Unit II: Educational Program (Pre-primary)
1. Social & Play skills
2. Cognitive skills
3. Pre-learning skills
4. Language & communication skills
5. Motor skills & Activities of Daily Living
The early years are the most significant years for human growth, development and learning of all children including those with special needs due to disability conditions. The all-round capacities that emerge in 3 to 6 years age group are the pre-requisites for later success in school and life.
National Council of Educational Research and Training has framed the Pre school curriculum that aim at helping the teachers, administrators, policy planners and other stakeholders to provide good quality preschool education to children.
Children are born with an incredible capacity and desire to learn. It is important that children are provided with rich experiences through play and activities that develop critical thinking and problem-solving, understanding about themselves which are age and developmentally appropriate. Pedagogical practices must include activities and experiences for all domains of development such as-cognitive, socio-emotional, language and literacy, physical-motor and creative and aesthetic which are interlinked. Ample opportunities should be provided to explore, understand, experiment, experience and transform information into meaningful content and skills.
1. Social & Play skills
The young child is curious and enchanted about the world – its colours, its shapes, its sounds, its sizes and its forms. But most of all she is enchanted with the people – to begin with her immediate care givers, but also others. This ability to connect with others and to share feelings with them lays a special basis for learning- the cultural social basis of human learning.
The child in the preschool years begins to understand the world around her by making sense of it as she ‘sees’ it. If a set of five pencils is laid out in a way that it is spread apart and covers more space, whereas another set of five is placed close together and covers less space, pre-schoolers will tend to see the latter as having less pencils, although the number is the same! They are governed by the space covered as they see it and not by the concept of number which is still developing.
A major goal of preschool education is therefore to help children move towards more logical thinking by helping them graduate from their perception-bound to more concept based understanding. This gets addressed by helping children form concepts related to the world around them through direct experience and interactions with the physical, social and natural environment. A sound framework for planning their learning experiences to understand the environment could be to help them develop understanding or knowledge for the environment, through the environment and of the environment.
Children learn best through play. Children should engage in play activities which are neither too challenging nor too easy for their developmental level. In a play based approach stimulating materials and activities are made available by the teacher and children self select activities according to there interest at each point of time and learn at their own pace. The teachers role is that of a facilitator and she does not carry out any specific structured activities. In order to enable children to benefit from this approach teachers need to observe and identify learning opportunities and make play materials available accordingly. If a teacher is unskilled and ineffective, it may lead to loss of learning opportunities and learning by doing. Any pleasure- giving activity is play for them and is central to child’s well-being. Play stimulates curiosity and exploration and leads to mastery of body controls, encourages creativity and social skills, and develops emotional balance and language skills.
2. Cognitive skills
During preschool and kindergarten (2.5 – 6 years old), children are beginning to develop and learn new skills through play. Play encourages all the important areas of development, which include: social, emotional, physical, communication/language and cognitive development.
Cognitive development refers to reasoning, thinking and understanding. Cognitive development is important for knowledge growth. In preschool and kindergarten, children are learning questioning, spatial relationships, problem-solving, imitation, memory, number sense, classification, and symbolic play.
Cognitive Development Skills Learned During Preschool
When a child asks ‘why?’ to determine causes and asks questions to solve problems, and clarify their understanding.
Exploring the spatial and physical aspects of their environment. For example, when a child places a toy into a container, dumps it out and then fills up the container again with the toy.
When children experiment, investigate, and work together with other children to problem solve. For example, when children ask questions to understand what will happen next.
When children imitate the behaviors of those around them (e.g. other children, educators and parents). For example, when a child sticks their tongue out imitated another child stick their tongue out.
Beginning to differentiate between objects and people, and learn their daily routines. For example, when a child puts away their toy bin back in the same place it was on the shelf before.
A child’s understanding of number concepts (e.g. more and less) and number relationships. They begin to understand quantities, recognize relationships and understand the order of numbers. For example, singing along to ‘Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed’.
A child’s ability to categorize, sort, group, and connect objects. For example, sorting different colored pom poms into the same colored boxes.
During play, children use objects, ideas and actions to stand for other things. For example, holding a toy phone up to their ear or rocking a baby back and forth.
Understanding these milestones will help you know what kinds of learning experiences to plan in your classroom. Based on your knowledge of development, you can plan activities that are challenging but achievable for individual children. Remember, milestones are markers that let us know a child is growing in a healthy way. These markers are not thresholds or "tests" that a child must pass. Think about milestones when you:
· Set learning goals for your class.
· Read all you can about the stages of development especially for the ages of the children you serve.
· Post developmental milestone charts for reference.
· Recognize that children need different things from you as they move through the developmental stages.
· Provide a range of interesting materials that spark preschoolers' interests and allow for hands-on exploration.
· Provide a range of developmentally appropriate and culturally diverse books.
· Find teachable moments to encourage learning and development.
· Observe children on a regular basis to determine where they are developmentally.
· Remember that children are unique and progress at different rates and that one area of development may take longer than other areas.
3. Pre-learning skills
Pre-Academic skills are the foundation of your child’s academic learning. They are the building blocks that your child needs for future academic success. Research shows* that strong pre-academic skills lead to academic competence once a child reaches school age, and that academic competence leads to higher levels of motivation and self esteem.
Pre-academic skills are a part of your child’s cognitive development. I group pre-academic skills into three categories.
1. Early literacy: This is all about exposing your child to a language rich environment. This includes interest and understanding of books and simple stories, beginning phonemic awareness, and recognizing familiar logos and signs.
