There are many different pedagogical approaches for early childhood teaching, but they almost all have one thing in common: the child is the key contributor to what is taught and learned. This approach to student-centered teaching is essential for a child to build community within their classroom and to allow students to construct their knowledge. Often, and unfortunately, there is a disconnect that can occur as soon as these students transition into Kindergarten.
Luckily, we have SIS teachers who are willing to blur the lines between Early Childhood and Kindergarten.
Typically, a student’s experience once they leave the exploratory learning environment they enjoy in the early years is abrupt; an end to choice in learning. Nadia Erlendson and her kindergarten team have put a stop to that. Every morning, students are provided two options to start off their day. The students may go to the playground, where there is a teacher supervisor, or they may go straight to the classroom to begin creative play building.
This flexible schedule isn’t something new in the educational world, but Nadia and her team realized it was necessary for young learners at SIS. Initially, students gathered in the morning to have circle time, starting the day by comprehending the weather and what day of the week it was. Nadia noticed that some students were intentionally coming late to class, so she tested the waters by giving students an open play time in the morning once a week, to see if the heartbeat of the class would change. Slowly, she added an extra day of free purposeful play time over the course of a few weeks. She noticed that the pulse of the class was beginning to change; students quickly became more independent, critically thinking when problems came up, and, most importantly, started to become agents of their learning. This finally gave the Kindergarten team a chance to assess the students on their own terms. Ironically many, if not all, students were meeting age appropriate standards and benchmark from what the teachers gathered.
Something else was visibly noticeable. The students that would repeatedly show up late began coming on time, and all students were attentive for the entire school day.
This adjustment to the Kindergarten schedule was the spark that helped illuminate the need for continuing to explore how we can modify the school day to suit the needs of our students better. We look forward to following along next year to see what can arise from allowing students and staff to work together, to learn together, and to connect to move forward.