The First-grade instructional program at Villa Maria Academy Lower School is committed to helping each…
Many restrictions have hindered the opportunity to see what goes on in our classrooms live this year. So, we wanted to share the next best thing, inside looks from our teachers!
We caught up with our kindergarten teachers, Mrs. Kate Maurer and Ms. Tracy Ritter for a peek into their day and some fun facts about their classrooms.
“I absolutely love teaching kindergarten,” said Mrs. Maurer. “Being able to start those building blocks for the children as they learn all the new things that they will take with them as they move into older grades, it’s a wonderful thing.” One of her favorite things about teaching at Villa is the Catholic identity within the school. Each day, the students and teachers start their day by praying as a school community in the gym before beginning their studies. This year looks a bit different, as each class prays in their classroom, but at Villa, “the people you meet, the walls you walk, and in the classroom, you can feel your relationships with God building every day,” said Mrs. Maurer. “The girls feel it too.”
After morning work and prayers, students are eased into their day with morning meeting before beginning one of their AVC classes (Added Value Classes) in either library, dance, music, art, gym or Spanish, which rotate days. The girls really enjoy getting to express themselves in all of these different areas and cannot wait to attend their Added Value Classes.
They then transition into whole group ELA (English Language Arts) which is primarily based on phonics. Teachers work with students on sounds for every letter, every letter combination, and build on that for reading and spelling. The girls are also working on sight words. They frequently read books that have the sight words in them (everyday words such as “the” and “I”). With the goal of increasing fluency, the children learn not only to use their letter-sound recognition skills, but also to memorize more and more words on sight. This helps them to build sentences.
During this time, they also do a whole group read aloud focusing on comprehension skills, grammar and writing. The students explore all different types of literature, both fiction and non-fiction; and they learn how to make connections, make predictions, make inferences, and learn how to compare and contrast.
The teachers agreed that their small class sizes allow them to adjust the curriculum according to their students’ needs as they really get to know each girl and her learning style.
During Reading Workshop, students get to work with their teacher or independently (at their reading level) to focus on their reading skills. At an instructional level with the teachers, the girls learn to break down the different structures in the sentences and blend the letter sounds to make words. At the independent level, the girls are able to read and comprehend the stories on their own and are able to explain it to their teacher.
Whole group math is a review of previously taught skills and hands on practice of new skills and concepts. Kindergarten is a foundational year, and the girls are introduced to many math concepts. They start the year with number recognition. They ensure that the girls can identify, write and count. They then move into place value to understand the meaning of each number. Then the main focus of the year is on addition and subtraction. The girls are taught many strategies to solve these kinds of problems. The students also work on word problems so they can learn to think critically and explain their thinking. Children are also introduced to concepts like time, money, measurement and data. Teachers use many hands-on activities to help the children to understand these concepts and make math instruction more engaging.
Then it is time for lunch and recess, which is always a fun time for the girls to relax and enjoy time with their friends.
In the afternoon, the girls enjoy a little free time before transitioning into whole group religion. Catholic identity is very important at Villa Maria Academy. During religion, teachers are working to build that relationship through their Catholic identity. A lot of emphasis is placed on prayer. The children learn both formal and informal prayers (just talking to God). Teachers often bring students to the Oratory in school to do this. The girls will also learn about the lives of the saints and the lives of Mary and Jesus. Time is also spent on the Rosary. Students learn why they pray it, how they pray it, and how they can reflect upon it. Both teachers lead their students through guided reflection to help them to better understand how to reflect.
Then the end of the day alternates between science and social studies and centers.
Science in kindergarten is a lot of fun! The girls are given the opportunity to explore and experiment with different things in the world around them. There are four main units that are covered throughout the year: life science (plants, animals and humans), an introduction to physics (force and motion), seasons and weather, outer space (planets, constellations, and all things out of this world). The children even learn about the scientific method in kindergarten! They will learn to make a hypothesis and guess what is going to happen in their experiment. They will learn to observe their experiments and record their data.
In Social Studies, kindergarten students touch up a little bit of everything. They begin the year learning about their school and local community, the first Thanksgiving, Christmas around the world, and our country, the history of the United States, American symbols, women’s history and the continents. Students travel all around the world virtually to learn about the seven continents.
During centers, the teachers focus on a mix of independent work for both ELA and math that reinforces the skills that each teacher taught that morning to help the students master them. There are many hands-on activities and students rotate every 10 minutes to a new center. This also helps the teachers to drive their instruction: to know if they must re-teach, know where they can enrich students, or if students are all on the same page and same level, know how the teachers can go a little deeper into that topic.
Technology is used to enrich the curriculum where appropriate. Each classroom is equipped with a SMART board, and each student has their own school iPad with many apps they can use during whole group and center time. There are also education games as well on the iPads that students can play during their free time.
“Working at Villa has been such a wonderful experience,” said Ms. Ritter. “The environment here is so warm and inviting. All of the teachers and staff are so supportive and friendly. We really get the chance to see each student as a unique individual, capable of great things.”
If you want to learn more about kindergarten at Villa Maria Academy Lower School or chat with one of our teachers, please contact our Admissions Office at (610) 644-4864 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.