A Pre-kindergarten Program for Four Year Old Children.
This curriculum guide is intended to give parents a better understanding of our pre-k program at IED by explaining some of the ideas on which the program’s philosophy is based, as well as some of the practical ways in which they are applied in the IED program.
We use developmentally appropriate practice, a theoretical concept in early childhood education, as an overall guide to curriculum development.
We organize our curriculum around themes chosen with children’s interests in mind. A unit may be designed later in the year based on responses or questions that arose in an earlier unit. We use themes to explore the world with activities that emphasize hands-on, sensory experiences and integrated learning.
The first section of this guide will explain in brief some of the basic principles of developmentally appropriate practice. If you are interested in reading more about developmentally appropriate practice, a good place to start is the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) web site: www.naeyc.org.
According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), studies show that children who experience developmentally appropriate teaching practices in preschool and kindergarten do better in elementary school. Some research indicates that developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood education can lead to higher achievement throughout life.
One of the advantages of developmentally appropriate practice is that it is intended to be adapted to the particular needs and goals of the early childhood education program using it.
IED Pre-K Program Philosophy
It is important that children learn to enjoy the process of learning. We want children to be confident in their ability to master new skills and learn new ideas, to understand that success requires effort, to take pride in their accomplishments, and to retain their natural curiosity. Our goal is to assist children to be enthusiastic, effective, life-long learners.
At IED we support children’s learning with a play-based curriculum, emphasizing the process of learning rather than specific benchmarks that we expect children to meet by the end of the year.
By encouraging children to question, hypothesize, experiment and solve problems, we help them to develop important critical thinking skills. Your child will participate in experiences that promote active exploration of his or her surroundings. By observing and describing the world around them, and engaging in hands-on sensory activities, children lay the foundation for later learning. We use an integrated curriculum because we believe this is how children learn best. Activities are designed to be experiential (hands-on) and flexible, so that children can approach them in a variety of ways according to their abilities and interests.
What is developmentally appropriate practice?
Developmentally appropriate practice is a phrase used frequently in literature on early childhood education. Often, however, it is not clearly defined. One of the reasons for this is that pinning down exactly what developmentally appropriate practice is can be tricky.
Developmentally appropriate practice is a set of principles, rather than a specific curriculum. The way that developmentally appropriate practice is implemented depends on the early childhood program, the children in the class, the families involved, and the community context. In addition, teachers bring to teaching their own interests and enthusiasms. They may have a certain philosophy of learning or theoretical background that influences their teaching style. Developmentally appropriate practice is compatible with other educational philosophies, such as Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Waldorf, or Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.
General principles of developmentally appropriate practice:
- Early childhood teachers should have an understanding of the developmental changes that are occurring during the preschool years, including the ways in which development varies from child to child and the typical sequence of development. There seem to be optimal periods for development in certain areas, including social skills, language, and motor skills. Children who do not have opportunities to practice these skills with appropriate adult support may not be able to overcome their limited development in a particular area later in life.
- Early childhood teachers should recognize that children learn at different rates, and have different aptitudes and learning styles. Children will also have different ways of expressing and demonstrating the knowledge and skills they have acquired. For instance, one child may be very interested in the natural world, another highly verbal, and another exceptionally empathetic toward peers.
- Just as there is variation between children in rates of development, there is variation in individual development. Although there are milestones which educators and parents should be aware of, children tend not to exhibit even development across skills at any given point of time.
- Children learn and develop in an integrated way. Skills are related, and development in one area can impact development in another. For instance, a child’s verbal skills can affect how well he or she is able to establish social relationships and negotiate conflicts. The reverse is also true. That is, a child’s strong social skills may have a positive impact on his or her language development. Curriculum should be created that supports integrated learning.
- Early childhood teachers must have an understanding of the social and cultural context in which children are growing and learning, and sensitivity to the child’s cultural and social environment. The preschool classroom environment should be one in which children feel safe and valued. Children should be guided toward a development of a strong sense of self, as well as a tolerance toward difference. It is important to help children develop tools for self-expression and conflict resolution.
- Children should be given opportunities to expand on and express their knowledge through the use of symbolic representation. Cognitively, children in preschool are moving toward greater complexity in thought, including a shift from concrete to representational thinking. Children need opportunities to express themselves through art, pretend play, building, and so on. Experience in these areas lays the foundation for the later development of literacy and math skills, as well as symbolic and abstract cognitive abilities.
