Kindergarten Learning Experiences Elementary School Services

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Kindergarten Learning Experiences

Elementary School Services

April 2008

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148

Phone 781-338-3000 TTY: N.E.T. Relay 800-439-2370

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This document was prepared by the

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Jeffrey Nellhaus

Acting Commissioner

Request information about this document from Elementary School Services

at 781-338-3350 or

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We do not discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation.

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Human Resources Director, 350 Main St., Malden, MA 02148 781-338-6105.

© 2008 Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148-5023

Phone 781-338-3000 TTY: N.E.T. Relay 800-439-2370
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Table of Contents

Introduction 5

Who Should Use This Document and How Does It Relate to Other Documents? 5

Guiding Principles 7

Pedagogical Variations 8

Curriculum and Assessment 8

Meeting Individual Needs 11

Family Involvement 13

Questions for Teachers to Ask Themselves 13

Conclusion 14

Kindergarten Learning Experiences in English Language Arts 15

Introduction 15

Kindergarten Learning Experiences in English Language Arts 19

Language 19

Language 19

Discussion 19

Questioning, Listening, and Contributing 19

Oral Presentation 20

Vocabulary and Concept Development 20

Structure and Origins of Modern English 20

Formal and Informal English 22

Reading and Literature 22

Reading and Literature 22

Beginning Reading 22

Understanding a Text 24

Making Connections 25

Genre 26

Poetry 26

Style and Language 26

Myth, Traditional Narrative, and Classical Literature 27

Composition 27

Composition 27

Writing 27

Composition: Standard English Conventions 28

Composition: Research 28

Media 29

Media 29

Analysis of Media 29

Media Production 29

Kindergarten Learning Experiences in Mathematics 30

Introduction 30

Kindergarten Learning Experiences in Mathematics 33

Number Sense and Operations 33

Number Sense and Operations 33

Patterns, Relations, and Algebra 34

Patterns, Relations, and Algebra 34

Geometry 35

Geometry 35

Measurement 37

Measurement 37

Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability 37

Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability 37

Kindergarten Learning Experiences in Science and Technology/Engineering 38

Introduction 38

Kindergarten Learning Experiences in Science and Technology/Engineering 41

Earth and Space Science 43

Earth and Space Science 43

Earth’s Materials 43

The Weather 43

The Sun as a Source of Light and Heat 44

Periodic Phenomena 44

Life Science (Biology) 44

Life Science (Biology) 44

Characteristics of Living Things 44

Heredity 45

Evolution and Biodiversity 46

Living Things and Their Environment 46

Physical Sciences (Chemistry and Physics) 47

Physical Sciences (Chemistry and Physics) 47

Observable Properties of Objects 47

States of Matter 47

Position and Motion of Objects 48

Technology/Engineering 49

Technology/Engineering 49

Materials and Tools 49

Engineering Design 50

Kindergarten Learning Experiences in History and Social Science 51

Introduction 51

Kindergarten Learning Experiences in History and Social Science 54

History and Geography 54

History and Geography 54

Civics and Government 55

Civics and Government 55

Economics 55

Economics 55

History 56

History 56

Geography 56

Geography 56

Civics and Government 57

Civics and Government 57

Economics 58

Economics 58

Kindergarten Learning Experiences in Comprehensive Health 59

Introduction 59

Kindergarten Learning Experiences in Comprehensive Health 64

Physical Health 64

Physical Health 64

Growth and Development 64

Physical Activity and Fitness 64

Nutrition 66

Reproduction/Sexuality 67

Social and Emotional Health 68

Social and Emotional Health 68

Mental Health 68

Family Life 68

Interpersonal Relationships 69

Safety and Prevention 70

Safety and Prevention 70

Disease Prevention and Control 70

Safety and Injury Prevention 71

Tobacco, Alcohol, and Substance Use/Abuse Prevention 72

Violence Prevention 73

Personal and Community Health 73

Personal and Community Health 73

Consumer Health and Resource Management 73

Ecological Health 74

Community and Public Health 74

Kindergarten Learning Experiences in The Arts 75

Introduction 75

Kindergarten Learning Experiences in Arts 80

Dance 80

Dance 80

Movement Elements and Dance Skills 80

Choreography 81

Dance as Expression 81

Performance in Dance 82

Critical Response 82

Music 82

Music 82

Singing 82

Reading and Notation 83

Playing Instruments 83

Improvisation and Composition 84

Critical Response 85

Theater 85

Theater 85

Acting 85

Reading and Writing Scripts 86

Directing 87

Technical Theatre 87

Critical Response 87

Visual Arts 87

