In a good preschool classroom, teachers focus on all areas of learning at a time. They pay attention to children’s interests and develop themes or projects through which the children can expand their knowledge and skills in various areas. Children are able to reach a deeper understanding of a subject when they can make connections across several disciplines. For instance, children learn about a grocery store (Social Studies) when they set one up in the classroom. Categorizing items while stocking shelves leads to discussions about nutrition and other related topics (Science). Children weigh produce, set prices and collect payment for bakery and dairy products (Math). They also make signs and write shopping lists (Language and Literacy). In a developmentally appropriate preschool program, children will learn the following:
• Language and literacy skills: Adults read to children every day, sometimes one-to-one and other times in a group. They invite children to join in while reading books with repetitive or rhyming words and phrases, and they engage children in discussions about the characters, setting, and plot. Throughout the day, children talk with adults and with other children. Younger children begin to experiment with writing, at times making scribbles (for example, under a picture) that they identify as writing. Some children can write their names or other short words; others are not ready to do so. Teachers plan learning experiences that help children hear distinctions and patterns in language sounds and begin to make some letter-sound connections. Teachers support literacy learning in English and in the children's home language.
• Mathematics: When children construct with blocks, they learn about measurement (how many small blocks in a line it takes to equal a bigger block) and physics (whether things will balance, for example). They talk about the weather every day, go on nature walks, and measure and record the changes in the environment. Children learn about levers and gears and other wonders.
• Social studies: Children learn about their communities and about local, national, or world events of interest to them. Teachers plan experiences that make these events meaningful to children this age. Teachers include and show respect for the children’s home cultures while connecting children’s experiences to those of children and families in other places.
• Art, music, drama, and dance: The children have easy access to a wide variety of dress-up clothes and props they need for dramatic play. Daily, there are times for singing songs and listening and moving to music. Songs and music connect children to their home languages and cultures. The classroom is well stocked with crayons and markers (which 3- to 4-year-olds can easily manipulate) as well as paints and paper, and children are encouraged to express themselves through these media.
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