Early Childhood: The First Plane of Development
Primary: Ages 3-6
Primary children remain in a sensitive stage for order, language development, and sensorial learning. They now possess a “conscious mind” which allows them to direct themselves more effectively, and to apply themselves to a more complex task and bring it to completion. They will repeat an activity until they have mastered it and then be ready to move on. By giving the children freedom with responsibility, they are able to progress through the curriculum at their own pace, making choices that enable them to maximize their development.
Practical life exercises are the foundation of the primary level. They help to develop the children’s independence, sense of order, concentration, and fine motor skills. These exercises can be divided into four categories: preliminary, applied, grace and courtesy, and control of movement.
Preliminary exercises help children learn the basic movements of all societies such as pouring, scooping, and carrying work. Applied exercises enable the child to learn about care and maintenance that is helpful in every day life, including care of person (hand washing) and care of environment (sweeping and table washing). Through grace and courtesy activities the children learn to engage in proper social interactions, enabling them to be thoughtful and respectful friends. In the control of movement area, the child refines his coordination through activities such as walking on the line, jumping, and dancing.
As the children become more capable, the practical life activities increase in complexity, progressing from simple one step exercises, to multiple step activities that require great concentration and organization, more refined motor control, planning, and an increased attention span. They also help the child feel empowered by his own abilities.
The sensorial materials allow the children to develop observation, comparison, judgment, reasoning, organization, and decision making skills. They also help prepare the child for math through the activities of matching, sequencing, sorting, grading, classifying, and patterning. The sensorial materials make it possible for the child to distinguish and classify in areas such as color, shape, size, sound, smell, texture, weight, and temperature. The children become organized thinkers as they complete these exercises.
The language area helps the children to develop an appreciation for spoken and written language and literacy readiness. It stimulates the children's natural love of language and literature. Spoken language is introduced first, utilizing the child's sensitive period for language, and progresses to written language and then reading. Through a variety of lessons, games, and activities the children develop their auditory, visual, and fine motor skills. Through repeated exposure to sounds and how they join together to make words, the children develop their phonetic awareness. The sounds of the letters are introduced through spoken language and also through the sense of touch by using the sandpaper letters. Gradually the children begin to combine the letters into words using the movable alphabet. At the same time the children are developing their fine motor and visual skills in preparation for reading. They essentially teach themselves to read and write by combining these skills.
The mathematics program introduces concepts in a hands-on, concrete manner before moving to more abstract concepts. Each math concept is isolated and introduced to the child individually; starting with quantity, then numeral symbol, and then the correspondence between the two. This parallels the work they receive in the practical life and sensorial areas by exposing the children to patterning, sequencing, and matching.
Each new concept is introduced using step-by-step progression. After the quantities 1-10 are mastered using a variety of materials, the decimal system is introduced, beginning with work from 1-100. This is followed by many lessons using the golden beads to facilitate understanding of our base 10 system through the thousands. Numeral cards correspond to this work that help the child understand place value.
The four operations of mathematics are introduced, as well as an introduction to fractional parts. Materials are available to help with understanding these concepts and in memorizing basic facts. The senses are also used to introduce two and three dimensional geometric figures and their names.
In order for the child to move from the concrete to the abstract, much repetition is necessary. Most concepts are introduced using multiple materials, allowing the child to construct mathematical concepts through discovery, rather than through formal teaching. The children progress through the curriculum at their own pace, allowing for genuine understanding before moving on.
Children's natural curiosity is encouraged as they question, observe, analyze, and communicate about the world. Exploration of the world and the continents is done through the use of maps, globes, and land and water forms.
They are encouraged to explore various cultures through pictures, objects, food, songs, and games. World flags are also introduced starting with their own country's flag.
The passage of time is presented with the units of time, days of the week, months of the year, and seasons. Annual holiday traditions and celebrations around the world are also introduced.
Our school-wide International Spring Festival provides each classroom the opportunity to study a specific country’s customs, geography, music, food, clothing, and language.
Music is a daily part of the primary classroom, both during group time, and in work cycle. An introduction to the classic composers, beginning musical notation, and exploration with musical instruments, such as tone bars and bells, help children develop their ears. Various genres of music are played during rest and group time, and children are introduced to sounds made by a variety of instruments.
Art is a part of the daily environment at the early childhood level. Mini masterpieces from Degas to Warhol, displayed along with images of the artist, are displayed in the room. These are used to introduce the language of art, including medium, artist, art history, format, and style.
Exploring with materials: including paint with brushes of variable sizes, crayons, markers, glue, scissors, and play dough, helps students develop into creative artists.
Kindergarten children visit the art room once a week for formal art lessons.
An iPad is available in each primary classroom for teacher use, learning applications for kindergarten students, and to play music. Additional technology is sometimes used to support reading activities.
TV/DVD players are occasionally used in the primary classrooms for virtual field trips and educational videos that coincide with unit studies.
Skill building activities, non-competitive games, and music movement allow children to develop a positive attitude towards exercise. Activities include simple, non-competitive games, instruction, and practice with locomotor skills such as hopping, skipping, and jumping, use of equipment such as jump ropes and floor scooters, and manipulative skills with balls and bats. Children participate in field day activities at the end of each school year to showcase what they have learned.
The preprimary and primary Spanish curriculum takes advantage of the fact that children are in a sensitive period for learning languages. The children effortlessly absorb the Spanish language, introduced through simple conversation and song.
Students learn introductory conversation, colors, numbers, family names, and basic vocabulary. Verbal skills are practiced through songs, games, finger plays and conversational patterns. Simple, natural, conversational structure is used to facilitate understanding.
Spanish lessons are twice a week.
Story time is the focus of media lessons at this age level. Lessons are focused on listening skills, book care, illustrations, and verbal interaction about the story being read. Authors and illustrators are introduced with pictures, along with the books being read. The main goal is to foster a love of reading through fiction/nonfiction materials, felt boards, puppets, and art and song.
Children visit the library/media center once a week.