Friday, January 14, 2011

Early Children Education – what should it be?

Early childhood Education should provide an environment in which children can develop emotionally and become socially and physically confident. It is important that children are confident to have a go, express their views and are eager to explore new learning. The early childhood curriculum must allow for children to experience success and for these successful experiences to outweigh all other. Learning must be broken down into manageable parts for each child.

Hence, some identifiable characteristics what an Early Childhood Education are: Play-based program, Integrative learning, Childcentred teaching, Thematic Content and Parents-Teachers Partnership. These will be elaborate:

(i) Play-based Program
For young children, play is what they all do all day. Playing is living, and living is playing. Play has an important role in the development of a child’s positive self concept as it is through play experiences that children learn to lead, to follow, to cooperate, to take turns and to wait. This allows the child to move from an egocentric being to becoming a group member. Play should be an agent in children’s learning.

For young children, mental development results from their play. Growth of their ability to deal with the problems of life-social development results from play. Growth of their imaginations results from play. Muscles develop in play, too. Play-based is important to children because children need to explore, manipulate, discover, practice and represent. During play, children are free to make choice and to follow interest, are self motivated, engage in play about what irrelevant to them and their lives, dare to take risk, learn from mistakes without any feelings of failure and negotiate and set their own goals and challenge. Children learn best when they are actively involved and interested (12 principles). According to Piaget children do not learn by sitting down quietly. Play is recognized as a central mode of learning of the young child. The appropriateness of a play-based curriculum is endorsed at all levels of curriculum development in early childhood education (part 5, p9).

Play is an activity. It does not necessarily result in a product. Play is the process by which the curriculum is implemented. There are two main types of play; free (or spontaneous) play and organized play. Free play, as its name suggests, is flexible. It is unplanned by adults. It is self-selected, open exercise. Organized play may also be open and flexible. However, some structure is provided in terms of materials and equipment or directions given by teacher. Dramatic play is where children act out the parts of one more characters that may be real or imaginary. Play may involve children using materials alone or in groups and sometimes equipment is used in dramatic play. Games can be invented by the children on the spot, or they can be existing games known to most children and adults.

Sequences of play are types of play activities, as with all areas of development, may be classified according to stages. This stage is termed solitary play. Gradually, as the toddler’s social realm expands beyond parents, she will engage in parallel play. Parallel play occurs when a child plays side by side with other children, with some interaction, but without direct involvement with them. As the number of relationship outside the house increases, the child’s ability to play with other children develops further at this point, the child may engage in associative play. This type of play may take the form a child merely being present in a group. Eventually, as they grow more comfortable with their socialites, young children will begin to talk about, plan, and carry out play activities with other children. This type of play, marked by mutual involvement in a play activity, is called cooperative play. The best way to define play is not to define it at all, but to look at its characteristics.

(ii) Integrative Learning

Integrative learning is the process that cuts across subjects’ areas and time. There should be activities that appear as opportunities for play. Motivation is as important as the tangible outcome of learning. In order, to ensure that children are actively involved in their own learning, we as educators should provide: (i) provision of experiential activities that involve children directly, not just as off-occasion experience but rather a routine, (ii) encourage and develop co-operative learning, (iii) stimulate problem-solving based direct observation of the local environment, (iv) observe and assess the range of learning, (v) develop social responsibilities in children through classroom structure and negotiated rules, (vi) create an organized, attractive and exciting class environment, (vii) plan activities that are appropriate for the specific group of children based on factors like age, readiness, home experience, rate and pace of learning and (viii) attempt to work with parents and the community.

Teaching strategies are based on the teacher’s understanding of the teaching/learning situation as related to the educational needs of the individual child. Only when such knowledge is real can it be integrated purposefully by the teacher so as to devise a teaching strategy directly related to the requirements of the learner. Sequencing in curriculum is the organization of subject-matter, or if adopting a more integrative approach the experiencing through planned situations, where the learner is guided in his/her learning from the simple to the more complex. In the development process the concept of “readiness” has an implication for sequencing, particularly when related to the learner’s stage of development and avenue of interest.

Another curriculum factor related to sequencing is the degree to which the learner is able to make choices and have preferences. The essential element of sequencing here is to ensure that end teaching goals or objectives will still be met. Sequencing is an important element. It ensures that the teacher has at least thought about a way of logically developing a learning task. The sequencing of learning should also acknowledge the particular learning modes of the learner and be appropriate to his/her stage of intellectual, social, emotional and where necessary, physical development.

