Thoughts from a preschool perspective…

Posted: August 7, 2008 in Learning..., Theory
Tags: , , , , ,

Last night I went to a “parent orientation meeting” for my daughter who will soon be in preschool. (She is psyched, by the way…) The owner facilitated the meeting. She is well-read and deeply entrenched in child psychology, educational best practices and sound pedagogy… so it’s always fun to see and hear what they do here. During the meeting, she took out a picture chart (appropriate for preschoolers) that gave the overview of the day… and she said some things that really struck me. Let me boil some of the day’s events down for you:

Meet/Arrive/Play: Kids come in when they arrive and take care of their needs: eating, playing, cuddling… most importantly: seeing their friends (who, apparently in this age group, become more important than their teachers)

Group Time: this is where, in small groups of about 6, they meet in a quiet place and talk. They work on things together as a group. Instead of learning the alphabet by saying “this is ‘A’ week”, they will do things like take the name cards and look at letters, talk about what letter it is, talk about what sound it makes, talk about whose name it might be if it starts with that sound, move on to the next letter, etc. They also talk about social things (because, the owner says, the preschool teacher’s job is really to facilitate social growth) like how they might deal with something if more than one person wants to do something at once (talk, play with a toy, etc.).  Low-key and personalized.

Work Time: (yep, it’s called work time… I love it because when preschoolers “play”… that’s what they are doing: learning and working) Work time is key… but before I talk about that, let’s chat about the things that “hug” work time. Before work time, there is something called “planning” (with a picture of a head with a question mark), and after work time, there is something called “recall” (with a picture of a head with lines written across the forehead). So here’s “work time”:

  • Planning: During this time (5-10 minutes), they talk about the options everyone has (so many different centers!) and what each child would like to do.  The discussion is “personalized” (let me foreshadow, it’s differentiated) so the older kids can, for instance, write or draw what they would like to do while the younger kids might bring something from that area to show what they would like to do.  The benefit, she says, is that when it is time for them to get to “work time”, there is no one walking around slowly wondering what to do. They go right to their place and get going on the fun.
  • Work Time: With six teachers in the room (each at their own station), the kids do their thing… and the teachers are really there just to facilitate any social issues that come up (if everyone wants the same dinosaur, how could we solve this?). In these places, the kids practice those skills they have been working on in group time.
  • Recall: Once work time is finished, the kids sit down with their teacher and write about what they did during work time. This shows these little minds that language/ideas can be written and shared with others.

Throughout the day, there is “a nice transition and movement between small, medium and large groups every day.”

Okay, so granted my child attends a daycare/preschool that is built around the “strong willed child”, but if this works for 3-5 year olds, why couldn’t the ideas of it work for high schoolers? Is sound educational pedagogy sound no matter the age? Do these practices fall into the realm of “Best Practices” (and here)?

I looked again (knowing that this entire discussion and quasi-epiphany must have been hitting me for a reason). Everything they are doing is student centered. The work time itself is the hands-on, concrete, experiential learning. The work they do in group time: focusing on names and weather and whole ideas instead of just the letter “A” or just cutting for the sake of cutting (the preschool equivalent of worksheets and busy work) is holistic. And by keeping it that way, looking at the whole idea, they are definitely not watering anything down: authentic. The choices they have for areas to explore during work time as well as the things naturally built into the day span the entire expressive spectrum.  The recall work these young minds do after their immersion in work time is reflective. The whole experience is social and the play (especially at this age) is collaborative (instead of the parallel play they often engaged in while in the toddler room). Finally, the skill the teachers are helping them with is democratic. They talk about how to solve the problems, how everyone can be happy (compromise) and the kids get choice. They get to choose where they want to work and what they want to do.

In a mini-sized classroom, they are implementing some pretty big ideas… spot on with best practices. I’m (beyond) glad my daughter is there.

So this works for 3-5 year olds. It is definitely best practice, but now the question is,  how, on a high school schedule, can I make it work for high schoolers? Where are the parallels here? What could I boil down and what can’t I lose? How can I be facilitator  of their skills and knowledge while letting them play?

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Comments
  1. teachthemasses says:

    As a mother of a newbie going into KG1 this year, I read this with interest- I certainly hope my choice for school will be as well versed and prepared for the onslaught of 20 something 4 year olds as yours seems to be.
    Be happy- and confident, and secure in the knowledge that they will be doing their best.

  2. 4wardthinking says:

    Thanks, teachthemasses!
    I have been, overall, thrilled with the choice of school for this yung’un. She has really flourished thus far and I’m excited to see the growth during her preschool time. And, from a mother to a mother, I’m going to mirror your sage wisdom right back to you about your school choice: Be happy- and confident, and secure in the knowledge that they will be doing their best. (And they, like you, only want the best for your “newbie”.) 🙂

  3. BigBan says:

    Oh, Thanks! Really interesting. Greets.

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