Morning Meeting is one of my favorite times of the day.
I have a captive audience so it is crucial to get their little brains engaged in learning
because I only have their attention for a short amount of time.
The MOST important reason to come to the carpet according to my students was to see who the Apple of My Eye is going to be! The WHO you say? The Apple of My Eye of course! In my apple themed classroom, that's the helper of the day.
You might call it your Star Student or even your Top Dog, Either way that child does EVERYTHING all day so I only have to keep track of one helper. This is the BEST classroom management change that I have made to save my sanity. The child's name is on The Apple of My Eye chart every day until December and I reveal one letter at a time
We them move onto to our calendar. In pre-k, we start the year off with our weekly calendar. We count the number of days at home and the number of days at school. Dr. Jean's Days of the Week song is a favorite. This is the first step in counting and number recognition which gets us well on our way to counting up to ten.
You can find my weekly calendar HERE along with seasonal pictures for each month and the numbers 1-7 for counting each day.
When we return from Christmas vacation in January, I switch the weekly calendar to a monthly calendar. On the back of each calendar piece, I have the child's name that will be the Apple of My Eye. (I had a morning and afternoon pre-k class last year so there are two names on each card-one red and one blue.)
My pre-kinders would be excited to see what the new cards would be each month, but I soon realized we needed a little bit more. I made a set of monthly calendar cards to include a pattern each month. Upon looking back, I realized that I needed to review the patterns as we moved on so I also built that in. My new calendar schedule looks like this:
We move onto reviewing our schedule for the day. I have a daily schedule with pictures and words and within a few weeks of school, the kids know the typical schedule. It does have to be changed from time to time, and if I forget to turn it back they really let me know!
And to wrap up our quickly moving morning meeting, we incorporate a little literacy. We work on a poem or nursery rhyme each week together. While we practice the poems, we work on letters, sounds, rhyming words, vocabulary and concepts of print. There is so much packed into this short period it amazes me.
The rebus pictures that are used with the poem allow for students to reread it independently after a few days of practicing it chorally. We add it later in the week to their Poetry Journal to practice reciting it, tracking print, illustrating it and connecting it to our language skill.
That about wraps up our morning meeting time. There are always extra activities that are substituted in throughout the year like out weekly journal starting in January, but by that time my pre-kinders are able to sit for a little longer!
With the rigor of new state and national standards being at an all time high, we have watched grade level standards trickle down a grade level or two. There is more pressure put on these sweet kids, less recess and movement and play is often unheard of in the primary classrooms.
So how do we, in good conscience, teach these mandated standards while using developmentally appropriate practices? Here are 5 TOP ways to keep pre-k fun and engaging instead of frustrating children with standards that are not developmentally appropriate.
I integrate fine motor skills in the sensory table, literacy center, math table, blocks, art and even the dramatic play area. The trick is to look for fun ways to develop these little muscles while working on a task. For instance, instead of just counting manipulatives during small group math as we practice counting from 1-20, I give each student tweezers and they need to squeeze the tweezers as they pick up each pom pom as they count and fill their bucket.
Pre-Kinders LOVE play-dough! You can pretty much make any skill appeal to them if you add a tub of play-dough. When you make your own and add scented oils or flavoring, engagement is at an all time HIGH! Some fun, engaging activities include cookie cutters, rolling play-dough, stamping and play-dough mats. Skills such as alphabet, number and sight word recognition lend themselves well. Students also categorize cut shapes, work on fine motor skills and have conversations all while they think they are "just playing".
Children learn by doing. There are so many skills that can be taught by integrating art. During a recent weather unit, I had planned on making wind socks with my students during art. At the same time, we were working on measurement in math. Students had to measure the colored streamers so they were each 1 foot long. I used a ruler to measure a piece of colored tape for each student and put it on the table. Pre-Kinders had to measure the streamers against the tape by matching up one end and cutting at the other. They didn't even realize they were practicing this important measurement skill!
Pre-Kinders love games! Games are invaluable in my classroom as they provide an outlet for skill practice in a fun and engaging way. Students enjoy structured activities. My paraprofessional or I are usually at the table to work on the skill as we introduce the game and kids love going to a "teacher" center. Games also teach social skills like talking turns, playing fairly and even "you can't win them all"! Board games have been replaced by video games in so many homes so this is a great opportunity to engage kids!
There are conflicting views about worksheets in pre-kindergarten and the bottom line is you need to know you class and their learning styles. That being said, if I find a "worksheet" type of activity that enhances our curriculum and will be engaging for my kids, I slip it into a pocket sleeve, add dry erase markers and erasers and leave it at a center for practice. These are great practice for fine motor activities that also practice previously introduced skills. Children will have the rest of their school careers to complete more worksheets than they could imagine, so PLEASE, minimize worksheets and provide meaningful experiences for your pre-kinders.
So the bottom line is we probably have NO CONTROL over the standards we need to teach, BUT we do have control over HOW WE TEACH. Yes, standards such as reading sight words moved from first grade down to kindergarten years ago and now are finding a home in our pre-kindergarten rooms. Our job is to choose to use developmentally appropriate practices to introduce these skills and the children who are ready will internalize them and then we will need to supplement for the others and help move these children from where they are. Isn't that what we already do anyways?