The Grandes program continues the work of the Pequenos program in striving to provide the children with an environment that is nurturing and inspires them to explore learning and self-development in a joyous, playful, and challenging manner, which is both developmentally appropriate and research based.
All activities in the Grandes classroom are intentional, beginning with choice time in the morning and including circle time, small and large group times, outdoor play, eating meals together, co-curriculars and closing circle at the end of the day together.Learning takes place through meaningful, hands-on concrete activities. This includes free exploration, projects, thematic studies, large and small group instruction and individual one-to-one experiences between the educator and student. Our goal is to end our school year with a group of students who are integrating their new skills and learning readiness, who function as a group with a strong sense of identity.
Everything we do keeps in mind the growth of each individual in the domains of cognitive, social, physical and emotional development.
The role of play in our program is taken very seriously as it is not only how children learn to be resilient, observant problem solvers as they approach life and learning, but it also builds upon memory and skills, building neural pathways as the children integrate all their senses and abilities in learning about the world around them.
Stories are an integral part of the language arts activities and the children are exposed to a variety of genres and the elements of stories are discussed. We engage in author studies of the writings of Eric Carle, Gerald McDermott and a study/comparison of Three Little Pigs stories. Students retell stories through the use of story-boards and story sequence cards, and engage in activities such as partner reading and acting out stories during story-teller theatre. A listening station for books on CD is available during choice time and book reading online is available through One More Story (an application on iPads). The Grandes also enjoy stories read to them by the librarian during our weekly library time and eventually they begin to check out books from the library.
Writing begins with drawing and the children are encouraged to draw stories and observations made during theme activities, math, science, and dramatic play. The children also write in journals and reflect about activities in which they have participated during the day. We take their dictation and model writing their words and thoughts. During the year they write and/or record in their own books such as recipes from cooking activities and words that begin with specific letter sounds.
The Grandes explore the purpose, formation and sound of letters. We use Handwriting Without Tears strategies and activities to help them with beginning the writing of letters and numbers. During large group times we engage in phonemic awareness activities that come from the Phonemic Awareness in Young Children Curriculum. These activities address rhyming, syllables, beginning sounds, listening skills, sentences, words in sentences, ending sounds and touch on ending punctuation of sentences. The children are exposed to phonics through the Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory method and order of teaching sounds. In small groups, the children begin building three letter words using the letter sounds they have learned.
Math shows up everywhere in our day: during transitions, circle times, group times, on iPads, during thematic studies, in rhymes and music, in dramatic play, in the block area, using manipulatives, in the sensory table, and in the completion of projects. We use the many varied developmentally appropriate activities from the Preschool version of Everyday Math. Areas addressed throughout the year are numbers and numeration, shapes, sorting and classifying by attributes, patterns, measurement, graphing, and estimation. We supplement the Everyday Math activities with games, art and iPad apps that reinforce these skills, and we use storybooks that also illustrate these ideas.
Social studies are a celebration of our differences, our similarities, our families’ cultures and traditions, and our place in the school community, our neighborhoods and the world. We participate in activities and studies that bring the world into the classroom through having parents share their traditions, cooking food of different cultures, studies of local community workers, looking at videos from the Internet, field trips, the nature surrounding us and the people in our school community. We also look at maps of our state, country and the world during various studies. The children get involved in drawing maps of their home and playground. Literature, games, dramatic play, music, and art all come to play in our studies. Some of the thematic units explored include, but are not limited to: Nutrition and the source of our food through farmers, Myself and Others, Family and Community, Maps, Transportation, and Houses Around the World.
Science involves hands-on active explorations involving observation, prediction, experimentation, and documentation of our observations. Science occurs naturally throughout the day in everything the children do. It involves block play, reading, outdoor play, sensory play, art, music and the use of manipulatives. We use tools such as magnifiers, rulers, media and microscopes as we explore and learn. Thematic studies include, but are not limited to: Seasons, Senses, Our bodies and brains, Living Things, Environmental stewardship, Habitats (the Saguaro cactus), Bugs, Pets, Design challenges, and Adventures in color.
In addition, we have the opportunity to explore scientific principles further with the expertise of the Science educator who extends our current studies once every other week.
The children work with the technology educator once a week. They work independently on iPads using educational games that foster problem solving, skill practice such as letter and number writing, knowledge building and of course fun games that foster computer skills. The use of iPads is limited to each child having access twice a week for 15 - 30 minutes.
We use the Elmo for story reading and skill practice; the interactive board for mirroring videos and pictures of things they are learning about; and some interactive software for skill building. We also use it for projecting the One More Story software in order for more than one child to view the story at a time.
iPads are used to video and take pictures of the children at work and play and when they are presenting reports or finished projects. From these we use the pictures to document their work and create slideshows for parents to view on the TV located in the EC lobby.
Physical Development (Gross Motor & Fine Motor)
The children attend Physical Education, Movement and Adventure-Based Learning with their respective educators once a week. Skills such as running, skipping, galloping, climbing, choreography, spacial awareness and eye-hand coordination are developed. In addition, many skills are acquired and honed through play on the playground.
We also do movement activities within the classroom such as yoga, focused movements such as brain gym and animal movements, and activities that can be found on many wonderful children’s CDs.
Fine motor development is encouraged through gluing, taping, scissoring, writing both on the board and on paper, using tools, woodworking, tracing pictures, play dough and other sensory materials and creating art using different mediums.
The classroom is always supplied with plenty of art supplies consisting of different mediums that are available for free use by the children during choice times. In addition, we provide directed activities that extend our current studies. Our art activities are about the process, not the product.
The children have art class with the Art educator every other week. She introduces them to elements of art, various styles and artists and also does activities to extend our current studies.
The children attend Music class with the Music educator every other week. In addition, we provide instruments in the classroom for children to use. We sing songs for transitions, learning and fun! We use rhythm sticks and shakers for group activities and we expose children to various styles of music through the use of various media such as CDs and the Internet for viewing and listening. We also integrate musical activities into our various studies.
Social Emotional skills are worked on every day, all day long with individuals and with the group as a whole. Children at this age are still learning how to identify their emotions and needs, and then they are learning how to express them in appropriate and productive ways. We talk through situations with them, modeling appropriate language and behaviors and discussing various ways to handle situations. Strategies used include stories, role-playing, group discussions and daily activities and strategies from the Responsive Classroom and Mind Up curriculums.
To foster connectedness, Grandes are paired with a specific mentoring 6th grade buddy. The buddies meet every Friday to share an academic activity. The buddy relationships formed over the year often blossom into long-term friendships, and offer the Grandes an expanded notion of family and friendship, while giving the sixth graders a sense of empowerment and leadership responsibility.