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Kindergarten Case Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

As educators in the last ten years there have been many changes to how we teach, what we teach, and outside influence on what it means to be a teacher. There are many variables going into what it means to be a teacher. As psychologist David Elkind states, “…today’s child is overscheduled, overtested, overfed, and overmarketed; pressured to grow up too soon; and denied the pleasures of being a child” (Jarszewicz, 2013). As early childhood educators we need to understand the children coming into our classrooms. In looking specifically at a kindergarten classroom there are lots of challenges as teachers try to create a classroom that balances being a child with the state standards teachers have to implement in the classroom. In preparing a kindergarten classroom there are many philosophies and theories teachers can incorporate to create this classroom environment. In my ideal kindergarten classroom the philosophies and theories I would include are developmentally appropriate practices, importance of play, and the use of Lev Vygotsky teaching strategies to align with the state standards in California.

Kindergarten is the start of a child’s education in elementary school and for many of them it can be their first experience in school and classroom environments. So, as a kindergarten teacher we are laying the foundation for the rest of their education. As educators the first thing we need to take into consideration are the state standards required for our grade level. These need to be taken into consideration with the development of our lessons and how we structure the school year. However, as teachers we can use different theories and philosophies alongside the state standards to create a balanced education for our students. One of the ways we can do this is through the implementation of developmentally appropriate practices.

A developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) is defined in the text as, “Teaching based on developmental and cultural knowledge of both individuals and groups of children and their families”(Jarszewicz, 2013). DAP is not a curriculum but it is a way of teaching alongside the curriculum and take into account the development of children. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has 12 principles of child development teachers should take into consideration plus the curriculum and state standards needed to be followed. Also, NAEYC created a position statement on DAP to help educators be able to understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate practices in early childhood. The initial statement was released in 1986 and has since been revised and can be again due to the ever-changing nature of education and evolution of our knowledge of child development.

In a kindergarten classroom it is important to have DAP practices when working with curriculum and state standards. This is not an easy balance for teachers to be able to apply DAP and with rigorousness of the state standards. As Wilson explains it is important for teachers to be able to adapt the curriculum to address the needs of student’s interests and allow for them to discuss their experiences, feelings, and ideas (2009). It is important for educators to use DAP in their classrooms with the curriculum to help students with their engagement and achieving academic goals which are just beyond their current level. When we push students beyond their current level too quickly, it will not lead to student mastery and it will also lead to students disengagement in school.

There has been a rise in disengagement in primary grades so much that Sharon Ritchie developed the dropout-prevention project, which focuses on pre-K through third grade (Wilson, 2009). So, much worry in this country is about the high school drop out but if we do not look into the early childhood education we will be seeing the drop out rate increase or even see it happening before high school. Ritchie also found another link to the disengagement being the lack of hands-on activity as well as play in the classroom. The article states, “She found that students in pre-K classes spent 136 minutes a day on hands-on projects. That dropped to 16 minutes by kindergarten and 12 minutes by second and third grade” (Wilson, 2009). DAP is just one of the ways teachers can develop their students but the implementation in early childhood is also key in student development.

In a well-balanced kindergarten classroom there will be focus on the curriculum but also the implementation of play at the right developmental level. In early childhood classrooms there are many different types of play and some more appropriate at different developmental levels. The use of play and hands-on activities can be incorporated into the curriculum to help develop certain skills that come with play interaction. At Montana State University, an article was written about how important play is in the development of early childhood. There are many different types of play and not one is for a specific age group but will look different from an infant versus a kindergartener. These types of play include unoccupied, solitary, out looker, parallel, associative, social, motor-physical, constructive, expressive, fantasy, and cooperative (McNamee, 2010). There are many benefits to paly, that as an educator we need to take into account to help the development of our students.

These benefits occ

ur during indoor play as well as play on the playground. For example, “On the playground, children

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learn how to resolve conflict, control their actions in a game, and take turns” (Wilson, 2009). Children tend to have lot of energy naturally and if there is not time for them to release the energy it can interrupt the classroom. When children are not allowed to play one side effects is disruptive behavior in the classroom. So, having the time to play allows for the release of the energy, a decrease in problem behavior, and the development of different skills needed in school and life. McNamee states, “Play helps with the development by stimulating the brain through the formation of connections between nerve cells” (2010). These stimulations help with the development of fine and gross motor skills, which are key in the early childhood. Fine motor skills leads to children being able to hold a pencil and gross motor skills help with being able to run. Other areas developed by play include language development as well as socialization skills. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics states, “Play is essential to the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical wellbeing of children beginning in early childhood.

