2.1 Significance of Early Childhood Education and School Readiness
The all-round capacities that emerge in 3 to 6 years age group are the pre-requisites for later success in school and life. Through creative play, well thought out games with suitable adaptations for children with special needs, and developmentally appropriate activities, children develop their working memory, focus their attention and acquire self-control. These skills of executive functions and self regulation provide children with the foundations which help them to become as confident and efficient learners in the later years. They also learn to accommodate naturally the differences (learning styles) among themselves.
It is also important that children should be provided emotionally supportive and enabling environment to develop safe and secure relationships with teachers. Children need to feel free to explore, express, learn and build positive self concept. Research shows that participation in preschool programmes is beneficial because it leads to improved outcomes, including better nutrition, health, and education in both the short and the long run. Moreover, from an economic point of view, investment in preschool programmes offers a high pay-off in human capital making a strong case for public intervention. Preschool programmes not only benefit children and families, they reduce social inequality, and benefit communities and societies at large.
Objectives of Preschool Education
· To ensure child friendly environment where each child is valued, respected, feels safe and secure and develops a positive self-concept.
· To enable a sound foundation for good health, well being, nutrition, healthy habits and hygiene.
· To enable children to become effective communicators and foster both receptive and expressive language.
· To help children become involved learners, think critically, be creative, collaborate, communicate and connect with their immediate environment.
· To enable a smooth transition of children from preschool to primary schools.
· To work as partners with parents and community to enable each child to flourish.
Benefits of Early Childhood Education
The young mind is like a sponge. It has the potential to absorb a great deal of information, making it important for children to have guidance while learning. There are many aspects related to early childhood education, here we have listed out the many benefits:
· Socialization: Humans are very social beings and the main concept of socialisation takes root in early childhood. In a safe environment away from family, children meet other people of their age, sowing the seeds of ‘socialization’ and ‘friendship’ in young minds. This helps to develop self-confidence in your children by eliminating their shy nature.
· Cooperation: During this phase, children learn to share, cooperate, take turns and so on. These are all part of a secure social life. This is especially beneficial for an only child, who is not familiar with having to share things. In the safe environment provided, the child will learn to cooperate with guidance from professionals.
· Holistic Development: As a human being, it is important to have a strong foundation in every aspect of the personality such as emotional, social, mental and physical. Teachers who handle young children are well trained to identify the weaker aspects of a child and to encourage them to improve through practical sessions. Interaction amongst peers is extremely important in this context.
· Enthusiasm for Lifelong Learning: Children will develop a hunger for learning if they are taught through fun and exciting activities. This eagerness and enthusiasm for learning will remain with them their entire lives!
· Value of Education: The new environment provided in preschool gives children an entirely different perspective on the requirement of education. Grasping knowledge and applying them to their lives demonstrates the value of education.
· Respect: The environment in preschool helps children learn to become civil towards one another and they start to understand that the concept of respect is not just limited to people and belongings, but also to their environment.
Preschool Learning Experiences structures learning through play and meaningful activities in a developmental sequence. The mark of a superior teacher is the ability to select materials and interact with children in ways that help them learn through their own play and these planned activities. Young children need many and varied opportunities to:
· Plan: children consider what they are going to do with materials and how they are going to do it.
· Play: children use materials and equipment in ways that best suit their personal curiosity and understanding.
· Reflect: children recall things that happened to them, reinforcing or questioning their understandings.
· Revisit: children practice skills and replay experiences in many different ways, with each activity refining or modifying previous learning.
· Connect: children, with the help of staff, connect new knowledge with past experiences, creating links among subject areas and areas of skill development.
Early childhood educators need to become aware of children’s individual interests and strengths and find ways to engage and expand them. They can do so by arranging for a rich variety of learning experiences that appeal to all the senses — visual, auditory, and physical — and by alternating individual, partnered, small group, and large group activities so that children experience various kinds of social interaction.