Visual Arts 87

Methods, Materials, and Techniques 88

Elements and Principles of Design 89

Observation, Abstraction, Invention, and Expression 90

Drafting, Revising, and Exhibiting 91

Critical Response 91

Arts Connections 91

Arts Connections 91

Purposes and Meanings in the Arts 91

Roles of Artists in Communities 92

Concepts of Style, Stylistic Influence, and Stylistic Change 92

Inventions, Technologies, and the Arts 92

Interdisciplinary Connections 93

Appendix A: Reading References 94

Language 94

Reading and Literature 94

Number Sense and Operations 96

Patterns, Relations, and Algebra 97

Geometry 97

Measurement 97

Earth and Space Science 98

Life Science (Biology) 98

Technology/Engineering 98

History and Geography 98

Civics and Government 99

Economics 99

History 99

Civics and Government 100

Economics 100

Physical Health 100

Social and Emotional Health 101

Safety and Prevention 101

Personal and Community Health 101

Dance 102

Music 102

Theatre 102

Visual Arts 103

Arts Connections 103

Appendix B: Acknowledgements 105

Project Staff and Consultants 105

Project Members 106


Chapter 1: Introduction 108

Chapter 1: Introduction 108

Chapter 2: Kindergarten Experiences in English Language Arts 109

Chapter 2: Kindergarten Experiences in English Language Arts 109

Chapter 4: Kindergarten Experiences in Science and Technology/Engineering 109

Chapter 4: Kindergarten Experiences in Science and Technology/Engineering 109

Chapter 6: Kindergarten Experiences in Comprehensive Health 109

Chapter 6: Kindergarten Experiences in Comprehensive Health 109

Chapter 7: Kindergarten Experiences in The Arts 110

Chapter 7: Kindergarten Experiences in The Arts 110


Kindergarten is a critical year for all children—a year of transition from preschool programs or home to formal schooling. Most children arrive in kindergarten filled with curiosity, wonder, and an enthusiasm to learn about themselves, others, and the world. A teacher’s role and responsibility is to nourish this hunger for knowledge, and to motivate and challenge the students, as well as to protect and nurture them.
The process of learning for children at this age is as important as performance and products. Several studies have demonstrated that high-quality kindergarten programs have long-lasting positive effects on academic achievement.1 Children who see themselves as competent learners tackle challenges with confidence, and develop attitudes and dispositions that encourage their curiosity and eagerness to learn.
This document, Kindergarten Learning Experiences, is intended to guide teachers as they plan and provide diverse learning opportunities that help their students develop a solid foundation for more advanced learning and for life. Kindergarten Learning Experiences and links to related resources are also available online at
The six chapters following this introduction are the content areas:

English Language Arts


Science and Technology/Engineering

History and Social Science

Comprehensive Health

The Arts

Each chapter is organized into two main sections for its content area:

an introduction that offers content-specific guidelines for kindergarten-level implementation of the subject material

kindergarten-level interpretations of selected learning standards from the relevant Massachusetts Curriculum Framework,2 along with suggested activities to implement those standards at the kindergarten level

Together, the learning standards, guidelines, and activities in each chapter constitute “kindergarten learning experiences” that will enhance the quality of kindergarten programs for all children in Massachusetts.
Who Should Use This Document and How Does It Relate to Other Documents?

All teachers, administrators, specialists, and paraprofessionals are encouraged to use this document to plan a developmentally appropriate, standards-based curriculum for all children in kindergarten, and to guide professional development and other activities that improve program quality and address the learning needs of all kindergarten children.

Although designed for professionals, some of the information may be helpful for parents who are concerned about what their children are expected to learn in kindergarten. Faculty of institutions of higher education may also find the information useful for their early childhood teacher preparation programs.
Alignment with the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks

Learning activities in each chapter align with the learning standards of the relevant Massachusetts Curriculum Framework. Framework learning standards outline expectations for what students should know and be able to do at various grade levels—they provide guidance for the “what” and “when” of students’ skills and knowledge. Each content-specific chapter of this document provides information that helps “translate” these learning standards into a curriculum that leads kindergartners to achieve the selected standards at the kindergarten level or at other levels up to grade four.

