By Lisa Capobianco
Kindergarten teacher Franca Imme of Plantsville Elementary School recently counted down from ten as her students lined up one by one to make their way to the all-purpose room where they participated in Apple Day, an event full of fun and educational activities.
All 15 students gathered their backpacks together in a hurry on a recent Friday afternoon, eager to take part in the celebration. Between sequencing the life cycle of an apple tree and taste-testing apples and pies, students spent 15 minutes participating in each activity, sharing their excitement with each other and with parents who volunteered to help out.
Imme said the activity reinforces what she is teaching her students in the first full-day kindergarten program, including graphs, matching numbers and the development of fine motor skills. Earlier in the day, Imme taught her students venn diagrams during their reading lesson to show the difference and similarities between two books they read.
“Why do we use venn diagrams,” Imme asked the class. One student replied, “to know when things are the same or different.”
After the reading lesson, the students sat in a circle to go “fishing” during their math lesson. The activity involved a fake fishing pole, orange and blue fish made of construction paper, clothespins and a graph. Each student took turns using the fishing pole with their eyes closed, not knowing which colored fish they would catch. After catching each fish, the students indicated the number of blue fish they caught compared to the number of orange fish on the graph using clothespins.
Imme said her students have adjusted well to the first year of the full-day kindergarten, and she has also adjusted quickly.
“I am loving it,” Imme said. “The kids have taken to it very easily.”
Diana Avigne, a parent who volunteered on Apple Day, applauded the full-day kindergarten program, and said her son Zachary has transitioned quickly.
“In the beginning he was a little tired, but he absolutely loves it,” Avigne said. “Full-day kindergarten is the only way to go.”
Imme said the first day of school turned out to be a success. She organized a scavenger hunt for her students so they would learn how to navigate around the school.
“It went smoothly,” she said.
The students start their day at 8:35 a.m., and end their day at 3:05 p.m., adopting a daily routine. After students get settled in, a morning meeting takes place in which students participate in an alphabet chant and a writer’s workshop. Currently, Imme is conducting a storybook unit, and the students also use picture books to help guide a story orally.
Imme said the full-day kindergarten program allows her to “dig deeper” into each subject, and she hopes her students will start writing sentences by December or January.
“The full-day program allows me more time for questioning,” Imme said. “Right now the writing component is oral, but we are building up for that.”
Students eat lunch at 11 a.m., and re-energize during recess right after they eat. Specials, including art and music, take place in the afternoon.
Although they do not have a nap time, the students spend 15 minutes a day resting in the classroom where they color or look at books.
“I have not had any child fall asleep on me,” Imme said.
Imme said she the full-day kindergarten program also gives her an opportunity to develop a close relationship with her students, since she spends the entire day with them.
“It allows me to get to know them on a deeper level,” Imme said. “We get to talk more.”
Karen Smith, assistant superintendent of schools, has visited the classrooms across all eight elementary schools to observe the progress of the full-day kindergarten. She said the program is doing “wonderful,” and “better than expected.”
“The children and the teachers are enjoying having more time together to have more opportunities without feeling rushed,” Smith said. “We are constantly assessing and developing ideas.”