Is Your Child's Kindergarten Classroom Developmentally Appropriate?
A typical day in kindergarten……
The classroom is colorful and inviting as Ms. Stephenson’s friendly face greets every child as he/she enters on this Monday morning. The walls are decorated with the childrens’ art work from the previous week. (stories of Fall, leaf collages, pumpkin art and pumpkin math, etc). At circle time in the morning Ms. Stephenson will introduce the letter of the week, “P”, read stories about Fall and pumpkins and sing pumpkin songs that allow these little bodies to get up and move and/or jump around. The lessons for the day will continue to reinforce the letter of the week-“P”. All content areas will be taught through the themes Pumpkins and Fall. For math, students may estimate the circumference of the classroom pumpkin and weigh the pumpkin (Science center) , vote on a name for their pumpkin friend, graph the 3 top names, etc. (whole group math cooperative learning). For Reading they will read about pumpkins and characteristics of the Fall season (whole group discussion). For writing they will write (writing center) about their experience choosing a family pumpkin. If the children are having difficulty Ms. Stephenson will take dictation. For an additional whole group lesson Ms. Stephenson will guide a cooking activity making pumpkin cookies from scratch. The children will take turns measuring, pouring, stirring, rolling and cutting the dough with cookie cutters. In the reading center there will be multiple books about Fall and pumpkins that Ms. Stephenson has already read to the class. The children will have quiet time to look at and/or read these books. In addition to all of these creative activities what is so wonderful about this classroom????
Your child is excited and engaged at all times because learning is fun!!!!!
A Developmentally Appropriate Early Childhood Curriculum….. literally “immerses” the child in language
Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing are incorporated into everyday activities, lessons, centers, and free time. The children are often grouped into small groups which encourages socialization (talking) and cooperative learning (problem solving). The teacher models appropriate language and attempts to expand the childrens’ already existing language skills by asking the appropriate who, what, when, where and why questions. Learning is made fun by teaching language through hands-on activities, group instruction (which also encourages discussion), and learning centers. The learning centers will usually contain a Reading center and a housekeeping center – often equipped with kitchens and dress up clothing to encourage pretend play. Other centers may include Math manipulatives and language games, blocks, hands-on projects (ie. Science experiments), and Reading and Writing activities. Finally, music is incorporated into the day with good morning songs, clean up songs, and songs and activities that allow physical movement like fingerplays, body movement songs and dramatic improvisation.
Developmentally Appropriate Early Childhood Math Instruction
…..allows children ample opportunity to manipulate concrete objects (manipulatives) such as water, sand, clay, blocks, legos, unifix cubes, etc. These physical manipulations help children develop the thinking skills which are prerequisites for the academic skills needed for Reading and Math. Children need practice with measuring length, area, volume, and weight, and with sequencing, classifying, contrasting, and comparing before they can understand the abstract mathematical concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
A Developmentally Appropriate Early Childhood Science Curriculum
…..helps children develop a “sense of wonder” and learn to question their environment. Children learn that Science is not simply a body of facts; that it is an active, problem-solving, investigative process. Children should be doing, asking questions, and experimenting while hypothesizing and predicting outcomes. They should be collecting things, pushing, pulling, building and dismantling. These activities help children understand cause and effect and that people can make things change.
A Developmentally Appropriate Early Childhood Art Curriculum
…..understands that drawing is a child’s way of interpreting his world. The teacher does not attempt to “teach” art, however, children are provided ample opportunity to express themselves on paper. The child is offered blank paper which encourages creativity as opposed to teaching a child to “color in the lines” as in coloring books (this stifles their creativity). In addition, adequate materials for drawing, painting, and sculpting are provided. An appropriate art curriculum places emphasis on the artistic process, not the final product. Art instruction is not limited to a specific time of the day or to a specific topic. Children are encouraged to be creative and adults refrain from judging their artwork. Adults point out the positive. For example, “Wow, that really looks like a dog. Dogs do have long noses.”
A Developmentally Appropriate Early Childhood Reading and Writing Curriculum
…..creates Reading and Writing experiences that build upon the children’s already existing oral and written language skills. Children are provided daily opportunities for independent Reading and Writing. Teachers try to establish the connection between spoken and written language to help the children understand that anything they say can be written down and then read. For example, the teacher may take dictation as the child tells how he built a block castle. In addition, teachers label things around the room and learning centers provide opportunities for the children to write. For example, a blank pad and a chalk board are found in the housekeeping center. These are used to write grocery lists, recipes, etc. Additional objects such as coupons also help children understand that print communicates messages. Children are provided daily opportunities for writing along with a diverse collection of writing tools. This collection includes large and regular size pencils, pens, wide-tip water color markers, and both lined and unlined paper. Children are encouraged to write independently and are provided opportunities to become more aware of different reasons for writing. For example, making cards, writing letters, graphing information (math), making signs, and communicating through journal writing. Finally, teachers read to the children regularly from a wide variety of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Appropriate books may include big colorful pictures with lots of repetition, and predictiblilty (better known as predictable books). In addition, the story is relatively short with few words per page so that the kids can retell the story by looking at the pictures (Picture Books). Wordless picture books are also good for stimulating communication and creativity as the child tells you what he thinks is happening on each page.
Early Childhood and Movement
Early Childhood is all about exploring and learning about the world……. Physical movement activities help children feel successful as they develop self-confidence in their ability to do things independently. Even though the teacher may set limits, the child in general is engaging in a no-failure situation and can be creative and unique within these boundaries. In addition, preschoolers are egocentric, therefore, movement activities are a terrific way for teachers to encourage learning using their bodies. For example, a teacher may play movement games with the children such as “Stretch yourself to see how much space you can take up, or Can you make yourself real tall like a giraffe? , Hop like a rabbit, or Can you find a partner and face him, pretending you are his mirror, copying his movements?” Finally, for a young child, the natural desire to move, run, jump, kick, climb, spin, and hang upside down are the brain’s way of getting what it needs. Recent research believes that movement helps develop the cerebellum which in turn interacts with the vestibular system affecting balance. In addition, the cerebellum is also important for higher cognitive skills such as language and possibly attention; therefore, if a young child isn’t allowed to move, he will subconsciously seek out this stimulation in any way he can and it may show up in undesirable ways such as climbing on tables or shelves or continuously “running off.” These behaviors, in turn, will stress the parents and can create a negative snowball effect which can then set the stage for frustration.
…So let these little bodies move, move, move in appropriate ways, immerse them in language, give them daily writing opportunities, and encourage them to question and explore their world! In the end the parents, teacher(s) and child will be much happier!
Happy parenting… Enjoy the journey…