Toddler & Preschool Program (2 to 4 year olds)
Preschoolers and toddlers live in a magical time! Adventure is always afoot, and there are great discoveries to be made. Preschool is a wonderland of opportunity to explore, discover, and encounter the world all at arms length, and in the spirit of good fun! Preschoolers develop a remarkable sense of well being, accomplishment, and independence at the Laurel Hill School.
The Preschool and Toddler curricula offer days full of excitement and discovery. Using a fully individualized and experiential approach, children are exposed to the basic social and academic concepts that they will need for advanced instruction in kindergarten and beyond. At LHS, we never underestimate the capabilities of very young children to grasp, process and interpret information, and we provide exposure to a world of ideas and concepts. As always our teachers work with children at their own pace and comfort level so that they finish each year with major cognitive milestones achieved.
The classrooms are fully incorporated into the school environment, with access to special equipment such as playgrounds and walking paths suited to their developmental stage. Daily time outdoors on our grounds helps balance the schedule of each busy day.
Our fully academic program, based on the kindergarten-level skills in reading and mathematics as well as science and social studies, is delivered with an individualized approach.
During reading and math times, the class becomes a laboratory with three separate stations: primary instruction, lesson reinforcement, and exploratory play. Children are assigned to their own small group of 4 to 5 according to skill level, and rotate through each station.
Children receive initial exposure to major concepts in their teacher-facilitated primary instruction groups, then move to an educational assistant-facilitated group in which the primary lesson is reinforced through alternative activities such as art and cooking. Children share the learning experience with peers who share their up-to-the-minute educational needs, ensuring an environment in which all can participate.
LEARNING TO READ
Approach to literacy. LHS employs a phonemic awareness approach to reading. This encourages children to use their auditory and visual skills to learn to identify individual letters and sounds. The phonics approach also builds later skills for decoding and spelling. The individualized instruction and advanced skill development LHS offers allows some children to finish preschool reading at the level of a child who has completed kindergarten.
Instructional strategies. Our experiential instructional strategy includes puppetry, music and games to introduce children to letters and sounds. Each letter is presented in the form of a “letter person” that children can hold and interact with. Letter people have their own special characteristics as well as songs. The many levels of interaction with each letter allow children to internalize the essential phonetic information included in the lesson and heightens the phonemic awareness in general.
Library links. There is no better way to encourage a love of reading than to read with our children! Ongoing sharing of literature with children helps to build comprehension skills and reinforce concepts taught in class. Teachers ensure that these are interactive experiences with plenty of Q&A built in. Immersion of our students in literature is a focal point of the LHS experience.
Exposure to concepts. The preschool mathematics program develops children’s spatial skills and familiarity with number concepts in addition to counting and number value skills. Children are taught number concepts (more than, less than), sorting and classifying, and pattern building, as well as number sequencing, telling time, coin identification, and numerical value identification.
Instructional strategies. Here too, LHS utilizes an experiential approach, teaching math concepts with the use of manipulatives such as place value blocks, geo boards, and shape cards. Mathematical concepts are continuously reinforced through games.
The discovery-oriented science program exposes children to major concepts in natural science, and allows them to explore the natural environment hands-on. Each month, teachers create in-class experiments and field experiences to help children absorb topics such as the four seasons, the five senses, water, light and air, seeds and plants, marine life, magnetism and sound vibrations. Children’s natural curiosity about the natural environment is stimulated through these activities. Here again, literature is utilized to enhance and enrich exploration of the world of science.
The world comes into the classroom during social studies! Every two weeks, a brand-new theme is introduced. Themes span historical topics such as Native American culture and the discovery of America, holidays such as Earth Day and Thanksgiving, social issues such as fire safety, and political topics such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights movement, the White House, and elections. It’s not unusual to spot our preschoolers composing letters to the President or acting out the arrival of the Pilgrims. Social studies topics are taught using modalities of creative drama, music, and cooking, reinforced with literature
Children in the four-year-old program have the opportunity to visit the library for a specialized literature program. The program is founded in the concept of author study, introducing children to the variety of styles employed by children’s authors and encouraging them to develop their own. These experiences inspire a love of literature, and encourage pre-literacy skills.
SPANISH LANGUAGE STUDY
A specialized language program for young children, which pairs words with visual icons, helps preschoolers develop elementary Spanish language skills. Vocabulary is introduced in the context of sentences, and through interactive games and music. This engaging, high-energy program helps children feel excited about learning a new language, and capitalizes on the innate linguistic flexibility of very young children.
The learning capacity of very young children is maximized when all of their senses are immersed in brand-new environments. Laurel Hill’s preschool classrooms include a Dramatic Play area that transforms on a monthly basis. Complete with signage, vocabulary words, manipulatives, and topic-specific toys and art materials, the Dramatic Play area allows children to explore exciting new worlds. Teachers assist children to develop familiarity with these new settings, to become adept with their vocabulary, and to begin to establish relevant conceptual knowledge. In a single year, and without leaving their classrooms, the Dramatic Play area allows children to visit places as diverse as an animal hospital, airport, construction firm, farmer’s market, flower shop, and department store!
Art is a natural mechanism for young children to express their perceptions of the world. In addition to the individual projects that children have the opportunity to complete each day, Laurel Hill encourages large-format group projects that encourage children to create cooperatively. Using a variety of tools, including multi-sized and textured brushes, rollers, sponges, sticks and stamps, children collaborate to produce art that would be impossible to create independently. This is the very favorite part of the day for many children, for whom combining socialization with artistic exploration is a perfect fit.
Making Music. Singing, dancing, rhythm band, and movement games stir up the fun and enhance our learning each day. Our children enjoy daily music classes that stimulate our toddlers’ desire to learn, and create feelings of excitement and enjoyment.
Gymercise and Playtime Fun. Exercise and sports for our little tykes. Preschoolers receive physical education classes in our gym. Playtime fun happens indoors or outdoors in the early childhood playgrounds. There’s everything available for a preschooler to have healthful fun in his/her way.
Laurel Hill considers it essential to keep you apprised of every aspect of your child’s progress. Children are informally evaluated through game challenges several times during the year to assess their accomplishment of milestones and absorption of concepts learned in class. Twice a year, parent-teacher conferences are held to give you an opportunity to discuss your children’s growth. Prior to the conference, teachers assess students progress on a one-to-one basis. The results of these assessments are described in a Progress Report which is reviewed during the conference.