The Bridge School
Course of Study

Preschool: Curriculum in Action

Our Preschool Curricular Activities & Daily Schedule - (adapted from Bunce, 2008)

Arrival

Arrival is an important daily activity that sets the stage for the entire day. Arrival provides opportunities for the preschoolers and staff to greet each other and for parents to quickly convey information or updates.

Family members provide transportation for most of our preschoolers, while others arrive via taxi. In order to facilitate a smooth transition from the car to the classroom, just prior to arrival time, our staff moves each student's school-based seating system (i.e., customized wheelchair or other supportive seating) to our parking lot. Upon arrival at The Bridge School, family members transfer children from their car seats into their customized chairs or walkers and bring them to the classroom where staff and peers welcome them. Family members place each child's backpack and supplies in their child's cubby before saying good-bye. Children move to the blue rug for Morning Circle and/or participate in personal care routines. Preschoolers appreciate a predictable schedule including this familiar routine to start the day.

Morning Circle

When the preschool children first arrive at school, Morning Circle provides a familiar structured routine to help them transition from the home to the school environment. It has long been acknowledged that most children thrive in a structured, predictable situation. A structured approach, providing for some flexibility, allows the teacher and the students to be consistent and this consistency fosters predictability. Children learn what they can expect to occur next, what behavior is expected of them, and how the teacher is going to interact with them. This familiarity with the routine frees the child to engage in the activity rather than focus on external factors. Routine provides the child a sense of control over their environment. This is one explanation of why a child will ask for the same book to be read over and over to the point they have memorized every line in the story and will resist any attempt by adults to change the words or skip a page.

At The Bridge School, Morning Circle is comprised of 3 activities: calendar, attendance, and the weather graph. At the beginning of the week, two students are assigned a job related to this activity. The Weather Monitor, upon arrival, goes outside to check the weather so they can report back to the group during Morning Circle. The other weekly job is Morning Circle Helper. This child is in charge of directing the teacher as to the sequence of events during the activity and announcing when it is time to move to the next activity.

Because of the range of activities within Morning Circle, it is easy to modify the activity to cater to an individual student's needs on any given day while also allowing for any extra time needed to implement the use of AAC/AT tools and supports.

All support staff quietly work in back of the students to provide assistance or make adjustments to seating and assistive technology as needed. This is done in ways that minimize distractions and maximize each student's ability to focus on the leader, peers and salient materials.

During Morning Circle, students are encouraged to:

  • Actively participate
  • Orient to the curricular materials
  • Sustain their attention as a member of a group
  • Selectively attend to the leader and relevant materials
  • Regard their peers
  • Help direct the teacher in following the Morning Circle routines
  • Take turns
  • Practice counting and calendar skills
  • Practice reading different materials with picture supports
  • Make choices regarding activities
  • Ask and answer questions
  • Listen to others

At the end of Morning Circle, students are transferred into supportive walkers and move to Outside Time.

Centers

The main purpose of Centers is to allow students the opportunity to play and explore with objects and concepts related to a thematic unit. Students choose between four centers - art, pretend play, computer, or book area. Each center has activities related to the theme. Themes change every two weeks and include camping, veterinarian's office, community helpers, bakery, and service station.

Centers lasts up to 45 minutes and is primarily child-directed, where the child chooses which activity center to participate in and is provided with several choice making opportunities and communication supports within each activity. Often, a child will rotate through several center stations across the 45-minute period. Students are positioned in upright hands-free support walkers so they can independently move through the centers and access the materials. During Centers, literacy, mathematic, and other 'concept focus' skills can be reinforced during the child's play and in the various center areas. Concept focus skills are identified and addressed to support students conceptual, mathematical, language, and vocabulary development. They may include relational words (big/small, hot/cold), science concepts (plants need sun, water, air, and soil to grow), or concepts that further enhance a child's understanding of the theme (leaf rubbings during the Fall theme). Centers requires significant planning, engineering and supports to enable children to become increasingly independent and self-directed in choosing their level of participation at the various centers, and supports the understanding that above all a child's job is to play.

Art Centers

Art activities relate to the theme and use a variety of different mediums across the school year. When necessary, tools and materials used in art have been adapted so that students can independently access and create their own artwork. Students are offered a variety of choice-making opportunities across the art activity, and communication supports are put into place so that the child can direct the teacher on what they want to do next in the art project.

