Kindergartners know how to strut their stuff.
Jackson Elementary School students in Kate Kool’s class walked the runway for other students Tuesday morning as a culmination of their “ABC Bootcamp” program for learning the alphabet.
The students sang a song with all the letters of the alphabet to warm up. Their little voices filled the hallway as they readjusted their outfits — some say a fashion show isn’t complete without cardboard vests decorated with letters of the alphabet.
D is for dolphin and dog. S is for summer and “Star Wars.”
ABC Bootcamp is a curriculum for teaching letters and sounds that Kool has tweaked and incorporated into her classroom. It’s her third year using the material, her second putting on a literacy fashion show. The curriculum originated with a blogger who goes by Mr. Greg and has a website called TheKindergartenSmorgasboard.com.
Each day Kool and her kindergartners worked on a letter. They’d brainstorm words for each letter, Kool said, that resonated with the students — like the names of other kids in class, siblings, pets and parents. She worked with families to get pictures of those named.
“If they see things they can connect with, there’s a lot more buy-in,” Kool said. “They’re really engaged with the pictures.”
Kool’s students practice sounds with each letter to cement their learning. For Kool, it isn’t just apple. It’s “aaa, aaa, apple” and “aaa, aaa, Abby.”
The catwalk is the icing on the cake.
Striking a pose
The students practiced for the moment: Each walked down a catwalk, with their peers on both sides, some wearing Thanksgiving Pilgrim hats and bonnets to celebrate the holiday. Then, they’d “strike a sassy pose,” as Kool said, before sashaying back to rejoin their classmates.
Because Kool’s class has 13 students, each demonstrated two letters.
Kool’s students displayed various levels of comfort as budding alphabet models. Some had clearly practiced their model walks, flipping their ponytails with each step, skipping or spinning down the runway. Others shyly smiled, their eyes concealed by oversize sunglasses. But one thing was clear: They knew their letters.
Many parents came to pose with their stars on a replica red carpet after the fashion show, adding to the fun. Kool told them their students had been “working so hard to learn their letters and sounds.”
Kindergarten teachers like Kool are responsible for teaching young children the basis for basic communication in society: reading, writing and understanding the English language. That’s a weighty task, but something Kool said she’s honored to do.
“I feel very proud of it,” she said. “Teaching kids to read feels amazing. I’m ecstatic to be a kindergarten teacher.”
It’s Kool’s fifth year as a kindergarten teacher. Each year, she said, she sees her students “go through the spectrum” and watches “their data improve” as they make strides throughout the year. Now that town elementary schools like Jackson Elementary School are kindergarten through fifth grade, she said, it’s exciting to have fifth graders come back and say they remember her lessons.
In addition to a letter a day in ABC Bootcamp, Kool uses many tools and techniques to teach her students the alphabet. Visual cues help English Language Learners master the material; there are toys grouped by the letter they start with and photos of things that make it easier to grasp the intangible qualities of language.
Start simple, work on up
Kids tackle the basics and work their way up. Songs and games make it fun. Another curriculum, called Zoo-phonics, incorporates pictures of animals and related gestures for every letter.
“It’s very auditory; it’s very physical,” Kool said. “It’s very authentic with the things they know.
Then they work with two-letter words and handwriting in correlation with the sounds.
“It helps them determine which little squiggle matches which little sound,” Kool said.
Teton County School District No. 1’s curriculum is special, Kool said, because it pushes kindergartners to become literate by the end of the year.
“They are readers by the time they leave kindergarten,” she said.