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
TranscriptTranscript Hi, I'm Pam Wheeler-Civita and I'm the lead teacher and the special ed teacher in the Family Centers room four which is an inclusion classroom for three and four year olds. In thinking about welcoming children and families into the classroom at the beginning of each day, there's preparation and thoughtfulness that goes into that, as well, there's a lot of thought that goes into the materials that are put out, that teachers put out to engage children and get them interested in entering the classroom and beginning their mornings with us. The way the classroom is set up we try and make
it inviting. We have children's artwork up, and about the way the furniture is laid out to make it accessible for everybody so that everybody feels like they can come in and just find their spot. We have cubbies for the children and we establish routines as well. So we come in, we wash our hands, we put our things away, we put our lunches away, if that’s, you know, necessary and things need to be refrigerated, and then we make a plan. What's your plan? Do you see something that you would like to
play with? Do you want to take a few minutes and look around the room? We also work really hard at establishing working and, hopefully, positive relationships with families so that parents feel good
about dropping their children off with us and leaving them with us for the day. So we know parents’ first names, we engage them in conversation, we do home visits at the very beginning part of the school year. So I think that helps to establish relationships, really positive relationships hopefully, and parents become part of those morning routines. They know to take their children into the bathroom to wash their hands, to put away and unpack their lunches. We have certain sign-in sheets, we sign kids in when they come in, we write down notes, like somebody's going to get picked up early, we'll put that down on the sign-in sheet. We have an attendance book. Those are all part of our welcoming routines or our daily routines and that's really the beginning part of the day. And we have two hours of free play to really settle in and come together before moving on to the next part of our day. Because we're an inclusion classroom, we have children across the developmental spectrum from A to Z, and so we have to be thoughtful and really keep everybody in mind, each individual child in mind, to support and make accommodations. So we have some kids with mobility issues, so we'll make sure that there's enough room between tables for kids to get around. We have a lot of children working on their fine motor development, so every day we put out at least two activities that will support fine motor development whether it's drawing and writing, scissor cutting. And scissors can be used with lots of different materials not just paper. We’ll cut out play-doh and we'll put out
something that's like a silly putty. We'll put out thick paper, thin paper, tissue paper, straying yarn, all sorts of things that scissors can be used with. The kids have really been enjoying that. How else do we make accommodations? In literacy and the books that we have in the classroom, we have books that reflect the population that we have. So if we have somebody who's having a new baby in
the family, we’ll put out books about babies. If we have single-parent households, we’ll put out books where that's reflected as well. And the list goes on and on. You can find a book for just about anything. And if you can't find the book, you can make the book. So we have a lot of handmade things in the classroom that reflect our community. It's literally just a statement of what's happening in a photo of that child. We have a child with extreme allergies so we were having some big feelings and thoughts about lunch time and snack time so one of the teachers put together a book and it's called room four eats lunch. And it's a book and there's a photo of each child eating his or her lunch and we laminated it and put it together and it's on the bookshelf and it's just a reflection of all of us eating lunch together and individually, what we bring and it was really pretty magical for the kids to see themselves in this book and just have a sort of statement of experience. This is what we do when we're together in room four and it was very powerful and so we continue to make those books to reflect the needs of the community and who we are together and who we are as individuals. So that's a
really a very powerful tool I think for teachers to think about when making accommodations in a classroom.
Family Center teacher, Pam Wheeler-Civita, describes the morning routines in her classroom, and the accommodations she makes to make all the students and families feel welcome.
