In our play-based program Preschool students learn to communicate and express their needs and feelings to teachers and peers. During meeting times, students begin to express themselves as they share their thoughts and ideas with the group. Children listen to a variety of literature, developing their vocabulary as well as print and phonemic awareness. Preschoolers begin to take note of environmental print, looking for their name tags as well as matching pictures with words. They sing songs to understand how words are strung together and build their background knowledge through theme-related studies which will later help them recognize new words as they begin to read.
Junior Kindergarten students begin to identify and learn to write the letters in their first name and recognize their last name. They explore letters by writing in shaving cream and on chalk boards and by assembling wooden pieces of straights and curves. Their exposure to environmental print increases; there is a morning message/question that greets them each morning, a calendar, classroom guidelines (that they help to create), and predictions from science experiments that are hung for the children to reflect upon. They are introduced to a poem at the start of the week, which most will have memorized by the end of the week. They answer journal questions and make scientific observations by illustrating their ideas. Students begin to share their work with their classmates working on their expressive language while teachers document their increasingly descriptive words.
All of this is the foundation for success in our Kindergarten program. Kindergarten students learn the words to a weekly poem related to their theme, looking for examples of rhyming words and words that have the sounds they are studying that week. They study letters and learn key words to remember the sound for each letter. Every week new trick words, those that can’t be sounded out, are added to their Word Wall with Velcro so they can use them for their writing. Our Kindergarten students begin to write stories, first with pictures, then by labeling, and soon with sentences – a capital in the beginning, spaces between the words, and a period or exclamation mark at the end. They partner read, read instructional texts in guided reading groups, and pour through independent reading books housed in their individual book bags.
Starting in Preschool, students are building their muscles of expressive language, creativity, and imagination so that they have boundless ideas for writing. Through a wide range of themes, students accumulate expansive background knowledge during their time in the ELC, allowing them to make a multitude of connections to books that are read to them and that they ultimately read on their own!