Austin ISD PK3 Newsletter

May 2016

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From the Director

Happy Marvelous May.

Jacquie Porter, Director of Early Childhood

Welcome to May. May is a unique month filled with lasts and special events. It is also a month of thinking about winding up the year and looking ahead to next year. That can make for some hectic times. With so much happening in May, we want to keep you informed and put vital information at your fingertips so you don't waste valuable time searching for the information you need.

I know you are finalizing plans for summer, so we have included summer professional development offerings within this newsletter. Robbie has included the picture inventory for PK 3 within the newsletter. We must have a signed, returned copy back to our office by May 26 so that we can account for all of our materials. May can be a tough month for young children as the consistent routine that you have developed will sometimes have to be deviated from and will cause some anxiety. We are so grateful to Becky Flynn in our SEL dept for some tips on helping students self regulate.

I am looking forward to Salute!, The AISD event in May where we honor our Teachers of the Year for the campus, Teachers of Promise, Nationally Board Certified Teachers as well as naming our District wide honorees. I know some of you may be being honored from your campus, but I wanted to say to all of our 3PK teachers how grateful I am that you teach amazing lessons everyday. This is our first official year of this program and you all have done an amazing job pioneering an entirely new grade level. You are what makes AISD so incredible. Have a Marvelous May!

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News & Information

PK3 Furniture & Materials Inventory


The materials and curriculum that are the foundation of the AISD PK3 program were donated by generous benefactors who believe in the importance of early childhood education. Because of this, we must account for and maintain the materials and furniture in this inventory.

Below you will find a PK3 visual inventory. Please complete the following steps before you leave for the year.

  1. Before you leave for the summer you must account for all of your materials
  2. Sign off on the inventory
  3. Ask your principal to sign off as well.
  4. Send to me by May 26th.

If there is anything missing, please contact me as soon as possible!


There are several new items that have not arrived yet. They are highlighted in yellow.

Summer Professional Development

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Summer Institute Session Descriptions

Click the button below for a viewable and printable version of the summer institute session descriptions. Don't forget to register on HCP for the summer institute!
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Free Workshop for Parents!

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The Thinkery has developed an outreach program for ages 2-kinder where they take workshops into schools and early childhood centers. This is great news since it can sometimes be difficult to take small children out on field trips. This will give children the experience in their own classrooms. There are currently no scholarships or discounts for Title I schools. Go to this link for more information:
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Upcoming Themes

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Creative Art

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If you missed our last PK3 PLC, you will want to take a look at the wonderful website linked below, Exploring Art in PK3. You will find a multitude of creative art activities, classroom "hacks" for your art center, and much more.

Why Process Art?

  • A natural source of leaning
  • Offers opportunities to express experiences, feelings, and thoughts
  • Children learn how to think originally
  • Stimulates and develops imagination and critical thinking
  • Refines cognitive and creative skills
  • Enhances the child's self-esteem
  • Supports problem solving skills
  • Fosters success and mastery because there is not one right way required!
Ideas taken from Mayesky, 2006


There is new wording in the PK Guidelines Fine Arts Domain that helps guide us with our art planning.

The majority of art experiences should be model and/or sample free with focus being on the process. Teachers should avoid having a preconceived idea of what the end product should look like and refrain from “fixing” a child’s art work with the understanding that there is not a right or wrong way to create the art.

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We are very lucky to have the support of our community which enables us to provide PK3 in AISD! It is everyone's goal to make this program developmentally appropriate and use best practice in all that we do! We also have the support of our PK Guidelines that uses phrases such as "fine motor is integrated into learning centers", "developmentally appropriate practice", focus on process", and "sample-free".

If you are teaching PK3 this year or plan to teach it next year, this is a good time to evaluate your classroom activities. There should never be color sheets, tracing sheets, or worksheets in a PK3 classroom. If you need ideas for alternative activities, please seek support from Robbie or anyone in the Early Childhood Department.

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Classroom Spotlight

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What is Self-Regulation?

Becky Flynn, SEL Specialist

As schools in AISD implement Peace Areas or Safe Places, one frequently hears the term “self-regulation”. This area in the classroom is made available to students in order to help them develop the skills needed in order to “self-manage” or “self-regulate” their emotions. Below is a definition of self-regulation and its implications.

Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and manage your energy states, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that are acceptable and produce positive results such as well-being, loving relationships, and learning. It is how we deal with stressors and it lays the foundation for emotional intelligence, efficient filtering of sensory stimulation, coping effectively with stress, relating well to others, and sustaining focus.

