As the song says “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” When we’re talking about a comprehensive curriculum that will give America’s youth the tools they need to compete in a global economy that beginning is Kindergarten. Don’t get me wrong. Pre-K educational programs are extremely important. And if you are looking to give your child the best start possible, you should absolutely enroll them in one or more such programs. But those programs are hard to codify and have few structural similarities with the more formalized grades. For me to try and sit here and design such a program as a one size fits all would be a scatter shot endeavor at best.
Which, speaking of one-size-fits-all, brings me to my final caveat before I begin. A curriculum is not the same as a lesson plan. A curriculum outlines broad goals and themes for an academic program. Lesson plans execute that plan on a daily and weekly level. Its very similar to the difference between strategy and tactics. It is my view that administrators and department heads should focus on curriculum development while teachers should focus on their individual lesson plans. Obviously everyone’s input should be considered on all topics, but creating these demarcations early gives teachers greater control of their own classrooms while freeing administrators to focus on the big picture and the final product.
For organizational purposes I’ve divided this curriculum into ten distinct subject areas. These areas will ebb and flow in terms of the quantity of subject matter that needs to be covered at each grade level. As students progress and advance the subjects, while still being interconnected, will begin to show more clearly articulated distinctions. With subjects often intertwining and overlapping in the early years and separating into their own fully-formed class periods in the later grades.
Without further adieu, let us begin.
Kindergarten: This grade level typically contains students from four to six years old. At that young of an age the range of emotional development you can expect to see over a three year age span is vast. Thus a great amount of flexibility and time to cover and re-cover material is necessary. This grade is less about pushing children’s limits than it is about ensuring that the foundation from which they start is rock solid.
Math: Students should be introduced to the concepts of time, temperature, money, the calendar, and units of measure and develop a very basic familiarity with each. There should be an emphasis on shapes and spatial skills as well as sorting objects by their differences and similarities. Students should be able to count from 1-30. Addition and Subtraction should be introduced through games and and work with objects the students can see and feel.
Science: At this level nothing more than the most basic introduction to the natural world is required. Learning how to properly identify what they encounter in nature using their senses and descriptive language is the primary goal as this forms the basics of scientific observation. Students will learn how to tell the difference between living and non-living things as well as the names of various plants and animals and basic nutrition. They will learn about the water cycle, night and day, the sun and the moon, the stars,and types of weather. They will be exposed to simple machines and the concept of cause and effect.
Computer Science: Students should be exposed to both touch pad and keyboard devices and the concept of coding as language. At this juncture CS does not warrant a separate class but rather time on a computer should utilize learning software to supplement other learning area’s. Reinforcing other lessons while developing familiarity and comfort with computer technologies.
History/Social Science: Students should learn about the various peoples of the world and be exposed to different cultures. Very basic map making and map following skills should be taught and reinforced through the year.
Human Studies: The emphasis here should be on classroom citizenship. What are their responsibilities to their classmates, their teacher, and their school. (How and Why we clean up the room. Play nice with others, say please and thank you, etc.) This is also the time to talk to students about community helpers: Police Officers, Firemen, Teachers, The Mayor, Garbage men. Through out the year the teacher should select various holiday, celebrations, and traditions from a wide array of religious traditions and set aside days for students and parents to celebrate them. Students should be introduced to the concepts of good and bad, right and wrong, like and dislike. Students should be given the tools to form a basic answer to the question “What makes me, me?”.
English: Daily reading circle in which the children are read to by a teacher, aide, or special guest reader. Weekly reading assignments. Strong Emphasis and encouragement placed on nightly parental readings. Emphasis on vocabulary expansion and effective communication.
Foreign Languages: Exposure/Submersion in Spanish for thirty minutes daily. Emphasis on basic Spanish vocabulary.
Music: Students will perform independently and learn to move to music and how to create basic sounds and melodies. They will learn to identify simple patterns, musical opposites, basic musical forms, tone colors, and simple rhythmic patterns. They will also learn to respect the contributions of others, how to respond to music at a basic level, and to identify the role music plays in everyday life.
Art: Students will express personal feelings through works of art, creating 2D and 3D works based on personal preference during allotted periods of daily artistic expression. They will learn how to describe what they see in art and to identify the basic elements of artistic works.