At STEM Magnet Academy, we, the Kindergarten teachers, strive to help our students become life-long learners and independent and thoughtful members of the STEM learning community. We recognize the vital role that kindergarten plays in the lives of both students and parents. In the kindergarten year at STEM Magnet Academy, we strive to create a solid foundation upon which students and families can build the rest of their STEM education. Kindergarten at STEM stands apart because our reading and math curricula are departmentalized. This means that the two kindergarten teachers specialize in one subject area – either reading or math – and work with ALL kindergarten students in this subject area. This specialization allows for intensive planning focused on student needs in reading and math, allowing for increased differentiation in instruction and student work. It also allows us to develop a close kindergarten community.
In a STEM Magnet Academy kindergarten classroom, students begin each topic with a mini-lesson that teaches or reinforces a skill, strategy, or concept in literacy, math, or social studies. Students then work in independently or in small groups to reinforce the focus of the mini-lesson. These independent and group practice times promote student independence and responsibility. By working in small groups, the students take ownership over their own learning, as they are responsible for completing a set number of tasks/centers during the week.
Independent work time creates an opportunity for the teachers to pull small groups to individualize learning in both literacy and math. While students work independently in centers, the teachers gather small groups of students with similar needs to work on teaching and reinforcing skills that are targeted needs of each student. By working with students in small groups, or one-on-one, we are able to monitor student progress and create curriculum that matches student needs.
At STEM, our Literacy program is based on a balanced literacy curriculum – encompassing phonemic awareness and phonics skills and comprehension strategies. Our goal is for our kindergarten students to be able to leave kindergarten as independent readers who can comprehend and interpret grade-level appropriate material. Additionally, the entire STEM learning community has a strong focus on Writer’s Workshop. We hope not only to develop and foster the love of reading, but also the act of being a proficient writer and author.
We currently use Math Trailblazers and have aligned it with the Common Core standards with daily foci on number sense and problem solving skills. Students work independently and in small groups daily, as well as assessed weekly on the current content. The year end goal for our kindergarten students if for them to be efficient, and quick-thinking mathematicians, utilizing skills that can be used daily for a variety of situations. In Social Studies, students learn different coping strategies to everyday problems, as well as brainstorming and building life long skills to apply to their daily lives as participating citizens in our communities.
At STEM Magnet Academy, we pride ourselves on creating a truly integrated curriculum. Teachers from Science, Engineering, Art, Physical Education, and Technology regularly work with classroom teachers to develop curriculum. This can be seen in our Problem Based Learning Projects that extend an entire quarter and in smaller classroom projects. In addition to working with our specialists, we also collaborate with our Reading and Math specialist and our ELL specialist to ensure that we are all working together to make our kindergarten students successful.