Is your child still crying in school? photoWhat would you feel if you were brought to a new place, without any familiar face and made to do things you haven’t done before? I would probably cry, too! Now, you may ask why the other kids aren’t crying and your child is.. Kids handle stress in various ways. I remember my eldest crying on the first day of Fourth Grade because she had just transferred schools. What makes them stop crying? A feeling of security. How do they achieve this?

  1. Familiarity. Preschoolers usually hate surprises! They feel more safe in familiar surroundings. Also, the more they get to know their teacher, the more familiar the teacher would be to your child. Teachers would usually calm the crying students by staying close to them during class or assigning a co-teacher to focus on those experiencing anxiety.
  2. Transitions and Routines. If you notice preschool schedules, it has repeating blocks of time or routines. This allows your child to expect what will happen next. Knowing this gives your child a sense of control and security.
  3. Positive Images. In order for school to be a happy place for your child, he should have a positive image of it. He will eventually enjoy the activities, the playground and games with classmates. Encourage him to talk about it at home by asking him about his day.
  4. Assurance from YOU. If your child reads stress in YOUR face as well then that will also be his prevailing emotion. Try to keep a reassuring demeanor when you are dealing with your child’s separation anxiety. Keep your statements short and clear, “Mommy, will pick you up after school.” “Mommy will leave now. Teacher will take care of you in the classroom.” Promising that you will “just be outside” or saying “I’ll give you a reward if you stop crying.”usually does not help. It gives your child a false sense of security.
  5. Working with your child’s school and teacher. Your child’s teacher is an expert in child development and separation anxiety. Listen to what they have to say about the issue and follow their advice on how your child can overcome it. What do teachers usually suggest?
    • “Leave and Cleave” – When dropping off your child, it is best to leave as soon as you drop your child off. We had a student who cried when he would arrive in school with his mommy. Out of worry, his mommy would stay with him until classes would start. We noticed that our student would stop crying when his mom leaves. When we asked the mom to just drop him off and leave, our student had an easier time overcoming her anxiety.
    • Have someone else bring your child to school. We had a case once that a student would cry when Mommy would bring her to school and wouldn’t cry when Daddy brings her. We asked Daddy to bring her for the first month of school.

In my 15 years of teaching, all our young students who experienced separation anxiety eventually overcame their anxiety after a few weeks of attending school. Believe me, they WILL stop crying… if both you and the school do your parts well. If your child is still crying after a month of going to school, it is best to ask for a meeting with your child’s teacher to discuss what further steps you may take. You may ask your school the following questions:

    • How does the teacher manage crying students in the classroom?
    • Do they have set routines in class?
    • What is the teacher:student ratio or aside from the teacher, is their another adult who can attend to students experiencing anxiety?
    • Does your child cry the whole time or are there random triggers during class? (some kids cry when teachers turn off the lights during rest time, or when it’s snack time because they’re used to their parent or caregiver feeding them)?

Routines of the Progressive Preschool Class: Activity Time

Activity Time usually follows the first Circle Time. It is the climax of the temporal environment.

Activity Time is planned. When planning the class curriculum, the activities are planned as well. There should be varied types of activities. Activities should be mapped out to strengthen all the domains (and these are listed in no particular order of importance) :

  • Physical – There should be activities to target Fine Motor Skills like painting, coloring, drawing, etc.

  • Cognitive – The activities should strengthen the information that the teacher introduced so the children will understand and remember the concepts. Worksheets may fall in this domain.

  • Language – The communication skills of the children can be improved in exposure trips like going to the Grocery where the children are encouraged to talk to the sales ladies to ask for what they need to buy. Activity Time is not limited inside the classroom!

  • Socio-emotional – Activity Time can be small group time wherein the children accomplish the activity with a partner or group mates. This encourages friendship and cooperation. One of my favorite paired activity is where 2 students roll a can of milk lined with paper and contains golf balls dipped in paint. After rolling it towards each other several times, a nice painting comes out when you remove the paper lining.

  • Creative – I love it when children are given a blank piece of paper to draw on. Their creativity is heightened and not restricted in coloring within the lines or a printed picture. I usually tell preschool teachers to avoid drawing stick figures to represent people because the children just copy this when their imagination can show much more!

Activity Time is flexible. I once planned a painting activity for my toddler class. I noticed that they were so engrossed in the manipulatives area, playing with wooden blocks. I extended their play in that area without fear that the blocks time was encroaching on my planned activity.

Also, there should always be a back-up activity. If the planned activity is “rejected” by the students, another activity can be done.

Activity Time is FUN! Not only is creativity of the students heightened, the creativity of the teachers increases as well. They have to think of not only appropriateness but also FUN-ness!