The age-appropriate activities suggested for most learning standards will help teachers offer diverse experiences across subject areas. These learning activities are suggestions, not requirements, and are not intended to limit curriculum options. Activities range in their levels of difficulty from things almost all children will be able to do to more complex activities that may be less accessible for some children. Teachers are encouraged to adapt activities as appropriate, and to be creative in guiding children’s learning toward meeting the learning standards. Final decisions about curriculum (which materials are used, curriculum, approaches to curriculum) are made at the district or individual school level. Many learning activities include ideas for reading—Appendix A of this document includes references for all books and stories mentioned in suggested activities.
Please note that when any standard is not followed by a suggested learning activity, that standard is included in the activities following the next listed standard.
Omitted and Combined Standards

Some Framework learning standards and items within a standard have been omitted. These specific standards or items were considered less appropriate or essential at the kindergarten level than those that have been included. This does not imply that the missing standards or items cannot or should not be addressed in the kindergarten-level curriculum. Omitted standards and items are listed in the introduction section of each content-specific chapter.

When two standards are easily addressed together at the kindergarten level, they have been combined in this document (e.g., 1.1 and 1.2).
Alignment with the Guidelines for Preschool Learning Experiences

The information in this document is also connected to the Guidelines for Preschool Learning Experiences,3 although there are some differences in approach and format. The alignment between these two documents should encourage continuity of curriculum content from preschool to kindergarten. Because children develop at different rates across domains, come from different backgrounds, and bring a range of skills to kindergarten, teachers may also find that activities in the Guidelines for Preschool Learning Experiences are appropriate for some kindergarten children. Guidelines for Preschool Learning Experiences may also provide additional ideas from which to develop kindergarten activities, and curriculum ideas for children with limited preschool experience, for children with special learning needs, and, in some cases, for children whose first language is not English.

Guiding Principles

This document was developed based on the following guiding principles, which teachers and other education professionals are encouraged to adopt as they develop their kindergarten curriculum.

Children are capable and competent individuals who come to kindergarten with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Knowledge of child growth and development is essential for making decisions about appropriate curriculum content for groups and individual children.

Children need many opportunities for work and play that cultivate their individual styles, recognize their cultures, and accommodate their individual needs.

All children are capable of learning in a safe, healthy, and stimulating classroom environment. Children gain understanding of the world and society by exploring materials, engaging in physical activities, and interacting with peers and adults.

The kindergarten curriculum is aimed at the whole child. Children learn to take risks and solve problems, develop relationships, explore new concepts, acquire some academic skills and knowledge, and enhance their physical, social, and emotional competence. They need sufficient time to become involved in projects and investigations to satisfy their own interests. Balancing child-initiated and teacher-selected activities enhances learning.

Children benefit from rich, multi-sensory learning environments that support different learning styles and kinds of intelligence. They acquire symbolic thought as they represent their ideas and knowledge through drawing, painting, block constructions, dramatic play, speaking, and writing.

Children are more able to generalize concepts and knowledge when activities connect to real-life experiences. Interdisciplinary thematic units and the project approach promote connections across the curriculum and over time. Connections across developmental domains also help children synthesize, reorganize, and transform knowledge, and develop creative and independent thinking.

Young children construct values and knowledge through relationships and interactions with dependable adults in their lives. Families are the primary caregivers and educators of their children. Continuity between home and school maximizes learning. When teachers work with families as partners, children’s development and progress is maximized. Connections with the larger community can also benefit children’s academic and personal growth.

Pedagogical Variations

Various instructional strategies based on a variety of learning philosophies are used to help children master academic skills in different schools, classrooms, and even within classrooms.
Constructivist Approach

The constructivist approach is driven by children’s interests, social interactions, play, and developmental needs. Constructivists believe that children learn by reconstructing concepts through their own efforts toward mastery. This general approach to early education was promoted by Friedrick Froebels, the German founder of kindergarten (“children’s garden”), as well as by theories of development articulated and elaborated by John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and L.S. Vygotsky, along with other more recent work of developmental psychologists and researchers.4

Constructivists view child development holistically. Curriculum grounded in overall development partially defines “developmentally appropriate.” Through structured and unstructured play, children construct and master the concepts, knowledge, and skills that create the foundation for subsequent learning.5 Social interaction is considered crucial to development and learning, and is embedded in routines and curriculum.6 The teacher designs the environment and prepares activities that facilitate learning. The teacher also scaffolds the learning of individual children.
Direct Instruction Approach

The direct instruction approach is based on the idea that children attain academic achievement more quickly and effectively by teaching the explicit knowledge and skills that children need to master school tasks (e.g., how to form letters; recognize phonemes; learn letters, numbers, or procedures for mathematics or science).

