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May 10, 2008

Summer Fun

Recently, Inside Pre-K co-blogger Karissa wrote about how quickly summer vacation is approaching for her and her students. By the time this article is posted, her community-based center will officially be on vacation.

However, my pre-k classroom, embedded within a public school system, follows the regular K-12 school calendar.  Summer fun won't come until our last day of class, this year it falls on June 5th.  And we've got quite a ways to go and myriad of assessments to complete before we get there.  For this reason, many teachers in my district refer to the final six to nine weeks of school as “crunch time.”

During our final weeks together, I have to assess each student one-on-one in a multitude of areas. Here’s a breakdown of our testing:

  • CIRCLE testing on palm pilot: Assesses 7 areas of phonemic awareness, all letters -- uppercase and lowercase, letter sounds, vocabulary, nine concepts of print, and writing assessment. Each question must be administered one-on-one.
  • PMI- Primary Math Inventory: 3 pages of math assessment that must be administered one-on-one. Questions can only be asked one at a time to each student (for example, if you start with student A and ask question number 1, then you have to move to student B and ask question 1, when you get to the last student you can then move to question number 2).
  • DRA- Diagnostic Reading Assessment: Students reading levels are assessed, this test is also administered one-on-one. The more the student knows, the longer the test takes.
  • Report card testing: Each child must also be assessed on report card skills not covered in the aforementioned tests, such as oral counting, name writing, color identification, number recognition etc. All of this testing is also done one-on-one.

Now you’re probably wondering when I have time to teach if I’m doing all this one-on-one testing. The answer is, I don’t!  It’s just not physically possible to do all the required testing and teach a classroom of 22 four year olds simultaneously.

Add that to the mix of numerous paperwork deadlines, meetings, registering pre-k students for next year, not to mention the Cinco de Mayo celebrations, class pictures, Mother’s Day, and end-of-year celebrations that come with the territory.  It’s no wonder that teacher appreciation days come during the first week of May.  It's a bribe so we will make it through until the end of the year!

Karissa also wrote about her concerns regarding her student’s lengthy summer vacation. We’re fortunate that in our district all ELL (English Language Learner) pre-k students are eligible to attend a free summer school program where they will continue to develop their oral language skills, should their parents agree to enroll them. The program Learning the Language is offered from June 11th – July 11th, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and includes free bussing and meals.

But unfortunately, not all students qualify for Learning the Language, so I send each of them home with a "summer fun" kit I've devised for them and their parents.  It includes:

  • A letter to parents explaining the content of the kit.
  • A Map, the address and the phone number to the local library, as well as directions on how to obtain a library card.
  • A Calendar with dates and times for story hour at the local library as well as dates of special local events such as discount days at the zoo.
  • A reproducible nursery rhyme booklet, enabling students to practice their nursery rhymes over the summer.
  • A book list of the top 100 books for preschoolers to check out at the library. Titles include classics such as: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Goodnight Moon, Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?, The Rainbow Fish, The Snowy Day, Corduroy, and The Runaway Bunny.
  • An Activity-a-Day calendar, like this one from Preschool Express.  I generally make up my own activities for July and August as they're not published in advance.
  • A number booklet comprised of 20 sheets of paper stapled together with a number and the words to each of our number songs on each page. The students practice recognizing their numbers by singing the song on each page. The words are so the parents can read and sing along as well.
  • An alphabet chart- so students can practice singing their letter sound songs or use it when they write.
  • A Blank booklet so students can “journal” or write about their summer experiences.
  • One free treat coupon from local ice cream shop. If you ask nicely, most places will give you free treat coupons to give to your students.
  • One Scholastic book: I use my bonus points and buy each child one book so they will have a book at home to read. Scholastic offers one 95-cent book each month.
  • Information about our summer daycare program for those students that don’t qualify for our ELL summer program. Our district offers summer daycare for students ages 5 and up at very affordable rates. The program is staffed and run by teachers.
  • A Brown paper bag with leftover crayons, markers, pencils, construction paper, glue, scissors, etc. so students can create and practice writing during the summer months.
  • A Pre-addressed postcard so students can send me a postcard if they travel, or just for fun!

(Note to self: Add “make summer fun packets” to already lengthy crunch time to-do list!)


Vanessa, great point about the multiple measures of student success in a preschool. Over here in Head Start we have:
PALS Phonemic Awareness Literacy Screening
DIAL in the fall (Developmental Indicators for assessment of Learning)
Report Card Testing
COR Child Observation Record -An online annecdotal similar I think to your palm assessment.

I have been pushing for alignment of assessments for years. It may never happen.
DO I teach the last few weeks?
Especially when we have a "moving-on" ceremony to practice for.
The good part is we get to see how far they have come. :)
Great work
Keep it up!

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