At five and six years old, the students in Kindergarten and Young Kindergarten are very much the senior members of the Early Childhood division, and they face new expectations to serve as leaders in the halls. At the same time, they are introduced to life in the older grades as well, through Tuesday Common Ground, on the playground, and spending time with their second grade buddies.
With the added responsibility comes new autonomy. Students will find they have new license to explore long-term projects during choice time, and a new capacity to work alone or in small groups with less direct help from an adult. In turn, they may find themselves entrusted to care for a patch of garden, a corner of the classroom, or, in the spring, a live caterpillar or baby chick.
Young Kindergarten and Kindergarten represent a shift from Nursery and Preschool; there's one teacher in each classroom, and the three classrooms open onto a shared space that, formally and informally, serves as a meeting place and collaborative classroom for all of the students.
Young Kindergarten and Kindergarten are the first years when direct instruction in Spanish is introduced through weekly visits to the language lab. They are also the first years when students of color are invited to participate in Tuesday Common Ground after school. Heritage Language continues to be offered once a week to students who come from Spanish-speaking households.
In Kindergarten and Young Kindergarten, students take on new, more formal roles in the school community. They perform in all-school assemblies for the first time, and have their first "after-hours" evening concert. They have their first taste of civic responsibility, too: the Share the Warmth service project, with its beloved schoolwide popcorn distribution, is a very public foray into service to others.
Academic work takes on a new feel as well in Kindergarten, with daily, direct instruction in both math and literacy the days of the school year are tallied, "lively letters" are introduced, and writer's workshop becomes part of the morning routine. Their literacy skills are formally assessed three times a year to ensure every student is appropriately challenged, and the Pathways Program is offered to students who would benefit from additional support in reading and writing.
Gordon's literacy specialist and math specialist begin visiting the classroom during Kindergarten. The literacy specialist will work closely with students throughout Lower School, and the math specialist will be a regular presence all the way until eighth grade.
Gordon's Kindergarten language arts program is a literature-based approach designed to foster a love of reading and writing and to develop a strong foundation in phonemic awareness and phonics to support emergent reading and writing skills. Four areas of activity and instruction that directly support the reading and writing process are reading aloud to children, guided contextual reading, letter sound study using the Telian Lively Letters, and writing. A variety of structured activities, materials and games are used for skill acquisition and reinforcement. Many books are read to the children to support each child's literacy development, as well as the shared reading of big books, poems, songs and individual readers. Children write each day using the Lucy Calkins Writers' Workshop format. This research-based approach to writing instruction includes direct and individualized instructions, helping students to share their voice through writing and deepen their connection to what authors write about.
In Kindergarten, Gordon's Math in Focus curriculum introduces children to thinking mathematically through unique lesson plans, which provide children with multiple approaches to a concept. Children investigate, discover, explore and apply their own mathematical solutions. Children complete hands-on activities and games which allow them to use math manipulatives and apply what they learn. There is an emphasis on student discussion as students are given many opportunities to explain their mathematical thinking.
Each day's morning meeting includes a tally of the number of school days in the year so far, and much is made of the one hundredth day of the year, when students discover that this once-daunting number is within the reach of their own tallying and counting. The schoolwide math specialist begins visiting classrooms in Young Kindergarten and Kindergarten, lending a new voice and perspective to the students' explorations.
The main objective of science in Early Childhood is to nurture a young person’s innate sense of curiosity and wonder about the world around them. The Early Childhood IDEA Lab provides an opportunity for all children in Early Childhood to use materials and engage in activities which build foundational skills of the scientific process like observing, exploring, using the senses, and asking questions.
Science for Gordon Kindergarteners includes the study of the physics of force and motion as well as chemistry and measurement, building on their experience in Nursery and Preschool. Children continue to explore the push and pull of magnetic force and build on work drafting criteria for experiments and testing recipes. They engage in the engineering process as they design shelters to protect small creatures from the heat of the sun. Kindergarteners build upon their programming skills as they learn how to break tasks down into smaller steps to make complex programs for simple robots. In the spring, the chick project consumes the IDEA lab, as Kindergartners investigate eggs, egg development, and young birds as they hatch.
Social studies in Early Childhood focuses on interpersonal relationships through the themes of family and the community. From morning circle and read-alouds to individual choice time and collaborative play, children develop a deeper awareness of themselves and their relationship to others in their families, their classrooms and broader community outside of Gordon’s walls.
The curriculum aligns with the national social studies standards and addresses questions such as What makes a family? What makes a friend? What is a community of care? What does fairness mean? Embedded in the daily life of Gordon's youngest students, these questions ensure that social studies work is a part of every day in Early Childhood, sparking relevant conversations in a variety of classroom and playground contexts.
