Storyteller, February 2011


“The benefits of children’s having substantial control over the work undertaken extend beyond the early years. Marcon (1992, 1995) found that children from preschool classes that offered ample opportunity for child-initiated, as opposed to teacher-directed, activity showed the greatest mastery of basic reading, language, and mathematics skills” (Helm & Katz, 2001).

Dear Families and Friends,

PPS Once more, the enrollment process taking place at our preschool and at public and private elementary schools at this time of year seems to be the subject of significant attention, consideration, anticipation—and even concern. For families whose children are eligible to start kindergarten in the fall, the question may be, “Is my child really ready for kindergarten?” For other families whose children have been impacted by the change in the age requirement for public kindergarten, the question might be, “What is the best placement for my child in the coming transitional year before kindergarten?” Parents of children who are headed for kindergarten in the fall of 2013 may also be wondering about how best to support their children in preparing for the kindergarten experience.”Which class at PPS will be the best fit for my child in terms of laying a foundation for the primary grades?”

PPS To answer all of these questions, we first have to establish a general definition of kindergarten readiness—and this is not an easy task as parents and teachers learn more about the increasing emphasis on specific literacy/math knowledge and skills required in kindergarten classrooms. While many preschool educators focus on social-emotional development and the encouragement of children’s natural curiosity as preparation for the early elementary grades, many kindergarten teachers are concerned with children’s ability to write their name and recite numbers, letters and sounds of the alphabet at the time they enter kindergarten.

At Palisades Preschool, we have made the choice to support child-initiated learning through play as a channel for preparing children socially, emotionally and intellectually for their first years of elementary school—and to promote their development as life-long learners.

Early childhood researchers Judy Helm and Lilian Katz (2001), have this to say: “While academic goals address small units of knowledge and skills, intellectual goals address dispositions; that is, habits of mind that include a variety of tendencies to interpret experience (Katz, 1993). Some habits of mind that relate to intellectual goals include the disposition to

  • Make sense of experience
  • Theorize, analyze, hypothesize, and synthesize
  • Predict and to check predictions
  • Find things out
  • Strive for accuracy
  • Be empirical
  • Grasp the consequence of actions
  • Persist in seeking solutions to problems
  • Speculate about cause-effect relationships
  • Predict others’ wishes and feelings

Along with many others not mentioned, these dispositions are all intellectual rather than academic in focus.”

Katz and Helm (2001) also comment on the correlation between children’s active involvement in their learning and their social-emotional development:

PPS “Research suggests that there is a relationship between the role that children have in determining their own learning experiences and the development of social skills. A study of kindergarten classes using three different teaching approaches (direct instruction, a constructivist approach based on child-initiated activities, and an eclectic approach) found that the children from the constructivist class were more interpersonally interactive. They exhibited a greater number and variety of negotiation strategies and shared more experiences (Devries, Reese-Learned, & Morgan, 1991).”

I believe that most parents in our community have selected PPS because they also value child-initiated learning through play—as well as children’s participation in small group work, the role of the environment as the third teacher, the role of the teacher as a co-researcher, and the importance of documentation to make children’s (and adults’) learning visible.

We appreciate your validation of our approach; however, we also understand that your children will leave our school and most often will join communities whose values relate strongly to teacher-directed (and district directed) instruction in specific knowledge and skills. I would like to reassure many of you that while supporting children’s social-emotional and intellectual growth, in most cases, our child-initiated curriculum prepares children to enter the more structured and “academic” environments, too.

The curriculum in our classrooms includes emergent literacy experiences with letters of the alphabet and the printed word in the environment, play with rhyming words, story-telling, and the utilization of many materials as languages for children’s expression of ideas, theories and feelings. Communication centers are present for message-sharing with friends and teachers; children dictate stories to their teachers, and, as children become interested in writing their names, teachers offer many opportunities to practice with special blocks, stamps, clay, wire and, yes, pencils and paper.

Laying the foundation for success with written language, teachers encourage children to listen to one another and to verbally express their feelings, ideas and experiences.

PPS Mathematical thinking is supported in the many problem-solving experiences that evolve in the block room, the workshop, studios, and the classroom that include, for example, exploration of number, measurement, spatial concepts, symmetry, counting, and numeral recognition.

It may happen that some children need a little extra support at home in naming specific letters and numbers in order to pass kindergarten entrance interviews or to feel confident among other children who have had lots of explicit instruction prior to kindergarten. Since the alphabet, numerals and rules of punctuation are not generally learned through discovery, some direct instruction in these skills at home may be useful prior to kindergarten. We get it.

Nevertheless, we hope that you will continue to value children’s self-initiated learning through play—even in the face of Kindergarten, 2012. Children are, naturally, very curious, competent, meaning-seeking and relationship-seeking individuals who learn a great deal from their play with one another in small groups guided by caring, and equally curious, adults.

The teachers, Karen and I are available to help parents navigate the sometimes difficult choices connected with the transition to kindergarten.

For further reading, I suggest Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Skills Every Child Must Learn (Galinsky, 2010).

Thank you.

