Gordon’s Young Kindergarten is a child-centered niche program for students graduating from preschool who would benefit from the gift of time. The Young Kindergarten classroom recognizes the difference that four to six months can have on a child’s identity development and school readiness as significant. In Young Kindergarten, students who would otherwise be among the youngest in their Kindergarten classes have a year to hone pre-academic skills and build strong social emotional foundations, allowing them to enter Kindergarten as confident, empathic leaders.
The Young Kindergarten classroom recognizes the difference that four to six months can have on a child’s identity development and school readiness as significant. Young Kindergarten offers these children a classroom space with age-appropriate curriculum that responds to their unique developmental needs.
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 five-year-olds.
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.
At five 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 and on the playground they share with first grade.
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 evening concert. They have their first taste of responsibility, as well: the Share the Warmth service project, with its beloved popcorn sale, is a very public foray into service to others. Young Kindergarten also takes on the work of helping maintain the Larry Miller Nature Trial that encircles the campus.
Young Kindergarten uses cooking projects to explore a wide range of academic topics, from the math of measurement and the chemistry of baking to the cultural topics introduced by planning, and sharing, a meal. The class then hosts guests from Gordon's professional community for lunches where they practice being thoughtful hosts and gracious conversationalists.
Gordon's Young 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.
Children are introduced to the Math In Focus curriculum in Young Kindergarten. Young Kindergarten students develop and reinforce their number sense and awareness through counting, ordering and sorting with the Math in Focus curriculum as a guide. They learn how to approach real life problems mathematically, and practice counting and measuring through a number of cooking and baking activities selected by the class. 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.
In Young Kindergarten, children gain experience, confidence, and understanding of the natural and built environments. They explore the physics of force and motion, chemistry and measurement. They investigate the push and pull of magnetic force and test the pull of gravity as they roll balls down ramps. As part of the design process, children develop criteria and test recipes for bubble solutions to discover what they consider the best recipe for making bubbles. Integrating with math, children also practice skills in measurement and measurement systems. Building large structures with Rigamajig construction systems, they also learn about strong and stable structures.
The Young Kindergarten students increase their understanding of robotics and programming as they work with Beebots and engage in the engineering process as they design ‘wrecking balls’ to knock down block structures. Young Kindergarteners play with light, learning about its properties and abilities, and they round out the year learning about life cycles.
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 Young 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.
Music in Young Kindergarten 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 songs with small movements to dances or large movement activities, to playing various percussion instruments in imitative and improvisational songs. 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.
Through experimentation, repetition and play, Young Kindergarten students explore music and become more comfortable as musicians. Every lesson is filled with five or six songs in various languages, in various meters and modalities. Young Kindergartener’s fine motor skills are developed through the use of triangles, hand drums, castanets and rhythm sticks. Large movement games, folk dances and group drumming require cooperation, concentration and coordination. They learn to sing, dance and play instruments in various tempos and with various timbres.
During every activity and dance, children sing continuously, which helps interconnect all aspects of music making. Each song is carefully selected for appropriate range and thematic content. Materials are also linked to classroom topics throughout the seasons.
The multicultural, play-based curriculum explores beat, rhythm, pitch, timbre and dynamics through world folk songs. Simple songs from various countries are woven throughout the lessons, introducing children to the diversity of the world's music.
The Young 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.
Concepts of line, pattern, shape, color, and form are addressed in a series of lessons that introduce a variety of materials including craypas, paper, collage, paint, and clay. Children draw shapes and learn to create secondary colors by mixing primary colors of paint. Clay slabs turn into trivets as children emboss shapes and designs into the surface. Once they become more familiar with the medium, students use hand-building methods to create small clay animals that they then glaze. Every student has their artwork presented in the annual art show.