Reading Experiences in the Kindergarten Classroom
Kindergarten classrooms also differ in terms of the instructional practices that teachers use to help children learn to read.6 Teachers’ practices vary in terms of their instructional approaches—that is, the extent to which learning is teacher directed and involves the whole class; teacher directed and involves small group activities; or teacher guided and involves individual-child activities or child-selected activities. Teachers’ practices can also vary according to the ways that children are grouped for instruction—whether children are organized into mixed-level groups, achievement groups, or peer-tutored groups.
In whole-class, teacher-directed activities, the teacher initiates and leads the majority of activities while the entire class is involved. Teachers can also lead and structure small-group and individual teacher-directed activities, which sometimes can occur concurrently with child-selected activities. Child-selected activities in kindergarten might include, for example, the use of learning centers in which the children can choose an activity (and perhaps the time spent on that activity). To account for the difference in the length of day between full- and half-day programs, in this analysis, the minutes that kindergarten teachers reported spending on these activities were converted into the percentage of class time.
Based on teacher reports, full- and half-day classes spent more time in whole class activities than in small group, individual, and child-directed activities. No differences were detected in the percentage of total class time spent on each type of teacher-directed activity by kindergarten program type (figure 5).
In some classrooms, teachers group children for instruction by their level of ability. As mentioned previously, teachers use various types of groups—mixed-level, reading achievement level, and peer-tutoring—to teach reading. Mixed-level groups consist of children of different ability levels working together. Reading achievement groups include children with similar abilities working together. Peer-tutoring allows proficient students to assist those who are less proficient with a learning activity. Ability grouping in kindergarten is related to the type of program. In spring 1999, full-day classes were more likely than half-day classes to use mixed-level groups (48 vs. 42 percent), reading achievement groups (26 vs. 14 percent), and peer-tutoring in reading (23 vs. 15 percent) on a daily basis (figure 6). Half-day classes used mixed-level groups more often than other types of groups (Walston and West 2004).
6The findings about children’s reading achievement in the preceding sections reflect percentages of children. The findings in this section refer to percentages of classrooms. Eighty-five percent of kindergartners were in public school classrooms in fall 1998, and the majority of ECLS–K analyses of kindergarten classrooms to date are limited to public schools (Walston and West 2004). (back to text)
Figures and Tables
Figure 5: Average percentage of class time that public school kindergarten classes used various instructional approaches, by kindergarten program type: Spring 1999
Figure 6: Percentage of public school kindergarten classes that used various grouping strategies daily for reading, by program type: Spring 1999
Table FS5: Standard errors for the average percentage of class time that public school kindergarten classes used various instructional approaches, by kindergarten program type: Spring 1999
Table FS6: Standard errors for the percentage of public school kindergarten classes that used various grouping strategies daily for reading, by program type: Spring 1999