Kindergarten classrooms are amazing, as are many of our Kindergarten teachers. Kindergarten is a time when most kids love school. Then are thrilled to be there, the are excited to learn, and they have limitless energy for learning. For whatever reason, that changes, little by little as kids go through school. Kids start losing their zest for school with rapidly decreasing frequency as they move through the grade levels. When I look at what makes a great Kindergarten classroom I think of three key things:
First, and possibly most evident from all Kindergarten teachers is a classroom environment full of caring. It is not secret that these teachers love their kids and the kids love them too. Kids help one another, develop the same caring attitudes toward one another, and develop positive social relationships. Despite most Kindergarten kids still developing a sense of social understanding, there is a camaraderie and togetherness that is clearly evident in great kindergarten classrooms.
Next, is exploring. Kindergartners have a curiosity to discover. In great classrooms these kids have the chance to explore materials, play, sing, dance, and create. Kindergartners are typically afforded a number of different ways to demonstrate learning and absorb new material. How many things to Kindergartners make throughout the course of a year? Enough I am sure to fill the home of most parents. How many things does your average Fourth Grade child make? Considerably less. How many songs to Kindergartners sing to learn? No doubt it is more than your average Fourth Grader. Do these kids stop liking music?
Finally, we see pacing. I don’t mean pacing as in “Spend 6 days teaching X” but instead pacing during the day. Every early childhood teacher knows that your average Five year old has a top attention span of MAYBE ten minutes. No real lesson in a great Kindergarten classroom involves more than about 5-10 minutes of time where the teacher is talking. Beyond that, you tend to lose the group. So, most teachers in great Kindergarten classrooms “teach” for a very short time before sending their kids off to explore, create, DO!
When I first started working with special needs kids in an inclusion setting, I read up on inclusion. That was about 10 years ago, so I could not possibly recall the specific article, but both the master teacher I worked with and the information said the same thing: what is good for your lowest learners can easily benefit your highest. Presenting many different learning styles and techniques (the type that frequently occur in Kindergarten) benefit all learners. Yet, for some reason we look at our early childhood educators and either think about how incredible they are (or in some cases more derogatory responses).
Kindergarten teachers (the good ones) are incredible. They take the best teaching practices and apply it to tiny people who can barely exist on their own. Using those practices they grow incredible little people that learn amazing amounts. Imagine how much our kids could learn if we would only open ourselves up to teaching and learning through using some of these Kindergarten ideals.