Junior Kindergarten Narrative Scope & Sequence: Literacy
Junior Kindergarten is an exciting year for reading and writing in that students learn structures, procedures, and routines that lay the foundation for their literacy journey at the Lower School. While the content of the curriculum is certainly different in Junior Kindergarten than it is in higher grades, the methodology and the delivery of instruction remain consistent from one year to the next. Within a Balanced Literacy model, the structure for both Reading and Writing Workshop is as follows:
Minilessons: Minilessons are focused and direct. They include one teaching point that is explicitly modeled and demonstrated. Children have an opportunity to explore and discuss the introduced strategy with their classmates before transferring it to their independent work.
Independent Reading or Writing: Students have opportunities to practice reading or writing independently as they learn new skills within any particular genre of study. For example, teachers may place various nonfiction books in a central bin during a unit devoted to nonfiction so that students have a chance to explore the genre on their own. During these independent work times, teachers bounce around the room, individually conferring with students and providing support wherever needed.
Partner/Teacher Conferences: Students have daily opportunities to meet with the teacher one-on-one to work on ways to improve their reading or writing skills. At the Junior Kindergarten level, conferences are always supportive in nature and are meant to boost students’ motivation and confidence for reading and writing.
Regardless of the unit of study, teachers provide occasions for students to be engaged in whole group instruction, small group instruction, individual instruction, and independent practice. Following are descriptions of some of the components used throughout each unit of study:
Word Study in Junior Kindergarten
As students begin to make sense of language and print in Junior Kindergarten, teachers introduce Words Their Way, a word study curriculum used at each grade level at the Lower School. This program utilizes various methods to help students make discoveries and generalizations about spelling. Word sorting is one of the fundamental elements of the curriculum and can be described as the process of grouping sounds, words, and pictures into specific categories. At the Junior Kindergarten level, most of the word sorting completed focuses on vocabulary development through concept sorts, alphabet knowledge, awareness of sounds, and the concept of words. With any new sort, the teacher directly and explicitly demonstrates the concept for the students. Students then independently practice using their word study concept in a variety of weekly activities that remain consistent throughout the year. This practice provides them with a foundation of word knowledge and also prepares them for the more sophisticated word study work they will do in later grades.
Centers/Small Group Work in Junior Kindergarten
A portion of the morning in Junior Kindergarten is spent in small-group centers, where students have opportunities to practice reading, writing, handwriting, and spelling. While some centers tend to be independent in nature (e.g., book browse), others require teacher direction (e.g., word study) and only occur when either the classroom teacher or the classroom aide is available to sit with the students to at as a coach. In each of the centers, book genres or concepts may change from week to week but the overall guidelines of each center remain static. The bulk of literacy centers in Junior Kindergarten are organized to expose students to various activities and to provide ample time for students to explore language and print. More than anything, centers are meant to instill in the students confidence and enthusiasm for reading and writing.
While not all students learn to read conventionally in Junior Kindergarten, teachers provide differentiated Reading Group time to give students the skills and strategies they need to become successful readers. At any time, one reading group may be working on directionality of print and the turning of pages while another may be working on word-attack strategies (e.g., “Look at the picture”) and ending punctuation. Because instruction is targeted to meet the needs of each individual learner, students progress at their own pace with the support of the teacher.
During independent reading times, students have the opportunity to browse books within the classroom library. As teachers get to know each student’s particular reading habits, they make book suggestions and encourage students to make appropriate selections for themselves as well. With time to explore and investigate, students are able to discover favorite books, authors, and sometimes even genres, and they are encouraged to share their findings with their classmates and teacher.
Another important goal for the Independent Reading time is to build students’ stamina for reading. Over the course of the year, Junior Kindergarten teachers encourage students to maintain focus while reading for longer and longer stretches of time.
In addition to the books used specifically for the Reading Workshop, teachers read numerous books throughout the school day. Often, read-alouds pertain to the weather, season, or a nearby holiday. Other times, they are chosen to support an interest or question that has come up in class. While meaningful discussions certainly come out of these read-aloud times, the principal purpose of reading aloud to the students so often is that it boosts motivation for, and a greater interest in, reading.
Handwriting Without Tears
Handwriting Without Tears, the handwriting program used at the Junior Kindergarten level, teaches students the capital and lowercase letter recognition skills they will need to be successful writers. The shapes, pre-strokes, letters, and numbers are introduced in a developmental learning sequence, and the approach is multisensory in that it teaches to all learning styles. In other words, students have opportunities to learn handwriting in visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic ways. The practice they are given in Junior Kindergarten allows these students to develop excellent printing habits and skills for the future.
Zoo Phonics is an essential ingredient in the Junior Kindergarten curriculum. It is a program that teaches students the appropriate sounds for each letter of the alphabet in a fun and stress-free environment. Students learn to associate the configuration of a letter with the picture of an animal (e.g., a snake slithers down the entire letter “s”). They also learn that the initial sound heard in the animal’s name is the same sound that the letter makes. With each letter, students are also taught a body movement that helps cement the phonemic information into memory. As the students get to know the animals connected to each letter, these critters become useful tools for the students to use in reading, spelling and writing.
Junior Kindergarten Units of Study include:
Building a Community of Readers
Books with Lists and Labels
Exploring Patterns in Books
Introduction to Nonfiction
Fiction: Character Study
Fiction: Theme-Courage and Friendship
Getting Ready for Writing
Building a Community of Writers
Launching the Writing Workshop
Writing Stories from our Lives
Sequencing events Across the Pages
Writing Nonfiction: “Expert” Topics, Writing About What They Know