In early childhood programs, assessment takes place by observing children in daily activities and taking note of their skills, understandings, interests, vocabulary, and attitudes toward various tasks. It includes communicating with families regularly to learn about the circumstances that may affect classroom behaviors or interactions, such as personal or family illness, injury, and child-rearing beliefs and practices. While children exhibit a broad range of individual differences and personal interests, assessment should ensure that both boys and girls have opportunities to participate in a range of activities, from block building to musical, artistic, or dramatic play, in order to stimulate the development of spatial, artistic, musical, and verbal abilities in all children.
School readiness refers to whether a child is ready to make an easy and successful transition into school. The term ‘preschool readiness’ might be used in the same manner in reference to beginning preschool (Kindergarten). School readiness can be actively facilitated with a little forward planning to ensure that children regularly participate in activities that develops the appropriate skills required to help optimal learning when they start school. While many people think of academics (e.g. writing their name, counting to 10, knowing the colors) as the important school readiness skills, school readiness actually refers to a much broader range of skills. In addition to some academic basics, school readiness skills also include self care (independent toileting and opening lunch boxes), attention and concentration, physical skills (e.g. having the endurance to sit upright for an entire school day), emotional regulation, language skills and play and social skills.
The development of school readiness skills allows school teachers to expand and further develop a child’s skills in the specific areas of social interaction, play, language, emotional development, physical skills, literacy and fine motor skills. Without these basic skills already established upon entry to school, children can very quickly find themselves playing ‘catch up’ compared to their peers that are advancing more quickly. Students that begin school with the build block (or foundation) skills in place advance quickly as opposed to those that start school only to then begin the slow process of developing school readiness.
· Self Regulation: The ability to obtain, maintain and change emotion, behaviour, attention and activity level appropriate for a task or situation.
· Sensory processing: Accurate processing of sensory stimulation in the environment as well as in one’s own body that influences attention and learning that effects how you sit, hold a pencil and listen to the teacher.
· Receptive language (understanding): Comprehension of spoken language (e.g. the teachers instructions).
· Expressive language (using language): Producing speech or language that can be understood by others (e.g. talking to friends).
· Articulation: The ability to clearly pronounce individual sounds in words.
· Executive functioning: Higher order reasoning and thinking skills (e.g.What do I need to pack to take to school?).
· Emotional development/regulation: The ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and regulate emotions (for a child’s own responses to challenges).
· Social skills: Determined by the ability to engage in reciprocal interaction with others (either verbally or non-verbally), to compromise with others and to be able to recognise and follow social norms.
· Planning and sequencing: The sequential multi-step task/activity performance to achieve a well-defined result (e.g. a cut and paste task or a simple maths worksheet).
2.2 Early Childhood Education Curricular domains – Enhancement of domain in Motor, Personal, Cognitive and Communication areas
Here children learn to use the big muscle groups of their body. Crawling, walking, jumping, climbing are all examples of this. We are all excited by those first steps, but they lead to greater things like biking, kicking, dancing and swinging.
Learning hand-eye coordination is the focus here. Kids learn how to control precise muscle movement in their hands to build fine motor skills. Coloring, cutting with scissors, tearing paper are all activities which reinforce this development. Legos, origami, knitting, drawing, whittling and sewing help keep the mind and hands engaged as partners as the children get older.
This domain centers on the child’s ability to speak, read, and write, involving alphabetic and phonetic learning. Reading and talking regularly with your kids when they are very young is important, and the conversations you continue to have around the table or in the car enhance their ability to communicate their opinions, wants, and needs with others. Watching and hearing Mom and Dad speak is the first exposure children have to language, and navigating family interactions gives them skills to carry into the wider world. Learning the ABC’s, the “magic” words like “please” and “I’m sorry”, and the wonder of a simple thank you note are all prime examples.
Children learn cause and effect and reasoning here, as well as early math skills and counting and patterning during pre-school years. We all know the game our little ones love to play when they drop the spoon from his or her high-chair so Mom or Dad can pick it up. When we do that, we’re teaching cause and effect.
