Approach to Learning
San Luis Valley Early Head Start School Readiness Goals:
Goal 1: Staff will build on children’s internal motivation to help them make sense of the world and acquire competence.
Expectant families will receive information regarding early learning. They will be encouraged to talk to their baby before and after birth and to watch and observe their infant as the baby interacts with their surroundings and the parents. Using their own observations, the parents will be encouraged to interact with their child in ways that will stimulate their child’s interest.
For Older Infants, this includes the schedule providing a balance of activities in the following dimensions: indoor/outdoor, quiet/active, individual/small group/large group, large muscle/small muscle, and child-initiated/staff-initiated undertakings. Routines will be established that allow children a sense of stability. Staff will provide time for children to select their own activities and materials throughout the day. Infants will have free choice of materials, as well as staff encouraging them to explore specific items. Several alternative activities are available for children’s choice. Staff will provide time for children to select their own activities and materials throughout the day as toys are available on low, open shelving. While offering the child a choice of two toys the staff might say, “Would you like the green stacking cup, or the red shape from the shape sorter?” “Would you like to play with the balls, or the babies?” Did you notice there were three cows?” “I wonder what you can do with this blue block?” “I see you playing with the ball, can we roll it?”
Toddlers will have opportunities to be involved in activities in the following dimensions: indoor/outdoor, quiet/active, individual/small group/large group, large muscle/small muscle. They will have free choice of materials. Several alternative activities are available for children’s choice. Staff will respect the child’s choice not to participate in some activities, and choose their own activity. Through observations teachers expand on activities that children start, or interests that children show. Routine tasks are used as opportunities for pleasant conversation and playful interaction to bring about children’s learning. Self-help skills are encouraged as children are ready. Routines are tailored to children’s needs and rhythms as much as possible. Materials are plentiful and diverse to allow children many choices for extending an activity or knowledge of how something works. Teachers are intentional in describing what a child is doing and expand the child’s knowledge. “I see you are playing with the red truck. Did it have a flat tire? Let’s pretend to fix the tire.” “Oh, it’s time to go outside; can you get your jackets out of your cubbies?” “Look how Maria is helping Jayden put her jacket on, what a nice helper.” “Jayden, look at Maria smiling while she is helping you! You helped her feel happy when you let her help.”
Goal 2: Staff will encourage and exhibit a spirit of inventiveness, curiosity and ingenuity.
Expectant Families will receive information regarding the development of children and the importance of speaking to children, and observing their child’s reaction when they offer the child new experiences. When adults talk to a child and explain what is happening in the child’s surroundings, this gives the infant information to extend their awareness and builds their capacity to learn.
Infants will have opportunities for new experiences and chances to observe new things as they are involved in the routines of the day. Staff will provide rattles, squeak toys, and other noise-making objects for babies to hear. Caregivers will move or carry around non-crawling infants so they can see different things and people. Teachers utilize the outdoors as a learning environment, with parent understanding, by taking daily walks and using language to comment on additions, changes and the weather. Staff will interact with infants as if everything is new to them also. “Look at the soft fluffy puppy!” “Oh, look at you rolling over. You are so smart!” “I see you waving your arms; oh you found your fingers to suck on!”
For Older Infants, this includes materials being organized consistently on low, open shelves to encourage independent use by children. Materials are durable and in good repair. Children’s experiences, prior knowledge, interest and curiosity are used as a basis for cultural exploration; for example when looking at pictures in books pointing out things that different cultures use. For older infant and toddlers this goal includes remembering where to find favorite toys or books if they are always kept in the same place; and actively exploring interactions with other people, a variety of materials in the environment, and their own changing physical capacities. Staff will encourage children using open ended questions, for example, “Can you remember where you put the tall giraffe?” “I wonder who can help Josiah find the yellow car he was playing with?” Staff will provide a stimulating, safe environment in which infants and toddlers can explore and manipulate objects and toys. They will provide pictures, mobiles, brightly colored objects for babies to look at, reach for, and grasp. Staff will play naming and hiding games such as peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake. Rattles, squeak toys, and other noise-making objects are provided for children to hear and manipulate. Staff will discuss with parents the need for children to be outside, they will utilize the outdoors as a learning environment, by taking daily walks and using language to comment on additions, changes, and the weather.