Integrating Approaches

Children learn most easily when information is presented in context of familiar experiences, although some specific skills and information are best taught through explicit instruction. Some children respond readily to direct instruction; others best assimilate ideas and knowledge through open-ended projects. Teachers can address children’s learning styles and preferences by adjusting their teaching styles and classroom activities to appeal to a range of learning needs.

One way to ascertain what children know and to build on that knowledge is for teachers to embed short periods of explicit instruction within engaging activities. This can be followed by exploration of children’s thinking through open-ended questions and activities.
Curriculum and Assessment

Teachers, paraprofessionals, and specialists need to plan together a curriculum and a classroom environment that ensures all children are being challenged at their individual levels of development, including children with disabilities, children with little or no English language knowledge, advanced learners, and children with at-risk factors that might impede their development or education. For specific suggestions regarding children with disabilities, English language learners, and advanced learners, see “Multiple Curricular Approaches” below.

Children enter kindergarten between the ages of four to six years, depending on the school district, but most kindergarten students function developmentally anywhere between three to eight years of age, depending on the domain (e.g., a child may be accomplished in the area of social-emotional development but be below the average in physical development for his/her age). Considerable individual differences in the children’s rates of growth and development of skills are typical and to be expected.
One of a teacher’s greatest challenges is to observe, identify, and plan a curriculum that will accommodate individual developmental differences among all the children in their classes. Accomplished teachers know when to stand back, watch, and listen to children’s self-talk, conversations with others, and explanations. They also know when and how to encourage children to ask questions and come up with answers or hypotheses. Mistakes are particularly valuable, because they give teachers insight into a child’s underlying concepts.
Teachers must be skillful and unobtrusive questioners, drawing on children’s observations and insights when possible before imposing their own. They must encourage children to talk about their own reasoning as well as to consider each others reasoning. The more children can personally extend their own activities, the more they will make knowledge their own.
Approaches to Curriculum

Integrated Curriculum

Early learning is multidimensional, and developmental domains are interrelated. Brain research7 indicates that learning is greater when children’s experiences interconnect than when their experiences are separated by subject area. A standards-based curriculum that integrates thematic units and projects (long- and short-term) will allow in-depth investigations of real-world topics,8 deepening children’s understanding and intellectual challenge along the continuum of development.
Play is the heart of an integrated kindergarten curriculum and is the medium through which children learn and develop. Dramatic play allows children to review, integrate, and expand their knowledge and understanding of what they learn and experience. Daily routines such as snack, lunch, and recess help children develop self-help, language, and social skills. Outdoor play, which should be scheduled each day, is essential for gross and fine motor development. Structured play need not be teacher-directed but may include facilitation by the teacher to extend children’s ideas and learning.
Differentiated Curriculum

Children come to kindergarten with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and abilities. A one-size-fits-all approach to instruction will most likely slow the progress of some children and be overwhelming to others.9 Differentiated instruction is an effective way to offer individually, linguistically, and culturally appropriate curriculum that helps all children meet learning goals.10

Differentiated instruction is especially important in early childhood programs because the foundations of children’s future learning are being constructed. It creates multiple paths by which children of different abilities, interests, and learning needs, and those who come from different backgrounds may absorb, use, develop, and present concepts. A differentiated curriculum also provides opportunities for peer teaching and cooperative learning.11 Children can take more responsibility and ownership for their own academic growth.
To work with curriculum in this way, teachers must have an understanding of the range of children’s knowledge, abilities, and backgrounds in their classroom. Initial and ongoing assessment of readiness, growth, abilities, skills, and interests is needed for functional and successful differentiation.12
Observation and Ongoing Assessment

Assessment of young children should start with systematic observation and recording of individual progress that can be used productively for planning and modifying the curriculum. Administrators and teachers should explore various research-based assessment systems (e.g., observations, portfolios of children’s work, performance tasks, projects, children’s self- and peer-assessment, and valid and reliable standardized instruments) and be trained to use these assessments appropriately. Teachers may also engage children in group projects and other collaborative work to observe what they can do with assistance from other children or from adults, in addition to what they can do independently. Results of any formal assessments should always be shared with parents.

