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Early Start Preschool Program


About Early Start

The Early Start Program is an award-winning, ExceleRate Gold Circle of Quality free preschool program for three- and four-year-old students who reside in Mokena School District #159. It is funded by the Preschool For All Grant by the State of Illinois.  Students who qualify for the program are identified through a free developmental screening process conducted by state-certified early childhood teachers and related service providers.  Parents who are interested in enrolling their children in the program will schedule a screening appointment at Mokena Elementary School.  The program is play-based and developmentally appropriate while providing foundational skills for a successful entry to Kindergarten.

Program Options and Information:

The Early Start Program is five days a week and offers both morning and afternoon sessions, by availability. The program is housed at Mokena Elementary School.

Morning Session: 8:30-11:00 AM

Afternoon Session: 12:30-3:00 PM


This program is funded by the State of  Illinois Preschool for All Grant and by Mokena School District 159. Enrollment in the Early Start Program is based on the results of a comprehensive screening process. Priority enrollment is given to students who otherwise would not have access to a high-quality early childhood program due to at-risk factors and to students who may need additional support as indicated by the results of the screening process.

Developmental Screening appointments may be made by contacting  Mokena Elementary School at 708- 342-4850. Screenings are held once a month until the program is full.  Screening appointments may take up to an hour and include a vision and hearing screening, a social-emotional questionnaire completed by the parents, and a child screening in the areas of readiness, motor,  and language skills. The results of the screening are communicated to parents within days. If a student qualifies for the program, school staff would guide parents through the enrollment process. Morning or afternoon enrollment is based on availability at the time of enrollment. 

Curriculum Overview

The Early Start Program uses the Creative Curriculum to teach the Illinois Early Learning Standards in four developmental domains:

Cognitive Development includes alphabet knowledge and phonological awareness, Print awareness, and number sense.

Language Development includes asking and answering questions, social and pragmatic language, vocabulary, and listening and following directions.

Motor Development includes fine motor, gross motor, visual motor skills, and self-help skills.

Social Emotional Development includes turn-taking and cooperation, independence and self-control, and appropriate expression of feelings.


The Early Start staff is made up of a team of professionals who help support the development of the whole child. This includes:

  • State Certified Teachers 

  • Paraprofessionals 

  • Speech Pathologist 

  • Occupational Therapist 

  • Social Worker 

  • Physical Therapist 

  • Psychologist

A Typical Day

Arrival-Students learn how to independently complete their arrival routine including taking off jackets and boots and putting on their own shoes.  Students also learn how to take important items from their backpacks and bring them to school. 

Skills addressed: fine motor, cognition, self-regulation, social-emotional. 

Gross Motor-rain or shine, students participate in daily gross motor activities either on the playground or in the gym. Bikes, trikes, hula hoops,  and scooter boards are some of the equipment students learn to use.

Skills addressed: following directions, gross motor, social-emotional, and self-regulation. 

Circle Time-students participate in literacy and numeracy activities during circle time through routine welcoming activities and story time.

Skills addressed: literacy, numeracy, social-emotional,  following directions, self-regulation. 

Small Group Instruction and Center Time-students participate in teacher and student-directed instruction. Centers are carefully planned and incorporate the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards. Snack is a center.

Skills addressed: literacy, numeracy, fine motor, self-regulation, science, social studies

Music-music class is led by the music teacher once a week. Students are exposed to a variety of songs that enhance phonological awareness skills.

Skills addressed: literacy, fine arts 

Closing Circle-time for students to say goodbye to school. The teacher leads summarizing activities and prepares students for the next day.

Skills addressed: social-emotional, self-regulation, following directions


Early Start is an ExceleRate Gold Circle of Quality Preschool Program