Pre-K class is a boon to learning for any four-year-old lucky enough to be in one. It is all about school readiness and getting students ready to sit down, abide by group rules, take direction, function in a social setting, and have a deep enthusiasm for learning.
“This kind of school readiness pays dividends big time,” according to teacher Sarah Hines at Minor Community School. She is one of nine Pre-K JEFCOED teacher and she sees it happening through ”exploration, sociability, curiosity, creativity, decision making, independence, responsibility, team work along with partnerships developed through families and teachers and the school.”
JEFCOED’s first six teachers for Pre-K from the state came about in school year 2015-16. Those schools were Brighton, Center Point Elementary, Crumly Chapel, Oak Grove Elementary, Minor Community, and Warrior. For the current school year three more units were added, a second one at Crumly Chapel and new ones at Fultondale Elementary and Pinson Elementary.
We recently had a happy visit to a Pre-K class at Minor Community School. At first glance a visitor is reminded of all the little things one learns through interaction with peers in order to be ready for school. Things like taking turns, listening to directions, working in large groups and then smaller groups, team work, lining up, waiting your turn quietly and raising your hand to talk. Politeness and soft library voices were evident and character education was definitely a part of this happy day.
First order of the day was quiet time at the centers known as arrival activities. Students chose a center from exploration, bean bag reading, reading in a cube, math, or ipad exploring, or solving puzzles. They gathered in quiet small groups or did independent work.
Next came big group assembly on a colorful rug with red, green, blue or pink squares which help determine waiting one’s turn for direction. Exploration time later included looking at the pumpkin with a magnifying glass, feeling bumpy squash gourds, or drawing a picture of the pumpkin. Next came a morning snack an apple, a pumpkin cookies, or a serving of pumpkin seeds. The apples were part of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grant through child nutrition. Also, they tried pumpkin bars and pumpkin seeds. Mrs. Hines leads them in” raise it up and gobble it down” before students have their snacks. By making certain all students try the snack at the same time, one student doesn’t influence negatively the rest of the class, if that student does not like the snack.
This particular day estimation was the math lesson. Students were asked to guess the amount of String that would go around the real medium-sized pumpkin in the classroom. Teacher or assistant then cut the amount of string suggested by the students and they were taped to a poster sized sheet of paper. To the left was the smaller than circumference of the pumpkin. To the right were the guesses that were larger than the circumference of the pumpkin.
Next came working with manipulatives to reinforce the learning of letters, small and capital letters, and matching three-dimensional letters with two-dimensional letters on a sheet of paper reinforced with small group practice and recitation with paraprofessional Sherri Smith.
A large jar of green plastic marbles sits alone prominently near teacher’s desk. A green marble is added by the teacher or paraprofessional when evidence of good teamwork is observed. Upon the jar’s being filled, all classmates get a healthy treat, reinforcing working together as a positive behavior.
Excitement rose in their voices as outside time came just before lunch time. It was time to play on the jungle gym and woodchip-filled play area to run off some abundant energy. Mrs. Hines monitors the students as some choose to help her pull weeds from the wood chips. “Weed pulling is therapy for me.” This special physical activity time emphasizes the individual jobs held by the students such as line leader, caboose, light monitor, door monitor, recess helper, recess basket carrier, snacker helper, center clean-up and chair straightener, calendar helper, weather board, cot helper for nap time, and lunchroom sweeper, table washer, and water fountain helper.
After a nutritious lunch and talk time, students returned to their classroom for a nap followed by more center time These are free choice centers. Students are able to choose from one of the centers listed above. Most centers have two people in them with the exceptions being dramatic play and blocks having three and art using four. Students are able to self-monitor and can look to see if there is enough room in the center before joining and an afternoon snack time. The day’s last activity involved music and movement before dismissal at 2:15 p.m. During this music and movement time the students either have a dance party, do an exercise from GoNoodle.com, or sing some of their favorite songs and fingerplays.
After seven years at central office working in the Foundation office, Mrs. Hines helped JEFCOED teachers with professional development, the grant program for classroom enrichment, and by running the Stellar program for encouraging more teachers to become National Board Certified. Her love of teaching quickly returned with this Pre-K class.
“To me, Pre-K is the most wonderful age to teach, some may even say it is magical. Each day we have the opportunity to see students grow so much right before our eyes. Their imaginations, curiosity and eagerness to learn are contagious. After several years teaching I spent seven years working in the Central Office. It was there that I grew to love JEFCOED and it was during that time that I recognized not only the needs in our district but also the potential our district has. It was because of that potential that I made the decision to come back into the classroom, specifically to teach Pre-K. I am honored to have the opportunity to teach in an Alabama’s First Class Pre-K Program and to teach in Jefferson County.”