Storyteller, February 2018
Intellectual Development and Academic Learning:
What is “kindergarten readiness?”
“The benefits of children’s having substantial control over the work undertaken extend beyond the early years. Children from preschool classes that offer ample opportunity for child-initiated, as opposed to teacher-directed, activity show the greatest mastery of basic reading, language, and mathematics skills” (Helm & Katz, 2001)
Dear Families and Friends,
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 and anticipation. 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 with summer and fall birthdays are impacted by the age requirement for both private and 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 2019 or 2020 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?”
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 and
adult- guided investigation as channels 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:
“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/adult-guided 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 Reggio inspired approach. We also understand that your children will leave our school and 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.
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 additional direct instruction in these skills at home may be useful prior to kindergarten.
Nevertheless, we hope that you will continue to value children’s self-initiated learning through play—even in the face of Kindergarten, 2018. 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, intentional, 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).
Enrollment Process for Fall 2018
We thank all returning and toddler families for submitting their admission materials for the 2018-2019 school year. The next step in our PPS admissions process is to notify new families of available spaces in our school on Feb. 8. In early March we will turn our attention to enrollment for new toddler Explorations classes, notifying those applicants of available spaces. Toddler children are guaranteed enrollment in our preschool.
On June 1, we plan to meet with parents of preschool children new to our school for our first morning Orientation meeting in preparation for the new school year.
In early August, class lists that include the names of the children in each class and their teachers will be mailed to all families along with the school calendar and other school documents.
The second Orientation meeting for parents of preschool children new to the school (Cherry Blossom and Rosemary classes) will take place on August 21. We will also have an Orientation meeting for Sunflower and Lavender parents on Aug. 22. The first day of the new school year for all children will be Thursday, August 23.
Afternoons with Teachers
Atelierista, Summer Jefferson, and the teachers in the Cherry Blossom and Rosemary rooms and Nancy really enjoyed the opportunity to meet with the parents in those classrooms last month for A Morning with Teachers. We look forward to our next meetings with Sunflower parents on Feb. 7 and with Lavender parents on Feb. 21 during the afternoon, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Children will go to Stay & Play free of charge.
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 the families in their class 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. Simple, authentic celebrations work best for preschool children.
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 Wednesday, Feb. 14th—the actual holiday. The Valentine’s Day festivities take place at Snack time.
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 Lavender and Sunflower rooms, many children can read the names of their friends and it is fine to include names on each envelope—but not necessary. The school will provide special bags as “mailboxes” for each child. Please bring your child’s Valentine cards to school on Tuesday, Feb. 13, one day in advance of the exchange and party. Thank you.
We will follow our regular schedule for dismissal on Valentine’s Day—1, 1:5, 1:30 and 1:40.
We so appreciate the help of our Library Committee! We would also like to thank parents who have been bringing the lovely fresh flowers to classrooms. Your participation in these simple, but essential responsibilities is so helpful!
- Tuesday, February 6—Tandy Parks mindful parenting meeting in the Library at 9:15
- Wednesday, February 7—Afternoon with Teachers, Sunflower, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
- Thursday, February 8—Admissions notifications emailed to potential new families
- Wednesday, February 14—Valentine’s Day parties
- Week of February 20—Chinese New Year celebrations
- Friday, February 16—Preschool closed for Presidents’ Day holiday
- Monday, February 19—Preschool closed for President’s Day holiday
- Wed., February 21—Afternoon with Teachers, Lavender parents, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
- Thursday, February 22—Parent Tours
Pictures from School Events
Toddler Parent Meeting
Morning with Teachers