foster development and maturity in students. Workshops emphasize routine, encourage responsibility, require accountability, and promote independence. The students improve fine and gross motor skills and literacy and math skills that we will build on throughout the year. Students also learn how to navigate the room, practice time management and follow multi-step directions. This is the perfect time for the classroom teacher to spend quality time with each student and assess his/her progress.
This motivates children by addressing two human needs: the need to feel a sense of significance and belonging and the need to have fun. It involves having students meet every morning at the same time in a predictable format. The meeting consists of a greeting, sharing time, a group activity, and news and announcements. It is used to encourage and practice social and emotional learning in all children. Morning Meetings help the children know that they are in a safe and nurturing environment.
Several math concepts are integrated during calendar time including number recognition, counting (rote, skip, tallying), even/odd, quantity, one-to-one correspondence, place value, sequencing/ordinal positioning, patterning (creating, extending, and naming), graphing (interpreting and collecting data), time (day, month, year, hour, half hour), weather, seasons, temperature, money (coin value and recognition, coin combinations), number line (addition and subtraction), predicting and estimating.
We use the Wonders reading series to teach literacy, which focuses on the five major components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Each teacher has several leveled readers to aid in reaching all learners and to provide constant, ongoing assessments to meet each student's individual needs. New Sight Words and Robust Vocabulary are introduced weekly.
We also use Saxon Phonics and Handwriting Without Tears to supplement our Wonders curriculum. Phonics Dance is used in a whole group and small group settings with chants and movements to auditorily and kinesthetically teach memorable phonics rules. Handwriting Without Tears is also used during whole group or small group instruction with a series of simple, clearly defined strokes to make handwriting a breeze!
We are able to eat lunch in our classroom. Students can purchase a meal through our cafeteria or bring a nut-free lunch from home. Lunch is an excellent time for children to grow socially! Students practice vocabulary skills, spatial relations, safety guidelines, independence, and manners.
Morning Recess and Afternoon Recess
These 30-minute periods are other meaningful times for socialization, experimentation, problem-solving, and motor skill development. We encourage the children to use all playground equipment including slides, monkey bars, climbing structures, and the tire-swing to enhance gross motor skills. The children may also make sidewalk chalk creations, jump rope, hula-hoop, and play organized games such as foursquare, basketball, and kickball.
Each teacher on duty monitors the playground and expects each child to use the safety precautions and adhere to the playground rules set by and explained by the kindergarten team.
P.E.: 20 minutes Tuesday-Friday: Our coaches are fun-loving, energetic, and so sweet! They integrate pieces of our kindergarten curriculum into exciting movement activities and games that the students adore. These opportunities help students improve their gross motor skills, encourage activity, and promote teamwork. Our students always look forward to P.E.!
Music: 20 minutes Tuesday-Friday: Mr. Champney is incredibly talented! He teaches the students lyrics and movements for the songs we sing at Charger Shine. The students especially enjoy cultural and seasonal songs. Mrs. Champney coordinates a kindergarten musical each spring that the students perform in the Howard Theatre.
Library: 30 minutes per week: Kindergarteners love visiting Mrs. Story each week in the library. She teaches them basic library routines, like checking out and returning books and using a shelf marker. Mrs. Story is the most entertaining reader on campus! When she reads aloud, she gives all the characters voices and reads very enthusiastically. She also plans engaging activities for the students, such as writing and performing fables.
Art: 45 minutes per week: Mrs. Bramble, uses a variety of art techniques and materials with kindergarteners. The students anxiously await spending time with Mrs. Bramble each week. Several of her students have even won national and local awards for their artwork!
Spanish: 20 minutes, four days a week: Students participate in an exciting, energetic, and memorable Spanish class every Monday through Thursday! Students learn several new vocabulary words including general greetings and responses, numbers, months of the year, animal names, and color words, just to name a few.
Journaling is an important part of phonemic spelling, story sequencing, and handwriting practice. Students are expected to record the date and their thoughts and illustrate their journal entries each day. As the year progresses, they are asked to incorporate specific skill-based concepts in their writing.
Math is integrated into many different activities in our classrooms. Math Expressions is the math curriculum used in kindergarten. Math is taught using individual, small group, and whole-class activities that are hands-on learning lessons paired with the opportunity to record data.
Aside from the math skills that we focus on during calendar time, kindergarteners also work on the following skills throughout the year: recognize, model, and write numerals 0-30, apply relative positions, describe solid and plane figures, identify fractional parts (whole and half), trade pennies, nickels, and dimes, recognize the value of quarters and dollars, compare, order, and measure length, and create and model addition and subtraction problems.
The kindergarten teachers promote meaningful learning through the use of math tubs, math journals, and technology. Math tubs are opportunities for students to explore the topics we have covered using a variety of manipulatives. Math tubs allow students to work in cooperative groups. Math journals are used to reinforce and review math in a creative way.
