Monday, August 27, 2007

Kindergarten Learnings

"All I ever needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten." This was the title of a popular book a few years back. I can't remember the author. At the time I found it profoundly true on a very basic level. I remember watching "Mr. Rogers" with my boys and marveling at how easy he made it all seem. "Take turns, share, and respond without reservation." Good things to remember throughout life, right?
For the past three years, I've had the wonderful honor and privilege to volunteer an hour or so at my local Kindergarten class as a tutor. Each year it has gotten better and more revelatory for me. During my teaching career, I never had the chance to work with "the little ones" on a regular basis. Oh, we had class exchanges and "big buddy-little buddy" matchups once a month maybe. These were fun for my upper graders as well as the kindergarteners. We'd walk down as a class and read to them or help them with an art project. We'd make "friends"/ "buddies" and eventually have a graduating event. I'd sometimes see them out on the playground (before school) playing together, swing pushing etc. Otherwise, they didn't have recesses together. They established a rapport and relationship that, for some, was irreplaceable. (no older sibling) What a good foundation for future learning. I honestly don't know if it is done anymore or at the least, not at this local school.
When I arrive they are usually out on their own playground and the buzzer sounds. They have to "freeze" in place and kneel down. (stop playing) Then they line up at preset marks by classroom. The first in the line gets to hold the flag so it is very hard not to run to line up so they can be first. The K teachers then come out and bring the little school flags for the line leaders to hold up. Everyone is then asked to hold up their right arm/hand and place it over their "heart". You often hear, "No, dear, your other right." Today, they said the Pledge of Allegance with great relish if not rectitude. Then they all start marching in place and singing alittle patriotic song with a salute at the end. They are still all in "straight cues" (for Kindergarteners). Then they are all asked to "Zip and Flip". They pantomime zipping their lips and crossing their arms in front of them (flipping) so that when they walk back to their classrooms (sometimes through halls) they won't talk or touch anyone or thing. You can imagine, at this level it works beautifully. They pick up their backpacks at the door and hang them just inside after taking out their "homework". They then find their own "square" on the "rug" facing the teacher. This is all done, even on this fourth day of school, without much noise or comment. Their teacher then takes roll in various repetitive ways and introduces me. (if it is Monday)
Since I haven't been called yet to be a "Substitute", I can make this connection. They are rapt in attention. I introduce myself and tell them how much I just love being there and helping them learn new songs or rhymes and new games. (fun things) I ask them if they like to "collect things" and organize or match them up? I then show them my new "collection of Rubik's Cubes" (see above).
I start out with the smallest one, "the baby of the family", a keychain cube. (see above left). Then I progressively bring out larger and larger cubes until my latest, "Grandfather Cube" - "Rubik's Revolution". I turn it on. They rambunctiously respond and want to all tell me at once about their families etc. Then, after hearing several, I tell them my favorite thing to collect is money, mainly pennies. I pull one out of my small change purse. Then, since I've already tuned up my uke, I sing them my first song for sing along and learning:
Love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You'll end up having more.
It's just like a Magic Penny
Hold it tight, and you won't have any,
Lend it, spend it and you'll have so many
They'll roll all over the floor...
for (repeat top chorus)
After about three times they all are keeping time and singing along. They love it. Then, I invite groups of 6 or 7 to play a "Game" with me at a removed "kidney table" called "Left, Right, Center" At first it is alittle slow and I have to remind them about their "left and right" hand neighbors who they pass the pennies to. Last year, I started to stamp their hands with an "R" or an "L". So they soon start relating to each other left and right by giving pennies away. They roll the dice marked the same and it gets quite rejuvenating. They all end up "winners" at the end with the last one holding pennies getting more. They run to put them in their cubbies or backpacks. I think I had 3 groups of 5 or 6 and by the third group, they were really showing great rapport, with me and each other.
So, what did we learn? Many things... (like laterality) but mostly, for them, we had fun. They saw me having fun, singing, taking turns, sharing, high-f iving. This is what it is all about in Kindergarten. Other groups were beginning to learn their letter names and rhyming sounds. Eventually they were in small groups around the room doing an art project to reinforce what we had learned. Oh, it starts out so wonderfully easy and simple. Where and when does it go so wrong? Do we now test in Kindergarten? RRR

1 comment:

BOB! Your Life Preserver said...

I gave each child a shiny new penny for just playing the game. The winner got the "pot" or "center". One little cutie asked as she left back to the rug, "Can I have a second penny?" I almost couldn't resist. RRR