Posted on 12/18/2014 at 01:44 PM by Liz Determan
Preschool teachers are sometimes challenged with how they are required to implement curriculum. Often these challenges occur in the area of using worksheets, children “just playing,” how assessment is done, and getting children ready for kindergarten. Let’s talk a bit about each of these areas.
You might hear a parent of a preschooler say, “I’m not sure my child is learning anything. He never comes home with any worksheets.” If you hear this statement it’s a sign that you need to help your parents understand how learning best occurs for young children.
Show parents how you could, for example, have children (1) complete a worksheet where they draw a line from pictures on one side to pictures they belong with on the other side OR (2) pull real items out of a box and determine which belongs together. Young children learn more when they are active, involved in conversations and having fun. The 2nd option clearly does these things better.
Putting together a box of items such as a shoe and a sock, a spoon and a fork, a doll and a blanket, etc. can take a little more time than printing a worksheet, but a teacher who wants the learning to stick knows it’s worth it.
Help your parents understand why you are a worksheet-free preschool.
Sometimes parents express disappointment that it appears their child is “just playing” in preschool. Teachers should help them understand that there is an astronomical amount of research that points to the connection between play and future academic success. The language, social skills, symbolic thinking and cognitive development that occur in play are the foundation that all future learning is built upon.
Some research points to the need for a child to have 10,000 hours of play prior to entering kindergarten. If you do the math you can understand why 4 year olds still need to have one hour of uninterrupted play as part of their half-day preschool programming.
It is the job of teachers, however, to make sure that this play is constructive where preschool goals and objectives are occurring. How teachers set up the environment and how they interact with children determine how valuable the play is.
Preschool teachers in the Northwest AEA area have been receiving an article a month that speaks of the value of play in preschool settings. Read them and feel free to share them with your families.
Administrators, parents and teachers themselves are often asking, “Why do we do all this assessing of children’s progress? It takes away from teaching time!” If assessment is done correctly it drives our instruction and helps us determine what specific skills we need to work on with children individually or in small groups.
If Johnny’s assessment information is showing that he is not where he should be with taking care of his own needs independently, then we will implement some strategies to help him with that. If Susie, Carly, Ben and Joey are not in the widely held expectation for identifying letters then we will conduct some small group work to scaffold their learning in that area. Assessing regularly helps teachers to avoid children from getting too far behind by providing them with what they need right when it becomes apparent that they need it.
Preschools should have systems in place for doing both quick screens and ongoing observation-based assessment. The goal is to improve the quality, more so than the quantity, of time teachers spend with children.
IS PRESCHOOL GETTING CHILDREN READY FOR KINDERGARTEN?
Surely the goal for preschool is to help prepare children for the years of learning ahead. We want them to be ready for kindergarten, but more importantly we want them to be ready to learn. Preschool teachers must work very hard to promote growth for all children in all areas of development and they certainly have great influence—no one questions that, but sometimes preschool teachers are unduly scrutinized because children may not appear ready for kindergarten.
We must remember that we do not have cookie-cutter children where they are going to learn the same things at the same time. Like flowers, they bloom at different times but that doesn’t mean the late bloomer will be any less beautiful. We must also remember that there are a lot of factors to determine a child’s readiness for school—home environment, community, genetics, health, etc. Those 4 years leading up to preschool entry are significant and we can’t expect a child’s first teacher to immediately fix things that have developed over time. Also, we must be sure our expectations for kindergarten entry are appropriate.
Let’s all focus on doing our job the best we can and maybe then there might be a little less finger pointing.