Ever heard of the popular advice book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? We sat down with experienced Canadian International School Kindergarten teacher Hetty Boon from CIS’s state-of-the-art Lakeside Campus to find out why kindergarten is the crucial age to spark each child’s curiosity and set them on the road to lifelong learning. She also weighs in with insider tips on bilingual education, the arts and reading at this important, formative stage in a child’s development.
What is your background and training?
I grew up in Holland, then moved to Germany, where I taught for 10 years in Kindergarten and Grade 1, and I arrived in Singapore in 2005. I completed a Graduate Diploma of Social Work and have a Bachelor of Education degree. In addition to my professional qualifications, I also take part in regular professional development courses around Southeast Asia. At CIS, we make it a priority to keep ourselves current in the latest educational research and best practises.
What made you want to become a Kindergarten teacher?
After being a social worker, I was ready for another challenge due to the emotional intensity of the job. I loved working with children and families, and felt education would be an excellent career path. While studying, I realised the importance of the “Early Years” in the life of a child and their learning journey. This attracted me to working as a Kindergarten teacher.
Research shows that kindergarten sets the stage for a child’s academic and emotional growth. I want to spark a love for learning! Kindergarten teachers recognise that each child is unique; I love that my role is to determine what each child needs, provide them with the support and attention to help them grow, and prepare them for the life of learning that lies ahead!
We’re always hearing the term “inquiry-based approach” but have no idea what it means! Can you explain it in plain terms?
An old adage states: “Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.” If students get the opportunity to be inquirers and have some ownership over choosing the direction of their learning, engagement occurs and deeper learning will take place naturally and effortlessly. Children are naturally quite powerful learners, filled with questions!
How does CIS foster and encourage serious, purposeful play?
I’d say we encourage intentional play, meaning teachers have a learning focus in mind while setting up “play-based learning engagements”. We support students in exploring important content and curriculum in ways that are developmentally appropriate for each child and make the most of their natural curiosity.
For instance, my Junior Kindergarten class is currently transforming our “house corner” into a pizza kitchen. Through playing in the kitchen, they learn how food can go through a process of change, which is our current unit (topic of study). They also develop different writing skills by filling in forms in a pretend office or writing a menu or shopping list, and numeracy skills by comparing quantities of different food(s) such as flour, milk, oil and salt.
We’ve heard a lot about CIS’s world-class international curriculum and Bilingualism program; does that take root even at the Kindergarten level?
As an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, we aim to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. We encourage students to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right. The foundation of this begins in Kindergarten.
Regarding bilingual education, as an IB school, we have a definite commitment to multilingualism. Whether enrolled in our bilingual Chinese-English programme, or through our daily language programme, all students have the opportunity to learn a second language. In this part of the world, and with Chinese becoming such a global language, parents of kindergarten-aged children want to take advantage of this unique opportunity to be immersed in the language and learn Chinese. Our native Chinese speaking parents see it as a fantastic way to learn English and maintain Chinese language learning. It really is amazing to see how quickly students’ language skills develop in this programme.
What other activities do CIS Kindergartners participate in outside the academic classroom?
We use drama, art and music throughout as a way for students to demonstrate their understanding and to determine next steps. Especially for our second language learners, the arts provide a valuable communication tool.
Physical Education (PE) ties in with what’s happening in class and is a kinesthetic extension of the learning that takes place. For example, we are currently focussing on “cooperation” and the students are playing cooperative games during PE.
We opened our brand new outdoor classroom this year. A wonderful new climbing structure is set up in this beautiful space, allowing the students to play and explore. The area also has wondrous sensory tables with materials such as water, sand, shells, rice and pasta. These are great for stimulating young children’s senses, which in turn helps them develop cognitively, linguistically, socially, emotionally, physically and creatively.
What would you say is your students’ favourite feature of their Kindergarten classroom?
Our hands-on learning centres where students learn through constructive play are a big hit. Listening to the students and understanding their (current) interest determines the set up, making the learning opportunities ever-evolving, engaging and inviting.
For instance, the students set up our latest learning centre, the pizza kitchen, after our field trip to create their own pizzas at Pastamania. Because of their ownership and interest, it is an extremely popular learning space at the moment!
Also a big hit with students: we encourage parents to take an active role in their child’s education and school life. For instance this year I have three parents coming in weekly to do “Guided Reading” with my students. Parents are also invited to join us on trips, and come in for specific activities that tie in with our current units. At the moment, I have parents coming in to cook! Parents can also spend a morning in the classroom observing during our internal open house sessions.
I’m a firm believer that if parents witness what is going on in class, their understanding will grow and trust will appear. Parents have the key to their child; they just might be happy giving you the spare key!
All in all, I feel very fortunate to work at CIS and am blessed with so many amazing teachers, administrators, support staff members, students and families!
CIS life is a happy life!
Thanks Hetty! To find out more about CIS and its world-class international Kindergarten curriculum, be sure to visit www.cis.edu.sg/kindergarten, mamas!
Canadian International School Lakeside Campus, 7 Jurong West Street 41, Singapore 649414, Tel: (+65) 6467 1732
Canadian International School Tanjong Katong Campus, 371 Tanjong Katong Road, Singapore 437128, Tel: (+65) 6345 1573