Wonders Early Learning Center embraces children from 6 weeks up to 6 years. We have 5 classrooms and 12 teachers total. In the midst of so much learning and fun, it is easy for our staff, children, and parents to lose site of the larger community. We have a couple of ways to foster that community feel across the classrooms.
A Welcome at the Door!
As our families arrive each morning, they ring a doorbell and a teacher comes to welcome them in. It is a good way to “read” the child upon arrival, but it also allows a chance to check in with each parent briefly. Our Littles, Preschool and Pre-K children begin the day in one mixed-age group and break off into smaller groups as more teachers and children arrive. The younger children get to see the olders and the older children get to help the youngers.
The Reading Tree!
We want to foster a love of reading at school and at home, so the past couple years we have sent home reading logs with space to write 20 books. When the family fills up their log, they can return it and the child can choose a prize from the Treasure Box. We set a goal for how many books we can read- last year it was “2016 Books by the End of 2016”, and then they read another couple thousand more by the end of the school year. We kept a large graph, but by the end of the year it took up the entire wall! This year, we decided to make a Reading Tree and each time a reading log is returned, we hang up a leaf with the child’s name and how many books they read. We are already up to 140 books read at home in just 2 weeks! The reading logs are for all families, no matter the child’s age or classroom, and the goal is collective.
The Community Board
We have a large board in the main hallway that we call the Community Board. We try to do something new each month (possibly theme related) that involves all of the children in our care. For the month of September, we incorporated the Shape of the Month (Circle), and the theme of making new friends at the beginning of the new school year. Not only did we add some new children this year, but some new teachers as well. We took our pictures on the first day of school (or close to it) and hung them all in a circle. We used the materials from the September “Open House” packet to tie it all together- leftover colored circles to highlight our teachers and the sign, etc. We still have to get pictures for a couple of our new teachers, but there is time. 🙂
Fostering a community feel prevents division and conflict and it sets the example for our children that we can accomplish great things when we all work together!
With the new school year comes the quest to find the perfect routine for a new group of children. What worked last year may not feel just right now, and what works for Pre-K probably won’t work with toddlers. So, I asked some of our teachers to share what is working in their classroom (at least for today)!
Ms. Elizabeth in the Littles Class (Ages 2-3) said:
“For littles we use the buttons on the rug and circle time toys to keep their hands busy. When they have found a button they can choose a small toy to hold onto until it is time to get up to find our picture. Then they find their name and picture at one of the activities and get started! It keeps them from going all over the place when it is activity time.”
Name Cards with pictures attached to the chairs with Velcro. Once everyone has had a chance to do the activities, they can take the name tags off for free play.
Ms. Heather in the Preschool Class (Ages 3-4) said:
“I really like the mats! After they wash their hands, they grab a mat and sit criss-cross applesauce and wait for their friends. When everyone is ready, we stand up on our mats and do exercises to the Circle Time Song from the Mother Goose Time CD. It gets some wiggles out and keeps them from getting too distracted!”
The mats are simple foam place mats from IKEA, but there are lots of good ideas like this that give children a choice and their own space for Circle Time.
Ms. Jennifer in Pre-K (Ages 4-5) said:
“In Pre-K we use the 5 Star Listener poster to help us with transitions. They know that when we come inside from recess we walk to our room and sit on the carpet and they show me they’re a 5 star listener (eyes are watching, ears are listening, lips are closed, hands are still and feet are quiet). When they’re ready then we move on to the next thing. When I say let’s meet at the carpet they know to show me a 5 star listener and then we’re ready to move on. I also have been using the 5 minute sand timer. I give them a 5 minute warning before it’s time to clean up and they know that when the sand runs out it’s time to clean up and get ready for our next activity. When I turn the lights off they know to stop what they’re doing, put their hands on their head and look at me. That has been a great attention getter for my class.”
All of our kiddos love Circle Time! They like the special things that happen there and the predictability that when they hear the “Circle Time” song it is time to gather together and learn something new!
Infants (6 weeks- 12 months or walking) and Wobblers (Walking-2 Years)
Our Infant/Wobbler space at a glance!
Our center operates inside of a church (not affiliated, but shared/rented space). Because of this, three of our classrooms have to be completely mobile. Our Infants and Wobblers reside in the sanctuary. They have rolling shelves, folding gates, foam tiles for the eating area, a mobile sink/changing table, light weight room dividers, etc. At the end of the week, everything rolls up and is stored for the weekend. Within that space, we are able to offer safe and age appropriate experiences. They have opportunities for quiet space, climbing/large motor, a variety of engaging toys, sensory experiences, and lots of snuggles! Our Infants and Wobblers use the “Experience Baby” Curriculum from Mother Goose Time.
Littles (Toddlers, 2-3 year olds)
Our Littles use the Little Goose Supplement to take the main Curriculum and make it developmentally appropriate for Toddlers. This group loves Dramatic Play, Sensory and Large Motor experiences. The activities/toys on their shelves rotate with each new unit to keep them engaged.
Preschool (3-4 Year Olds)
We call this room the “Island Room”. Our Preschool kiddos love the novelty of having new activities and books on the shelf each month. Having the classrooms set up and inviting on the first day is so important. Children that are continuing on in our program know where things are and what is available, but on a child’s first day, having an activity out and ready invites them to come in and play.
Our Pre-K class is all set for a great year! The first week of school is focused on the classroom rhythm, getting to know each other, developing the class rules and setting them up for success. Their teacher will be working on basic assessments (mostly observing the children’s play, but some more formal ways of documenting where each child is at).
Here goes the first week of school!
B for Ball!
Making a Sticker Circle
Friendship Bracelets- they earned these by passing the ball to their friends in a kind way
Practicing those fine motor skills
The very first day of school, the lesson plan included an activity where the children all chose their favorite color and drew on a large piece of paper together while the music played. When the music stopped, they talked about what they drew and how it felt to work together (Did they have enough space to work? Did anyone get in their space? How did that feel? How was it handled/could it be handled?) It was such a good time to talk about how we can work together and respect one another in our classroom.
Our First Circle Time!
Our very first Circle Time of the School year was a success! Goal #1 is getting every child to the carpet in an orderly fashion and holding their attention for just a few minutes to sing a song and chat about the options for the day. The older children got to the calendar, weather, and a short activity too!
The first week was great! We are getting to know some new friends and we are so excited about the great Mother Goose Time themes and materials for the year ahead!