I'm so many chapters behind! Here's my effort at catch-up (not mustard). :P
The first line of the chapter states, " Today's prekindergarten is different from yesterday's." YUP!
However, we don't have to lose the charm and fun of a traditional program. We can still have social skills, snacktime, and play! "The... traditional prekindergarten has not been replaced, but rather infused with literacy." I see it as empowering these tiny people into taking an active role in their learning. We all know they love to say, "I can do it myself!".
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"Children are curious about literacy and will naturally engage with reading and writing in a playful way if it is presented not as hard work but as an interesting part of their physical and social world. Enjoyable real-life experiences with literacy are part of high quality prekindergarten classrooms."
This is an oldie, but a goodie: "You can catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar." In the same respect, you can teach more readers with play, than with boring drills.
There are still many teachers who are worried that literacy instruction in prekindergarten is not only inappropriate, but can do more harm than good by forcing kids to "grow up" and not concentrate on those all important social skills. That is NOT what this book is saying. In fact, a statement made by the NAEYC in 1998- over 13 years ago!- addresses this worry: "We now know that exposure to rich literacy experiences [like reading and writing] throughout early childhood has a tremendous positive effect on young children and delaying these kinds of experiences until children are of school age can severely limit ultimate achievement."
The chapter also discusses Vygotsky's philosphy of teaching in a child's "Zone of Proximal Development." I started having flashbacks to college here...but it's helping me in my study for the Praxis 2!
The lower boundary of the ZPD is the independent level: things that a child can accomplish alone. The upper boundary is known as "the learning zone": "Learning takes place as the child links what is known to new information and skills" through the guidance of a teacher.
This is the basis for Differentiated Instruction! A friend of mine put it well when she said, "Wherever the child is on their journey, it is my job to move them forward."
To do this, the IRA and NAEYC recommend:
- Read alouds and set up a rich classroom library
- Create a literacy rich environment- This book has lots of ideas.
- Use Big Books to enhance Concepts About Print
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Although this book can be worksheet-y, it has a great flow of lessons.
- Explore letters and sounds in many ways
- Learn phonemic awareness through games, language play, rhymes, and rhythmic activities
- Regular opportunities to express themselves on paper without demanding "correct" spelling and proper handwriting.
***Handwriting, while often paralleled with writing is a separate skill!***
This chapter is not discouraging play or encouraging the trickle down effect of upper grade skills to lower grades that we have observed at times. In fact, it's the opposite!
"When young children play, they are self-motivated and actively engaged."
"...Play is the fuel for their growth..."
"Play is an absolutely necessary component of any excellent preschool classroom."
Bottom line: It's all about balance!
Both teacher- initiated and teacher-guided (structured) play and child-initiated, child-directed (free) play are necessary. I love the center time designs being laid out by Vanessa Levin of Pre-K Pages, the Daily Five, and Debbie Diller's work stations. Within these frameworks, we have concentrations on math, literacy, and social skill development on guided, independent, and differentiated levels. It has made such a difference in my teaching as well as the student's learning!