Pretend Play

Every two weeks the pretend play area is transformed into a new play context. Materials that relate to the theme are made available to the students and allow for a variety of play schemas to unfold. Low-tech, mid-tech, and high-tech communication tools and supports are created and programmed so that students can practice and learn vocabulary concepts within a play schema and more independently act out the script with friends and teachers. The teacher, speech language pathologist, and instructional assistants all work closely together to plan and implement the pretend play center.

Storytime

Storytime is a teacher-led activity, lasting 15-20 minutes, that encourages students to listen to, enjoy, and respond to a book, while also reinforcing vocabulary concepts and knowledge related to the theme. One book is chosen for the duration of the theme so that students have multiple exposures and experiences with the same content. Using a variety of augmentative and alternative communication and assistive technology (AAC/AT) tools and supports, students are encouraged to participate by reading a repeated line, acting out certain parts through gestures/body movements or with props, or answering teacher-posed questions to practice new vocabulary. During this time students also learn more about books and print concepts. 'Storyfriend', a stuffed animal puppet, joins the group each day. Students are reminded that 'Storyfriend' does not know much about stories and that together we will teach her all about books. Students are then able to become the teacher, showing 'Storyfriend' how to look at a picture, turn the page, read the title, etc. To support comprehension, content from the book is tied to each student's individual experiences. Prior to the start of every thematic unit, family members send in a note that details their child's experiences with the current theme. These notes are placed on the "I Know About That" board and students will refer to that board during Storytime. The teacher also pulls from this information to tie book content to personal experiences, which provides many students with a richer and more meaningful understanding of the book. At the end of each week students participate in a Reader's Theater, where they pick one part of the story to act out, providing another way to interact with the book.

During Storytime, children are encouraged to:

  • Listen to and enjoy the story
  • Take an active role
  • Participate by using voice, gestures, body movements, and assistive technologies
  • Practice new vocabulary concepts
  • Ask and answer questions
  • Experience props and vocabulary related to the theme
  • Tie personal experiences to book content

Mid-Morning Meal

During Mid-Morning Meal, students receive appropriate nourishment and hydration while positioned in individualized seating systems. The students' families provide the documentation, and training when required, and the staff follows individual feeding protocols and physician-authorized, specialized physical health care procedures to ensure that the student receives proper nutrition. When appropriate, students work on self-feeding skills. Using various individualized AAC/AT tools and supports, students engage in social conversations with teachers and peers by sharing their home news with the group and talk about what they did at home the previous day. The Mid-Morning Meal lasts from 20-30 minutes, depending on student needs.

During Mid-Morning Meal, students are encouraged to:

  • Work on aspects of self-feeding when appropriate
  • Participate in many aspects of the feeding process including making food or drink choices, expressing preferences, and directing adults to locate utensils and food-related items brought from home
  • Share home news
  • Listen as peers share home news and make comments if desired

Outside Time

Outside Time is a child-directed activity that gives students the opportunity to play outside and in another environment besides the classroom. Depending on the day, students play either in the backyard garden area or on the shared adapted playground with North School. Toys and activities have been engineered to maximize access, participation, and interaction. Students are positioned in hands-free support walkers so they can independently move around the space to explore different areas. When appropriate, teachers work on cooperative play skills as they encourage games and interactions between peers. Outside Time lasts 25-30 minutes.

During Outside Time, students are encouraged to:

  • Experience upright, independent mobility over varied terrains
  • Ambulate independently to, from, and around the garden and playground
  • Observe changes in nature, including plants, insects, birds, and weather
  • Experience different toys, activities, and games played outside
  • Be imaginative and play
  • Participate in group games with peers
  • Move around, explore and have fun!

Sharing

Sharing is a teacher-led activity that lasts between 15-20 minutes. At Sharing, preschoolers take turns sharing items and asking each other questions or making comments about the items brought from home. Along with their item, each child shares a series of prerecorded messages describing the item: what it is, how it looks, how it works, and/or why they like it. Classmates listen, ask questions, and touch or explore items as the child shares and passes them around for the group to look at, play with, or hold.

Getting ready to share: Ahead of time while still at home, children choose an item to show, tell about, and share with their peers. Together with a family member, children generate prerecorded messages to say while sharing their item. Messages are pre-recorded using simple SGDs such as a Step-By-Step Communicator. A family member may ask the child, "What would you like to share about this?" The family member records the child's messages into the SGD while incorporating the child's speech and vocalizations, whenever possible, into the recordings.

