Austin ISD PK4 Newsletter

February 2016

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From the Director

Jacquie Porter, Director of Early Childhood

I hope you had a Joyful January and are excited to welcome Fantastic February. February is so much fun. There are so many special days in February that it is like a month long celebration. With the 100th day of school, Groundhogs Day, Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day, Conference Day, and President's Day - this month is pretty busy! This does look like it will be a great month.

Just a reminder, we have changed the EOY calendar to allow you more time for intervention with your students. Testing dates are February 26th-March 31. Testing dates for TLI campuses are May 2-May 13.

If you haven’t spent your prekindergarten funds, January 29, 2016 was the last day to spend. If you have any questions, concerns, please contact Sylina Valdez at

Our PK team leader meetings are coming up on February 03 (North) at Lucy Read and February 10 (South) at Uphaus. If you are unable to attend we will be hosting a webinar at the South site on February 10, 2016 and you can simply login at 3:30 to participate. You don’t have to be the team leader to attend, they are open to anyone who wants the information!

This month contains our Conference day with parents. If you are looking for ways to enhance your parent/teacher conferences, check out this tip sheet from the Harvard Family Research Project.

Prekindergarten Registration is coming up in April. We will be sending you materials in March as well as prekindergarten orientation materials in case you want to host an orientation at your site. (Prekindergarten orientation is optional on campuses.) We will talk more about registration at our upcoming Team Leader Meeting.

With Dr. Seuss’s birthday coming soon, we have also included some ideas for celebrating.

So many awesome things are happening in our prekindergarten classrooms because of you. Thanks so much for all you do for our students. You are wonderful.


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News & Information

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Blocks Update

Sylina Valdez, EC Admin. Supervisor

If you ordered blocks back in December, the order has been placed. Since this was a very large order, it will take longer than normal to receive the shipment. Please be patient and we will do our best to keep you updated as much as possible.

The blocks will be shipped to each campus with the name of each teacher who placed an order.

Speech-Language Services

Julie L. Miller, M. Ed., CCC-SLP, ATP

Special Education Administrative Supervisor for Speech-Language Services, Occupational Therapy Services, Physical Therapy Services and Assistive Technology

Did you know.....

  • Your campus SLP can provide classroom strategies to encourage communication and language development in general?
  • Your campus SLP can provide information for parents on language development and developmental milestones?
  • Your campus SLP can answer questions about speech sounds and speech fluency related to 3 & 4 year olds?
  • Your campus SLP is open to conversations with you?

Feel free to contact your campus SLP if you have questions and concerns about speech and language development in your classroom.

Thanks for your dedication to our students!

The Thinkery

The Thinkery has asked if we could spread the news about their upcoming programming!

These specially designed programs are developmentally appropriate for pre- K, ages 2-5 years.

· Thinkery’s Early Learners staff will travel offsite to a pre-k site to deliver these interactive programs.

· Format: 1 hour program for up to 20 children OR Two, 30 minutes sessions for up to 20 children (10 each session); includes 1-2 Thinkery Early Learner Educators; activities and materials for hands-on exploration; one topic option per program/session.

· Registration: contact Heather Singh, Gallery Education Manager (registration & more information) to reserve a program today.

· *Restrictions: Must be located within 30 miles of Thinkery (1830 Simond Ave, 78723).

· Program Offerings:

o Little Thinkers: Blast Off! (Ages 2-5 years)

§ Children will clap, whack and stomp their way to the sky with an interactive exploration of rockets! Thinkery STEAM Educators will provide materials for children to build and launch their own models, while guiding them through an investigation of the forces that put them into motion.

o Little Thinkers: Make it Go! (Ages 2-5 years)

§ Children will build a mega track to put to the test! Together, they’ll tinker and make a LEGO® car to explore ideas about energy. Thinkery STEAM Educators will guide them through a hands-on investigation about ramps, angles, friction and more!

o Little Thinkers: Storytelling wit Dash and Dot! (Ages 4-5 years)

§ Dash and Dot love going on adventures! Children will collaborate to retell a familiar story using robots to share their favorite parts! Thinkery STEAM Educators will guide children through steps to bring these characters to life.

· Pricing:

o $350 (up to 20 students for 60 minutes)

o $100 (each consecutive 60 minute session)

· Dates & Times:

o Tuesdays and Thursdays.

o 9:30a, 11:30a or 1:30p start times

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Instructional Tips

Suggested themes for this month are:

  • Things That Move
  • Going Green
  • Using My Imagination
  • Tools We Use OR Force and Motion
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Literacy Corner!

One for the Road - Thinking Ahead to Dr. Seuss Day in March

Jacquie Porter, Director of EC

Many of you celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday on March 2 every year. This year I found a fun game I wanted to link you to because it is easy, fun, and a great way to practice mathematics skills.

The free download can be found at Dr. Seuss' Busy Bag on the Second Story Window site.

