When we first entered the kindergarten classroom, the energy, excitement, and curiosity coming off the students was palpable; it’s very clear that our 5-year-old Hawks love to learn! We spent the day in kindergarten to get to know the curriculum, the students, and the joyful learning environment that inspires such wonder and enthusiasm.
The kindergarten classroom is a character all its own. There’s the reading nook, the circle carpet, the calendar board, the word wall, the student gallery spaces, and tables that seat 4–6 students. I can already tell today’s going to be an adventure.
The journey begins at 8:30 AM with calendar time. Every week, a student is assigned to be calendar captain and that student leads a review of the day of the week, month, date, year, and weather. Today also includes a number pattern of the day, the number of days we’ve been in school using groups of tens and ones, and a “mystery bag” where students must solve a mystery math story problem! Kindergarten Expert Teachers Ms. Kimbrough and Ms. Moomaw are both there, but the calendar captain leads the activity with specific questions like, “what do we need to do to change our shortcut date?” Calendar captain is just one of several class roles students take on each week to help take responsibility for their learning and their classroom. The other roles include chair captain, door holder, folder patrols, snack helper, teacher helper, and line leader.
The daily review leads into the first subject of the day: math. Students transition to the perimeter of the circle rug for whole group math time to talk about a lesson topic of the day: money. Today’s lesson is using dimes and pennies to determine the cost of an item. With plastic dimes and pennies, the group discusses the similarities between eight dimes and eight groups of 10 pennies. Students enjoy counting out 80 cents with their own plastic coins. Following these discussions, students have the opportunity to “purchase” an item using their coins.
Then students transition in small groups by finding their name and table number on the center chart. Students move into their small groups where they are reviewing an older concept, such as adding and subtracting by counting on or counting back, or practicing a new concept, such as combining dimes and pennies to determine the total amount. While two small groups work independently, the other two small groups are working with the teachers to get extra practice or more challenge on the topic. While some may be reviewing counting by 10s, another group might be combining amounts using nickels, dimes, and pennies. Even though some are more advanced than others, the curriculum is a first grade math curriculum, so all students are working above their age level. Always having two Kindergarten Expert Teachers in the classroom allows each individual student get the level of math support they need.
The students ended math by freezing to the sound of the chime and cleaning up. They are excited for a snack break. They use it to gather their energy for what’s next—P.E.!
The line leader guides the class to the gym for physical education, where Mr. Coquelin has set up an obstacle course. The students eagerly bound through the obstacles without realizing they are improving their balance and spatial awareness at the same time.
Language and Literacy
Next, Oxygen (*kindergarten’s assigned element) makes its way back to the classroom for language and literacy. Literacy kicks off with word work brainstorming adjectives that describe reptiles.
Similar to math, the class breaks into reading centers. Each group reads a different book based on reading level, but all the books generally have a theme: one week in November the theme was Thanksgiving, this week in January the theme is animals. One group is reading all about penguins, another group is exploring arctic animals. Students are extending their understanding of the animals by writing reports to inform the reader. At the end of the week, they will share their report with a peer who read about a different animal. Half of language and literacy time is focused on reading and half is focused on grammar, such as learning about a part of speech.
Now it’s lunchtime! The students are curious about me, the new person in the classroom, and are happy to chat about their experience at BASIS Independent McLean.
“I like all the fun activities,” says Sophia M. ’30. Melania T. ’30 agrees she likes school because of “all the fun stuff we learn and when we do activities.” She cites science and the insects they learned about last week as particularly exciting.
Several students are eager to share the latest riddle they’ve learned: “What has hands, but can’t pick anything up?” (Answer: a clock.)
“I like kindergarten because we get to play with everybody,” says Khusi S. ’30.
Though the academic program is advanced, friendship and play is very important in kindergarten as well.
“We focus heavily on the social emotional growth of our students, along with rigorous academic content to help foster the development of the whole child,” says Ms. Moomaw. “We encourage students to be a kind friend and treat others the way that they would like to be treated. This month we have a kindness 'shout-out' wall, where teachers shout out random acts of kindness we observe in our students.
After cleaning up their own lunch space, students hurry to put on their coats for recess. Outside the Early Learning area is a playground solely used by our youngest learners.
Recess transitions into some quiet reading time and then science and social studies.
Science and Social Studies
This class combines lessons in civics, history, and science. Each month the lessons are centered around a central theme, often related to what’s going on in the world. January features a lot about health and the body because so many people focus on those things in the new year. However, they don’t forget about holidays such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Today’s unit is on the human body and nutrition. Ms. Kimbrough and Ms. Moomaw discuss the role of blood, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Students start to learn how each part works together to keep us healthy.
The next class varies depending on the day of the week: engineering, Mandarin, music, visual arts, or performing arts. Today it’s engineering with Ms. Dedman and a lesson about density (a word I definitely didn’t know in kindergarten). Engineering is a favorite of many students; at lunch, Shenghan X. ’30 said, “I like engineering where I can make and build things.”
Students experiment with different objects, including paper, cardboard, tape, plastic, string, and tinfoil, offering hypotheses on what would sink and what would float before testing. Once they successfully discover what floats, each student starts designing his or her own boat and considering what materials they want to use. I was sad to miss the next week’s class when they’d actually build their boats!
Snack and Enrichment Time
Another snack follows and leads into enrichment time. Enrichment is similar to Connections in grades 1–4. Ms. Kimbrough and Ms. Moomaw use this time to help students connect concepts they’ve learned in other lessons through hands-on activities.
“Enrichment gives students the opportunity to explore new concepts and take ownership of their learning,” says Ms. Kimbrough.
Many times—like today—the activity is connected to the science and social studies lesson. In order to cement the earlier lesson, the class included one of those fun activities the students proclaimed to love: they made blood! They used red water beads, ping-pong balls, foam, and water to represent red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. The hands-on activity helped bring the parts of blood, which are too small to see without a microscope, to life.
At 3:30 PM, students are sure to leave their classroom neat and clean at the end of the school day. Some students are picked up right away, others stay for clubs, like Ms. Kimbrough’s Yoga Club or Ms. Moomaw’s Cooking Club, and others stay for Late Bird.
Everyone was so welcoming in kindergarten! It’s a full day of learning, but there’s plenty of play and friendship throughout the day. Thank you for letting me join in.
You can learn more about kindergarten and our Early Learning Program directly from Ms. Kimbrough and Ms. Moomaw at our Curriculum Night on February 21. Learn more and register now.
*Each BASIS Independent McLean class is assigned an element of the periodic table.