Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

At Some Parkway Schools, a New Approach to Kindergarten

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

At Some Parkway Schools, a New Approach to Kindergarten

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS COUNTY * The kindergartners in Shannon Graham's classroom on the first day of school could be entirely different from the ones she'll be teaching a few weeks from now.

During the first several days of the new school year, children will rotate through the four kindergarten classrooms at Oak Brook Elementary School. Along the way, Graham and the other teachers are getting to know the 77 pupils and taking notes.

Who's getting along? Who's clashing? Who's clingy? Which ones are reading, and which have never written their names?

All the information is used to create a balanced mix for each kindergarten classroom at Oak Brook.

"We want them to be diverse classes in every aspect academics, behavior, race," said Principal Chris Shirley. For example, a student who is already reading can be a great role model to a child who is struggling to sound out words.

In the past, kindergartners were placed in classrooms somewhat blindly. That approach can be challenging, because the right balance of children who need help in areas of behavior or academics can make or break a school year for teachers and students.

Graham remembers a kindergarten class she had a few years ago with five boys who struggled to get along.

"All year it was bickering and fighting," she said. "I felt like I couldn't get anything done."

Two years ago, Oak Brook Elementary began placing students in classrooms based on their needs, identified during observation in the first week of school. The children mix with classmates while participating in activities to help acquaint them with school and each other. Teachers note how well they manage their emotions and resolve conflicts, observe friendships and assess academic skills.

The process also allows children to be placed with a teacher whose strengths best fit their needs.

Three other Parkway elementary schools are taking a similar approach to shaping kindergarten classes. Flynn Park Elementary in the University City School District is doing the same. …

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