- Learning is an interactive process. Children observe, hypothesize, test, and construct meaning for themselves. In general, children learn best when they have opportunities for hands-on learning. Teachers should provide opportunities for children to test, to question, to repeat experiences, and to transfer knowledge acquired in one setting to another context. At this stage, the teacher functions less as the provider of direct instruction; rather, the teacher’s task is to create a safe but stimulating environment, and to respond to children engaged in a task in ways that encourage them to continue with their own learning process.
- Play is essential to learning. Play offers children an opportunity to try out newly acquired knowledge and skills, to practice problem solving, to deal with emotions and gain confidence. Research demonstrates that complex, child-initiated play seems to both reflect and support cognitive development.
- Children thrive with the right combination of challenge and success. Early childhood teachers need to design tasks that keep children working on the edge of their abilities, but don’t frustrate children. Curriculum must be designed with the variety of interests and abilities of the particular children in the class in mind.
How is developmentally appropriate practice implemented at IED?
Every program has its own strengths and areas of emphasis. IED’s program has been in operation under its current director for twoenty years, and in that time has developed a character and philosophy reflective of the environment in which it operates, its staff, and the changes in current practice in early childhood education.
Using a play-based curriculum means that we focus on providing children with opportunities. We encourage children to participate in self-selected learning activities involving sensory and manipulative materials. Children try on roles and practice skills through pretend play with props and toys available as stimulus. Dramatic play and art encourage children to symbolize their experiences.
Play allows children to experiment and problem-solve. Symbolic and abstract thinking developed through pretend play, art, and the use of construction toys is an important foundation for later development of verbal and math skills. Children are also improving their motor skills and coordination through manipulation of blocks, crayons, and so on. An important but fundamental skill that children practice intensely in pre-k is how to get along with others. Working out the scenario for a game in housekeeping or agreeing on how to share blocks in the block area provide children with the chance to do this in a context that is meaningful to them.
Building a strong, supportive classroom community is a priority for our program. This reflects the background of our staff; the fact that we operate within the Irvington School community, known for its commitment to diversity, and our belief that children who have the opportunity to develop strong social skills in preschool will be at an advantage later in life.
We provide a safe, supportive environment in which children can develop positive relations with their peers, practice appropriate social interactions in a group setting, and become independent problem-solvers. Materials and educational themes are inclusive, non-sexist and non-violent.
IED is a “holiday-free”zone. There are a number of reasons for this. IED families constitute a diverse group. It is difficult to be truly inclusive in celebrating holidays. In addition, there are people who object to having their children exposed to celebrations of holidays that have religious associations or commercial aspects. We do frequently use seasonal themes in our curriculum.
The preschool years are important to the development of fundamental motor skills. At IED children can develop strength, coordination and confidence in their physical abilities through active play on the playground and in the gym. The Irvington School grounds provide us with wonderful opportunities for outside free play and organized games. The grounds include a hill and surrounding grass area, a covered hardtop area for rainy days, and new playground structures for climbing, swinging, and pretend play.
We also involve children in activities that allow them to develop fine motor skills, such as drawing, pasting, handling a paint brush, building with Legos and other manipulatives and construction toys.
Language and Literacy
Preschoolers at IED actively engage in activities supporting language and literacy development. Rather than “teaching reading,” we provide a literacy-rich environment in which children can interact with texts and create their own.
As adult readers, we forget all the things young children need to know in order to become strong readers. For instance, preschoolers are learning that books have authors and illustrators, print in English goes from left to right and top to bottom, and that a story has a beginning, middle and end. They are learning that they can read for pleasure and information, and that they can create a text that will have meaning to another person who sees it.
Of course, the pre-k teachers read aloud to children, and children have the opportunity to “read” to themselves at different times during the day.
Education tends to swing back and forth between a whole language approach to teaching reading and an emphasis on phonics-based instruction. We blend the two approaches in our program. We also try to tailor our approach to the needs of the particular child. Therefore, we might use activities aimed at building phonemic awareness with some children more than other children. However, in general, we do not consider it appropriate to use direct instruction to teach reading to four year olds, and we do not believe the reading is a necessary skill for kindergarten entry.
A typical day at IED
Two children are at a low table, engaged in sorting a batch of seashells. They don’t realize that they are practicing math skills (classifying the shells), science skills (observing shells and making note of their characteristics), social skills (making decisions about how to sort with a partner), or verbal skills (expressing opinions, negotiating with a partner).
A teacher stops by and asks them what kind of animal might have lived in a particular shell. Spirited disagreement ensues.
At another table, a group of children are constructing “houses” out of cardboard and tape for a group of plastic animals, while in the block area a group is building a dinosaur city. The pictures children drew the day before, of their own houses, hang on one wall. While actively exploring the “house” concept, children are also developing fine motor skills and the ability to express themselves through representation.
