9:00-9:45 Arrival and Free Play on the Small Playground
9:45-10:00 Circle Time
10:00-10:30 Snack Time
10:30-11:30 Crafts and Learning Centers
11:30-12:00 Songs and Dismissal
If you were to watch a day unfold in any of our classrooms, you would see happy children enjoying the company of other children and engaging in a great deal of play. This play is the means through which children hone skills, build friendships, discover the world around them, and find out what interests them.
Play is a child’s work. However, it is not play without planning. The learning environment and the activities engaged in are all carefully planned by the teachers to teach specific skills. Parents are encouraged to ask questions of the teacher regarding the rationale for specific activities.
Our mid-year 2’s class runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays from January to June. Because it is only a half year program this class has neither parent participation nor field trips. Instead, this class functions as a first introduction to being at school. Children in this class are learning how to separate from parents and caregivers, follow school routines, and engage in positive play with other children.
The first part of the morning is spent on the playground learning to swing, climb the playground structure, dig in the sandbox, utilize the ride on toys, or dunk balls into the basketball hoop. We find that beginning on the playground often allows for easier separation from parents.
Once in the classroom, each child begins by putting away his/her backpack, snack box and jacket (to teach him/her to take care of his/her own belongings) and then washing hands (to lessen the chance of bringing germs into the classroom setting from the outer world). The children then spend time in a combination of free play and one-on-one projects both of which are times for building skills and developing interest and friendships.
The classroom is set up with toys and selected tabletop activities that reflect the teacher’s choices. Each teacher may add toys and books that complement the theme under study (e.g., a cardboard box made into a cave when studying hibernation). The tabletop activities, often playdough or other manipulatives, are designed to work on a specific skill (e.g., playdough or chopsticks for hand strengthening to develop pre-writing skills). The children engage in self-directed play in the classroom while individual children are called over to work on the project of the day with one of the teachers. Working one on one with the child allows the teacher the opportunity to observe and assess the child’s capabilities while also helping to build rapport between teacher and student. The other teacher, most often the assistant teacher, circulates throughout the classroom assisting children as needed and stepping in to guide play where necessary (e.g., two children tussling over a toy requires intervention and modeling of appropriate verbal negotiation skills). So many of our children get a great deal of one-on-one playtime with adults at home that they need help to develop independent play. The free choice time serves to help them develop self-management skills as well as their conversational and play skills with other students.
As part of their free choice activities the children may use the sensory table, paint at the easel, put together puzzles, or play with the various toys around the room. The library corner is always open. During that time the class will have music once a week for 20 minutes with Ms. Maribeth and from January to March, will have Jump Bunch in Phillips Hall for 20-25 minutes once a week. Jump Bunch is a gross motor movement class that develops balance, coordination and other physical skills. As you can see, the morning is a busy one. At the end of this period the children will have clean up time in which they assist with the straightening and organizing of the classroom. Bathroom breaks are given as needed during the morning, but a planned diaper changing time occurs just after snack.
During snack time the children all sit down with their snack boxes, say a short prayer selected by the teacher (most often the “Johnny Appleseed” prayer), and begin eating. Snack time is an important time during which students work on fine motor skills while manipulating their snack boxes and the contents therein, as well as conversational skills. The students and teachers often use this as time to discuss what is happening with their families and in the larger world or to discuss the importance of healthy eating.
After snack the children transition to a short circle time. During this time, children always have a book or two read to them which centers around the theme under study (e.g., transportation, hibernation, families) and they discuss what they have been studying during the day. They do their weather and calendar activities which works on patterning (pre-math skills). They may engage in some movement and music exercises as well.
The above outlines a typical day. However, there are other activities that impact the daily routine. We have monthly school-wide enrichment activities that included this past year: Mad Science classes in January, hatching eggs and raising chickens in February, dental health professional visits in February, professional storyteller appearances in March, Tiny Chefs classes in April, raising insect in April and Squeals on Wheels in May