Less Playtime, More Study Comes With Transition to Full-Day Kindergarten
Patch recently spoke with veteran Chippewa Valley kindergarten teacher Connie Hagel to get an idea of what full-day will mean for the kindergarten curriculum and what parents can do to better prepare their students.
In less than a week, hundreds of Macomb Township’s youngest students will have their first brush with the seven-hour school day as they begin kindergarten.
Starting this year, Chippewa Valley, L'Anse Creuse, New Haven and Utica will offer only full-day kindergarten. This decision was prompted by the state-mandated adoption of Common Core Standards for which districts are required to develop or enhance their K-12 curriculum in mathematics, reading and writing.
“Full-day kindergarten will provide teachers with the time to go into depth,” said Sue Grenier, Chippewa's executive director of elementary education, in a previous interview with Patch. “We have an excellent writing program; however, teachers have struggled to fully incorporate it with the time constraints of a half day. Social studies and science will be given more emphasis as well. With a full day, they will no longer have to ‘watch the clock’ in an attempt to cover curriculum.”
Clinton Township Patch recently spoke with veteran kindergarten teacher Connie Hagel at Sequoyah Elementary to get an idea of how this transition to full-day will impact the curriculum and what parents can do to better prepare their students.
Macomb Patch: What do you see as the greatest advantage or challenge of full-day kindergarten?
Hagel: The advantage is we’ll finally get to cover the curriculum in depth for understanding and meaning. I think the biggest hurdle is that it will be a long day for some of these babies. The challenge will be for parents, (recognizing) if their kids are ready for kindergarten. When 4-years-olds come in, they’re not going to magically be ready by the end of the year. If your 4-year-old isn’t ready, just because the length of the day increased, they’re not going to understand the information faster. Full-day kindergarten doesn’t replace preschool.
Macomb Patch: What are expectations for students' abilities by the end of the school year?
Hagel: Our expectation is they will have deeper understanding of the common core and concepts. Before, when we were sending them off, we often felt we were not able to cover all the material. Our common core has not really changed. They’ve added some things, taken away others, but the biggest thing with the common core is problem solving and understanding the deeper meaning of concepts. Rather than kindergartners just knowing how to count to 20, they’ll have a greater understanding of the number set.
Macomb Patch: How often do you evaluate students over course of the year?
Hagel: Progress is monitored on a daily basis. Our assessments are unified. There are progress reports between regularly scheduled report cards, so every six weeks. We also have a fall conference and spring conference, and are always open to discussion with parents. We keep them informed through newsletters, daily behavior reports, telephone calls and emails.
Macomb Patch: What sort of subjects does the full-day curriculum cover?
Hagel: (Kindergarten teachers across the district) met in May with Sue Grenier and we redesigned the report card and made it match the common core so we’re all on same page and unified: what activities are we’re doing, how many minutes we’re spending on each activity, it is unified. The amount of time spent on math and literacy is the same across the district. There are two recesses, one in morning and one in afternoon, and the day is really structured. We’ve networked with each other to compare how well things work. We’re really excited.
Within Chippwea Valley, many programs are also shared between schools so students who transfer during the year will encounter the same activities at every school.
Macomb Patch: What should parents understand about full-day kindergarten?
Hagel: Parents think education has shifted. It has. The kindergarten that used to be is now preschool. Our kind is more first-grade based, but watered down. Parents are not familiar with that. They think (their children) will play all day, but when they leave us, they have to be able to write short sentences, know 46 sight words, be able to add and subtract … it’s very different than the old kindergarten.
Macomb Patch: How do you incorporate technology into the curriculum?
Hagel: We love SmartBoards. We have worked all summer long on putting together all the SmartBoard activities for kindergarten. The morning announcements are done on the SmartBoard and all the activities support the common core. You can (use the SmartBoard to) go into all different websites and make them life-size, so the kids are interacting, using their hands to manipulate and move things. We have docking stations for a digital camera that goes with the SmartBoard and allows all our books to become life size. If you have a visual problem, or hearing, we wear microphones, and there is surround sound in the room. Visually impaired students can watch and hear stories come alive. It’s just amazing. Each room has four computers, there are four computers in our pods and we also have a computer lab that kids visit once a week.
Macomb Patch: How do you plan to handle hygiene?
Hagel: We use a lot of hand sanitizer. We met as a team in the district and all of us are concerned. Hand sanitizer is available and students use it. When they walk in the door, they sanitize. They're constantly washing their hands before a snack, after a snack ... there’s a lot of it. (Hygiene) is a concern because we want to keep the kids healthy. We change the crayons out, especially during cold and flu season, and we have lots of helpers to keep the room clean.
Macomb Patch: Is there a naptime during the day?
Hagel: We don’t do a naptime. We call it a rest period where students do quiet activities such as reading with partners or building a puzzle. We have it built into our day.