Questions abound in our lower school classrooms, and student inquiry is the driving force behind the yearlong theme in kindergarten. This theme of investigation provides a through line for a number of explorations that kindergarteners will engage in over the course of the year, the first of which is a focus on identity.
“We know that young children always notice differences and similarities, and we know that if we don’t have discussion about it, they will make their own assumptions,” said kindergarten teacher Paul Knight. “As we build community in a different way this year, we think this is a great way for students to feel seen.”
Kindergarten teacher Diana Friedman echoed Paul, “Creating this safe space to share and explore who we are allows us to ask questions and explore differences.”
Both kindergarten classes read the book Same, Same, but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw to enter into their discussions around identity and for learning how to ask questions. The book is a “beautiful example” of two children from opposite sides of the world who become friends through writing letters as pen pals, Diana shared.
As a way of engaging with the text, kindergarteners participated in a read-and-response activity—as each page was read aloud and students learned about the families of the two characters, they made connections to their own families and jotted them down on a piece of paper.
“We did this activity for two main reasons,” Paul noted. “First, it made the read aloud interactive so students weren’t just sitting and listening, they are also thinking about how what they are hearing relates to their own lives. Second, it helps us scaffold the one-on-one conversations students had after we finished reading the book, in which they used the notes they had taken as a starting off point.”
This activity also aligns with the investigatory nature of kindergarten.
“They are learning how to ask questions respectfully, what the right questions to ask are, and what to do when you want to ask someone a question,” Paul explained.
From here, kindergarteners will begin to think about identity and talk about the things about themselves that are seen and unseen. They will explore this concept through drawing self-portraits, in which they draw themselves as they are seen on the outside of a folded piece of paper and write down the attributes of their identities that cannot be seen on the inside of the paper.
Diana added, “I hope students take away the power of asking questions, and learning about those who are different from you.”