Austin ISD PK4 Newsletter

January 2016

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From the Director

Jacquie Porter, Director of Early Childhood

Happy Happy Happy 2016! I hope your break was amazing and restful. I wish you a new year full of joy!

This is the time of year when everyone gets a clean slate and thinks about how to make changes in the coming year.

Since I love lists, I, of course, made a list of things I want to accomplish in 2016. At the beginning of each school year, I have the privilege of talking to our new early childhood teachers during their in-service. I always ask them to write down where they want to be when the first semester ends and January begins. I ask them to think about what they want their classroom to look like, what they want their students to know, and what they want to feel like by this time of year. They write it down, seal it in an envelope and then on the last day before winter break, I drop it into the mail for them to receive during the first week of January.

The exercise is simply an opportunity for self-reflection. It allows our new teachers an opportunity to think about their teaching and gives them an entire semester to make adjustments if they feel they are needed. Even if you are not a new teacher, this is a great time for you to think about your school year. I hope you will take this opportunity to make this year all that you wish it to be!

Have a wonderful 2016!!!

Thinking about February?

If you are already planning for February, here are a couple of ideas that I found that I thought you might like!

1. Shadows and silhouettes! Yep, pull out that old overhead projector and allow your students to make shadows on the wall. We even projected the light and allowed the children to act out stories behind a sheet for their classmate audience. (

2. Silhouettes. I love making these for parents at Valentine's Day, but they are a great deal of work. However, had a great idea of simply taking a photograph of the silhouette of the child! How Easy!

3. Don't forget to allow your children to decorate a box for them to crawl through on Groundhog's Day. Once they crawl out they can see if they see their shadow! These make great pictures, so be sure to assign a few classroom photographers. (

Gail's Gardening Gazette

Gail Laubenthal, Early Childhood Consultant

Happy Winter! Depending on the day, your children may or may not be feeling the chill of the winter season. And just because it is winter, doesn't mean that you have to put your gardening tools away. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Plant some seeds indoors, such as rye grass seed in the shape of the first letter in the child's name
  • Grow alfalfa sprouts on a wet sponge and only spritz with water to see the seeds sprout and grow
  • Grow some bulbs...Amaryllis and paper whites do well, even if you just use rocks and water instead of soil
  • Cover pinecones in peanut butter and roll in birdseed so that the birds are well fed in the winter...hang them in a tree where the children play or by the classroom window so they can observe the birds eating their treats
  • You can still plant Pansys and Johnny-Jump-Ups in the garden...they love the cold weather
  • This is the time to plant onion starts in the garden and so much more!

For other tips on what to do and plant in the garden this month, go to The Natural Gardener's site (below).

With a Grain of Sand

Crystal Young, PK Teacher, Sunset Valley

Last month we talked a little bit about how “invitations to play” can be set up using your kinetic sand to promote creative thinking. Now let’s talk about how props can be added to promote pretend play. The possibilities are endless. If you run out of ideas, just ask your students, sometimes they are just so creative!

Winter Sensory Play

Liana Young, EC TLI Specialist

Sensory activities provide children with meaningful avenues for learning. Sensory tables or sensory tubs rotated regularly with a variety of sensory materials are worthwhile investments for hours of learning, exploring, and fun. Because children learn best by having "hands on" experiences with materials, sensory activities are vital to young children's learning and support cognitive, language, social and emotional and physical development. Here are some ideas for “winter sensory play” you can incorporate with your January themes.

SEL Corner

Becky Flynn, SEL Specialist

The "holiday blues" is not just an abstract concept. Here are tips for dealing with them in the classroom:

  • Re-establish classroom routines. Before and after-school or child-care routines and rituals are especially important for promoting children's sense of security and stability.
  • Facilitate healthy eating with reliable and consistent snack and meal times.
  • Make sure students get daily indoor and outdoor play and exercise.
  • Express to parents the importance for arranging adequate sleep for their children with dependable bedtimes.
  • Continue your classroom schedule and continue jobs and responsibilities for students.
  • Plan for at least weekly one-on-one time with each student.
  • Re-commit to using positive guidance techniques.
  • Be patient as everyone gradually gets back into the swing of things.

How Do I Manage Clean Up Time?!

Robbie Polan, Childcare Liason

Talk about Expectations and Provide Visual Cues

Make clean up time expectations explicit. Use visuals as an example of your expectations, procedures and routines.

Have Mini-Lessons
Have clean up mini-lessons frequently. Each lesson can focus on a different clean up skill that your children need to know. Make the lessons very brief! Let the children participate in the lesson and model the skill.

Have Appropriate Expectations
Children can do a good job helping to clean up the classroom but there will be areas that you may need to go back and finish later. Don’t expect a spotless floor or table, instead make clean up time about encouraging children to participate and do their very best.

Prepare children for Clean-up Time

Give children several warnings so they can prepare for the clean up transition. A few minutes before clean up time begins, go around to each child or group of children and give them a heads up that it is almost time to clean up. Be specific. For example, if a group of children are playing in the sand table, tell them that when you announce that it is clean up time, they will need to shake all the sand off of their hands, then help sweep the sand up off the floor.

Use a Clean Up Song

After preparing your students for clean up time and giving them reminding them that clean up time is about to begin, wait a few minutes then begin singing the clean up song. As you sing the song, go around the room and gently guide students back to the messes you want them to help with. Another option is to play a special song that is only used during clean up.

Be Consistent
Make your clean up routine consistent and don’t give up on the children. Your PK4 children will learn expectations more easily as they become familiar with the routine.

Set Up the Children for Success
If you want your children to be successful during clean up time take a look at your classroom organization. Make sure that toys and shelves are labeled and it is obvious where materials belong.

Don’t let messes get too out of control. if the mess gets too out of hand, children will be overwhelmed and unable to clean up. Remember, PK4 children are still developing their cognitive ability to sort and classify items. Clean up time is a skill they must learn.

Give Children Recognition of the Work they are Doing
As children are helping, let them know that they are good helpers and recognize the work they have done. If you have a child that isn’t helping, redirect the child to an area that needs some help and ask that they help his/her friends. Make clean up a rewarding experience.

Professional Development

Early Childhood Special Topics: Engage Learners with PBL

Wednesday, Jan. 13th, 3:30-5:30pm

906 West Lynn Street

Austin, TX

This is a continuation from the Fall class. Cohort members are already registered.

PK Team Leader Curriculum Update: 3rd 9 Weeks North

Wednesday, Feb. 3rd, 3:30-5:30pm

2608 Richcreek Road

Austin, TX

Registration available on HCP within a week.

Lucy Read PK School

PK Team Leader Curriculum Update: 3rd 9 Weeks South

Wednesday, Feb. 10th, 3:30-5:30pm

5200 Freidrich Lane

Austin, TX

Registration available on HCP within a week.

Uphaus EC Center

About Us

Jacquie Porter, Director

Debra Caldwell, Administrative Assistant

Diane Smith, Data Processing Assistant

Marlene Beldin, Clerk

Irene Campos, EC TLI Specialist

Brian Mowry, EC Specialist

Robbie Polan, Childcare Liaison

Melinda Servantez, EC Specialist

Sylina Valdez, Administrative Supervisor

Liana Young, EC TLI Specialist