Hawthorn School District 73 has become a full day kindergarten center for all of its students. In the fall, close to 400 kindergartners will attend full day kindergarten throughout the district’s five elementary schools.
As part of returning its elementary schools to neighborhood schools, the district believed full day kindergarten was a vital part of helping children become successful life long learners. As a result, the Board of Education made a commitment to offering such a program to all its families.
“The more we do for children early in their education careers, the more it will sustain them throughout their academic career,” said Lisa Leali, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction. In keeping children all day, it allows teachers to probe deeper into the curriculum to help children master the basics of literacy and math skills,” Dr. Leali said.
“We believe that by allowing teachers to slow down and teach the material more thoroughly less time will be spent on intervention strategies as they move up through the grades,” she said. While each student is tested against his or her own abilities, teachers are expected to show that students have achieved a year’s academic growth from the beginning of the school year to the end of the school year using the district’s academic standards for kindergarten.
Kindergarteners will not be expected to know more material at the end of the year. But, it will allow teachers to help children adjust to school at an earlier age through learning through play. Children will also know expectations for hallway, cafeteria and playground behavior, an area first grade teachers won’t have to teach children.
What 20 year veteran kindergarten teacher Lisa Lasko loves about full day is the slower pace. She has been piloting full day kindergarten in District 73 for the past two years.
“There’s definitely more time to teach an integrated curriculum – at a child-centered pace,” Ms. Lasko said. A full day program allows for a more relaxed atmosphere and more varied experiences. She said it provides more opportunities for structured playtime. “At this age a lot of what children learn is through play and they can apply what is learned to their everyday experiences. They learn the proper way to ask for something. They learn how to resolve disputes over a classmate grabbing a crayon out of their hand or refusing to share a toy. There is time to teach what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behavior and the art of cooperation”.
Academically, Ms. Lasko believes children will be much more prepared for first grade because she has the time to offer small group and individualized instruction when needed and ensure students meet the academic benchmarks of kindergarten.
Of course Ms. Lasko watches for signs of when children need a rest or a break. Children will ask to go to the bathroom more frequently, act silly in their chair, get up for drinks of water, etc. Then the teacher will take a quiet music break, read a book to the class or take the children on a walk around the building to look at the changing seasons outside.
Parents should watch for communication from their child’s school about building tours. Parents will be invited to an evening program on the kindergarten program in the fall for their child’s school.