One of the goals of preschool education is to improve children’s school success. Early childhood educators need to enhance a child’s developmental skills and knowledge. We are to build upon their ever growing need of curiosity and creativity. Without knowing what, why, and how to developmentally teach preschool children in an early childhood environment teachers will not have a great impact on the knowledge children will gain and retain in this environment. Children are eager to learn and acquire new life changing skills.
The text (2008) emphasizes the importance of a child-centered curriculum that encompasses the whole child- physical, social, emotional, creative, and cognitive. Teachers practical knowledge of how and what to teach children is not taught in school. Teachers receive and understand the theoretical knowledge of children learning but they are unable to blend the theories with practical applications appropriate for young children. There are many preschool classrooms with qualified teachers but they do not understand the steps needed to provide a curriculum that is age and developmentally appropriate.
Most teachers have the book knowledge but their hands on and one on one skills are lacking when it comes to implementing activities to stimulate and excite children in learning. Kostelnik states that, “Teachers who lack adequate knowledge in any of these areas are hampered in their attempts to create developmentally appropriate programs for young children. The areas are: the fundamental components of early literacy and numeracy; how children experience literacy and mathematical concepts in their play; what teachers can do intentionally to support literacy and numeracy in all areas of the curriculum throughout the day”.
Teachers must know and understand a child’s developmental needs and how to develop ways to meet these needs. Early childhood education recommends that programs utilize Developmentally Appropriate Practices. It is vital that young children have a curriculum that provides learning goals and guidance for teachers to develop activities and interactions. The National Association for the Education of Young Children approved the Early Childhood Standards and Accreditation Performance Standards and Accreditation Performance Criteria in 2005. These standards guide programs in a variety of areas including the curriculum (pp.232-233).
• Children have varied opportunities to be read books and to be read to in individualized ways. • Children have activities that allow them to become familiar with print. • Children are given opportunities to recognize and write letters, words, and sentences as they are ready. • Books are displayed and writing is encouraged in one or more areas of the classroom. Curriculum development should focus on promoting learning and development in the areas of social, emotional, physical, language, and cognitive growth (NAEYC Program Standards). There should be themes that are hands on and developmentally appropriate.
Activities should include: art, math, science, social, studies, reading, and creativity. Classroom s should be filled with laughter and excitement. Hands on learning should take place, stories should be told, and play encouraged. Play is child’s work and when they enjoy what they are doing, then, they are more apt to learn, discover, and investigate their surroundings and environment. So how do we know that play is child’s work? This question and many more are answered when we look at research and theories of education. Theories are the foundation for which teachers choose to teach from.
Theories help guide teachers in understanding the reason why they set up their classrooms and for carrying out the lessons they teach children on a daily basis. Theories teach us that relationships are the foundation for learning. We need to have relationship with the children we teach and with families of the children we provide a program for. Theories teach us that children learn through play and that they learn when they interact with their peers and their environment.
There are many theories of learning to use to decide what type of curricula to use • Vygotsky’s Constructivist theory- puts the learner in the center and believes that teachers should provide experiences that link prior knowledge to what they are studying. The constructivist teacher organizes the classroom with children’s stages of development in mind. Children learn when they collaborate with others, discussion and talking about the how and why of things. • Piaget’s Four Stages of Cognitive Development- learning is viewed as active, constructive process in which students seek organization and meaning in their worlds.
• Abraham Maslow focused on human potential and proposed that all persons strive to reach the highest within them. His theory also asserts that children learn best when their physical needs are met and they feel a sense of psychological safety and security. • B. F. Skinner Behaviorist Theory emphasizes the roles of environmental conditions and overt behaviors in learning. Children learn through the effects of their own intentional responses. Consequences will determine whether a person will repeat a particular behavior that led to the consequences.
Our theorists teach us that as children play they are learning about themselves, other people, and the world. As the text (2008) states, learning and development in the early years are critical to the child’s long term well-being. This theoretical base in early childhood education guides and provides a framework of understanding for how children learn. The text also states that, theoretically, there is widespread acceptance of the idea that play is important- that it is the serious business for the young child.
Elkind reviewed a variety of theories that support the role of children’s play, including Montessori, Freud, Piaget, and Vygotsky. By taking these theories and putting them into perspective we provide ways to meet the differences and developing needs that children have. For children to excel and have success in school we have to address all areas of their development. Research has shown us that it is during these times of play that a child’s brain is affected. Connections are made as a child repeatedly does the same types of activities. If these connections are not made or used they will eventually disappear.
Our text (2008) states that, “Play is a time where children needs are met. Good play experiences unite and blend all aspects of development, reaping social, emotional, physical, intellectual, moral, creative, and cultural benefits for young children. ” As children engage in play in the early childhood classroom they are learning and growing developmentally. Age appropriate activities are provided for them. Vanderwater says that, “Play is simply shorthand for our capacity for curiosity, imagination, and fantasy — our creative dispositions.
