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Nursery classroom experiences provide students with a sense of comfort and competence. Teachers visit students at their homes before school begins. Children then phase into school gradually, attending in small groups and on a limited schedule initially. This process allows students to feel more secure about separating from familiar adults so they can do so successfully. Teachers create predictable classroom routines and schedules and can move easily through the daily schedule. Distinct learning areas set up in the classroom allow children to see clearly the choices available to them. The arrangement and storage of classroom materials encourages students to choose activities throughout the day. Teachers work with students to develop the skills they need to be more independent in the comfort of a school setting. Simple skills, such as putting on their coats, washing hands, pouring juice and throwing away trash, enable children to take increased responsibility for themselves.
Nursery students are curious about and eager to understand the world around them. Teachers design units that encourage students to explore aspects of their immediate environment, hypothesize about how things work, and then test out their hypotheses. Children often repeat experiences so that they can understand that certain outcomes occur reliably. Teachers provide a multisensory learning process and reinforce their understandings through a variety of modalities. Teachers provide a range of experiences that help children establish a solid understanding of concepts such as shape, color and size. Through daily classroom experiences, children begin to develop a sense of mathematical concepts such as sorting, pattern, amount, quantity and one-to-one correspondence. Classroom activities encourage students to make connections between classroom experiences and their existing knowledge. By providing the scaffolding necessary to make these connections, teachers present the basis for students to develop the thinking skills necessary to make sense of their surroundings.
As Nursery students study the cycle of the school year, they learn about Jewish holidays. They hear the stories of the holidays, create art projects, learn songs and participate in classroom celebrations. To punctuate their school week, children celebrate Shabbat. Through these experiences, they learn that there are multiple ways to celebrate and observe Jewish traditions. Nursery students also encounter Hebrew language in songs, blessings and games.
During the Nursery years children’s language abilities develop rapidly. Teachers facilitate language development through a variety of activities, such as speaking with children frequently, one-on-one, in small groups and as a whole class. Teachers also encourage students to talk about their experiences in and out of the classroom and to comment or question skillfully as their peers learn to elaborate. As the year progresses, children answer specific questions or comment on specific topics; they often speak in front of a group, sharing information about themselves and their experiences outside of school. As teachers read and discuss stories, both in class and during library sessions, children develop and share their own stories, which they often dictate to teachers and then illustrate. Signs, charts and graphs also introduce children to using written language to organize and represent various aspects of their experiences. Through extensive exposure to print in the classroom, teachers help children begin to be able to identify letters and the sounds attached to them and to understand linguistic concepts such as rhyming and alliteration.
Children are eager to master physical challenges. They want to learn to run faster, jump further and climb higher. They also want to develop the physical skills necessary to create the artwork and constructions that they imagine. Opportunities to use a variety of art and constructive materials help students to develop their fine motor skills. Teachers encourage students to explore independently using various materials and then provide guidance about using effective methods. Teachers also help children develop a sense of personal space and learn to navigate spaces within the classroom. Opportunities for gross motor play, either on the rooftop playground or in the gym, occur every day. During these times, teachers encourage students to participate in physical activities, take on new challenges and develop new skills. Teachers urge children to practice skills that they are working to master and may offer suggestions about more effective ways to do certain tasks. Through introductory yoga poses, students explore the connections between their minds and bodies, as well as the physical space around them. Students are also encouraged to move expressively to music during organized music classes and specific classroom activities.
Teachers seek to provide children with the skills necessary to play and work together. These skills include helping children understand and articulate their own desires and emotions as well as recognizing the effects they have on others. Students also practice concrete skills, such as joining a game, asking for a turn, asking someone to stop and speaking thoughtfully. Many classroom activities encourage awareness of the whole class and simultaneously allow each child to recognize his or her own unique place within it. Classroom jobs and expectations also teach students the responsibilities of belonging to a group. Jewish ethics as well as lessons drawn from Torah stories underpin most social emotional learning.
Located in New York City, Rodeph Sholom School is a coeducational nursery through eighth grade Reform Jewish independent school.
10 West 84th Street and 168 West 79th Street · New York, NY 10024