For toddlers multi-purpose, open-ended materials are used so that children are not restricted to a specific use for materials (clay, paint, blocks, wood, natural materials. Extra materials are available to the staff in order to add variety to usual activities. Materials are consistent with educational objectives. Materials are consistent with the culture and ethnic background of the population served. Staff will respect the child’s choice not to participate in some activities. Teachers observe activities that children start, or interests that children show. For example: “I noticed that you are using the blocks for a ramp for the cars. Shall we build a garage?” Staff will engage in pretend play with children. Such as when a child is using a play telephone a caregiver might say; “It’s the doctor, he asked to speak to you.” Staff will provide experiences requiring the use of quantity-comparative terms, such as “more”, “a lot”, “some”, “all”, “same”, “not as much”. Staff will listen and respond to children’s questions and requests. Staff will identify and nurture personal capacities to solve problems; this includes children maintaining attention long enough to complete activities and experiences that interest them, such as completing a simple puzzle, listening to an entire story, building a block structure, spending time making and playing with play dough, playing pretend games, learning to solve problems, evaluate choices, make decisions, and take risks. Physical and cognitive interactions with the environment, materials, and other individuals provide children with opportunities to construct, modify, and integrate mathematical concepts. “I see you boys are making towers, which one is the tallest?” “Look at Charlie scooping the sand, which bucket is the heaviest?”
Goal 3: Staff encourages children to think, reason, question and experiment.
Expectant Families will receive information about the importance of children hearing the sounds of language in their home language, if not English. They will be encouraged to share descriptions of what is happening to their child and for their child as they interact in their daily routines. Families will be encouraged to share experiences with their child, through language, as they go to the store, the doctors, or grandmother’s house.
For Infants, this includes regulating and prolonging attention with the support of a responsive adult. For example, as the adult makes eye contact with the infant, and mimics the child’s expressions or sounds, the caregiver encourages turn taking. Caregivers realize the importance of laying a foundation for early learning to happen in a responsive, respectful, reflective environment. Toys and manipulatives are changed when observations indicate children are ready for something new. Teachers use direct contact and language with infants that encourage interaction throughout the day. For example; “I am going to pick you up so we can go change your diaper.” “Do you see the birds?” “I wonder what will happen when you kick the bells?” “Look at you, can you do it again?”
For Older Infants, this includes maintaining interest in interactions or exploration during waking hours, such as sitting on an adult’s lap and listening to all of a simple book. Teachers tap pictures and label objects, people, and animals from the book. For example, “see the dog?” “Oh look, there’s the mommy.” “This is the sister.” “Here is the blue ball.” Children will be encouraged to remember and connect experiences, for example, knowing when they see the lunch cart it is time to wash hands so they will be ready to eat. Teachers may comment, “Oh, here see Miss Rosa in the hallway with her cart? Gabriella, would you let me help you wash your hands so we can get ready to eat lunch?” Foundations are laid in a responsive way so that children feel comfortable to explore new things. For example: as children grow, they will be encouraged to finger feed themselves, and as they progress to being toddlers they will be introduced to child-sized eating utensils, and be encouraged to drink from cups without lids. Teachers encourage learning by asking open ended questions, for example, “I wonder what would happen if we put our oatmeal in the freezer? Shall we try an experiment?” “I wonder where the kitty lives?”
For Toddlers, adults allow children latitude to solve their own problems. Children will demonstrate persistence in learning and discovery. This includes maintaining attention long enough to complete activities and experiences that interest them, such as completing a simple puzzle, listening to an entire story, building a block structure, spending time at a play dough table, and playing pretend games.
Through a balance of content and process, children are helped to learn ways of discovering what makes things happen, and are provided with a better understanding of the world, enhancing their sense of wonder and curiosity. Children solve problems on a daily basis in a classroom climate that encourages and supports problem-solving efforts. For example, “Let’s see if you can help Bob find a car like this one.” “I see you would like a turn to play with the red ball, would you ask Miguel if you can have a turn when he is done, or can we look to see if we can find another one?” Mathematics and the scientific process are integrated into children’s daily experiences (both planned and spontaneous) and into the ongoing activities of the classroom. For example, “I noticed you put all the cows in the barn. How many are there?” “How many children are here today, let’s count and see.” Children classify and order materials, events, and phenomena according to attributes and properties. “Did you notice that all the animals have four legs?” “What else can you find that is blue in our room?” Remembers and connects experiences, uses classification skills. Toddlers are encouraged when washing hands, selecting own materials, being involved in dressing themselves, and picking up materials when they are finished playing.
Sources: Office of Head Start National Resource Center; Creative Curriculum and Teaching Strategies Gold; Early Childhood Council, Early Head Start of the San Luis Valley School Readiness Goals; Colorado Department of Education, Quality Standards for Early Childhood Care and Education Services