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September 29, 2008

"They're gonna watch the ABC TV!"

It's hard to believe that we have been in school for a month! We currently have seven centers open in our classroom -- discovery, cooking, art, sand and water, blocks, toys and games, and library -- and will open the remaining two centers -- dramatic play and computers -- next week. Even in just a month of school, some of my students have already started to develop their "favorite" centers. Ana loves to work in library, Liliana enjoys drawing intricate pictures in art, and Suniah can most often be found in the block area.

While each center naturally lends itself to a specific type of activity, it is important to remember that every domain of development and academic content area can be addressed in every center. For example, Suniah has been working in blocks fairly consistently for the past two weeks. She builds small houses with foam blocks, makes furniture out of bristle blocks, and assigns family roles to the miniature people. Suniah likes to work with her peers, but she sometimes gets frustrated when they don't follow her directions. Having observed Suniah in blocks for several days, I knew that she was naturally getting practice identifying shapes, comparing quantities, and thinking creatively about problems. These are all important cognitive development skills that my students learn in pre-k.

During center time this week, I made a note that I wanted to observe Suniah and join her play to facilitate some more social/emotional and language development. Suniah went to blocks at the very beginning of center time today; she made a flat rectangle of blocks, added several bristle blocks in the middle for "beds," and lined the miniature people up in rows. Over in art, Aaliyah started talking about the TV shows that her mother likes to watch. Suniah apparently heard this, because she soon announced, "Okay, guys, it's time to watch TV!" This was my opportunity to jump in.

"Suniah," I remarked, "did you hear Aaliyah talking about her mommy watching TV?"
"Yeah, we're gonna watch TV!"
"Oh, is there a TV in your house?" I asked, gesturing to her block house.
"Nooooo, it's right here!" Suniah exclaimed with exasperation, gesturing to our alphabet chart on the wall. "They're gonna watch the hippopotamus channel!"
"The hippopotamus channel? With the letter H?"
"Yeah! They're gonna watch the ABC TV!"
At this point Stephen, Jose, and Julia came over to Suniah to see what all the excitement was about.
"Sit down," Suniah instructed the other students "It's time to watch the ABC TV! Now we're gonna watch B.../b/ /b/ baby!" Suniah confidently pointed to the "B" card on our alphabet.
"Now C.../c/ /c/ caterpillar channel!" exclaimed Stephen, eager to get in the game. Suniah obliged, and pointed to the letter C.
This process went on for several minutes; Stephen, Jose, and Julia eagerly called out letters and Suniah quickly pointed to the letters, adding in any information that her friends may have missed (such as the letter sound or corresponding picture).

With a little bit of careful "kid watching," I was able to determine what developmental domains Suniah needed to focus on in centers, and I was able to naturally integrate those domains into her play. She practiced working collaboratively with peers, taking directions from others, and identifying letter names and sounds. In the future, if Suniah continues to work frequently in blocks, I will encourage her to read, write, make patterns, build more complex structures, etc. -- the possibilities are endless!


Jennifer, you have described some masterful pre-k teaching. You have shown in your practice that high expectations, high achievement, and developmentally appropriate learning can be a seamless reality.

It is funny that you mentioned the ABC TV. We integrate technology into our learning as much as possible and one of my students' favorite times of the day is when we work together online doing activities on Starfall.com. We also love the They Might Be Giants Podcasts of the ABCs and 123s, DVDs.

Thanks for your comment! My kids also love using the computer -- we spend plenty of time on Starfall and PBSkids. One of my students even plays those games on her home computer, which is wonderful.

Thanks for the tip about the They Might Be Giants podcasts...I've never tried them, but now I'm going to check them out!

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