“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
The South Orange-Maplewood School District’s commitment to offering access to a high-quality preschool experience is demonstrated by its plan to expand its pre-K program with the support of the New Jersey State Department of Education (NJDOE) and in partnership with local preschool program providers. Once the expansion initiative is solidified, 2020-21 partners will be announced.
We appreciate the community’s interest in the program, and we recognize our families’ eagerness to register our three- and four-year old students (as of October 1, 2020). Information regarding registration is discussed above in the newsletter section “2020-21 Registration” and can be accessed via the district’s website click here. At this time, we are delighted to offer an insight into Tools of the Mind (TOM), the developmentally appropriate curriculum currently in place in our pre-kindergarten program.
Aligned with the New Jersey Preschool Teaching and Learning Standards, TOM is a comprehensive curriculum that presents content in an integrated manner. Its instructional strategies reflect a combination of student-initiated activities, explicit instruction, individualization through multiple levels of scaffolding (problem-solving through teacher modeling followed by increasingly independent student practice), and the ongoing use of multiple assessment data. These varied but cohesive approaches respond to the diverse needs of our students. Student growth is monitored as part of the daily routine of the classroom. The GOLD tool, an observation-based assessment system by early childhood education resource company Teaching Strategies, supports this aspect of the implementation of TOM. Progress reports are shared with parents/guardians three times per year, and parent-teacher conferences are scheduled throughout the year.
One key characteristic that sets TOM apart from other curriculum models is the intentional focus on our students’ development of both cognitive and social-emotional self-regulation at the same time that literacy and mathematical skills are introduced. Self-regulated learning is embedded into all activities. Teachers use strategies to help children improve the quality of their dramatic make-believe play so that it promotes self-regulation development. Research-based instructional activities are designed to teach self-regulation and reflective thinking. Classroom management techniques maximize time-productive interactions and task involvement, and most learning takes place in small groups or as partnered activities, engaging children in interaction with one another to learn, build social relationships, and create a positive sense of community.
Field trips provide students with valuable background knowledge that enhances make-believe play themes, as well as provide rich cultural experiences and a connection with the immediate community. Administrators, teachers and support staff participate in comprehensive required training, and the program’s Master Teacher supports teacher professional growth and curriculum implementation.
Parents sometimes focus on their children’s acquisition of basic letter and number recognition or pre-reading skills in isolation, but the instruction of young children optimally encompasses a lot more. Collectively, families and schools succeed best when aligning their efforts to focus on the development of the whole child and all the skills and strengths each child has developed.
Thank you for interest in the program, and for entrusting your children to a dedicated team of teachers, administrators, support staff and specialists.