Is it ok to allow kids a free day

Discussion in 'Preschool' started by TeacherCuriousExplore, Dec 7, 2016.

  1. TeacherCuriousExplore

    TeacherCuriousExplore Cohort

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    Hey you all,

    We are nearing the Christmas holiday and next week is our last week then we will be closed for Christmas and New Years.

    I have just been hired back to teach PreK in my parent's facility. Over the Thanksgiving break, I came and rearrange the classroom and created the centers. The teacher before me did not allow the children AT ALL to play so I have been allowing them to free play in centers for an hour over the past two weeks in the mornings. I do this because my first day back I noticed that the children lacked problem solving, self- help, and social skills during center play. Since I have been allowing an hour of non instructed play,they are now placing things neat when it is time to clean up, their cubbies are kept neat, and there is less fighting. After free play, I find a Christmas craft to do or we go into circle time and reading. They also are extremely deficient on reading comprehension and interest in books. Being that I now read to them, I noticed more and more students are going to the library center during free play. I even have one young learner to always go into the reading area and ask me what the words says in the books that she decides to read. This shows me that in January I can start on sight words and very early reading with her. Another young learner, enjoys the science center I fixed up and he also enjoys the objects in the manipulative area. He put together a puzzle by himself 2 days ago. To wrap up the day, I read another story and we go into music with movement or phonic awareness.

    Yesterday, we did free play, circle time and story. The Christmas activity that we did was put together the classroom Christmas tree and watched Rudolph the Red nose Reindeer. Today we will be doing free play, circle time, and watching A Charlie Browns Christmas.

    I do not do any small groups or teacher instructed groups as of yet. My mom told me to start fresh in January. So far I have done diagnostic assessments and will be having parent teacher conference next week.

    I wanted to know do you allow yourself and your young learners a break when it is nearing the holiday?
    Even though they are learning through play, I feel like I should be implementing teaching practices before it is too late.

    Their previous teacher had them since August and some are behind on letter recognition, name writing, and also number sense. Just a few things that they need before kindergarten
     
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  3. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    What age? Can you include letter recognition in their circle time?
     
  4. TeacherCuriousExplore

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    Yes, However we can not use the technique "Letter of the week". I teach the Alphabets using a song from the Early learning literacy model+ curriculum. They are 4 and 5 years old
     
  5. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    I think you are doing fine. As long as you have materials available for them to access letters and numbers, and you are singing songs about letters and counting and other skills, that's what is developmentally appropriate.
     
  6. TeacherCuriousExplore

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    Yes my classroom is a print rich environment. I have words and letters everywhere.
     
  7. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    They learn while playing. It will not hurt to have a little free time. They are learning social skills... how to interact with others when things aren't structured.
     
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  8. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Could someone answer a question for me? I thought preschool was supposed to do what kindergarten used to do, and prepare kids socially for school. I don't mean to criticize the academia, but when are kids now supposed to learn social skills?
     
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  9. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    Good question.

    WELL... social skills start at home but a majority probably don't get it. With the higher academic demands on K, a lot more academics are required in preschool. Not sure when and where social play is supposed to be covered.
     
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  10. MrsC

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    I find it so sad that this question has to be asked at the preschool level. My grade 7s will be having, not a free day, but a day free from academics the week before our Christmas break and I know it won't be an issue at all with my administration.
     
  11. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Sure, but what about the social skills for school? All I see from academic preschool is a bunch of kids who have no idea how to act in a school in later grades.
     
  12. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    This. While there's never a day in my classroom that's truly "free" of academics, there are plenty of times that perhaps stray from being perfectly standard/curriculum-bound. For example, we spent an entire half-hour block one time having a discussion that spun off of reading Wonder and a student's sharing of a connection to someone in their life: the conversation/discussion had there was more valuable than anything else we could've done during that time, even though it might not have pigeon-holed into a standard.

    Especially at the preschool level, I see nothing wrong with what you're saying (OP): really, I'm sure the kids will be doing a bunch of learning that day as it is, especially if you're framing the play they do in that fashion (i.e. they might be playing with Legos...and in an interaction, it might be counting the red blocks used to make the base or something like that...)
     