Integrated approach to curriculum design best suits the learning patterns of young children. In such a design the most important factor is the child, for it is the child, not the teacher, who does the integrating and the learning. The teacher can help only by providing the child with materials and giving him/her opportunities to become involved in the right kinds of experiences, but ultimately it is the child who does the integrating.

(iii) Childcentred Teaching
Childhood educators should based their teaching on childcentredness. Obviously the first point of view is held strongly by child-centred teachers, and their curriculum clearly identifies the child’s readiness for learning new tasks as indicated by the child’s behavior. The teacher’s role in determining curriculum is firstly to provide a stimulating environment for the child to work in, secondly to note the signs of readiness for the next step in the child’s learning, and thirdly to guide the child’s interest and desire to learn by providing the child with the opportunity and materials for the next step. However, all this is to be done in an atmosphere free from pressure.

Children express their own feeling in a unique way if they have access to materials and the time to explore them and to give respect, encouragement and confidence in the child. Children learn when they are actively involved and interested in the lesson. Children who are encouraged to think for themselves are more likely to act independently. Providing a variety of learning experiences which are active, relevant and enjoyable. Teacher who gives support to children’s learning through active explorations, interaction with adults, other children, ideas and materials; for example: garden walk, activity: planting seeds-recording stages of growth. Providing opportunities for development; computer, music, reading corner, field trip, outdoor/indoor games, cooking corner and interest corner.

(iv) Thematic Content

Thematic contents are the experience that young children can identify with or are familiar with. They are the contents of their everyday encounters and special interactions, such as birthday celebrations, cultural and religions festivals, animals or plants, trees, insects and so forth. Children have no problems learning and relating to these contents or themes. Themes are the contents of their immediate environment; for example: people they have relationship with, events they participate in, objects they use to play with, places they go to, living things they see or visit and find on tapes, in books and at the movies. Themes are what children are interested in and enjoy doing the related activities, which lead them to find out more and they remember.

Most themes familiar to children require their active participation, implying that we as educators must provide them a wide range of experiences. Hence, it should be themes lead to interaction, provide opportunities for expressive and art-craft activities. Themes are integrative, linking several subjects together through exploration, experiments, construction and cooking activities. It should also be themes that are based on stories, rhymes and poems. Themes are specific or general. As themes are chosen because children are familiar with the contents as a result of personal experience, teachers would have a relevant and successful starting point. Our early childhood education principles state that we should always begin where the children are so that they have the best chance to be successful in their initial learning endeavour

Themes include integration, thus extending children’s thinking and communication skills. When teachers work on themes, they update their knowledge base, skills and values continuously. Thematic curriculum is found to be the best approach to initiate early year’s education. A theme can last a day, a week, month or even a term. The duration is determined by its complexity and integrative level. It is flexible too. A great extend is dependent to on the children’s abilities to share experiences, talk about their feelings, ides and the scope of the activities to bring about understanding and further participation.

(v) Parents-Teachers Partnership
Developing and sustaining links between parents and teachers is essential in maintaining the momentum of the child’s learning. Developing a high degree of mutual trust would ensure an effective and smooth flow of information in both directions which would consequently lend support to the success of their children’s development. Regular contact would create real dialogue between parents and teachers, and through these contacts both parents and teachers are able to communicate to each other on their interest in the children’s progress and learning. The partnership made would in turn give the child the assurance that both his/her parent and teacher are cooperating for his/her benefit.

Since most parents are unfamiliar with emergent literacy, it is essential that teachers proactively communicate information about literacy development and that school’s role in supporting children’s growing understanding of reading and writing (Dailey, 1991). One efficient vehicle for communication is the weekly classroom newsletter. Gelfer (1991) suggests that weekly communication helps to:
- Provide a bond between school and home experiences.
- Extend parents’ understanding of the classroom curriculum.
- Involve parents in assessing the child’s growth and development.
- Encourage parents to reinforce and enrich children’s learning with practical, successful do-at-home activities and
- Strengthen the working partnership between parents and teachers.

After all, parents know their children best and have much to offer in their learning development. Acquaintance with parents and family may offer to why parents raise their children as they do. Furthermore, when parents are empowered as designers of their children’s learning and not implementers of the teachers’ or schools’ curricula, they are more likely to be involved and stay involved.

Additionally, a mutual trust will be fostered by the parents-teacher partnership in the curriculum design. If parents are to become more involved than previously in the constructing and implementing of curricula in early childhood centers then a marked change in the attitudes and practices of professional teaching staff is essential. Similarly, a change in the attitudes of parents will be essential if they are to accept their emerging roles in curriculum development and implementation. An established Parents-Teachers partnership will not only be a foundation of an active partnership between teachers and parents but also with their children.

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