Kitah Willow is a composite classroom or “multi-age” classroom for children between 3 and 5 years of age. Research shows that composite classrooms foster students’ independence, responsibility and self-help skills. This is because, younger children within a composite grade generally aspire to emulate older children in their work, and older children enjoy leadership and mentoring opportunities that lift their self-esteem. In Kitah Willow, children are able to work at their own pace and are offered a wider range of friendship opportunities.
In Kitah Willow, curriculum content is delivered during circle time. During circle time, the children are split into “Leaf Groups” or half groups, so that we can provide differentiated instruction for the children ages 3-4 and to those who are 4-5 years of age.
During circle times, the children engage in unfiltered, class-wide discussion evoked through open ended questions. Circle time is also a time that children learn important social skills such as turn taking and staying on topic. Becoming an active listener and participant is very important as the children grow closer to one another and learn what it means to become part of a community. This sense of community and “togetherness” is further strengthened through our classroom jobs. Each week, the children are assigned a new task from our job chart which allows them to contribute and to maintain our classroom environment. The children love their jobs as it gives them a sense of pride and purpose throughout the day.
Children also enjoy Leaf Groups during literacy and handwriting. Reading and writing is valued highly in our curricula. All of our Kitah Willow children will practice writing capital letters using our Handwriting Without Tears program and to identify letters.
The older children will also learn letter sounds and then finally blend letters before graduating. These techniques are practiced each day through our school wide literacy program, which includes daily reading exercises, reading groups and our lending library. We anticipate that most of the children will be able to read two and three letter words before they graduate.
All of the children play together through open-ended centers that allow the children to autonomously navigate between choice activities time. Our afternoon centers are more structured as they are pre-selected for each student. Preselected activities are meant to open the students’ minds to different play partners and meant to influence the children to participate in activities they wouldn’t typically choose on their own. Activities provide fun, premeditated experiences that strengthen fine motor, literacy, math and problem solving skills .In both creative and structured activity centers, children practice negotiating and socializing as they share materials and toys.
We also meet as a class during Hebrew circle. During Hebrew circle we strengthen our Jewish identity by reviewing Jewish traditions and celebrating our Jewish community.
We practice expressing ourselves and listening respectfully during art shares and show and shares. Self-expression is a large component of our curriculum. Children are given additional opportunities for self-reflection during journal entries and self-portraits. It is our goal that children develop a strong sense of self and self-esteem throughout the year.