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Kindergarten

Kindergarten Teacher with students

Kindergarten is a special year at Tuxedo Park School as it holds many exciting firsts. As students move through the grades in the primary school, they will always remember the first time they:

* Don the official uniform of TPS.
* Play during primary school recess on the “big kid” playground.
* Join first to third grade in the dining room and history room for family style lunch with a larger community.
* Enjoy art and technology, their new specialist classes.
* Meet their seventh grade buddy classmates.
* Sell stamps and collect, sort, cancel, and deliver mail for the whole school during the Kindergarten Post Office.
* Perform on stage in front of the whole school with third grade students in a play. 

These things, and more, make kindergarten a year full of new experiences, challenges, and triumphs. Your child's kindergarten teacher is eager to partner with parents as their child continues building the foundational skills and habits for their current and future learning.

Our kindergarten program is a healthy balance of structure and exploration, of work and play, and of learning and inquiring. You will find all of these qualities intertwined as we structure students’ exploration, encourage play as the work of childhood, and to learn through asking thoughtfully posed questions about the world around them. We are careful observers of kindergarten learners, which enables us to tailor instruction to engage each child’s interests and meet each child’s needs. Five- and six-year-olds are:

* In need of lots of physical activity, including free play, to stretch their imagination, creativity, and cognitive skills.
* Eager to help, wanting of adult approval and encouragement, and cooperative.
* In the very early stages of developing the ability to see another viewpoint than their own.
* Thinking out loud and expressing themselves simply with few words.
* Enjoying repetitive activities, which develop their mastery over new skills and concepts.
* Acquiring new knowledge and skills in high volume, so they are still apt to make occasional reversals of letters and numbers.
* In need of time to attempt their own ways of doing things, even though some of these ways may, in adult eyes, be inefficient or ineffective.
* Responding best to frequent reminders and redirection that is warm yet firm, especially as they become increasingly apt to test limits during the course of their development over the year.
* Enjoying jokes, riddles, and opportunities to guess.
* Developing their story-telling skills, which are heavily influenced by illustrations that they see in books or that they create themselves.

At the end of each week, families receive a newsletter describing in words and pictures highlights from the week and forecasting the learning and activities that lie ahead. We encourage families to contact us early and often with questions.

At Tuxedo Park School we have high standards for excellence in three key categories: learning (acquiring knowledge and skills), doing (communicating and acting on learning), and caring (working alongside and with others to improve own learning and that of classmates). We look forward to communicating and celebrating the breadth and depth of learning, doing, and caring your child will enjoy in Kindergarten this year!

English Language Arts

The goal of the language arts curriculum is to create an environment of exploration and discovery in which each child is comfortable learning and growing at his or her own pace. Literature, drawing, writing, and play are the main components of the program. These activities combine in different ways to promote questioning, language usage, and a sense of confidence in children as they develop.

Reading and writing are developmental processes. Children learn to read and write the same way that they learn to talk. As children learn more about what readers and writers do, they begin to try their ideas by attempting to read and write independently. The kindergarten classroom encourages children to feel comfortable whether they are reading or not. Children are surrounded by a richly literate environment that welcomes and nurtures their reading and writing interests.

Reading

Reading activities focus on developing the habits of good readers. Children become aware of the print in school, at home, and in their community. Teachers read to and with children daily in the classroom using picture books, poetry, and other forms of quality children’s literature. As students develop, they begin to use reading-like behavior to approximate book language. Our reading program builds on the children’s ability to memorize the words of a rhythmic chant, song, or story. 

Shared reading provides the necessary support to children in their early stages of reading. 
Students frequently engage in whole-class shared reading with big books and with enlarged texts of poems and songs. Children may read along with the teacher, behaving as readers even though they may not be able to figure out each word. 

Guided reading allows the teacher to work with a small group or an individual child while talking, thinking, and reading through a book. This process helps children develop the attitudes, understanding, and strategies that are necessary for independent reading.

Independent reading comes later in the year as each child has attained some of the strategies and knowledge to be an independent reader. Students select books from a classroom library organized by reading level that contains a variety of teacher-selected titles. The teacher approves each student’s selection before the book goes home. While fluent reading is not expected of every child in Kindergarten, many children develop strong reading skills as the school year progresses.

Through directed activities in phonics, children learn the letters and the corresponding sounds that go with each letter. Children focus on and practice a "Letter of the Week" in order to internalize the corresponding sound. As they gain letter/sound association, they learn to apply this knowledge to the many different forms of text that they encounter.

