Posted Date: 11/06/2019
A group of Lincoln preschoolers are getting an extra dose of preschool social skills at school. In mid-October an extended day program for a group of four-year-olds was initiated at Chanute Public School’s early learning center.
“It’s an opportunity to reinforce some of the social skills that children need to learn so they can be successful at kindergarten,” said Assistant Superintendent and Lincoln Principal Matt Koester.
The school district had received an $88,000 grant to fund 41 at-risk four-year-old student slots at Lincoln. When only 35 slots were filled this fall, the district decided to pilot an extended day program for 14 children, Koester explained.
The entire afternoon session for these children focuses on social development.
“(We want to) build in more social play with others so kids understand how to interact with people so they can be more successful at kindergarten,” Koester said.
The morning preschool session at Lincoln ends at 11 a.m. and the five classes of students head to the school gym to get ready to meet their ride and go home. Fourteen of those students stay in the gym and get ready for lunch.
The students were recommended for the program by the preschool teachers and chosen from among those already attending the school. After the students eat, go to recess and have a short rest period, they form an entirely new class under preschool teacher Lisa Goracke.
“I think the students could benefit by working on more interaction with people, working on those social skills and getting used to eating lunch with an all-day program,” Goracke said. “We’re kind of learning what the big kids do at the big school.”
She is using the Second Step social skills program that all Lincoln teachers use, but in more depth.
“I’m able to really focus and do some extension activities you might not have time for in the half-day program,” she said.
Those kinds of skills include listening, following directions, sharing, problem solving and self-regulation.
The three adults work in small groups with the children. When a child has trouble with a peer, gets their feelings hurt or gets angry, the teacher is with them at the table or on the floor and is able to mediate and intervene in the discussion, and help each child talk through the appropriate way to respond.
Goracke said they want to teach the children to self-regulate their behavior, use coping mechanisms to calm down rather than melt down, and continue to function.
The curriculum includes activities where students and teachers can use puppets and role play to learn good social skills.
Goracke said she was excited when asked if she’d like to teach the extended day classroom.
“I really like it,” she said. “I’m excited to be trying it. I hope we can make some progress.”