We are all social beings and our kids are no different. Learning to play with others is a skill that is taught. Making sure a child feels safe and nurtured is part of this development as is using manners and modeling kind behavior. Kids learn what they see and we are their first examples. The things they learn to do reflexively become self-reinforcing habits as they grow older and see the effects of their manners and behavior.
In this domain children begin to show a little independence and learn how to take care of themselves. Learning to dress and eat on their own, how to tie their own shoes and brush their own teeth are all examples of becoming less dependent on Mom and Dad.
Eating and drinking
Specific skill related points
Toileting skills: Teaching of toileting skills should happen at appropriate time in school and at home.
Bathing skills: Teaching of bathing skills is generally done at home by parents/family members as it may not be possible for teachers to teach bathing skills in day care centers. Inform parents/family members on the following points:
Brushing: This activity can be taught in schools after lunch to those children who have difficulty in brushing teeth.
Dressing skills: Dressing activities include removing and wearing clothes including unzipping/zipping, unbuttoning, buttoning, unhooking and hooking and tying lace/ribbon.
Grooming skills: Applying oil, combing hair, applying powder, fixing bindi (in case of girls) wearing chappal/shoes are all activities to be taught under grooming. Generally, by the time children are 8-9 years, they learn all the above mentioned activities by themselves through observational learning. However, children with mental retardation need to be taught all the activities using special methods.
1. Ribbons of 3 colours fixed on undo grill.
2. Wool of three colours.
3. Wool of same colour.
4. False hair.
5. Plaiting other’s hair.
Children between the age group of 6 to 9 years are considered as belonging to the primary level. Due to the intellectual impairment, children with mental retardation show delays in all developmental areas, which reflects in learning academics and deficits in adaptive behaviour. Hence curricular emphasis should be learning skills and behaviours that are necessary to function independently as far as possible and in a socially acceptable manner.
Curriculum for the primary group is an extension of that of the pre-primary class. Therefore emphasis will continue to be on the areas like self-help, language, communication, social, functional academics, domestic/occupational and recreational skills. The extent of coverage of activities to be stressed at primary level again depends on the exposure and achievement at the pre-school level by the children and also the activities have to be age appropriate.
2.3 Curriculum Domains for Early Childhood Education and Sensory Mechanism
The preschool years (3-5) are important for laying a solid foundation for children’s later academic achievement. Children with special needs face numerous obstacles and their development often lags behind that of their peers, so early intervention during the preschool years may be crucial to their later success in school and to reaching their full academic potential.
An effective curriculum is essential in providing these opportunities, and early childhood special education teachers are often presented with a multitude of curricula choices. In recent years, curricula and teaching materials that emphasize sensory experiences have been heavily advocated to special education teachers at conferences and workshops. Multi-sensory teaching methods and materials attempt to improve the academic abilities of students with disabilities and provide an environment of relaxation and enjoyment.
Numerous curricula based on multi-sensory experiences have been developed to teach academic skills to children with disabilities. For example, “Multisensory Structured Language Programs” are aimed at teaching students with dyslexia and related disorders to read and write by “using all learning pathways in the brain (visual/auditory, kinesthetic-tactile) simultaneously in order to enhance memory and learning”
Sensory Processing – or Integration as it is also known – is the effective registration (and accurate interpretation) of sensory input in the environment (including one’s body). It is the way the brain receives, organises and responds to sensory input in order to behave in a meaningful & consistent manner.
Children who have difficulty processing sensory information have what is known as Sensory Processing Disorder.
A new born is able to see, hear and sense their body but is unable to organise these senses well; therefore this information means very little. They are unable to judge distances or feel the shape of one object versus another. As the child is exposed to various sensory inputs, they gradually learn to organise them within their brain and are able to give meaning to them. They become better able to focus in on one sensation and as a result performance improves. Their movement changes from being jerky and clumsy, to more refined and they are able to manage multiple amounts of sensory input at one time. By organising sensations the child is able to modulate their response and as a result they seem to be more connected with the world and in control of their emotions.
