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King Elementary Pre-Kindergarten

King Elementary Pre-Kindergarten

Welcome. Be our guest as we visit various Omaha Public Schools Title I Schoolwide Pre-Kindergarten rooms throughout the school year. Today's featured room is at King Elementary. Let's take a look at what goes on inside. You are sure to be impressed with the accomplishments of these young students. So come on aboard our tour. This learning experience is one you should not  miss!

Arrival-Those stepping into room 111 enter the big, colorful environment of Pre-Kindergarten, presided over by teacher Sarah Rodenburg. For the parents, it's their time to update the instructor on any news or concerns from home, such as a bad night's sleep or if someone different will pick the child up. And as for the children, good golly, let the grownups talk. They have very interesting things to do while waiting for the other classmates to arrive.

As a warm-up for the learning that is to come, some students cozy up with a good book while others practice writing or tracing their name. Rodenburg or paraprofessional Tanisha Winfield are always close by to lend a supportive hand.
Parents: A good day at school starts with a good night's sleep. Keep a consistent bedtime and morning routine. Plenty of sleep is a requirement for readying young minds for an active day of learning.

Breakfast-This is the time to fuel up for the upcoming learning adventure. Brought in directly from the school kitchen, today's meal is French toast, milk, and juice. Other days it might be biscuits and eggs or oatmeal. However, the crowd favorite, hands down, is cereal and fruit.

"I'm growing and getting stronger," said one boy as he tried to coax a bigger bicep from his willowy arm. "Especially if you drink your milk," adds Rodenburg.

Parents: Studies show that students who don't start the day with breakfast lose focus and struggle to concentrate in class more so than those who do have something to eat.

Opening-First off, the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, the classmates sit on the carpet in a row, like runners at a starting line. And like an athlete, these tykes are ready to put all their practice into action. For the next twenty minutes, the group goes over an array of knowledge taught so far; numbers, letters, colors, patterns, shapes. Every phase of this instruction is coordinated with the Pre-Kindergarten Creative Curriculum. The curriculum is a comprehensive plan that helps put teaching objectives into practice. 

To build cognitive abilities, throw in a Days of the Week song and a student weather report ("Bad weather will stop all by itself," one observed) and these youngsters are well on their way to being ready to enter kindergarten.
Parents: There are many times you can have a "teachable moment" with your child. Ask your child to name the letters in the signs you see when you go shopping. See if your child can name the colors of fruits and vegetables in the grocery store. Make your own Word Wall at home- write various letters on individual sheets of paper, have your child cut out pictures (with proper supervision) that start with those letters and then glue the pictures to the appropriate page.

Small Group/Centers-To those who tire easily, the next hour could leave you breathless. In a carefully orchestrated schedule, students rotate between the Learning Centers and two Small Group tables, headed by Rodenburg and Winfield.

Rodenburg starts the process by reading Chicka Chicka, Boom Boom, a story about letters climbing on and falling off a coconut tree. Next, her young charges receive their assignments; make their coconut tree with letters, create a letter-filled snow globe, and play in the Learning Centers. The children think, "Yay, what fun!", yet the savvy teacher and para know there's more involved. Scissor useage and manipulating craft materials will hone fine motor skills, while exposure to the alphabet builds letter identification and name recognition abilities.  

The Centers are a beehive of activity. If you are lucky enough to be a pre-kindergarten student in this room, you have many from which to choose-blocks, coloring and writing, puzzles, and science to name a few. And don't forget dramatic play, where the theme changes monthly. Now, this corner of the room is a house center, next month it's a post office. Learning Centers are play areas where in reality the job of learning takes place. Self-direction and independence are nurtured along with the developing of social, cognitive thinking, and imagination skills.

Parents:Hands-on activities stimulate the brain to a much greater extent than watching TV. Have available blocks, art supplies, puzzles, books, and anything else that will enhance the imagination. Board games are another good option. Consult the classroom teacher for ideas that would specifically benefit your child.

Animated Literacy/Journals-"What starts with 'G'?", said Rodenburg.  "The sound is Guh, Guh, Guh." A student's response, "Garden", made Rodenburg smile. She then instructed the class to draw a garden and some grass. What do you know, there's another 'G' word. The creative energy is building throughout this lesson.

Animated Literacy truly does bring letters to life. By introducing letters, talking about the sound, then writing or drawing about them, students become more familiar with the elements of language. 

Journaling is an important tool for our budding writers. When those tiny fingers grab a pencil or crayon and start working on those blank pages, many traits are learned. Writing concepts such as text moving left to right, letter formation, and phonemic awareness (the most basic parts of language) are nurtured by daily exercises in their journals. 
Parents: Carry on the school activity called "Free Thinking" at home. With plenty of paper and writing materials at hand, start by giving your child a letter from the alphabet. Your child has to come up with a word that starts with that letter, then write the word (with your help, if neccessary) and illustrate the idea. This is an opportunity for children to write about whatever they want. 


Movement and Music-What to do indoors when the weather doesn't permit outdoor recess? Well, to use a lyric from the animated movie, Madagascar, Rodenburg knows "They like to move it, move it. They like to move it, move it." So, she gives them just that-an energetically choreographed routine that runs thusly: Start them off with the Chicken Dance (yes, the one done at numerous wedding receptions). Segue from that into the old-school Swim, Pony, and Mashed Potato dances. Get them hopping, skipping, or galloping like many familiaar animals. March around the room and finish with the motion song sure to bring on the grins and giggles; Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

What a workout. Throughout all this the merry band of movers and shakers are working on their gross motor skills and ability to follow instructions. Any balancing required (tip-toes, anyone?) helps develop fine motor skills.
Parents: Exercise/Movement has to be fun to keep little ones engaged. Outdoors, games such as tag or catch are part of a healthy lifestyle. Scaveger hunts are fun ways to keep children scurrying about. Indoors, try putting on some music and dance, march or gyrate to your heart's content.

Story Time-There is no better way to bolster the value of reading than what this class does every day at this time. Today, they hunker down on the carpet to hear one very intriguing tale, The Alphabet Mystery. The enthralled group listens intently as letter 'X' runs away, only to find itself the main ingredient for a soup. Oh, no! Yet all works out in the end. A discussion that follows shows that these little learners' comprehension skills are improving, not to mention their letter recognition. Their print awareness, i.e. knowing how to handle a book and follow the words on a page, shows great promise.
Parents: Have a well-stocked supply of books on hand. Read to your child a minimum of fifteen minutes a day. Develop a love of literature in your child by letting him or her know that you value reading. Your local public library is a great source for reading material and a knowledgeable staff.

Dismissal-This is the final chapter for today's learning adventure. Lockers are flung open as the pre-kindergarteners grab their belongings. Most are capable of zipping coats or getting gloves on the right hands. Spider-Man backpacks jostle with Dora the Explorer's as their owners head for the waiting location on the carpet. Soon, familiar faces trickle in through the door, first signing out at the Parent Board. Some of the parents see the result of a Small Group project while others receive a report on how well their child did in class. It has been quite a day, as usual; one full of amazing discoveries and newfound abilities. Thankfully, the preparations for a fulfilling educational journey continue with the dawn of a new day. 
Parents:If you want more detailed answers to the question, "What did you do in school today?", inquire about a specific activity such as Small Group or Story time. 


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