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Come On Over For Gathering Time!

As we enter the full swing of winter, I’d like to share with you why we consider Gathering Time invaluable to our preschool curriculum. It would be easy for an adult observer to miss what children are actually learning while gathered at the carpet. This is because learning at preschool looks and sounds different than learning in grade school. There is quite a lot happening behind those smiling faces and silly songs. At preschool, our objective is to encourage children to grow in four main areas*: physical, emotional, social, and intellectual. While our program is designed to focus on these objectives in various ways throughout the day, each objective is incorporated into Gathering Time. Read below to find out how!

Intellectual
Children participate in early literacy activities during Gathering Time. Early literacy is defined as a child’s early experiences in reading and writing embedded in a larger system of oral education (Roskos). Basically, the steps to reading and writing begin with speaking and listening. At Gathering Time, children listen to and recite songs, poems, and rhymes that highlight letter and word sounds. It is so fun to watch children play with sounds, syllables, and words while knowing they are beginning to find the joy of language. At Gathering Time, children also practice sequencing (calendar patterns) and use positional vocabulary (beginning, middle, end, first, last). Children read the calendar from left to right, top to bottom, as they will someday read print.

Physical
Early literacy has a physical component as well. During finger plays, children practice small muscle control in their hands as they individually move fingers. This develops the dexterity required to hold a pencil and type. Some songs require large movements, where children coordinate both sides of their body and cross the midline (the imaginary line that runs down the center of your body). This develops connections between both sides of the brain, leading to the ability to read across the page of a book (Gillespie). I notice lots of growth in this area as children progress through preschool. Fine- and gross-motor skills develop exponentially during these years, preparing their bodies for future learning.

Emotional
The structure of gathering time provides an opportunity for children to emotionally prepare for their best possible day at preschool. Watching the art demo, learning about the table top activities, and reviewing the schedule encourages planning while allowing freedom of choice. On the rare occasion when a child misses Gathering Time, quite often they can be seen wandering aimlessly or feeling panicked, as if they don’t know what to do or they may miss something important. While I know missing Gathering Time is unavoidable sometimes, the effect does illustrate the importance of providing a reliable, predictable start to the preschool day. This consistency generates a familiar, comfortable environment in which children can explore and discover.

Social
As you often hear, an important component to a cooperative preschool is involvement from parents. Children watch their parents or other adults enjoy Gathering Time. From the rocking chair, often I notice children look to their parents when we are learning a new song, when they are asked to come up to help with the calendar, or there is a change in schedule. They find reassurance in your presence, and they find joy in your enjoyment. And best of all, you learn our fun songs and can sing them with your child outside of preschool! Gathering Time is a chance for teachers, children, parents, and other loved ones to join together as a community. It is an opportunity to be connected as a class by sharing an experience together.

Now that we’ve covered why Gathering Time is so important, let’s take a look at your role:

• Where to sit?
If you’re able to stay for gathering time, try to sit on the carpet near your child. Often children will sit in their parent’s lap. However, if your child ends up in another area, stick around anyway. They will know you are there enjoying gathering time with them.

• Guidance
On occasion, children can become fidgety, talkative, or even physical while on the carpet. Appropriate carpet behavior, such as listening, participating, and ignoring distractions, are part of what we are learning at preschool. If a child needs redirection or behavioral guidance during gathering time, we do our best to honor the different dynamics of each family. It is OK to let the teacher or teacher’s aide handle the situation. It is OK for you to redirect your child individually. Feel free to send us an S.O.S. if you’ve tried to intervene and need some help. Whatever works best for you and your child is what works best for us.

• Siblings
We love having siblings visit during gathering time. Often younger siblings enjoy gathering time as much as the preschoolers! They are welcome to join us at the carpet or play quietly in the classroom. Don’t fret if they call out or distract other children a bit. It’s all part of the cooperative preschool gathering atmosphere. If things get out of hand, such as screaming or major distractions, feel free to jump in to rescue your little one.

• To sing or not to sing?
Your child doesn’t care if you think you can’t sing. Trust me! They aren’t concerned with how you sound. We all enjoy a Gathering Time full of fun, laughter, and participation! So jump on in!

As always, don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions. I am very happy to talk about our program or why we do the wonderful things we do. As our parents, you are what make our preschool exceptional. So come on over for Gathering Time to sing some silly songs and engage in meaningful preschool learning! I’ll see you there!

Claire

*To learn more about our Lesson Objectives, check out the bulletin board above the mailboxes.

Roskos, Kathleen. “The Essentials of Early Literacy Education” www.naeyc.org

Gillespie, Linda. “Why Hurry? Respecting Development and Learning” www.naeyc.org