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Ever wonder what happens inside a Gifted Preschool class at Paradise Valley Unified School District? Let’s step into Sarah Torrilhon’s Gifted Preschool classroom at Desert Cove Elementary School to get a glimpse of the teaching and learning that is taking place.
At Desert Cove, students start and end the day with a meeting on the rug. They have two half hour outdoor learning times in addition to lunch in the cafeteria. Though the class meets for two designated circle times (whole-group instruction), two large portions of the day are devoted to learning centers. Learning centers are areas within the classroom where materials that are related by subject, purpose, or projected skills are used independently, or with teacher direction, to reinforce and enrich one or more skills or concepts.
Learning centers are utilized to individualize the curriculum, including literacy, math, discovery, sensory, manipulatives, puzzles, blocks, dramatic play, art, library and technology to encourage discovery and provide multiple techniques and methods to meet the varying needs of young gifted children. There is also time in the day for reading aloud, music and movement and rest time, which varies depending on the needs of the class.
Technology is on the forefront of learning in the Gifted Preschool class at PVSchools. Ms. Torrilhon integrates clips and videos to bring learning to life, and students have the opportunity to explore and create on iPads, Chromebooks, MacBooks and iMacs. “My students have created multimedia projects via 30Hands and Pixie, progressed through a course in computer coding, and even individualize their learning and practice in math and reading skills in the classroom and at home,” she said.
Students explore many topics and subject areas. Ms. Torrilhon recently taught a lesson on the human body and its various systems. “A few standouts from this unit included the model of ‘blood’ and its components. Apparently, this lesson stuck so well that after one student scraped her knee, her tears dried quickly when she realized that her platelets and white blood cells were hard at work,” said Ms. Torrilhon.
Every day brings new questions and discoveries. But mostly it is the raw delight exhibited in “ah-ha” moments that Ms. Torrilhon loves the most!
“This optimized environment offers developmentally appropriate avenues for the acceleration and enrichment, as well as individualization for our youngest gifted learners. Students are able to interact with like-minded peers and are provided with the appropriate tools and opportunities to foster their love of learning. Students in this program experience a loving and nurturing atmosphere that also develops and builds their social and emotional skills,” she said.