Students are ready for it and teachers are looking forward to it. Full-day everyday kindergarten boost in learning, ETFO members who teach kindergarten say. And it will allow teachers to give their students the full benefit of their knowledge and skills.
In October the Ontario government announced that full-day, everyday kindergarten programs would roll out across the province starting next fall. The government has allocated $200 million to the program in 2010-11 and $300 million the following year. An estimated 35,000 spaces will be created for four and five-year-olds in the first year.
There are already more than 180 public elementary schools that have full-day, everyday kindergarten programs in various school districts around the province.
One such board is Algoma. ETFO member Jane Vienneau teaches in Echo Bay, a community about 30 kilometres east of Sault Ste. Marie. She has taught full-day SK classes for the past six years.
“It began as a pilot project,” Vienneau says, “and the board saw such great success they decided to continue it and offer it even though they were not funded for it.” The program is available at all schools that have enough students.
Vienneau’s program has always been play-based, an approach she learned as a student at Nippissing University. In this kind of program children learn academic concepts by spending time at activity centres such as water tables, drama and art centres, and sand tables. Vienneau sets up these centres to align with the curriculum concepts she is focusing on. It’s an approach supported by research into how children learn.
Those who think this is not real learning are misguided, Vienneau says; her students leave kindergarten ready for the challenges of grade 1. “Most are reading by the time they leave kindergarten,” she notes.
A full-day, everyday program benefits both students and teacher, Vienneau asserts: “The biggest difference is that children have more opportunities to consolidate their learning particularly in literacy and numeracy. They have time to practise at activity centres. We’re not always rushing; they’re more relaxed and so am I.”
STRUGGLING STUDENTS BENEFIT
Hundreds of kilometres farther south, Cindy Lum is looking forward to being able to teach a full-day, everyday kindergarten class again. She did so for four years at Lord Dufferin School in Toronto before the program was cut. Grade 1 teachers at the school really noticed the difference when the program was eliminated, Lum says: “Parents also commented on how much their kids got out of it, how much they learned. As a teacher you can bring so much more out of the children when you have them for the whole day. ”