After two full years of blended JK/SK kindergarten classes, we continue to hear questions about how the needs of students ranging in age by almost two years are being met by our teachers. At LHCS we are not content to simply do things the way we’ve always done them. Instead, we want to foster the discipline of ongoing evaluation, the openness to consider and test new ideas, and the culture of intentional, planned progress in all areas of our school, including curriculum and programs.
Stepping into Kindergarten B, one extraordinary answer can be observed.
In Kindergarten B, where a number of students are returning for their second year of kindergarten, teachers Mrs. Garden and Mr. Ekpenyong observed that some of the language activities were too simple for these students. “We noticed some of our students completing the work quickly and becoming bored with the activity”, Mrs. Garden explained. These students needed to be challenged.
And what better way to stimulate new learning than through a new language? While studying the same words as their classmates, some students were given the opportunity to learn the words using American Sign Language for the letters. They cut out a picture of a hand forming each letter, glue the hands in order on paper, and then practice making the letters with their hand to spell each word.
The benefits are numerous. Having the students participate in a variety of language activities challenges them in a number of ways: pairing a hand sign to each individual letter of the alphabet allows them to make a deeper connection with that letter; it allows them to view the word through different lenses; they notice new things about letter patterns, beginning and ending sounds: they are able to identify these clearly because their hand is gesturing. They are learning fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and are beginning to develop an understanding of diversity among individuals, as, this is how some people in our community communicate. In the words of one parent, “My daughter loves learning sign language. She’ll come home and start teaching it to her sister”.
“They work really hard at it”, Mrs. Garden says, “and they make the cutest faces when they’re concentrating on moving their fingers to go just the right way.”
Having an Educational Assistant in the classroom also makes it easier to identify students that are unique, either because they’re struggling, or finishing their work quickly. LHCS adds an EA to a kindergarten class once the class size reaches 16, and caps the KG class size at 21, part of our commitment to smaller class sizes.
As part of our mission at LHCS to advance dynamic, excellent Christ-centered education, we seek to guide each student to embody creation through their learning by encouraging them to be their best self. Within the classroom teachers are creatively challenging and enriching the learning process.