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May 01, 2007

Ready for Take-off: David's Story

David and his motherFour months ago David’s mother remarked that she wants her son to go “sky high in life."  Now, as he begins to transition to kindergarten, David shows tremendous social and academic progress. His story shows how high quality pre-k supports multiple facets of childhood development.

Socially, David adjusted to our rules and routines fairly quickly back in the fall, but he tended to avoid playing with others and participating actively in large group activities.  He was reluctant to sing along with the group or respond during a read-aloud. He preferred playing with dinosaurs by himself in the Discovery area to playing with his friends in more populated areas such as Blocks and Sand. The challenge was to have him go beyond just following all the rules as an individual and begin collaborating more with his peers and participating during whole group lessons.

To help his growth in this area, I encouraged David and his classmates to support their friends by cheering them on with individualized chants (e.g., There is a friend who’s in our class and David is his name-o, d-a-v-i-d, d-a-v-i-d, d-a-v-i-d, and David is his name-o).  I also used stories and puppet role plays to facilitate discussions about how we can help each other solve problems (e.g., if our friends are struggling with a task, we can help them remember the “Little Engine that Could” by saying, “I think you can, I think you can” or if a friend does not get picked for something we can say, “oh well, you’ll get it next time,” just like “Susan the Squirrel” puppet did for her friend, “Danny the Dog” puppet).   

David soon started having breakthrough moments.  He expressed pride in himself by informing his mother of his “purple” status (a reward system I use) the moment she picked him up.  The next day, David would let me know how proud his dad was when he told him.  He also started contributing more on the rug.  Just this week David got to purple for his active participation throughout the day.  In terms of playing with others, David often travels between play areas with friends, most notably last week when he and Tyrique together made newspaper hats in the Art Area and drew a pirate adventure on the chalk board in the Writing Area. 

Academically, David came in to pre-k knowing some letters and was starting to write his name, but he had difficulty counting, making connections between letters and their sounds, and forming letters.  I soon made him the snack manager, which required him to count his friends every day.  We also worked with him in small group on name puzzles and exposed him to print and letter sounds at every opportunity.  His mother was also quickly responsive to my efforts to invest her in David’s progress; his father soon followed.  They worked with him on writing the sight words we learned in school, labeling pictures he drew with the beginning letter of each objects and person, challenged David with opportunities to count with everyday routines (e.g., the number of dishes needed for dinner or shirts in the laundry), and, as they noted in their New Year’s Resolution, read with him every night.  His father remarked at one of our conferences that David was so excited about books, he would stop his father repeatedly during stories to make comments.  I kept them updated on specific strengths, weaknesses, and ways they could move him forward.  I could tell from looking at his writing and hearing him explore letter sounds that his parents were using the strategies at home. 

David can now write short sentences with little guidance and is starting to sound out words.  Furthermore, he not only counts to twenty, usually without mistakes, but also suggests using counting to figure out the answer to a question (e.g., how do we know that more students voted for apples as their favorite fruit?).    

David, like all of my children, came to me in September with strengths and room to grow, both socially and academically.  I responded to these complexities with a multifaceted approach that reflects and addresses the needs of the whole child.  His progress highlights the potential of pre-k to impact several developmental areas positively and the important, collaborative role parents can play in laying a strong foundation for their children.

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