Author: Kathleen Mulroy
“The event I wrote about was ‘Halloween Night!’” five-year-old Jacob says proudly. This Hope Elementary School kindergarten student not only understands what an “event” is, he also knows how to sequence when writing a sentence. “First I went to a parade. Then I went trick or treating. Last I went to bed.” These are pretty big concepts for such a little guy! How did he learn them in just the first quarter of school?
As teacher Jennifer Shelton explains, such accelerated learning is possible because Jacob is attending Hope Elementary School’s all-day kindergarten class. This pilot program is the result of Lake Pend Oreille School District support as well as a grant Mrs. Shelton received from the Panhandle Alliance for Education. All-day kindergarten means that – along with twelve other children – Jacob is reaping the benefits of more classroom time and more teacher attention.
More time and attention means children are “able to go deeper into the learning experience,” says Mrs. Shelton. “When these children are together for a full day, they are able to slow down and get a chance to make connections between and apply what they are learning.” She adds, “And now they have time for the important “extras” – the school library, music, technology, and even going to the restroom without having to hurry!”
While half-day kindergarten is adequate for many children, being able to go to school a full day is a wonderful learning opportunity for all new students. It’s especially beneficial for those who did not attend preschool or whose home environment may not be especially enriching. Perhaps most important for these children is that being in an all-day school environment helps them develop the desire to learn. That desire is essential to school success.
Mrs. Shelton tells about a little boy who started the year not knowing he should even want to learn, because he’d never felt the rewards that come from learning. His skill levels were non-existent, including the ability to follow directions. After a quarter of all-day kindergarten, he now feels he has the ability to learn, and to use that learning. Mrs. Shelton says, “His skills are developing by leaps and bounds, along with increased self-confidence and a genuine excitement about being in school.”
Children in all-day kindergarten are exposed to more academic language, more conversations and more writing opportunities. Mrs. Shelton notes that they help each other more, and they learn to accept differences among themselves. Also, they are beginning to understand how to prove concepts through using evidence; an important component of the Idaho State Common Core Standards.
Mrs. Shelton knows how much children’s skills improve in an all-day environment because she tracks her students’ progress in weekly individual assessments, which she then shares with the parents. She says the growth she is seeing after one quarter of all-day school would not happen in half-day students until the third quarter of school. This type of growth is very exciting. “Seeing these children becoming part of a learning community and developing a sense of pride and worth – that’s what makes a program like this so rewarding.”
The Panhandle Alliance for Education is a nonprofit organization composed of local citizens, businesses and educators. The mission is “to promote excellence in education and broad-based community support for the Lake Pend Oreille School District. As an independent organization, we will create and sustain an endowment to provide resources in support of effective teaching, learning and school management.” Donations are distributed as a working pool of money used to fund teacher grants, READY! for Kindergarten and other strategic programs. To learn more about PAFE, or to make an on-line donation, visit our Facebook page or go to the website – www.panhandlealliance.com. You may also call the Executive Director, Marcia Wilson, at 208-263-7040.