Edgewood Highland kindergarten integrates Boston program

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The two kindergarten classes at Edgewood Highland Elementary School are implementing a new integrated curriculum this school year, and they are one of three Cranston Public Schools that are participating.

“We participated in four full days of training, two days before school ended and two days during the summer,” said Dawn Renaud, one of two kindergarten teachers at Edgewood. “The training was through the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and included other RI public schools too.”

Renaud partners with Edgewood Kindergarten teacher Lynne Ryan, sharing a large, double classroom space for their nearly 40 full-day kindergarten students. Together they implement the program, utilizing a wide variety of support staff throughout the day as well.

“We are very fortunate with our classroom setting, it’s a fantastic space to do something like this,” Renaud said.

The program is backed by the most recent educational research in the area of teaching and learning, and is connected to the Common Core Standards, utilizing engaging, hands-on learning that connects students to the real world.

“It’s very structured, play-based learning,” Ryan said. “The biggest piece is the vocabulary and the authentic literature. The students also act out the literature, which is one of their favorite things to do.”

Both Renaud and Ryan say that both the parent and student feedback has been nothing but positive so far.

“The parents are loving it,” Ryan said. “We have a high population of English Language Learner (ELL) students and their academic vocabulary is already so evident. The students are very inspired by the literature and the illustrations.”

The program encompasses four in-depth units of study, which incorporate all curriculum areas and span a period of six or eight weeks each. The units are “Our Community,” “Animals and Habitats,” “Construction,” and “Our Earth.” Each theme builds on the skills from the last and the final theme concludes with a culminating project.

The program utilizes a set of classroom learning centers (blocks, reading, drama, STEM, art and writing), whole group instruction, small group instruction, writers’ workshop, storytelling and story acting, and math investigations, all of which all children participate in. The Cranston Public Schools currently utilizes Eureka Math for their math curriculum, so that is the program used in the classroom. Every center includes reading and writing materials and the students can move through the centers guided by both their interests and by whether or not space is available. Each student is given a clip, and if four clips are in place at a center, indicating that center is currently full, the students must find another center that has an open spot.

“We had to be okay with the mess, and the noise,” said Ryan. “I was nervous about the storytelling and story acting parts, we had never done that before, but it is the best part of our day.”

According to Renaud, the students dictate their stories to an adult, who writes it verbatim. At the end of the day, the classroom rug area becomes a stage where the students talk about how to bring their stories to life, from the characters to the setting to the props.

“It brings their vocabulary to life,” Ryan said. “It’s very cooperative and they really love it.”

The teachers are given a comprehensive plan to follow which is also available online, and gives them detailed roadmap for every day of the school year, guiding them through their instruction, classroom set up and thematic units.

“So far, it’s been amazing,” said Renaud. “We’re getting through all of the new routines. It’s only been a few weeks and we already notice things are running so much better. The program causes us to be very reflective and we talk every day about what we can do to make it better or to better support the kids. We’ve switched a few things.”

A community meeting takes place each day as well, and the students can offer feedback.

Parents are kept abreast of the classroom goings-on through Seesaw, a digital portfolio used to upload photos of students work and learning.

“We are not sending home worksheets and corrected papers at the end of every day for them to see,” said Ryan.

“The students can document all their learning, parents can see in real time what is taking place in the classroom, it gives parents a glimpse into their child’s day,” said Renaud.

The program will continue all year long, and will conclude with the students being presented with a task to create and build something that will make their community better.

For more information about the program, visit www.bostonpublicschools.org/Page/6402.

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