By AnnMarie Rudd, Preschool Teacher at The Langley School
“What even goes on in preschool?” It’s a question I often get, not only from prospective families, but also from my closest friends and family members. It’s a question I’ve heard too many times within the past eight years of teaching preschool. And no matter how many times I hear this particular question, it always makes me stop and think, “Well, what doesn’t happen in preschool each day?” Believe it or not, our days are filled with endless possibilities as our students lead their learning in experimenting and discovering new wonders during their first year at The Langley School.
We just wrapped up our “Down on the Farm” unit, an introduction to discovering new concepts that stirs up the imagination and connects our students to the outside world. Our discovery year preps our students for the junior kindergarten program as they expand learning even further the following year. It would be impossible to cover everything that happens in preschool in this blog, but I will share some of our favorite activities from this unit – activities that will prompt you to ask, “Wait, you did what?” or “I wish I was in preschool to try that out!”
Our inquiry-based units are student-led from start to finish as the preschoolers help decide what goes into our dramatic play area, what colors need to be painted, and the type of objects that should be inside. Since most of our centers are made from recycled materials such as big boxes, students always bring in a sense of creativity and imagination to complete the center together.
But the feedback doesn’t stop there. Throughout our unit study, students are encouraged to speak up, make their own choices on which centers they would like to engage with, or tell the teachers what needs to be added, fixed, or changed. When our “tractors broke down,” students immediately got together to check in with me about how to fix them. Together, we came up with a new plan to fix the straps that would make the tractors easier to “drive.” Feedback is a great way to do some community building and to show students that their voice in the classroom matters.
While planning our lesson activities, the preschool team strives to connect our academics into purposeful play centers that are filled with fine motor activities, early literacy skills such as rhyming and syllable counting, and math skills such as graphing and sorting by various attributes. From the outside, you will see students playing with blocks, painting pumpkins with spoons, or running freely outdoors into makeshift pumpkin patches. But if you dive deeper, you will see students who are building on their language skills by incorporating new vocabulary as they try multiple techniques to build a barn for the animals they are learning about or as they investigate the inside of a pumpkin. Oh, and painting with spoons? It’s one of the best activities as students experiment with different colors and techniques while observing the immediate effects that are happening as the paint drips down.
Remember when I said you may say to yourself, “Wait, you did what?” while reading this? Well, here’s the time: our students not only washed a muddy pig and sheared a sheep for our farm unit, but they also milked a cow right in their classroom! Don’t believe me? Check out the picture! Unfortunately we couldn’t “taste” the milk, but it sure created some beautiful process-art artwork that focused on strengthening students’ fine motor skills. But the most important part of all of the activities is that all of them are based around community building to encourage peer interaction and collaboration.
The first school year for The Langley School’s preschoolers is filled with discovery as students build early literacy and social-emotional skills, and take part in number and shape practice and pre-writing activities. All of these activities are aligned across our Primary School, ensuring our students are prepared for junior kindergarten and kindergartenwhere they will later explore and investigate similar unit studies and build on so much more. After a month in our preschool program, parents begin to notice their children speaking up about their feelings, putting on their own jacket and shoes, finding letters and numbers in bedtime read-alouds, and even sharing their thoughts about something they learned that day.
Even if you don't have a preschooler, I hope this piece brought back memories of early childhood and the magic of purposeful play, whether you engaged in imaginative block play or “milked” a cow in class! Our lessons are developed to encourage students’ creativity and independence while finding their voice in the community. The Langley School’s preschool program is unlike others due to its hands-on, inquiry-based lessons.
Don’t you wish you were here to experience it all?