The Giddens School prekindergarten program helps 4 year olds develop the skills of our 3 pillars (academic excellence and learning, social and emotional development, social justice and equity) in ways that are developmentally appropriate. Our program provides a rich foundation for future schooling, while emphasizing the importance of learning through play. Children of this age often begin to see themselves as learners, coming to school full of purpose and intention. Teachers work to respond to each child, observing and inquiring to adapt a program that will be responsive to the child’s innate curiosity while assuring they have the foundational skills to support their success in kindergarten. This includes social and emotional learning, as well as academic growth. In prekindergarten, learning opportunities are provided in community contexts, including small group instruction. This helps children learn from one another and apply their knowledge to a variety of scenarios.
Reading instruction in prekindergarten strives to support children as they deepen their understanding of story while developing knowledge about the building blocks of words. Emphasis is placed on cultivating a love of stories through frequent reading, dramatic interpretation, and sharing of stories. This is balanced by opportunities to consider the letters and sounds that make words through systematic phonics instruction. On a daily basis, children build their reading skills through:
- Ongoing exposure to many different genres of books, cultivating preferences for specific characters, authors, or story types
- Building phonics and phonemic awareness skills through games, songs, poetry and more
- Developing visual memory skills though letter and early sight word recognition
- Opportunities to read whether by reading the words, reading the pictures, or telling the story
- Opportunities to read books with small and large groups, participating in discussions about stories
- Making connections between books and the world around them
Writing instruction in prekindergarten builds on a child’s developing understanding that the marks on a page have meaning. They recognize letters as being consistent and predictable. Many are even assigning meaning to common words such as their names or environmental print. Children at this age are encouraged to value writing as a form of expression, a way to make their ideas known to the world. Approximations such as scribble writing and invented spelling are encouraged as children learn to apply their phonics knowledge to their love of story telling. As the year progresses, foundational writing skills are developed by:
- Interactions with written words and letters in many formats
- Participation in the Handwriting Without Tears foundational program designed to develop productive letter formation habits in a developmentally appropriate way
- Using art as a form of written communication (create and tell)
- Sharing ideas, thoughts, and stories through approximations while collaborating with an adult to record meaning
- Interacting with a variety of materials that encourage fine motor development and refinement
- Writing and drawing responses to a variety of prompts
Prekindergarten mathematicians eagerly make connections between new knowledge they are gaining and math in the world around them. Mathematical ideas are presented in real world contexts with students quickly understanding why math matters. Children deepen their connection with the number system, as well as geometric constructs and early algebraic thinking through hands-on play experiences. Whether building a block town, organizing animals in a pet shop, or counting out crackers at snack time, prekindergarten students are learning to:
- Identify, compare, and order quantities
- Sort items by attribute (all of the big ones over here, the small ones over there)
- Identify, grow, and create patterns
- Explore scenarios that involve shifting quantities (we used to have 5 but now we have 7, we got 2 more)
- Use representation, including numbers, pictures, and words to communicate about mathematics
Science in prekindergarten is fueled by a 4 year old's curiosity and adventurous spirit. Science is woven throughout the school day as students explore and experiment with the world around them. Their classrooms, the playground, the school garden, and the wider neighborhood all represent learning laboratories where children can engage with the scientific method. They observe, hypothesize, test, consider outcomes, and adjust their thinking on a constant basis. SPARK Projects are units of study that give teachers and children opportunities to think more deeply about a scientific concept, and its connection to justice in the world, in a developmentally appropriate way. An example of this in prekindergarten would be a study of animal homes. From this SPARK Project, students develop scientific understandings, as well as awareness of the importance of shelter in health and safety.
Social Studies learning for prekindergarten students focuses on their developing awareness of the world around them and their place in it. Questions of geography, history, economics and civics emerge as children expand their world view and become more attuned to the greater society. SPARK Projects are units of study that give teachers and children opportunities to think more deeply about a social studies concept, and its connection to justice in the world, in a developmentally appropriate way. An example of this in prekindergarten would be a study of a pet store. From this SPARK Project, students develop awareness of the wide array of possible pets, the factors that influence individual preference in choosing a pet, and the economics of running a store. All while having fun with dramatic play!
The prekindergarten art program is closely linked to the work in the classroom. Themes include fairy tales, space, the ocean, and community. When children are working with a consistent theme it allows art projects to have more meaning and to make stronger, personalized learning connections. Within these themes prekindergarten students have the opportunity to work with a variety of materials and techniques, some of these include: paint, clay, collage, pastel, and more. In the spring, there is generally a noticeable shift for prekindergarten students to work toward creating representational artwork, they tend to be really focused on learning how to draw things in their world and using these pictures to tell some sort of story.
Prekindergarten students develop their fine and gross motor skills. Along with developing dexterity and movements, they focus on teamwork strategies. While participating in passing games or small group activities, the students use skills to build upon what it is like to work with one another. Through increasing motor abilities, students accomplish movements with a soccer ball, basketball, hockey stick, track and field events, and obstacle courses.
The Spanish program at Giddens School supports children in building their understanding of World Languages and the Spanish speaking countries. By providing Spanish instruction in preschool – 5th grade, we are instilling in students an awareness of the varied ways in which the world communicates and solidifying pathways of language development that support future language learning. Exposure to Spanish vocabulary and language conventions is balanced with cultural explorations throughout the program. After graduation, many Giddens School students go on to place into higher levels of Spanish instruction in their middle schools, building on the solid foundation of instruction provided during Spanish class at Giddens.
As our prekindergarden students get closer and closer to kindergarten, opportunities to explore more complex, humorous, and abstract stories serve to deepen their connection to the text. Folktales were a great medium through which to do this. Students hear oral stories and read a variety of folktales from around the world.