The Preschool Classroom
Preschool is a time for children to learn how to take care of their needs with increasing independence, help others, and take care of their classroom and school. Our program is designed to support and extend young children's learning through direct experiences. Children learn best when actively engaged, so we provide a balance of teacher-directed and child-initiated activities. Throughout the year we will focus on each of the following areas using many different topics and interests as the vehicle for doing so.
Teachers start with what children do best: play. It’s natural for them to build, create, explore, and interact; we provide a curriculum and a loving space for each of those capacities to expand naturally to take in new ideas, facts, and social and physical skills.
Preschoolers are encouraged to verbally express their thoughts and feelings in order to communicate effectively with those around them. Using language as a tool to express, share, and further one's thinking is one of our goals for the preschoolers. We model the value of words, both written and spoken, throughout the day. We tell stories (both real and pretend), read many, many books, and discuss the intricacies and surprises of words, sounds, and language. We encourage the children to familiarize themselves with the world of print by looking at books on their own and figuring out the story through the pictures. We ask the children to express their thoughts pictorially and give us the language that goes with these pictures. We are vigilant about monitoring small motor skills, which are an integral part of the mechanics and art of writing. We nourish the children's confidence in themselves as pre-literate thinkers and doers, and craft a solid foundation of literacy skills. Preschoolers work on:
- Expressive and Receptive language
- Phonemic Awareness (rhyming, recognizing sounds in words)
- Beginning to recognize letters
- Concepts of Print (holding a book, recognizing print carries meaning)
- Retelling and creating stories through drawings, creative movement, drama, and conversations
- Asking and answering questions about stories read aloud
- Using drawings, shapes, and letters to represent thinking
Preschoolers are concrete thinkers and mathematical learning is part of our everyday practice. We provide many varied opportunities to engage in sorting, classifying, counting, patterning, and geometrical awareness. Materials that will later be part of direct math instruction are out in the classroom to give the children a chance to meet, play with, and get to know things like cuisinaire rods and unifix cubes. Their natural curiosity leads the preschoolers to experiment with these materials in mathematical ways such as trying to find the perimeter of an oval rug by seeing how many unifix cubes it takes to go all the way around. Over the course of the year each student builds context for mathematical concepts motivated by self-propelled inquiry and experiential learning. Preschoolers work on:
- Saying number names
- Understanding numbers signify a quantity
- Using “bigger”, “smaller”, and “the same” to describe differences between small collections of objects
- Using informal language to describe shapes
- Recognizing when a story involves math
Children are naturally curious. One part of being at school is to understand how to learn about something you are interested in. For example, preschool students are known as the Honeybees so our study of honeybees serves as the vehicle for learning about the process of inquiry/learning about how to learn as a group. We think about what we already know, look at books, ask experts, observe, taste, touch, and share out what we learned with members of the community. This study is a larger example of what occurs in our classroom daily; children are naturally curious, and we all learn something new every day.
Through the practice of being in a musical community, children develop a disposition to musical learning. We believe music is a human birthright and all humans are musical. Children practice these cornerstones:
•Practice and learn to be aware of the behavior of the group and match my behavior to the group.
•Practice differentiating singing, speaking, whispering, (and shouting), and other vocal/mouth sounds.
•Practice matching pitch while singing.
•Practice having my voice match the other voices in the group.
•Practice finding a way to make a tap or clap match the group or the music (or both).
•Practice finding ways to have steady beat actions incorporated into musical games and folk dances.
•Practice moving in ways that match and respond to songs, recorded music, and folk dances.
•Practice moving in ways that match the movements of others in the group.
In the Studio, we practice being artists in a community space, with peer artists. Visual Arts is also an integrated component of the homeroom experiences, as the visual arts are a means for young children to express themselves, their thinking, and their learning. Preschoolers practice:
•Engaging with a range of materials and 2D and 3D media including: drawing, painting, collage, clay, sculpture, natural materials, magna-tiles, sewing, and printmaking.
•Creating artworks for a variety of purposes and for varying amounts of time (some experiences are one day, while others span weeks).
•Using artistic language, including calling the materials, tools, and processes by name.
•Practicing sharing your artwork and considering changes you may make, as well as seeing and responding to peers’ works.
•Conversations about creations, working process, inspiration, problem solving, persevering, strengths, and challenges.
The preschool year in woodshop establishes a foundation for all kinds of creative thinking and empowers independence. We focus on individual and collaborative creations while being mindful of how finished work reveals a wide variety of understandings, processes and successes. Working with wood can present many problems to solve just by the nature of the medium. The grain in the wood or where a knot is located can be factors for causing the wood to split, a nail to bend or saw cut to be off the line. We take plenty of time to explore and discover as well as build amazing things! The expectation is that the language of shop is practiced, practiced and then practiced some more. Some of the hand tools we use are: claw hammer, saws, hand drill, brace drill, square, screw driver, sand paper, file, C-clamp, bar-clamp, vise and wood glue. Preschool students practice:
•Safe, purposeful and appropriate use of woodworking hand tools
•Simple techniques for beautiful craftsmanship
•Assembling parts in a balanced and logical manner
•Identifying the natural properties of soft wood (grain, knots and thicknesses)
•Using simple measurement strategies
Preschoolers are given many opportunities to gain skill, control, and coordination with both large and small muscles. They enjoy time in P.E. and extensive time outside on playground and exploring campus. Children begin to learn about the attributes of a healthy lifestyle, respect for individual differences and similarities, and how to participate cooperatively in physical activities. Preschoolers practice:
Simple games & movement skills
•How to play variations of tag games with classmates, moving from very simple to more complex movement patterns •Bodies need exercise to stay healthy and strong
Gymnastics & movement
•Proper use of apparatus
•Techniques for body control feet and hands, rocking, rolling, sliding, stretching, curling, turning
•Skills in transferring body weight
Dance & movement
•Locomotor activities: stepping, walking, galloping, jumping, hopping, leaping
•Non-locomotor activities: balancing activities, twisting, curling, turning, spinning, circling, stretching
•Pathways of movement: e.g. straight, curvy, zig zag sustained, sudden
Ball Handling Skills
•Fundamental movement patterns such as jumping or throwing
•Skills for throwing, catching, kicking, dribbling and trapping a ball
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) acts as an umbrella for all of the learning happening in Preschool and is integrated throughout our curriculum. Major goals of the Beginning School include helping children become their individual best selves and, concurrently, a community of learners. To that end, we continuously work on five SEL competencies*:
•Self-awareness: The ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior. Preschoolers work on: expressing emotions, learning problem solving strategies, identifying issues in a conflict situation, and identifying strengths and challenges.
•Self-management: The ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors effectively in different situations. This includes managing stress, controlling impulses, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward goals. Preschoolers work on: transitioning to new activities, regulating body movements, regulating voice volume, practicing matching energy to an activity, choosing an activity that matches energy, listening to your own body in order to care for your own needs.
•Social awareness: The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior. Preschoolers work on: reading body language to understand the emotions of others, comforting those who are upset, recognizing the impact of their actions, sympathizing, contemplating and respecting the differences between self and others.
•Relationship skills: The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. This includes communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, negotiating conflict, and seeking and offering help when needed. Preschoolers work on: building friendships, problem solving with others, discussing and practicing qualities that make a good friend, working and playing cooperatively.
•Responsible decision-making: The ability to make constructive and respectful choices about personal behavior and social interactions. Preschoolers work on: making decisions about where to work and play, making decisions about with whom to work and play, trying new experiences, understanding why rules exist and formulating agreements that benefit the group, articulating reasons for decisions, and considering the impact of their decisions.
*SEL competency descriptions based on the work of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL).