Now your child is four. Our pre-kindergarten program is just as the word denotes—pre; the skills that we will focus on this year are developmentally appropriate for the year before kindergarten, and specific to each child’s needs.
Our program is designed to nurture the children in all areas of development—social, emotional, cognitive, and physical. We believe that learning for young children occurs through “experiencing,” rather than just “knowing.” We focus on learning skills so that the process of learning is just as important, if not more important, than the “product” or the subject we are learning. In our program, the children are active, independent learners. We think of everything we do throughout the day as an opportunity to gain skills or learn an interesting new idea.
Our curriculum is multi-faceted and interdisciplinary. The units or themes that we study will integrate and synthesize lessons across all areas of the curriculum. The following are the areas of skills and knowledge that we will focus on throughout this year:
1. Pre-reading skills
Reading begins with that which is familiar. Therefore, a constant focus in our class will be the association of names, pictures, and everyday objects with letters and words. The children will learn the alphabet this year through the Letter People Phonics Program which concentrates on understanding the sound of each letter and how the sounds join to make words.
In addition to learning the alphabet, the children are encouraged to begin to write. Hand Writing Without Tears is our guide for teaching children proper techniques for writing. Our many activities, which nurture fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination, prepare the children physically for writing letters. Writing materials - including chalk, sponges, magnetic boards, markers, crayons, and pencils - will be available and encouraged for use. Weekly journaling gives our children the ability to express their thoughts and ideas through words and pictures.
C. Whole language
Reading to the children, and allowing them to use books on their own is an essential part of our daily schedule. We have a range of quality literature, both fiction and non-fiction books. Through stories, we will work on reading for meaning (comprehension), vocabulary development, predicting outcomes, application of knowledge, and a general interest in and excitement for oral and written language.
The need for using math skills naturally arises in many of our daily activities, as it does in real life situations. We look out for opportunities and encourage mathematical thinking whenever possible.
This year the children will learn shapes, sorting, counting, graphing, matching, classifying, and patterns. In addition, we will continue the use of daily charts and use measurement often in varied situations.
SCIENCE AND SOCIAL STUDIES
Watching real things happen is one of the best ways to experience science and learn about the world around us. Therefore, we use a hands-on, discovery approach to science, synthesizing this study with the unit or other concepts we are learning. Pre-kindergarten children are encouraged to describe the properties of materials, make comparisons between objects, and document information during experiments as well as make predictions. A project-based approach to learning is woven into the curriculum.
Art is an important opportunity for creative expression, and therefore we set aside time each day and have a variety of art media and tools for the children to use. We view art as a process, not a product, emphasizing individual ideas and expression. Suggestions for projects will be integrated with the unit that we are studying.
Music and song are an integral part of our program. We are always learning new songs, singing favorite old songs, and listening to music. We use a lot of hands-on props to discover rhythm, repetition, rhyming, beats, and melodies through our music.
3. Dramatic Play
As children grow and learn about the world around them, it is only natural to play out the roles that interest them. Some of the roles that children in the pre-kindergarten class choose to act out are parents, pets, pilots, construction workers, cooks, doctors, and more. Dramatic play will be facilitated by props that we have available or can create (e.g. a notepad for a waitress to write down orders.) Through play, the children practice modeling and gain important socialization and communication skills.
FINE MOTOR SKILLS
Eye-hand coordination and the strengthening of small muscles (particularly in the hands and fingers) are very important in early childhood to prepare children for gripping instruments and writing. We work on these skills through the use of playdough, clay, sand, blocks, art materials such as scissors, woodworking tools, manipulatives, geometric boards, tongs, droppers, puzzles, writing instruments (markers, pencils), and more.
GROSS MOTOR DEVELOPMENT
We work to nurture full body coordination and strength through exercise and movement including jumping, hopping, running, throwing, balancing, etc. These are experienced in both organized games and free play. We work on more complex actions to add to the large motor skills that the children have already mastered.
Using developmentally appropriate methods, the children are taught many of the beautiful aspects of being Jewish. They hear stories from the Torah, learn about the upcoming holidays and how they are celebrated, and learn about doing mitzvot and giving tzedakah (charity). They even begin to learn some Hebrew words and songs. The children say a bracha (blessing) before they eat and drink each day.
Fridays are a special day at JAHM Chai Tots Preschool. Our children make a fresh challah that they bring home each week and we welcome the Shabbat with a special Shabbat party each Friday.