Reading and writing go hand in hand at Cornerstone. The goals of the kindergarten language and literacy program are to enable the children to broaden their communication skills both orally and through reading and writing. Key to the success of these goals is the development of positive dispositions to learn because they see these processes as enjoyable and rewarding.
At Cornerstone, a whole language approach is used as the children are immersed in print and language activities. Children extend their knowledge of reading and writing when working on projects and studying themes that are interesting to them.
Different levels of development and abilities are expected and accepted and children are allowed to move at their own pace in acquiring skills.
Class Environment: The story corner is a focal point of the room and provides a wide array of print from books on topics of current study, both fiction and non fiction to big books, charts of poems and songs, leveled readers, children’s literature and baskets of magazines. This assortment invites literacy experiences both independent and communal.
Circle Time: Circle time provides experiences in interactive writing, sharing of student writings, shared reading, choral reading, read-alouds and responses’ all of which build a community of readers and writers. Reading activities are planned to relate to children’s experiences.
Literacy activities that extend beyond the classroom include weekly visits with 4th grade reading buddies, weekly library time with the school librarian and periodic public library trips. Through this whole language approach, the children acquire the necessary skills (phonemic, syntactic and semantic) while learning to appreciate the many ways we encounter language in our world.
Writing is a daily occurrence in kindergarten and a special part of the day. Children are allowed to draw a picture and write their thoughts according to their own ability level using inventive spelling. The teacher gives individual attention to each child at this time. This is a noisy and productive time as children also are encouraged to help one another in their writing skills. As the year progresses children share their writing with the class at circle time. Some days writing takes on a different form as we work on poems and individual or class books.
In kindergarten the core virtues used throughout our school provide the framework for our social studies curriculum. The core virtues are as follows: compassion, respect, perseverance, self-discipline, honesty, giving, and responsibility. Concentration on these virtues leads the children to an understanding of how we become independent kindergarten learners, how we become responsible in our work habits and jobs, how we build community in our classroom, how we respect diversity in ourselves and others, and how we behave and function in our homes and neighborhoods.
In an atmosphere of mutual respect, the children come to understand the importance of listening to others and are given daily opportunities to express their own ideas and opinions. As kindergartners learn about their likenesses and differences they gain respect for others. The children begin the year by bringing in family pictures and by sharing favorite customs and traditions. Stereotypes are avoided that so often happen when a tourist approach to holiday traditions is taken. At Cornerstone we focus on traditions of class members so the people represented will be real and multi dimensional.
In kindergarten, the theme of peace is studied. A month or so is spent learning about the Nobel Peace Prize and some of its recipients such as Ghandi, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. The class discusses the virtues of respect, compassion, giving, perseverance, and honesty these role models all possessed. They read literature both non-fiction and fiction and reflect on how they can be peacemakers in our own environments. They write and illustrate a class Book of Peace, learn songs and poems of peace, and create many art projects around this theme.
An awareness of social justice issues such as homelessness is formed as they discuss their experiences seeing the homeless in their city. Kindergartners participate in Cornerstone’s commitment to our local homeless shelter by baking on a monthly basis and by yearly clothes drives.
In kindergarten, the main focus for the science curriculum is making discoveries about the world around them. Kindergartners begin to hone their observation skills, compare and contrast, organize and classify, and measure using simple scientific measurement tools such as rulers and hand lenses.
The themes that are studied in kindergarten are best described as emergent. The topics of study emerge form the children’s interests and from what is available in our local environment, in order for there to be hands on experiences and relevance to the children’s lives. Kindergartners take advantage of the beauty surrounding them in and around North Florida.
An example of a common science theme is butterflies. Plants are grown in their class garden that attract monarch butterflies and then the life cycle of the monarch is observed first hand in the classroom as they watch caterpillars spin their chrysalis and then emerge as butterflies. Charts are kept as they draw pictures, make observations and count the number of days the process takes.
Any theme that is studied begins with a class trip to the local library where many non fiction and fiction books are checked out and brought back to school. They read books, have songs and poems on chart paper for choral reading, do art projects related to the theme and incorporate numerous writing opportunities such as writing poems and composing class books.
Kindergartners also have the benefit of our life science teacher once a week who facilitates gardening with the children and also augments current topics of study in the classroom. Gardening at Cornerstone is a yearlong project. The children plant, cultivate, harvest and sample the food grown in their gardens.
Cornerstone uses the University of Chicago’s Everyday Mathematics program, a progressive curriculum that presents concepts in a spiral manner. This means that concepts are presented over multiple years so that students are given several exposures to skills before they are expected to master them. We know that some children will be more secure in some skills than in others. Because of the spiral component of Everyday Mathematics ample opportunities will be provided in 1st grade to work on these areas and to build a secure base of knowledge.
The creative drama process is engaging and active. Through the use of creative drama, Cornerstone students are given tools that will help them tap into their own creativity and exercise their imaginations. Each class is guided by the teacher as leader to explore, develop, express and communicate ideas, concepts, and feelings through dramatic enactment. In each grade level, developmentally appropriate activities are used to explore themes using elements of drama to give form and meaning to the experience.
In Kindergarten pantomime is introduced and practiced. We explore a variety of themes through pantomime such as emotions, animals, role playing, and story dramatization.
Through the use of Drama Games the students are encouraged to explore new concepts in a non-threatening environment. The essential goal of creative drama is to impart life skills and increase the students’ awareness of connections in learning.
Kindergartners attend formal art classes.
Kindergartners spend much of their time drawing and painting in the regular classroom, but will attend formal art classes with an art teacher twice weekly. They will do projects using a variety of materials and techniques and will be exposed to works of master artists. At Cornerstone Learning Community, students are taught that art is a form of communication and a means of expressing themselves. Through this communication and self-expression, art becomes a source of discovery and joy.
Every student in kindergarten through eighth grade attends a minimum of two 50 minute classes in physical education per week. To reflect the National Association of Sport and Physical Education standards by providing meaningful, appropriate games and activities, the elementary physical education program explores and promotes the development of skill-and health-related physical activity components.
Kindergartners also have at least an hour of recess every day.
Kindergartners attend a weekly music class taught by a professional music teacher.
The class strengthens and integrates basic music skills such as singing, rhythm, and instrument playing. Instruction is hands-on and energetic so that children develop enthusiasm for music as a means of artistic expression. They also learn active listening techniques as they listen to examples of traditional music from a variety of cultures.
The Kindergarten Spanish program exposes children to the sounds and rhythm of the language through songs, rhymes, movement and picture books. The lesson is a part of the “learning centers” rotation and will often include vocabulary that reflects the current themes or units being studied in the classroom.