  13. ChildWhisperer

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    They learn their social skills throughout the day, which just so happens to include academic time.
    Here is our schedule:
    8:45-9:45 includes arrival, bathroom/wash hands, breakfast, brush teeth, free reading (lots of social skills happen during this hour. They learn to interact with each other while getting certain tasks done)
    9:45-10:15 is circle time AKA academic time. We focus on calendar (my class can tell you all the months in order, days of the week, what month it is right now, what day is today, the number date, the year), weather, color recognition, shape recognition, letter recognition, counting & number recognition, and name recognition. My class is currently working on recognizing ("reading") color words & shape words. They can "read" all their classmate's names and rote count to 100.
    10:15-10:30 is physical movement time or outside time if weather is nice
    10:30-11:15 involves getting in line to wash hands (taking turns) and lining up by the door to walk to the cafeteria. They learn how to walk in a line in the hallway, sometimes this includes passing older kids (the school goes up to 6th grade). Once in the cafeteria, they get their sporks, straws, & napkins and walk to the table to wait for lunch (they're too little to walk through the line holding their own trays so we get it for them)
    11:15-12:15 is center time. A full hour of free play center time. They "work" on "socializing" with others, how to get along, solve problems/conflicts, explore the different centers, and just play. At least once a week, I will pull them for small groups during this time to work in handwriting.
    12:15-12:30 is story time. They listen to a story, I ask comprehension questions, we talk about the theme of the week and learn new vocabulary (this week, they are learning "hibernate, migrate, adapt")
    12:30-2:00 is bathroom (taking turns again. We only have one bathroom) and naptime
    2:00-2:30 is wake up, bathroom, and snack.
    Then we get ready to go home and they're either picked up or on the bus by 3:00

    As for a "break"/free play day. I always do this on days before holidays. We do a short/quick circle time instead of a full circle time. And I let them do centers for over an hour or we watch a movie during this time. We don't work on writing or talk about the theme or any of that.
    I do agree that preschoolers need more play time, but in this day and age when Kindergarten has become like 1st grade, preschoolers now need to step it up and learn more academic skills to be ready for K. It's sad but what can ya do?
     
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  14. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I think an hour of free time PLUS a full holiday movie is A LOT of 'free time'. You could incorporate some academics into your centers or start a 'teacher center' for kids to rotate through in which you could integrate some literacy or early math skills into a holiday or other thematic activity.
     
  15. otterpop

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    It depends what you mean by "free time". I'd caution you against having a whole unstructured day. Young kids feel really uncomfortable when their regular schedule is disrupted, and this would be especially true if they've had inconsistent teachers throughout the year. You think they're bored with routine, but they probably actually really appreciate it. I say stick to what you normally do but insert more fun holiday activities into your routine.
     
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  16. GemStone

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    Your whole afternoon is dedicated to bathroom and nap? Is that a public school program? The public school pre-k programs here are half day: 20 kids in the morning and 20 in the afternoon. I feel that is a better use of resources, unless you are gradually shortening naps as the year progresses.
     
  17. MissCeliaB

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    That nap time is only an hour and a half. By the time everyone goes potty and washes hands, it's probably more like an hour. That is an appropriate amount of nap time. During my time teaching pre-k I learned that kids need the time to rest quietly. Otherwise they would get over stimulated.
     
  18. Backroads

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    I'm more fascinated at the idea of all-day preschool. I haven't seen a program like that. Yet, compared to other daycare options, it's logical.
     
  19. TeacherCuriousExplore

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    Hey you all thanks for the feedback! When I taught Georgia PreK I use to hate the way everything was timed. If the children were in a learning experience it had to be ended abruptly due to time. I am now in Florida and scheduling is somewhat different. Children are allowed to have free day of learning.

    I do not just allow them to play all day I just choose to do center play in the mornings and circle time in the late morning hour. After circle time, we do a group activity or watch a movie.
     
  20. TeacherCuriousExplore

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    As for the question about why are academics pushed at the PreK level is because Kindergarten is not teaching the basic materials anymore. PreK is the foundation for learning which is why now a PreK teacher must have a 4 year degree and teacher certification.

