Taking a peek at the new full-day kindergarten
The new full-day kindergarten program kicked off last week in the Park City School District.
Earlier this year Student Services Director Tom VanGorder reported that students who participate in full-day kindergarten perform better than those who do not. His findings were based on observations from last year’s pilot program at McPolin Elementary School.
The program debuted at McPolin last September, and this year the district decided to expand the offering to all four elementary schools.
Kindergarten teacher Lana Youngberg at Parley’s Park Elementary School said things are going well.
"I’m really happy with my little group," she said.
Each class is limited to 20 students, 10 who have been identified as at risk children in need of extra help and 10 who pay tuition. The program is also funded in part by the Park City Education Foundation.
Teachers from around the district met for at least a year, making plans to use the same curriculum and weighing options about how to structure the day, Youngberg said.
After many preparations the program is now in full swing.
The biggest challenge Youngberg said is keeping the students engaged from 8:15 a.m. to 3:05 p.m. She observed that students who have already participated in preschool or other programs such as Head Start have a less difficult time adjusting to the school routine.
One of the ways she keeps the attention of students is through frequent breaks and lots of time outside.
"It’s an active age and they need to move around," she said.
Their full schedule includes math, shared reading, learning the calendar and other structured lessons along with lunch time.
The first month or two, said Youngberg, will be spent getting to know the students and assessing them to see what they need to learn.
For some of the students this includes the English language. Youngberg notes Kindergarten is an excellent grade for children to do this because it is a time when all students are working on vocabulary and phonics.
"That’s what they really need when they come in is vocabulary," she said of the English Language Learners in her class.
Spanish is also worked into the lesson as Youngberg teaches them days of the week and names of months in Spanish.
She also employs a unique trick that she says helps the ELL students, Youngberg uses a microphone. It not only saves her voice, but she said the students pay attention to her more readily and those that do not already know English learn it a little more quickly.
When she had a hearing impaired student in her class one year Youngberg began using a microphone and noticed it made a difference in student performance. She has used one ever since.
Besides language lessons, Youngberg said another advantage is getting to extend other activities such as reading, writing or math.
They engage in physical education, music, reading, time spent in the library or computer lab and meeting with a counselor to help them with life skills such as getting along and making friends.
While it is cliché, Youngberg said it is true you learn everything you need to know in kindergarten including how to take care of yourself, be kind to others and enjoy the world around you.
"It’s a fun age to work with because they’re eager to learn," she said.
The students make a tremendous amount of progress over the course of a year in kindergarten. She often keeps portfolios of student work throughout the school year and said there is a huge difference between work they do in September versus the work they complete closer to summer.
"My main goal is to help them enjoy school, make them feel good about themselves and make progress," she said.
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