Sharing is a group experience. During sharing at school, everyone participates using facial expressions, eye gaze, gestures, and pre-recorded, scripted messages that offer consistent vocabulary programmed into various augmentative and alternative communication and assistive technology (AAC/AT) tools and supports. Vocabulary for classmates includes questions, such as, "What is it?" or "Can I see?" and comments such as, "I like it" or "I love it."

During Sharing Time, students are encouraged to:

  • Ask and answer questions
  • Make comments to the group
  • Listen to classmates
  • Notice shared or novel experiences and toys
  • Experience new toys, photos, ideas, and concepts
  • Practice AAC system use
  • Take turns
  • Practice briefly 'holding the floor' in front of a group
  • Call on classmates to ask questions
  • Share family traditions, culture and familiar experiences

Reading and Math

Reading and Math is a teacher-led activity that lasts 15-20 minutes. The primary purpose of Reading and Math is to acquaint the preschoolers with what it means to be an active learner and participate within a larger group lesson directed by a teacher. The instruction is differentiated so that students are all expected to participate at the appropriate level, ask and answer questions, and make comments. During this time students learn to take instruction and direction from the teacher, wait for a turn within the larger group, and participate in the lesson as an active learner. There are several short activities within the lesson to help keep the preschoolers engaged and interested. The activities consist of quick instruction or direction, followed by student participation to learn and reinforce the concepts. Activities are created that cater to student interests so that the instruction is always fun and relevant.

Literacy concepts addressed include phonemic awareness of initial sounds, identification of written letters, blending sounds, and rhymes. Mathematic concepts include counting and the count sequence, one-to-one correspondence, patterns, and shape identification. Instruction and direction in foundational concepts is also addressed at this time and helps promote conceptual, literacy, mathematic, language, and vocabulary development.

During Reading and Math, students are encouraged to:

  • Pay attention to the teacher
  • Listen to and comprehend spoken information
  • Take turns
  • Respond to questions and requests from the teacher
  • Explore literacy, mathematic, and foundational concepts such as letters, numbers, sizes, and colors
  • Actively participate in activities
  • Ask questions and make comments
  • Complete activities and games the teacher has set out
  • Have fun during instruction as a member of the group

Music

Music is a 15-20 minute, teacher-led, daily activity. Children enjoy singing and moving to songs that integrate theme-related concepts, props, and vocabulary. We choose one or two songs per theme and then modify, and structure each song in ways that provide students with multiple opportunities for repeated practice, using a variety of actions, gestures, tunes, sounds and sound effects. Songs allow us to specifically target the use of potential communication tools including gestures, vocalizations, and augmentative and alternative communication/assistive technology (AAC/AT) tools and supports that can be used in other situations. The rhythm of the song can help children organize and remember their parts. Clear pauses and expectant waiting are used to cue children to take their part. Over a two-week period, students can learn the expectations and timing of the song and become more independent and adept at participating in various ways. In addition to providing structured practice in the use of AAC/AT tools and supports, Music addresses several important foundational literacy skills including rhymes, play on words, and vocabulary development.

During Music, students are encouraged to:

  • Practice using body movements, gestures and vocalizations
  • Actively participate
  • Practice technology access skills
  • Practice timing in participation of the song
  • Use a variety of AAC/AT tools and supports to participate
  • Learn and enjoy different rhymes and rhythms
  • Pay attention to the teacher and spoken directions
  • Learn the routine within the song
  • Have fun as a member of the instructional group

School News & Dismissal

At the end of the school day, students and staff collaboratively construct a brief message on a simple voice output communication aid (VOCA) such as a Step-By-Step. This message reflects something the child wants to share with their families about what happened in school that day. The student chooses which parts of the day to talk about and, after given several options, chooses what they want to discuss. Once school news is complete, students have a few minutes to engage in independent time. During this time students are encouraged to independently access and participate in a fun, leisure activity, including computer activities, reading a book, doing art, or playing with a switch-activated toy. Five minutes before dismissal, students gather in a circle where the teacher discusses anything important that happened that day or reminds students of the activities that will be coming up the next day based on the calendar. Students and staff then sing the good-bye song. Students are expected to participate in the song by using gestures and vocalizations. The classroom helper then goes to the door and everyone gets in line. Staff assists students out the door to waiting family members. School news and dismissal lasts approximately 15 minutes.

During School News and Dismissal, students are encouraged to:

  • Make choices
  • Use gestures, vocalizations and appropriate AAC/AT tools and supports to collaboratively construct a school news message with staff
  • Participate in a variety of potential leisure activities
  • Transition between school and home with confidence