Kindergarten Literacy

By Sharlette Cullen, Kindergarten Teacher

This year will mark my twenty-second year as an elementary school teacher, and the magic of teaching a child to read is still alive within me. There is nothing more heartwarming than listening to a kindergarten student read a book aloud to you. It is one of the highlights of my day here at LCA. I consider it an honor to be able to unlock the joy of reading and love of books in my students. My students beg me to read “just one more chapter” of the Magic Treehouse books as a part of our daily routine. They simply can’t wait to hear what will happen to Jack and Annie next. It is in these moments, I know that I am helping to raise a reader.  

Literacy instruction includes a myriad of techniques and tricks in my kindergarten classroom. Literacy does just not pertain to a child reading aloud to me. It encompasses so many things: listening, dramatization of stories, speaking, comprehension, vocabulary, and writing. Kindergarten literacy instruction at LCA strives to show students the thrill of recognizing words in a print rich environment, the delight of learning in depth about pandas, the excitement of being teacher assistant and pointing to words in a class song, and the exhilaration of writing a personal message to a friend. We focus on letter names and sounds, phonological awareness, comprehending information read aloud, learning new vocabulary and, ultimately, reading simple books that build reading fluency. The most honored of our classroom jobs is that of librarian: that lucky student gets to choose what picture books we will read and enjoy.  

I listen to my students read to me each and every day on a one-to-one basis. Kind words and encouragement improve reading fluency as much as daily practice.  

Kindergarten literacy instruction is fun and engaging at LCA. Daily, my students delight in a variety of activities that allow them to fall in love with reading and books. I believe the most important job I have is to teach my students to love books and let them see all the amazing places that the pages of a book can take them. At the end of the year, I hope to graduate students who fall in love with books, again and again, for the rest of their lives.  

Is This Good?

By Dewey Kincade, Art, History, and Latin

“Is this good?”

That’s a question I used to get all the time from my students in art class. This year I began a policy of not answering that question. I told my students that I didn’t want to be the judge of whether a work of art is good or bad, and I’ve suggested that maybe they shouldn’t view their work as either good or bad. Last year, the primary students asked me that question a lot. In fact, some would ask me several times regarding the same piece. You might think that complimenting a student on their artwork would be a positive, but I began to think that I was inadvertently sending the wrong message: that the purpose of art was my approval. Now I just ask questions.  

It’s not that strange to think of art in terms of the finished product. Everywhere we look, we see finished works of art: paintings, photographs, music, and drama. What we typically don’t see is the process that yields these stunning results. When we see a movie, we don’t think about the countless hours spent writing the script, building the sets, rehearsing the scenes, and editing the takes. We simply try to enjoy it. Later when people ask, we might say, “It was pretty good.” We experience the finished work, and then we render judgment.

Art looks a lot different from the other side of the screen, or canvas. Art is messy. Art has a lot of dead-ends. I’ve spent hours on a particular project only to abandon the effort altogether. Some might see that as a waste of time, but I don’t. That’s because the finished result is only part of the equation. As important as the result can be, the process is where the creator spends most of their time. If you love only the result, you will find yourself frustrated time and time again. Ultimately, you may pack up your paint brushes altogether.

More students mentally pack up their paint brushes because they believe they lack talent. The myth of talent is a pervasive one in our society, but I do think it is a myth. What we see as talent is really just a love for the process. I don’t doubt that some people have genetic “gifts,” but these gifts are useless without a love of process. The “talented” kids are the ones who spend more time making art, and they do so because they love the process. The kids who are more results-oriented are the ones who tend to get frustrated. They quickly fill up the page, and they are constantly asking me what they have to do next.

There are a few mantras I repeat to encourage kids to get into the right mindset.

  1. ABC- Always Be Creating. Art is not an idea, it is an action. Put your pencil to the paper and start moving it, and don’t worry about inspiration. Sometimes an art exercise can be a springboard for something more satisfying.

  2. Art is not a race, it is a sight-seeing trip. There’s no prize for finishing first. If you’re doing it right, you might even feel sad when it’s all over.

  3. Focus on the page—Leave the world around you for a little while. It’s not going anywhere.

  4. In order to make good art, you have to be willing to make bad art.  When everything you create has to be good, you are unwilling to take chances. When everything you create has to be good, you will not try anything new, because you won’t know what you’re doing.

As a parent, I still compliment my children on their artwork from time to time, but that is only one of the ways that I engage with them. I also look at their artwork as an opportunity to engage with them about the process they took to create it. I ask them about their choices. I ask them what they were thinking about when they made it. I also make art with them, and I never hesitate to say about my own artwork, “I’m not happy about this, but I can always turn the page.”