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What's Happening in Kindergarten?

Spend a day in Foote's Kindergarten and you might find yourself wanting a redo of your own Kindergarten experience.

Beginning with the morning classroom meeting and extending through art, drama, music, outdoor learning, Spanish, library and much more, Kindergartners' days are full of excitement and new discoveries. Foote's Kindergarten classroom teachers, Susan Keegan, Alexandra Wittner, Lynne Banta and Shafton Haley (along with a host of specials teachers), skillfully harness the children's natural curiosity to create a program that balance academics and play, structure and independence.

Kindergarten is the foundation on which all other learning is built. Along with academic building blocks, what takes root at Foote this first year is an ethos that values learning for the pure joy of it. Students form a positive attitude about learning because it is hands-on, challenging and varied. Mistakes are viewed as something to celebrated, a sign of growth and positive risk-taking.

Foote photographer Joe Charles spent the past few weeks documenting the daily lives of our youngest learners, as we continue our series of spotlights on each grade.

Each morning begins with a classroom meeting at which students take turns presenting about the weather, calendar and a morning message. Kindergartners also have classroom jobs that rotate weekly, giving students a sense of pride and ownership in their classroom community. Above, a student yells "stop!" as the class counts up to the current day of the month.

 

In between structured lessons, Kindergartners have choice time to play with a variety of toys, games, books and art supplies in their classroom. Above, students pose next to a block tower they built together. (Photograph by Alexandra Wittner)

 

Music teacher Tina Cunningham plays guitar while leading students through a variety of movements including running, skipping and hopping. Music making is active and joyful in Kindergarten, with a goal of students becoming musically literate, working cooperatively and better understanding the world through the lens of music.

 

Kindergarten teacher Alexandra Wittner introduces her class to a persona doll, a plush doll with a complete backstory (ethnicity, economic situation and family structure. Persona dolls support student conversations about acceptance, difference and kindness, and help students develop social and conflict-resolution skills.

 

In Spanish class, instruction focuses on listening, speaking and pronunciation as the keystones of language study. Above a student listens and colors in the appropriate food as teacher Miguel Paulino calls them out in Spanish to the class.

 

Kindergartners play a game called "Toy in a Box" during drama class in the theater. Students curl up on the floor before springing out to strike a dramatic pose when drama teacher Katie De Vries shouts "pop."

"This game is all about the elements of surprise and body control," explains Katie. "They have to listen to the sequence of the game and react when I say pop. It's like giving directions in the theater."

 

Kindergartners visit the library once per cycle. Each library class begins with greetings followed by Head Library Jennifer Friedman reading a picture book.

"We look for books that we think will generate conversation and deal with problem solving," says Jennifer.

Students can then choose one book to take home (using their personalized library card) and put others into "savings" so they can check them out next class. This year's library read-alouds have included Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems, Big Moon Cake for Little Star by Grace Lin (to coincide with Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival) and Yes and No by Foote alumnus Elisha Cooper '86.

 

Concrete, hands-on activities—such as the game Ten Frame (pictured)—develop a comfort with numbers and problem solving. In Kindergarten the concept of quantity is a significant focus as children begin to understand the process of addition and subtraction. (Photograph by Alexandra Wittner)

 

The RULER method for teaching emotional literacy developed by Yale University is employed in every grade at Foote, starting in Kindergarten. Through structured activities and daily check-ins on the classroom mood meter, Kindergartners develop the tools to recognize, understand, label, express and ultimately regulate their emotions.

 

The Kindergarten "body mapping" unit is a highlight of the year for many students. Over several weeks, this interdisciplinary unit introduces Kindergartners to a host of fascinating concepts about the human body through group discussion, creative writing, scientific identification and artistic expression. Parents Zoom into classes as guest experts to talk about aspects of how the body works and children construct whole-body self-portraits, beginning with paper they have painted to match their own skin tone.

 

Kindergartners played a physically distant version of tag in physical education this week using pool noodles. The Kindergarten PE curriculum focuses on developing locomotor skills, spatial awareness and good sportsmanship by playing fun games that require students to listen and follow directions.

 

A student discusses his plan for a clay pinch pot with Art Associate Elizabeth Roberge. Art classes give Kindergartners a place to create personally relevant work and explore a wide variety of media including paint, clay, fabric, wood, wire and natural materials.

 

Along with art and other specials, Kindergartners have dedicated time each week for unstructured outdoor learning. On trips to local parks and nature areas (including East Rock Park, pictured), students observe, investigate and appreciate nature while developing problem solving and executive function. The benefits of outdoor play are extensive; not only does it improves physical health, it also develops imagination and teamwork while promoting independence. And who doesn’t like soaking up a bit of sunshine on a gorgeous fall afternoon? (Photograph by Susan Keegan)

 

Kindergarten language arts involves daily read-alouds, letter-sound correspondence and writing. After highlighting words with their corresponding colors a student used the same marker to write the color in a notebook.

 

Kindergarten classrooms are thoughtfully designed to excite and inspire children, but also provide space for calm and introspection. Above, a Kindergartener enjoys a moment of solitude in the classroom's "Peaceful Palace," which the students helped design. (Photograph by Alexandra Wittner)

 

At the end of the day, students are dismissed to their parents, buses, and the After School program. Before leaving for the day teacher Alexandra Wittner gives a student an elbow bump, one of several good-byes students can choose to complete their day.

 

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Since 1916, The Foote School has provided child-centered education that nurtures creativity, excellence and joy in learning.

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