New game plan: Full-day kindergarten begins this fall

September 2015 Posted in School
Kindergarten tips

Children are better prepared
for all-day kindergarten when they:
• Have the ability to sit and
listen and wait for a turn.
• Have an interest in books.
• Can play and share with others.
• Have experience using scissors,
crayons and pencils.
• Can count objects.
• Have a broad vocabulary built
by positive conversations and experiences.
• Can recognize letters,
especially letters in their name.
• Have practice writing their name.
• Can take care of their personal needs.
• Can respect others’ personal space.
• Can play pretend or imaginary
games and can run, hop, kick and catch a ball.

By Brenna Wiegand

To learn how to help students enjoy all-day kindergarten, eight of 12 Silver Falls School District kindergarten teachers attended the ‘I Teach K’ national conference for teachers in Las Vegas.

“It was by far the best experience I’ve ever had as an educator,” Eugene Field kindergarten teacher Abby Bruner said. “I was among thousands of kindergarten teachers from around the nation, learning from the best of the best instructors. It was like I was at a rock concert for kindergarten teachers! It was that amazing! I’m refreshed and so excited to start this new adventure.”

She says the most important thing parents can do to help their student be ready for kindergarten is to read to them.

“They discover the joys of hearing stories, learning about the world and using their imagination, and they love it,” Bruner said. “You can encourage their language development by asking them to describe the pictures to you. As they get older, children enjoy turning the pages of the book as you read to them. This engages them in the story. Ask them questions like ‘How do you think that made him feel?’ or ‘How would you feel if something like this happened to you?’”

Parents foster curiosity and an eagerness to learn when they read to their child.

“Our children will be most successful if they learn to ask questions, think independently and be creative,” Bruner said. “They need to be curious about the world, interested in how things work, and know how to creatively approach problems.

“So, if your child asks you a question like ‘Do mosquitoes sleep?’ resist the urge to answer – you may not know it anyway – at least right away. Instead, try asking them, ‘What do you think?’ or ‘Where do you think we could find the answer to that question?’ By doing this, you are encouraging them to think for themselves and build their self-esteem.

“After teaching in a half-day program for 14 years, I couldn’t be more excited about moving forward to an all-day kindergarten program,” Bruner said. “Instead of magically teaching my students everything I need to in 2 ½ hours, I’ll now have approximately six hours.”

Some benefits of all-day kindergarten include higher long-term achievement, greater progress for disadvantaged and low-income children, fewer grade retentions, more individual instruction, more time for free play and access to a nutritional breakfast and lunch.

Eugene Field School teacher Breanna Davis has spent the last four years teaching full-day kindergarten at EAGLE Charter School, where kids had to option to go home after half a day. Within the first few months she noticed a big difference in social skills, independence and maturity levels.

Getting kids on a routine and maintaining it through the school year is important to help students adapt.

“I personally feel the most difficult part for kindergartners the first month seems to be adjusting to the routines of school,” Davis said., “If parents begin setting up a schedule that is similar every day, their child will most likely adjust to the full-day easier. Also, any chance parents can get to read to their 5-year-old is going to help in the growth of their child.

She said nothing is better than seeing a smile on a child’s face when he reads a word they have been struggling on or when they count all the way to 100 for the first time. The first month or two are the most challenging for a kindergartners, Davis added.

“The day will be long, they’ll miss their parents, there will be tears – but they will be in good hands,” Davis said. “It will be important to give several brain and body breaks, drink time, structured play, talk time and much more. These children need to learn the basics on how to socialize and how to communicate with a larger group of people; we teach all of these concepts through structured play, learning games, circle time, and many other activities. It is important that they learn how to get along and communicate with each other.”

Some students are bound to get tired and cranky, which is why at her old school Davis had a 15-minute rest time where the students sat or laid on the carpet with lights off and soft music playing.

“No one ever fell asleep but it definitely energized them for the rest of the day,” Davis said.

“In kindergarten they do a new activity about every 15 minutes so that helps with students getting too tired.”

Butte Creek teacher Rebecca Kuenzi says parents can help kindergartners by being encouraging and making sure they get 10-12 hours of sleep every night. Parents should encourage independence and they should “read, read and read.”

“Full-day kindergarten offers social, emotional and educational benefits,” Kuenzi said. “Students have more time to engage and reflect on their learning; more time is available for interaction and cooperative learning and the schedule is not as tightly packed, which creates a less-stressful experience.”

Kuenzi has been looking forward to teaching all-day kindergarten for years because she will have more time for both educational lessons as well as time for art, music and fun.”

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