    In Georgia, teachers must have a 4 year degree and state certification in Pre K - 5th grade
    In Florida a Pre K teacher must have a 4 or 2 year degree in certified in Birth-VPK age(5 years)

    I have a 4 year degree and Prek certificate.
     
  21. TeacherCuriousExplore

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    I may start pulling individual students for handwriting practice while they are centers once are schedule gets back to the norm after the holidays
     
  22. GemStone

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    Still, 12:30-3 is non productive things they could do at home.
     
  23. MissCeliaB

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    I wouldn't assume the time is nonproductive! They are learning to follow directions, rest quietly, use self-control, etc. Also, I know when I taught pre-K we played soothing, but educational music during rest time. Also, many students chose to sit on their cots and quietly read books instead. Then, when they woke up, they played with table toys or read until time for snack.

    Most of our pre-K students were at school because their parents worked. I've always wondered where students in half-day programs go if they have parents who work? To a daycare? To nap and eat snack? Why not just have the consistency of having the same teachers all day? It seems like it would also be less expensive.

    We had half-day students, or those who only came MWF or TR. They had parents who stayed at home and used the time to run errands, play tennis, etc. But that is not the reality for most parents.

    Why must every moment at school be productive? Why not let students have a break? Even my high school students need a break! Certainly a small child would!
     
  24. Obadiah

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    I have a wishy-washy comment on this. Pre-K (and really all kids and even adults) but especially Pre-K kids thrive on and even learn from consistency. That's why Mr. Rogers entered his studio house the same way everyday, walking by the window, always wearing a business suit, hanging his sport coat up, putting on his sweater and sneakers. But then again, he also would add a few pleasant surprises, perhaps waving through the window before entering or visiting a special guest. A lot of it depends on the students, what kind of schedule interruptions they might appreciate.

    I have a concern, brought out in several of the posts. I'm not saying this is occurring in your situation nor in the above mentioned schools, but I fear it is in some Pre-K, Kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms. I'm writing this from a 3rd grade teacher's perspective. 3rd grade (somehow) has become the major benchmark in U.S. education. The differences I see in 3rd grade do not seem to stem from a lack of knowledge at the lower end of a taxonomy but a lack of fundamental concept development. These concepts can only be developed through activities and exploration in the earlier years, not through specific teach and test lessons--not that those should be shunned, either; they are also important, but I do believe that the proper emphasis should be on normal, natural developmental acquisition of concepts and skills. It seems we're pushing kids to do more but with the same or less accomplishment. (My third grade standards even include stuff I didn't learn until high school). I'm not in favor of holding back student progress, either, but at an early childhood level, I fear legislated standards and testing are stressing some learning and inhibiting other learning, and I question if they are indeed increasing development. With respect to differing viewpoints which are also based on validated research, in my opinion, a holistic learning environment produces not only a balanced educational experience but an enriched experience.
     
  25. Backroads

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    I didn't find this wishy-washy as well. With no disrespect to the prek-through-1st teachers beneath me, I've noticed that the focus on pushing stuff earlier and earlier has actually lowered the skills my 2nd graders can perform. I've noticed this for a few years. PreK and Kindergarten are taking these standards to teach... and yet kids never really master them. I've spent the last couple of years teaching concepts that six years ago were generally mastered by the middle of first grade.

    Again, don't want to blame anyone, just pointing out my experience that pushing academics earlier and earlier isn't working as I see it.
     
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  26. TeacherCuriousExplore

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    I love your comment and whole heartily agree!

