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What Does Kindergarten Readiness Really Mean?

When asked to identify the most valuable skills for students entering Kindergarten, teachers cite...​

  • Adaptive social-emotional skills. These children play cooperatively, share materials, take turns, solve problems, and demonstrate empathy.

  • An intrinsic motivation for learning and a desire to explore the world around them.


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  • Strong listening skills to help them attend, follow directions, and process verbal information during group times.

  • An interest in books, and an ability to recognize letters,  numbers and shapes.

  • Developed fine motor skills, hand strength, and endurance to support success and minimize frustration during early writing activities.

Our Developmental Approach to Kindergarten Readiness

Learning Through Hands-On Activity, Exploration, and Play

  • In developmental classrooms, children have more frequent opportunities to explore their environments, to form their own questions, and to gain new knowledge through purposeful play. 

  • Teachers do not direct children but, instead, set up appealing, enriching "exploration" experiences with hands-on learning materials.

  • They encourage and extend learning through careful observation, they ask meaningful questions, and, when children are ready, they introduce new materials and new challenges.

  • In developmental classroom environments, independence and initiative are encouraged and students gain confidence in themselves as learners.

  • Through "purposeful play" experiences, young children develop valuable school readiness skills in a context that is personally meaningful and, therefore, more deeply rooted and long-lasting.

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Literacy and Language

  • Our developmental approach to letter recognition includes many letter "building" activities, with wood pieces (above), dough, and magnets, to reinforce the "part/whole" composition of lines and curves.

  • Through a variety of rich literature experiences, children are exposed to repetition and rhyme, and new language and vocabulary. Students write their own "sticker stories" and share them with their classmates.

  • Teachers encourage active participation, during literature activities, with comprehension questions such as "What do you think will happen next?" Books are also chosen for the lessons they teach about kindness, acceptance, inclusivity, and individual differences.

  • As children engage in music, movement, and finger play activities, they gain visual memory, spatial, and counting skills as well.

  • During language activities, teachers encourage discussion, related to a book they have read, a topic they are exploring, or an upcoming special event.

  • At sharing times, students present, to their classmates, items from home that are meaningful to them. These activities help children begin to feel comfortable expressing themselves to others.

  • Language is consistently integrated into dramatic play. At a "class restaurant," menus and order forms may be featured, and daily specials may be written on a chalkboard. Clipboards with attached pencils and paper are always available in the dramatic play area.

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Our Hands-On Math Curriculum

  • Our developmental math curriculum is framed by our use of the Learning Without Tears Math Program.

  • Through a variety of hands-on activities, we introduce students to the five (5) basic areas of early math: (1) numbers and operations (counting and basic addition/subtraction); (2) geometry (shapes and positions); (3) algebra (sorting and patterning); (4) measurement and time; and (5) graphing and probability

  • Our counting activities incorporate appealing and natural items that children can manipulate themselves to better understand the construct of number, and the concepts of addition and subtraction and more vs. less.

  • To learn more about shapes, classes go on "shape scavenger hunts" for real-world objects in a variety of different shapes and sizes.

  • Through building, children become familiar with math-based vocabulary words such as tall and short, big and little, and straight and curved.

  • They also learn early geometric terms, or position words, such as over and under, between, in front of and behind.

  • Frequent and varied experiences exploring shapes, through puzzles and building, help children to recognize that parts can be put together to form a whole, in the same way lines and curves can be combined to form letters, and letters can be combined to create words.

  • Students also engage in countless hands-on sorting activities in which they classify objects by color, type or function (pictured above). They often use tools such as clothespins, tweezers, and tongs (also above) during sorting activities to develop their hand strength.

  •  We introduce measurement with "non-standard" units, such as Legos, Magna Tiles or bean bags, to assess length and height. We then move on to rulers and tape measures to determine length and scales to compare weights.

  • To understand "data," we create graphs, first with real, tangible objects. For example, during a fall apple tasting, we represent each  child's  favorite color apple (either red, green, or yellow) with an apple in that same color. We then line up the apples by color and compare the line lengths to determine the class favorite. Later, we move on to filling in stickers or squares to represent each item and compare the totals.

