Austin ISD PK4 Newsletter

October 2015

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WELCOME TO OCTOBER!

Welcome to October! We owe a big THANK YOU to Sylina Valdez for our new format. We hope you like it as much as we do!

From the Director

Jacquie Porter, Director of Early Childhood


Happy October!

I am a list maker. I have an ongoing to-do list at work. I also have an ongoing list at home. It is a 4 block list. One block contains to-do tasks. These are the things that must be done when I get home. Another block contains a to-go list. These are the places I need to go before I go home or this weekend. A to-buy list, this is the place I jot down the items that need to be purchased for next week and the last box is one I learned from Gail Boushey. It is the to-be list. Gail describes her to-be list by asking the question, “What do I want to be today?” Do I want to be happy, loving, peaceful, grateful, balanced, kind or strong? Gail says, “Put on a mind-set of seeing things through the lens of what you want to be, and practice."

Last week, I decided to work on being more joyful. I was in a meeting that lasted way longer than it should, but I reminded myself that the decisions that were made in that meeting were making the lives of teachers and children easier in AISD. That made me joyful. I was in another classroom this week where I saw a teacher working on testing for CPALLS+. The children were so excited to get to work one on one with the teacher. Their joy was pretty contagious and I felt myself being joyful even in this difficult task.

This month is a pretty hectic one. Parent conferences, report cards, and student assessment windows take time in our busy schedules this month. The to-be list is helpful in reminding us how to positively look at the events in our lives. This month we want to-be a big support to you. The newsletter is packed with items to help you in your classroom, which will help you nurture your class, without having to search for resources. I hope you enjoy this month’s newsletter.

Important Dates

  • Monday, October 12th- Parent Conferences
  • Friday, October 16th- End of 1st 9 weeks
  • Thursday, October 22nd- Read for the Record
  • Friday, October 30th- BOY CIRCLE Assessment Closes
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Tips for Parent-Teacher Conferences

1. Approach Parents with Positive Assumptions

2. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

3. Be Solution Oriented

4. Take the Opportunity to Learn

5. Show that You Care


(Taken from the article below)

Instructional Tips

Gail's Garden Gazette

October Gardening Ideas:


  • Planting in the garden
  • Pull unwanted weeds
  • Go on a seed and leaf hunt
  • Begin noticing changes in the environment: weather, color of leaves, animal activity
  • Harvest and eat from children’s garden
  • Plant bluebonnet seeds
  • Teaching Channel Garden Video
  • October Planting options


Science Activities:


  • Exploring the characteristics of living and non-living things
  • Comparing real and pretend (not-real) things: real leaves, plastic leaves
  • Learning about plants and what they need to live, grow, and begin their life cycle
  • Understanding that plants have parts: roots, stems, leaves, fruit, seeds
  • Exploring the parts of the plant that we eat
  • Exploring the characteristics of pumpkins (could also compare to an orange)
  • Pumpkin math activities – measurement, counting, sensorial experiences
  • Pumpkin life cycle
  • Sorting, spooning, pouring, and planting seeds


Literacy Activities:


  • Word cards with moveable alphabet and real/realistic objects
  • Reading books about fall and pumpkins
  • Fall poems and songs

Purposeful Play-Indoors and outdoors

We know that purposeful play is crucial for the development of young children. It contributes positively to their cognitive, physical, social and emotional development. When teachers take time to plan an environment where purposeful play is facilitated children benefit greatly. The month of October offers many wonderful opportunities to facilitate purposeful play both indoors and outdoors.


The pretend and learn center can be transformed into a number of different environments that fit with your theme for the month of October such as a pumpkin patch or a fire station. Add fall items to your sensory bin to get students into the fall spirit.

Facilitate purposeful play outdoors by introducing items to your outdoor environment that are inviting and engaging. You might add a variety of balls and maybe even introduce your students to the game of kick ball. Add child friendly digging and constructing items and throw in a pile of leaves to add a touch of fall.

Seriously Science!

Over the last two years, our PK4 Curriculum Writers have prepared a series of science lessons that can be used to enhance the Scholastic curriculum as well as your daily science lessons. This summer more lessons were added and others were enhanced to better support our teachers. This weekend all of these lessons will be uploaded to the Early Childhood Internal Website and will be ready for you to use. To find the lessons you will go to the Pre-K section of our site, under the curriculum tab.


Thank you goes to this year's Science writers: Cheryl Wootton, Diana McMillan, Thelma Herrera, and Crystal Young for their wonderful work. Many other teachers have offered ideas, given feedback and helped in other ways; our thanks go to you as well!

Happy Science!

Literacy Lane

In September, principals were treated to a professional development session on Fluency, based on the book by Jennifer S. Reading Strategies. Many of you are working through this book on your campuses, so I wanted to remind you of the things that are already happening in your classrooms that promote fluency in a big way.

