Tag Archives: kindergarten

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Blocks and Construction Play

Whenever family members ask about good toys for children, one of the first that comes to mind is blocks.

Unit blocks – blocks that come in several sizes and shapes that are proportional – offer tremendous learning opportunities. As they play, children solve problems and develop motor skills. They measure, sort, compare, think about shapes, and develop spatial skills. In order to successfully realize their ideas, children develop the capacity to plan and to use their past experiences to inform their building designs. Children learn to practice and persist as they cope with design challenges. They explore scientific principles and physics as they experience the challenges building their structures pose, whether it’s making a long bridge, creating a window opening, or building higher.

Even taking blocks off the shelf and cleaning up offers opportunities for learning. When children match a picture of a block to the block itself at cleanup, they are “reading the blocks” – using an abstract representation of the block to know where to put it. This is an important prerequisite to reading words.

Many children are also developing stories and pretend skills as they build. The buildings may be part of a city, or may represent a neighborhood where children live. There may be people who live and work in the buildings that are constructed. Children may explore jobs people do, road or pipe works, and relate their block play to their life experiences.

There are many opportunities to develop social skills as children build as well. A bigger structure or thematic plan is possible when children work together, but to do so requires talking together, planning, sharing ideas, negotiating, taking turns, and generally learning to take the perspective of others.

Many different kinds of construction toys, including unit blocks, encourage children to create and solve problems. Because open-ended materials like blocks can be used and combined in so many ways, children are invited to expand their capacity for divergent thinking.

Free exploratory play with blocks and construction toys is important, but is not the only way that these materials can be used. More experienced children may benefit from following a plan to build, or by solving a problem with blocks posed by a teacher.

Constructing with blocks gives children opportunities to learn as young children learn best – through physical activity with concrete materials in their environment, on themes that are personally meaningful, and in an integrated way.

Enjoy the collection of constructions shown by these photos!

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The Importance of Family at Learning Circle Preschool

At Learning Circle Preschool, we want to make sure there’s a family presence in each classroom and that families feel welcome to participate in school life. We do it in a variety of ways. Having family photos in every classroom, available every day, helps assure that there are on-going conversations among the children about the people important in their lives. Looking at photos of family activities and trips also helps children become more aware of the many experiences we share, and of some of the ways in which we may be different.

There’s nothing like a classroom visit to help a family member get a concrete sense of classroom life and what the school experience means to the children. It’s a lovely way to get a look into what school is like for each child.

Some parents are curious about something a child’s teachers mentioned at a recent conference. Others enjoy sharing a favorite recipe on a day the class is cooking. Some like to help teachers support children, maybe by sitting with children and writing down their ideas as they dictate descriptions of drawings and stories to add to their writing journals. Some come to help take photos of classroom activities or projects. Many family members like to read with children, perhaps to help celebrate a child’s birthday, or for no special reason. Some family members just come to sit and watch for a while, or join the class outdoors.

Some family members help us offer special events and experiences for the children that we wouldn’t be able to offer without them. Joining a class on a field trip, planting a tree or weeding the gardens, or helping out at our annual Food Day celebration are examples of some of the ways family members directly engage with the children and curriculum.

We hope that family members will feel welcome to celebrate their family cultures with the school community as well. We’ve had family members come in to teach children a second language, or read bi-lingual books. Some family members have shared food, games, or other traditions with the children. Others have sent children postcards from places they have traveled or where extended family lives. Some share skills and work experiences. Every year the mix is different, and we celebrate each contribution to our program with the children.

It’s also great to look forward to our annual family events, when children and parents spend time together. Some of these times are entirely social, like our farm days at Pakeen Farm in the fall, or our annual multicultural Family Luncheon each spring. Some have an educational component, like our open door days when we encourage family members to play with their children in the classrooms to learn about how children learn and why we do what we do. Some events celebrate the season, like our annual Family Dance right before the winter holiday break. Some are as informal as our beginning year playdates when families and children get to know each other on the playground or when families invite each other to meet and play after school at Houghton’s Pond.

Children feel validated and that their school life is important when their families participate. Children feel connected and valued when it’s clear that important people at school value their home lives and experiences. Children feel safe and trust the school environment when they see and feel their family member’s trust. Every year our efforts look a little different, but we hope to help build a community that connects grownups and children alike!