As early as Nursery, teachers and students work together to identify and explain expectations for classroom behavior. Playing in the classroom and exploring outdoors, students actively work on learning how to cooperate and collaborate with others, how to share about themselves, and how to listen to their classmates.
Teachers engage students in one-on-one and small-group conversations about individual similarities and differences and guide students in thinking about how to build a classroom community where everyone belongs. Teachers use books and other resources that illustrate diverse races, ethnicities, cultures, ages, abilities, genders, family structures, and non-stereotypical gender roles so that every student can feel valued and represented.
Morning circle is an important routine where students gain practice speaking, listening and asking questions and children have an opportunity to learn more about each other as an important aspect of empathy and building community.
Spanish at Gordon begins by getting young learners excited to engage, play and learn through speaking and listening. The Spanish teacher collaborates with classroom teachers on unit topics, vocabulary and activities. Sharing in morning circle, playing interactive games, singing, and reading allows for a natural integration of Spanish into the rhythm of a child’s day. As children build vocabulary like the numbers from one to ten, basic colors, family members, fruits and emotions through songs, games, and familiar stories, they begin to acquire an ear for the language.
Gordon's Heritage Language program is for children in Nursery to fourth grade who come from Spanish-speaking households. Students meet with their Spanish teacher to share stories and play games in Spanish. The active and experiential learning environment hopes to develop a sense of affinity and community by having children share their stories and cultural traditions of Gordon's Spanish-speaking community. Heritage Language meets during the school day for Nursery to first grade, and after school in second, third and fourth grade.
The Kindergarten physical education curriculum focuses on body awareness, body part identification, spatial awareness, locomotor skills as well as classroom expectations, listening skills and following directions. The primary objectives of physical education for Early Childhood are to introduce and expand developmentally appropriate movement and health goals. Each class includes a warm-up activity, an instructional piece and a cool down period. By including elements of student choice, individual differentiation and problem solving, teachers strive to provide a balance of opportunities to learn through movement exploration and locomotor and manipulative skills.
Children in Early Childhood are introduced to the library beginning in Nursery, with once a week trips to meet with the school librarian for read-alouds and book selection. The Joukowsky Family Library houses a vast collection of multicultural and bilingual books; all children can reach for a library book which reflects their background and experience and also find books that expose them to the experiences and perspectives of others. Gordon's youngest students learn to appreciate what access to a library means for their growing curiosity and awareness of themselves as learners and library patrons. Working closely with classroom teachers, Gordon's librarian supports children’s inquiry and discovery of the world of books.
Kindergarten music is full of exploration and discovery, finding joy in all aspects of music. Classes always begin with "Hello" and "Greeting" songs from around the world. Lessons then progress from seated songs to dances and movement games. Each lesson contains five or six songs in various languages, meters, styles and tempos. Concepts like fast-slow, high-low, and loud-soft are woven throughout the curriculum. Pitch matching and steady beat work are continually emphasized and reinforced throughout the year.
Students encounter terms like "ostinato," "rhythm," "verse and chorus," and "inner hearing." Children accompany themselves on various percussion instruments and in imitative and improvisational songs. Kindergarten students are learning to visually track written symbols left to right as they play patterns on drums. They also can play simple rhythmic patterns while singing. Many songs reflect the general themes found in the Kindergarten curriculum: making friends, building community, the weather and autumn.
Through experimentation, repetition and play, the Kindergarteners explore music and become more comfortable as musicians. Students sing continuously in higher and lower ranges, as soloists and in groups. They explore the difference between music, noise and chants. They play various classroom instruments to accompany their singing, distinguishing between steady beat and rhythm. The culminating spring concert is a joyous display of their mastery and an enthusiastic embrace of all they've learned throughout the year.
The Kindergarten visual arts program presents students with a series of experiences that gradually develop their abilities in a range of media, skills, techniques, and concepts in art. In an environment that fosters creativity and independence, children explore the ways that art can help them share their ideas about the world and themselves. Respect for materials and their unique qualities are taught. Care for one's work and the work of others is stressed as children work independently and in groups.
Kindergarten art students work on the skills necessary to take part in a formally structured art class. Skills includes behaving appropriately during instructional demonstrations and independent work time. Students practice learning by watching carefully and listening thoughtfully to ideas they will be expected to explore during designated work time. Cultivating the self-reliance to work independently with perseverance is an explicit goal. Students are introduced to the art concepts of line, shape, form, and color by exploring visual problems with pencils, paints, cut paper, and clay. Every student has their artwork presented in the annual art show.