2. Math & Science: At this age we think of math as the basic understanding that letters and numbers mean something. Exposure to colors and shapes, matching, sorting, size order, and beginning counting are all part of this skill. Science is all about explorations. This includes observing and asking questions about their environment, cause and effect, and starting to use descriptive terms.
3. Pre-writing: Scribbling is the beginning of writing. As it progresses, children will start to be able to imitate drawing a line down, a line across, circles, and plus signs. These skills eventually lead to forming letters.
The first five years of a child’s life are critical to their development. Learning begins way before a child starts school and that’s why exposing your child to a language rich environment where they can play, explore, have new experiences, and follow their natural curiosity is so important. It’s valuable to keep in mind that for young children their ability to learn these skills occurs in their natural environments and in the context of play. Play is powerful!
4. Language & communication skills
Language and communication develop with extraordinary speed during the early childhood years. Most children babble around 6 months, say their first words at about 1 year, use combined words around the end of their second year, and by the time they are 4 and 5-year-olds, they have elaborate vocabularies and know basic grammar rules. During the preschool years, children increase their vocabulary, use longer and more complex sentences, engage in problem solving, and talk about more than just what is happening at the moment. They talk about things that happened in the past as well as things that will happen in the future. Think of how exciting it is to watch a 3-year-old grow from stringing a few words together to holding elaborate conversations! The chart below highlights preschoolers’ communication skills as they grow. Keep in mind that individual differences exist when it comes to the specific age at which preschoolers meet these milestones and that each child is unique. As you may have already learned in the Cognitive and Physical courses, milestones provide a guide for when to expect certain skills or behaviors to emerge. Think of milestones as guidelines to help you understand and identify typical patterns of growth and development, or to help you know when and what to look for as young children mature. As a preschool teacher, you can use this information, what you learn from families and your own knowledge in the interactions, experiences and environments you create for preschool children.
Understanding developmental milestones is an important aspect of working with young children. Learning about and understanding how preschoolers communicate will help you know how to support them in developing language and communication skills, and what kinds of learning experiences to plan in your classroom and program. Consider the following in your daily work with children in preschool:
· Plan meaningfully: In your daily interactions with children, you can purposefully plan activities that will enable you to generate information about children and how they develop and refine their communication skills. For example, you can observe how children communicate with peers or express themselves as they engage in daily work in your classroom interest areas, how they follow directions as you lead them through activities such as circle time, or how they communicate during free play with peers. You should use this valuable observational information to plan activities that promote further development in children or to adapt goals and activities to meet the unique learning needs of individual children.
· Be sensitive to individual children’s needs: As you engage in these observations, remember that each child is different and that sometimes children may not reach milestones as expected. However, if you are concerned with a child’s development, talk with a trainer. This may be difficult, but it can make the difference in meeting a child’s needs. Trainers can share information with families about typical development and let them know your program is available to help. If your program provides developmental screening tools, these can help begin a conversation about your concerns. You should always talk to a trainer, coach, or supervisor about ways to help the child progress in your classroom.
· Be responsive to families’ needs and preferences: If family members approach you and share concerns about their child’s development, direct them to discuss their concerns with a trainer. The trainer is responsible when dealing with developmental concerns and he or she will begin the process for identifying or referring the child. Families of children older than age 3 could also contact their local school district. The school district can arrange a free evaluation of the child’s development for the child to receive services and support that meet his or her individual needs. Additionally, a pediatrician can perform developmental screenings and possibly refer the child to a specialist.
5. Motor skills & Activities of Daily Living
Another area of development to encourage this year is fine motor skills—or use of the hands. Just as gross motor skills enable your child to perform important everyday tasks, such as getting out of bed and going downstairs for breakfast, fine motor abilities allow for increasing independence in smaller but equally significant matters: opening doors, zipping zippers, brushing teeth, washing hands, and so on.
When combined with increasing hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills also open new doors to exploration, learning, and creative expression. In fact, research shows that emphasis on purely intellectual activities—memorization of letters and numbers, for instance—is far less useful at this stage than pursuits that encourage fine motor abilities and hand-eye coordination. These skills—rather than counting or reciting the alphabet—lay the foundation for academic learning in later years. In order to learn to write or draw, for example, a child's hand must be strong and coordinated enough to hold a pencil steady for a long period of time; in order to participate in school sports, games, and projects, dexterity and coordination must be up to par.
Among the fine motor skills your child will perfect in the preschool years are the abilities to:
The best way for you to help promote these and other hand-related skills is to provide your child with a wide range of materials to manipulate as her imagination dictates. Good choices include blocks (especially the interlocking types like magnetic blocks, Legos, bristle blocks, Tinker Toys, and construction straws), crayons, nontoxic and washable markers and paints, paste, glue, modeling clay, an easel, construction paper, safety scissors, a smock to guard against stained clothing, coloring books, and simple sewing cards. This is also a prime time for puzzles, sand and water toys, and musical instruments.
Activities of Daily Living, or ADLs are the tasks that you do every day, such as get dressed, eat food, brush your hair, brush your teeth, clean your house, play with toys, go to work, go to school, etc. Average people take these activities for granted because they are able to do them easily and automatically. A person with a disability may find it difficult to do some of these activities. Occupational Therapists work with the core problems that are keeping someone from doing these activities, and work on ways to make these activities easier for the client to perform.
· home skills
· school skills
· work hardening