At Albany Preschool, children direct their own play activities in an emotionally supportive and varied environment that addresses their varied physical, cognitive, social, and emotional needs. As they explore and engage with their world, children gain confidence in their growing abilities and experience learning as a joyful, open ended process.
This learning is enhanced through interactions with other children and caring, involved adults. The role of the teachers is to provide a learning environment that is both challenging and nurturing, and engages and satisfies a child’s natural curiosity by being responsive to their interests and needs. Play can be child-driven through self-directed, discovery learning; actively scaffolded and guided by children and teachers; as well as teacher-led and through rule-based games.
Social-emotional development encompasses the sense of self and individual skills as well as how a child relates in social and group settings. Through play and group activities, a child develops self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and caring, and initiative in learning. At Albany Preschool, children develop relationships with teachers and friendships with peers, and through these interactions, they learn how to participate positively and cooperatively in groups. Children develop tools to express themselves, understand others’ emotions, and the language to respond to and resolve conflict. Research shows that self-regulation of emotions and behavior is one of the strongest predictors of academic success.
Language and Literacy Development
Literacy-rich experiences at Albany Preschool lay the foundation for literacy development and reading proficiency in elementary school. These experiences include developing oral language through listening and speaking skills (i.e. receptive and expressive language), as well as foundational concepts such as letters and sounds, print concepts, pictures and ideas, vocabulary, etc. The use of rhymes and alliteration through storytelling, music, and play builds an awareness of words and their sounds (phonological awareness) are key in learning to read and write.
The opportunity to learn and understand mathematical concepts and number sense is a natural part of a child’s play as they explore their environment, materials and engage in imaginative play. Through play as well as structured activities (for example beading, number bingo, mathlink cubes, sorting games, etc.), children learn number, quantity and measurement concepts and relationships, as well as shapes and to describe spatial relationships.
Science & Social Studies Development
Learning about the world not only helps prepare children for their later school years, it will also help with future literacy. Research has shown that in addition to understanding the mechanics of literacy (phonics, recognizing letters, etc.), having a preexisting concept of the subject the child is reading about is also crucial to reading comprehension.
The CA Dept of Education’s “Preschool Learning Foundations” identifies four areas of science for the preschool/TK classroom: scientific inquiry, physical science, life science, and earth science. Many of the skills practiced during science-related activities, for example looking at bugs with a magnifying glass, also support literacy by learning new vocabulary related to that activity. Manipulatives such as blocks, magnatiles, and marble runs involve problem solving and planning, sorting, shapes, size, etc. Through building with manipulatives, children engage in science concepts of cause and effect, observation, and making and testing predictions.
Art, music and dramatic play are an essential part of Albany Preschool. These fun and enriching activities also provide opportunities to practice important skills, and for expression and exploration. Through pretend play, children often use one thing to represent something else, for example a wooden block can be a car, or raising their hands like claws to be a dinosaur. This concept will translate to understanding that letters represent sounds and numbers represent quantities. Imagination also helps children later in their academic life to visualize historical events and scientific ideas.
“What Are Children Learning When They Play with Wooden Blocks?”
From The Powerful Role of Play in Early Education, pg 240 by the California Department of Education
- Competence, confidence, decision-making, agency
- Communicating (including listening and expressing oneself, exchanging ideas, and building vocabulary through social interactions)
- Cooperating with others
- Problem solving
- Responsibility, forgiveness, and relationship repair (e.g., after a block structure is accidentally knocked over)
Language and Literacy
- Concept development
- Expressive language (the ability to put thoughts into words and sentences) and receptive language (the ability to understand the words, sentences, and meaning of what others say or what is read)
- Emergent writing (e.g., signs that indicate “Do Not Disturb” or “Airport”)
Mathematical and Scientific Thinking
- The concepts of whole and part, balance, stability, and gravity
- Spatial understanding, including vertical, horizontal, and “bridging
- space” in which children perceive the space between two blocks, then choose an appropriately sized block to fit into that space
- Equivalencies among the differently sized block units and any
- measurements of length, height, or depth of structure
- Cause and effect
- Dispositions of experimentation, curiosity, and open-mindedness
- Quantity, counting, number concepts
- Weight (heavy and light)
- Sequence and pattern
- Mathematical and scientific language and vocabulary
- Muscle strength
- TK California – California Department of Education
- The Alignment of California Preschool Learning Foundations with Key Early Education Resources – California Department of Education
- California Preschool Learning Foundations
- Powerful Role of Play in Early Education Resources – California Department of Education
- Elementary-School Curriculum Is All Wrong – The Atlantic
- Connecting the Brain to the Rest of the Body: Early Childhood Development and Lifelong Health Are Deeply Intertwined – Center on the on the Developing Child at Harvard University
- Play: It’s the Way Young Children Learn – Early Childhood Funders