The Kindergarten program at Rio Grande School offers a well-balanced curriculum that supports student engagement and social-emotional growth in a nurturing environment that celebrates the joy of learning.
The Language Arts program is based on sequential and consistent instruction and practice. Phonics is taught daily through two multi-sensory programs – Letterland and Orton-Gillingham methodology. The students use sand trays, vowel sticks, bumpy boards, white boards, and magnetic boards to practice encoding and decoding. In addition, arm tapping and finger tapping are used to practice non-phonetic words.
Handwriting is presented in connection with phonics instruction and reinforced daily with chalkboard, advancing to weekly practice in handwriting workbooks along with independent writing. The handwriting curriculum is called Handwriting Without Tears.
Educators conduct informal literacy assessments to check developing phonetic skills and comprehension in which students read with a teacher either one-on-one or in small groups. A formal assessment using the Basic Reading Inventory takes place three times during the school year.
Students in Kindergarten explore a variety of genres, both fiction and non-fiction, through independent reading with “just right books” and daily read-alouds, much of which ties into their integrated thematic studies. It is through these read-alouds that comprehension strategies and story mapping skills are modeled and practiced.
The end of year goal for this balanced literacy approach is to empower our Kindergarten students to view themselves as readers and writers who are able to listen, comprehend, and express their ideas clearly.
This curriculum reflects Kindergartners’ awareness that math happens everyday, anytime, and anywhere.. Curriculum areas are linked so that students have the opportunity to use math in a variety of settings -- daily morning meeting routines, thematic studies, science activities, and technology. Developmentally appropriate experiences are provided for Kindergartners to support their need for hands-on, concrete experiences and the manipulation of materials. The emphasis is on active participation in learning, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills, with children being challenged to consider multiple ways to solve problems. A spiral approach is taken that builds skills and concepts with increasing complexity. During the course of the school year, students explore a wide range of concepts -– numeration, money, fractions, patterns, sorting and classifying, making and interpreting graphs, measurement, addition and subtraction, estimation, geometry, and problem solving.
Most lessons are introduced to the whole class and continue to be practiced when the children participate in small group centers. These center activities are typically guided by a teacher, allowing informal assessment to take place frequently.
Integrated Thematic Units (Science and Social Studies)
The Kindergarten integrated thematic units reflect a common thread of “Ourselves and the World Around Us.” These units use social studies and science as the foundation for thematic learning and provide opportunities for students to further develop and apply concepts and skills in critical thinking, problem solving, reading, writing, oral expression, math, research and study skills, the arts, and technology.
For example, our Winter Theme is Holidays Around the World. Students get to create a suitcase and passport and travel use their imaginations as they travel to different countries to learn how other parts of the world celebrate the holidays. They not only learn about different cultures and traditions, but they also get to sample other foods and create projects to reflect their learning.
Thematic units with a social studies focus lay the foundation for inquiry-based explorations of different cultures, increased multicultural awareness, and an appreciation of people’s similarities and differences. Children move from exploring their own lives, families, and the Santa Fe community to learning about the lives of children around the world. Geography and mapping skills are also incorporated into these units.
Thematic units with a science focus extend students’ understanding of both the physical and social world and serve as a foundation from which to deepen their knowledge of the world around us. Through their five senses they observe, form hypotheses and connections, classify and predict. They study several life cycles throughout the year and look at the effects of weather and seasonal changes on people, plants, and animals. They discover how all life forms have basic needs and must adapt to their changing environment in order to survive. They learn about food, clothing, shelter, and health needs, as well as seasonal activities. They study the earth and how they can become “earth protectors.”
Each Kindergarten unit integrates and relates the core instructional areas of reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies to the underlying theme. Co-curricular educators in the areas of art, music, Spanish, drama, physical education, library, technology, and science collaborate with the classroom teachers to enhance and augment particular thematic units.
Social-emotional skills are taught and practiced throughout the Kindergarten day utilizing daily direct instruction, role-playing, read-alouds, and class/individual discussion. These skills are essential for a smooth transition from the pre-K classroom to the more structured elementary academic environment. Educators focus heavily on the Six Pillars of Character--Trustworthiness, Caring, Fairness, Respect, Responsibility, and Citizenship. As a school, Rio Grande follows established Behavior Guidelines, practices and Responsive Classroom principles. Rio Grande School classroom educators believe that social intelligence must be present before academic intelligence can be achieved.
At Rio Grande School, each grade has its own service learning project. Kindergarteners visit a local retirement home several times during the year to share songs and cookies with the residents and to expose the students to a meaningful, real-life application of the concept of giving and sharing. After the visit, substantial time is taken for class reflection on the experience and how our actions can impact the lives of others, which sets the foundation and reinforces our school-wide focus on community responsibility.
Fourth graders work with their kindergarten buddies to choose a service learning project that connects to either an academic subject about which they are passionate or a social-emotional topic. For example, last year fourth graders and kindergarteners worked together to raise money and awareness for the Okapi, an endangered species native to The Congo - home to two of our teachers.