Standards. I have no problems with standards, no problems at all. I think we are misguided in how we evaluate mastery of those standards but that’s what happens when you have people outside of the domain of education making educational decisions.
For Kindergartners the standards are based on the squiggles and lines that make up the letters of our alphabet, that tell us what sounds to make with our mouths and how to combine them into patterns that make words that are to be read.
So how do we learn to identify letters and incorporate research in a kindergarten classroom? Easy. Get some digital cameras or smart phones, and prepare a scavenger hunt that will allow students to take pictures of all the signs in your school building.
Begin the scavenger hunt by asking your students why letters are important. You may want to write down their answers on chart paper to refer to later. Then tell your students you want to show them how important letters are by finding letters in your school building.
You can differentiate the activity on many levels from the number of kids per camera to the number of signs you designate as part of your scavenger hunt.
And then begin cataloging the letters in your building by taking pictures of the signs, bringing those cameras back to your classroom, downloading the pictures or printing them out and then counting and organizing the data on a chart. Groups of students would sit around their pictures counting the number of C's and P's and talking about which group has more and why did this letter beat that letter.
A great writing assignment would be to report the results in a class created research paper that could be distributed to other classes or grade levels. This would be a great chance to model and share writing to inform and to let the students know that research is not just about collecting data but also sharing it with others who also might be interested.
What better way to incorporate science, with math, with language arts? It is a great way to put technology in young people’s hands and then teach them about how to handle that technology, how to use it responsibly and begin discussing the legacy of their digital footprint (especially for those children who choose to take pictures of each other instead of the signs).
Also the children are much more attentive to the importance of the letters and the discussions can begin about why some letters are more important than others or even why some signs use different type of print than others.
The creativity of this project is limitless and can be adapted to first grade classrooms and the search for sight words or punctuation or numbers. Try it out and let me know how it works. I think you will have your students full attention and they will see the importance of letters and sounds.