Pre-K teachers have a deep understanding of the importance of making children feel welcome on the first day of school. For them and for the children, the welcome sets the positive tone for the year ahead. There are many forms of welcome and much depends on the regulations of the individual program where their pre-K classrooms are located. In some programs, parents can be welcomed into the classroom to ease entry for the children. In others, parents may not be allowed inside the classroom and the teacher/child welcome will take place in the lobby. Some programs can accommodate a staggered entry with half the class coming in the morning and half in the afternoon. Others will have the whole class come together on the first morning of the new year. Whatever the parameters or constraints, pre-K teachers over the years have devised wonderful welcomes for children.
Bank Street professionals are eager to provide learner-centered materials to help support educators as they prepare for pre-K. The resources below are part of our Summer Institute curriculum and are grounded in the principals of emotionally responsive practice.
These resources will help educators prepare to welcome children and families to the classroom, implement a developmentally safe and sound early childhood curriculum for all children, establish a safe and familiar environment for children from diverse cultural and language backgrounds, and engage in reflective practice to promote instruction and student performance.
Starting Each Day
Family Engagement: Starting Each Day
Music in the Classroom
Children will spontaneously clap, stamp, jump, dance, or let forth song in the classroom. They have music in their head, just like we grownups do. Singing happens in time and it is a social activity. You can’t plan what happens when voices, faces, bodies, harmony, song, and individual associations happen together in the moment!
In pre-K classrooms, the majority of the children sing along with the song leader. Nobody makes them sing. As children acquire words, they sing them into existence in the same manner they try out spoken words syllable by syllable, phoneme by phoneme. The beauty is that repetition, melody, and beat inevitably supply the learning possibility. By taking on the role of song leader, educators can embrace genuine fun and find new ways to develop their craft every day.
Music in the Pre-K Classroom
A Dozen Good Songs for your Pre-K
I have chosen these eleven songs, out of at least hundred possibilities, as fun, strong, catchy songs for four year olds. I have chosen them because I think the melody is accessible for you the teacher, and the song content (and rhythm and melody) will be attractive to children most likely.
As you listen, please note the order.
1. “You Sing a Song.” (Ella Jenkins, whose pioneering recordings of early childhood music are still used today in classrooms across the country.) This song is a starter song, used to gather the children into the circle space, and to encourage them to use their bodies for tap, clap, click, hum; this allows the circle of singers to begin to unify in purpose and prepare for more complicated music activities.
2. “Mary Wore Red Dress.” (American traditional. Source: “American Folksongs for Children” by Ruth Crawford Seeger, ) is a song to include names of children and the colors they are wearing. Best, it provides a moment of personal choice for each child.
3. “The Everyday Song” (Betsy Blachly) was created to encourage children to think about their day; the events that are consistent, both morning and night. This shape of song is easily converted into the ideas that children want to share about their day. Don’t forget, a verse about ‘what is not all right’ can be an important one to include, if it comes up organically.
Next comes four active songs. I recommend that you do these active songs in a row, as a medley, so that the children are “dancing” for at least ten minutes. Segue (e.g. follow immediately without talking) these dances one after another. You can insert “Hokey Pokey” also. I also recommend at this point in your music time that you avoid “Ring around the Rosie” because children all want to fall down, and the momentum can be lost. Save it for outside, or right before lunch.
4. “A Ram Sam Sam” (Trad. Middle Eastern) is actually a two part round, but it works as a simple two part song. The form is called AABB, which means each part is repeated two times.
First A: Clap hands loudly, as in a vertical swipe. On “Guli”, guli” roll your hands, as in “wheels on the Bus.” Repeat the claps for “A ram sam sam.”
Second A: Repeat again.
First B: Arms up high for “Arafi, arafi.” (The “Guli guli” action is what you did in the first part.)
Second B: Repeat from “Arafi.”
Later, invite the kids to march to this song! March in place, not going anywhere. Then march anywhere. You will be initiating a task of regulation is to stand still for the B part and raise the arms. How important it is to allow moments for children to stretch and breathe in and out intentionally with joy!
