We’re licensed to teach children ages 2 years 9 months to six years old. As such, our 3’s and almost-3’s are the youngest students in school. Some have attended playgroups, family day care, or church school, but–for the majority–this is the first time they’re part of an organized school program that meets several times a week. For some, it’s also the first time they’ve ever been away from mom all morning. That’s why our 3 year old curriculum is geared to making the children feel safe and nurtured, independent and capable all on their own.
The 3’s spend their whole morning together with a lead teacher and 2 teacher assistants. They start the morning with an hour of free choice time in the classroom: playing with toys & games, building & sensory materials, and exploring the dramatic play area. During this first hour, they also do an art project that allows them to creatively represent an aspect of the theme the class is exploring that week. During free choice (or free play), the teachers are gentle participants in the children’s play, encouraging them to broaden their exploration of materials and building language by tying vocabulary to their actions.
During the second hour of the morning, the first thing the children do is put away the learning materials in preparation for Circle Time and snack. Clean-up is a learning experience, too, because it gives children practice in cooperation and responsibility. We make it fun by turning it into a game of sorting, counting, or carrying the toy boxes when they’re finally full. The children use the bathroom and wash hands after clean-up. Most 3’s have only been toilet trained for a few months, so using the bathroom by themselves is a big deal. We help them by coaching them in what to do and we close pesky snaps on clothing but they quickly learn the whole process themselves, including washing afterwards with soap and water.
After clean-up and bathroom, the first Circle of the morning takes place. It’s a language-rich experience. The teacher will lead a discussion of the topic for the week, introduce a poem or song that supplements the topic, and introduce objects to the children that support understanding of what is being explored. The teacher might play a guessing game with the children, do a simple science experiment, pass around a bird’s nest, or hand everyone a magnifier so the children can learn to use them effectively. Circle time is very much geared to the attention span of the group: in the early days, it might last only 5 minutes; later in the year, the children may be able to attend for as long as 15 whole minutes. All those minutes are packed with fun and learning as the children become more aware of each other and more interested in what others have to say.
Snack takes place around 10:30AM when 3’s are hungry and need an energy boost. The school provides healthy food like fruit, a dry snack like crackers, popcorn, cereal mix or a delicious baked product if it’s cooking day for the class. The children pour their own water into plastic mugs labeled with their names that we wash & run through the sanitizing dishwasher every day. For a few minutes after snack, the children sit quietly on the rug looking at a book of their choice, as they wait for classmates to finish snack.
Then it’s on to the Big Room, everyone’s favorite indoor space. Big Room equipment varies from week to week but always includes some combination of large building blocks, climbing equipment, ball play, balance challenges and riding toys. It’s a gross motor space where children can really use their large muscles as they explore individually or play cooperatively in a group.
After using all that energy in the Big Room, the children return to the classroom for a story. With roughly 2000 good books in our school library, we could never read them all in one year. Add to that all the wonderful books from public libraries and it might seem overwhelming to choose. However, our teachers have a special knack for picking just the right books that combine information and humor, interesting language and comforting emotional vignettes. Our teachers love to read to children and the children love to hear good books so Story Time is a very special time at school for everyone.
Three’s end the day outside on the playground. We’re big believers in the benefits of fresh air and open spaces. For optimal brain development, this age group needs to swing, dig, climb, run, crawl, and slide. Thanks to parent funding, we’ve equipped our playground with structures that develop body skills and provide inspiration for cooperative group play.
After a full morning at school, most 3’s are ready to go home, eat lunch and take a rest. Even if they can’t tell you about their day at school, rest assured it was busy, happy, and productive in all kinds of ways.
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