Posted on 02/18/2013 at 01:57 PM by Global Reach
Many preschools in the Northwest AEA area are in the process of adopting Creative Curriculum for use in their half or full-day programs. This curriculum, as well as other research-based curriculums, has good reasons for supporting various components into a consistent daily routine. What are those components?
First and foremost, every preschool day (half or full-day) should include a 60-minute choice time, sometimes also called center time or work time. This is a time when children choose what they want to play with, who they want to play with and how long they want to play with someone. They go to well-stocked interest centers (House Area, Block Area, Art Area, etc.) that have materials that can be played with in a variety of ways, while teachers join in the play and in natural ways scaffold their learning in curriculum goals. Language (critical for future reading and writing!) flourishes during choice time and it is a key part of the day for teachers to observe and document children’s interest and knowledge.
Large group time is when the entire group of children meet together in a more teacher led time. It should be kept short (10-20 minutes) and can be done twice daily—often at the beginning and end of the day. At this time teachers can provide messages for the children, have group discussions, sing songs, do finger plays, read stories, talk about the question of the day, do group problem-solving, conduct topic of study investigations, etc. Children gain a sense of belonging during large group time and teachers concentrate on keeping this time meaningful and engaging for children while enhancing learning in curriculum goals.
At small group time children are divided up into 2-3 groups with an adult present for each. Typically it lasts 10-20 minutes and is designed to meet curriculum goals. Adults introduce new concepts, teach specific skills, encourage conversations and sharing, extend children’s thinking and focus their observations during small group time. It is a great time to incorporate assessment driven small group work, but also a great time to provide open-ended exploration. In small group settings teachers are better able to support multiple objectives with children at different skill levels.
There is no way to avoid transitions in preschool settings (where children move from one part of the daily routine to another), but it is important to keep them to a minimum and make them relaxing and an opportunity to reinforce curriculum goals. Transitions go smoother and encourage learning when children are given notice, allowed sufficient time and given specific tasks; and teachers are clear and consistent, flexible, tuned into individual needs and ready to fill them with learning opportunities. The best preschool teachers think of ways for children to have very little wait time. Children standing in line with nothing to do only results in behavior problems.
Meals and snacks are a great learning time for children, especially when done family style where children pass the food, serve themselves, carry on conversations, talk about nutrition and manners and are involved with food preparation and cleanup. During meals and snacks teachers should sit with children in small groups, encourage children to help themselves, allow enough time, never use food to reward or punish, make it a very social time and watch for opportunities to support curriculum goals. A relaxed family style conversation-rich meal usually lasts 30-45 minutes.
Child choice is also a key component of outdoor time, though large and small group games can take some of that part of the day as well. 4 and 5-year-old minds work better when they have plenty of time to be active and receive fresh air. More preschools are moving to an outdoor classroom setting, an extension of the indoor classroom, where there are interest centers that the children can hop on the riding toys and go around the cement path to choose what activities to participate in. All curriculum goals can be supported in the outdoors just as they can in the indoors and teachers should plan for this 30-60 minute time just as they do for other parts of the day.
Rest Time is important in full day preschool programs and can take from 60-90 minutes (depending on the needs of the children and the length of the day). For a smooth rest time teachers must prepare for it, supervise it, allow children to settle down and wake up at their own pace and plan for children who wake up or do not sleep. And you guessed it, this also is a time where curriculum goals can be achieved.
As demonstrated with the underlined phrases above, all parts of the preschool day are for learning and meeting curriculum goals and objectives. For district-operated preschools those goals and objectives are the 38 Teaching Strategies GOLD goals and objectives in the categories of social-emotional physical, language, cognitive, literacy, mathematics, science and technology, social studies, the arts and English language acquisition.
Preschool daily routines should be predictable, yet flexible. They should alternately offer active and quiet activities. The sequence is more important than sticking to the exact time frame. If on a given day it’s time for small group time to be over, but children are still learning, keep it going and shorten a part of the day that follows. The next day at small group time learning may not be occurring up until the time it’s scheduled to be done, so end it and extend parts of the day that follow. Observe the children for engagement and when it’s not there switch things up to get it or move on.
Every day at preschool the children should have time for learning individually (in their own way), in small groups (where children are not altogether doing the same thing) and in the large group (with everyone in the class); but the most time should be allocated to individual learning (choice time and outside time), the next most to small group learning (small group times, meals/snacks, rest time) and the least to large group learning (large group time and transitions). More language skills develop, better adult-child and child-child relationships are built, and teachers are better able to meet children’s individual scaffolding needs the smaller the group.
The preschool daily schedule really does matter.