The Early Learning Program uses Toni Linder’s Read, Play, Learn. This is a play-based approach to learning, in conjunction with Connecticut’s Early Learning and Development Standards (ELDS). Read, Play, Learn provides the thematic components of the Preschool Curriculum which are derived from a collection of children’s literature. The Connecticut’s Early Learning and Development Standards provide the concepts and skills that are being addressed through the thematic lessons. Through play, children learn to negotiate their understanding of the world and how things work. It also provides them with the opportunities to practice “being people” and how to interact with each other. Play-based curriculum is used to strengthen developmental processes and increase functional skills across the cognitive, social emotional, communication and sensorimotor domains.
“It is through everyday experiences filled with talking, reading, and writing that children gain the oral language they need to be strong readers and learners in the future. In language filled activity and play they learn more words, more concepts and information, and more about books and how print works…It is not enough for children to “pick up” language on their own. It is important that they learn language in structured activities, such as shared reading, and in guided play. Children need time, resources, and ample learning opportunities to develop oral language comprehension skills they need for school. For this to happen, adults need to be planful, purposeful, and playful.”
Roskos, K.A., Tabors, P.O., & Lenhart, L.A. (2005)
“In achieving literacy, young children need writing to help them learn about reading, they need reading to help them learn about writing, and they need oral language to help them learn about both. Before they go to school, children need to develop oral language comprehension for listening and speaking, vocabulary for building background knowledge, phonological awareness and alphabet knowledge to attend to structure and sounds of language, and print knowledge to develop concepts about books and printed words.”
Roskos, K.A., Tabors, P.O., & Lenhart, L.A. (2009)
In the early childhood years, children develop strong foundations for the formal learning of reading and writing that will occur as they move through their schooling. Much of this learning occurs within the context of play as children learn the socio-cultural discourses needed to effectively use language (that is oral language, written language, and reading) in a variety of situations. This being said, it’d be a strong misstatement to say that emergent literacy is gained only through the child’s initiation of play. The early childhood educator plays a key role in creating literacy-rich environments in which children engage in well-planned and purposeful exploration of the literate world, be it through play as well as key elements of a balanced literacy classroom such as the read aloud, shared reading, and writing workshop.
Effective instruction includes portions of:
- explicit instruction in the various socio-cultural discourses;
- time engaged in authentic reading and writing practice;
- playful exploration of literary themes and real-world literacy practices;
- and on-going assessment to monitor progress and participation in such instruction and activities.
From classroom to classroom, literacy instruction will look different and it will take time to establish all these practices so not all may be present at any given time. However, the following components of well-balanced, developmentally appropriate practices should exist:
- Real-life literacy opportunities such as signing in and making snack or lunch choices;
- Environmental print created for, with, and by children
- Explicit instruction in discourse such as how to access the daily schedule
- Singing of familiar songs
- Opportunities for conversations amongst children and adults
- Shared reading
- The read-aloud
- The writing workshop
- The incorporation of literacy enhanced play centers
- And interactive and shared writing
Certainly, preschool-aged children should spend the majority of their time engaged in play. It is how and where they gain insight into real-world literacy practices. However, brief explicit instruction in “thinking like a reader” (Owocki, 2011), various comprehension strategies, and the purposes of writing, for example, are essential in maximizing the benefit of play centers infused with real-life literacy activities. Furthermore, assessment must drive both the explicit and the play-based instruction. Pencil and paper assessments such as letter knowledge will help to drive the instruction of the alphabet lessons, for example, but observation or kidwatching as Owocki has coined it, is an invaluable tool that helps teacher plan purposefully and differentiate instruction. Observation should be used to gather information on the play schemes present in the classroom so they might be enhanced with further real-world literacy play. Observation should be used to monitor how children are engaging with books and how they are progressing in the development of book handling and print knowledge. Observation should be used to gain information about how all learners are participating in the various components of balanced instruction. Assessment information should guide instruction and determine how to scaffold the learning of young students.
DEVELOPING READERS AND WRITERS
Through the implementation of balanced literacy in preschool, it is the districts goal that students will:
- Establish literacy habits, including the ability to sustain attention and interest in reading and writing texts and the structure of the workshop model;
- Develop oral language skills through conversation and vocabulary development;
- Develop language/story comprehension skills through read-alouds;
- Develop awareness of print concepts through interactions with texts in print-rich environments, shared reading and writing, and interactive reading and writing;
- Develop phonetic and phonemic awareness skills such as rhyming, alliteration, blending and segmenting sounds/words, and letter-sound correspondence;
- Understand the role of various text media as it exists in real world experiences.
It is also the goal that teachers will:
- Establish daily literacy-based routines within the classroom;
- Conduct daily interactive read-alouds;
- Provide explicit instruction in the discourse of literacy-based activities;
- Promote oral language development through the interactive read-aloud, conversation during “down times”, vocabulary instruction, and supported play;
- Enhance play with infused real-world, literacy activities;
- Incorporate shared reading activities daily;
- Regularly incorporate shared writing activities into storybook modules or other instruction;
- Introduce and regularly hold a writing workshop.
Our staff includes special education teachers, speech therapists, occupational therapists, para educators, a physical therapist, and a school psychologist. All of our teachers and professionals are certified.
- A higher staff to student ratio (enables teachers to individualize learning opportunities)
- Curriculum aligned with the State of Connecticut’s Early Learning and Development Standards.
- Utilizes continues to use the Preschool Framework Assessment, which is a curriculum-embedded tool for assessing ALL 3 & 4 year old children in the program (helps document areas of growth as well as areas of concern and enables teachers to plan and implement curriculum that addresses student progress towards specific learning standards, rather than planning curriculum around activities)
- Trans-disciplinary approach
- Participation in elementary school wide activities that are deemed appropriate