It is a natural tool for children to develop resiliency as they learn to cooperate, overcome challenges, and negotiate with others” (Jarszewicz, 2013). One of theorist whose work goes along with play is Lev Vygotsky whose zone of proximal development, scaffolding, and self-regulation are elements included in my classroom. Lev Vygotsky was a constructivist psychologist whose theories are significant to teachers and early childhood education. Angela Lui defines the zone of proximal development (ZPD) as, ”The area between the level of actual development and the level of potential development. Also known as instructional level, this is where instruction should be focused to drive the greatest learning gain for each student” (2012). ZPD goes right into the focus of differentiated instruction in today’s classroom where we are trying to create lessons at the level of each of the student’s in our classrooms.

One of the ways we can do this is through Vygotsky’s scaffolding, which allows teachers to support children to be able to do an activity or skill independently or at higher level (Jarszewicz, 2013). In order to help children reach their own ZPD, a teacher can used scaffolding to break down concepts to help a student reach independency. In connection to the importance of play is the development of self-regulation. The book talks about self-regulation, “as they apply mental and physical self-control and social rules to act out the scenario, all the time using language to negotiate, communicate, and offer ideas to keep the play going” (Jarszewicz, 2013). The combination of all these is helpful in creating teaching strategies in a kindergarten classroom to help teachers assist their students in reaching a level of mastery. In the state of California there are specific standards for what will be taught in the different subject areas. According to the California Department of Education the Language Arts standards in California are based into many categories with many sub categories. The main categories included reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language. Math includes counting and cardinality, operations and algebraic thinking, number and operation in base ten, measurement and data, and geometry.

In science there will be different concepts taught in the physical, life, and earth sciences. Student’s will also investigate and experiment in all those areas. The visual and preforming arts standards are broken into dance, music, theater, and visual arts (2013). In my classroom part of my language arts time is having my students take part in centers. These center take into consideration all three of the practices. In the classroom I set up four different centers where the students are doing something different but work with the standard and concept we are working on. One of the centers always has an aspect of play. This allows the students to use their creativity and be able to feel like they are in charge but using games and toys picked by me, the teacher. In my classroom I have two computers where the students are able to work on a computer with a game that is teaching them about different alphabet concepts. At this center students are able to work together sharing the computer as well as students taking their learning into their own hands.

The third center I try to have run by a parent volunteer. When I have parent help the students do an activity for my centers box. Inside the box has many different activities based on the standards we are working on at the time. These activities can be done alone or work with people in the group. Lastly, the student will come to me where I can have them working on an activity at the students level or take the time to reteach a concept in a small group. These activities allow for the students to work in small groups and also change what they are doing about every 20 minutes. In kindergarten, students need variety and change and by having centers students are able to move around the room and release energy in between each one. Throughout the year the groups the students are in will change periodically. This allows for a teacher to differentiate the groups, as well as student learning to work with different classmates. Centers also allow for me to be able to work on different state standard at the same time, which is helpful with the amount of time there is before the end of the year. Everyday in my class we start on the carpet with calendar and song time.

When we do calendar this allows for me to hit different standards in language arts, math, science, and visual arts. When we work on the song of the week and use our song to identify the letter we work on a language art standard. During calendar we work on identifying numbers, counting, and working on patterning (i.e. shapes and number patterns by 2 and 5). Also, the teacher helper of the week is our weather man/women. Everyday we talk about what the weather is like and try to predict what it will be like the next day. This is one of the kindergarten standards to be able to understand weather changes and the different types of weather. We work on visual and preforming arts by singing different songs. These songs include days of the week, month of the year, letter songs, and some about right and wrong. Many of these songs require us to get up and dance and move around.

Morning calendar allow for students to relax as they come into the day and also move around to release any energy before we get started with our day. As a kindergarten teacher there are many things we need to take into consideration when working with our students. In California it takes balance to make sure to reach the standards, but also take into consideration the development of the students. Even with having a set curriculum teachers need to use developmentally appropriate practice and understand each student’s zone of proximal development. Also, making sure to incorporate the different types of play indoor and outdoor to make sure not only academically do children grow, but also socially and emotionally. In my ideal kindergarten classroom I would make sure to work with the California state standard while including developmentally appropriate practice, play, and Vygotsky concepts of zone of proximal development and scaffolding.

Reference

Anderson-McNamee, J. (2010) The importance of play in early childhood development.

MontGuide, Montana State University, Montana, Retrieved from

http://msuextension.org/publications/HomeHealthandFamily/MT201003H R.pdf

California Department of Education, (2013). Content standards. Retrieved from website: http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/
Jaruszewicz, C. (2013). Curriculum and methods for early childhood educators. San

Diego,Ca: Bridgepoint Education.

Lui, A. (2012). White paper teaching in the zone. Children’s Progress. Retrieved from http://www.childrensprogress.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/free-white-paper-vygotsky-zone-of-proximal-development-zpd-early-childhood.pdf McKay Wilson, D. (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in the age of testing. Harvard Education Letter, School of Education, Harvard University, Boston,MA, Retrieved from http://fcd-us.org/sites/default/files/Developmentally Appropriate Practice PreK-3rd.pdf

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