Texts and literature:
Get Ready for the Code, Book A, Educators Publishing Service
Get Set for the Code, Book B, Educators Publishing Service
Go for the Code, Book C, Educators Publishing Service
Explode the Code 1, Educators Publishing Service
D'Nealian Handwriting, Scott Foresman
Picture books, big and small, various publishers and authors

Writing

Kindergarten children write each day in a variety of ways. Students begin putting their thoughts down on paper by first drawing. At first, children write one or more letters to represent the picture they have drawn. Phonetic or developmental spelling is accepted and encouraged, focusing on initial and ending consonants in the beginning of the year and growing to include middle sounds. As the months progress, many students begin writing groups of words and then sentences.

The main writing activities in the Kindergarten classroom are writing workshop, journal writing, and response activities to literature. The workshop often begins with a short whole group lesson that offers new ideas or strategies for children to use when writing. Writing workshop focuses on true to life experience stories that are personal to each child. We think about sequence, characters, setting, and questions the listener may ask. Journal writing is a time when all children write about real life experiences or respond to a question. The question could be about a field trip, an activity in school, or a piece of literature. In all cases, the teacher models behaviors and strategies of a good writer, while providing a safe environment for children to explore with writing skills and ideas.

Texts:
Writing and Language Arts, The Wright Group
Units of Study for Primary Writing, Lucy Calkins

Listening and Speaking

Children learn effective listening and speaking skills through a variety of classroom activities. In whole class situations, students listen to an individual speaker and take turns as they contribute to discussions. In smaller groups, they learn to communicate effectively to accomplish a task or play a game. We emphasize careful listening to directions and retelling of expectations. Children learn to take turns when speaking without interrupting the speaker (either teacher or child). Children practice speaking and listening skills during voluntary sharing sessions, lunch time announcements, and during Show and Tell. In addition, the Kindergarten attends the all-school assemblies that provide additional opportunities to listen and share.

Mathematics

Primary School Mathematics Overview
The mathematics program in the primary school is designed to build strong thinkers and problem solvers who are proficient in a broad range of mathematical skills and possess a deep understanding of mathematical concepts. The core of our curriculum is Singapore Mathematics. Recognizing that one-size-fits-all does not comprehensively address the fluctuating needs and skills of children, we enhance and enrich the core of our math program by drawing from a variety of published resources. This allows for our skilled faculty to provide appropriate extension and support to meet the needs of each student. In all grades, nightly math homework typically consists of assignments that provide further practice, extend daily topics to home applications, review previous material, and enrich understanding. Our curriculum is anchored and driven by these six goals:

1. Establish mathematical confidence and competence through exposure to the following content areas at developmentally appropriate levels.

  • number sense
  • computation
  • parts-of-a-whole
  • patterns & rules
  • geometry
  • measurement
  • probability

2. Build mastery and quick recall through frequent practice of basic computation, ensuring a solid foundation for more complex mathematical topics in older grades.

3. Gain familiarity and facility with available tools used to solve mathematical problems, including, but not limited to:

  • pencil & paper
  • rulers, tape-measures, meter sticks, & yard sticks
  • thermometers
  • calculators
  • calendars
  • math apps
  • analog clocks
  • pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, & dollar bills
  • geometric pattern block templates
  • various math manipulatives

4. Explore multiple approaches to and algorithms for problem solving to enrich conceptual understanding of mathematical relationships.

5. Articulate mathematical understanding by thoroughly explaining, in both written and verbal forms, steps to solve various types of simple and complex problems.

6. Demonstrate understanding both formally (via standardized testing) and informally (via ongoing assessment).

Kindergarten Mathematics
Kindergarten age children need many avenues and tools to express what they know and time to test and try their own ways of solving problems. Early on in the year, students use real materials to create and solve addition and subtraction equations, practice both complex and simple methods of counting and sorting, and create graphs and other visual representations of data. These skills capitalize on their eagerness to express their mathematical understanding in a variety of ways. Developing fine and gross motor skills allow for deeper exploration of three-dimensional objects via examination of size, shape, length, and volume. Students have many opportunities to practice writing and manipulating numbers as they develop their mastery of proper numeric orientation and place value.

