Program

Early Years Guiding Principles

The following guiding principles underpin the Early Years practices at ACS.

The Image of the Child

  • Each child is a whole and unique individual with their own perspective, interests, ways of learning, and level of development.
  • Children have the right to be listened to and understood, and to have their autonomy respected.
  • Children bring stories, knowledge, and experience with them into the classroom, which allows unique and meaningful connections to new experiences.
  • Children are at the center of their learning.
  • Children drive their learning through exploration, experimentation and social interaction.
  • Children are curious, competent at constructing knowledge and capable of making sense of the world around them.

The Role of the Teacher

  • Acknowledges and values each child.
  • Fosters trusting relationships.
  • Is a researcher, facilitator and partner in learning.
  • Creates a safe and rich environment for learning.
  • Is a keen listener and observer of children’s thinking and learning.
  • Collects and processes documentation to deepen their understanding of children’s prior knowledge, schema, development, interests, and ways of engaging.
  • Shares their learning and the children’s learning with the wider community.
  • Works collaboratively with their co-teachers, colleagues, parents and administration.

The Environment

  • Is created with intention.
  • Is warm and welcoming.
  • Is fluid and reflects children’s developing identity.
  • Encompasses our relationships to physical space, indoors and out, materials and time.
  • Nurtures social relationships on all levels, creating a psychologically safe space for all.
  • Provides multiple opportunities for children to freely explore materials and ideas while interacting with and learning from each other.

Daily Practices

Our daily interactions with children are grounded in the interconnected practices of active listening, facilitation and documentation.

Listening serves as a window into the child’s perspective. It is an intentional practice that leads us to a deeper understanding of the child. Through listening, we gather the information needed to facilitate children’s learning. Facilitation is responsive and purposeful. It enables children to construct knowledge, giving them ownership of their learning.

Documentation makes the learning process visible. It is the practice of recording and reflecting on children’s interactions with the environment in order to further their understanding.

Morning Meeting

What

How

Why

Morning Meeting

Gathering on the carpet as a whole group

During this practice, teachers:

Facilitate and lead whole-group conversations

Encourage children to listen to each other’s contribution

Encourage children to share stories and ideas

Document children’s learning

Through this practice, children:

Settle in for the day

Develop a sense of self, community and belonging

Develop listening and communication skills

Value others’ perspectives

Build relationships and community

 

Music & Movement

 WhatHow Why 

Music & Movement

A whole group creative experience

During this practice, teachers:

Facilitate and lead whole group interactions with music, including singing, moving, playing instruments and musical games

Nurture the connections between music and other languages of expression

Use music to support other learning areas (numbers, rhyming words, patterns, new vocabulary)

Document children’s learning

Through this practice, children:

Develop a love for music

Appreciate music as an expressive language

Respond to music

Find their singing voice

Participate in a group activity

Find form, pattern, structure in both music and movement

Create mental images related to music

Explore and understand space and boundaries

 

Exploration Time

 WhatHow Why 

Exploration Time

Engaging in free and guided exploration in different centers/areas in the classroom using open-ended materials

During this practice, teachers:

Create Defined Areas (example: Blocks & Drama)

Provide Undefined Areas to accommodate emerging areas of interest, provocations and project work

Facilitate both Teacher-guided and Child-led exploration for groups of children and individual children

Provide open-ended and accessible materials to cater to varying interests and levels of competence

Document children’s learning

Through this practice, children:

Explore in an environment open to varying levels of competence

Express themselves individually and as part of a group

Learn with and from each other

Develop social skills within a meaningful and authentic context (example: communication, conflict resolution, collaboration, etc.)

Develop higher order thinking skills (critical and creative thinking)

Form their identity by acting on their desires

Make sense of the world around them

 

Provocations

 WhatHow Why 

Provocations

Planned explorations of a specific question, idea, interest, or material to stimulate and challenge children’s thinking

Short term investigation with the potential to develop into a project

Derived from children’s interests or proposed by teachers

During this practice, teachers:

Identify a meaningful context such as a conversation, a book, children’s questions, common interests or behaviors

Provide children with tools and materials for further exploration

Facilitate the learning by posing questions

Document the experience by recording children’s engagement, comments and questions

Reflect on the documentation and plan subsequent provocations that will extend the learning

Through this practice, children:

Work closely with the teacher and other children

Gain familiarity with different languages (clay, wire, paint, sketching, etc.)

Develop techniques for working with various languages

Experiment and make observations

Pose and test theories

Represent their thinking and understanding

 

Project Work

 WhatHow Why 

Project Work

An in-depth study of a specific area of inquiry that begins with a provocation that is connected to a concept

During this practice, teachers:

Research the concept under study to deepen the teacher’s understanding in order to find ways to connect to children’s interests

Plan provocations that are generated from previous provocations and are focused on the line of inquiry

Facilitate children’s exchange of ideas and reflections

Document children’s comments, observations and creations through photographs, videos and anecdotal notes

Process documentation to determine next steps in the project

Through this practice, children:

Deepen their understanding of the concept and themselves in relation to the concept under study

Expand their knowledge and experience

Make a contribution

Express their ideas and learn in a group

Develop their social skills in a meaningful and authentic context (example: communication, collaboration, etc.)