Later activities include stories with house-related themes, i.e. Building a House, or A House is a House for Me. Children find construction hats and play tools in one of the dramatic play areas, which some children use, but the teacher notices that others are moving the dolls from housekeeping to their “new house” in the restaurant area.
Children may take a walk around school grounds searching for the homes of animals like birds, squirrels, and insects, check out the butterfly garden section of the school community garden, and later discuss their observations as a group during circle time. A row of “bug houses” filled with materials such as grass and twigs carefully selected by the children line the top of one of the bookcases. Children may be asked to reflect on their favorite part of their home, or what they need to feel “at home.”
Children will likely explore the theme of “Houses and Habitats” for about a week before moving on to the next theme. Sometimes children are particularly interested in an activity, and will continue exploring and refining it for weeks after the unit has passed. This may be the spark for a later thematic unit. An ongoing dinosaur city project could lead to a unit about cities, which could lead us further into an exploration of transportation. Or we might go from a week of dinosaurs to a unit of reptiles and amphibians.
Some practical notes
What we like about themes is that they enable us to create curriculum that children can approach from a variety of levels and angles, depending on their interests and abilities. The integrated approach makes intuitive sense, as this is how we all experience the world, and working on different skills simultaneously reflects the way people (whether children or adults) are called upon to use their skills.
Curriculum planning is a team effort. Children in the full day class have a half hour of rest/quiet time and an afternoon recess in addition to their other afternoon activities.
We have a few rules for behavior, and appreciate when parents support us in being consistent in requiring children to comply with them, and when applicable, comply with them themselves.
- Children may not harm themselves or others.
- No name calling is allowed.
- Children may not destroy materials.
- No weapon play.
- Children must clean up one activity before moving on to the next.
- No one may sit on the tables.
- Children may build with blocks as high as their waists.
- Children may not knock over block structures.
April 14th-24th, 2015
Theme: Space (Two Week Unit)
Letters of the Week: Ch
Primary Subject: Science
Secondary Subjects: Art, Literacy, Math
Learning Outcomes: Students will gain a basic understanding of our Solar System and the planets within it. We will concentrate on learning about where stars are born, some characteristics of the planets in our solar system, our galaxy, the Milky Way; and meteors, asteroids and comets. Students will learn the planets of our solar system by name and in order, which will be taught through song to facilitate remembering it. We will discuss space travel and specifically the trips to the Moon.
Procedure: As a way to identify each planet in relation to the Sun, we will place a graphic of the each planet on chart paper, as we discuss them. We will label all nine planets and write significant characteristics of the planet with symbols, i.e.: hot or cold, gas or solid, big or small in relation to the Earth, how many moons it has, etc. so that we have the information available as we proceed through the weeks as well as a means of comparison, etc.
Books: The Universe, The Sun Is My Favorite Star, Space Boy, Me and My Place In Space, The Solar System, Stars! Stars! Stars!, Black Holes, The Planets, Stars, Our Stars, Moon Ball, Galaxies, Galaxies! Constellations, Space, The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot, Zoom Zoom Zoom, I’m Off to the Moon, Stardust From Space, The Sideways Planet: Uranus, Zoom, Rocket Zoom!, Starry, Starry Night, Astronaut Handbook, On Earth, There’s No Place Like Space, The Moon, Venus, Mars, Mercury, The Sun, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, To Catch a Star, Earth to Stella, Hedgie Blasts Off!, Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11, The Way Back Home, If You Decide to Go to the Moon, Apollo 11 Mission: The First Man to Walk on the Moon, I Want to Be an Astronaut, Poor Pluto, Weird But True Science Facts, Joey and Jet In Space, Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me, Pluto’s Secret
Monday: Introduction to the Solar System. We will discuss the Sun, which is a star, and explain how it is the center of the solar system. We will demonstrate how all the planets revolve around the sun. Nebulae are where stars are born. Our own sun was born in a nebula. The special project will be to create a Nebulae. Students will be shown pictures of where stars are born and use pastels and chalk to make dust clouds on black construction paper and glue on jewels, sequins and foil stars to reinforce the ideas that stars are born inside these clouds called nebulae. We will teach the students how to smudge pastels to create the effect of dust clouds.
Tuesday: Today we will discuss Mercury. Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, the surface is heavily cratered, looking much like our moon, has virtually no atmosphere, and because of the lack of atmosphere, Mercury’s sky is black and the stars probably can be seen during the day. For our project today, we will be making Person of the Week pages. Students will also have an opportunity to make a telescope from recycled paper towel rolls. They will decorate the outside and cover the end with dark-colored tissue paper that has been stuck with pin holes to simulate the stars when held up to the light.
