AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE PA EARLY CHILDHOOD STANDARDS
St. Paul’s Preschool follows the Pennsylvania Early Standards as we create and adapt our curriculum to the various age groups within our school. Each month I will examine one of the standards we are focusing on in the classes and explain how the teachers are implementing it into their curriculum.
15.4 Learning through Experience
St. Paul’s Preschool believes that children learn through experience. Each child’s biological make up, family, home experiences and learning style provide the important context in which learning is constructed. Teachers use the permanent record information each family provides at the beginning of the school year to help transfer information from home to school. It is important for them to understand how information learned in other settings impacts school learning.
One of the developmental theorists we use to base our curriculum on is Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky was particularly interested in cognitive and language development and their relationships to learning. He searched for answers to the questions raised by his interest in children and how they approach learning new things. Through that search, he discovered that in a group of children at the same developmental level, some children were able to learn with a little help while other children were not.
His works showed that social and cognitive development work together and build on each other. He believed firmly, as do we that the world children inhabit is shaped by their families, communities, socioeconomic status, education, and culture. Their understanding of this world comes from the values and beliefs of the adults and other children in their lives. Children learn from each other every day. They develop language skills and grasp new concepts as they speak to and listen to each other.
Vygotsky believed that much learning takes place when children PLAY. He believed that language and development build on each other. When children play, they constantly use language. They determine the conditions of the make-believe. They discuss roles and objects and directions. They correct each other. They learn about situations and ideas not yet tried. Vygotsky believed that this interaction contributes to children’s construction of knowledge-to their learning.
Teachers’ verbal directions, physical assistance, and probing questioning help children improve skills and acquire knowledge. Peers who have advanced skills also can help other children grow and learn by modeling or providing verbal guidance. Working with others gives children the chance to respond to someone else’s examples, suggestions, comments, questions, and actions.
With the support of others, the child organizes new information to fit with what he/she already knows. As a result, the child can perform skills at a higher level than he/she could work on his own. This process of building knowledge and understandings is called scaffolding.
To facilitate scaffolding experiences, St. Paul’s Preschool believes that teachers need to become expert observers of children, understand their level of learning, and consider what next steps to take given children’s individual needs. The teacher’s most powerful tool in this process is asking questions and talking with children. This give-and-take fosters children’s awareness of what they are doing, and it promotes their growth by opening new and different possibilities to approaching a task.
As the teachers interact with the children throughout the day, they observe what the children are doing, encourage their efforts and intervene thoughtfully to support additional learning. On occasion a teacher may decide to model a skill or behavior (for example: showing a child how to use tweezers to pick up small objects that he can not grasp using tongs.) When teachers talk with children about what they are doing, or ask questions that challenge their thinking, they are guiding their learning.
At St. Paul’s, the teaching staff individualize instruction for each student according to his/her abilities. This is done through careful observations, conversations with parents before the school year begins and assessing the current skills levels of the children. Children are often paired with peer “mentors” (children who exhibit pro-social behaviors and who enjoy helping their friends), are given classroom jobs of increasing responsibility and are offered learning activities which build on their growing skills levels.
Teachers create a climate of mutual respect for children in many ways throughout the classroom day. They sit on the floor with the children while they talk to them so that they are at eye level. Each teacher takes time to talk to each child as they arrive at school and takes an interest in the children’s various activities. They use active listening techniques so that the children sense that they are “being heard.” Children are encouraged to bring special things from home for Show and Tell days. The teachers spend time listening to the children talk about these important “things” and ask the children questions which confirm their interest in the child and in his/her life. Items that the children create (art projects, block structures, etc.) are topics of great interest and discussion between the students and their teachers. All efforts are praised and appreciated by the staff. Next time you are in the classroom, please spend some time looking at the artwork and “words” of the children decorating the walls. You will be given information about how YOUR child is learning during your final Parent/Teacher conferences of the school year. We are so proud of all the children…they have grown in many ways this year and we are anxious to share with you, our wonderful discoveries about how this learning process is developing!
QUESTIONS FOR THE DIRECTOR
Each month I will focus on a question or two from the parents. Please send your questions to the director at: firstname.lastname@example.org
QUESTION: Why should I take the time to fill out the Parent Survey? What do you do with the information?
ANSWER: This question is important. The Parent Survey given to all families is based on one used by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children). As a NAEYC accredited program, we use their tools (surveys) to help us learn how well we are providing and adhering to the NAEYC standards. As we work on maintaining our accreditation, we are required to provide parents with an annual survey form. There is plenty of space on the back of the form where families can add additional information not addressed specifically within the survey. All tools (surveys) NAEYC uses have been tested for validity and reliability.
We hope that you took the time to complete the survey. It is anonymous (no names are signed), but does refer to specific classes. This is important so that when the results are tabulated, we can address issues pertaining to that specific class. All results are carefully recorded and the staff meets several times over that summer to brainstorm on how to improve the program. The director will also send out a letter to parents before the end of the school year to address any questions that were raised within the survey. We are dedicated to providing a quality program and want input from our most important people…our stakeholders. Thank you for helping us!
Please read the following section each month. I will be introducing our staff members and will review their credentials and qualifications as well as their philosophy of education.
Fun Facts about…
Science Resource teacher for the four and five year old classes
My favorite color is blue!
I love to eat tacos.
My favorite children’s story is Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish.
I love to sing “Zippity-Do-Dah”!
When I am not teaching at St. Paul’s Preschool, I like to sing, play favorite music and go for a long drive.
Accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children