A prekindergarten education provides young learners with an opportunity to begin developing the foundations of math, science, literacy, language, and social and emotional skills.
At HCISD, passionate educators lead students through an engaging curriculum that incorporates purposeful play as they learn, grow, and prepare for kindergarten and beyond.
“The curriculum we follow helps teachers understand the developmental road map for teaching letters, sounds, and different phonological awareness skills,” Treasure Hills Elementary pre-K teacher Moises Vargas said. “The program is in alignment with the Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines.”
Teachers begin the year by building a nurturing, yet structured, environment for students.
“I feel like the most important thing is relationships, dual language pre-K teacher Esmeralda Guajardo said. “If we don’t build a relationship with the students, it’s harder for them to be comfortable. That can be so hard for them at first because maybe they’ve never been to school or daycare before. In my classroom, we say that we are a class family. We learn that we have to take care of each other. From day one they learn what is expected from them and what they should expect from me.”
Once the classroom environment has been set, teachers then focus on teaching and reinforcing social and emotional skills.
“Some of the most important things they learn in pre-K are the social and emotional skills,” Jefferson Elementary pre-K bilingual teacher Blanca Estrada said. “Like learning to express their emotions, learning to talk to one another, and having an environment where students feel safe and comfortable to communicate their feelings and express their needs.”
Social and emotional skills are primarily learned through experiences.
“They learn how to share, take turns, proper manners, playing, and resolving conflict through experiences shared at centers with their peers,” Vargas said. “As teachers we act as facilitators, actively monitoring interactions between students. We get to step in and teach social-emotional skills in the moment. Of course, we also teach these skills through reading books, songs, discussions, modeling behaviors, and practicing. In pre-K, we validate feelings and teach appropriate actions in response to those feelings.”
When it comes to academics, pre-K teachers in classrooms across the district utilize supplements such as My Math Academy, Early Explorers STEMscopes for Science, and Neuhaus Language and Literacy to reinforce lessons and allow students to practice important skills.
“My Math Academy is my favorite application that our pre-K students have access to,” Vargas said. “It has so much to offer our students and they genuinely enjoy learning and playing on the app. I especially love that it scaffolds student learning, challenges, and back-tracks when necessary to truly ensure that students are always actively learning when logged on.”
In science, students learn important concepts through STEMscopes, an online library of lessons.
“Science can be quite complex for pre-K students because they are learning why things fall, what it means to push and pull, or how the sun helps warm the Earth,” Vargas said. “Music and movement play a big role in the learning of young children because there are many different learning styles. Typically, each lesson In STEMscopes consists of ‘Science Rock Songs’ that truly act as a hook for students. They are a little silly and have cool dance moves.”
To teach language and literacy, and review rhyming, shapes, numbers, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and syllables, teachers use Neuhaus.
“It has four different themes for our whole year,” Guajardo said. “It starts with the kitchen, it continues with the farm, and then it goes to ‘people, people everywhere’, and then ‘me and the world around me.’ During my language arts time, I do a combination of Phonemic Awareness by Dr. Heggerty and Neuhaus.”
Student-focused centers are also commonly used to review concepts with young learners.
“I personally love that we can teach language and literacy in a fun way using hands-on, and student-focused centers,” Vargas said. “Play is a pretty big deal in pre-K and this is where a lot of learning goes on. Every center has options for students to choose, learn, and play from.”
Prekindergarten is offered at multiple campuses throughout the district.
“I absolutely love this grade level and am inspired by how smart our youngest learners are,” Vargas said. “I always say that in my pre-K classroom I am teaching children how to learn. I want my students to go into kindergarten ready to take on any new or expanded concept that their teacher presents to them. By teaching them how to learn, they can go to the next grade level with a solid foundation, good manners, and an abundance of learning experiences.”
In Fall 2022, HCISD plans to expand early childhood education with a new specialty campus.
The Early Childhood Academy will provide students with the same strong foundational skills that can be obtained in any of HCISD’s prekindergarten classrooms but in a unique environment.
Visit www.hcisd.org for more information about prekindergarten and the Early Childhood Academy.