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Part 2: Playing at being Kindergarteners:

Preschooler’s play serves many functions. One of them is to provide the opportunity to try out social roles. The roles of teacher and pupil hold great fascination for four year olds. During this part of the project we ask the children to think of something they would like to teach their friends and that their friends would enjoy learning.

Each day at circle time two children take on the role of teacher. The “teachers” soon realize that they must articulate their ideas precisely in order to be understood. The “pupils" soon realize the importance of attentive respect to the “teachers” words and actions.

At left the children are developing their questions about kindergarten. For four year olds this is a difficult task. They have to filter through their existing knowledge and figure out what they want to know but don’t. At OFS we begin the question developing process with our threes. It is our hope that by the time they reach kindergarten they will know that asking questions is a vital part of learning.

To the right, children are interviewing the children and teacher at a local kindergarten. The kindergarten children reflect on their experiences during the last year and try and tell our children what the most important things were to them about life in kindergarten.

OFS Children Recall: “What Do Teachers Do?”

You have to talk in a nice voice. For instance “Can you please put the book away.”
“You have to call on one at a time at circle.”
“You have to be fair.”
“If children are fooling around they are out. Um….You can give them one warning.”
“You have to listen to the students so you know what they need.”
“If they want to go to the bathroom, you say okay.”
“You need to make sure everyone listens so that they know what to do.

Cognition, Social Knowledge,
& The Kindergarten Project

Cognition:

Psychologists use the term “distant thinking” to describe the ability to think about things not immediately present but rather in the future or in the past. This ability is part of the cognitive realm. The questions the children generate for research on kindergarten are examples of distant thinking because they involve thinking about an experience they hadn’t actually had yet (in this case being in kindergarten). This “distant thinking” ability is fundamental for the abstract thought that later schooling demands.

Social Knowledge:

Social knowledge is knowledge about how the social world works. David Elkind, renowned child psychologist, writes that in order to be successful in the social realm, children need to understand the “frames” or specific rules that govern social interaction in a specific environment. During this project, the children immerse themselves in the roles and rules of kindergarten. They practice being students and they practice being teachers. We hope their movement into “Big Kid School” will be smooth because of the work we have done here.

Many thanks to the elementary schools who have so kindly hosted our visits: Parkmeade in Walnut Creek, Lafayette Elementary, Springhill and Happy Valley in Lafayette, Saklan Valley in Moraga, Wagner Ranch in Orinda and John Swett in Martinez.
***Coordinating Teachers: Jennifer Bracco, Susan Hansen & Maylis Treuil´╗┐