The school year wasn't over for 24 hours before Colonial School District staff started working together to get ready for the 2018-2019 school year. For teachers Peggy Smith, Tara Homer and Susan Hope, that meant taking a look at what kindergarteners learn in language arts.
A new word study program called "Fundations" will give children more time to develop a deeper understanding of their letters — including recognizing upper and lowercase letters, making the letter sounds, drawing the letters correctly and exploring how the letters and sounds work together.
"I like it," said Mrs. Smith, a kindergarten teacher at Ridge Park Elementary School. "Fundations is making sure that there's a good foundation in basic skills, before we start moving on to higher level expectations."
For children who come to kindergarten already reading, additional emphasis on letter and sound relationships can prevent gaps later.
"For some of our higher level students, reading is just automatic to them. It doesn't mean that they can blend and segment words," explained Mrs. Homer. "They're visual learners; they can see a word and read it, but they still need those foundational skills — especially when they're exposed to something new."
Creating "Writing Communities"
Colonial School District's elementary schools are also adopting the "Being A Writer" platform that brings a social/emotional piece to developing writing skills. At Ridge Park Elementary School, Mrs. Homer had the opportunity to pilot the program for kindergarten and was excited to see the results.
"I loved Being A Writer," said Mrs. Homer. "You start the school year building a Writing Community and concentrating on social skills, listening skills, sharing stories and speaking in a loud and proud voice so your peers can hear you. It was really exciting to see the students develop confidence and a love of writing from the beginning."
Making sure that all kindergarteners receive the same language arts foundation
The Colonial School District's Curriculum Department works hard to make sure that the curriculum — the information and skills that students learn — is consistent from classroom to classroom and building to building. The three teachers working on the kindergarten curriculum represent Ridge Park Elementary School and Whitemarsh Elementary School. Together, they figured out where current lessons and resources matched the new programs, created new materials and uploaded everything into an online database called Rubicon Atlas that all of the District's teachers can access. Before students come back in the fall, the three will also present the new curriculum to the kindergarten teachers from all four K-3 elementary schools in the District.
"I, for one, am extremely excited about it," said Mrs. Hope, who teaches kindergarten at Whitemarsh Elementary School. "I can't wait to start something new, and I think this is going to be a big benefit to the kindergarteners coming in and moving forward."
Since "summer vacation" began, more than 70 of Colonial School District's K-12 teachers have worked on revising curriculum so staff can hit the ground running in the fall with new ideas, programs and resources to help Colonial students be more successful in the classroom.