I’d like to think that a bit of Kindergarten can make its way into any grade. It was really when I taught Grades 5 and 6 that I learned to love the play-based/inquiry-based approach that is prevalent in the Kindergarten Program Document. These grades were the ones that eventually brought me back down to teaching Kindergarten … and loving it! But over the past couple of weeks, I’ve started to wonder if Kindergarten really is unique, and maybe we need to embrace and celebrate the differences.
At our school, educators are divided into PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) that span grades and include prep coverage teachers, Educational Assistants, and Early Childhood Educators. The thinking is that we can share experiences, learn from each other, and ultimately, better our program and benefit kids. I do believe that this is possible! As much as we may connect with each other during the school day, we rarely get a chance to see each other’s classrooms and learn about the multiple experiences provided for students. We all have different perspectives, having taught at various schools and in various grades over the years, so what we can bring to the table is often unique. I appreciate that we get these opportunities to connect and learn from each other.
Having taught numerous grades before, I’ve been privy to many conversations around preparing kids for what’s coming next. This discussion happens across all grades, but especially between Kindergarten and Grade 1. The play-based program in Kindergarten seems contrary to the structure of many Grade 1 classrooms, and the question is, are we doing enough to get them ready? I still stand by every point that I wrote in this last blog post, but now I’m wondering if there’s even more to consider. Do we need to accept that Kindergarten is different?
- Students are younger. What is developmentally appropriate in Kindergarten may not be true for other grades. We need to consider the developmental continuum that really is outlined so well in the ELECT Document.
- We don’t give grades. There is no assessment of learning in our Growing Success Addendum, which also speaks to the fact that we are always looking at how assessment informs instruction versus as an evaluation of a task. This addendum speaks to the value of pedagogical documentation, and while this kind of documentation exists in other grades, it’s central to assessment in Kindergarten.
- We don’t have a “curriculum,” we have a “program.” Like Nancy Niessen, I think that the difference between these two terms is big and important. Reading her blog post helps clarify this.
- Our teaching exceeds academics. To a degree, this is true in all grades, but in Kindergarten, the amount of instruction around non-academic areas is huge. We teach children how to …
- solve problems,
- how to enter play,
- how to interact with each other,
- how to get dressed for outside,
- how to get undressed when they come in,
- how to neatly hang up their belongings and bring their things home with them,
- how to open containers,
- how to clean up after themselves,
- how to undo and do up buttons and zippers,
- how to go to the bathroom independently, and maybe even what to do when they’re in there. I have used many a doll and a potty in Kindergarten to teach the toileting process, and I know that I’m not the only one.
These are all important skills, and they’re ones that lead to success well beyond Kindergarten!
— Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca) December 1, 2015
Different isn’t bad. It’s a reality, and I think that it’s one that we need to accept. Expectations and pedagogy can vary significantly between Kindergarten and Grade 1, and I’ve often wondered if connecting K and 1 educators would change this. Maybe though there are reasons that these differences exist, and when children get to Grade 1, most of them are academically, socially, emotionally, and developmentally ready to tackle expectations beyond those introduced in Kindergarten.
I wonder if the value of these K/1 connections rests instead in learning and appreciating what each program has to offer and where students are at in these various grades. Possibly then we can also look at if there are instructional practices we can adopt to make transitions smoother for kids and to support students that may be at different academic, social, or developmental levels. What do you think and what have you tried? Many years ago, I used to say that I taught down in Kinderland. Is it possible that we really are — at least partially — in a world of our own?