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Omaha Public Schools Title 1 News

Castelar Pre-Kindergarten

Welcome. Be our guest as we visit various Omaha Public School Title 1 Schoolwide Pre-Kindergarten rooms throughout the school year.  Today's special room is at Castelar Elementary.  Let's take a look at what goes on inside.  All of us at Title I are proud to show you what we have done and the wonderful things the children have accomplished.  So come on aboard our tour.  This learning experience is one you shouldn't miss!




Breakfast-It is 8:30 a.m. at Castelar Elementary and the multi-purpose room is already packed.  Students sit at long white tables, partaking in what is arguably one of the most important activities in which to start the day - Breakfast.  The pre-kindergarten students in Nicole Buchholz's class like to sit with an older sibling as they munch on a wide variety of morsels.  Some choose cinnamon rolls and milk.  Others are partial to cereal and milk, with a juice box or graham cracker topping off their entree.  The noise level among this large gathering is moderate as most work on finishing their meal.

Parents:  Studies have proven that children who eat breakfast are better prepared to participate to their full potential at school than those who skip the meal.  Whole grains from cereals or graham crackers supply carbohydrates needed to provide energy throughout the day.  A serving of milk contains the proteins necessary to fuel muscles and brain function.  Make breakfast an integral part of your child's morning.


Arrival-You might say this is the warm-up time before the official opening of the school day.  As they filter into the room, the little students find their chairs.  Waiting for them are crayons and a worksheet featuring the letter of the week, 'Z', starring Mr. Zachary the Zebra.  His color makeover is part of the classroom curriculum called Animated Literacy.  The concept, according to Buchholz, teaches letter sounds with gestures that incorporates songs and alphabet characters.  Specific gestures performed with each sound activates memory for that letter.  For the letter 'Z', pretending to use a zipper while singing fun songs is pure play to the four-year-olds.  However, their savvy teacher knows it's an effective way to build language skills.

Parents:  Hand/arm motions combined with songs help children learn and retain information.  Make up your own song about an alphabet letter, or ask your child's teacher for some examples.

Opening-Time to rev up the motors in the mind, so pre-kindergarteners, start your engines! The opening segment is jam-packed with activities to activate the brain cells. The calendar becomes the basis for a lively banjo sing-along song concerning days of the week and numbers. Color pattern discussions segue into the students becoming a living pattern of standing, kneeling, sitting, laying kids snaking through the room. A Hokey Pokey dance that ensues develops gross motor skills and word power. Then everyone in turn steps up to the whiteboard to help scribe a daily message. The concept of letter recognition and fine motor skills seem to be taken seriously by these little learners as judged by the looks of concentration on their faces.

Parents: Keep the learning momentum going on days not in school. Create your own imaginary television morning show. Pretend you are telling viewers what day it is, the weather conditions, what you might do on that day, or any other topic that gets your child to talk about numbers, colors, and the world around you.


Small Group-Three small groups, hands-on tasks, more individualized time with a caring adult..."How sweet!" as one participant aptly put it. Two of the rotations each group will visit tie into the farm unit they have been studying.

One of the stations is for independent activities that bolsters fine motor skills and promotes sharing. On this morning, the group pitched in to create a course of tunnels and trails with special blocks. Wide-eyed faces followed marbles racing through the course they created.

Over on the brightly adorned carpet, Buchholz commences an activity capturing everyone's attention. Now, from a child's viewpoint, it's a pretty cool event to read about Old MacDonald's farm from a huge book. Cooler still is getting to wear animal cut outs, sing the song "Old MacDonald", and make farm animal sounds. Buchholz thinks it's cool, too, that her charges were able to write a story about farm animals using appropriate names, chart the correct critters that belong there, and sound out the letters. This follow-up to previous lessons was a rousing success for all in this imaginary barnyard

Small Group continued- Paraprofessional Gabby Ramirez leads a third group in a memory game. The youngsters had no problem becoming totally engrossed in studying the face down cards as they tried to match a mother farm animal to her correct baby. Ramirez built vocabulary skills in her students by gently insisting on the proper names for both mother and baby. "Pony" was acceptable, not "horsey", for a baby horse. After all the reenforcement to the farm unit theme, these promising ranch hands had no trouble rustling up the animal cards, correctly grouping them by similar characteristics.

