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Kindergarten in action: A focus on literacy

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On the first day of kindergarten, we used Skype to connect with one of my student’s parents, explored our iPads and began learning how to take videos and photos. We shared what we were discovering during our first day together via Twitter. We explored our class blog, added a new book to our Shelfari and discovered a map of the world. My students asked why all the yellow triangles were blinking on the map. So we began to connect and experience the beginning steps of what it is like to be a safe, responsible and kind digital citizen as well as experience how to have conversations with others outside of our classroom.

Thinking simply…

1. Focus on a story that you will read.

Our first story was “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” After reading the story, I began to model ways they can have face-to-face conversations about what they saw and heard. I demonstrate “how to” turn and talk with a partner. My students then experience this through my explicit modeling. Later on, we have an opportunity to Skype about what we are doing. Through this type of interaction, I am giving my students another opportunity to share what they liked about the story as well as an opportunity to have a conversation with someone about what we are doing. Young children need lots of opportunities to use their oral language to develop their voice as well as build their understanding of what they are experiencing.

2. How will your students share and show what they understand?

Later, my students were able to paint their own caterpillar. Now I have another opportunity to create and design what my students remember from the story. We cut out our caterpillars and make a huge wall poster with our caterpillars and the title of the story. This poster is a way to begin to build an understanding of what it means to collaborate with others. Now we are ready to create a VoiceThread. I simply take a photograph of what we created and share with my students. Next, we create a voice recording with VoiceThread about what we notice. I model this by sharing my idea first. I will also share other VoiceThreads I have created. I want my students to know what it is going to look like and sound like first. Now we begin to share what we understand from a familiar story that we read together. My students have an opportunity to listen to others ideas and share what they notice through face-to-face conversations, as well as with a larger audience.

3. Who is your audience? How will you develop this with your students?

Now I am ready to share this VoiceThread with a larger audience. I email the link to parents to make comments. We tweet it as a class too in hopes that others who follow our class on Twitter will leave us a comment. Now the conversation begins and my students begin to experience the value of sharing their ideas with a larger audience. It is not the technology alone that is enriching and engaging, but what we are doing with it and how we are integrating technology tools throughout our day in regards to our learning.

4. What will this look like and sound like in your classroom?

My students have their own copy of the story and have created their own copy as well during our writer’s workshop time. I model explicitly what it looks like and sounds like when we read in partnerships. I use an iPad to video what I notice. Then, we watch the video together and I model: ”I notice…” and then ask for others to make observations. Now my students begin to experience how we use an iPad in a meaningful way to capture and share what I want to see. We take photos of what our bodies look like and sound like during our literacy time. These photographs become models in our classroom about what it looks like. My students begin to see themselves as writers and illustrators through this type of modeling. The iPad becomes integrated through a shared learning opportunity and experience. It is not earned, but rather available for everyone!

5. What do you think about the benefits from this type of experience?

I am modeling “how to” be a reader and a writer as well as “how to” create and design what my students are understanding.  My students have opportunities to have conversations with  each other and others about what they experience.  They are also interacting with text and begin to make connections.  Making connections is one of the first comprehension strategies I begin to explore with my students. Through this type of interaction and experience by sharing  a book, I am modeling the joy of reading and how much fun literacy can be.

I am modeling strategies that my students will begin using. They begin to explore the illustrations and experience how they can help you understand the story, listening comprehension through face to face conversations as well as virtual conversations and comments. My students are beginning to use a variety of tools to express their ideas and show what they understand.

My students are also beginning to experience what it means to be a digital citizen in a responsible way. I always bring it back to what we are learning and exploring.

Another important idea here for me is the idea of being transparent about how, why and what I am doing with my students in regards to learning. I want to model best practice experiences and strategies about “how to” become a reader and a writer. This is what it’s looking like and sounding like so far in kindergarten!

Sharon E. Davison teaches kindergarten at Allen Brook School in Williston, Vt. She recently was recognized as a VT IGNITED Teacher, an award given to teachers who are transformative and innovative. Read her blog and follow her on Twitter @kkidsinvt.