Centers are stations set up throughout the classroom where children engage in purposeful play that enhances a specific learning activity. Children choose the center they wish to work in and decide on the amount of time to spend there. The learning center approach provides a time when children explore and practice skills to their own satisfaction. These centers provide children with opportunities for hands-on learning, cooperative learning, social interaction, real-life problem solving, autonomous learning, and open-ended activities.
Each kindergarten class rotates to science on Fridays. Every week, students are provided authentic, hands-on, inquiry-based experiences to explore a new science topic. Students work individually and in small groups to conduct investigations and participate in experiments and observations.
We focus on chemistry (how things change), biology (the study of living things), earth science (weather and seasonal changes) and life science (life cycles of plants and animals). Literacy is integrated into many of our science lessons, whether it be reading a specific book, creating a graphic organizer during a group writing activity, keeping a science journal, or participating in a song or movement activity.
Community Service and Social Studies
On Fridays, each kindergarten class rotates to community service/social studies. This opportunity guides the children in helping people and animals in our world. Some service projects are specific to our Heritage Hall community, like recycling paper goods on campus. Other service projects are geared more towards helping the Oklahoma City metro area, like providing the Central Humane Society with blankets, food, treats and toys for dogs and cats. There are also national service projects that the children are involved in, like raising money by singing valentines with proceeds going to Hearts for Africa.
Each kindergarten teacher is also responsible for teaching social studies throughout the week. We use National Geographic Young Explorer to teach several topics. The magazine offers beautiful, detailed photographs and interesting, kid-friendly information about animals, people, and events from a variety of places in our world. It also has an interactive technology component that we will use on the SMART Board as our students read along with their copy of the magazine. We do several fun projects and art activities to support learning and to teach others about what we’ve learned.
Many of our field trips directly relate to a community service or social studies topic. We enjoy helping and learning from members of the community. We conclude most Wonders lessons, which are based on social studies, with a culminating activity and/or a field trip, or guest speaker.
On Fridays, each kindergarten class rotates to Mr. Bramble's room for technology. Kindergarten has a cart equipped with 16 iPads that are used for playing literacy and math games, practicing handwriting and fine motor skills, creating presentations, taking photos and videos, and learning how to properly care and use an iPad.
Each kindergarten classroom also has a SMART Board, which is used for whole group instruction, such as using the document camera to observe small objects/creatures in detail, reading a story or article aloud, or watching an educational video. Children also use the SMART Board to practice literacy or math skills during Center Time.
You will also find an all-in-one Mac computer in each kindergarten room. Children use this to chart their lunch count each day during Workshops, to practice literacy or math skills during Center Time, and to improve their hand-eye coordination and mouse skills.
Our brilliant cross-age teaching coordinator, Mrs. Warner, has helped the kindergarten teachers connect our students with amazing Chargers throughout the entire school! Our fourth grade friends help us walk to assemblies, plays, and special events held across campus. They have also taught us how to correctly throw Frisbees. The third graders help us cook a simple snack each week, which is something that the kindergarteners always look forward to doing! The second graders teach us how to play board games and show us how to have good sportsmanship. Our students look up to these wonderful leaders and get a kick out of seeing them in the hallways of the Lower School.
We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to also work with Middle and Upper School students. We have visited the Middle School to learn from a Spanish class about Dia de Los Muertos, we made our own ice cream, we planted beautiful flowers around campus with a science class, and we visited a group of theatre students who performed several fairy tales for us. A photography class even came down to the Lower School to teach us how to photograph letters in nature!
In the Upper School, we have made gingerbread houses with the seniors and visited an English teacher’s classroom to learn more about his career. Upper School students have visited the Lower School, too. A Chinese class taught us how to draw a panda and write familiar words in Chinese with a real calligraphy brush and ink. We have had Upper School students come to our classrooms to assist us in editing writing samples, to play math games with us, and to read to us during lunch.
Cross-age learning doesn’t stop at the high school level. We have also visited the administration building to deliver singing valentines! The kindergarteners are so excited about learning from and teaching other Heritage Hall students and teachers at any age. Our students, patrons, and staff members are wonderful role models for the kindergarteners!
Kindergarten students are expected to complete ten minutes of homework nightly. We feel that this is an appropriate amount of time for five and six-year-olds to spend on their homework for several reasons.
The purpose of homework in kindergarten is to review and continue practicing the skills learned in the classroom. The kindergarten teachers also like for our students and their families to maximize their downtime at home by playing games, exercising, and spending quality time together. We encourage each family to spend at least twenty minutes per night reading to or with their child and feel that this supplements regular homework nicely.
The amount of time students spend on homework increases each year and these times have been thoughtfully determined by teachers with young children's capabilities and development in mind.
Each kindergarten teacher maintains a classroom website to keep parents informed about what their child is doing in his/her classroom. This information can include topics of study, new Sight Words and Robust Vocabulary for the week, field trip information, volunteer requests, birthday alerts, upcoming school events, reminders, and classroom photographs and videos.
Parental involvement is welcomed and appreciated, and we have several opportunities for our parents to share their talents with us. Parents may also volunteer for other school-wide activities held outside the classroom.