Observation and documentation over time leads to teachers’ understanding individual learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses, and helps generate ideas for necessary adaptations and modifications in curriculum and instructional approach.
Classroom Environment

A successful learning environment involves physical space both inside and outside of a classroom that has been arranged to support learning in large and small groups, as well as individually. Materials and furniture are also organized to help children explore and learn.13 Growing plants and/or keeping animals in the classroom, school, and/or on school grounds helps children establish and maintain contact with nature. The environment should be changed or adjusted throughout the year as children grow and learn.

Classroom Schedule

Daily, weekly, and yearly schedules for kindergarten need to be responsive to children’s changing needs and provide the frame for an appropriate curriculum. (Some specific needs of children with disabilities are addressed below.) Daily and weekly schedules will likely change from September to June.

The daily schedule should include

predictable routines flexible enough to accommodate spontaneous activities

a balance of active and quiet activities (many young children have short attention spans and need shifts in energy to maintain attention)

alternating large-group, small-group, and individual activities

a balance of familiar and novel activities

time for children to revisit and reflect14

Individual children’s may require varying amounts of rest. NAEYC recommends that teachers initially plan for a period for children to rest or sleep in a quiet, comfortable space, while offering quiet activities to children who do not need a nap. Many full-day classrooms plan rest periods early in the year and phase these periods out as children’s stamina grows.
Meeting Individual Needs

Adaptation of curriculum and classroom plans to meet the specific needs of individual children can be accomplished by a teacher’s careful observation and responsive planning. Teachers should consider individualizing curriculum for any student in their classroom. Beyond classroom and curriculum adaptations, teachers need to nurture a positive emotional climate and a sense of community in their classrooms so that all children feel valued and safe.

The sections below include specific suggestions to support the success of children with disabilities, children whose first language is not English, and children who are advanced learners. In addition to the suggested learning activities in this document, the Guidelines for Preschool Learning Experiences may provide curriculum ideas for children with special learning needs or, in some cases, for English language learners.
Including Children with Disabilities

For children with disabilities to be successful in school, they must be able to engage in interactions and activities that parallel or approximate those of their peers. Teachers, paraprofessionals, specialists, and parents should plan and work effectively together to respond to specific disabilities that may affect the way children work and learn. Parents have unique insights into their child’s behavior and temperament. Specialists contribute professional knowledge and experience.

In Massachusetts, students with disabilities are defined as those with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs); the majority of these children are served in classrooms with their non-disabled peers. Curriculum modifications or adaptations for special equipment or materials may be necessary to accommodate children’s disabilities and enable them to participate in regular kindergarten activities. Examples of typical accommodations include the following:

breaking a complicated task into smaller component parts or reducing the number of steps in the task

using shorter but more frequent activities and routines

adding new activities or specific activities

providing opportunities for interactions with non-disabled peers

Each child’s IEP should note the specific adaptations, modifications, and accommodations needed by that child. However, IEP adaptations and services should not interfere with a child’s opportunity to participate in the full range of classroom activities. In fact, classroom activities that are designed with a particular child in mind often benefit all children in the classroom (e.g., allowing children to try activities in multiple ways; providing activities designed to strengthen fine and gross motor skill development).

Including children with disabilities requires teachers, paraprofessionals, and specialists to plan daily and weekly schedules that accommodate individual children’s activities and services, while still meeting the needs of the rest of the class. For example, if a speech therapist visits a class three times a week to work with an individual in a small group setting, the teacher could schedule small group and individual work in interest centers for the other children during the speech therapist’s session time.
Teaching English Language Learners

Learning one or more new languages during early childhood is a natural process because young children are still acquiring language. Children who are English language learners improve their English language skills through direct, meaningful experiences in which English is comprehensible. Young children typically learn much conversational English through play with peers. They identify objects, people, and events, all of which lead to new words and concepts.

