A Typical Kindergarten Day in Boston Public Schools
Kindergarten in Boston schools lasts six hours. The flow of a kindergarten day varies across schools, so ask when you visit. Students generally start the day with a two-hour "literacy block" where they work in large and small groups on reading and writing skills. During this time, they also learn to tell stories together and, later in the year, they may write in a daily journal. They often take turns working on the computer. Art and music/movement are built in throughout the day.
Each day includes a recess time for exercise and play. Some schools include rest/nap period in kindergarten. The afternoon allows time for math activities, visits once or twice a week to the school library, and sometimes science and social studies lessons. Most days include "center time," when children have a chance to choose from different fun and educational activities at learning stations. Throughout the week, teachers called "specialists" come in to the classroom. The specialists at each school vary. They can be art teachers, computer teachers, music teachers, or even a drama or Spanish teacher.
Each month, the different activities (science, math, reading, and writing) are organized around a theme, such as a concept like "water." For example, in one classroom, for the month on "water," children learn what makes bubbles and how to build boats; they read books together about boats; and they visit the Children’s Museum’s water exhibit.
Regular education kindergarten classrooms in Boston have one full-time professional teacher and up to 22 children. Bilingual education classes and classes with special education students are smaller. Some classrooms have a part-time teacher’s aide, an assistant from a community program like City Year and/or a student teacher. Some teachers have parents and other volunteers work with them on special projects or on a regular basis.
K1 Classrooms (some people call it "four-year-old kindergarten")
In recent years, the district has expanded early childhood programs for four-year-olds, known as Kindergarten 1 or K1, with more than 2,100 “K1” seats available in September 2009, up from 700 seats in 2005. Please note that while these seats more than double the availability of seats for children who will be four by September 1, capacity is still limited. Applicants for K1 seats should still consider alternative options as assignment to one of these seats is not guaranteed.
These seats are primarily for three-year-old children with special needs, but there are some general education seats in K0 classrooms so that the classes can be integrated.
Early Education Centers (EECs) and Early Learning Centers (ELCs)
These popular programs offer only K0 or K1 through first grade. They include free before and after school care. BPS has six in the city with two in each zone; they have very long wait lists.
You can be involved in your child’s education in a number of different ways. At home, starting in kindergarten, it’s great to talk with your children each day about how school went, and what they learned, as well as doing any simple "homework" together. (In kindergarten this often means reading together at night.) As they get older, check to see that they are completing their homework. It is important to attend all parent-teacher conferences. Parents can also help out in their child’s class, doing anything from attending a field trip once a year, to volunteering in the classroom regularly. Each school has a parent council, open to any family with a child in the school. Try to attend one of their meetings in the first few months of the school year.
Every school has a daily "recess" period for exercise. Some schools offer a more formal physical education (P.E.) program in addition, led either by the regular classroom teacher or a separate P.E. teacher. In kindergarten, physical education tends to focus on learning basic skills (while having fun), such as team games, catching and throwing, kickball, and dance. Ask what the schools offer for the later grades, since it can vary from general recess, to team sports, to special courses such as karate and other martial arts. Some of the elementary schools have swimming pools, and others make agreements with local organizations to use their pools during school hours or after school. Thanks to the Boston Schoolyards Initiative, 35 elementary schools have new playgrounds designed together by students, parents, school staff and neighbors – and more are coming.
The BPS "Arts in Education" policy requires elementary schools to offer at least 90 hours of arts programming for children every year. Each school decides which art classes it wants to offer, choosing from different kinds of dance, music, theater, and visual arts (painting, drawing, pottery, etc.). Children can learn art from different people during the year: their regular classroom teacher, a separate trained arts teacher, artists who visit the school, and arts staff at organizations that sponsor the children on field trips. In addition to the 90 hours each year during the school day, some schools also incorporate art into their after school
Many of Boston’s fabulous cultural organizations partner with Boston schools. One example is The Children’s Museum, which offers each Boston kindergarten teacher a bus for her class to visit the Museum and explore fun activities that relate to the classroom learning.
All Boston schools have computer labs and are connected to the Internet. Many kindergartens also have computers right in the classroom.