The Pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten years are crucial as a solid foundation for future success in school. It is here that children establish the learning habits that will assist their emotional, social, intellectual, and physical development. During these years, children have more linguistic agility than at any other school age, and are receptive to learning more than one language at the same time. We hope to optimize learning during this stage in the school.
It is important to provide students with a positive and supportive learning environment within which they can develop their learning capacities with body, mind, and spirit. The Saturday School creates an atmosphere where children feel that the classroom is an extension of their homes – nurturing, stimulating, and comfortable.
Children are naturally curious and learn through play and inquiry. They learn when they are ready to learn and not before. Our kindergarten teaching approach is child-centered where children are encouraged to start individual activities. Therefore, their environment is full of interesting and stimulating materials in different colours, shapes, smells, textures, and sounds. These do not have to come in forms of elaborate toys but rather in simple things such as books, paper, wood blocks, fabrics, crayons, plants, etc. At all times, in the classroom or in the yard, regardless of the activities, students are engaged in their learning.
It is the responsibility of the teacher to develop a growing repertoire of teaching strategies and Armenian language learning activities that support different learning styles and stages of language development. Some examples are experiential or action learning, collaborative or peer learning, scaffolded or supported learning, peer learning, interactive or group learning, and emergent or open-source learning. Below describes these examples:
– Experiential learning is achieved through hands-on activities, games, role-playing, out of classroom explorations, art projects, etc.
– Collaborative learning promotes group work in the classroom. Students and teachers can collaborate in brainstorming before a group project, in problem solving for group activities such as writing and rehearsing a drama, preparing posters of family trees, a doll making project for the Armenian Culture Day, creating costumes for Vartanants, making posters for April 24.
– Scaffolded learning builds on prior knowledge, and presupposes an understanding of the ccurrent level of a student’s language skills. The method is used to incrementally improve students’ ability until they no longer need assistance to learn independently.
– Peer learning is assisted and supported learning. The support may come from a teacher, a volunteer, or a peer. This method is successful when more advanced students are paired with those who are lagging behind. Almost always, students are more open to learning from their peers.
– Interactive learning occurs when students are grouped to work together, to discuss topics, to role-play, to create art, etc. Lectures are transformed into discussions, students and teachers become partners in the journey of acquisition of knowledge. This method promotes active participation among students; the teaching model is learner-centered rather than teacher-centered encouraging imagination and strengthening students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills.
– Emergent learning is student-led learning. The teacher’s role is to create the opportunity and the environment for students to become interested in a topic or a project and then to guide and to scaffold students’ learning. Teachers can conduct preference assessments by identifying students’ interests and/or through consultations with students.
In all situations above, a multi-sensory approach to learning and teaching is encouraged, such as visual learning through arts and crafts, auditory learning through music and storytelling, and kinesthetic (tactile) learning through physical activities.
Interdisciplinary and thematic teaching is also very useful, and can be accomplished in ways such as teaching the history of the Armenian people through art, music, geography, or drama.
Social learning is the first step to academic learning. Teaching and learning is a partnership. We teach effectively when we partner with colleagues. Similarly, children learn successfully when they are partners with peers and adults. When we work interdependently and when partnerships are established between students, teachers, and parents, the level of learning and retention is much higher. At Saturday School we are learning partners.
1. Kindergarten teachers plan programs that allow children to achieve social, emotional and academic development. Children’s needs are addressed holistically so that they are engaged more fully in their learning and become more successful as students.
2. We are mindful of the fact that most students’ first language is English, not Armenian. We create language learning classrooms by providing children with a variety of opportunities to communicate with their peers through listening, talking, and practicing language and literacy skills taught during the lesson. The foundation for literacy is Oracy, which focuses on talking and listening.
3. Children in kindergarten bring their unique and diverse capacities and tacit (background) knowledge into the classroom. Therefore, teachers are prepared to accommodate learners with varying stages of language skills and literacy in the same classroom. If some children demonstrate lack of progress or others excel quickly, teachers modify their expectations accordingly. This may mean offering exercises at a basic, intermediate, and advanced levels.