Foundational Learning

LANGUAGE EXPERIENCE:  Speaking, listening, reading and writing are the foundation of academic learning

At Bellevue Discovery, children are surrounded by a print- and language-rich environment which includes shared and guided reading, storytelling, poetry, and child-written stories.

In addition to one-on-one reading check-ins and the reading and writing integrated into our day, we embed Language Experience activities in our projects each week. Most projects begin with children’s literature, looking at large themes in a story. We immerse ourselves in the story with class discussions and acting it out, then move on to solving a problem inspired by our reading.

Reading:  We read during Discovery Time, Circle Time/Sing-Along, Storytime, Lunch, and Activity Times to support our learning. Highly capable preschoolers vary in their reading levels from pre-reading to independent reading, and our materials and activities support children at all levels.

1:1 Reading Check-Ins:  While most of our reading instruction takes place within our regular program, each child enjoys one-on-one reading time every few weeks. Reading Time is adapted to an individual child’s needs, with on-going assessment by the teacher. Depending on a child’s level, reading time may include activities in writing, letter recognition, phonics, grammar, vocabulary and comprehension. The special reading time includes having the children choose a book to read with the teacher and borrow to reread at home with their families. The reading teachers are happy to talk with parents about their children’s reading development and parents are welcome to observe a reading time.

Writing:  We support the children’s developing writing skills through fine motor activities, journaling, and writing practice using a variety of materials. Writing is encouraged through dictation: teachers transcribe children’s words, which the children may later illustrate, publish, and share. We encourage writing for real purposes, with children dictating to teachers: writing their own injury reports when they get boo-boos, writing their observations of science experiments, writing emails to their classmates who are absent, and writing thank you notes to guest experts and field trip leaders. We focus on writing letters and numbers for a few minutes each day, knowing this quick enjoyable practice will build over the year to mastery for our children.

Foreign Language Experiences:  We want our children to know it is a big world, filled with people who laugh and cry and love their families. It is part of our mission to celebrate diversity at Bellevue Discovery. We are fortunate to have a diverse community of families who want their children to experience the world – starting in preschool. Many of our children speak two or more languages, and our foreign language sampling gives all of our preschoolers a view into the world of their future.  This approach to foreign language instruction supports our highly capable preschoolers’ desire to make connections between ideas and make discoveries for themselves, helping us follow best practices in early childhood gifted education.

One Year of Language Sampling at Bellevue Discovery:  The children began the year learning a song-chant using American Sign Language. As the year went on we learned a few words in Hindi and danced to a Hindi song when we studied Divali. We learned a few words in Hebrew when a family shared their celebration of Hanukkah. We learned the Santa Lucia song Miss Ren sang when she was a child celebrating the Swedish holiday. We sang songs in Spanish and Polish thanks to our teachers. We learned a few phrases in Chinese when two families shared Chinese New Year with us, and a grandfather taught the children how to write a few words in Chinese using calligraphy. We learned about the spring equinox and celebrated Norooz, the Persian New Year.

ART:  The joy of expression

One of the thrills of working with bright children is supporting their need to express themselves through a variety of two- and three-dimensional media as well as the performing arts. Highly capable preschoolers need an arts program that supports their individuality.

Our teachers introduce art activities during Discovery Time, and children are free to adapt those ideas as their creativity leads them. We teach art skills, including representational drawing, to support our Project-Based Learning. We are influenced by the Reggio Emilia philosophy: young children can create and revise their artwork at a high level when given direct instruction and time to observe, imagine and redesign.

In the art studio our children experience and explore a variety of materials, including acrylic paint, watercolor, oil pastels, markers and clay. We provide authentic materials and use real tools where it is appropriate. We strive to incorporate the natural world into the art projects.

The performing arts bring lively joy to highly-capable children. We provide movement, drama, music and storytelling as an integral part of our classroom learning. We have a Sing-Along each morning and host a Holiday Family Sing-Along.

KINDERGARTEN READINESS:  Getting ready to thrive in school

Kindergarten readiness skills support academic learning and are primarily a result of maturing executive functioning. Children need to be able to engage with a teacher, respect their classmates, follow routines that differ from home routines, be age-appropriately self-sufficient, and reasonably control their voices and bodies. These school skills can only be learned in a group of children with the guidance of caring adults.

For most children kindergarten-readiness skills are built over time: we don’t expect your children to walk in the door knowing all the expected school behaviors. We believe in growth, and we believe in these sayings:

  • All behavior happens for a reason (an old Swedish proverb)
  • This too shall pass (an old Quaker proverb)
  • Surround ‘em with love (the Bellevue Discovery discipline policy)
ASSESSMENT:  Observing a child’s growth

One of our strengths at Bellevue Discovery is having a team of teachers with varying temperaments and experience working individually and together to observe and relate with each child. We purposefully meet after class each day during Child Study Time to discuss the strengths and challenges we are seeing with each child, looking for trends and brainstorming ways to help the children move forward on their individual paths.

Our primary method of assessing children’s development is teacher observation. Our teachers assess children as they work and play, analyzing how each child is growing cognitively, socially, emotionally, and physically, and noticing areas where an individual child needs more assistance.

Observations are recorded and discussed among the teachers so that curriculum can be developed to address each child’s needs. Observation is especially important because preschoolers can learn a great deal through the process of creating a project, but may not produce a finished product.

At the beginning of the preschool year, and later as needed, we conduct a preschool skills assessment for each child to help us design our curriculum.  We consult with parents on an ongoing basis and hold two in-depth parent-teacher conferences each year, fall and spring. Formal progress reports are given to parents at the fall conference.


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