When children are efficient in their processing, appropriate responses to the environment around them occurs and is demonstrated by appropriate skill mastery, behaviour, attention and self regulation (controlling their physical activity, emotional and cognitive responses). Children are able to sit and attend to the important pieces of information in a classroom and therefore have a good chance at achieving their academic potential. Furthermore, the child is able to understand their body’s movement in relation to their surroundings and themselves. This allows for success in whole body (gross motor) activities. This in turns aids the social development of the child.
Building blocks necessary to develop efficient sensory processing/motor integration
All the sensory systems need to work together for effective sensory processing. It is important to recognise that there are in fact 7 senses that make up the sensory system and it is these sensory systems that process information as the building blocks to many other skills.
· Visual sense: is the ability to understand and interpret what is seen. The visual system uses the eyes to receive information about contrast of light and dark, colour and movement. It detects visual input from the environment through light waves stimulating the retina.
· Auditory Sense: is the ability to interpret information that is heard. The auditory system uses the outer and middle ear to receive noise and sound information. They receive information about volume, pitch and rhythm. It is important for the refinement of sounds into meaningful syllables and words.
· Gustatory Sense: is the ability to interpret information regarding taste in the mouth. It uses the tongue to receive taste sensations, and detects the chemical makeup through the tongue to determine if the sensation is safe or harmful.
· Olfactory Sense: is the ability to interpret smells. It uses the nose to receive information about the chemical makeup of particles in the air to determine if the smell is safe or harmful.
· Tactile sense: is the ability to interpret information coming into the body by the skin. It uses receptors in the skin to receive touch sensations like pressure, vibration, movement, temperature and pain. It is the first sense to develop (in the womb), and as such is very important for overall neural organisation.
· Proprioceptive Sense: is the ability to interpret where your body parts are in relation to each other. It uses information from nerves and sheaths on the muscles and bones to inform about the position and movement of body through muscles contracting, stretching, bending, straightening, pulling and compressing.
· Vestibular sense: is the ability to interpret information relating to movement and balance. The vestibular system uses the semi-circular canals in the inner ear to receive information about movement, change of direction, change of head position and gravitational pull. It receives information about how fast or slow we are moving, balance, movement from the neck, eyes and body, body position, and orientation in space.
2.4 Sensitization of family, involvement in pre-school and primary level
Some of a child’s most important cognitive development happens during their preschool years. By taking an active role in the early childhood education process, parents can help ensure that their child has all the support they need to develop to their full potential.
Parent involvement helps extend teaching outside the classroom, creates a more positive experience for children and helps children perform better when they are in school.
It is essential for parents to support the learning that happens in preschool settings at home as well. Parents who are in tune with what is happening in their child’s preschool classroom or child care facility are better able to establish a connection between what is learned at school and what takes place in the home. This connection is a key component of a child’s development and supporting further learning.
Not only does family or parental involvement help extend teaching outside the classroom; it creates a more positive experience for children and helps children perform better when they are in school.
Home and School Connection: Parents who are involved in their child's education create a connection between the home and school. Those who participate along with their child are privy to the many aspects of their child's day. At home, they are able to replicate and extend activities that their child experiences in school.
Positive Association: For kids whose parents regularly involve themselves in school activities, parental visits are a positive adjunct to the child's day. Teachers and school staff appreciate assistance with a myriad of duties that many parents can easily fulfill while also adding a new face to the mix. On a deeper level, involvement in this capacity shows your child and your child's teacher that you view education as an important aspect of life - one worth participating in.
Development: Early childhood education is just the beginning of your child's educational career. Involving yourself in a classroom setting allows you to get a peek into the world of young children. Taking the time to objectively determine where your child stands in his development is a key factor in getting to know and appreciate your child for who he is. Discover his strengths, interests and areas that need refining. If your child is struggling with certain aspects of his education, it is an ideal time to discuss concerns with your child's teacher or doctor.
