In my strive to bring all four kindergarten classes under the same umbrella, I developed a comprehensive and culturally specific, plan of monthly themes and activities with the appropriate social focus. With an overarching monthly theme, the lessons of every individual class branch out into their own specific direction, thus allowing students to dig deeper into an age-appropriate single aspect of the theme.
The greatest benefit of sharing the same general monthly theme lies in the cross – ‘generational’ learning opportunities for children. Much learning can happen through top down and bottom up communication and collaboration. To start with, our theme for April is “All About Me” and each class delves into a single, age-appropriate, aspect of this monthly theme.
The idea being that students should be given an opportunity to develop a strong sense of identity and to be able to express it from the very beginning. Thus, the youngest kids learn about the concept of “Me” (my name, my gender, etc), the older ones learn about Me and My Family (my mother, my father, my brother/sister), Me and My Friends (the things I like versus the things my friends like), while the oldest ones wrap their heads around the ‘Me and the Community’ theme, addressing the role of various community helpers. It centers around the inquiry into what we want to be when we grow up – a choice we make only after getting close to our own selves and the things that give us joy and make us genuinely happy.
There are numerous reasons why it is beneficial to start with a unit exploring the background of your students. You want to get to know your students better and you want them to get to know each other and form positive relationships. Harmonious relationships grow out of understanding each other’s personalities, backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. This information would help you later on in the year when you need to build stronger connections not only with your students but also with their parents in an effort to bring out the best in their children.
The best thing about the monthly activities is that they are contextual, project-based and outcome-driven. When learning through inquiry, it’s imperative for students to be engaged in hands-on activities leading to tangible output. For example, the oldest kids, exploring the world of work, are given the task of automating a job of their choice. The artifact of learning not only represents evidence of students’ understanding and achievement but it serves as an opportunity for others to learn through observation thus reinforcing the learning process of all.
Visually, it all translates into a huge poster depicting all four classes: Caterpillars, Ladybugs, Honeybees, and Butterflies along with the respective aspect of the theme to be covered within the given month. Ideally, displayed publicly, the ‘announcement’ board would encourage parents and the community to contribute, as they can (volunteering as guest speakers, or providing thematic objects), towards building up students’ knowledge and understanding.
Before we can bring a group of kindergarten classes together, we need to break down the barriers among teachers who belong to different cultures, have different perspectives and attitudes, and subscribe to different teaching approaches through engaging in open discussion and understanding.
Even though there is a tremendous benefit to be gained by on-boarding people with a diverse background and a wider variety of competencies, such as bringing in new, fresh ideas, diversity also poses a challenge to the ideals of “inclusion” and “wholeness”.
In such a case, ensuring the the quality of interactions of co-workers is a matter of high importance which would allow employees to feel welcome, committed, and engaged. So, we really need to think about ‘how do we make people productive and efficient in the context of diversity?’
MY Community is a session of discussions concerning the most vital elements for the effective functioning of the institution. It aims to clear up any confusion over the organizational culture, values, and beliefs in an effort to reach principals’ and teachers’ agreement on teaching approaches and school’s objectives. Disagreement between teachers’ styles and values causes confusion among the children especially when there is a cross-class teacher-student interaction in the context of teachers from different cultural backgrounds.
Back to School Teacher Training and Orientation
If the new school year is about to start and you need help in developing a comprehensive and interactive orientation program for new and existing staff, I can work along with you and design a personalized plan that meets your school's needs.