Virginia Preschool Initiative
TO QUALIFY, CHILDREN MUST BE FOUR YEARS OLD BY SEPTEMBER 30, 2017
Pulaski County has five preschool classrooms: one located at Snowville Elementary; one located at Critzer Elementary; one located at Riverlawn Elementary; one located at Dublin Elementary; and one located at Pulaski Elementary. There are 18 children in each classroom with one certified teacher and one paraprofessional. The Dublin site also houses one certified Home-School Coordinator who coordinates parent involvement with the preschool, a very important component of each child’s first school experience. The curriculum at the preschool revolves around a language-rich environment. It is provided by the state and is named the Virginia’s Foundation Blocks for Early Learning which provides standards for Literacy, Mathematics, Science, and History and Social Science. The supplemental language arts program is the Building Language for Literacy program published by Scholastic which facilitates the implementation of the early literacy component. It is a pre-kindergarten curriculum that provides a rich environment of print and nonprint experiences related to language and literacy development. Built around four foundational goals—oral language, phonological awareness, letter/sound knowledge, and print knowledge— Building Language for Literacy is a program of instruction that incorporates such early childhood teaching tools as literature, music, poetry, learning center activities, and puppets to engage children as active learners. The supplemental math program is Every Day in PreK: Math, published by Houghton Mifflin Company. This program incorporates hands-on activities with the use of multiple kinds of manipulatives and provides integration with the language arts curriculum. Developmental skills are introduced and practiced along a continuum in these programs; they build on children’s life experiences and the home/school connection by focusing activities around familiar places in the community. By providing a basis in familiar places, people, and objects, these programs enable children to use prior knowledge to relate to new understandings, thus increasing their possibilities of success. The curriculum and instruction for the preschool is based on the educational research found in Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children, a joint position statement by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the International Reading Association. This research shows that language and literacy development in the preschool years is critical to children’s future success in learning to read and in overall academic achievement throughout the elementary and secondary school years. Children who do not receive a wealth of early experiences that build vocabulary and early reading skills as well as a motivation and love of learning are at risk for reading failure in the kindergarten and first grade years, which can spiral into repeated cycles of struggle and underperformance in subsequent years. The instructional environment includes a high-quality oral language environment and a high-quality print-rich environment. Children engage in meaningful, fun activities that help them build their awareness of the sounds of language. Children discuss the sounds that letters make, sound out letters, and play games with letters and words. By listening to frequent re-readings of appropriate-level literature, children quickly learn the words and story. Through songs and poems, they are also exposed to the sounds and patterns of language. Children have many opportunities to listen to books being read aloud, and then to work with the book by retelling the story, and discussing the story in rich, language-based activities related to the story. To insure continuity and coordination with formal school instruction in the public schools, the Pre-K PALS is given to the children in the fall and in the spring. This data is analyzed to determine the direction of the instructional program for skills and to check the growth that the children have made during the program year. The PALS instrument is then continued in grades K-3 in the elementary schools.