Posted on 11/21/2017 at 02:12 PM by Blog Experts
Walk into an early childhood program and watch what is happening, but carefully remove your “lens” of what learning looks like and focus on what is happening. What do you see? What are the teachers providing? How are the children engaged and working as a community to learn about concepts? If you watch how children are encouraged to be independent by doing self-care and self-choice, then you are seeing children being more able to think, process and act on their own. If you are watching children building towers, sharing a meal in the kitchen, sorting and organizing materials, then you are watching those children build their knowledge of how things work and what can be done next. If you are watching more than one child figure out who gets the next turn, who needs help with a hat, or who should be the sitting where, then you are seeing children develop a process called problem solving. All of this occurs because the intentional teacher in that class has looked at what her children are like individually and as a group and then put that information together with appropriate concepts and information to build a learning environment that frames a child’s interest, challenges them to explore and support engagement for periods of time that allow children to absorb new information.
In a recent article (Helping Others Understand Academic Rigor in Teachers’ Developmentally Appropriate Practices, September 2015) that was read, the authors, Christopher Brown, Beth Feger and Brian Mowry, challenge everyone to deeply watch what occurs in the room and focus on the amount of time the teacher has used to integrate activities with prompts, cues and materials to support young children growing in their knowledge and then be able to apply that to new situations. Some examples you might see are children signing in as they enter the room, center learning areas use materials and adults to support engaged play, and adults prompt ongoing conversations to build children’s vocabulary and language skills. These are a small sample of all that occurs to ensure that young children are gaining skills to support their future learning in kindergarten and beyond. The authors talk about how developmentally appropriate practices easily exists with academic growth for the young child when the environment of the early childhood room “is one in which each child has opportunity and support from teachers to achieve goals and standards” which match their age (the authors shared Blackburn, 2012). BUT, they want others to be aware that this process is NOT simply a “checklist with teacher behavior or model lesson that covers content standards”. This quote really somewhat captures their message, “Rigor and developmentally appropriate practice can peacefully coexist in the same space with best practices that serve the needs and interests of young children”. (Excellent article, “Helping Others Understand Academic Rigor in Teachers’ Developmentally Appropriate Practices”, Young Children, September 2015)
So, in observing the daily happenings and occurrences in the early childhood classroom, be aware that much is happening to support children being “ready for future learning” (not just in kindergarten) and when you wonder how that occurs, go ahead and ask the early childhood teacher, “what is happening in your room?” We think you will be surprised and encouraged by all that is happening because of the INTENTIONAL TEACHERS goal of providing the best “learning environment” for the “learning needs” of young children.