The teacher should provide many opportunities for English language learners to use English in the context of structured activities that allow for feedback from native English speakers. In addition, children whose parents can talk to them at least part of the time in their native language have an excellent opportunity to become bilingual.
Teachers should ensure that resources are available for children with particular needs or who are at risk of not meeting the expectations for typical children. Specialists in language development and/or bilingualism can not only provide instruction to individual children who need language support, but can also model instruction strategies for classroom teachers.
The state’s English Language Proficiency Benchmarks and Outcomes for English Language Learners (ELPBO)15 is aligned with the state’s English language assessment instrument (MELA-O), and may be used to assess children’s progress in developing language skills. This document can also be used to help teachers plan and implement instructional strategies that support English learning. All children will benefit from an enriched language environment in the classroom.
Supporting Advanced Learners

Some children are noticeably advanced in their thinking and development across several domains. Educators should be careful to look beyond superficial characteristics (family circumstances, culture, and language, i.e., stereotypes) in identifying advanced learners. The following are typical characteristics of young children who are advanced learners: 16

advanced verbal ability

advanced/early reading

strong mathematical skills

long attention span

ability to reason abstractly

asking insightful or advanced questions

interest in time

For these children, insufficient challenge and curriculum designed for typical kindergartners may lead to boredom and frustration, and they may present behavior problems as a result. Some children learn that they do not have to work to succeed.

A well-designed differentiated and integrated curriculum will meet the educational needs of most kindergarten children. The combination of these approaches engages and advances the learning of children across the developmental spectrum. Enrichment activities are valuable and should be used, but not necessarily just with one or a few advanced learners—most of these activities can benefit all children.
Identification of particularly gifted children may call for consideration of early placement in first grade. Although the persistent belief that children are socially and emotionally harmed by early placement is not consistent with research findings,17 postponing placement decisions until after kindergarten is probably the safest path for most children. After kindergarten, a child’s development tends to become more even and consistent, so that the outcome of grade placement ahead of age-peers is somewhat more predictable.
Family Involvement

Parents and extended families play a crucial role in their children’s development. Parents usually want to help their children enjoy reading, writing, and learning, but may need some guidance. Teachers can, for instance, offer “home learning kits” on topics of interest to enhance parents’ success in supporting learning at home. Schools could develop parent (and teacher) resource centers, collaborate with local libraries to hold such resources and develop parent-child activities, and encourage families to take advantage of area museums and their resources.

To teach most effectively, teachers should learn about their students’ families’ lives, their cultures and traditions, parenting styles, educational values and expectations, and ideas about discipline. Research suggests that cultural variations can profoundly affect learning. This knowledge can help teachers adapt or modify their expectations and teaching. For instance, differences in social rules of conversation between a child’s home culture and American school culture may inhibit the child’s participation in class activities.18 Cultures also differ in how and when emotions are expressed. Cultural influences should be considered when structuring curriculum and observing behavior.
Some other ways to engage and involve families include scheduling conferences and meetings around parents’ schedules; informing families about the curriculum; offering mentoring and support groups; and soliciting feedback and suggestions from families.
Questions for Teachers to Ask Themselves

One method of personal and group professional development is for teachers to reflect on their own practices, and engage each other in discussion and observation. The following questions are formulated as starting points for reflection or group discussion. Additional subject-specific questions are provided in selected chapters.

How can I think more systematically and reflectively about my teaching practices and learn from my own and others’ experiences?

How and when do I talk interactively with children and listen to their ideas and feelings?

Do I schedule or allow enough time for children to think, discuss, and reflect on ideas, experiences, and feelings?

Am I observant and can recognize “teachable moments” to extend children’s reasoning?

How do I build on children’s innate curiosity and their individual and group interests?

Is my classroom a rich environment that includes displays of art, number sequences, books, and child-made representations of their ideas?

To what extent do ideas and skills integrate across the curriculum, integrate into ongoing projects, and include multi-sensory and kinesthetic approaches to learning?

How do my classroom environment and curriculum invite inquiry and exploration?

Do I encourage children to gather evidence to support their ideas and provide answers to their own questions?

To what extent is my classroom a learning community where individuals are respected and respectful?

How have I adapted the environment and modified my curriculum to meet children’s individual needs?

What useful information on individual children do I collect through assessments, and do I use this information to improve and modify my classroom program?

To what extent do I understand children’s families, cultures, and communities, and use that understanding to connect instruction with children’s experiences?

Am I willing to say, “I don’t know! How do you think we could find out?”


