This semester I have the pleasure to intern at the A. Sophie Rogers School for Early Learning at the Schoenbaum Family Center. The school offers early childhood education and care for children ages six weeks to five years in an intentionally diverse learning community. It is a part of the university’s College of Education and Human Ecology, serving as a place for research and undergraduate teacher training. I work as an assistant teacher in a preschool class under the guidance of a master teacher. Days at the school vary, but they all march to the same beat. Below I have shared my experiences on a Thursday in mid-February.
The day begins at 8:30. I welcome students as they arrive. After putting away their belongings and washing their hands I offer them breakfast. At the table we discuss how we spent our home days, the snow, and what’s new in the sensory table. After cleaning up their breakfast dishes students transition to indoor play.
During indoor play children move freely between the interest areas, becoming engrossed in their work. I spend the time observing children, intervening to mediate peer conflict when needed, conversing, and engaging in play. On this particular day I type on old keyboards in writing, facilitate ramp construction on the carpet, pretend to be a domino version of myself at the dollhouse, and mediate much conflict. Due to the extreme cold the children have not been able to spend nearly as much time playing outside than normal. Tensions are running high and feelings are easily hurt. Understanding the natural consequences of yelling or hitting our playmates is a frequent conversation.
At around 10 o’clock we begin to get ready for circle time. Children are given a warning that they have 5 more playing minutes then told to clean up and use the restroom. Through consistent schedules and a well designed environment this is a task they can complete independently for the most part.
I spend circle time working one-on-one with a student that needs extra support. Some days we join the rest of the class on the carpet for stories and finger rhymes, but on most I follow his lead in play. He is highly interested in small world dramatic play and letter recognition and formation. During circle time I try to guide his interest to the latter as it is quieter and less disruptive for those participating in the morning meeting. On this morning we spend circle time working at the writing desk. (You can read more about it here.)
At the end of circle time children choose where they will work. Special materials are available at the tables around the room including the sensory and light tables. Materials are chosen based on the children’s interest. Today there is snow painting at the art table, translucent gems and small cups at the light table, water and pouring/filling tools at the sensory table, and homemade dinosaur puzzles at the circle table. (You can read more about my experience using dinosaur puzzles for child led individual instruction here.)
Following table choices we transition to snack time and typically then to outdoor play. Because of the weather we are unable to play outside. Instead we incorporate gross motor movement by riding bikes, running, and playing movement games such as Simon Says and Follow the Leader. A new game we have been working on is the opposite game. Students are given a task, either to touch their head or their stomachs, but they have previously been instructed to do the opposite of what they are told. A seemingly simple task for adults, for young children it requires great concentration and can be frustrating at times. It is an excellent tool to build persistence and impulse control.
We then transition to lunch where we eat family style – although, modified to take COVID-19 precautions. I serve, converse, encourage adventurous eating, and model and remind students of appropriate mealtime behavior. After lunch we walk back to the classroom for independent reading and rest time.
During rest time I support students who need teacher assistance falling asleep. After all who take naps have fallen asleep, I work one-on-one with an older student on their pencil grasp or assist with administrative tasks.
On this particular afternoon I assemble a sign-in poster and laminate it in the teacher work room. Each student has a space to print their name, scaffolded to their current skill level, at arrival. Incorporating the task into the daily routine encourages fine motor strength and coordination, letter formation, and use of writing to convey meaning.
After that I make popsicle sticks for a process based art project and study of cause and effect to be used next week. As I’m working student’s begin to wake up from their nap. As they transition from rest to snack time they join me at the table. I offer them opportunities to help by counting the bundles of sticks needed and securing the rubber bands on the sides of the bundles. Once we have enough built we clean up and I serve snack.
After snack students transition to indoor play. The afternoon work cycle is very similar to the morning. The children depart individually as their caregivers arrive to pick them up. At the end of the day my master teacher and I sanitize the materials and make sure the room is ready for children to arrive the following morning.
This is the weekly Curriculum Guide that includes the day described above.