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Getting Kids On Same Page

The Courier News (Website) - 10/8/2007 by ERIN CALANDRIELLO Staff Writer
The Courier News : Getting Kids On Same Page ELGIN -- In kindergarten classrooms throughout Elgin School District U46, teachers are striving to keep their kindergartners' minds on target by networking with their colleagues via the Internet.

Using the Internet as a learning tool has been "exciting and freeing," said Kate Alvarado, a kindergarten teacher at Hilltop Elementary School on Elgin's far-northeast side. She said teachers are no longer bogged down by heavy booklets and stacks of papers. Instead, she said, they're putting their pupils on the "same page" by providing a "consistent and easily accessible curriculum" via the Web.


Cindy Estrada, a kindergartner at Illinois Park Center for Early Learning, shares her book project with the class Friday afternoon at the west-side Elgin school.
(Marina Makropoulos/Staff Photographer)

U46 kindergartens

There are 148 kindergarten classes at all 40 elementary schools and two Early Learning Centers across Elgin School District U46.

91 regular kindergarten classes

55 non-native English speaking pupil classes

2 dual language kindergarten classes

Last spring, the district created a "Kindergarten Roadmap Advisory Committee" comprised of preschool, kindergarten and first-grade teachers. They sought to get 148 kindergarten classrooms -- 91 regular education classrooms, 55 non-native English speaking pupil classrooms, and two dual language classrooms -- on the "same page" by aligning kindergarten learning standards, instructional materials and the U46 literacy and math curriculum roadmaps.

To accomplish these goals, the committee created Internet outlets including its "Intranet," which allows teachers to access curriculum resources electronically from both school and home. The panel also initiated the U46 "Early Learners Blog," which permits teachers to share ideas, strategies, practices and questions. Parents and pupils also can access the blog.

Not only has the Internet made teaching kindergarten less complicated, but it also has made brainstorming less difficult, said Julie Kallenbach, the principal from Illinois Park Center for Early Learning, on

Elgin's west side, which has more than 500 preschoolers and kindergartners.

"We have a 100 kindergarten teachers in the district, and the blog allows them to communicate with one another," Kallenbach said. "So instead of thinking of everything on your own, other teachers can help you reinvent the wheel."

"A teacher put up a section called 'Lovely Literature' on the blog, and it had a link to amazon.com to purchase her book recommendations. It was incredible. I've already bought a Christmas book called The Biggest, Best Snowman (by Margery Cuyler)," Kallenbach continued. "It saves you time, and there's even a link called paperbackswap.com where you can swap books with teachers, and you only have to pay the cost of postage."

Kallenbach said she expects the exchange of ideas and ease of accessing curriculum via Internet to accelerate academic progress.

Kindergartners last year "came in knowing one or two letters, and by January they were reading books," Kallenbach said. "With teachers communicating with one another on a regular basis and having their curriculum readily available on the Intranet, kids could start reading even faster than before."

But the progress doesn't stop there. The committee is taking more steps to ensure consistent and rigorous curriculum delivery in all kindergarten classroom, expanding teacher and parent resources on the "Intranet," more closely monitoring the progress of pupils, and deepening family involvement, officials said.

Also important, of course, is what kindergartners think of school.

"I love kindergarten because I get to play wherever I want, and I learn my ABCs, and I can count 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9," said Maria Balleza, a kindergartner at Illinois Park. "I'm really excited about the pumpkin farm trip on Oct. 30, and I get to wear my pajamas to school on Halloween."