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What Should Be Learned in Kindergarten?

Most American children attend kindergarten, and many participate in all-day kindergarten programs. While recent reform efforts have focused on extending the kindergarten day, research suggests that how kindergartners spend their time may be more critical than the amount of time children spend in class. In other words, longer kindergarten days in unsuitable activities yield no educational advantages over the traditional half-day kindergarten program.

What Are Appropriate Teaching and Curriculum Approaches for Kindergartners?
Early childhood and kindergarten specialists have long emphasized the central role of play in young children's learning. In the course of day-to-day experience with young children, it is easy for teachers to see that spontaneous play is a natural way of learning; observations of children's play reveal that play provides a wide range and real depth of learning in all domains of development: physical, emotional, social, and intellectual.

However, it is just as natural for young children to learn through spontaneous investigation (close observation, experimentation, and inquiry) as through spontaneous play. Many observers have noted that young children are natural scientists and anthropologists. They devote substantial portions of their seemingly endless energy to learning all aspects of the culture they are born into: they learn its language, stories, music, and literature; they investigate with all their senses and emerging skills what people mean, when things are appropriate and when they are not, where things come from, what they are for, how they are made, and how adults and peers respond to them. They try to make sense of common objects by prying into them, taking them apart, and manipulating them in a variety of ways. Appropriate curriculum and teaching methods include activities and encouragement for kindergartners in these quests and feature the importance of individual children's feelings and emotions in group settings.

The Kindergarten Curriculum

The developmental characteristics of children of kindergarten age call for a curriculum that involves a variety and balance of activities that can be provided in the context of project work (Katz and Chard, 1989). For example, kindergarten children can undertake projects in which they investigate a real event or object. In the course of such projects, the children will strengthen emerging literacy and numeracy skills and their speaking and listening skills and acquire new words as they share their findings with others.

A good curriculum provides activities that include:

Integrated topic studies, rather than whole-group instruction in isolated skills;

Opportunities for children to learn by observing and experimenting with real objects;

A balance of child- and teacher-initiated activities;

Opportunities for spontaneous play and teacher-facilitated activities;

Group projects in which cooperation can occur naturally;

A range of activities requiring the use of large and small muscles;

Exposure to good literature and music of the children's own cultures and of other cultures represented in the class;

Authentic assessment of each child's developmental progress;

Opportunities for children with diverse backgrounds and developmental levels to participate in whole-group activities;

and Time for individuals or small groups of children to meet with the teacher for specific help in acquiring basic reading, writing, mathematical, and other skills as needed.

A major challenge for schools concerned with the best use of children's time in kindergarten is the provision of meaningful teaching and learning activities. The wide range of physical, social, and intellectual characteristics represented in a group of contemporary beginning kindergartners makes an informal, flexible approach to the kindergarten curriculum necessary.

Where Can Parents Find Out More About Kindergarten Practices?

ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education
University of Illinois
College of Education
805 West Pennsylvania Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801-4897
(217) 333-1386 (800)438-8841

National Association for the Education of Young Children
1834 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20009-2460

Association for Childhood Education International
11501 Georgia Ave, Suite 315
Wheaton, MD 20902


Abstracts of the following journal articles and documents are available in the ERIC database. Journal articles, marked with EJ, can be found at most research libraries. Documents, marked with ED, can be found on microfiche at more than 900 locations or ordered in paper copy or microfiche from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service. Call 1-800-LET-ERIC for more details.

Karweit, N. (March 1992). "The Kindergarten Experience: Synthesis of Research." Educational Leadership, 49 (6), 82-86. EJ 441 182.

Katz, L. G. (1989). Pedagogical Issues In Early Childhood Education. ED 321 840. Katz, L. G. and S. D. Chard (1992). The Project Approach. ED 340 518.

Katz, L. G. and S. D. Chard (1989). Engaging Children's Minds: The Project Approach. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Moyer, J., H. Egertson, and J. Isenberg (April 1987). "The Child-Centered Kindergarten: Association for Childhood Education International Position Paper." Childhood Education, 63 (4), 235-242. EJ 357 171.

National Association for the Education of Young Children (January 1988). "NAEYC Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice in the Primary Grades, Serving 5- Through 8-Year-Olds." Young Children, 43 (2), 64- 84. EJ 365 176.

Written by Lilian G. Katz, Director, ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education.

Teaching Numbers

Number 1
is like a stick
A straight line down
that's very quick!

For number 2
go right around
Then make a line
across the ground!

Go right around
What will it be?
Go round again
to make a 3!

Down and over
and down some more
That's the way
to make a 4!

Go down and around
Then you stop
Finish the 5
with a line on top!

Make a curve
Then a loop
There are no tricks
to making a 6!

Across the sky
amd down from heaven
That's the way
to make a 7!

Make a "S"
And then don't wait
Climb up again
to make an 8!

Make a loop
And then a line
That's the way
to make a 9!

Make a 1
and then an "o"
10 are all your fingers
you know!

Learning the Alphabet

School time, learning time,
For you and me.

H I J K L M N O P,
Recess time, book time,
For you and me.

Q R S T U V,
Gym time, sing time,
For you and me.