5. “Walk and You Walk.”(Ella Jenkins) This apparently simple song carries in it an essential element of music and dance: STOP and START. These dance moves reflect the musical elements of melody, phrasing, and beat. Have fun with the “AND YOU STOP” part; you can rush it, and smile, and make a freeze shape. The children will imitate. They learn to anticipate the recurring “Walk and you walk” with a sense of accomplishment. Next, add movement words like “tip toe” or “jump” or “sway.” Return to the “walk and you walk” as a chorus!
6. “I Let Her Go-Go.” (Trad. Tobago and Trinidad) This fascinating game is perfect for four-year-olds; there is clapping, extending the voice, leaning forward without falling, jumping, and turning. All these actions are evident in the words. Stand still and just sing the song with these actions.
“Go go” clap two times. “Go go” repeat. “Gooooooo” hold hands up and lean forward, without falling down. “Go go go” jump three times and turn at the last one.”
Eventually, two children can clap two hands with another child!!! (Beginning of clap games). On the “Gooooooo” (when the children become more familiar with the shape of the song) they can lean in and actually turn around each other, let go, and find another child to clap with. It is kind of “Messy” but the music is organizing, and four year olds like to clap this pattern, because the songs energy is aligned with their own.
7. “Here Comes Zodiac.” (Trad. African-American) This game has many variants in many cultures. Every time I share this with teachers, I hear about another set of possible words. This version is what I have settled with for four year olds. (So use your own version, if you have one.) It takes several repeats for the children to become attached to the fun parts of this singing game.
Stand in a circle or if a circle is too challenging, a clump.
“Here comes Zodiac” swivel your body left and right (like “the Twist”)
“Step back Sally” 4 steps backwards, with that swivel.
(Expecting that the children will count the 8 beats, or not stop before they maybe hit the wall or a bench is not recommended. Keep going! Don’t focus on being exact, yet.)
“I looked down the alley” pretend to look left and right, with a hand on your brow, searching around.
“A great big man from Tennessee” Say this nice and loud, and exaggerate bigness with your arms.
(On purpose, I do not sing the word “fat.”” If a child sings out “fat,” I stop and explain that the man is BIG BIG BIG and that “fat” is not a friendly word.)
“I bet you five dollars” Index finger out, shaking, and repeat with other hand.
( I do not ask for rights and lefts form four year olds.)
“To the front, etc” Jump to the front, back, side side side. (No time to be lazy, here.)
“I called my doctor” pretend to have a phone, and pretend to look serious.
“OoooAhhh” is loud and forceful with swivel hips. Point to hip. Then to elbow. Then to shoulder. Then to head.
The last “Ooooo Ahhhhh” repeat four times, taking small steps inward.
(I recommend repeating three times because I have learned that some children do not even consider trying until the third time.)
Time to sit down again. For a transition, try singing (in the melody of “Here comes Zodiac”) “Time to sit down, sit down, sit down, time to sit down, on the rug.“
At this point in music circle time, I always take this sit down time to ask children “What songs do you want to sing?” They always mention their age old favorites: Old MacDonald, Twinkle Twinkle, Itsy Bitsy Spider, ABCD. I always grant sing these requests out of respect for their forthrightness in naming a choice and in recognition that the faithfulness of these songs is part of a four- year-old’s comfort factor.
8. “This Train.” (Trad. African-American) This song could be sung everyday, if you wish to embrace the myriad of variations that evolve. Bringing moments of autonomy into the discourse of your classroom is valuable for individual reasons, and for the learning about others in community. Recognizing the words of a child can be part of building independence and connections.
9. “Listen to the Water.” (Bob Schneider) Like the above “This train,” Bob Schneider’s “Listen to the water” has myriad possibilities, not only in naming places, things and attributions about the water, or river, but also for a robust curriculum development. Substitute a verb such as “Going, ” add a place your children all go to, such as the auditorium, or the farmer’s market, or the playground or the museum. The children can start to tell you what they “saw” there, and you can enfold these words in the melody. Voila! A new song for your curriculum collection with words by your children.
10. “May There Always Be Sunshine.” (collected by Pete Seeger) This song, with its gentle melody and lyrics, is used by Pre-K teachers at Bank Street School for Children as a song for their Family Curriculum. Immediately inclusive and easy to join in.
