When students at B.D. Somani International School start their Junior Kindergarten year, they are equipped to use their skills in communication to collaborate in an inquiry-focused environment. Junior Kindergarten is a half-day program while Kindergarten is full-day. As students grow older, we prefer for them to spend their time with us rather than their free time being filled with classes elsewhere. In both Junior K and K, we emphasise group work, collaboration and problem-solving and we continue to hone their communication skills.
When children come to school in the morning, they follow the familiar routines of unpacking their bags and gathering for circle time. Students take turns to read the agenda for the day, make the calendar announcements, count the students present and the number of days we have been in school. Circle Time might also include songs, story, a math problem and children talking about their weekends and interesting experiences.
After Circle Time, students might be engaged in Block Building time or in Work Time. With our wood blocks, Junior K students may begin the year building structures rooted in fantasy and imagination and, as the year progresses, they move on to more realistic buildings – school buildings, shops, banks, cinemas, police stations – buildings they encounter in their daily lives. They naturally want to explore and understand their world so many interesting questions lead to walking field trips to gather details and information – a few trips in Junior K and many in K. Toward the end of Junior K, children begin to enjoy putting signs on their buildings – exits, entrances, names, etc.
The block buildings lead to dramatic play where children take on the roles of people in their buildings. For example, if they build an ice cream stand they will sell ice cream to their classmates who become their customers. In Kindergarten, the buildings stay up for a week as detailed “accessories” are added and the play becomes even more complex. Money might be created and dispensed from a bank, fire companies will arrive to extinguish fires, restaurants will publish menus, tickets might be sold to the cinema and vegetables and fruits purchased from vendors.
Snack is an important time on the agenda because everyone enjoys opening their snack box to see what has been packed for that day. It is a social time, full of opportunity for verbal communication but might also include a story being read.
Work Time is when a variety of learning centres are provided – art, writing, handwriting, exploration, math, games, fine motor skill practice and reading. Children use different systems of choosing or signing up for their first centre out of four or five options and then move on to others as spaces become available. Teachers sometimes require students to visit centres that they don’t choose independently.
Writing is about expressing thoughts and feelings and telling stories. Often, in Junior K, a drawing is the initial writing with some marks that may represent words. Teachers often listen to the child’s verbal expression and then write these words for them. In Kindergarten, students add many of their own words to their drawings to create more detailed stories. This is an excellent and natural way for very young children to express their ideas. They ‘write’ about everything from what they ate for breakfast to something that caught their eye on the way to school. Often, children write a story in parts, adding pages or chapters to create a book.
Handwriting is a fine motor process, entirely different from the writing process which is about composition and expression. Junior K students practice the basic strokes required for letter and number formation – vertical, horizontal and circular motions are made in the air, in sand, on paper, on chalkboards. In Kindergarten, the Handwriting Without Tears program provides practice in all the letters and numbers.
An exploration centre may include objects from the natural world to examine and explore or activities that promote scientific observations of sinking, floating, magnets, etc. Children verbalize their explanations and hypotheses based on what they notice.
Reading is about experiencing the story. They take their cues from the pictures and make sense of the story. We read to them and ask questions later to encourage them to question what they have just heard. They also have a weekly story hour with Miss Liga, the Primary School librarian. The reading centre also includes alternative story endings and predictions. Children may begin “reading” stories through repetition and memorization of familiar stories and recognition of high frequency words around them. By the end of Kindergarten, the majority of children are decoding and reading many words and some may be fluent readers.
In Junior K, teachers sing with their students every day for fun and to introduce rhyming sounds, rhythms and interesting language. Students make some simple percussion instruments like shakers, clappers and kazoos. In Kindergarten, students start weekly sessions with the Music, Theatre and Physical Education teachers. They also practice yoga once a week.
Cooking, a much requested and favoured activity, happens often in both Junior K and K. Cooking involves concepts in science and math and practice in following and writing instructions and, of course, the end result is appreciated by all! It allows for discussions about health and nutrition. Students begin with simple items like salads and sandwiches, for which they learn to peel, chop and grate and they move on to recipes that involve mixing and cooking. They are introduced to different cooking techniques like boiling, steaming, baking. A visit to the school kitchen helps them to observe these processes on a large scale.
In all our classrooms, children are encouraged to deal with disagreement or conflicts themselves. It’s not uncommon to see a child reminding another of the class essential agreements that were collaboratively formulated at the beginning of the year. If there is a verbal or physical clash with a classmate, students are encouraged to figure out what happened, what feelings were involved and to find solutions if a similar situation were to occur again. Children feel safe to express their concerns because teachers listen and validate their feelings. Teachers use positive affirmations when asking children to maintain standards of respect and safety. For example, instead of “don’t run,” we say “use walking legs.” Teachers assist students in recognizing and naming their feelings as well as labelling words and actions as kind, unkind, caring, bullying, honest, dishonest, etc.
At B.D. Somani, students practice, hone and continually develop all the skills they learn in Junior K and K – communication, expression, observation, exploration, respect, problem-solving. Most important, they know that their feelings and questions will be heard and honoured and this gives them the confidence to question and explore deeper and wider as they grow older.
Scroll through the gallery below to learn more about how our Junior K and Kindergarten students go about their day at B.D. Somani. And we’ve bookended the gallery with photos of our Junior K and Kindergarten teachers, each of them passionate about guiding children’s learning endeavours in a meaningful way.