If you were to peek in on a kindergarten classroom, you might see the children gathered around the teacher on the rug, having a conversation or learning about a specific subject. You might see them working in groups on a common lesson. Or you might find what looks like a kind of happy commotion, with children moving about the room and engaging in individual activities.
What you may not realize is that each of these activities serves a specific purpose in the education of a kindergartener, teaching both academic and social skills by using engaging hands-on activities. These “fun and games” are instrumental in setting kindergarteners up for success in kindergarten and beyond. Keep reading to discover how kindergarteners at Mason Prep School participate in fun and games to build a strong academic and social foundation.
You might expect that a kindergarten math curriculum would include basic addition and subtraction, but young students also need to begin to understand broader math concepts like graphing, patterns, sequencing, and subitizing by using tools such as tally marks, ten frames, and dominos. Teachers use games to make learning these concepts fun.
Making Math Stew - Students in Mason Prep kindergarten teacher Caroline Thomas’ class make a “stew” as part of a math game. The student is given a recipe card which tells him or her how many of each ingredient to put in the stew. For example, to make a holiday-themed stew, students added peppermints, gumdrops, and icing (bits of yarn) to a pot according to the recipe. The student also writes the number of each ingredient used on a worksheet as a number sentence and adds them together.
Illustrating Math in Journals - Mason Prep kindergarten teacher Rett Fitts says her students love writing in their math journals. Ms. Fitts gives students a math word problem which they illustrate and solve three different ways in their journals. For example, one day’s problem asked how many girls were in the class. The student drew a picture illustrating the problem (he drew all seven of the girls in the class), and he showed the number seven as a digit, as a domino, and as part of a ten frame.
Learning to read is a challenging process where skills are mastered and built upon to arrive at those “aha” moments of being able to string together sounds to read words, then phrases, then complete sentences. Kindergarteners begin by learning to recognize letters and the sounds those letters make. They practice blending (building a word from individual sounds, e.g., sounding out “b-a-g” to form bag) and segmenting (breaking a word down into its individual sounds, e.g., dad is made from d, a, and d) to learn how letters come together to form words.
Baking Word Cookies - Mrs. Thomas uses a cookie sheet game (cooking is popular in her classroom!) to help students visualize words coming together. Students see letters on a card, sound those letters out to create a word, then find the corresponding picture on the cookie sheet and place it onto the card with their spatula. Students even get to wear a chef’s hat while they make their “cookies” – dressing up makes this activity even more fun.
Pictures Help Students Write the Room - As these skills are mastered, new games are introduced to build upon them. Ms. Fitts’ students engage in “write the room” activities to practice several literacy skills. She places pictures of things all around the room and gives students a worksheet to complete by visiting the pictures. For example, students may be given the words “mop,” “bat,” and “log” on their worksheet and asked to find pictures of things that rhyme with those words. Or, they might be tasked with visiting each picture and writing down the corresponding word and the number of syllables in that word. The students remain engaged in the task as they are up and moving around the room, going on a kind of scavenger hunt to find the pictures.
In addition to learning academic skills, building social skills is an important part of the kindergarten curriculum. Kindergarteners at Mason Prep practice the following skills each day:
- Time management
- Good work habits
These skills are taught through learning stations and classroom duties.
Learning Stations Offer Choices - Learning stations are many different activities that are set up around the classroom. For example, the learning stations one day might include an art project, reading, math journaling, and floor games. The teacher tells students that they must complete a certain number of activities by a designated time. The students, each held responsible for getting their work done, must use time management skills to figure out how to get their tasks completed within the time frame. They use a board and clips with their names on them to help them see which activities are available for them to visit (only a certain number of students are allowed at a learning station at one time).
“Allowing students to be self-directed and giving them the power to choose their activities teaches them responsibility and accountability,” says Ms. Fitts. “At the beginning of the year, they may only complete a couple of their tasks, but they quickly learn how to manage their time in order to complete all of them. It’s amazing to watch them mature in this regard.”
Class Duties Teach Teamwork - Kindergarten teachers also assign class duties to each student. The duties, which change each week, include greeter, flag holder, weather helper, and door holder, and students look forward to seeing which job they will be assigned.
“Students learn how to be a team, and that each person is an important part of that team – we need everyone’s help to make sure our classroom runs at its best,” says Mrs. Thomas. “Sometimes a student needs some help getting his or her job done. I love seeing students pitch in to assist their classmates when some extra hands are needed!”
Setting the Stage for a Love of Learning
Kindergarten is an important year as it helps to set the tone for a child’s academic life. Coming to school and having fun shows students that learning is enjoyable and puts them on a path to a lifelong love of learning. While teachers plan these games and activities with specific academic and social goals in mind, the students just know they are having fun – and, especially for kindergarteners, that’s what school should be about.