English Language Activities
Our English language activities start with our very youngest children. We read stories to children of all ages, and we encourage them to look at the books themselves. For our younger children, we talk to them describing what they are experiencing through their seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and even smelling. For toddlers we also narrate what they are doing. For instance we may say, “You put the red ball under the chair. Now you put the two blue balls on top of the chair and they both rolled down to the floor.” By narrating what the child is experiencing they hear words they can associate with size, color, location, quantity, quality, weight, function and categorization. When narrating for a toddler who has verbal skills, they often try out a new word and many times use it in the proper context. During our Entry Level circle time we introduce the children to very basic phonics skills using Montessori sand paper letters and the resource cards from the Balanced Beginnings Program of the World Core Curriculum. We also present concepts such as opposites by letting the children explore objects that are smooth and rough, soft and hard, or long and short, etc.
Our preschool language activities include Montessori exercises such as the sandpaper letters, the moveable alphabet, experience charts, vocabulary enrichment labels, classification games, sequence cards and rhyming words and objects. We play many games to reinforce language concepts such as spatial relationships that are described by the prepositions over, under, in, on, next to, behind, etc. Name recognition is supported by placing each child’s name on their cubby, their coat hanger, their pull-up bin, and the Montessori name labels. To reinforce language concepts for the preschoolers we use videos such as the Letter Factory series and we sing the alphabet song, Ants on the Apple, to learn what sounds the letters make.
Songs are an integral part of our phonics program. As children learn the sounds of the letters we move them on into sounding out words and then into reading. Children are not forced or pressured into reading, but it is offered to them if they are interested.
Our language program also includes writing skills that start out with Montessori activities that help develop the muscles in the fingers, the hand, and the wrist. Scooping, spooning and tweezing are some of the activities that help develop those muscles the children will need to properly control a pencil. As the children begin to use a pencil, we place an emphasis on using a proper grip on the pencil.
Spanish Language Activities
Spanish is the second most used language in the United States which makes it beneficial for our children to be able to communicate in Spanish as well as in English. The brains of young children are very receptive to language acquisition, so the preschool years are a perfect time to offer the children lessons in Spanish. For many preschool children, the most effective lessons are highly active and sensory; therefore this is the format we use to present Spanish. Our lead teacher for the preschool class was born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, so the children are hearing accurate pronunciations of all words and phrases. The Spanish lessons include activities and games that require repetition of words on colors, simple food names, numbers, animals, greetings, shapes, clothing, opposites, and more. Stories are shared in Spanish and a real favorite is doing the Hokey Pokey in Spanish. Additional resources include the complete Hooked on Spanish program.
American Sign Language
In the United States, the most commonly used language is English, with Spanish being second and American Sign Language being third. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many universities are now accepting classes in Sign Language to fulfill their foreign language requirement. Sign language is no longer simply viewed as a way for the hearing impaired to communicate.
Many people are aware of the many benefits for preverbal infants and toddlers to use sign language to communicate their wants and needs, but preschool teachers are also discovering there are many benefits to using sign language with hearing students to improve their vocabulary and reading ability. Research is showing that sign language enhances brain activity and brain functioning. This is because signing is a verbal and motion oriented activity so it stimulates both hemispheres of the brain. When signing with hearing children you are reinforcing their existing verbal language which functions in the left hemisphere of the brain, as well as positioning it in long term memory by stimulating the right hemisphere of the brain with the physical motions. Teaching young children sign language also enhances their fine motor coordination, raises their awareness of diversity, and serves as a language bridge for children with special needs and children with English as their second language.
We have a professional, certified sign language teacher who comes in twice a week to work with the children. Our teacher, Laura Greer, is very good at engaging the children in the activities and teaches words and phrases that the children use throughout their day such as, please, thank you, shoes, socks, etc. She also uses songs and dance to increase the appeal of the activities and to stimulate even more portions of the brain to facilitate better retention.
Math and Science
We present math activities to both our Entry Level children and to our preschoolers. Our math activities for the younger children help develop their reasoning skills by letting them explore which items go together through matching games and activities. Our Entry Level math includes such things as songs and finger-plays, manipulatives for shape sorting and beginning quantity recognition, as well as circle time presentation of quantity cards.
Our preschool math activities include concrete, hands-on methods of presenting mathematical concepts. To accomplish this we use such resources such as the Montessori number rods, sand paper numerals, spindle boxes, cards and counters, constructive triangles, and geometric solids. We also use traditional preschool math activities such as sorting objects by color, shape, and size and creating graphs and patterns. Critical thinking activities such as puzzles and sequencing are always available for the children to do.
Practical mathematical applications are used throughout the day including such things as counting out coins during the preschool circle time for our Sharing Jars or, counting the harvest in the preschool garden and then counting the children to see how many pieces each child will get of the carrots, strawberries or whatever we are harvesting. We also play a game called “Hide the Treasures” where the person who is IT hides 5 gold disks around the yard. As they are hiding the treasures the other children cover their eyes and we all count together until the disks are all hidden. As each treasure is found and brought to the teacher, we use our fingers to demonstrate and ask the children, “If we had five treasures and one was found, how many do we have left to find?” Even the younger children often give the right answer.
A young child’s experience of science is based on curiosity; a curiosity that is an attempt to understand and make sense of this world and how it works. A preschooler can ask “why” or “how” many times a day, so while we plan specific science activities for the children, their curiosity and questions often makes science a daily part of their experience. With the preschool class we address both the natural sciences (the study of the natural world) and social sciences (the study of human behavior and society). Some of the techniques we use in our study of science include:
Observing: the children use their five senses to investigate an object or a situation
Classifying: the children group materials according to one or more common characteristics
Comparing: we have the children find similarities and differences between two or more materials
Measuring: the children determine length, height, volume of ingredients, temperature, etc.
Predicting: the children decide what may happen in the future based on what they already know