” In order for children benefit from play a curriculum is needed to meet their needs. It is important for young preschool children to have a curriculum that includes planned environments and activities in the classroom, such as music and creative movement, dramatic play, singing, and creative art. Planned and unplanned spontaneous learning should take place everyday. We know that children are unique and different therefore they all learn differently. With this knowledge we have to teach the whole child. This
includes teaching social-emotional, physical, cognitive, and language development to preschoolers. Preschool curriculum models vary widely. Some may detail exactly what to teach and how to teach it with step by step instructions. Others on the other hand leave room for teacher ideas and input. Then there are some that provide guidance in developing activities and interactions that are crucial to social development. When choosing curricula, programs need to take into account children’s ages, needs, behavior, language and cultural backgrounds.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialist in State Departments of Education (NAECS/SDE) therefore advise the following: “Curriculum is more than a collection of enjoyable activities. Curriculum is a complex idea containing multiple components such as goals, content, pedagogy, or instructional practices. Curriculum is influenced by many factors including society’s values, content standards, account ability systems, research findings, community expectations, culture and language, and individual children’s characteristics.
” The early childhood (preschool) classroom has a need for a developmentally appropriate curriculum. Designing a curriculum gives teachers the opportunity to come together and brainstorm on what is needed to meet the needs of individual children. Dodge states, “When teachers build curriculum with each other and with the children and are willing to really listen to each other and to the children’s ideas, and really value them, there is a very different kind of relationship being established and a climate of mutual trust is formed.
She also shares that, the nature of this relationship between teachers and children and parents would be very different in our opinion, if the teacher’s plan were already written and all the planning spaces filled in, and all the outcomes predetermined and articulated ahead of time. Relationships again are the foundation that is needed in the early childhood classroom. Society has put a lot of pressure on early childhood programs to produce results. Kostelnik states that, kindergarten teachers report that one out of three children begin formal schooling lacking the basic experiences they need to succeed.
Because of this, programs make decisions each day about the type of curriculum to use. They see the importance of early learning experiences that will build a firm foundation for learning and development later on in life. There are many types of curriculum in our society today. The two most commonly used in the Unites States according to Dodge are: The Creative Curriculum and High/Scope. In addition to these many directors used a variety of models and resources to supplement their planning.
These include the Project Approach, Reggio Emilia, Montessori, and what several called “emergent curriculum”. There is evidence that high quality early childhood programs can and do make a difference in children’s development. Children can develop the skills they need as they participate in child care and other early learning programs from birth to age eight. Kostelnik states that children need to know the fundamental components of early literacy and numeracy for literacy involves listening, viewing, speaking, writing, and reading.
Some of the numeracy components are: understanding number, how people represent number, the relations among numbers, and number systems, using mathematical tools, and recognizing, describing, and extending patterns. Literacy and numeracy can be displayed in the classroom when the dramatic play area has been transformed into a hairdressing shop. The children can create signs that say haircuts, shampoo, curlers, and perms. The children can also include prices on the signs. The children can move in and out of this area taking turns as customers, receptionist, haircutters, and cashiers.
They will pretend cutting hair, giving permanents, making appointments, writing out receipts, using the play cash register, and making change. Literacy and numeracy is also seen in the block center as children make signs and count trucks, in the writing center as children write in their journals and in the art center as children draw and create pictures of their choice. Kostelnik tells us that, skilled teachers intentionally create opportunities for children to become engaged in varied literacy and numeracy experiences every day. Developmentally appropriate activities do not happen
by chance, they have to be planned out. Children are looking for direction and opportunities to investigate. Teachers are being provided with training and professional development on how to teach, what to teach and why they need to follow a curriculum. As teachers gain the skills they need they begin to understand the developmental need s of children. They create opportunities for learning through play and they advocate for the needed changes in the system. As curriculum choices are being made and teachers are trained in how to implement the curriculum children are excelling.
In an early childhood classroom teachers are better equipped and have a greater impact on what, why and how to teach children in a developmentally appropriate way. References: Eliason, C. F. , Jenkins, L. (2008). A Practical Guide to Early Childhood Curriculum (8th ed. ). New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc. Dodge, D. (2004). Early Childhood Curriculum Models Why, What and the How Programs Use Them. Retrieved from the Exchange magazine. www. ChildCareExchange. com Kostelnik. M (2008). Academics in Early Childhood. Retrieved from the Exchange magazine. www. ChildCareExchange. com.
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (NAECS/SDE). (2003). Joint position statement on early childhood curriculum, assessment, and program evaluation building an effective, accountable system in programs for children birth through age 8. Washington, DC: NAEYC, p. 6 Vanderwater, E. A. , Rideoout, V. J. , Wartella, E. A. , Huang, X. , Lee, J. H. , Shim, M. S. (2007). “Digital Childhood: Electronic Media and Technology Use Among Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers. ” Pediatrics 119(5): e1006-e1015 [pic].