“What a fun week! [My son] and I equally enjoyed the heck out of the train ride today to Portland and Los Angeles! Our teachers were all so imaginative, animated and joyful throughout the entire learning experience! It was loads of fun. He told his dad all about it tonight. We are big proponents of imaginative play and feel that it is a critical component of instilling creative thinking and problem solving.” ~ Note from a Bellevue Discovery parent
We were inspired to expand the role of Drama Club in our curriculum after a summer research project by many of our teachers, when we read the books: Tools of the Mind: the Vygotskian Approach to Early Childhood Education and A Child’s Work: the Importance of Fantasy Play.
We believe in the value of sustained, child-directed role plays to foster the growth of executive functioning. We call these role plays “Drama Club.” Each week’s role play at Bellevue Discovery supports our long-term project. During the Cities Project the children planned and acted out running a restaurant, bakery, train station, clothing store and fire station.
We follow the guidelines of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in planning our math curriculum, using materials designed for kindergarten through second grade classrooms such as Mathematics Their Way by Mary Baratta-Lorton. We focus on counting and number awareness, shapes and simple geometry, sorting and classifying, patterns, measurement, and graphing. Children explore math skills and concepts through a variety of open-ended and hands-on activities and materials.
Our children come to us with varying math awareness so we keep Math Games open-ended. For example, while all of the children may be playing “Kissing Cubes” (grabbing a handful of wooden cubes and lining them up two by two), some children will be exploring one-to-one correspondence as they count the cubes, while others will be learning about even and odd numbers (when there’s one odd cube left over with no one to kiss).
Active, hands-on focus on foundational concepts and understanding:
- Number Awareness
The majority of our curriculum focuses on where our children are with their learning right now, but we also need to prepare our children with the skills they will need to thrive in school. Knowing that many of our children will enter kindergarten programs in which they will be expected to complete highly teacher-directed activities (such as worksheets and craft projects), the children visit School Skills as one of their Building Block classes.
School Skills activities focus on fine motor skills and include practicing letter formation; tracing and copying words, shapes, and numbers; cutting, gluing, stapling; and completing teacher-directed craft projects. Through these activities, the children practice kindergarten readiness skills such as following multi-step directions, managing time, and craftsmanship.
Preschool is a fascinating time when children equally enjoy fantasy play and learning about the natural world. We support young children’s imaginations at Bellevue Discovery and we also promote scientific discovery. Teachers expand on child-initiated explorations, creating multi-sensory experiences to explore life and physical sciences.
During Science Lab, children make hypotheses, conduct simple experiments, observe, dictate and illustrate their observations, and share their findings with their classmates.
The children engage in hands-on exploration and discovery. We use the first four steps of the Scientific Method with our preschoolers:
Over the last decade at Bellevue Discovery we have found that older preschoolers can build their representational drawing skills over the school year. Each child receives a Directed Drawing notebook, and through weekly lessons they build their observation skills, fine motor skills and ability to communicate through images. We have quite a few perfectionists among our highly capable preschoolers, and Directed Drawing is a safe place to build resiliency and risk taking. High ability children are rarely asked to revise their work, or nudged to put in a bit more effort; Directed Drawing is a natural time for building those life skills.
|PHONICS & JOURNAL WRITING:|
Phonics activities include:
- creating a class poster: “What words begin with …?”
- sensory letter writing: sand trays, white boards, shaving cream, play dough, making letters with our bodies
- writing letters on paper: tracing, copying, using invented spelling, thinking about spacing, upper and lower case letters, exploring punctuation
- phonics games and movement activities
- phonics worksheets such as letter-picture matching and alphabet dot-to-dots
- reading ABC books together
Journal writing allows young children to use language to communicate. It shows children that their ideas and feelings can be transferred from their imagination onto paper, where others can read their ideas. It shows children that their own writing is valuable. It gives them real-life opportunities to experiment with writing and learn the conventions of print:
- Pictures can illuminate the words
- Print goes from left to right and from the top to the bottom of a page
- Letters have sounds (phonemes)
- Letters make up words and words have spaces between them
- Capitalization and punctuation help us understand the ideas
- Printing gets easier the more you do it (fine motor development)