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Preparing a dish

Learning Circle Preschool and Kindergarten offers visits to prospective parents.

It may seem early, but now is the time to start planning for preschool for enrollment in the 2016-2017 academic year.

The Learning Circle Preschool, a non-profit preschool and kindergarten program at the foot of the Blue Hills on the Milton/Canton border, is offering prospective parents and their children the opportunity to visit its facilities at 3 Blue Hill River Road, Canton, MA. The visits give parents and children a chance to meet with director Katrina Selawsky, to talk about each family’s specific needs and to tour the school.

On Wednesday, Oct. 7th the Open House is scheduled during a typical school day for families interested in seeing classrooms while children are in session.

On Friday, Oct. 23rd the Open House is scheduled concurrently with Learning Circle Preschool’s Annual Food Day Festival. After visiting the classrooms indoors, parents and their children are invited to participate in activities focusing on healthy food choices, where food comes from, investigating the science of familiar vegetables, and planting. These are planned as part of National Food Day. Stories, gardening, arts, and science activities will be included as well as scheduled walks to Brookwood Farm (weather permitting).

On Saturday, November 14th, the Open House is scheduled for families who may prefer visiting on the weekend. On the same day, at 11 a.m., families may attend a community puppet show presented by Sparky Puppets called “Old Favorites” ($8 per ticket). This features re-tellings of three traditional folktales.

Learning Circle Preschool, accredited by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) offers morning programs with two, three, or five-day options, afternoon enrichment programs, and extended day options that run until 4:30 pm. Facilities include three state of the art, open, sunny and spacious classrooms, a welcome room with library and a spacious playground at the foot of the Blue Hills, a short walk from Brookwood Farm.
With a curriculum inspired by the schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, children enjoy engaging, hands on experiences that build a strong foundation for learning with individual attention and project work in small groups, respectful and nurturing interactions, opportunities to plan, reflect on, and work on projects over time, and an integrated language arts, creative arts and science curriculum.

Parents enjoy on-going communication, detailed documentation of each child’s growth and development shared in a portfolio system, newsletters and other written information about the program distributed regularly, parent meetings and discussion groups on educational and parenting issues, and a welcoming attitude towards parent participation in the program.

Class sizes typically range from 10-14 students, each with two highly qualified and experienced co-teachers. Decisions about placements for the fall of 2016 will begin to be made in December. For more information or an appointment, please call Katrina at 781-828-4800.

Please share this information with any families you think might be interested!

Story Project

Emergent Curriculum and Projects

The teachers at Learning Circle Preschool work very closely together and are all interested in fine-tuning our skills and approaches to enhance the curriculum in each classroom. You may not know that each week we meet as a whole staff for a few hours to share perspectives, bounce ideas off each other, and also to participate in more formal professional development on topics we’ve decided together would be beneficial.

We have been thinking about the challenges of project development for a number of years now and improving our project development from this experience. This year we decided to participate together in an intensive course on emergent curriculum and projects, developed by Katrina and approved by the state so that ceu credit could be awarded. We talked together about some of the varieties of projects, embedding educational values, core standards and skill development in projects, challenges we all face as we try to implement projects, ways to organize projects and deeply engage children over time, sources of ideas for projects, and more. It was both exciting and engaging to come together around these important themes, and our invigorating conversations led to a renewed interest in emergent curriculum, and helped us begin to apply new knowledge in each classroom that we’ll continue to develop over time.

Here are some samples of some of the diverse projects emerging around the school. Some are quite broad – like our on-going projects relating to story and storytelling. Some have a focused question or material under investigation, like the “water in motion” project that emerged from some children’s free exploration of water. In each case, project ideas came from our observations of the children’s investigations and interests. From observations, teachers develop materials, questions to discuss, or experiences to share together that we hope will stimulate a deeper level of engagement among the children. We document as we go along, and bring that documentation back to the children to stimulate more thinking about past experience as a guide to determining the next steps we may take together on the topic. This process continues until we bring the project to some closure through either presentation, discussion, or reflection.

