It is pure joy and magic entering the Early Learning Program at BASIS Independent McLean. Students are full of smiles and engaging in a variety of activities. The walls are decorated with many projects from math and art, to literacy, and more. We sat down with Mrs. Cassandra Korik, the Director of Early Learning Program at BASIS Independent McLean, to ask her the top seven questions from prospective parents about our Pre-K1 (3s) and Pre-K2 (4s) program.
FAQ #1: How do you balance rigor and play?
We are able to balance rigor with developmentally-appropriate practice in a joy-infused classroom. Teachers lead our above grade level curriculum in a fun and interactive way, meeting both the academic needs and interests of students. We offer engaging and individualized lessons within each of our Discovery Blocks of Learning: Social and Emotional Development, Language and Literacy, Math Discovery, Expressive Arts, Mandarin, Movement, World Discovery, and STEM. Learning becomes more real and tangible for our students when they are able to apply knowledge in their own lives. We see this through teacher-guided play. This kind of intentional teacher-facilitated play contributes to the many foundational skills children need for later school success, including self-regulation, social skills, creativity, original thinking, oral language development, eye-hand coordination, literacy and math skills, and positive attitudes toward problem solving. Through these combined practices, student learning accelerates.
FAQ #2: How do you communicate with families?
We begin to communicate before the first day of school. In August, teachers conducted home visits to meet all Early Learning Program students and their families. These visits set the tone for building strong relationships and giving teachers, parents, and students a better opportunity for connection, communication, and collaboration. Teachers benefited from learning more about their students’ interests and experiences and about parents’ goals for their children. Parents appreciated a teacher meeting them in their comfort zone and taking the time to listen to their questions, concerns, hopes, and dreams.
Every week during the school year, a newsletter with photos and detailed information on what’s happening in the classroom is sent to parents. We also discuss ideas on making connections to learning at home. Traditionally in the BASIS curriculum, students Kindergarten through Grade 12 use a Communications Journal or CJ as we call it. In our Early Learning Program, students use a CJ Junior. The CJ Junior is a way for students to share what they are doing in school with their families, getting them in the habit of having messages go back-and-forth from home-to-school, and setting them up for successful CJ use in Kindergarten and beyond.
FAQ #3: How does the two teacher model work?
We have two teachers in the classroom at all times—one is an expert in math and the other in literacy. This model enables these teachers to understand the difference that knowledge has across disciplines. It also provides the opportunity to have a deeper relationship with students and understanding learning styles. When an educator is only able to focus on a key discipline, there is more in-depth oversight and connectivity. Students have an individual Subject Expert Teacher for STEM Discovery, Art, Music, Drama, Mandarin, and Movement.
FAQ #4: What is the approach to Literacy?
The early years are critical for literacy development. Literacy learning begins at birth. During the early childhood years, children engage in emergent reading and writing behaviors that form the foundation for conventional literacy. By the end of our 4s program, our students are reading and writing. Students' reading and writing abilities improve greatly during this period when they are provided with a literacy-rich, supportive environment where teachers provide appropriate, explicit instruction and numerous opportunities for practicing newly developed skills.
We provide differentiated groups and teachers may shift the focus of a lesson depending on how they see students progressing.
FAQ #5: And, what about math?
Children's understanding of counting, number symbols, and number operations are fundamental to their success with more complex mathematics. Our teachers play a critical role in helping children develop an understanding of number concepts and operations through intentional teaching during planned activities and daily routines. Just as it is in Literacy, Math instruction is differentiated to meet the differing needs of our students.
Math lessons are meaningful and connect to children's daily lives and background. Teachers encourage students to collaborate with peers, to express their understandings through various means of representation, to use invented strategies, and to discuss and reason about their understandings. Further, students are presented with a variety of problem types and use relational thinking as they explore mathematical equivalence situations in different problem formats.
FAQ #6: What opportunities for leadership do students have in the classroom?
Throughout the day students have many opportunities for choice—"Do you want to tiptoe to Music class, or skip?" "Do you want to use the red crayon or the blue?" They also have entire blocks of time where they choose what to play with and in what ways. Student also have jobs for which they take responsibility. We are a community that comes to together and leans on students and peers. We celebrate individual strengths, which is a part of leadership understanding and development.
FAQ #7: Tell me about the teachers?
They come in and give these children their all. As a team and through peer-to-peer support, teachers are problem solving together. There is a lot of partnership and collaboration. They are constantly thinking about how to improve. Our teachers conduct peer observations to learn from one another, as they are each other’s greatest resources. The teachers truly are magic.
BASIS Independent McLean is a preschool-grade 12 private school, located in McLean, Virginia. To learn more about admissions or to apply, please click here.