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Thoroughgood. Where Seagulls…Learn to Fly!
Encouraging words on hallway signs hang high above the heads of preschoolers walking hand-in-hand with their parents to room 33. The future Seagulls are greeted by smiling Thoroughgood Elementary teachers and invited to find a seat on a colorful rug adorned with animals and other objects from A to Z.
“Why don’t you sit on the square with the zebra, Joey,” a teacher encourages, reading the nametag on the child’s paper headband.
“Let’s see. We have Henry and Macayla and Gavin,” says another teacher scanning the crowd as children find places to sit. “Oh, and Annabelle and Owen and Audrey. There’s Trevor and Zack.”
“And Wesley,” exclaims a voice from the floor.
Parents chuckle from the back of the room, and the teacher acknowledges, “Yes, of course, and Wesley is with us tonight.”
Wesley smiles broadly and adjusts his Pete the Cat crown.
Kathy Scott, Thoroughgood’s speech-language pathologist, welcomes the group to the school’s kindergarten readiness program. It is designed to engage children and their parents in interactive learning activities focused on math, reading and technology in order to prepare children for the transition to kindergarten. To support this program, Scott was awarded an innovative learning grant from the Virginia Beach Education Foundation (VBEF).
“It is well documented in the literature that students who come to kindergarten with a solid foundation in oral language, phonemic awareness, early literacy, math, motor and social skills are likely to achieve success in school,” wrote Scott in her grant application. Scott added that the program helps “foster a belief that school is a safe, comfortable place to come to and to learn.”
As two dozen children made themselves comfortable on the classroom rug, Scott highlighted for parents various pamphlets and resources in a readiness packet they all received. “Phonemic awareness is important for early readers,” she stressed when referencing a document with early reading and writing tips. Scott then shared that each child would receive a free copy of the book, “Pete the Cat,” that they were about to read together.
“It has stickers and a poster,” she said.
“I can read it tonight?” an excited child asked loud enough for all to hear.
“Yes you can,” assured Scott, “and why don’t we get started with our book.”
Attention turned to the classroom whiteboard as a cheerful recorded voice told the story of how Pete the Cat convinced a friend that Valentine’s Day “is cool.” Large, colorful pages flipped on the screen featuring Pete and his homemade cards for friends.
The whole group reading session was followed by small group activities in three kindergarten classrooms. In room 35, children counted and sorted candy hearts by color. Table 34 featured iPads for the pre-schoolers to try assorted apps. Children staying in room 33 worked with parents to make Valentine’s Day cards like Pete the Cat did for his special friends.
“Can I get your picture?” asked one parent.
Without hesitation her son looked up, smiled and said, “Cheeeeeeese.”
“You know how to glue,” encouraged a parent at another table. “Yes, just like that.”
No encouragement or direction is needed in room 34 as children whiz through iPad apps like digital natives.
Thoroughgood principal Cheryl Zigrang talked to children and parents as the groups switched classrooms for new activities. “There are so many parents here,” she observed, “and that makes me very happy.”
Zigrang is especially looking forward to the final readiness session this spring because it will be a community outreach event held at the Bayville Park shelter. Engaging parents and children outside of the school setting is another opportunity to try to reach every preschool child in her school’s attendance zone.
Scott and her Thoroughgood colleagues hope the skills the children practice in the one-hour session are extended to home and that the materials children receive will be used in future family interactions. She knows that school readiness is a partnership.
“We want to provide information to parents about the resources and interventions available to their children during these critical years of early development,” she said. “By being proactive during the preschool years, students will come to school ready to learn.”
Visit vbef.org to learn more about the Virginia Beach Education Foundation and the grants it awards to support innovative and creative learning programs.