Ready, set, learn
Kindergarten at Mesa Public Schools is the perfect jumpstart for student learning. Enroll now for Fall 2019.
On a cold January morning, Dr. Kathy Brotherton's Whittier Elementary students bundled up in jackets to visit a friend.
During a fall lesson revolving around the book Pumpkin Jack, the kindergartners had learned about the decomposition process with their class pumpkin. The students planted their decayed pumpkin in the preschool garden after writing to ask permission. To Brotherton's surprise, their own Pumpkin Jack had recently sprouted. "This is the first time this has happened," she shares.
Her students took turns looking deeply at the new sprout before walking back to class to complete a writing assignment based on their observations.
By recess, Brotherton's students had already experienced reading, writing, phonics, math and friendship skills - and this was all by 10:30 a.m. It's just another day in kindergarten.
Building a better future
Kindergarten forms the foundation for a student's school career.
"You're internalizing through experiences, ‘Am I good at school? Am I successful? Is this something where I fit in?'" Brotherton says. "This sets the trajectory for your school career."
Today's kindergarten is different than when Hale Elementary School's Melinda Knoles began teaching 25 years ago. "It's very academic," she says. "Back then we only did letters and sounds. Now we're done with the alphabet by November and starting to read and blend sounds. In reading, we talk about fiction and nonfiction, and students can tell you what the author and illustrator do."
By the end of the year, kindergartners acquire many skills to take to first grade, including adding and subtracting, counting to 100 by ones and 10s, reading and writing paragraphs.
Routine is key in helping kindergartners be comfortable to learn. Schedules include calendar time, reading and math lessons, small group work, recess, lunch, sharing time and specials such as PE, music or art. In Knoles' and Brotherton's class, students enjoy "free play" time with various educational activities throughout the room.
Social and sharing skills are a focus and prepare students for real life. "You learn to work with so many different personalities," Knoles says. "You learn how to get along with people, how to approach others and how to be able to say, ‘No, I don't like that.'"
Preparing students for a successful year
Giving students a preview of kindergarten by visiting campus and attending events before school starts helps students be at ease on their first day. Preparing emotional kindergarten parents is just as important.
"If you feel like crying, wait and go cry in your car," Brotherton says. "But it's important to show your child that you are confident they will be successful. Put a smile on your face and tell them, ‘I'll see you in a few hours,' then go do what you need to do."
Wilson Elementary Principal Shelley Heath advises parents to get involved. "Have lunch with your child and see what school's about," she says. "Ask them questions and let them tell you the great things that happen. Research shows that if you're involved and your child sees you at school, it will help build strong connections."
Not all parents have daytime availability to volunteer, so Brotherton often recruits parents to help from home by providing supplies or preparing materials.
"There are so many opportunities to be involved in meaningful ways," she says.
Kindergarten enrollment is now open for Fall 2019. Learn more and enroll online at mpsaz.org/kindergarten.
(Photo by Heidi Hurst/Mesa Public Schools)