Last March, we announced a change in our Kindergarten program that took it from a two-section, four-teacher model to one that has three sections, each taught by one homeroom teacher.  In this article I want to share news of our first year with this new structure.

Colorado Academy Kindergartners begin their day in “Morning Meeting,” seated in a circle with their teacher.  One by one, students greet each other by name, share news, do a short activity, and then launch into their busy day.  This Responsive Classroom routine, as well as the Closing Meeting at the end of each day, helps these 4- and 5-year-olds build a close and cohesive community of young learners.

With fourteen students in each group, the teachers are able to provide a level of personalized attention and academic instruction that happens best in smaller groups.  For young children, the smaller group size also facilitates social interactions and each child’s growth in that important domain.  According to teacher Christine West, “I see my class developing deeper friendships with each other because they have more opportunities to interact meaningfully with each other.  I also feel that my connection with parents this year is stronger because I know their kids so well.”

Our three-classroom model allows for continued low student-teacher ratios and provides greater autonomy and agency on the part of our experienced faculty.  While the teachers plan collaboratively and share ideas and materials, they each teach literacy and math to their own homeroom class.  According to teacher Sarah Ingham, “I’ve been pleased with the smaller class size.  It’s allowed me to have more one-on-one time with each student and tailor my instruction more specifically to their needs.  Children are definitely benefitting from the decision to have three smaller classes.”

Each classroom receives support from Math specialist Mary Singer; Literacy Specialist, Tina Rivera, and Reading Support Teacher Ana Dodson—who assist the teachers with curriculum delivery and with whole and small group instruction.  During any given week, these specialists can be seen in Kindergarten classrooms discussing lessons and modeling instruction with teachers and working with small groups of students.  Flexible use of our learning specialists has allowed teachers to seek the support they need when they need it to benefit student learning.

Our Kindergartners go to specials classes in science, technology, library, art, music, and Spanish in their homeroom groups, but the three classes combine for lunch, PE, recess, and often for Primary Lab.  This time together provides opportunities for students to expand their friendship circles within the class and engage in large group games and play, as well as take a break from their homeroom friends.

What hasn’t changed this year is that Kindergartners continue to be paired with third graders as buddy classes.   They attend every Lower School Town Meeting together and share special events, such as read-alouds and buddy snacks throughout the year.  Additionally, the traditional Kindergarten/Senior Buddy program is flourishing this year with seniors accompanying their Kindergarten buddies to all-school assemblies and sharing an activity with the Kindergarteners at least once a month.  These mixed-aged opportunities help strengthen our Lower School community and our larger school community.  For Kindergartners, there’s nothing as special as getting together with their buddies!

As Lower School Principal, I am pleased with how seamlessly the three teachers have adapted to having their own homerooms this year.  They support each other, work and laugh together, and create wonderful learning spaces for our Kindergarten students.  The entire Kindergarten teaching team—homeroom teachers, specials teachers, and subject-specific specialists—is attuned to this developmental age and deeply committed to the academic progress and social growth of their young students.  Learning, laughter, and play are the hallmarks of this year, and our three-classroom model embodies this so well.

I look forward to seeing these young students continue to grow and thrive over the next few months of this school year.  In May, we will celebrate their year at the Kindergarten Celebration, with songs and highlights of the year, followed by a light snack reception.  This year the event will be held in the Schotters Music Building on Friday, May 26, from 2:00-3:15 p.m.  More details about this event will come your way soon.