Posted Date: 04/14/2021
In years past, a preschool or daycare was a place where parents dropped off their children on their way to work. Nowadays, preschools are more like a prep school for kindergarten and inside Lincoln’s brick walls there’s a whole lot of learning going on.
“Attending a quality preschool like Lincoln Early Learning Center, children are taught pre-literacy and pre-math skills,” said Principal Karla Nothern. “They are exposed to letters, numbers, shapes, and colors - skills that help prepare a foundation for kindergarten.” Children with that background “enter kindergarten with larger vocabularies, stronger basic math skills, and better pre-reading skills than children who do not.”
The goal of teachers and staff at Lincoln is to prepare their three- and four-year-olds to be successful when they transition to Chanute Elementary School.
The day children walk into their first day at preschool, teachers focus on getting them used to a school routine - where to put their coats, backpacks, and this year, their own snacks from home, due to COVID protocols. Teachers and their aides patiently answer the same questions over and over. They speak softly, to get their children’s attention and to hear their directions
Getting students used to the school routine and how to listen and follow directions is at the top of the list those first few weeks of school, said teacher Lisa Goracke. They practice lining up, walking quietly down the hall to the bathroom and to recess – abiding by social distancing rules, and learning to keep their masks on and over their nose.
During arrival time in teacher Amanda Clasen’s room, the students put their things in a cubby and then grab a page to color while the rest of their classmates arrive. They’re coloring their way through the alphabet and this day is the letter T for tractor. When everyone has arrived, they move to their circle on the rug to begin the morning routine. Facing the Smartboard and wall calendar, the students wiggle and sway to the music video as a man asks them to shout the name the colorful shapes on the screen before he can. Then they move on to the days of the week and months of the year, learned by singing. They talk about the weather outside and whether it’s rainy, cloudy or sunny and they practice counting the days in each month before getting ready to move to centers.
The days are broken up by bathroom breaks, recess inside or out, snack time, story time, games and activities that teach different skills. One day, teacher Lucille Lord used food coloring to show her students how colors can change like “magic” when they’re mixed together. Teacher Kay Hamlin handed out grocery ads so her students could cut out pictures of food and glue them onto two sides of their paper marked “everyday foods” and “someday foods.” Other times, they’re learning and practicing social skills.
“Children who attend a quality preschool program will usually enter kindergarten with better social and behavior-management skills due to being exposed to a classroom structured environment,” Nothern explained.
They learn how to wait their turn when someone else is speaking, how to interact with their peers, and being kind to others, Goracke said. “We work on these all year. We have a curriculum for it and Chanute Elementary uses too, for K-5.”
“Sharing, getting along with others, keeping their hands to themselves, and learning how to use their words instead of their hands” is also covered, Hamlin added.
For many, Lincoln is the first place the children learn to paint, use scissors, color inside the lines, and line up
“We take it for granted when we say line up (they understand) but they’ve never had to do that,” Hamlin said. Opening their own snack is another “first” she’s witnessed. That’s something that mom has always done for them, and though Hamlin said she’s willing to help, “a lot of them are so excited when they can do it themselves.”
With the end of the school year in sight, several teachers are revisiting the alphabet and students are practicing writing their name and other words.
More so than writing their name, it’s important to teach them how to recognize letters, Hamlin said, because it’s easier to teach them how to read in kindergarten when they can already recognize their letters.
“These kids have learned a lot,” Hamlin said as she counted the 40 days left in the school year. “We expect a lot. But at the end of kindergarten, they’re reading. It’s amazing.”
Chanute Elementary School is holding a Kindergarten Roundup Zoom meeting for parents of students who will be five-years-old by July 31 and for first graders who will attend CES for the first time. It’s scheduled for Thursday, April 22, at 5:30 PM for incoming kindergartners and 6 PM for first graders new to CES. The link to attend will be on the USD 413, CES and Lincoln Facebook pages.