Self-regulation involves the whole person/child:

Physical: biology, temperament

Emotional: personality, exposure to trauma, ability to inhibit impulses

Mental: focus, shifts of focus, control, management of distractions and frustration

Social: interpersonal interactions, empathy, values

Self-regulation takes energy. When a child acts out or melts down, it is because s/he has no fuel for managing stressors. That’s why it’s important to notice or inquire about what stresses your students and what soothes them: to teach them mindfulness skills; to play with them, to make sure they get exercise, and plenty of rest.

Dr. Stewart Shanker uses a car analogy to explain self-regulation, which I have paraphrased:

Self-regulation is like maintaining a consistent rate of acceleration. If we want to go 25mph, then we will need to adjust the pressure to the accelerator to allow for changes to the road, incline, and wind. Driving requires constant changes depending on traffic conditions and speed zones etc. Learning to accelerate, brake, and change gears smoothly takes time and practice. This is quite similar to children learning to self-regulate. Some children are always pushing too hard on the accelerator, while others jump between gears quickly, and some are slow to accelerate. Children need time and support to master the ability to find and sustain their optimum speed and level of arousal while dealing with a range of stimuli and stressors.

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Sensory Play!

Outdoor Music Wall

Take a look at these music walls from First Presbyterian Day School! Remember outdoor time is the perfect time to include sensory play for children. If you are interested in creating a music wall at your school, be creative and use old pots and pans, hanging silverware, etc. Check out our new pinterest board, "Outdoor Environments", for more ideas on how to spruce up your outdoor space for young children.
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Gail's Gardening Gazette

Thinking Ahead for Next Year - Your Students Can Garden!

This was your first year with a PreK 3 classroom, so gardening might have been a low priority. That is understandable, but how could you give your young students an opportunity to garden next year? One way might be to ask a gardening teacher working with older students if your students could be their "little buddies". I have seen this work beautifully on many campuses.

You could begin by finding out which teachers garden with their students and go from there. It is a great opportunity for the older students to show a younger student what they know about the gardening process...from digging up the weeds in the fall, planting sprouts and seeds, watering and caring for the young plants, and of course, harvesting their vegetables, herbs, and fruits when ripe. If you don't feel comfortable taking on gardening alone, find a Buddy!

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Classroom Environment

Physical Environment and Learning

Amber McDaniel, Special Education Coordinator

Recent advances in neurology research show that our physical environments impact growth in our brains. Environments that leave a student feeling safe and calm are more likely to impact learning in a way that is positive than environments that create anxiety or stress. Temperature, access to sunlight and vegetation in a room impact how we feel, hear, see and learn.

The temperature of a room influences the amount of academic content students retain. Research shows that students’ reading comprehension declines when room temperature rises above 74 degrees Fahrenheit and math skills decline when room temperature rises above 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm rooms tend to trigger aggression and anxiety. Cooler, but not cold, is better than warmer or hot when it comes to creating an environment that supports learning. Research indicates that the optimal temperature for learning is approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Access to sunlight also impacts learning for students. In one study, some students were given access to sunlight, while other students were exposed to increasingly less amounts of sunlight in the classroom. The results of the study showed that the students exposed to the most amount of sunlight progress on math and reading tests 20-26% faster than students in the study exposed to the least amount of lighting. In another study, researchers determined that 50 percent of children developed academic or health deficiencies as a result of insufficient light at school. When considering the overall findings from various students on lighting, we can conclude that indirect, natural sunlight is best for learning.

What children see in their physical environment can also impact learning! Research suggests that students perform better when they have a view of vegetation and/or vegetation is incorporated into the classroom environment. Some teachers incorporate plants into their classroom as a way to decrease anxiety for students and create an environment that supports learning. Using colors such as warm yellow and light blue will calm overactive students and support cognition.

Physical environments are important! For students to learn, grow, behave and perform optimally, do your best to orchestrate a powerful learning environment incorporating the elements of temperature, natural light and visual appearance!

- Adapted from Teaching with the Brain in Mind by Eric Jensen

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Stress Busting Tips for Teachers

By the time the school day has ended you've probably made more decisions than a Fortune 500 executive, been on your feet longer than a marathon runner, negotiated peace agreements any diplomat would envy, and given your vocal cords a workout. What can you do to reduce the stress? You can't check into a spa for six weeks, but you can benefit from this collection of stress-busting strategies that we've collected on our AISD Early Childhood Pinterest board!
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Professional Development

There are no professional development offerings in May. Check out our summer PD offerings at the top of this newsletter!!
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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