Develop higher order thinking skills (critical and creative thinking)

Develop a sense of ownership of their learning

Make sense of the world around them

 

Read Aloud

 WhatHow Why 

Read Aloud

Reading books in a whole group or in small groups

During this practice, teachers:

Ask questions to activate prior knowledge

Invite discussion of illustrations and text

Ask questions to check for understanding

Highlight and discuss new vocabulary

Invite children to make predictions, connections and conclusions

Read and re-read the same book

Support existing interests and inspire new interests

Document children’s learning

Through this practice, children:

Develop an awareness of books as a source of knowledge and pleasure

Develop oral language and reasoning skills

Express and articulate their thoughts

Expand their vocabulary

Develop the love of reading

 

Literacy and Math

The Early Years is the place where the foundation of learning is established. The more we deposit in this foundation, the sturdier the learner and learning. Learning is best attained in a context that is meaningful to children.

Literacy

For children to love reading and develop into readers and writers, we should build a solid foundation. What does this foundation comprise?

  • In Nursery, we foster the development of the children’s reasoning and oral skills, broaden and deepen their background knowledge and expand their vocabulary bank. We immerse the children in various learning experiences that enable them to express themselves, communicate their ideas, thoughts and feelings, and make sense of the world around them.
  • In KG1, the work started in Nursery continues. Added to it is the phonological awareness, concepts of print and alphabet letters that are implicitly introduced through books, songs, and transition and group games. This is all done in a holistic approach where all areas of learning are integrated. Literacy games are available for children who are ready and ask for them. “Children learn literacy when they go to it not when it comes to them.”
  • In KG2, the foundational building components continue to be fostered. The element that is added to the curriculum is the American Education Reaches Out (AERO) literacy standards. These standards are addressed through the Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop. The components of the workshop are tweaked and meshed with the Reggio Emilia approach to enable the children to enjoy learning and develop at their own pace.

Math

Children are naturally curious. As they wonder about the world around them and as they play and socialize with peers, they think mathematically although they are not aware of this. As we believe that Math thinking requires the ability to put things in relationships to solve problems, we encourage children to solve all kinds of problems socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively.

  • In Nursery, we set the foundation of mathematical thinking by cultivating the development of reasoning skills, and putting things in relationship to solve all sorts of problems: social, emotional, physical and cognitive and to articulate their thinking. Number sense, including the counting principles of ‘Ordered Sequence of Counting Numbers’, ‘The One to One’ principle and ‘The Cardinal’ principle, as well as shapes are promoted through intentionally planned contexts of play that allow for discovery and learning.
  • In KG1, the work started in Nursery continues. The children continue to learn math through play. Math provocations become part of daily learning. In addition to the teachers being vigilant and highlighting the Math learning in the various contexts of the classroom, they provide the children with contextualized and meaningful provocations that stimulate the children’s numeracy skills as well as higher-order thinking and solving skills. The children articulate their thinking and share their strategies with classmates. Math games are also part of their daily experiences.
  • In KG2, the foundational building components continue to be fostered. Math Talks & Math Workshop are added to the daily routines. The children explore and solve problems and solidify their number sense acquisition in context by tackling hands-on provocations. The teacher cultivates the development of each child’s learning strategies and does not teach strategies directly enabling the child to construct their understanding. The child initiates and leads their learning, and the teacher facilitates this learning through questioning to enable them to make their thinking and learning visible.

Specials

Arabic

Arabic is a language that children are exposed to on a daily basis. The Arabic class is 30 minutes in Nursery, 40 minutes in KG1 and 45 minutes in KG2. 3 Arabic team teachers teach every Nursery class, 2 teach KG1 and 2 for KG2. The focus is on promoting the acquisition of oral language skills using Modern Standard Arabic. The Arabic session is interactive between children and teachers. Instruction is done playfully through books, props, puppets, music and movement. Introduction to reading and writing words and sentences takes place in KG2.

Physical Education

In Early Years we dedicate 30 minutes to Physical Education twice per cycle. The children are accompanied by one of their Homeroom teachers in addition to the PE coach. They exercise, learn various physical and social skills, and have fun together.

Music

The music class is led and facilitated by a music teacher, who visits each class twice per cycle. During the 30-minute session with the music teacher and one homeroom teacher, the children develop their natural love for music; they sing and move to different songs responding to rhythm and beat. They also explore various instruments, play them and discover their characteristics.

Library

Developing a love for books and reading starts at an early age. Once per cycle, the children, accompanied by one of their homeroom teachers, meet the teacher librarian in the library. The teacher librarian reads a story after which the children check out books of their choice.

Social Emotional Development and Learning

We believe that the child’s social and emotional development is the foundation of all learning and growth. When the child develops a sense of belonging and is emotionally settled and socially connected, the basis of their wellbeing and learning is well-established. We also believe that each child is unique and develops at their own pace. Therefore, we nurture the child’s learning and growth catering to the individual’s needs and developmental stage.

The adults in the program foster relationship building at all levels: adult-child, child-child, adult-adult and child-environment. The genuine care that the teachers exhibit as they interact with the child, the intent and keenness with which they listen, and the guidance they provide, all allow the child to feel successful. When the child trusts their environment, they open up and reveal their potential.

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