As children develop over the course of the year, they become increasingly adept at and confident in asking questions. They learn through discovery and have a growing understanding of spatial and functional relationships. Children develop the skill of collaboration in each math class. Teachers use mathematical games, songs, poems, stories, and riddles to help inspire engagement. As children master concrete skills, teachers introduce early mental math. Increasingly strong numeric understanding and problem-solving strategies allow for computation with money and the introductory use of technological tools. 

Our mathematics program emphasizes playful, verbal interactions and manipulative activities while laying the groundwork for symbolic understanding. The activities encompass a variety of mathematics strands, including: simple and complex counting, numeration, operations, measurement, geometry, clock and calendar use, graphs, patterns, attributes, and functions. Common life applications are a feature of each strand. In addition, children’s literature, songs, and movement activities encourage further mathematical thinking. 

Social Studies

The social studies curriculum in kindergarten focuses on behavior skills and respect for one another. Students hone their sharing skills and practice listening to and responding to the opinions and statements of peers. They explore the word "community" repeatedly, beginning with the classroom community.

The sense of community is very important from the first day of school. We strive to build a community of sharing and supportive children, all the while discussing problems that may arise. Each child has a weekly job that helps to build classroom citizenship. The year begins by generating a list of class rules that come from the children through guided discussion. As everyday social problems arise, role play, teacher modeling, and classroom discussions help the students reach effective solutions. Often, literature provides the opportunity for further discussion. In addition, new routines become part of early studies, such as visiting the dining room, art room, gym, French room, library, music room, and the science lab.

The themes of social studies begin with the children discussing aspects about themselves. In September, they make new friends and renew friendships with former classmates. Using literature as a base, the class learns to make graphs, thereby providing a direct link between social studies and mathematics. Each child contributes to the process of learning something new about every student. Examples of questions are: 

  • "How many people do you have in your family?" 
  • "What kind of pet do you have at home?"

The students cut life-size self-portraits and discuss skin color, hair color, and eye color prior to painting. In addition to physical characteristics, each child examines how s/he is a good friend to others.

In the next unit, Homes Around the World, children explore how other people live. They begin by examining what they know best--their own homes. They discuss how their homes are different and the same. Next, they discuss who is involved in building a house, starting with the architect and going all the way to the landscapers. The class uses this knowledge of homes to look at other homes around the world, such as houseboats, mobile homes, and yurts.

The culture study is the focus of November and December. Our cultural study of a specific country is where the students learn about the people, customs, food, and lifestyles. By sharing books and learning words, music, and songs in the country’s language, the students develop a deeper understanding of this new country and the similarities and differences between the two cultures. In recent years, kindergarten culture study topics have included: 

  • Ireland 
  • France 
  • Greece
  • Germany

The expanded understanding of community developed during the first half of the year leads the class into the community of Tuxedo. In recent years, visits to the Tuxedo Park Library help the class understand how libraries are organized, and the students apply this new knowledge to the classroom library. 

Valentine's Day gives students the opportunity to study the postal service and its contribution to communication within a community. This unit begins with a visit to the faculty mailboxes and some interviews with the person responsible for separating the mail for teachers. The next step is to run a school-wide post office. The class builds a mailbox that students and faculty will use as the first stop for in-school letters and packages. The children create their own stamps and then sell them during morning “office hours.” They collect, cancel, sort, and deliver the mail to the students, faculty, and staff throughout the school. 

Another focus on community is the issue of safety. The class interviews the person at school responsible for security and organizing fire drills. The Tuxedo firefighters give the class a tour of their facility. 

The final unit of social studies is our bread unit. By examining this staple of most cultures, children identify similarities and differences among groups of people. Discussions of celebrations and festive bread-related foods guide the class as they begin to realize that not all people are just like them. The class cooks, tastes, and culminates the unit with a bread feast. A visit to the school kitchen to prepare bread helps students experience the feeling of community in our school.

Literature:
We Are All Alike…We Are Different, Cheltenham Elementary School Kindergarteners
A Day in the Life of a Firefighter, Bowman-Kruhm and Wirths
In My Neighborhood/Firefighters, Bourgeois and LaFave
A Visit to the Post Office, Ziegler
How to be a Friend, Brown and Brown
A Trip to the Fire House, Lewison
Let’s Visit the Library, Johnston
Police Stations, Cooper
Building A House, Barton
How A House is Built, Gibbons
Wonderful Houses Around the World, Komatsu

Science

During kindergarten, students learn to question and observe their world. This naturally opens the first topic of the year: senses. The students explore each of the five senses and find out how scientists use their senses to make observations. The school campus becomes an “outside classroom,” a wonderful place to explore with their senses first hand. In conjunction with the health curriculum, kindergartners expand the idea of touch as a sense to develop an understanding of the difference between good touch/bad touch and how this applies to their lives. Taste is extended to the different classifications of food, how good food choices help you to stay healthy, how to make good choices at lunch, and the idea that food is a fuel, an energy for life. 