The game can be played two ways. Pair the children to play this game. Each child will need their own Cat in the Hat's hat. Choose whether the high number or the low number will be the criteria for winning today. Then allow the first child to roll the dice and add that number of stripes to his hat. The second child then rolls the dice and adds stripes to her hat. After both have had a chance to put their strips on the hat, they compare hats to see who has more or less stripes. If the criteria for winning today is least, the child with the least number of stripes wins. If the criteria for winning today is most, the child with the most stripes wins.

The game is also available and easy to play with just adding stripes to go along with the number on the dice or for using stripes with numerals instead of blank stripes.

Teaching Tips from the Texas School Ready Newsletter

Tips for Phonological Awareness

Use the links below to access the CIRCLE Activity collection about Phonological Awareness and tips focusing on rhyming. Please note you must be logged into Engage for these links to work.

Rhyming Rationale:

  • To direct children’s attention to the similarities and differences of the sounds of language at the end of words.
  • To focus attention on increasingly smaller parts in words.

Children will expand phonological awareness by identifying if pairs of words do or do not rhyme.

Small Group Valentine Rhyme Activity:

Before the activity, pick ONE METHOD that children will use to respond when they hear a rhyme:

  • students will put their hands up in the air in the shape of a heart, OR
  • students will put their hand on their heart, OR
  • students will hold up a paper heart cut out.

Start the activity by saying:

Valentine, Valentine,

You're a special friend of mine.

Listen closely, do your part-

If my words rhyme, up goes your heart (or say "cover your heart" if doing that version)

Then say two words, and let the students respond!

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Gail's Gardening Gazette: Properties of Matter in the Garden

Gail Laubenthal, Early Childhood Consultant

Is it rough? Is it smooth? or Is it hard? Is it soft? I will never forget the moment in my PreK classroom when I realized that my young children were using the terms, smooth and soft interchangeably. We had been learning about the properties of matter throughout the year, but hearing them use the word "soft" when rubbing there fingers over a smooth rock really shocked me. Think about all of the smooth things around your classroom and outside in the garden. What about things that might be soft? The purpose of this article is to encourage you to begin using these 4 words (any other descriptive words) everyday. Instead of telling the child to go get a brown block; ask them to bring you a smooth, brown, long block, unless you are wanting him/her to bring you a rough, red, small block (bristle block).

In the garden or on your playscape, you can find rough textures, such as tree bark. Of course, if you have trees with smooth bark, you might ask them to compare the textures. I have been doing this with my young grandchildren, and now when we go outside, they run to the trees in the yard, proclaiming, "Rough!" or "Smooth!" Of course, you could encourage them to use more descriptive words like, "The tall, brown tree has hard, rough bark...Wow - 4 descriptive words! Don't miss these teachable moments. What about how the herbs smell? What does the dirt feel like...what does it look like...what does it smell like? How does the worm feel?

To see what you can be planting and doing in your February garden, go to :

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Sensory Play!

Irene Campos, EC TLI Specialist

The Sensory Table is a perfect place for young children to participate in hands on exploration. It is an area that allows children to become calm, focused and engaged and use the senses to experiment and learn. Allow your students to explore new textures and materials in your sensory bin. February is the perfect month to add bright colors and valentine themed items. Try adding some Oobleck and watch as your students have fun exploring this new texture. The recipe can be found at the link below. You may want to make the Oobleck with your students as a class activity then place it in your sensory bin for sensory play.

Another idea is to add conversation hearts to your sensory bin along with colored rice or another filler. Add tongs and valentine themed items so that children can strengthen fine motor skills as they match or sort conversation hearts. Another option is to add student pictures and names to your bin. Students will have fun matching their friend's pictures and names or sorting pictures in different ways. Adding two copies of each picture will allow them to play a matching game. Be sure to add containers and tools for pouring and scooping.

Take it with a Grain of Sand: Speech & Language Development

Crystal Young, Pre-K Teacher, Sunset Valley Elementary

Sensory play with kinetic sand appeals to children of all ages and provides many opportunities for language acquisition and enrichment. Of course, the sand doesn’t do this by itself, YOU will need to stop by occasionally during play and interact with the children.

Expanding and extending student’s language should be your goal during these conversations. Expansions are when you repeat what the student is saying but adding in missing words or correcting grammar. For example, a student might say “It fall.” You could then say, “Yes, it’s falling.” Extensions are similar to expansions, but go one step further. In the above example you could extend the sentence by saying, “Yes, it’s falling in slow motion.”

These conversations should also include asking such open ended questions as “What do you think about…”, What do you think will happen if…”, “How do we make…”, or “Why does this…” These types of questions encourage children to use critical thinking skills while requiring them to use more language to explain themselves.

Here are some examples of the vocabulary you might use or hear your students use as they play with the sand; slow motion, stretchy, flowing, sticks together, fluid, sticky, mold-able, crumbles, crumbly, crumbling and cracking.

