How would you run a class of 24 pre-k students?

Discussion in 'Preschool' started by Ms_Sarah, Oct 21, 2015.

  1. Ms_Sarah

    Ms_Sarah Guest

    Oct 21, 2015

    I'm the teacher in a classroom of 24 full day 4-year-old students, staffed with 2 fully qualified teachers in addition to myself (both have B.A.'s in child development). Not an ideal student body size, but certainly not a terrible situation either. Assuming this will never change, but I like my position, my school, my generous pay, and I adore my classroom staff & students, how would you then proceed? The reason this suddenly weighs heavily on my mind is because I was recently criticized by a child development professor for practices that were not developmentally appropriate.

    Currently, we use conscious discipline methods as a guidance for child behavior. We have 2 children with moderate special needs, 3 additional children with fairly significant behavior challenges, and a handful of students that are easily distracted. My docile, mild-mannered students who are eager to independently learn are definitely in the minority. So, we have a fairly structured routine throughout our day.

    The professor (on campus formally observing a student obtaining her CDA that just so happened to use my classroom) criticized my use of the calendar during circle time. I see how the concept could be irrelevant to a 4-year-old, but it also gives us an opportunity to count each day, talk about the weather, and give them a vague understanding of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It's just part of our daily routine, but not necessarily a reason to continue.

    She also heavily criticized our "small group" time. We have 5 small groups of 5 children (except with group needing the most support who have 4). Each day, there are 5 table-top activities that cover the curriculum areas. Two are done with a teacher, the rest are independent. The groups are separated and sit at their designated table. After approx. 10 min (when the most complicated activity is completed), the bell rings and the children rotate to the next table. After approx. 45-50 minutes, small group time is over and all the children have spent time at each activity. For the group needing the most support, one of us will rotate with them at each table.

    The activities can be as simple as building blocks, exploring the sensory bins, the listening center with a picture book on CD, or pretend play. It can also be process art, a science experiment, practicing a letter of the week by building with playdough or tracing in sand/shaving cream/finger-paint, or math using manipulatives. Or, most harshly criticized, it can be a heavily teacher-directed activity with written work.

    After snack and recess, the kids come back and we have free-choice centers. The teachers and I take this opportunity to play with the kids and work one-on-one with IEP goals or evaluations. The table-top activities are re-opened for freely exploring.

    So, I'm opening myself to all opinions in this. I'm a big girl, I can handle it if I'm doing it all wrong.

    :) Sarah
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 21, 2015
  3. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

    Jul 27, 2009
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    Oct 21, 2015

    That is great that you have so many adults in the room! With the rotations, I think that can be very beneficial, though it would be more developmentally appropriate if it were all free choice. Get rid of the written work! The activities can still be teacher-led, but could be books read aloud, songs, etc. Maybe put out some different worksheets during free choice time, and some kids will want to "play school" and do them. Do the kids get a rest or nap time?

    Calendar is not really appropriate for 4s. When I taught that age, we were frog themed, so we talked about weather and dressed the toy frog for the weather. We also had a lily pad number line and counted. By the end of the year, most of the kids could do it. During free choice time, they loved to get the pointer and point at numbers and practice counting. Other than that, circle was books and songs.

    People ague about letter of the week. As long as you aren't making it a big deal, I think it's fine. Again, as long as it isn't a huge focus. Tracing the letter in sandpaper or felt or whatever, and writing the letter in the sky with your hand are all good ways to learn letters.

    I think you have a good system, but need to tweak it a bit to make it more appropriate for the age. What you have would be an ideal model for kindergarten.
  4. ChildWhisperer

    ChildWhisperer Groupie

    Jun 25, 2015
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    Oct 23, 2015

    It's nice you have 3 teachers in there, but just having 24 kids in one room is chaos, no matter how many adults are in there.
    I've always done calendar with weather. I understand the pros & cons to calendar time at this young age, but the calendar is something everyone uses the rest of their life and I think it's a good idea to introduce it at this age. My kids have never had a problem with calendar; they understood it. You can count the days until the weekend or someone's birthday or some other special day. They always knew what day it was and what days yesterday/tomorrow was/is.
    We also use a separate math time for going more into numbers, so it's not just calendar.

    Here is the schedule I used at my last job/school with 4- to 5-year-olds:
    (My current job/school follows a different schedule & I am not a fan but I can't change it)
    I was by myself with 10 kids first half of the year and then 15 kids rest of the year

    8:30 Circle Time (pledge, calendar, weather, talk about the theme of the week)
    8:50 Whole Group Reading (teacher read story & asked comprehension questions)
    9:00 Small Groups (Art Table (with teacher) & Writing Table (independent - I wrote a short sentence or two on the board related to the theme & they copied it onto their own paper))
    9:20 Center Time (free play)
    10:00 Music Class
    10:15 Snack Time
    10:30 Outside
    11:15 Whole Group Math / Science
    11:30 Center Time
    12:00 Story Time (with sight word review)
    12:20 Lunch
    12:45-1:00 Dismissal

    And I don't want to hear anyone say my writing "lesson" was not age appropriate!! :)
    My kids did amazing on it. It helped with handwriting, letter formation, left to right directionality, spacing, keeping track / going back & forth from the board to their paper, capitalizing the first letter & ending with a period. By the end of the year, their writing was beautiful and comparable to an older elementary student's.
    I would not do that with this year's group whose developmental level is just so behind; same age group but still working on those basic concepts like colors! So different...
    My class last year was pretty advanced and were learning at a first grade level. Most of them could read & write by sounding out the letters, add & subtract, tell time to the quarter hour, count coins, identify numbers to 100, etc.

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