Social Networks: Establishing a social network is one benefit of parental involvement that should not be underestimated. Parents of other children of similar age provide solace, sources of information and family connections that can be lifelong. Kids are apt to become friends with parents who are on a friendly basis. Social connections between children provide security when transitions, such as kindergarten, occur. A child may be more willing to join a group or activity if he has a friend willing to participate. Parents who are involved in their child's schooling can oil the social cogs for their children by demonstrating friendly openings.
2.5 Implication of pre- school and primary levels for Intervention, documentation, record maintenance and report writing
It is important to implement the curriculum the way it was intended to be implemented by the developers. Implementing a program or intervention exactly as described is referred to as implementation fidelity. Children tend to make more gains when teachers faithfully implement the teaching strategies or curriculum.
The most effective programs included an ongoing assessment component for teachers to assess whether or not children were learning and to make adjustments if expectations were not being met.
Inclusion provides an opportunity to treat children with disabilities equally and focus on their abilities. This empowers them with adequate facilities, infrastructure and personal support. Hence,
· Carry out the early developmental screening of all children and identify their strengths.
· Understand the significance of early identification and intervention.
· Make adjustments in the physical environment to ensure it is barrier free.
· Make curriculum flexible and accessible to children with different impairments.
· Develop appropriate assessment and evaluation procedures.
· Build the capacity and empower all the stakeholders to revisit their own attitudes and work towards changing them if required. Gradually encourage them to use positive terminology when working with children with disabilities.
· Use age appropriate play and learning material.
· Sensitization; orientation; training; and counseling of parents and community should be done.
Documentation typically includes samples of a child’s work at several different stages of completion: photographs showing work in progress; comments written by the teacher or other adults working with the children; transcriptions of children’s discussions, comments, and explanations of intentions about the activity; and comments made by parents.
An effective piece of documentation tells the story and the purpose of an event, experience, or development. It is a product that draws others into the experience—evidence or artifacts that describe a situation, tell a story, and help the viewer to understand the purpose of the action.
When used effectively, consistently, and thoughtfully, documentation can also drive curriculum and collaboration in the early childhood classroom setting.
There are several important reasons for using documentation in early childhood classrooms.
· Showing accountability: Accountability is one reason for documentation. Teachers are accountable to administrators, families, community members, and others, and documentation helps to provide evidence of children’s learning. In addition, documentation can improve relationships, teaching, and learning. Use of this tool helps educators get to know and understand children, and it allows them to reflect on the effectiveness of their teaching practices.
· Extending the learning: Consider the following example of how one thoughtful teacher could use documentation to prolong and extend an unexpected learning opportunity. A group of children finds some miscellaneous nuts and bolts on a playground, and their teacher, noting their curiosity, carefully observes their responses and listens to and documents their conversations (by using written notes, photographs, and video). She listens to learn what the children know about the items and what they wonder, such as “Where do these come from?” Then she facilitates a conversation with the children to learn more about their ideas and theories behind the purpose of the nuts and bolts and how they came to be on the playground. Later the teacher incorporates the initial comments, the photographs, and the conversations in a documentation source (panel, notebook, PowerPoint, or other creative product). The children and teacher revisit the encounter through the documentation and reflect on the experience, which helps the children continue their conversation and drives forward their interest. This back-and-forth examination of the documentation helps the teacher and children negotiate a curriculum that is based on the children’s interests.
· Making learning visible: When expected to provide evidence that children are meeting learning standards, documentation is a natural way to make learning visible. Helm, Beneke, and Steinheimer (1998) call this idea “windows on learning,” meaning that documenting offers an insight into children’s development and learning. Moreover, they observe, “When teachers document children’s learning in a variety of ways, they can be more confident about the value of their teaching”.
Documentation can be a rewarding process when educators understand the value associated with collecting evidence and producing a summary presentation, whether in a bulletin board, panel, video, or other format. To become a documenter, one must first understand what to observe and what to do with the information collected. It takes time and practice to learn which experiences support effective documentation and how to collect artifacts and evidence.
Finally, the documenter learns how best to interpret and display the information gathered. Often the documentation provides insights into children’s thinking and helps drive the future curriculum. Deepening children’s learning is the ultimate reward of documentation.