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Our Science Curriculum and STEM/STEAM Experiences

  • Class science experiments are conducted frequently, and students are encouraged to make predictions about what they think will happen next.

  • As we explore the world around us, and witness the seasonal changes in our environment, science is integrated into all we learn and do. 

  • In fall, we discover why leaves change color, and we study the life cycle of a pumpkin. To witness it first-hand, we plant our own pumpkin seeds.

  • In winter, we explore the five senses of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. We also learn about the polar regions, and the animals that live there.

  • In spring, students are introduced to life cycles, as they explore how plants and animals grow and change over time. Our class caterpillars arrive, and we watch them grow quickly, build their chrysalides, and emerge as butterflies.

  • Frequent “STEAM” activities combine experiences in at least two of the five areas represented in the word STEAM-- science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Throughout our curriculum, we integrate science inquiry into art, math, and engineering/building activities. For example, we often mix colors, create changes in materials, and make “chemical reactions” to add to the beauty of our art projects.
  • Math concepts are introduced and applied as students engage in building/engineering activities with a variety of materials. For example, they create shapes, and they learn how pieces can fit together to create a whole. 
  • Physics concepts are also an important part of our science curriculum. For example, when students build with ramps, they explore how the changes they create impact the way in which objects and materials move. Steeper ramps make cars, balls, and even water roll down faster (see photo above).

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Our Developmental Approach to Early Writing

  • Before we begin formal writing activities, students enjoy countless hands-on activities to strengthen their hand muscles and increase their dexterity and endurance.

  • We provide daily opportunities to work with play dough and clay. Students also use a variety of tools, such as tweezers and tongs, to pick up and sort small objects.

  • Sand and salt trays (above) offer sensory feedback as children begin to draw shapes and write letters.

  • Lacing and beading activities are also frequently offered to build hand dexterity.

  • We provide additional opportunities for young children to develop their hand strength in the context of dramatic play. For example, at a classroom construction site, golf tees can be hammered into clay, and screws can be twisted to attach blocks.

  • The hand strength, dexterity, and endurance gained through these activities supports students as they begin the formal handwriting process and helps reduce frustration and fatigue.

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The Learning Without Tears Early Writing Program

  • ​​Letters are introduced, through this award-winning program, in a developmental sequence, with straight lines first, then curves, and, finally, the most challenging diagonals.

  • Before tracing and writing letters, students have opportunities to build them with wood pieces, clay and magnets.

  • This helps young children to see that each letter is made up of a combination of lines and curves.

  • Additional sensory experiences further reinforce the composition of each letter. Through the "wet/dry/try" method (pictured above), children trace over letters with a damp sponge, dry them with a paper towel, and then try writing them, by tracing with chalk over the lines they have created.

  • After building letters in a variety of ways, students trace and write each letter using special crayons to facilitate a proper grip.

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Building Adaptive Social-Emotional Skills

  • ​Through engaging, developmentally appropriate activities, we support students in identifying and labeling their own feelings, and in recognizing the feelings of others. We also introduce strategies to manage our emotions in positive ways.

  • Social skills, such as listening to others, joining in play, sharing materials, taking turns, and resolving conflicts are introduced, through age-appropriate role plays with puppets, and reinforced through interactive lessons and games.

  • Additional support is provided, during authentic cooperative play situations, to help students refine their understandings and practice new skills. 

  • As students engage in indoor and outdoor learning times, teachers help children identify and label their feelings, so they then become better able to understand, name, and manage them.

  •  Students are also supported in identifying emotions in others and understanding how best to interact with them, based on how they would feel in that particular situation.

  • To support cooperative play and teamwork, teachers model the prosocial skills introduced during class group times, and praise children for using these skills in real-life play situations with their classmates. 

  • Teachers also ask questions to guide children in defining problems, as they arise in their play. They then help them to generate possible solutions, and decide on the best strategy. 
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