“Kindergartners learn a lot through play,” said Robert Gray teacher Jodi Hanson, who has been teaching kindergarten for the past 20 years. “They don’t even know they’re learning it.”
Today’s kindergarten classes include forays into reading, writing, counting to 100, counting by 10s, early addition and the beginnings of subtraction.
In Hanson’s class, students set personal goals each day and work in small groups to accomplish them. A goal can be anything from practicing listening skills to writing their names to exploring mathematics. Whatever it is, Hanson makes sure students enjoy the process.
“Kindergarten is the foundation for the rest, and it’s so important to build that love of learning,” she said.
In Longview, helping students achieve literacy early is the top academic priority, and kindergarten teachers are on the front line of that effort.
“I love when they learn to read, when they first realize they can read on their own,” said Tiffany Mejia, who is in her sixth year of teaching kindergarten at Columbia Valley Gardens. “The sparkle in their eyes—that’s my favorite.”
At Northlake Elementary, Alynn Huhta’s students’ favorite lessons include celebrating holidays and working with the animals they receive in science kits—goldfish, guppies, snails and worms.
Each morning, Huhta’s class begins with a routine of greetings, songs and dances. In her third year teaching kindergarten, she says her favorite thing is “the joy and excitement the kids have about school and learning, because it’s a brand-new thing. They learn so much and are excited about everything.”
Sometimes, though, kindergartners need an explanation of what it means to learn.
Mejia recalled the end of one school year, when she told her class to keep practicing their reading over the summer. One of her students replied, “I can’t actually do that. I’m going to Texas.”
Laughing, Mejia said, “I told her, ‘No, actually you’ve learned this skill. You will keep that forever.’”
That’s what kindergarten is all about: helping our students build the skills they will use in whatever future they find—skills they will keep forever.