11. “This Pretty Planet” (Tom Chapin/John Forster) Singing this round as a simple song can be compelling, settling and other worldly. While this is a terrific song for conversations about the planets and the environment, save these conversations for another time; focus on celebrating the singing sound.
I choose to sing it as a “Getting ready to sing goodbye” song, the second to last song. I recommend choosing a calming song to fit this purpose, and then blending it in with a “Goodbye” song. Remember that one of the key elements to the Pre-K year is about learning that goodbyes happen in so many places and time of day. Be consistent with this song and you will instill a sense of trust in transitions.
12. “Bye-Bye.” (Betsy Blachly) Intentionally simple. Repeat as often as needed. At your discretion, you can inset names. Then use the melody to sing about what is happening next in your classroom (For example, “Now, let’s get ready, to go to snack time.) Especially written for children’s voices so be careful not to pitch it too low.
A Dozen Good Songs for your Pre-K Playlist
Common Core Learning Standards Throughout the Day
The New York State Prekindergarten Foundation for the Common Core encompasses a “whole child,” evidence-based approach to early education that is steeped in longstanding principles of child development. Adopted and approved by the New York State Board of Regents in 2011, the Common Core standards were developed by a group of experts with deep understanding about how young children learn through active play. Download the Common Core Learning Standards Throughout the Day slideshow
Emergent Bilingual Learners
Emergent bilingual learners come to the classroom with many lived experiences, family relationships, home language(s), and practices that may or may not carry over to the early childhood setting. It is important to build upon these experiences in the classroom so they may have an easier transition.
- Video #1: Mother Speaking French. This video demonstrates a mother speaking French to her child during play. It is vital to establish an environment where a parent can feel comfortable speaking her/his home language in the classroom. View the Mother Speaking French video
- Video #2: Counting in our Many Languages. In this video, students are learning from each other. View the Counting in our Many Languages video
- Video 3: Garage/Vehicle. Labeling actions for children helps them develop new vocabulary and phrases specific to their play. Notice how this teacher describes the child’s play: “I hear your vehicle coming out of the garage”. View the Garage/Vehicle video
- Video #4: Playdough Noodles. This teacher encourages production of language through a scaffolded conversation involving play with playdough. View the Playdough Noodles video
- Video #5: Polygon Song. Songs are a powerful way to learn language. Listen to the vocabulary this student is using. View the Polygon Song video
Annotated Webliography: Helpful Information and Strategies
(If you are unable to open the following links, please check that the url in your browser begins with http rather than https. This change should resovle the problem.)
Developmental Variations and Special Needs
Positive Approaches to Managing Children’s Behavior
Screening & Assessment
The NYCDOE requires all Pre-K programs to use a developmentally-appropriate, valid, and reliable assessment system to monitor student progress and individualized instruction.
Three authentic assessment options have been approved by the NYCDOE:
- Work Sampling System ® (WSS)
- Teaching Strategies GOLD (TS GOLD)
- High Scope Child Observation Record®/Child Observation Record Advantage® (COR/COR Advantage)
Letter to Pre-K parents/guardians. From Sophia Pappas, Executive Director, Early Childhood Education, NYC Department of Education re. screening entering children to determine if they are gifted.
NAEYC expresses its mission in terms of three broad goals.
- Improving professional practice and working conditions in early childhood education.
- Supporting early childhood programs by working to achieve a high-quality system of early childhood education.
- Building a high-performing, inclusive organization of groups and individuals who are committed to promoting excellence in early childhood education for all young children.
Office of Head Start National Centers
Cultural Awareness in Teaching
- Cabrera, N. (2013). Positive development of minority children. Social Policy Report, 27(2), 1-30.
Good discussion on how deficit-focus research colors the way society/educators perceive low-income minority families and children. A positive development approach is recommended.
- Yates, T. M., & Marcelo, A. K. (2014).
Through race-colored glasses: Preschoolers’ pretend play and teachers’ ratings of preschooler adjustment. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 29(1), 1-11. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2013.09.003 or https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tuppett_Yates)
Results of study show that teachers’ perceptions of children’s cognitive and social-emotional developmental level in dramatic play is a function of child’s race.