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Work cultivates young minds in Tri-State

May 05, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

Friedrich Froebel invented kindergarten - German for "children's garden" - in 1837. He used balls, blocks, tiles, rings and other common objects to teach lessons through directed play, according to a Web site devoted to his life.

At a time when children younger than 7 didn't attend school, students in Froebel's kindergarten classes explored nature, math, art and abstract concepts, such as self and unity, through play.

More than 160 years later, teachers are using liberal doses of work to cultivate minds in Tri-State kindergarten classes.

Kindergarten is packed with reading, writing and math - lessons that teachers say used to be taught in first grade or later.


Berkeley County, W.Va., has full-day kindergarten throughout the school district.

Pam Gess, who teaches at Gerrardstown (W.Va.) Elementary School, said her class starts with lessons in numbers - greater than, less than, measuring with a ruler. Later, students work on fractions, addition, subtraction and multiplication.

She said that working with money has helped them count to 100 by ones, twos, fives and 25s, and to learn the ones, 10s and 100s columns.

Gess said her students also work on reading comprehension, oral questions, short books, punctuation, spelling and writing. She rotates in lessons about science, social studies and health, and sets aside time for art, music or physical education.

Students also get lunch, recess and a snack.

Kindergarten at Summitview Elementary School in Waynesboro, Pa., is half a day - from about 8:45 to 11:30 a.m.

Typically, class starts with a look at the calendar and the weather and a group reading of a book, teacher Bonnie Bachtell said.

Students break into small reading groups and math groups. They do an activity or a chant that will get them moving. Then, they do about 20 minutes of math.

They also get 15 minutes of recess. They study science, social studies or health. They spend some time on a "special" - either gym, library, music or art. They write and they draw.

Once a week, they work on computers.

Because of state standards in the last three to five years, socialization, snacks and recess have dropped in importance behind reading and writing, Bachtell said.

At Eastern Elementary School outside Hagerstown, "There's not a lot of play time on the schedule," kindergarten teacher Becky Myers said.

Gess said there is much more "structured play" in her class than "unorganized play."

"We do a lot of drill work because there's no way around it," she said. "If you want them to learn, you have to do drill work."

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