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
TranscriptTranscript Hi, my name is Betsy Blachly and I sing with children at the Bank Street School for Children and in the Family Center, babies through four year olds, and I sing with children and families in a lot of other settings and I have to say it's one of the most wonderful things you can do for a career. That's my career, I'm happy to be here talking with you a little bit about singing with your
four-year-olds in your classroom. I have a few talking points about your curriculum study. What's really fun about singing with four-year-olds in your curriculum is that you can make up songs
and change the words every day if you let yourself relax into the form of the song and the melody and let your imagination go a little bit and then all of a sudden you'll start to sing something and the children will hear it and they'll sing something too. Here's an example: this song “listen to the water” is a really great song. It's also on our, it's on the website: listen to the water, listen to the water rolling down the river, listen to the water, listen to the water rolling down the river. How many people have been to the waterside? What do you see by the water? You saw a big ship, I saw a ship by the waterside, and then use of child's word. I saw a big ship by the waterside. Use the child's name. Susie saw a big ship by the waterside, oh by the waters, oh that reminds you of
something else. Let's do everybody's verse, put it on a list, you've got months with that song. Another song is for a family curriculum. This song is also on the website: may there always be sunshine, may there always be blue skies, may there always be family, may there always be me. After we do this for a while, and the fours teachers that I know do this, many many days in their
classrooms. The children start to sing about their family. Who's in your family? Grandma, my uncle, my brother. What was in your family? We get to sing about your family. It's a very inclusive song and
when you put family people in a melody of a very sweet song that this one is, you've given a different meaning to who's in your family because you put the people into a melody and it, I think
children own that, and hear that, and are proud. May there always be uncle George, may there always be me. That's why singing is an important part. One year some children were going to the pet store and I said “Oh tell me about going to the pet store” and they raised their hands and they told me lots of things and here's the beginning of a song they wrote to the melody of Frère Jacques. You'll note how simple this song is. We went to to the pet store, we went to the pet store, yes we did, yes we did. We walked outside, we walked outside, that's what we did, that's what we did. That was
important to them that they walked outside. We saw a big fish, We saw a big fish, and a big hiding cat, and a big hiding cat, and a big frog, and a big frog, that's what we saw, that's what we saw. This song goes on and on. I just put into the melody their list of what they saw on and because Frère Jacques has repeating phrases, you can sing the first phrase and the children can repeat. So you've got a whole curriculum building song about a trip that they took. One more: I got a letter this small and oh yeah, you know what, I pitched that too low. I'm gonna change where I sing that. I got a letter this morning, oh yeah I got a letter this morning, oh yeah and I'll say it was from my
neighbor, it was from my neighbor and we all say oh oh yeah it was from my neighbor, oh yeah what did you get a letter from, I couldn't learn it from my mommy, I got a letter this morning, say oh yeah I got a letter this morning, oh yeah it was from my mommy, oh everybody joins in there, it was from my mommy, oh yeah. Wonderful shape of a song with coming in everybody coming in on the oh yeah, oh yeah. It's a beautiful opportunity for children to learn to sing in tune because that's what you are doing with your children when you're singing. In addition to your curriculum and your community building you are helping them have experiences singing in tune. If you don't think you can sing in tune, eh, don't worry about it. Start singing and find a couple of children who really sing well and put them next to you and your voice will probably start to blend in with theirs. In conclusion, I want to say three things about technique or using your voice and your body and your face with your children. One is about the range of the songs. Many teachers feel that the songs are too high and I want to do a
demonstration on this piano to show you something. I'm going to play twinkle, twinkle starting with middle C. (Sings twinkle, twinkle, little star.) That was C to G. These are five notes that is in the
range of children's voices (sings little star). That's still okay. (sings little star little star.) That's about as high as they go. If you are listening to this and you sing along, you're gonna find out more about your voice. Do you like to sing twinkle twinkle little star right here? Twinkle, I wonder what you are, sing with me, twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are? That probably might feel comfortable to you, but it's impossible for the children to sing along with you. If you could sing, maybe a compromise, like here, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are. Try to make your voice vary about where you start to sing a song. The children join in so many different ways. I can have 20 children singing with me and three will be about to be the music teacher, that minute, six will be not singing at all, and the others will be somewhere in the
middle. The next day someone will come and say, the parent will say, so-and-so sang this
song all night and I know that they didn't sing with me the day before so what singing with children is, you're not sure what, you never know what you're gonna get. So as a song leader, your job is to keep the musical flow, use your hands. Everyone comes from a different place. Every lovin has a different face. If you don't have a guitar or a piano, that's okay. Tap your lap. I got a letter
this morning…or twinkle, twinkle, little star…use your lap, use your hands. Stopping the song to take care of a problem in your classroom, which I know is inevitable, stops the flow and it stops the feeling of the space of music. So just be aware of that while you're having, I hope, wonderful times learning to sing with your children this year.
