Early Childhood Our Curricula
Torah Prep School of St. Louis
The goal of our Early Childhood Program is to help each and every child gain a sense of self, a sense of being a part of Klal Yisrael, a love for Torah, and the characteristics of a self-initiated lifelong learner. To accomplish this aim, we have developed a unique program called Mentch in the Making that is research based and scaffolded so that children enter Kindergarten with critical skills in all developmental areas, from academic to emotional to social.
We define a mentch as a well-developed person and that is our intention in everything we do — to help each child develop in all areas, thereby blossoming into a mentch. Our program emphasizes five fundamental cognitive and emotional skills that will be the basis of all future learning, and that a child needs to become a self-directed learner who confidently takes on challenges:
Focus and Self Control: Children need these skills to achieve their goals, especially in a world filled with distractions and information overload. It involves paying attention, remembering the rules, thinking flexibly, and exercising self-control.
Perspective Taking: This goes far beyond empathy. It involves figuring out what others think and feel, and forms the basis of a child’s understanding of their parents’, teachers’, and friends’ intentions. Children who can see others’ perspectives are also much less likely to get involved in conflicts.
Conscious Discipline: To effectively teach “perspective taking”, we use the Conscious Discipline approach. It is a comprehensive self-regulation program that integrates social-emotional learning and discipline. The children are first empowered by learning how to be conscious of brain-body states — in other words, to develop emotional intelligence. Then they learn practical skills to manage their thoughts, feelings and actions. This method transforms everyday conflict into an opportunity for children to develop critical life skills. The program stresses “Seven Skills of Discipline”:
Conscious Skill What It Teaches Our Children
1. Composure Anger management, gratification delay
2. Encouragement Pro-social skills (kindness, caring, helpfulness)
3. Assertiveness Bully prevention, healthy boundaries
4. Choices Impulse control, goal achievement
5. Empathy Emotional regulation, perspective taking
6. Positive Intent Cooperation, problem-solving
7. Consequences Learn from your mistakes
Communicating: This is the critical skill of learning how to convey thoughts or feelings, as well as understanding how our communications will be understood by others. It includes the ability to comprehend language that is heard or read. Literacy skills are a key component of communication. Our programming is directed at supported emerging literacy in the following ways:
Reading: The goal for our Early Childhood graduates is that they should seek books out on their own, understand print concepts and the purpose and importance of writing, identify the names of most letters, make connections between many letters and their sounds, retell a story using many details, and make connections between events in a story and events in other stories or their own lives. We focus on vocabulary development starting in Ktonton as the richness of a child’s vocabulary affects all future learning. Our Phonological Awareness curriculum is full of rhyming, singing and sound games because children need to be able to play with sounds to develop into skilled readers.
Writing: Our multi-faceted expressive language program includes the Handwriting Without Tears® curriculum, which draws from years of innovation and research to provide developmentally appropriate, multisensory tools and strategies for the classroom. The program incorporates child-friendly teaching techniques, such as using music and movement to bring lessons to life, and multisensory manipulatives (such as clay) to build fine and gross motor skills. In Ktonton and Nursery, our readiness and writing lessons teach body awareness and strengthening, crayon grip, drawing, and letter and number recognition. With these foundational skills in place, the Pre-K students go on to learn basic strokes (all English letters are formed from big line/small line, big curve/small curve). The students learn to view all objects in their environment as made up of these basic shapes and they learn to draw many objects using the artistic Ed Emberley methods.
Making Connections: At the heart of learning is figuring out what’s the same and what’s different, and sorting these things into categories. Making unusual connections is also at the core of creativity.
Critical Thinking: This is the ongoing search for valid and reliable knowledge to guide beliefs, decisions, and actions.