Remember fluency practices begin at reading level E, but this can be practiced long before level e by using a poetry chart, readers theater, a repetitive book or a big book. Repeated reading and allowing the children to "read" with you as you read enables them to match their phrasing to the phrasing and intonation of an experienced reader.

Focus on Punctuation - Providing opportunities for children to practice reading with expression and allowing them to hear a good fluent reading is very important to developing fluency. If you are reading Brown Bear Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr, it is an excellent book for teaching fluency and the difference between a question and a statement. By charting the story, it will make it easy to use to teach punctuation and its importance to reading and writing. A story chart or poetry chart for each morning is a great way to illustrate the importance of punctuation and intonation. First read the chart in a flat voice and then allow the children to mark the punctuation in the passage. If a child circles a period, the rest of the class says, that is a place to stop. If they circle a question mark, that is a place the voice goes up. Once all of the punctuation is circled, read the message again, this time with the correct intonation and expression. Using this strategy several times a week will allow your children to have an authentic example of why punctuation is important.

Wonderful Writing!

Conference time is coming. This is a great time for prekindergarten students to draw a self portrait and write their name for their parents. During conferencing time the teacher can talk about the developmental process of writing. Share the picture with the parents, but keep the original. In February, at conference time, bring out the Fall copy and a February self portrait and name by the student and let the parents see how much the child has grown!

Sensationally SEL

In My Heart by Jo Witek is our newly found book about feelings for October. This wonderful book provides vocabulary beyond "happy" and "sad" for feelings that children experience. The easy to understand format is appropriate for 3 year olds and certainly still relevant for kindergarteners. The die cut heart that continues throughout the book makes it a fun book to explore again and again.

With a Grain of Sand

Crystal Young, Pre-K Teacher, Sunset Valley Elementary


Writing letters doesn’t always have to include markers, pencils or crayons. Kinetic sand provides a tactile surface for drawing and pre-writing skills that allows children to strengthen the muscles in their hands. These are the muscles they will need to properly hold writing utensils in the future. Children can use their fingers, toothpicks, Q-tips, the blunt end of a paintbrush or a stick to scribble, doodle, draw shapes or make pre-writing strokes in the sand. When children are ready to start practicing letter formations, give them the above mentioned tools, as well as letter cards for them to copy in the sand. The kinetic sand leaves good clear lines that the children can see how they formed the letters. Here is a link to alphabet cards that include the different strokes used to form the letters.

Starting Write!

Click on the link below for tips on invented spelling and writing with preschoolers.

Follow me to the Internal Website. Out with the old and In with the new!

We have a new logo! Now, we are all part of the Austin ISD Teaching and Learning Community. Instead of looking for the Office of Academics tile, you will look for the Teaching and Learning Community tile.


Steps to find the Early Childhood Internal Website:

  1. Sign in to the AISD Cloud
  2. Click on Department Websites (white writing on the bottom of the page) OR
  3. Search for "Teaching and Learning Community
  4. Click on the Teaching and Learning Community tile
  5. Scroll down to the Early Childhood Tile

Vocabulary Lessons

This summer, our curriculum writers put together a resource filled with 5-minute vocabulary lessons to help build children's vocabulary through rich and playful dialogue. The resource can be found on our internal website using the steps above. Once on the Early Childhood page, click on "Prekindergarten", then click on "Unit Vocabulary". The document is called "PreK Vocabulary Transitions and Activities".


Our three Pre-k centers will be using these as 5-minute lessons during the day.

ABC Rugs

We are asking that you please not put duct tape on the beautiful ABC rugs that were purchased a few years ago for all pre-k and kindergarten classrooms. When the tape is removed it leaves a black residue that is then hard to clean.

Thank you for helping us keep our early childhood classrooms looking top notch!

New Blocks!

This year we will be replacing BLOCKS in our pre-k and kindergarten classrooms! Be on the lookout for an email coming soon to request the new blocks replacement.

Pre-K Teacher List

Help us update our records by filling out the form below. Only 1 person per team needs to submit a form.

October Professional Development

Nature Calls!

Tuesday, Oct. 6th, 3:30-5:30pm

4900 Gonzales Street

Austin, TX

Allan Elementary, Room 108

Register on HCP Section # 77940

Scientist of the Week Webinar

Wednesday, Oct. 7th, 3:30-5:30pm

This is an online event.

Register on HCP Section #78108

Using Rituals & Routines to Develop Self-Regulation

Tuesday, Oct. 20th, 3:30-5:30pm

5005 Caswell Avenue

Austin, TX

Ridgetop Elementary

Register on HCP Section #78966

About Us

Jacquie Porter, Director

Debra Caldwell, Administrative Assistant

Diane Smith, Data Processing Assistant

Irene Campos, EC TLI Specialist

Brian Mowry, EC Specialist

Robbie Polan, Childcare Liason

Melinda Servantez, EC Specialist

Sylina Valdez, Administrative Supervisor

Amber McDaniel, Special Education Instructional Coordinator