Following these tips, along with slowing down, being present, getting down to the child’s level and making eye contact while following their lead will help your students’ language develop as you engage with them.

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Valentine's Activities

Catherine Bell, Pre-K Teacher, Davis Elementary


Paper heart and straw necklaces – small paper hearts in a variety of colors, plastic drinking straws cut into approximately ½ inch pieces. Children can select two colors they like and create a pattern or they can create a simple A/B pattern with straw/heart/straw heart. HEB has a packet of colored straws for $1.00 in their kitchen section. A small paper heart punch can be purchased at Michael’s if you don’t have a die cut heart shape at your school.

Visual Discrimination

Die cut several hearts and add stickers. You can trim the hearts using scissors with different edges. Create a work mat that has different hearts on it and a matching heart that is loose. All hearts can be placed on one tray with the children working to select the heart that is the exact match.

Valentine Card Holder

Two large paper plates folded in half and stapled to form a heart shape. The children can paint their heart shape any color they choose. Glitter can be sprinkled on the wet paint to add more to the heart. The children can select two pipe cleaners to make the hanger on each completed heart. A typed name label can be added to each child’s card holder and hung in the classroom along a chalkboard rail or the back edge of a cabinet. On Valentine’s Day the children will take turns reading the names on the envelopes of their Valentine’s cards and placing them in the corresponding card holder. I have had great success with this activity because by this time of year the children are able to read the names of their classmates. Hang card holders in alphabetical order “just like the word wall”.

Heart Musical Chairs

A different version of musical chairs. Cut out enough large paper hearts for each child in the classroom and laminate. Attach to the carpet of color of your classroom with a piece of tape on the back. Each child stands on a heart and the music starts. As they are moving around remove a heart each time the music stops. However instead of a child being “out” they find a friend’s hand to hold and continue on with the game. By the time one heart is left, all of the children are together as one group/one class family.

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Classroom Management Tips


Robbie Polan, EC Childcare Liason


  1. GooNoodle is easy to set up and most importantly, fun for children! Go to
  2. GoNoodle gets kids moving with short interactive activities.
  3. GoNoodle activities can improve moods.
  4. You can connect GoNoodle with your curriculum through Gonoodle plus, which has content-aligned activities.
  5. AISD teachers have free access to GoNoodle Plus.
  6. GoNoodle activities are differentiated based on grade level.
  7. Teachers can make GoNoodle classes and save favorite activities.
  8. GoNoodle has brain breaks for any and every part of the day.
  9. Some of the GoNoodle brain break activities energize while other activities calm, focus, or even instruct students.
  10. GoNoodle has blog support with ideas and articles written by classroom teachers.

Meet Maximo!

Maximo is a blue monkey in a tux who leads children in yoga poses and breathing.

The Maximo GoNoodle Channel is filled with stretches and calming activity break breaks within the instructional day to reenergize and refocus students.

A favorite Maximo activity is The Star of the Show. Your PK4 students will enjoy this calming activity while they build their core and self-regulation!

Try the TightRope activity lead by Maximo!

SEL: Scripted Stories for Social Situations- TIP for Teachers

Becky Flynn, AISD SEL Specialist

The rules or expectations of social interactions are typically learned by example. Children with communication difficulties and /or behavior challenges often do not learn these interactions incidentally, but may need more explicit instructions through a scripted description of the social interaction.

Scripted stories for social situations help children understand social interactions, situations, expectations, and social cues. Scripted stories provide information regarding a social situation. When children are given information that helps them understand expectations of a situation, their problem behavior within that situation is reduced or minimized. Teachers can use these simple stories as a tool to prepare the child for a new situation, or to teach new skills. The following is an example of a scripted story explaining when it’s appropriate to run.

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There are 3 types of sentences used in writing a Scripted Story:

  1. Descriptive sentences: objectively defined anticipated events where a situation occurs, who is involved, what they are doing and why. (e.g., When people are inside, they walk.)
  2. Prescriptive sentences: describe the internal status of the person or persons involved, their thoughts, feelings, or moods. (e.g., Running inside could hurt me or other people.)
  3. Directive sentences: are individualized statements of desired responses stated in a positive manner. They may begin “I can try…” or “I will work on…” Try to avoid sentences starting with “Do not” or definitive statements.

A Scripted Story should have 3 to 5 descriptive and perspective sentences for each directive sentence. Avoid using too many directive sentences. (e.g., I will try to walk inside.)

Write in first person and on the child’s developmental skill. Also remember to use pictures that fit within the child’s developmental skill level to supplement text.

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Professional Development Offerings

PK Team Leader Curriculum Update: 3rd 9 Weeks North (Section #80271)

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

2608 Richcreek Road

Austin, TX

Location: Lucy Read PK School

Register on HCP- Section #80271

PK Team Leader Curriculum Update: 3rd 9 Weeks South (Section #80272)

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

5200 Freidrich Lane

Austin, TX

Location: Uphaus EC Center

Register on HCP- Section #80272

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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