By Nikole Dugger
Kindergarten may frequently be remembered as time spent gripping big pencils and sitting cross-legged on the floor, but one teacher in Bradley County has thrown the arts into the mix to promote literacy.
Each school year, Mrs. Robinson said she tried to save money to make her vision a reality, but it didn't happen.
"I knew where I wanted to go, but I didn't have the funds," she said.
A resolution arrived last fall in the form of a $2,200 grant from Maytag Community Innovation.
"It's great that there's a company out there that wants to give something back to education," Mrs. Robinson said. "They made my vision come true."
At first glance, Mrs. Robinson's classroom at Hopewell Elementary School is fairly standard. Four tables with short-legged chairs are arranged in clusters throughout the room. Baskets with books sit in the middle of each, while individual pencil boxes align the sides. A toy kitchen is situated underneath a loft for role-playing, and the teacher's desk is semi-circular to allow for easy access to her pupils.
Group by group the students congregate on a large, primary-colored literacy rug, with Mrs. Robinson making somewhat frequent reference to voice level.
Once assembled, teaching assistant Kristy Parker strikes the keys on the classroom keyboard, and the classroom fills with the familiar sound of "The Farmer and the Dell."
A round of "This Old Man" serves to transform those in attendance into a circle spread throughout the room. Each student is handed a ribbon. A CD begins playing, instructing the children to wave the green and white tissue in a particular direction. Up, down, left, right and above their heads, the students follow along, smiling at their collective success.
A pop-up theater also was purchased with the grant money to allow for puppet shows.
"Role-playing is not just acting out a story," Mrs. Robinson said. "It can be a song."
Earlier in the day, Austin Rutherford, Tyler Anderson and Harrison Newby sat huddled around a magnetic version of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears."
At one point, papa bear was asleep on the kitchen table, and Goldilocks was reprimanded for not knocking on the family's door before entering. The three boys easily reached a consensus that playing out familiar stories with magnetic characters was their favorite activity.
"It's fun," Mr. Rutherford said.
To Mrs. Robinson, a firm foundation in literacy enables students to learn in other areas such as science and social studies.
"I'm not expecting every child to read before leaving, but the goal is to expose them to as much literacy as I can," she said. "Exposure is key to a child's succeeding."
Staff Photo by Nikole Dugger.
Tyler Anderson, left, Harrison Newby, center, and
Austin Rutherford work with a magnetic book in
Faith Robinson's class at Hopewell Elementary
School in Cleveland, Tenn.