X, X and Y and Z
I'll really be tired
When I go to bed.

ABC Chant A - B - CDE (Teacher)
A - B - CDE (Students)
Grade One is where I want to be. (Teacher)
Grade One is where I want to be. (Students)

F - G - HIJ
Learning to read and write each day.

K - L - MNO
Many boys and girls we know.

P - Q - RST
Sharing books with you and me.

U - V - WXY
Now it's time to say good-bye.

Z - Z - ZZZ
Grade One is where I want to be.
(or, with the zed sound -)
Z - Z - ZZZ And the letters are in my head.

Teach the Alphabet and Sounds with Bingo cards. Create your own here.

Alphabet Art

Here are a few fun mediums you can use to help your students form Letters of the alphabet.

Pretzel Dough
Break off a small peice of refridgerated French bread dough and roll it into a long snake. Then shape it into letters and place on a greased tray. In a bowl stir egg white from one egg with a tablespoon of water. Brush each letter with the mixture, then sprinkle coarse salt on top. Bake the letters in a 350 degrees fahrenheit oven for fifteen to twenty minutes. Cool then eat.

Peanut Butter
Mix 18 oz. of peanut butter, 6 tablespoons of honey, and enought non-fat dry milk until you get a workable dough. Add a bit of cocoa for flavor and this dough is ready to shape into letters and eat.

Pop up a big bowl of popcorn. Ask students to write out the letters on a piece of paper, and then glue the popcorn on the paper, following the shape of the letter.

Give students a long piece of yarn and cut and shape it into letters on a piece of paper. When they are satisfied with their end products, ask them to glue them on a piece of paper.

Shaving Cream
Spray a small ball of shaving cream on each student's work area. Ask them to use their fingers to make letters out ot it. Make sure that you remind them not to put it in their mouths!

Plastecine Letters
Roll out plastecine into a long snake, then form letters.

Ask students to write out a letter on a piece of paper and trace it with glue. Then throw glitter on it and shake the excess glitter off.

Collect a variety of leaves. Ask students to write out a letter on a piece of paper and trace it with glue, then glue leaves overlapping eachother in the formation of the letter.

Ask students to form letters, using an icing bag, on top of cupcakes.

Glue cereal pieces into the shape of letters.

Glue pasta pieces into the shape of letters.

Blue buttons into the shape of letters.

Dip paint brushes in water and "paint" letters onto a blackboard or a piece of construction paper.

For More Alphabet Related activities visit our Wee Family Web Site

Color Song

Orange is a carrot,
Yellow is a pear,
Green is the grass,
And brown is a bear,
Purple is a plum,
Blue is the sky,
Black is a witch's hat,
And red is cherry pie.


Yellow is a star.
Yellow is the sun.
Yellow is the moon,
When the day is done.


Orange is an orange.
Orange is a carrot.
Orange is the colour
of the beak of a parrot.


Blue is the ocean.
Blue is the sky.
Blue are the blueberries
I put into the pie.


Pink skies
and butterflies
are truly a
sight to see,

Grapefruit pulp,
the salmon's flesh,
in a vase,

Pink elephant
with candy
as the cause.

Stop and think
about the pink
that's everyday
around you,

Ballerina sister,
a bouncing twister,
around the house
in her tutu.
-james hörner


Green is grass,
String beans and peas.
Green are the branches
on Christmas trees.


Green is the grass
and the watermelon skin,
fourth colour in the rainbow,
the emeralds in a ring.

Bright green apples
are bitter to the tongue,
but spinach and broccoli-
I eat them up yum!

Green mold is medicine
known as penicilin,
and water fights with
green balloons sure are thrillin'.

Green means go
when driving, beep! beep!
and green lily pads
are where the frogs sleep.

For flowers and trees,
and the prickly cactus too-
green is important,
as it is for me and you.
-james hörner


Red is an apple.
Red is a cherry.
Red is a rose.
And a ripe strawberry.


The fireman's hat
is too big for my head,
so I wear a red bucket
when playing, instead.

Red ruby treasure
on Valentine's Day,
with imagination
it's "Pirates" we play.

Your nose turns red
when it's cold outside,
and sometimes too
when you're sad inside.

Some girls wear red ribbons,
bows tied in their hair,
while eating red berries
is the big, black bear.

Hearts are red on cards,
and also in your chest,
red is the colour
that I like best.
-james hörner

(can be sung to the tune of Three Blind Mice)

R. E. D.
R. E. D.
Red is the word
Red is the word
Apples and strawberries both are red
Tomatoes and cherries both are red
R.E.D. spells
Red, red, red.


Puple are grapes.
Purple are plums.
Purple is a violet.
And the bruise on my thumb.

Making Music

Small tuna or cat-food cans
Large, round balloons
A small board (like a bread board)
A pair of scissors
Uncooked macaroni

Pour 20 or 30 pieces of macaroni in the can.
Cut the neck off a balloon and stretch the baloon over the opening of the can. Pull it tight by putting the can on the far side of a board and pressing your chest against the near side. Have a helper keep the balloon drum head in place by wrapping tape around the sides of the can. Decorate as desired.

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