Supporting high quality education in Massachusetts throughout the early childhood years (birth–age 8) is an investment in the future. To provide the quality of education that children need to succeed takes more than money. As Massachusetts expands to statewide full-day kindergarten, the best return on the state’s investment will require well-designed curriculum and assessment systems, effective professional development programs, and knowledgeable technical assistance.

The information in Kindergarten Learning Experiences focuses on developing high-quality full-day kindergarten curricula and environments. However, the commitment to actualizing the benefits of quality must be continued through elementary school. The chance to align first-, second-, and third-grade curriculum based on the state’s preschool and kindergarten curriculum guidelines is an important opportunity to develop more consistent educational experiences and outcomes for children that will improve their lives.
Kindergarten Learning Experiences in English Language Arts


The development of language and literacy skills is critical to children’s development and success. Research shows that one of the strongest predictors of how a child will perform in school and contribute later to society is progress in learning to read and write.
Aspects of Reading and Writing

Language Development and Vocabulary

There is a continuum of development of language and literacy throughout life, but the most important period, particularly for acquisition of language, occurs before first grade. Vocabulary enhancement is an essential part of a comprehensive language and literacy program that educates children to be successful in oral communication and in emergent writing and reading.
Children begin to grasp language at birth by listening, talking, and interacting. Language skills, narrative abilities, and use of symbols underlying complex thought and expression develop through reading books, singing songs, acting out stories, and talking together. In the classroom, children need time throughout the day and curriculum to practice language and literacy skills. The classroom space should include space intentionally designed to be comfortable and inviting, where children can relax, read, and talk. Reading books aloud and discussing them helps children enlarge their vocabularies and develop concepts of sequence, narrative, and basic knowledge of books. Teachers can help children focus and seek deeper understanding by providing models of questions to ask, and then guiding them toward information that will answer their questions.

Pleasurable experiences with books are essential for children to become readers for life. Reading aloud from different types and levels of literature; giving children opportunities to select, read, and talk about books of their choice; and making new books and materials related to ongoing themes or projects available to students are all ways to instill a love of books in children and to generate discussion. The presence of a range of media throughout the classroom (e.g., labels, books, maps, newspapers, photographs, tapes, paintings) will fuel children’s interest in reading, as will the use of media such as film, music, and computer software. Children should also learn how to use school and community reading resources such as libraries and librarians.

Early reading includes phonemic awareness, phonics, decoding and word recognition, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Effective teachers weave a variety of strategies throughout the curriculum to meet the needs of children across a range of educational and developmental levels. An understanding of the continuum of children’s skills and behaviors from preschool through third grade and the developmental sequence of skills is essential to effective teaching (e.g., phonemic awareness is a component of fluency, but separate skills evolve in succession).
Various approaches to teaching can be woven together. Teachers may use direct instruction of specific skills, such as phonics, within a balanced approach to literacy. The larger framework of supporting literacy involves the integration of reading, writing, listening, and speaking during meaningful activities across content areas throughout the day.

As children expand their abilities to communicate in speech, they begin to transfer the words and thoughts onto paper. Kindergarten-aged children will vary widely in their readiness to express their ideas in writing and their readiness to read. Reading and writing activities should be designed to allow participation at different levels. Children must have the requisite fine motor development to write successfully, and many children, including those with limited previous writing experience and those with disabilities, may benefit from enjoyable activities that strengthen muscles of the fingers and hands.

Classroom Practices and Strategies

Successful literacy development in kindergarten includes the following classroom and curriculum practices and attitudes:1

high expectations for success in reading and writing

immersion in language and a print-rich environment

demonstrations by teachers and peers of meaningful and functional speech, listening, and emergent writing and reading

systematic instruction of explicit literacy skills in the context of stories, themes, and children’s interests

individual engagement in personally meaningful speaking, listening, writing, and reading experiences in a low-risk, non-judgmental environment

responses of peers and feedback from adults that encourage children to be comfortable expressing what they know and have learned

availability of diverse and plentiful books and literacy activity choices that foster children’s individual strengths and address their individual weaknesses

Strategies for Working with English Language Learners2

Children who are just starting to learn the English language, or children with limited vocabularies, need many opportunities to use language in conversation, look at illustrations and written language in books, and listen to others speak and read aloud. Listening to books with pictures and print read aloud on CDs or tapes may enhance children’s understanding and learning, particularly if discussion with peers or an adult is included. The speaking and listening abilities of these students in particular should be closely observed and assessed on an ongoing basis during classroom activities. The “Classroom Practices and Strategies” above are relevant and a non-exhaustive list of suggestions for teaching English language learners is below.
When possible, teaching staff may learn the specific sounds in English that do not occur in a child’s native language (e.g., the differences in pronunciation of b and v in spoken English and Spanish). Once children learn sound-symbol relations, they may practice identifying words, decoding simple texts, and writing in English.

