Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Eleven Criteria for an Effective Prekindergarten Program

So I received the following article in my inbox today. I read it with great anticipation, hoping to read lots and lots about PLAY.

Hardly anything. It doesn't explicitly say, "Don't play", but it sure as heck wasn't a focal point either.

Read it and let me know what you think.

Here it is....

“Very young children learn differently even from children in primary grades,” say Christopher Brown (University of Texas/Austin) and Brian Mowry (Austin Independent School District) in this Kappan article. They suggest Rigorous DAP, an acronym for a set of principles to guide a developmentally appropriate early-childhood program that will prepare students for K-12 success:

Reaching all children – The key is providing activities that will pique children’s interest and increase their participation in academic content. For example, a prekindergarten teacher created a wilderness habitat in her classroom with families of stuffed bears, raccoons, squirrels, robins, and bats (each introduced on a separate day) and integrated all this with readalouds from books and scientific facts.
Integrating content – Teachers need to blend literacy, math, science, and other areas and take full advantage of the interconnectedness of learning. For example, a student tells how a raccoon had ravaged his family’s campsite, leading the class to a discussion of nocturnal animals.
Growing as a community – Circle times are opportunities to draw on students’ prior knowledge and get them sharing insights and questions.
Offering choices – Students should have the chance to shape part of their daily experience as they move among whole-group, small-group, center-based, child-initiated, play-based, indoor and outdoor, and loud and quiet learning experiences.
Revisiting new content – Not all students will understand and remember the first time around, so spiraling the curriculum is essential.
Offering challenges – It’s sometimes helpful to stretch content, vocabulary, and skills to what students will learn in later grades – for example, a teacher asked about the differences between what robins, squirrels, raccoons, and humans need to live.
Understanding each learner – Effective teachers learn about their students in multiple ways – being available to parents at the beginning and end of each day, making home visits, connecting with children’s diverse personal, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, sending home a weekly newsletter, and getting parents’ responses to content-specific questions.
Seeing the whole child – Growth in one domain – physical, conceptual, emotional, and social – depends on and influences growth in others.
Differentiating instruction – Classroom activities should have built-in variability so students can engage in different ways and the teacher can adjust support depending on how students are doing.
Assessing constantly – This includes anecdotal records, work samples, digital photographs, and videos going into portfolios to give the teacher a sense of how students are progressing and how instruction needs to be tweaked.
Pushing forward – Teachers maximize each child’s learning through all of the above, keeping in mind the end goals of the content that needs to be learned, a classroom that’s a great place to be, and students growing and being successful in all areas.

“Close Early Learning Gaps with Rigorous DAP” by Christopher Brown and Brian Mowry in Phi Delta Kappan, April 2015 (Vol. 96, #7, p. 53-57),; Brown can be reached at