Routines of the Progressive Preschool Class: Circle Time


After Free Play, the teacher calls everyone in a progressive preschool class to sit together, usually in front of the blackboard for Circle Time or Meeting Time. An important part of the routine is the transition from Free Play to Circle Time. Because the students have been playing with the learning materials in Free Play, there’s a need to clean up before Circle Time. The teacher usually sings a clean up song to encourage the children to clean up. Transitions are essential to cue the children that the next routine is about to begin. One of my favorite transitions in my class was unrolling the meeting mat. I made a plastic mat with shapes on it and I would ceremoniously unroll it for meeting time. The children will hurrily clean up just to help me unroll the mat and sit on their choice of shape. For older kids, I would put their names on the shapes.

Circle Time is the routine wherein the teacher leads the children to sing different songs. It’s the time to say Good Morning or Good Afternoon to everyone, check the weather, know the day and date and find out what activity is lined up for the day. Don’t underestimate the power of Circle Time. Younger kids learn letters and numbers from this routine. A typical message on the board looks like this:

1. Today is  __onday.

2. February __, 2009

3. It is a  ___ day.

4. There are __ boys

and      __ girls

5. We will paint today.

Let’s see how the children learn from the message:


1. Today is __ onday.

The teacher will sing the Monday song (which is the same song everyday but the days change according to what day it is). Then she says “It’s Monday today. MMMMonday. What letter has the MMM sound?” Studies show that the MMM sound is one of the first sounds children learn because of familiar words like Mama or Mommy. The teacher just needs to teach them that the sound is the letter M. Next step is to encourage the children to write the letter M on the board. The teacher guides the children who are just starting to write and say encouraging statements like “It goes up, down, up, down”.  For this sentence alone, the children learned:

  • songs (music)
  • days of the week (language)
  • letter M (alphabet / language)
  • how to write the letter M (fine motor)

The children learned all these with much fun and little anxiety!


2. February ___, 2009

The teacher has an empty teacher-made calendar beside her. For younger kids, number are prepared and the children stick each number on the empty calendar depending on what date it is. The teacher counts with the children until they learn what the next number is. Then the teacher asks a child to write the number on the board. Creative songs can be sung for the children to remember numbers like “We write 1 and we write 0 (3x) that’s how we write number 10”. Progressive school teachers are very creative song writers!

Lessons learned?

  • songs
  • numbers (identification, counting)
  • months of the year
  • how to write the numbers (fine motor)


3. It is a __ day.

The teacher asks a student to peek through the window and see what the weather is. She then sings a weather song like Barney’s “Mr. Sun” if it is a sunny day. She asks a student to either draw the sun on the blank space on the board or write the word sunny. I spell out “sunny” by singing it in the tune of the Bingo song “There was a day when it was hot and sunny was the weather, S-U-N-N-Y (3x), and sunny was the weather” while the children clap out each letter.

What did the child learn?

  • songs
  • observation (looking out the window to see if the sun is out)
  • drawing or writing (fine motor)
  • spelling sunny, cloudy or rainy


4. There are ___ boys and ___ girls.

The teacher asks the boys to stand up and sings a counting song. After finding out the number of boys are present, she asks a student to write that number beside the word Boys. She does the same with the girls. She then asks the students to add the boys and girls by counting everyone in the class to find out how many children are present.

What do they learn from this sentence?

  • songs
  • numbers (one to one correspondence, identification)
  • words Boys and Girls
  • gender identification
  • adding numbers
  • observation (who isn’t here today?)


5. We are painting today.

Routines are laid out for the child to be able to predict what’s going to happen next. Why? Because it what makes them more secure with their surroundings.

Parents usually jump to the conclusion that simple activities like these have little educational value. But check out how many concepts the children learned. Circle Time is also Storytelling Time, Sharing Time and Showing Time. Imagine how much they learn by joining the circle!

Routines of the Progressive Preschool Class: Free Play



Our previous post, Temporal Environment or Temporal Setting, talks about the blocks of time that a progressive preschool class has in its schedule called routines. A progressive preschool class is not divided by subjects but by these routines. These routines are parallel to life situations that a young child goes through. When a child sees familiarity, he feels more secure in the learning environment and therefore can accommodate and assimilate the lessons more.

Free play is a time wherein the child can choose to stay in any of the learning areas and play with the materials in that area. This is the routine that starts the class. This time is essential for the progressive teacher to observe the various interests of each child. One of my students, Camilla, would usually go straight to the Reading Area to read the different books on the shelves. She turned out to be one of my earliest readers. Another one, EV, would go to the Manipulatives Area to play with the block because he was fond of building towers and houses. He can create stories of the people living in the different buildings.

When the progressive teacher has an opportunity to observe the interests of students, then the individuality of each student is evident. The progressive teacher then plans around these interests in order to gain the attention of each student.

Free play, ideally, is guided play. The progressive teacher should also be in the area of play to encourage, facilitate, interact and PLAY with the child. Yes, the teacher should be interactively playing with the children. It saddens me when teachers use this time to catch up with other work when the time is ripe for engaging with the students during a time when they are open to fun, play and activity.