Walk into a Kindergarten classroom and you will discover smiling, laughing curious children asking questions, actively exploring, collaborating and solving problems as they learn to read, write, and express themselves. At YCIS, the magic happens in two languages. From the moment children walk into class, they are greeted by warm, caring English and Chinese co-teachers who jointly foster their students’ growth and serve as role models for cross-cultural collaboration.
Whether engaged in learning center activities, planning their first bilingual character education assembly, sharing during a class meeting or playing on the playground, Kindergartners know they can count on their teachers to guide them as they embark on their elementary school journey.
Kindergarten is full of amazing opportunities for children to grow. And, boy, do they grow! A child who starts the year knowing their alphabet proudly writes a story by the end of the year. A child who is learning Mandarin for the first time is able to have conversations and is well on the way to reading and writing. A child who has never picked up an instrument can play a short melody on a violin. Most importantly, though, kindergartners have learned to work together as a team, resolve conflicts, respect differing opinions, grow in empathy towards others and become more self-directed and independent learners.
The Kindergarten program is designed to support children’s transition to elementary school from a preschool environment. Classrooms are set up as early childhood learning environments that feel comfortable and familiar to new students. At the beginning of the year, teachers focus on relationship-building, teamwork, practicing routines, and setting clear expectations as children settle into school life.
When children feel supported socially and emotionally, they grow confident in themselves and their abilities.Academically, new Kindergartners come to school with a wide range of knowledge and skills. Teachers take time to get to know each child and plan lessons that can be differentiated or adapted to support children at their level of development. By the end of Kindergarten, students are well on their way to becoming accomplished readers and writers ready to leap into first grade.
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is at the heart of the Kindergarten experience. Young children have big emotions. In school, children learn to identify their emotions, practice ways to manage their feelings, and gain skills to listen, communicate, and work with others to solve problems that arise. Teachers guide students through one-on-one interactions and group discussions and ensure children have many opportunities to exercise choice and learn through play.
Each day starts with a bilingual Responsive Classrooms Morning Meeting where English and Chinese teachers facilitate community building games and exercises, discussions, and group sharing.
Students also have opportunities to lead class discussions. Once a week, students have a special bilingual class devoted to learning SEL skills with the Second Step curriculum which uses picture cards, puppets, and scenarios to guide class discussions. Schoolwide, students also celebrate a character trait each month and demonstrate how to put that character trait into action during monthly bilingual character education assemblies or service projects. Kindergartners proudly plan and present their very first assembly for the whole school with a bilingual skit.
Connecting to stories (fiction and nonfiction) is the essential first step in becoming a lifelong reader. Reading is a regular part of the school day and daily reading at home with parents is encouraged. The Reading and Writing Project from Columbia University is our primary curriculum along with other supplementary programs and resources. In class, each student is able to work at an individualized level and pace through small group and individual activities. As a whole group, children listen to picture books and chapter books during teacher read alouds. Students also retell stories via reader’s theater, puppets, and other mediums. Phonics and sight words instruction with the Words Their Way program, learning centers and games provides a strong foundation for learning to read.
Kindergartners are budding authors. Children love to tell stories and when they learn to capture their ideas in writing, illustrate those stories and “publish” them for others to read, they feel empowered. The Reading and Writing Project from Columbia University emphasizes daily writing. Handwriting practice, phonics, and word study also support writing development. Kindergartners learn the writing process from brainstorming ideas, to writing drafts, to publishing a final “book” which they proudly share with parents during celebratory “publishing parties.” Students practice writing both fiction and non-fiction through activities such as weekend news, letters, class books, personal narratives, free choice plans, games, and more.
In Kindergarten, the Singapore Math program centers around children’s natural curiosities about numerical and geometric relationships. Math is everywhere–in sharing supplies, drawing pictures, board games, and on the calendar. Students work collaboratively and individually to discover, explore, and learn mathematical concepts. They work in small groups during math centers and as a whole class during calendar activities. Students also take turns leading the group in these activities.
Kindergartners are natural scientists, full of curiosity, questions, and the desire to know more about the world around them. The FOSS Science program promotes learning science by doing science. Students learn observation and comparison skills, as well as how to form theories and conclusions. When learning about trees, the class goes out to the fields to observe trees, collect leaves, make comparisons, and draw sketches or write notes. To observe the butterfly life cycle, they keep caterpillars in class and watch them transform over time. Parents are welcome to volunteer with science activities as well, often sharing their own knowledge from their professional careers.
Social studies centers on our families, our community and ourselves. Kindergartners learn about being members of a classroom and about the responsibilities of school citizenship. Students develop an awareness of the diversity of their families and community through books, discussions, activities with third grade buddies and YCIS House families, art and hands-on projects.
While some Kindergartners join YCIS with little or no Mandarin language background, other students – both heritage and non-heritage speakers – began their bilingual education in preschool. Having heritage and proficient Chinese speakers in a class allows for an immersion environment to be created in which beginners are able to learn the language more naturally and benefit from the support of their peers. Children with stronger language skills can become leaders in the class encouraging their classmates.
The Kindergarten curriculum is theme-based, introducing topics that are meaningful to young children such as family, holidays, seasons, animals, foods, and parts of the body, as well as the most important cultural events: Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, Chinese New Year and the Dragon Boat Festival. Teachers use a variety of teaching methods to engage all the senses including learning centers, games, songs, digital apps, cooking and art projects, as well as individual and group instruction.
Kindergartners have Chinese language and culture classes twice daily in the morning and afternoon. Students begin to learn stroke order and reading in traditional characters, along with strengthening listening and speaking skills. Kindergartners learn about the origin and evolution of Chinese characters while being introduced to theme-related traditional characters. For first grade, parents will have the opportunity to choose whether their child will learn traditional or simplified characters from then on.
East and West unite in this fun, project-based class co-taught by Chinese and English teachers. Projects and activities compare and contrast cultural traditions, value systems, and perspectives and may tie into social studies or social-emotional learning goals. Projects are often developed from the interests of the students themselves.
Through the arts, students grow creatively and explore traditions from around the world. All YCIS students begin to learn violin in Kindergarten and enjoy singing and other musical activities. Learning the violin benefits brain growth and language acquisition while helping children develop coordination, concentration, and collaboration skills.
In Kindergarten Violin, students develop bow and plucking skills, as well as basic rhythm and note-reading. Students proudly share their newfound skills performing for parents during winter and spring recital concerts.
While Kindergartners do many arts and crafts projects with their lessons, their specialist Art class introduces them to art techniques and concepts through creative mixed media projects. Play and movement are also key to whole child development.
In PE, Kindergartners develop their coordination, balance, agility, and teamwork skills with games and sports.