Preschool Program Offers a Curriculum for all Students

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Skills for School is Neighborhood House’s kindergarten readiness program for children ages 3 to 5. It offers a curriculum that positively supports the development of children from both native and non-native English-speaking families and is for children regardless of their parent’s enrollment in other Neighborhood house programming. Families choose Neighborhood House’s Skills for School program for multiple reasons, such as when they don’t have access to other opportunities, if they can’t afford private preschool, or if they feel that the Skills for School program is the best fit for their child. “Every year about half of the kids have parents in an adult education program here and half do not,” says Amanda Williams, manager of the Parent & Early Childhood Education Program at Neighborhood House. “That is okay with us. Either way, we are happy to serve any child who needs pre-school.”

Skills for School uses a literacy-based curriculum, called SPARK, that incorporates art activities to guide the teaching. Because a considerable percentage of the children that are part of the Skills of School program are from non-native English speaking families, the SPARK curriculum is ideal for the Neighborhood House preschoolers. Through the SPARK curriculum, children who are learning English have the chance to develop self-expression through a non-verbal outlet. In addition, SPARK’s literacy component includes a variety of books and stories that are culturally responsive and feature familiar customs and practices of the students. The key to SPARK is repetition.

Every class includes students with a range of English-speaking abilities, from students who are just beginning to acquire the language to students who have grown up with English as their primary language. Through routine and repetition Skills for School instructors see their students making progress in both speaking and understanding English. Verbalizing certain objects and playing music and songs in a repetitive nature help dual language learners develop an understanding of English as they hear phrases and words routinely used in the classroom.

There are also positive and rapid language development gains for children who are in a space with other children. “Kids are picking up on language skills naturally by talking with other kids. Or, if they are not talking with them, they are hearing how they are speaking.” Williams adds. “That is something that cannot be duplicated anywhere else. You need a classroom full of children in order to do that.”

According to Williams, SPARK has been proven to be a successful curriculum for typically-developing children as well as for children who are not developmentally on target. She emphasizes that the curriculum is not used specifically for non-native English speakers and that SPARK is accommodating to kids of all abilities, experiences, and backgrounds.

“We want it to be inclusive to every child,” she adds. “Backgrounds of trauma, students who are developing typically or have special needs, students who come from every kind of family structure, and from all cultures. Whatever the case may be, we aim for the Skills for School program to suit all of our students, and we found that this curriculum and preschool program model is one where all kids can participate and gain the both academic and behavioral skills necessary to be ready for Kindergarten.”

The Neighborhood House Skills for School program is offered 5 days a week at the Wellstone Center and 3 days a week Jie Ming Mandarin Immersion Academy. The program is free of charge. For more information, please contact Amanda Williams at 651-789-2543 or by email.

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