Hermiston full-day kindergarten teachers feel less rushed for time

<p><strong>Ashley Nicodemus, a full-day kindergarten teacher at Desert View Elementary School, leads students in a mirroring exercise Thursday. Sitting next to her are Garrett Robinson and James Young, both full-day kindergarten students.</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p>

Many of the nine full-day kindergarten teachers in Hermiston were nervous about their new class schedule this year, but not Desert View Elementary School’s Ashley Nicodemus.

While others worried about how to keep the attention of their busy 5-year-olds throughout the day, Nicodemus said she knew it was all going to work out because she has already taught in a full-day setting.

Nicodemus, who began her fifth year as a teacher and her second in Hermiston, previously taught in Boardman, which already had a full-day kindergarten program in place.

“I’ve been through this before, and I actually like it better,” she said of the full-day schedule. “I like the full-day setting because it allows me to make sure my students understand the lessons when they leave.”

Nicodemus said she doesn’t feel as rushed to get through lessons as she did in the half-day setting. As well, instead of teaching 48 students in one day, she has 24 students in her class.

“I also feel it gives me a chance to really get to know the students and families better because there are half as many,” she said. “…It is easier for me to communicate with them more often.”

For other educators, the transition was a little more rocky. Some of Hermiston’s education assistants at Desert View Elementary School said the new schedule took some time to get used to, but after experiencing it for the first time they really like it.

Desert View educational assistant Sally Trujillo said the biggest difference with the full-day schedule from the old one is the routine. She said kindergarten teachers have never had to work through lunch before, to which they had to adjust. She said, instead of students just learning to get used to standing in line and raising their hands when they want help, they have to learn how to coordinate their lunch trays and select which food they want in their meal.

“It was kind of rough at first, but, as we have gotten the routine down, it has got much smoother,” she said.

Kimberly Chavez, who is also an educational assistant at Desert View, agreed.

“It is definitely a new process,” she said.

Because the students are brand new to the school, Trujillo said they don’t know any differently. The teachers and the educational support staff are the ones who have to do all of the adjusting.

Nicodemus said keeping track of each of her 24 students requires a tremendous amount of organization. For lunches, students wear a colored bracelet indicating whether they are buying or brought their lunch.

“It makes it so much easier,” Trujillo said.

Nicodemus said, for her, the biggest challenge is planning out a full day of lessons.

“There is more time in the day, and you want to keep them engaged,” she said.

Nicodemus said she schedules a lot of activities that require a great deal of student involvement and interaction during the afternoons.

“But doing the same ones every day would get boring, so mixing them up is equally important, but (also) the difficult part,” she said. “I have to think of different ways my students can move during a lesson to keep them engaged.”

Thursday, Nicodemus used hand gestures and other movements throughout the day when teaching her students new material. When she instructed them on how to fill out a worksheet that included their favorite letter of the day, she used sign language to indicate her favorite letter for the assignment and a bit of pantomime to provide students both movement and also visual cues.

Nicodemus said she also splits up her day into increments. She said she will spend an average of about 10 to 15 minutes per activity so she is able to hold her students’ attention. She said that time will increase to about 45 minutes by the end of the year.

Nicodemus said, initially, the students are usually very tired by the end of the day, but, based on experience, she knows that will change.

“From my experience in Boardman, that lasts for the first few weeks before they get adjusted to the activities,” she said. “Then they are not as tired, but, like I said before, we try to plan ahead for that and make things as fun and engaging as possible so we can distract them from their tiredness.”

Nicodemus said she has been pleasantly surprised with how well she and her students have grown accustomed to the new schedule.

“Everything has gone very smoothly, much smoother than I had anticipated,” she said. “The first day was rough, as to be expected, but, thankfully, we had such a great routine at our school already in place that the students have caught on quickly and are doing great.”

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