Following winter break, students begin making observations about the weather and learn to use instruments that help them observe and measure the weather. They use charts to organize this information. Students learn cloud formations through observations and experiments, and they learn how to forecast the weather. The sun is introduced as a source of energy. 

The study of weather leads students to discover forces that make things move, such as wind, magnets, and gravity. With these units, the science process skills of predicting as well as cause and effect become an important part of students’ learning. 

Following spring break, students begin their exploration of oceans with a field trip to the Norwalk Aquarium. With knowledge from the aquarium visit and a guided research project, each student chooses a marine animal, draws it in its environment, and presents it at the class science celebration. The year ends with a wrap-up of the observations they have collected throughout the year and a comparison of their fall-to-spring observations made in the “outside classroom.” 
 

French

The most important skill for kindergartners to develop when learning a modern language is that of listening. Early in the year, students are exposed to a variety of directives in French, accompanied by physical gestures. These phrases are used throughout the year to promote familiarity with the sounds of the language and facilitate transitions between activities. Some of the language spoken at the beginning of each meeting is used for greetings, expressions of well-being, the calendar, and identification. The French specialist teacher reviews topics from the Pre-K French program and introduces new topics, including animals and post office vocabulary. Children learn to identify cognates to create an awareness of the connectedness between the languages of the world. Using art supplies also plays an important role in the development of concepts, as does literature, music, fingerplays, puppetry, games, and movement.

Art

In the art room, kindergarten students begin by exploring primary colors, understanding their relative strengths (i.e. yellow is a weaker color than blue or red) and mixing the primary colors to produce secondary colors. From there we move on to shapes, where we discuss how objects and images are composed of shapes. Students then create their own pictures using those shapes. Throughout the year we read picture books and discuss the illustrations. Often we read a book together and create our own version of either the subject matter or the illustrative style. Three-dimensional projects include cardboard sculpture and projects in clay. Each year, the culture study also inspires an art project. In recent years, such projects have included decorating a paper cut-out “pot” with ancient Greek patterns and figures and a three-dimensional painting of the Eiffel Tower for the study of France.
 

Music

The music program is based on a system of music teaching developed by the Hungarian, Zoltan Kodály. We explore prolific, varied, high-quality repertoire. The main focus of this repertoire is folk music, which we practice performing in creative, artistic, and expressive ways. We sing songs that are natural to children and that come from many different cultures and ethnicities. The use of songs also develops each child’s natural instrument, his or her own voice. All musical concepts and skills are drawn from the repertoire itself so that the knowledge is concrete and meaningful, rather than abstract. In practical terms, this means singing a song, playing a game, dancing a dance, or playing an accompaniment on the barred Orff instruments. Then, we isolate one melodic or rhythmic fragment of the song and identify it. In this way, new concepts emerge from “unknown to known,” meaning that the idea is made conscious gradually, rather than presented first and explained later. Children learn to read and write music in addition to playing and having fun!

Kindergarten students develop a foundation of musical skills that will enable them to explore music in many different ways. They compare music through various dichotomies: loud/soft, fast/slow, high/low, short/long, beat/rhythm, etc. They experience music through physical action, listening examples, and written notation. Vocal development is very important as Kindergarten students learn to match pitch, sing in tune, and explore a wide vocal range while singing.

The students also begin to learn music history through storytelling. Stories of composers and musicians are told in ten-minute installments at the end of each class. Once the students are acquainted with the composer, they are eager to listen and learn about their music.

Physical Education

The kindergarten PE program begins with the basic locomotor movements (i.e. walking, running, hopping, jumping) and non-locomotor movements (i.e. bending, balancing, twisting, swinging, rocking, and pulling). Using these basic movement skills, students learn to safely and efficiently move through space as they demonstrate skills of chasing, fleeing, and dodging. Incorporating rhythm and dance into these movement explorations is vital. The students are then introduced to manipulative skills using eye-hand and eye-foot coordination. Throughout all these activities, the focus is on skill development within the boundaries of correct decision making and cooperation with others.