Wednesday: Spotlight on Venus. Venus is known as Earth’s twin sister because of its similar size. However, Venus is extremely hot and the deadly atmosphere makes it impossible for any human astronaut to explore it’s surface. Venus is the brightest planet viewed from Earth and is often confused for a star in the night sky. We will also read Brightest in the Sky : the Planet Venus For our special project, students will trace and cut out a star shape and then paint it with silver paint and glitter. These will be placed on construction paper with the Star Light, Star Bright poem. We will be making lots of wishes today too!
Thursday: Our focus will be on our home planet Earth. We will discuss what makes our planet unique and possible for it to support life! Students will be painting large cut-out construction paper circles with green, blue and white paint. They will swirl these three colors together to recreate the image of Earth from outer space. We will be making statements of what each of us are thankful for in regards to our special planet. We will type up the students’ words and put them onto our Earth paintings.
Friday: Today we will be talking about the Earth’s moon and the different phases that the moon passes through. We will make salt dough to simulate the moon, and students will make craters in the surface, which we will let harden and dry so that students can pretend-play on moon’s surface.
Monday:We will be looking at the planet Mars. Mars is reddish in color because there is a lot of iron in the soil, and the air on Mars has made it turn red-just like rusty iron on Earth. The poles of Mars are covered in ice, and the ice becomes thicker in the winter. There are both valleys and canyons on Mars, which suggest that the planet once had large amounts of surface water. For our special project, students will be making Person of the Week pages.
Tuesday: We will discuss Jupiter, the 5th planet from the Sun which is also the largest planet in our Solar System. It is a gas giant which is covered by an ocean of hydrogen with a sludge-like consistency. Jupiter has a very large red spot that is a storm that has been raging for over 300 years. Special Project: Students will color a large circle to resemble Jupiter, and add glue and red glitter to resemble the large red spot seen on Jupiter’s surface.
Wednesday: Today we will talk about Saturn and its famous rings. Saturn has seven thin, flat rings around it that are made up of billions of pieces of rocks and dust. For our project, students will make beaded bracelets with glow-in-the-dark beads to simulate the colored rings of Saturn.
Thursday:We will discuss Uranus, the seventh planet from the Sun and also the coldest. Uranus is considered a Ice Giant along with Neptune and also has rings like Saturn.Uranus We will also talk about comets, which are basically dirty snowballs that fly through space. For our project, students will make foil comets. (Take approximately the same lengths of crepe paper, yarn, etc. and tape to the inside of a piece of foil. Then crunch the foil into a ball around the taped in part to form a comet.) When outside, students will line kids up and see how far their comets can go.
Friday: Today we will be talking about the blue planet Neptune. Neptune is the stormiest planet with winds that can blow up to 1,240 miles per hour, which is three times as fast as Earth’s Hurricanes. For our project, students will make name rockets using cut-out squares with letters to form their names, and they will arrange them onto the paper.
10/11. Eris and Xena
Is it big or small?
Is it made of Rock or Gas?
Is it Hot or Cold?
Star Light, Star Bright
Star light, Star bright,
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
The Solar System Song:
There’s Mercury, Venus, the Earth, Mars too–
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune–
And in very last place in outer space
Is the little dwarf planet called Pluto!
Climb Aboard a Spaceship
(Sung to the tune of the Eensy Weensy Spider)
Climb aboard a spaceship
We’re going to the moon.
Hurry and get ready
We’re going to blast off soon.
Put on your helmet
And buckle up real tight,
‘Cause here comes the countdown
Now count with all your might!
10! 9! 8! 7! 6! 5! 4! 3! 2! 1!
Sometimes we confuse the terms revolve, rotate, and orbit. They have specific meanings in astronomy. Revolve usually means to orbit around. The earth revolves around the sun, and completes one revolution in one year. So an orbit describes how a planet revolves around its sun. The turning of a planet on its axis is called rotation. The earth’s rotation causes night and day. Orbit means the path or trajectory of a revolving body around another – a moon about a planet or that planet about the sun. To rotate means to spin around on an axis, like a top.
You may find instances where ‘revolve’ is used to describe axial rotation, but in most cases the reference is made clear, as in “the earth revolves about its axis once per day”.
From the WikiPedia article on “Planets”:
“All planets revolve around stars. In the Solar System, all the planets orbit in the same direction as the Sun rotates. It is not yet known whether all extrasolar planets follow this pattern. The period of one revolution of a planet’s orbit is known as its sidereal period or year.”