I teach in a self-contained classroom at Edgewood Magnet School in New Haven. I find the neighborhood/magnet setting a rewarding environment, with students coming to school each day from a variety of home circumstances and with differences in academic levels. As a result of these variables, the children have differing levels of background knowledge and life experiences. The classroom is a mixture of varied ethnicities, economic strata, and social and emotional strengths and weaknesses. The use of collaboration allows all students at all levels to learn in an inherently differentiated environment, learning new concepts and experiences through hands-on practices. Throughout the school year, the kindergarten curriculum centers heavily on social development, which is certainly appropriate for five- and six-year-old children. Our school mission and vision statements focus on equity and inclusion, acknowledging and including everyone in our learning environment.
Throughout the kindergarten school year, we use poetry quite a bit in various ways. It is woven throughout the literacy curriculum as we introduce conceptual and content learning and work to develop reading and writing skills. Starting, of course, with reading poems out loud, we use sing-a-longs and chants to get the students involved. Poems help students identify rhyming words, reinforce phonics and phonemic awareness, promote language development, and improve memory and focus. Along with these benefits, poetry also provides a medium for students to express their feelings and develop social skills by working on and learning poems together. Children improve their ability to focus while memorizing a poem and build an appreciation for the beauty of language and how it can create rhythm and rhyme. As stepping stones, poems can help students develop creative speech and expression for young children as they develop and grow into adulthood.