This is the second of two posts by Petra K4 teacher, Joan Kempf, on how our mission applies to the youngest of our Petra Academy students. In her first post, Mrs. Kempf covered the first two phrases of our mission statement – “Recognizing our need for God’s grace, Petra Academy strives to awaken love and wonder in our students…” In this post, she walks through the remainder, focusing on our Trivium education and its ultimate two-fold goal at the K4 level.
Petra talks a lot about something called the Trivium, an ancient pedagogy used to educate students explained as, “…teaching them to observe with humility, think with reason, and articulate with charity.” What does that look like for a four-year-old?
One of the major prerequisites for observing with humility is teaching students to think beyond themselves and their needs. One of the many ways we do this is by incorporating biblical history into monthly themes as appropriate to the school calendar. By teaching K4 students why and how these Christian holidays and celebrations occur draws upon our need for having God first in our lives. These are great opportunities to get the real meaning of Christmas and the Incarnation rather than just a present, as well as experiencing the true power of Easter and the resurrection of Christ instead of just bunnies and candy.
Mathematics is a great opportunity to help students learn to think with reason, for God has created children to be natural mathematicians. Some of the materials the K4 classroom utilizes are puzzles, patterns and shapes, blocks, sensory items, buttons, and a variety of colorful objects for sorting, counting and patterning. Daily counting of the calendar and using math concepts (big, little, empty, full, long, short, same, different) as a part of daily language help to set a strong math foundation. Students also learn to identify numbers, demonstrate 1-1 correspondence to 10, demonstrate number comprehension to 10, count to 20, recognize 6-8 shapes, and become familiar with the clock face. They participate in number songs/chants daily and enjoy working on mazes and visual puzzles, allowing young children to experience math concepts as they experiment with spatial awareness, measurement, and problem solving. All of this teaches the basic truth that there is order to God’s universe.
In terms of articulating with charity, the K4 classroom is dedicated to providing students with the necessary skills to communicate their ideas/needs/desires and demonstrate foundational skills for reading. The main core of the curriculum focuses on introducing a letter a week. During the introduction of a new letter, the students are asked to identify (“show me the letter ‘A'”) and then name that letter (“what letter is this?”). Students also learn the sound(s) that each letter makes and eventually they are able to think of words that contain the letter sound.
Reading stories aloud is very important in the development of reading skills in young children. Students in the classroom are exposed to a variety of books on many different topics. Through this process, students learn that letters create words, words are read from left to right, words rhyme and repeat, and stories contain a beginning, middle and end. Students also make predictions about what will happen next in the story and are asked details about the story they have heard to gain an understanding of their language and comprehension skills.
To reinforce concepts in all areas of development, songs, chants, and finger plays are used in the classroom on a daily basis. Reinforcing pre-reading lessons with songs/chants helps bring familiarity into the learning process and assists students with the ability to recall information more readily. When students learn these basics, they are ready to build on them going forward.
The last part of Petra’s mission communicates a two-fold end, “for the flourishing of humanity and the renown of Jesus the Christ.” Are these ends realistic for a K4 classroom?
Absolutely! We desire to teach students to listen and obey because it glorifies God. We encourage students to do their “best” work instead of their “fastest” work. We aspire to see students understand the value of their efforts and the pleasure it brings to God, others, and themselves when choosing to do their best. Understanding the school routine and developing good work habits are important, not only to create a good student but to foster good citizenship with others with whom they share space. Gentleness and love are extended to each student in hopes that each child will develop a love for learning and for those with whom they are learning. Some of the work habits we guide, foster, and direct are:
-Listening to stories and songs without leaving the group or interrupting
-Staying focused on a task during a lesson
-Trying to solve a problem before asking for help
-Following a 2-3 step direction from the teacher
-Completing an activity by themselves
-Taking turns when talking during a group time
-Raising their hands when they have something they would like to say
-Participating in show and tell by presenting their item, listening to others, and asking a question
Being obedient to Jesus Christ and understanding God’s grace is an important concept in the K4 classroom. Treating others kindly in school allows us to focus on following the example of our Savior. Teaching the attributes of kindness and grace is a daily, hands-on occurrence. In addition to following the loving kindness of Christ, students memorize Bible verses, hear stories from the Bible, pray, participate in fine art activities to learn more about beauty, and sing praises to God. If all this doesn’t contribute to the renown of Jesus the Christ, I’m not sure what does!