Her class finished writing about their snow day activities Thursday as they enjoyed a snack. Bouwman, who has taught kindergarten for seven years, said writing longer sentences is something her students typically would do toward the end of the school year.
Michigan schools transitioned to all-day kindergarten for the 2012-13 school year, after a change in state funding. In transitioning schedules, teachers went through training and additional staff was hired.
Bouwman said the concept of being away from home all day isn’t new for many students because they previously attended half-day day care programs after a half-day of kindergarten, and vice-versa. She said introducing kindergartners to an all-day schedule also means getting them accustomed to expectations and responsibilities.
“We’re making them independent,” Bouwman said.
Now, kindergartners follow a daily schedule that includes specials, writer’s workshop, reading workshop, math, social studies and science.
Jeanie Hitchcock, a reading specialist at Rosy Mound Elementary School, said she’s noticed a “huge” difference in the reading levels of this year’s first-graders.
Each year, students undergo three tests throughout the year to gauge their reading skills. Last year, nine first-graders needed additional help and six needed intense help. This year, seven students need help and just one needs intense help.
Last year, five students needed assistance with oral literacy skills, and none need help this year, Hitchcock said.
“This is beyond what I expected,” she added.
To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.