Parents and teachers often comment on how suddenly, almost overnight, a child seems to mature. They notice an increase in vocabulary and sentence structure, and improvement in skills of drawing, cutting, etc. The child may even seem to be inch taller.

As a preschool teacher, I often felt that after Christmas vacation, the class as a whole seemed older. They settled more quickly into the routine of class time, the topics we discussed were a little more challenging, etc. This is not surprising, given that now the children had experienced about four months of the school year.

This maturing, coming at the turn of the year, offers a teacher an opportunity to show children that January can be a fresh start.

At group time, show children the calendar, explaining that while the school year is not new, our calendar year is. Tell them you feel that they are ready for something new too. Let them know that you have seen how grown-up they have become since September, and how proud you are of them.  Then introduce some new routines, responsibilities and projects.

For new routines or responsibilities, create a chart that children can easily follow, even without being able to read anything but their names. For example, if you serve snack or lunch, on a Monday, write a child’s name and draw a simple cup, which indicates that child will help set the table by placing cups in front of each child.

Some suggestions of responsibilities you may want to add:

  • If you have plants in your classroom, place some where a child can water them. Place saucers with small stones under the plant to avoid a mess and an over-watered plant from a zealous gardener.
  •  A child can be in charge of turning off unused lights (he or she should ask you first before turning them off).
  • A child can be in charge of standing at the doorway to give notes, newsletter, etc. to parents at the end of the class time.
  •  If you have visitors, have hospitality jobs, such as making sure they have places to sit, have a snack, etc. Similarly, if a new child joins the class, have several children welcome the child by offering to sit next to the new child at circle time, be partners at gym time, etc.
  •  Add individual tasks to clean-up: after clean-up of toys, have two children assigned to go around the room to make certain everything is put away; two children can wipe off the tables after snack;  a child can keep the ‘library’ tidy by straightening book shelves, stacking floor pillows, etc. 
  •  Have children take turns leading the snack or lunchtime prayer. They may use a memorized one or say a spontaneous one.

In short, assign jobs that help children feel that now they are capable of greater contributions to their class.

Some suggestions for projects:

  •  If your parish has a group of adults who send out get well cards to shut-in or hospitalized parishioners, start a project where once every two weeks your class draws pictures to be included in these cards. Have one child check the calendar to see when the drawing day is coming up and announce that to the class. Another child can be in charge of setting out the supplies, and another can collect the pictures and place them in a large envelope. If your school and parish office are connected, perhaps a child could deliver the drawings to that office.
  •  If you celebrate birthdays or saints’ feast days, create a table setting committee and a table decorating committee (provide this group with silk flowers and vases, paper placemats, saint statues, etc). Assign a birthday crown-maker, and other to make a poster (“Happy Birthday Kayla!). Include one child who can write in this group, but the others need only decorate with crayons.  

Then enjoy watching your ‘grown-up’ kids rising to the challenges!

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