By Stephie Meadows, Kindergarten Teacher at The Langley School
Writer's Workshop publishing parties are among the most exciting milestones for our kindergartners. Our classrooms buzz with excitement as students eagerly await their turn to wiggle onto the share stool and proudly present their published book to the class. The writing they share has been carefully selected after weeks of brainstorming, peer editing, re-reading, and "fancying up" for this anticipated event. Our kindergartners are guided through the true writing process and learn to successfully plan, edit, and prepare an original piece of work that is then bound into their very own book.
I'm always struck by the growth I see from one publishing celebration to the next. Students begin the year sharing a simple story with scarce letters on a page and transform within just a few short months into confident, capable authors. Our end-of-the-year party reveals five- and six-page "how-to" manuals that students have thoughtfully constructed to serve as a teaching guide for their friends. Students listen carefully as their classmates' books teach topics such as how to make a pizza or how to be a sneaky little brother. These stories elicit many oohs, ahhs, and laughs from teachers and peers alike.
But what resonates the most about these shared writing experiences is not the cognitive growth that is so evident across the pages displayed, but the relationships that are subtly referenced throughout these kindergarten stories.
Our kindergartners' books tell tales of the playground slide police, their music teacher's Halloween costume, their favorite fall field trip, and their best friend's polka-dotted birthday cake. But it's not only the school stories that remind me of the unique bonds these children have made within the Langley community. The books that refer to a super-tidy grandmother or a dog that's "actually more like a brother" highlight characters and events we already know so well. All year, we've chatted over juice boxes and Band-Aid applications. We've listened to exciting weekend accounts during Monday morning meetings. We've shared stories and gotten to really know one another all year long.
A kindergarten student's "how-to" book in September
It's during these publishing celebrations, while listening to our kindergartners interact with each other through their writing, that I'm reminded of what makes these students' kindergarten experience unlike any other. The magic of Langley's kindergarten takes shape in one powerful word – relationships. Our students' immeasurable growth blossoms from the careful fostering of profound bonds all year long.
At Langley, we believe in utilizing kindergarten to ensure our students are ready for what lies ahead in their many academic years to come. In our classrooms, we watch children transform from timid observers into active participants, eagerly engaged throughout the school day. But what sets us apart is actually quite simple – our students are known.
We know the apprehension over that first soccer practice after school. We know the excitement of waiting for a favorite cousin to come for a visit. We know when learning to write the number 12 is overshadowed by the loss of a beloved goldfish. We know when rest time simply can't occur until the "I lost my tooth!" announcement has been made. In kindergarten, our days are guided by our deep respect for childhood and the many marvels it holds. We see self-assurance develop, curiosities ignite, and independence take form. Our team strives to savor each step of that journey with every child who enters our door.
As my students wrap up another writing unit in the coming weeks, I will again be reminded that the stories in their folders are far more than a writing assignment. These stories are the very reasons their year will be remembered – these are the stories that make up these kindergartners. These stories, whether they tell of a new puppy or a sick mother, are the threads that weave our classroom community together as one.
At Langley, we know our students – exactly where they are. This fundamental knowing provides the ability to construct a unique and intentional path that leads each kindergartner to his or her highest potential. Here, it's the relationships that hold the wonder of this vital year in every child's life.