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Science and Social Studies in a K/1 Classroom

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: My six-year-old is in a multi-age classroom -- half of the classroom is kindergarten and the other half is first grade. I've been volunteering in her classroom and notice that they do little or no activities for science and social studies. When they do have a science activity, it is a very basic one, like naming the parts of a weed. I feel like she should be learning more basic stuff about earth, the weather, the community and its people, and maybe even some history. I also think they should be doing more spelling.

I'm more than willing to teach my daughter anything that she needs to learn, but I feel like that is the school's responsibility. She is a very bright little girl and loves to learn new things. Any advice?

A: You can't expect a teacher of a combined kindergarten/first-grade class to spend much time teaching science and social studies. At this level, almost all classroom work needs to be focused on the very important task of teaching the 3R's, especially reading. Your daughter will be exposed to more science and social studies instruction each year until these subjects become an important part of the curriculum in fourth grade.

Because young children learn best through hands-on activities, early science lessons typically involve observations of living and nonliving things. When your daughter studies weeds, she is beginning to learn about the characteristics and structures of plants.

The social studies curriculum at this level stresses the development of social skills. Part of this involves the children learning how to work with each other.

In the future, when you visit your daughter's classroom, notice how the teacher does weave informal instruction in science and social studies into the curriculum. Also, ask the teacher to describe the school's curriculum at this level so you'll know what to expect.

Don't look for much formal instruction in spelling until the second semester. At first, teachers want to encourage children to write and accept their use of invented spelling.

Within every classroom, teachers have children with a wide variety of abilities. Conscientious teachers try to challenge bright young children like your daughter who are so eager to learn. However, parents must also share in the responsibility of teaching their children. Help your daughter learn more about the world from rocks to plants to planes and whatever interests her. Learning should never be limited to the classroom.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

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