Parents: Start your own creative zone. Check out a book from the library that has ideas for crafts to make at home. Keep a variety a games and materials at hand to engage your child's mind. Nonelectronic activities (writing, drawing, blocks, toy animals) are the best to build fine & gross motor skills and stimulate the imagination. Don't forget board games to promote the good habits of following instructions and working with others. Keep TV usage to a minimum. Studies show it does not stimulate the brain as much as hands-on games and activities.

Snack-It takes a lot of energy to run the young mind as it constantly absorbs and processes a barrage of new information. Now's the perfect time in the day for a pit stop to recharge the fuel stores of this Pre-K group. A big "Thank you!" goes to the parents for donating the snacks that make this break possible. Their support gives a constant supply of apples, graham crackers, cookies, juice and other treats that enable the kids to keep up their high energy levels.

Parents: Offering healthy snacks is good way to teach your child about proper nutrition. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables promote good health. Keep foods high in sugar and fat to a minimum.

Centers/Outside-A successful Pre-K venture into the "great outdoors" requires some important rules. First is "Lips and Hips", that is, keep a finger to the lips to be quiet in the halls and place a hand on the hips to keep hands to ones self. The next rule is to try to put on coats and hats independently. Those that do are rewarded by Buchholz cheering, "You did it by yourself! Give me a High Five!"

Once outside, the playground is abuzz with nonstop motion; climbing, running, swinging, throwing, sliding. A trip through the multilevel play set develops gross motor skills, especially balance and coordination. "Plays well with others" is not just some trite saying at this locale. It is an attribute formed, refined, and practiced here. You hear it in the laughter and camaraderie. You see it as playmates help one another across swinging obstacles or wait a turn down the slide.

Parents:Building a healthy body goes hand in hand with building a healthy mind. Encourage some form of exercise or movement each day.

Writing- The junior authors in this class are hard at work during this extended segment of the morning. Buchholz's instruction is to finish the sentence "I can...." and then illustrate it. Serious writing is in session. Pencils, not crayons, are to be used. By consulting a display of previous letters of the week-Polly Panda, Annie Actress, and others-the students craft tales that express their fondness for ice cream, soccer, and other favorite parts of their lives. Identification of the beginning and end of words, as well as the ability to recognize letters and form words, will help this group understand the concept of language in print.

Completed work is then shared with the other classmates. This peer review process helps build confidence. A welcome reward is when students get to "kiss their brain", which is a kiss to the hand followed by a tap to the head. It's the self-made seal of approval of which the classroom never tires.

Parents: Writing is a very important component of the educational process. Have your child practice writing thank you notes, descriptions of their drawings, or author creative stories.

Large Group-"Goodbye my friend, it's time to go. It was nice to be with you. Goodbye." The joyful noise of young voices in songs such as this one rings throughout the room. Phonemic awareness is the goal here, but an exuberant demonstration of language and memory skills comes through loud and clear. (Note: Phonemic awareness is the ability to distinguish small units of language-the m of mat from the b of bat, for example.)

Parents: Dollar stores and discount bins at some retail chains offer children's musical tapes and CDs at reasonable prices. Singing along to them is fun way for a youngster to practice language skills.                                                                  

Dismissal-The fun-filled learning adventure called Pre-Kindergarten comes to a close for this morning. Happily, a part of the classroom experience follows the students home. Each parent or guardian picking up their loved one receives a brightly colored folder. Inside are work projects from the day. There is also a calendar with announcements and a notation on how the child did that day (a happy face equals an A+ day).

As the tiny tots skip out the doorway, adults take comfort knowing that another day of discovery and enlightenment awaits their return.
Parents: Please check your child's backpack every day for work they have done and announcements from the teacher. This is a good way to keep the lines of communication open between parents and school.

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