Build recognition of word families (e.g., -at words such as bat, mat, rat). Use a limited set of letters to build as many familiar words as possible so children gain fluency quickly and learn about written letters and how they relate to sound patterns.

Build recognition of high-frequency words whenever possible (e.g., the, of, are, you) through listening, reading, and writing. A “word wall” that associates words with meaningful objects and actions may be helpful. This kind of resource can be constructed over time by writing new words on paper and alphabetizing them on a bulletin board.

Build syntactic and semantic awareness. Young children’s attempts to understand any language result in incorrect grammar at first in the attempt to create order and generalize rules (e.g., “I rided to the store”). Adults can model proper usage and syntax, and ask children whether words make sense in a sentence rather than just pointing out and correcting errors.

Pair English language learners with native English speakers. Many times children can understand each other before they are understood by their teachers or other adults.
Questions for Teachers to Ask Themselves

Do I encourage children to talk and write about personal experiences and ideas?

Is my curriculum and classroom environment rich in print, literature, and language?

Do I provide time for children to look, listen, and talk about books?

Do I integrate writing, speaking, listening, and reading into all content areas?

Am I familiar with the components of literacy and various strategies of literacy instruction, and do I know how to choose the appropriate strategy to help individual children learn effectively?

Learning Standards for Kindergarten

The following pages illustrate how the learning standards of the Massachusetts English Language Arts Curriculum Framework may be implemented in a kindergarten classroom.

Included Learning Standards

The Framework divides learning standards into four strands:

Language focuses on speaking and listening, including discussion, questioning and listening, presentation, vocabulary and the structure of the English language.

Reading and Literature includes a broad range of activities that help children learn the foundations of reading, comprehending, and understanding various forms of literature.

Composition focuses on various aspects of writing.

Media considers the evaluation and analysis of written work and introduces different media for presentation.

The learning standards in each strand define what students know and should be able to do in certain grade ranges. At the kindergarten level, some learning standards define what students should know and be able to do by the end of kindergarten (PreK–K); other learning standards define what students should know and be able to do by the end of grade 2 (PreK–2).

The majority of ELA Framework standards from pre-kindergarten through grade 2 have been included in this chapter. Standards defined in the Framework as Pre-K–K are directly quoted in this document. Standards that are defined for PreK–2 in the Framework begin with the phrase “By the end of grade 2…” The Framework text of some these standards has been adapted for kindergarten; most are followed by separate, kindergarten-level interpretations of the standards.
Framework learning standard numbers in this chapter are preceded by two letters: the letter “K” (for “kindergarten”) and an initial that represents the standard’s strand location (e.g., "R” for Reading and Literature strand standards). For example, K.L.3.1 is this document’s kindergarten adaptation of standard 3.1 of the Language strand in the Framework.
Excluded Learning Standards

The following standards were considered less appropriate or relevant to children in kindergarten and were omitted from this chapter (see Omitted and Combined Standards in chapter 1 for additional explanation):

Language: 3.2

Reading and Literature: 11, 12, 13, 16.3, 17, 18

Composition: 19.4, 20, 21, 23, 25
Organization of Learning Standards in This Chapter

Learning standards are organized in the next section as follows:

Strand (e.g., Language)

A brief overview of academic goals and expectations for the content of this strand

Strand Subcategory (e.g., Oral Presentation)

Learning standard number (e.g., K.L.1.3): Learning standard text [note: for PreK–2 standards, text is modified to be appropriate for kindergarten]

Specific kindergarten interpretation of the standard, if any

  • Example activity that supports the implementation of the standard at kindergarten, if any*

Tips for Teachers or Connections to other learning standards, if any

* Any standard not followed by a suggested activity has been included in the activities following the next listed standard (e.g., the activity shown for learning standard K.L.4.2 implements both standards K.L.4.2 and K.L.4.1).

Also note that the level of difficulty for any activity should be modified whenever necessary to best promote an individual child’s progress.

Kindergarten Learning Experiences in English Language Arts

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