Warm wishes,


Click on the links below or scroll down for this month’s topics:

Enrollment Process for Fall 2012

registrationWe thank all returning families for submitting their applications for the 2012-2013 school year. We are currently working on the Admission Agreements and plan to mail them out to all returning and new families by Feb. 6th.

The 3 day enrollments are intended for young children who are new to our school. 4 day enrollments are also for new children and for returning children who will be in the Rosemary room in the fall. A few children in the Sunflower and Dandelion rooms may also attend 4 days per week, depending upon parent work schedules, for example. Most children in those classes attend school 5 days per week. The signed Admission Agreements and nonrefundable registration fee of $500 will be due by Wed., Feb. 15th.

Thank you. Please let us know if you have any questions about this process.

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Financial Assistance

The time to apply for financial aid is now, during the enrollment period. Applications will be reviewed by our financial aid committee by Feb. 15th—when signed Agreements are due. All information is confidential and shared only with the members of the committee. Assistance is awarded based upon need and upon the reserves available in our PPS financial aid fund.

Families with 2 children enrolled at PPS in the same school year are eligible for a small amount of financial assistance without going through the application process. These families may also apply for an increased amount of assistance if needed.

All financial aid applications are due to Nancy by Friday, Feb. 10th. Thank you.

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Afternoons with Teachers

slidesThe teachers in the Cherry Blossom and Rosemary rooms, Craig, Sarah and Nancy really enjoyed the opportunity to meet with the parents in those classrooms last month. The teachers prepared slides of children’s daily transitional moments as they arrive at school in the morning. We chose to emphasize the children’s growth in the skill (and art) of self-regulation as part of the classroom Declaration of Intent for this school year and the slides and dialogue with parents helped us to better understand each child’s process. We look forward to our next meetings with the Sunflower room parents on Feb. 8th and with the Dandelion parents on Feb. 22nd. The topics, based upon classroom Declarations of Intent, will be communication and problem-solving.

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Celebrations and Traditions

We thank parents who have celebrated their family traditions and holiday celebrations with us already this school year. These celebrations are intended to build relationships between children and their families and to support children’s early understanding and appreciation of diversity. We do not necessarily expect for all holidays to be celebrated in each classroom and are not really trying to teach about any particular holiday. What makes the occasions special for the children is that their friends celebrate this tradition at home and are sharing their tradition with the rest of the class.

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Valentine’s Day Celebrations

Like Halloween, this is one holiday that we celebrate school-wide—and with an actual party. If you have signed up to help with this party, please be sure to collaborate with classroom teachers as you plan for Valentine’s Day. The parties are planned for Tuesday, Feb. 14th—the actual holiday. The timing of the celebration can be flexible, depending upon the food being served. Any sweet treats should be offered after lunch. Healthy foods could be served at Snack time. Teachers will be able to guide these plans.

We encourage children to bring Valentine cards from home for all of the children in the class on Valentine’s Day. In the Cherry Blossom and Rosemary rooms, it is best not to put children’s names on the envelopes (unless your child can read the names). Children can pass out their own Valentine cards to “mailboxes” independently if the names are not on the envelopes. In the Dandelion and Sunflower rooms, many children can read the names of their friends and it is fine to include names on each envelope.

We will follow our regular schedule for dismissal on Valentine’s Day.

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Poker Night!!

Please be sure you have responded to your evite to the First Annual PPS Poker Night on Friday, Feb. 24th!

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Kindergarten: General Information Meeting

For extended dialogue about kindergarten readiness and to share information about local public and private elementary schools, parents of returning children are invited to meet with Nancy on Thursday, March 22 at 9:15 a.m. in the Library.

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Thank You

We so appreciate the help of our Library and Housekeeping Committees. We would also like to thank parents who have been bringing the lovely fresh flowers to classrooms and taking home the children’s napkins to launder each week. Your participation in these simple, but essential responsibilities is so helpful!

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committeeFebruary Calendar

  • Friday, Feb. 3—Melissa Idelson, Occupational Therapist to speak about sensory integration at 9:15 a.m.
  • Monday, Feb. 6—Admission Agreements mailed to all new and returning families
  • Wednesday, Feb. 8—Afternoon with Teachers, Sunflower parents
  • Friday, Feb. 10—PPS Board sponsored Coffee held in the Parish Hall or in front of school at drop-off time
  • Tuesday, Feb. 14—Valentine’s Day parties
  • Wed., Feb. 15—Admission Agreement and registration fee due to Karen
  • Friday, Feb. 17—Preschool closed for Professional Development
  • Monday, Feb. 20—Preschool closed for President’s Day
  • Wed., Feb. 22—Afternoon with Teachers, Dandelion parents
  • Friday, Feb. 24—Poker Night!

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Preschool Mission Statement

Our mission is to serve our community by offering a preschool experience for children and families that celebrates diversity, creativity and kindness. These values are embedded within a rich child-centered curriculum that provides individuals and groups with opportunities to investigate, explore and express themselves through meaningful play.

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Pictures from School Events

Chinese New Year

Afternoon with Teachers

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