Over the years, Monte Tavor has made it possible for families to receive observation reports, assessments on various learning abilities, developmental approaches during preschool years, and ultimately a kindergarten readiness checklist, one year prior to entering elementary school. For two consecutive years, Monte Tavor have received “The Best of Oakland Preschool Award” which has made us realize that because of infrequent check in, many families do not know much about our developmental approaches or how we prepare children beginning from infancy until the time they enter kindergarten.
The development that takes place in each stage during infancy, toddler and preschool years, occurs every day in our program. Each day, infants are moving toward those miles stones by learning physical abilities such as rolling over, crawling, walking, and running. When listening to songs and learning how to sing them, they are learning to speak, acquiring new vocabulary and learning a second language. Infants begin to interact with each other to learn from their physical space, toys that are available to them, and by allowing children to play with toys that are meant for everyone in a group setting. Learning to sit in a circle and listening to stories from books is an immeasurable achievement, at such a young age. Parents who arrive and witness this for the first time from their child, are amazed beyond belief.
Monte Tavor's goal is to expose every child, younger than four, to as many experiences as possible. This allows them to focus on Classroom Readiness during their last year of preschool. Classroom Readiness not only includes being able to sit for a task or an activity, but staying on task and maintaining focus with a good attention span, and ultimately, followed by making an effort to end these tasks or projects. There are certain pieces that play a major role in each child's life and well-being, that they must learn how to put together, in order to achieve classroom readiness such as self-reliance and control. The most basic pieces include: learning how to express their feelings and emotions, working cooperatively with a partner or in groups, and learning to share toys, space and friends. Another important component, is the exposure to classroom limits, which includes waiting for a turn before speaking, raising their hand, getting in line, remembering instructions, and practicing listening skills; and those can be seen as major attainable goals for a preschooler. When children have confidence and independence in themselves, they begin to feel in control and capable of achieving.
Our play based approach, teaches children to be more in control of their emotions and at times in control of impulsive motives. The role play that takes place daily at the community role themes puts children in a position of leadership. Assigning and deciding among themselves which role each person will play. For instance, in a restaurant theme, who will be the chef, the waiter or waitress, or customer? Will the customer be composed of a family or with an extended family? Or with friends hanging out? During dramatic pretend play, children will have to work out disagreements and ask for help from a teacher, if someone is not abiding by what seems to be fair of expectations. This play based curriculum, also includes dramatic pretend play themes with different community roles and props. The restaurant, hair salon, fire station, dress up, office, floral shop, and post office themes, to name a few.
At Monte Tavor we have always believed that in order to help a child use more self-expression and self-control, there needs to be a collaborative effort and connection between parents at home as well as at the school setting. The power of reading, not only teaches children how to speak and express words found in books, but will also teach children how to express their feelings and emotions. Children will mirror themselves and learn to grow sensitive toward others or stand up for themselves. Adding an evening reading routine, having simple discussions on certain topics or speaking about behaviors observed at home and at school, are certainly beneficial opportunities for self-expressions. For instance, if parents have conversations with their infant, they will notice how attentive they may be by their eye contact. When reading to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers every night, they are being prepared for their elementary school years. Think about the amount of reading that these children will be required to do during those years and how ready or advanced some children may be, if they are being read often or nightly.
Also, we have seen that there are major differences between children who are very expressive, versus those who tend to be quieter or less expressive. For instance, physical abilities may take over their emotions, which frequently interferes by hindering to express verbally. Making it difficult for them to get along with others or behave in ways that not only affect themselves, but others in the classroom. When working with children who experience these challenges, it is not an easy task for teachers and providers to do alone. Therefore, parent involvement is one of the keys to the success among these children.
Our Reggio Emilia approach, based on children's interest, not only includes dramatic pretend play, but also, it is composed of art. In this approach, children use many different tools for painting and making collages, leading to sensory exploratory themes. Natural ingredients, such as corn meal, corn starch, and bird seeds, are used at sensory play tables and when creating art collages. Other activities may include water, ice, leaves, twigs and fruits. All these activities begin in the spring and continue until the end of fall.
Our next teaching approach based on Piaget's theory or the high scope approach is essentially a scientific inquiry, which touches bases on physical and natural sciences such as sink and float activates, textures, and cause and effect themes. In natural sciences we learn about animal names and their habitats, while reading and looking through books and magazines. This theory is not limited to animals, but any emergent curriculum based on children's conversations such as farm life, making ice cream, bones, plants, and any scientific inquiry. In the classroom children explore and learn about insects and crawly creatures. The Oakland Zoo and WildCare, educational nature vans, bring close up animal encounters straight to the classroom. Other explored themes are ocean life, tropical birds, forest animals, ponds and lakes, coral reef, African savanna, Arctic, and Antarctic. Both of our emergent themes focus on children’s interest during daily discussions, then eventually leading to natural science base inquiries.
The next time you ask yourself what your child is learning at Monte Tavor, begin by exploring our calendar of activities to help form specific questions, such as what your child is learning during physical games or journaling, or what takes place during reading time or sharing circle time. Our newsletters also brings a lot of information about the learning that takes place among the different age groups, for the months or years your family spends at Monte Tavor. Next time your child does not bring home a piece of art work, do not hesitate to ask your child specific questions, such as what he or she does or learned during certain activities listed by a particular season on our school calendar. Also, imagine the endless possibilities of things that may take place in the learning exposures at Monte Tavor. Your child is part of a play based and teacher directed curriculum, where children play with other children, spend time outdoors and are exposed to a second and in some cases third language; Spanish.
There are plentiful benefits for families to have frequent checks, learn how children are doing during conference rounds. This certainly makes families aware and well informed on how their children are being prepared for their next learning level and for future elementary school years. An observational assessment, shows how their emotional and social behaviors scale among others in the class and who the child is growing up to be, while in an environment that will affect perceptions in their life time. The observational assessments and developmental check lists takes us on an inquiry journey of nature versus nurture, nowadays more commonly understood as nature and nurture and how the inborn traits that help children shape their personalities. This has a positive effect, if a child is exposed to an assured, happy and rewarding environment.
Conferences are very essential to the growth of each child and the opportunity for each family to learn more on how their child is doing. In order for this to take place, conference rounds every three months instead of every six months will certainly be beneficial beginning this upcoming school year. Overall, children do not necessarily need an end product or project to take home in order to achieve certain goals prior to entering kindergarten, but there are many skills and abilities that they will need to learn how to put in place. Families will be much more informed and in contact with their children’s learning. Monte Tavor as a program will continue to thrive being one of the best preschools for children and their families in our immediate community.
Monte Tavor Director