Interested in how our mission applies to the youngest of our Petra Academy students? We asked K4 teacher, Joan Kempf, for her thoughts on the matter. A graduate with her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in education from the University of North Dakota, Joan has taught and consulted in early childhood education classes (including teaching children with learning disabilities) for twelve years. This is her second year at Petra.
Petra’s mission begins with the phrase, “Recognizing our need for God’s grace…” What does that look like with four-year-olds?
Since we all fall short of the glory of God, we recognize the need for God’s saving grace not only for salvation, but for everything else as well, including our social and emotional skills. Seeking to honor God through our behavior and teaching love for Jesus is our primary goal when teaching social skills to students. Many K4 students are attending school or any organized social interaction for the first time and need to learn how to play, work, and move within a group setting. It is important that students feel safe and comfortable at school so that these skills can be guided and directed throughout the day. As teachers, we seek to demonstrate grace and humility through our daily guidance and interactions with students. Some of the skills we help students achieve are:
-Separating easily from a parent
-Independence in toileting/washing
-Playing with others in a “kind” way (sharing and taking turns)
-Develop empathy for others by noticing when a classmate is frustrated or sad
-Respecting other people and their personal material
-Interacting positivity with peers (uses words vs. grabbing/pushing/hitting/kicking )
-Sit on the floor with peers without touching them with their hands or feet
-Begin to use “please” and “thank you” when talking to others
The innate curiosity of young learners lends itself to provide opportunities for self-directed exploration and teacher-directed activities in the K4 classroom. Many activities during our free choice time are designed to engage students in cause and effect opportunities. Students will build with gears, tubes, blocks, Legos, and other manipulative materials. We also utilize a wide array of sensory materials (shaving cream, salt, water, sand) and incorporate playing with cars and trucks, using tweezers and magnifying glasses, and utilization of containers with different volumes to increase their awareness and understanding of science-based terms and applications.
In addition, students learn about the seasons and explore items related to the season, talk about the changes in weather and how weather effects us and the world around us. Teaching the days of creation offers the opportunity to participate in activities about heaven, earth, sea, animals, dark, light plants and trees. Students learn about various animals, reptiles, bugs, volcanoes, wind, and other science themes through literature and activities throughout the school year.
Students also participate in various fine art activities that include the utilization of a wide array of art mediums, music and movement. Students create projects that relate to weekly and monthly educational/biblical concepts being taught through:
-Painting with brushes, forks, string, marbles, etc.
-Drawing with markers, colors, white erase boards/markers
-Expressing themselves through dramatic play centers
-Singing songs and doing movement activities
-Preparing and performing recitation songs/chants
-Observing Grammar student’s recitation (K-6th grade)
Finally, preparing students to write is an important part of our K4 curriculum; in fact, most activities in all curricular areas lend themselves to developing fine motor strength and dexterity. Isolating the muscles in the hand and wrist are accomplished through activities like putting together puzzles, lacing, play dough, manipulating tweezers, peg boards, linking chains and blocks, cutting, coloring, tracing designs and letters, and sensory play.
Some of the skills developed are:
-Pencil grasp-training to use a pincer or tripod grasp (holding the writing/coloring object with the thumb and the pointer finger while resting it on the middle finger)
-Crossing the midline of the body while writing/coloring (ability to move from left to right side of body while using one hand)
-Increasing hand and finger strength
-Hand eye coordination (processing information to accomplish the tasks)
-Hand dominance (consistently using the same hand to accomplish tasks)
-Ability to copy and print letters and numbers