In Arlington ISD, providing “more than a remarkable education” starts as soon as students walk into their classrooms, even at ages three and four. That’s why every detail in pre-K classrooms was intentionally designed to launch our littlest learners on a lifelong journey of exploration and learning.
This fall, Arlington ISD will launch more little learners than ever on their own lifelong journeys of learning. For the first time, pre-K for 4-years-olds will be universal, so all 4-year-olds can attend for free. Registration opens April 1 at aisd.net/prek.
“In Arlington ISD, we strive to create a magical learning experience for all of our pre-K students,” said Dr. Jackeline Orsini, Arlington ISD’s director of early childhood learning.
That magic starts in the classroom, which is designed to accommodate our new students and give them lots of opportunities to play. Play is how young children learn. They are innately curious, and they feed and foster that curiosity through play.
“Our pre-K curriculum allows preschool children many types of play throughout the day,” Orsini said. “Our daily lesson plans allow children to participate in physical, cognitive, language and social play through structured and non-structured activities.”
To promote that kind of purposeful play, each pre-K classroom’s design, furniture and toys enhance the curriculum and foster fun, creativity and exploration. Teachers help direct the play and use it to teach all kinds of lessons.
“Our classrooms are equipped with amazing early childhood resources that promote student engagement,” Orsini said. “With thoughtfully designed lesson plans, activities, use of resources and fun learning centers, children flow from one activity to the next with a sense of purpose. They really have fun! The classroom library, block center, kids kitchen, math center, science station, book nook, dramatic play corner, sensory table, Lego wall and art center are just some of the many activities that students are invited to explore on a daily basis.”
To give you an idea of what each classroom is like, here’s a little tour of some of the elements of the pre-K classroom that make a big impact in a child’s learning adventure.
You can’t just put pre-K students in a regular classroom. Everything is too big! So, Arlington ISD pre-K rooms have small chairs, stools and tables sized just right for threes and fours. The furniture is flexible, allowing for a variety of seating options because they get used for lots of different activities. The tables and chairs are perfect for group learning activities and help children build social skills with their peers.
Each room also has a water fountain at the students’ height, along with a sink and bathroom. The bathroom is a must for this age group to prevent those unwanted accidents and to help teachers maintain constant supervision. They also help minimize interruptions to teachers’ lesson plans, which means more time for your kiddo to learn and play.
Our classrooms promote literacy, math, science and social-emotional learning. Pre-k students spend their day playing, singing and learning to gain skills that ultimately help them learn to read, write, and build their math and science skills. Kids also learn school-readiness skills and practice skills taught by the teacher every day. Pre-k teachers are very creative and implement all kinds of activities at each center to maximize learning opportunities. Some of the most popular centers include:
Dramatic Play Center
The dramatic play center includes fun-sized versions of items you find at home, like kitchen sets and dollhouses filled with diverse baby dolls that will promote role-playing while learning essential skills. Dramatic play encourages creativity, self-expression and knowledge of the community. Students will also learn about other cultures and customs.
The literacy center is a quiet area where pre-K students practice reading in many ways. Kids explore their interests and have fun reading colorful stories that trigger their imaginations.
The math center is a special corner where kids learn how to use manipulatives, such as numbers, counters, blocks and geometric shapes to count, sort, add and subtract and build mathematical thinking skills.
Free Choice Centers
Free choice centers are less structured play time where kids get to pick their own activities from choices that the teacher provides. These centers help develop creativity and imagination during crafts or pretend play.
The Safe Place
The Safe Place is a cozy place where kids can go sit if they are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or just not having the best day. Students can look in the mirror while practicing breathing techniques and reciting affirmations to calm them down. Calming books, feeling buddies and other relaxation materials are also at the center to help kids cope with any difficult emotions. Learning fundamental academic skills are important, but it’s also important to help kids develop strong emotional and mental health at a young age. Teaching them now makes a huge difference in how they handle difficult situations as they grow up.
An underrated element that’s vital in early childhood learning is labeling. Putting signs and labels on nearly every object helps students as the learn to read and write. Kids will learn to read, write and spell at a much faster rate when constantly associating pictures with words they see and hear. Signs go on everything from cubby holders and lockers to chairs and toys. To solidify lessons, some teachers include “Write the Room” sessions that allow kids to write down the objects they are learning about. They also get to “buy” from the café or store.
Science and math have always been an important part of Arlington ISD pre-K, but this fall the district will emphasize STEM at a whole new level. Our pre-K students will get to take advantage of the STEM labs at every elementary school. They will be inspired as they learn and discover through hands-on science, technology, engineering and math experiments and lessons.
Discovery doesn’t just happen inside. Outside is a classroom, too, with all kinds of games and activities! When classroom sensory tables are filled with water or sand, kids turn into little explorers as they dive into the daily lessons. For example, if a teacher is teaching the letter ‘D,’ he or she can put toy dogs and dinosaurs into the table and students can dig into it to discover the objects.
Playgrounds are a great learning space, too. And thanks to our 2019 Bond, all of our elementary schools are getting new playgrounds. They are complete at 17 schools and are coming soon at the rest. The new playgrounds are rock- and wood-free. They have a soft rubber surface for safety to protect against those inevitable falls. Plus, they all have shade structures and accessible play equipment.
“We are all so excited about the variety of state-of-the-art ‘learning thru play’ themes that challenge our students,” said Bebensee principal Charlotte Carter about the new playgrounds. “There’s a music center with miniature drums and other instruments, several climbing walls and a variety of large and small motor skills stations. Plus, it’s built with all of our students in mind. We love it!”
Pre-K in the Arlington ISD is key to getting 3- and 4-year-olds off to a great start. Check out all of our best-in-class pre-K programs, and see what a day in pre-K is like in this video. Then head back to aisd.net/pre-k on April 1 to enroll. Adventure awaits!