Nuthatch Story Project

Starting from free use of open-ended shapes at the flannel board, teachers listened to the conversations and stories that emerged. They made sure to include a few shapes that implied “home and family” themes and it did not take long for stories to develop among the children about family, neighborhoods, invitations to a friend’s house, playdates, etc. Knowing that children’s thinking often benefits from having materials to physically manipulate, the next step was to offer the children a set of doll house furniture to set up as conversations and stories continued. The teachers then made sure there were blank books available at the writing table, and many children have continued their themes as they create personal books.

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Chickadee Story Project

The current story project in the chickadee class is directly related to bookmaking experiences, puppetry and dramatic readings and retelling of folktales that the children have been engaged with since the fall in many different forms. We have included some formal book extensions like the one illustrated from Jan Brett’s The Mitten, reading together multiple times and giving children props with which to retell the story. With new children entering the class, the children spontaneously revisited a strong interest in their family photo albums, now increasingly interested in looking at and sharing conversations about experiences their classmate’s books. The newest element to our story project has been to introduce acting out short stories that the children create in the style of an approach first written about by Vivian Paley. In this storytelling experience, there are no illustrations. Children tell a teacher their story while the teacher writes their words. Then at a meeting the children choose characters and act out the stories. Through this process, the children develop their sense of story structure (beginnings/middles/ends), develop characters, and make sure there are actions for their characters to take.

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Goldfinch Water in Motion Project

When freely exploring water, teachers noticed that the children showed a lot of interest in how water moved through small tubes. They provided longer tubing, buckets, funnels, pipettes, cups and measuring cups to extend this interest, and then asked the children to solve a specific problem:

Can you find a way to get the water from the water table into the bucket that we put here on the floor?

There were a variety of approaches used to solve this problem, and teachers took photos of the diverse techniques used. Them during a meeting, everyone looked at the photos together and the children were asked to talk about what they had discovered about moving water through tubes, talking about their experiments, what worked and what didn’t work so well.

The children went back to the water after this discussion with new knowledge to try again, and after more investigation, drew their observations about how their experiments worked.

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Science and Math

Is my child ready for kindergarten?

That’s a question we hear often. With kindergarten information meetings scheduled and registration for public school programs beginning, many parents of eligible children are thinking about their options, and trying to imagine how their children might fare. There are also families with children who are not “age eligible” for kindergarten. These families may be considering preschool options with the thought that their children might be ready for something different.

In both situations, a transitional kindergarten program can serve as a bridge and offer children the gift of time to develop socially, emotionally, physically or academically. At the Learning Circle, the curriculum is geared to meet the developmental needs of five year olds, but is adapted to meet the unique and individual needs of each child as they grow. Children are challenged in those areas in which they need challenge, and supported in those areas of development in which they are less secure. Class size is small to assure individual attention, and the setting is warm, flexible and nurturing. There are projects and other experiences that support skill development and challenge children academically, as well as extended time for creative use of open-ended materials and play. Having this extra year to grow can make a tremendous difference to children’s confidence in their ability to learn and express themselves fully in a school setting.

A transitional kindergarten program can serve as a bridge and offer children the gift of time to develop socially, emotionally, physically or academically.

Age eligibility for kindergarten may also be worth thinking about well before your child is five. If you have a younger child who will miss the age requirements for kindergarten when the time comes, you may see your almost three year old as ready to start preschool, but may worry about the prospect of three preschool years before kindergarten. If this is the case, consider asking questions about the ways each prospective program you visit can individualize curriculum so that your child is both supported and challenged at each point of their development. Considering these issues early can help reduce the number of transitions in your child’s early school experiences.

The Goldfinch class at the Learning Circle accepts older pre-k children who are not yet eligible for a public school kindergarten but who may benefit developmentally from a transitional class, as well as children who will make the transition to first grade in the following year. It is taught by Barbara Lapal, a certified, nurturing teacher who has taught in both public and private school settings at the pre-k and kindergarten level, and Anne Regnier, an experienced teacher of primary-age children with expertise in teaching, reading and literacy and with a background as a Responsive Classroom consulting teacher for the public schools. The program is highly individualized, the schedule is flexible, and the class can accommodate families that prefer an all day option (8:30-2:45 or longer on four days, with a half day on Friday), as well as those looking for half day and/or kindergarten enrichment options. Extended program options for any child at Learning Circle Preschool can be arranged between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

For more information about the benefits of transitional kindergartens, we invite you to tour our school and speak directly with our teachers.

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