Betsy Blachly, music teacher in the Bank Street School for Children and Family Center, talks about being a song leader and singing with four year olds.
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 resolve the problem.)
- A Successful Preschool Transition: Managing Separation Anxiety (video). Suggestions for teachers to help children and their families adjust to the beginning of the year.
- Guidelines for Establishing Centers. Shows schedule and planning of the arrangement of the physical environment. Includes photo of a classroom’s layout.
- Classroom Design and How it Influences Behavior. Materials, interest areas and philosophy may have an impact on the behavior of the children in your classroom. Tips for setting up the room in a mindful way.
- Circle Time is the Right Time. Explains what children gain from circle time and the elements and planning.
- Ask the Expert: Teaching Tips for Successful Circle Times. Specific tips for planning, location and organization.
- Introduction to Large-Group Time (video). Video detailing what large-group (circle) time is and how to plan, support and conclude your circle time.
- Steps for washing hands. Illustrates how health care providers can ensure that health and sanitation practices are carried out throughout the day.
- New York State Early Learning Guidelines. Information about how children develop and learn and ways to design appropriate activities. Includes information on earlier development (birth through 3 years) for working with children with developmental delays.
- 4 year olds. A list of skills that 4 year olds may have developed or are developing.
- Emotionally Responsive Practice. This website lists resources focused on emotionally responsive practice.
- Center on the Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning. Helpful information and videos about the importance of social emotional development in children’s learning.
- Teaching Four Year Olds to Feel Better. This article describes a study on how to help children improve social-emotional skills which results in increased time for learning. These improved social and emotional skills, in turn, can help them spend more time engaged in learning.
- Building Relationships and Creating Supporting Environments – Reframing Activity. Thinking about children’s emotional states and how they impact challenging behavior. Site offers a wealth of information in text and video formats.
- What Early Childhood Educators Need to Know: Developing Effective Programs for Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Children and Families. The article explores the what early educators need to know to understand and help young second-language-learning children.
- Dual Language Learners. How one teacher (a monolingual English- speaking teacher) supported children’s growth in both English language development and home language skills.
- What is Anti-Bias Education? States how anti-bias teachers are committed to the principle that every child deserves to develop to his or her full potential. Describes four goals of anti-bias education. Includes working with English language learners.
Developmental Variations and Special Needs
- Sensory Smarts. Strategies for working with children with sensory issues that create challenges at school.
Positive Approaches to Managing Children’s Behavior
- Positive Discipline and Child Guidance. This article provides suggestions for positive discipline techniques that focus on the development of the child and reasons why children misbehave. It suggests proactive strategies and positive discipline techniques.
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)
- The Core Body of Knowledge – New York State’s Core Competencies for Early Childhood Educators
- National Association for the Education of Young Children. The world’s largest organization working on behalf of young children.
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 and Linguistic Responsiveness
Program Management and Fiscal Operations
- Bank Street College of Education Continuing Professional Studies. Theory meets practice in these interactive short courses which may be taken for graduate credit.
- Bank Street College of Education National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness
- Bank Street College of Education Research Guides. Guides that include links to resources that range from Autism Spectrum Disorder to children with incarcerated parents to gender variance in children to wordless picture books.
- University of Washington Head Start Center for Inclusion of children with disabilities. Funded by Office of Head Start. Variety of free, printable tools for teachers. Includes Spanish-translated guides and tips.
- Zero to Three: National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families. Zero to Three is a national nonprofit that provides parents, professionals and policymakers the knowledge and know-how to nurture early development. Offers a comprehensive interactive resource for parents and early childhood education professionals on healthy development of children ages zero to three.
- National Association for Bilingual Education. Features research articles and many references.
- Council for Exceptional Children. The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving the educational success of individuals with disabilities and/or gifts and talents.
- Bank Street College of Education Occasional Paper Series. prior issues include art and early childhood, teaching and accountability, inclusive classrooms, talking about sensitive issues with children.
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.