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“Life is a joy, so should be learning.”

--Mae Carden

If you want to experience the joy and wonder of learning, take a walk through our kindergarten classroom. Our kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Crandall, was kind enough to provide a tour and speak about what makes the kindergarten experience so special and unique for her young students.

“These children are so imaginative and creative, and so sweet! They really love to learn,” Mrs. Crandall says. “Everything is exciting to them, and I love those aha moments in class when they learn something new, or they understand something.”

For our kindergarten students, one of the key aspects of the curriculum is learning the letters and numbers – not just how to write them, but what sounds they make. This phonetic training is the foundation for reading with rhythm and understanding, and it is something that the students practice each day.

“This is our spelling dictation, they are not shown these letters or words,” Mrs. Crandall says, displaying a page of carefully written student work. “I say the sound the letters make, and then they write down the letters. After that, I dictate words for spelling. Right now, they are working on the two-vowel rule, so they hear the word and spell it on the page.”

As the children learn the sounds of the letters and the blends, they are ready to begin learning to ready words and short sentences. Unlike other programs, however, at Carden we teach the children to not merely recognize words on the page – the students learn to read with comprehension, expression, and rhythm.

“One of the things I like most about Carden is that the readers do not have pictures in them,” Mrs. Crandall says. “When we are reading, I ask the students to close their eyes and describe what they see in their imagination … and most of the time, the students come up with pictures that are more interesting or beautiful than anyone could draw.”

The development of a child’s imagination and memory – what we call the “mental image” at Carden – is a critical step that leads to greater comprehension of the reading, greater appreciation for literature, and a stronger ability to remember what the child has learned.

“It is difficult for students who have not been trained at an early age to use their imagination,” Mrs. Crandall says. “It is almost like they have to retrain themselves in reading and picturing what they read.”

One of the best ways that Mrs. Crandall fosters imagination and creativity is through hands-on learning. Although this past year has made hands-on activities more challenging, she still finds ways to bring the materials to life for her students – creating authentic, real-world opportunities for her children to practice what they have learned.

“In math, we have been working with a number line outside, so the students can physically move up and down the number line, and jump on it, and practice counting and skip counting,” Mrs. Crandall explains.

While reading their Farm Book, the children learned about the reins of a horse – leading to several questions:

What do reins do?

How do they work?

“I can’t bring a horse into the classroom, so I was standing there trying to demonstrate, and comparing it to a dog’s leash … except it’s really not like that. So, finally, I put my purse straps around a stool and invited the students to come up one at a time, and we held the straps, or reins, and we pretended to lead a horse.”

One of the most exciting activities for the students now is checking on their class pet – another way that Mrs. Crandall has brought their reading to life:

“We adopted a calf, Buttercup, and we receive regular updates on her growth and progress. Her family sends us pictures – the children really love that she plays with a cat on the farm. And the students write letters to her family, telling them what they like about Buttercup or asking a question.”

Mrs. Crandall stops for a moment as we read the student letters.

She smiles.

“This is really a sweet age, and the children are learning so much. I just love teaching this class.”

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