From The NAEYC Standards:

STANDARD 1. PROMOTING CHILD DEVELOPMENT AND LEARNING

Candidates prepared in early childhood degree programs are grounded in a child development knowledge base. They use their understanding of young children’s characteristics and needs, and of multiple interacting influences on children’s development and learning, to create environments that are healthy, respectful, supportive, and challenging for each child.

Key elements of Standard 1

1a: Knowing and understanding young children’s characteristics and needs, from birth through age 8.

1b: Knowing and understanding the multiple influences on early development and learning

1c: Using developmental knowledge to create healthy, respectful, supportive, and challenging learning environments for young children

How I Strive to Uphold these Standards in my Classroom:

Building and Maintaining a Strong Base of Knowledge about Young Children

As a member of the  Center for Inspired Teaching’s Inspired Teacher Certification Program 2012 Cohort, I have had the opportunity to attend a comprehensive array of classes on Early Childhood Development.

These classes have provided me with an expansive library of books written by educators and education theorists. I use these books on a regular basis to help me shape my thinking and to give me solutions for struggles in my classroom. In addition, the classes have provided extensive discussions, role playing activities, and practical application of concepts taught in class. 

Young children are constantly growing and the world in which we are educating them is constantly changing around them. As such, it is important to stay apprised of new and emerging research and theories about young children. To this end, I have participated in teacher blogging forums. I regularly follow and engage in discussions on Pondering Preschool,a blog written by the Master Teacher who was my guide and mentor during my Teaching Residency at the Inspired Teaching Demonstration Public Charter School. I also participated in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Blogging Challenge, in which I wrote a daily blog for one month and engaged with other Early Childhood Educators by reading and commenting on their blogs and inviting them to do the same to mine.

My participation in blogging conversations has helped me to keep abreast of the latest thinking in the field of Early Childhood Education and to learn from other professionals about best practices surrounding the development and teaching of young children. 

Applying Best Practices for Young Children to my Classroom

My studies and research have taught me that authentic, hands-on activities are the best way to engage children and to help them learn through experience. Rather than plan activities to fit to learning standards, I choose activities and projects that relate to student need and student interest and then search for creative ways to integrate opportunities for standards-aligned learning into these projects. An example of this can be seen in the project summarized in this presentation: Three Little Piggs.

With young children, it is vital to provide a literacy-rich environment where there are multiple opportunities for writing, reading, and synthesizing. It is equally important to provide activities for math learning that are rooted in real experience and hands-on opportunities for children. An added challenge to these important needs is that the best way to meet them is through low-pressure, authentic activities. Thus, I used an exciting challenge in the form of building a safe place for The Three Little Pigs as an avenue for practicing writing, spatial reasoning, measuring, learning about shapes, and writing plans. 

Another important aspect of Early Childhood Education is physical development, particularly Fine Motor Development. As such, I challenged students in this project to cut materials with scissors and tear tape with their own hands. In so doing, they are building the hand muscles necessary for writing while engaging in an art project that does not directly connect to writing. 

This project also helped build cognitive abilities. It challenged students to problem-solve and to generate solutions. It pushed them to persist through challenging tasks and encouraged to reframe their thinking about a failed experiment so that they began to see failures as opportunities, rather than shortcomings. It is my hope that this thinking will serve them well as they grow older and begin to take on more and more challenging tasks in their academic and social careers. 

Teaching the Whole Child

Teaching the whole child is best practice in any grade. In Early Childhood, however, it is vital. Students in an Early Childhood room are not only new to school, they are new to life in general. As an Early Childhood Educator, one has the unique opportunity to help a child in all areas of development- cognitive, physical, social, and creative.

For an example of my work on cognitive development, please refer to my Curriculum section and my Teaching Artifact section.

In these places, you can see the work I do to teach children content areas in ways that are engaging and meaningful to them.

For physical development, I work with the Physical Education teacher to identify and address students’ areas of need in gross-motor development. I also personally cater to this growth through allowing my students multiple daily opportunities for gross motor play including but not limited to: play in a nature are, play on the playground, neighborhood walks, and runs around the track before Morning Meeting to help children settle into the day.

To support fine motor development, I provide lots of hands-on play manipulatives that are fun for children to play with but also provide opportunities for children to build their fine motor muscles, which are necessary for using writing and art tools. These activities include, but are not limited to: weaving pipe cleaners on cross stitch boards, hammering golf tees into floral foam, and massaging doughs like playdoh, gak, and Kinetic Sand.

To further support physical development, I keep in regular contact with my school’s Occupational Therapist and ask for her suggestions for supporting my students.

Finally, I enforce a rule of no junk food in my classroom. My school also participates in FoodPrints,  a program which helps students to work in an on-site garden and teaches them about food science, health, and nutrition. I work with this teacher on a regular basis to allow my students time working in the garden and to make sure that the food and nutrition lessons being taught connect to work in our classroom.

For an example of my work on Social-Emotional Development, please see my Social-Emotional Section under Standard 5.

My work on helping students’ creative development happens all day every day. My classroom has an entire corner that is full of various art supplies, including recyclables, found objects, paints, glues, beads, and more. They are left out for open-ended use in projects. I employ singing and dancing throughout my day and use it for greetings, transitions, and lessons. As further discussed in section 5, I also collaborate with arts-based specials teachers to connect classroom content with creative work in specials classes. I aim to provide an environment that encourages and supports creativity in children and helps them to feel enabled to express themselves in whichever way feels most comfortable to them.

 

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