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How Does Alternative Kindergarten Personalize Learning for Students?

One of the biggest milestones for a student in the Marysville Exempted Village School District is entering Kindergarten. Starting August of 2019 at Mill Valley Elementary, MEVSD began offering an Alternative Kindergarten option to offer parents choice around which kindergarten option is best for their child. 

While both Kindergarten programs offer all of the academic and social experiences of the traditional path, Alternative Kindergarten provides a personalized pace to learning even more. It’s program offers a unique solution for students and is an additional way MEVSD is working to meet the needs of every student. 

By incorporating Alternative Kindergarten, our district has increased the length of kindergarten program from one year to two. The goal in taking this developmental approach for students is to offer even more personalization in developing socialization and self-regulation skills. Additionally, a team at Mill Valley, developed a learning continuum that highlights academic standards from the Kindergarten curriculum. 

The team chose to personalize the scope and sequence, to provide different opportunities for continued growth and development. The continuum has a heavy focus on Phonemic Awareness, Concepts About Print, and basic math concepts that support counting, identifying, and classifying objects and numbers. These specific, global opportunities are essential for students to put their learning into action. 

Like all personalized learning environments at Mill Valley, teachers offer choices, and students, over time, make more of the decisions about what, how, or even where they will learn. The first step to personalized learning is knowing your students. Allowing the time for students to reflect on how they like to learn, how they learn best, and where they do their best learning are some of the practices implemented to help students learn about themselves. While it is important to know the student interests, strengths, and dislikes, explicitly teaching students to reflect on these ideas, has an even bigger impact as a learner.

Above the Alternative Kindergarten reflection data shows how students like to learn, where they do their best learning, and what they like most about school. 

Specifically to the Alternative Kindergarten classrooms, the team set core curriculum pieces to enhance specific Kindergarten Learning Standards. In addition to academics, an emphasis on the social-emotional development of students is another focus. This includes self-regulation skills, the expression and management of emotions, learning appropriate classroom behaviors, showing empathy for others and establishing and maintaining positive relationships.

Developing these skills in our students is an important part of meeting the needs of the whole child with the understanding that each child will develop at his or her own rate. Work around the Early Learning and Development Standards and the K-12 Social and Emotional Learning Standards are happening across the district.

Currently, social and emotional domains are being integrated into daily, literacy components. One tool that allows for personalization for students is Interactive Read Aloud. Interactive Read Aloud provides students the opportunity to  listen and talk about books. Conversation is invited from cover to cover, to heighten understanding across the text. Not only do students grow background knowledge about universal concepts, they enhance their imagination and curiosity while experiencing language that requires them to make sense of ideas. 

The teacher models throughout to specifically teach students about the structure and comprehension of books. Books are strategically chosen based on student needs, curriculum focuses, and social and emotional development

Interactive Writing is another cooperative instructional activity used in the classrooms. Together, the teacher and students, jointly compose and write text. As the class works together to compose a sentence, individual children take part in writing single letters or words on a chart in front of the classroom.

Through questioning and direct instruction, the teacher customizes even more with skills like the conventions of print, as the spaces between words, left-to-right and top-to-bottom directionality, capital letters and punctuation. This individualized modeling and support helps students develop an understanding of the structure and function of print. Writing their own name and other meaningful words are two independent examples to support mastery with these skills. 

Centers are used daily to allow voice and choice with student learning. Centers give student’s independent practice time, while allowing time for more individualized attention while working with the teacher in small groups. The integration of literacy, math, science, social studies, fine motor, and play also happens during center time. 

Scheduling is also personalized to afford students reading and technology experiences. Both Library and Technology classes are offered twice a week. Early reading in Library helps students establish a love for reading and typically have a higher aptitude for reading in general. 

Technology class will offer different types of technology that appeal to various learning styles From iPads to Chromebooks, coding games and Interactive White Board work, for Alternative Kindergarten students will eventually have choice to select programming specific to their learning.

As we continue with the 2019-2020 school year, we look forward to providing this global personalization with individualized needs. The Alternative Kindergarten program strives to nurture students’ academic, social, and emotional needs.

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