Kindergarten classrooms are busy places: there are areas designated for exploration, reading, painting and drawing, writing, science, dramatic play and quiet time. Within all that busy-ness is a goal and that is to prepare each child for a lifetime of learning. Kindergarten provides some structure to a previously unstructured world for most children. It is a transition time that should maintain a balance to ready a child for the rigors of first grade without forfeiting playtime.
Kindergarten Language Arts starts at the most basic level in order to allow every child to participate and grow. The classroom is colorful and bright and there is artwork and words everywhere. The alphabet is on the walls in upper and lower case and everything is labeled. There are plenty of books available to the children and even more hidden away to be brought out later. Children learn to recognize books and should be able to demonstrate knowledge that written words and pictures are meaningful and representative of oral language. They track text from left to right and top to bottom. They should recognize that a book has a front, back and title page and that it contains information. Also, kindergarteners are able to "judge a book by its cover" and predict the contents by the art or photos on the cover. They recognize familiar stories and can relate stories to real life. Students can tell the stories using their own words and experiences.
Children in kindergarten should be able to distinguish between letters and words and recognize that sentences are made up of words, words of letters. In kindergarten the children learn to recognize and name all of the letters of the alphabet in upper and lower case. They recognize familiar sight words, will know rhyming words and can read simple words. Kindergarten students learn the sounds the letters make and can match the consonants and short vowel sounds to the appropriate letters.
In addition to recognizing the letters of the alphabet, kindergarteners should be able to print their names, the alphabet and some vocabulary words using the left to right style of writing. By the end of the school year, some punctuation rules such as capitalization at the beginning of a sentence and a period at the end of the sentence should be recognized and followed. Students should be able to dictate or write journal-like entries describing family, friends, pets and events. Drawings are used to create meaning and labeled with phonetic attempts at spelling.
Work is done in groups, individually and one on one with a teacher. At group time, children hone their listening skills and practice their speaking. Participation in singing, sharing time and daily events such as discussing the weather and learning the calendar is excellent practice for learning to speak clearly. It is also important in group time to listen to others and pay attention to what is being said. While working individually the students are practicing independence and self-entertainment. In small groups, a sense of cooperation develops and there is time for sharing experiences and differences. Teachers working one-on-one recognize individual needs and are able to adjust the curriculum accordingly.
There are universal signs signifying a good kindergarten class. A bright, cheery room decorated with students' artwork with every child represented is important. Every child should be playing or working at something either alone or in groups. Books can be read any time and aren't restricted to story time. Dramatic play areas, science tables, blocks, structural toys and puzzles should all be available for play throughout the course of the day. Children should be able to experience a variety of activities individually or in small groups as well as within the entire class. Outdoor play is crucial. Most importantly, there is a happy group of healthy children who enjoy going to school with a teacher who looks forward to each day.