OTTUMWA — Kindergarten is no longer about spending an entire school day playing.
On Monday, the Ottumwa school board heard an example-filled report from five kindergarten teachers. Their Kindergarten Literacy Achievement program focused on the writing children have been doing.
"They have the most diverse [levels of] learners," said Superintendent Davis Eidahl. "Some who can read well, and others who can't recognize [any] letter in their name."
The teachers said with the program they've been using, kids have already made what would be a year of progress under the old way of doing things. Putting the book pages on an overhead projector, they explained how some of the children, who started barely knowing their letters, are writing words and placing them in preset sentences.
Just like adults, they may write well, but skip an occasional word. One example Monday night: "I like snow. I like snow man. I like to sledding."
The patterns may sound simplistic. They are. They're meant to free a learner so they can write their ideas down, practice writing sentences and progress to more complex writing. They're similar to the pattern books children read. A child who believed he could not write sentences didn't know quite where to start.
When presented with a pattern, said Melanie Dalbey, the student really started writing.
"It was like a weight was lifted off his shoulders," she told the board. "They love to be able to tell their story."
A "book" by one child talked about waking up sick in the night, the family calling 911, an ambulance ride to the hospital, getting shots from a doctor, staying at Grandma's house, Mom and Grandma paying a bill at the hospital: All part of a true story recalled and written over a three-week period, said her teacher.