12.08.14: Kindergartners experience success in full-day program
12.08.14: Kindergartners experience success in full-day program
Posted on 12/08/2014

They are learning to write their letters, count by ones and 10s, and identify word sounds.


They are also learning how to walk quietly in the halls, work in small groups, and balance a large spoonful of peas as they guide it from the lunch line onto their food trays.


Welcome to full-day kindergarten in the Puyallup School District.


The district expanded its free, full-day kindergarten program from three schools last year to all 21 elementary schools this fall to provide students with enriched and expanded learning opportunities.


With nearly 1,600 kindergarten students enrolled districtwide, parents, teachers, and district leadership educators report students are adjusting well to being in school for a full day and excelling in academics while developing social skills.


On a recent day at Meeker Elementary, kindergarten teacher Sue Field projected on an interactive white board the image of a worksheet given to each student at their desk to show them how to trace the letter “A.”


“I’m enjoying the extra time for the children to explore and learn more in all curriculum areas,” said Field, who has taught the youngest grade level for 28 of her 35 years of teaching.


In past years, Field said it was often a struggle to teach all of the curriculum material, which was designed for a full-day kindergarten program, into a half day of school.


“It has been a joy to allow children to slow down a bit and realize that childhood is a journey and not a race,” she said.


Ridgecrest Elementary kindergarten teacher Darcy McGinty said she, too, is seeing the benefits of a full day of learning.



“We have time to explore more math tubs, look at more books, and discover more science,” she said.



Andrea Stammen, whose son Axel is in Field’s kindergarten class, said she is happy the district opted to move to the full-day program. While her son came home tired in the opening days of school, she said he has since adjusted to the routine and enjoys kindergarten.



“I think the extra classroom time will give him an opportunity to learn more, especially by the end of the school year,” she said. “It also gives extra time for enrichment, like music, art, and activity time.”



Karshner Elementary kindergartner Kyrianna Ross can’t wait to go to school each day, said her mother, Emily. She has memorized the times she goes to library, P.E., and other school specialists and, at the end of the day, goes home and plays “school” in the evening.


Kindergarten teachers credit “Family Connections Meetings” — one-on-one meetings held the three days before school started — for helping to create a smooth transition into the full-day program.


The meetings between the teachers and families were an opportunity to get to know one another in a relaxed environment before the first full day of school, said Dana Harris, director of instructional leadership.


In addition to welcoming the student and family members, teachers were able to use the meeting time to do some basic skills assessments and update the student’s records with important details such as whether the child walks or takes the bus, has before- or after-school child care, or has allergies or other medical needs, Harris said.


Students also had a chance to see their classrooms and share about themselves, including whether they had siblings or a favorite pet at home.

“In those meetings we were able to learn more about our students and their families than ever before,” said Lorrie Hodge, kindergarten teacher at Karshner Elementary School.


McGinty added, “Kindergarten didn’t seem as scary to the students who were a little apprehensive.”


Vince Pecchia, chief academic officer of Regional Learning Community #1, said the meetings also helped parents start the kindergarten year “knowing they are a partner in their child’s education. It really personalizes the school experience with families.”


The district also prepared families for the full-day program by hosting kindergarten parent information meetings held last spring. The meetings featured information about what to expect in a full program and were an opportunity for parents to ask questions.


Research shows numerous benefits to a full-day kindergarten program. Children who attend full day spend 30 percent more time on reading and literacy instruction, for example, and 46 percent more time on math than children in half-day programs.


While numerous departments throughout the school district have worked together to implement the full-day program, credit for the smooth transition “really goes to the kindergarten teachers,” Pecchia said.


“They are working very hard to make this successful.”