Kindergarten in Action
This chapter describes the actual classroom learning events that occurred during several days in Mrs. Karla Poremba's kindergarten. The information described in this chapter was gathered by Donald J. Richgels when he spent 164 of 1 year's 175 school days in Mrs. Poremba's class. He wrote field notes, collected writing samples, conversed with students, occasionally assisted with instruction, and made 43 hours of videotape recordings and nearly continuous audiotape recordings (for a detailed account of that year, see Richgels, 2003). The kindergarten context described in this chapter includes planned themes and units and greater attention than in preschool to developing alphabet knowledge, phonemic awareness, and understandings of sound–letter correspondences.
Conversation, instruction, and learning in Mrs. Poremba's classroom frequently occurred in the context of such routines as signing-in, opening of the day, Words for Today, What Can You Show Us? activities, interactive read-aloud, shared writing, Writing center writing, and journal writing. A classroom routine can best be thought of as long-term scaffolding. Over several months, sometimes the whole course of the school year, the predictable, repeated actions, props, people, and language of the routine provide a structure within which learning occurs (Richgels, 1995).
First, the teacher and students learn together how the routine will work, that is, what roles, actions, and language the actors in the routine will enact. In the early weeks and months of the lifetime of the routine, the teacher does most of its work, modeling what to say and do and how to use the props. As the routine is repeated over many months, the teacher gradually withdraws and students take over more and more of the work, especially as they show greater competence, so that in the end they have mastered the actions and language that they at first depended on the teacher to do. In the end, the students can use the language independently of the routine; their acting appropriately, that is, in ways that demonstrate understanding, no longer depends on the repetition and scaffolding of the routine.