Young children need to be surrounded by language and print in order to understand how we make meaning from what is on the page. Our teachers choose stories that are engaging and often participatory. Classic children’s books, award winning authors and illustrators, and large text books are in constant rotation. Teachers also record the words and ideas of their students in whole group demonstration as they talk about letters and sounds. Children’s dictation accompanies their writing in the classroom. Teachers utilize pictures and labels throughout the classroom to increase student awareness of environmental print, while emerging readers and writers contribute by offering these skills to class projects and discussions as well as individual projects. Pre-K students, developing stronger motor skills, have many opportunities to express themselves verbally and through writing.
Counting, patterning, and math experiences lay the foundation for strong number concept. Counting things over and over in varying amounts is vitally important to this foundation. At this age, children need to touch and manipulate each object as they learn one-to-one correspondence. They also need to have enough practice with the names of each number and that they learn them in the right sequence. The teachers often use art materials to explore pattern with children. Understanding pattern is a key to mathematical concepts. Children also weigh and measure, estimate, experiment with color, shapes, attributes (big, bigger, biggest) etc., and play number identification and dice games.
Science is incorporated into the Preschool classroom within the International Baccalaureate PYP units and through regular hands-on experimentation and experience. Preschool students learn the scientific method, hypothesize about possible outcomes, and use their senses to make observations. The High Meadows campus serves as a spectacular platform for learning about the natural world through studies of habitat, animals, plants, and weather.
Social Emotional Learning
Preschool classrooms encompass a range of levels of social emotional development based on a number of factors. Parenting style, physical development, sibling experience, and former school settings all play into where each child is with emotional development. Daily factors such as sleep, hunger, growth, and family all combine into how each child feels coming in each morning.
Our teachers know young children and have developmentally appropriate expectations for behavior. "Positive Discipline" (by Jane Nelsen) methodology is a balance of firmness and kindness without punitive measures. We choose to help children develop the language and strategies they need to get their needs met and connect with others. While a teacher may have a child sit close by to calm down a few minutes if upset, we do not use time out or punishment with children learning to make good choices. We help children to share with each other, to talk to each other kindly, and to enlist their teacher’s assistance with social navigating in the day to day.
Fine Motor Skills: Not all incoming Preschoolers have had experience with fine motor activities such as cutting, stringing beads, using tweezers, or holding a pencil. Our Handwriting Without Tears curriculum, developed by an occupational therapist, is designed to teach each child the parts of the face and body in a way that assists with drawing. We also utilize a wide range of activities to strengthen each child’s hand and encourage the appropriate tripod grasp (rather than fist).
Gross Motor Skills: Our campus and playground are well suited to helping children use their large muscles in climbing, sliding, marching, running, skipping, jumping, and digging. Additionally, our students take Physical Education once a week to hone in on balance, coordination, and stamina.
We believe children need the time and space to settle into their surroundings and develop relationships with peers and teachers. We do not send home daily behavior reports, but are very accessible to families through email and phone. Teachers connect with parents in a Hopes and Fears conference in September to discuss goals and concerns. Six weeks into the program, we send home a short progress report to document how things are going. We utilize phone calls, emails, and live conversations to stay in touch about whether things are on track and share anecdotes about your child's learning experiences.
In addition, teachers are constantly "kid watching" and recording observations about how children express themselves, interact with others, engage with materials, and play. These notes are converted into comprehensive narrative feedback for each child's narrative report, which includes contributions from both teachers and Connections instructors. Twice a year, parents come to campus to conference with teachers about these reports.
One of the most unique features of our Preschool program is the diversity in experiences they encounter through Connections classes. PS-3 and Pre-K students participate in the following classes and activities weekly:
- Physical Education
- Environmental Education (Nature Class)
- Pony Rides
- Theatre (two block units yearly)