One of the evolutions of education is that students are now expected to know more than ever when they are in Kindergarten. As Dorothy Hall, author and educator, pointed out at the 2011 International Reading Association (IRA) Conference, just because they are expected to know more does not mean that they are developing any faster. “Now you actually have to teach [rigorously] in Kindergarten,” Hall said. This can pose a significant challenge for today’s Kindergarten teachers. Not only do they need to meet current standards, but they must meet them with students who are not, potentially, ready to learn them.
When it comes to learning words, many teachers turn to flashcards to help. Hall pointed out that flashcards, while good, are only good for your strong visual learners. They do not do much to help your other learners retain the information. So, how do you bring meaning to the words and make them easy for all of your students to remember? Hall suggested making the words meaningful to the students. “If it’s a special word to kids they learn it faster,” Hall said.
Incorporating pictures with the letters and words that you want them to learn is also important.While most students enter Kindergarten knowing up to 3,500 words, many students are sorely lacking in vocabulary skills, as well. Now in Kindergarten, students are expected to learn up to 100 words in order to pass on to the next grade. Expectations for students have surely changed.
Hall also pointed out that students remember words and letters that are linked to things. She suggested using the Getting to Know You activities at the beginning of the school year to kick off your Kindergarten Word Wall. Use students’ names and information on the wall. They are much more likely to remember the letter “G” if their name is “Gabriel”, for example. The more connected the words are to the student, the more likely they will be to retain them.
It is also important to teach students to figure out new words based on the words that they already know. Using a “Words We Know” journal goes a long way to helping students connect words to those they have experience with already. Not only are the journals perfect for everyday use with your students, they are also ideal for working with your RtI groups.
Tell us about your experience teaching words in Kindergarten!