    I believe in structure and routine. Those skills are very imperative at the Prek age. I do not implement free play often and as of January I am going to a structured schedule that will only require free play an hour everyday while doing teaching practices in blocks. Many people (Mostly Parents of 4 and 5 year olds) are taken aback by the amout of learning that are requried to take place in PreK classrooms. Being teachers, we are always kept up to date on the ever changing practices of education.The material that the state requries for PreK age children is kindergarten material that I learned almost 20 years ago. I believe this is because Early Childhood will become mandatory in the future. People still do not believe that PreK builds structure and routine. Children that attended Prek will often perform ahead than most students. Many argue that by the time they reach third grade level they begin to show a downward progression in learning. In my opinon this is not because if teachers in lower grades, but home ennvironment as well. For instance, a young boy I taught a few years ago left my PreK classroom reading, but due to his behavior and his mom's poor discipline he is in the third grade and struggles with reading
     
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  27. TeacherCuriousExplore

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    I do not think this comes from pushing academics early. This comes from children that does not get any learning at home. In PreK, we are taught to teach through play. Small groups usually do activities that are hands on as well as activities that practice social and emotional growth. I can recall one year that I had a Prek group that could not hold a crayon. Some could write their names but could not identify the letters in their names.
     
  28. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I'm still not understanding your rationale for a full length movie.
     
  29. TeacherCuriousExplore

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    That's just every once and awhile. we do not watch movies all the time. in fact, the only television we are allowed to show is Barney of Seaseme street.
     
  30. ChildWhisperer

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    We used to be half day with 17 in AM and 17 in PM, but we got the grant to go full-day this year. The kids learn so much more even with "the entire afternoon dedicated to bathroom, nap, snack, & dismissal". We only have one bathroom for 20 children. By the time the last child is going to the bathroom, the first child is done with snack and is already on the rug reading a book or "conversing nicely" with friends (Some days I have them read a book to themselves, other days I tell them to practice talking nicely & quietly to their friends, whatever I feel like that day! :D :D ) When we were half day, they kids only had 3 hours of school, which included Breakfast OR Lunch, Circle Time, Center Time, Toothbrushing, Story Time, Snack, Gross Motor Time, Dismissal. There was no time to get anything done. Field trips were non-existent, "fun"/extra activities were rushed, Center Time got cut out a lot of time because other things had to get done as well, so they missed out on play time that day.
    With full-day, the kids are there for 6 hours. If we have any fun/extra/off-schedule stuff, it gets cut into naptime. If something doesn't get done in the morning, I can do it with them in the afternoon.
    ALSOOO, to qualify for full-day (we still do have half-day programs at another school), the parent(s) must be working 30+ hours a week or in school full-time. The population we work with can not afford daycare.
    I already see a huge difference between my full-day class this year compared to my 2 half-day classes last year.
     
  31. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    And I question why you are watching Barney...sounds like baby sitting, not quality early childhood education.
     
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  32. TeacherCuriousExplore

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    We don't watch t.v. in my class just on free days. free days only on the last day and during holidays. I was just stating that seaseme street and Barney are the only television programs allowed.
    Do not think too much into it
     
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  33. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    You've mentioned movies several times. There are better ways to plan for meaningful engagement with your young learners.
     
  34. ChildWhisperer

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    This school year, we've only watched one movie. How many have you watched?
    Also, why do they let you watch TV shows? Even daycares don't watch TV.
     
  35. Obadiah

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    Concerning what happens at home, I agree! It is important for parents to read to their children, expose them to books (even if they can't afford them, they could possibly use a library), limit TV and especially video games, allow their children plenty of play time outside and with indoor games, and most importantly, communicate, communicate, communicate with their children.
     
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  36. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    And because we have no control over home environments, early childhood educators especially need to provide enriching language and literacy environments in school.
     
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  37. Backroads

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    I hadn't heard of a downward spiral. I had heard learning advances above other students faded out by third grade, which is different. But I also saw a study refuting that...
     
  38. readingrules12

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    If you sense more time needed for play--then I'd give them a little more time. Going to the extreme and giving them an entire day or 1/2 day for play won't work well. After so long, there will be a few students who will get bored and the play won't be so positive. Mix up play with fun (and somewhat educational) activities that you create that might be focused on the time of the year. Giving pre-K over an hour for free time is going to lead to trouble. Most likely an hour is far too long.
     
  39. ChildWhisperer

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    So true. When things need to get done, I always cut into center time or outside time first, and then a little into naptime, but I never cut into circle time or story time!
     
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  40. TeacherCuriousExplore

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    How can someone not have control over home environment?
     
  41. TeacherCuriousExplore

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    Actually this is the first time
     

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