How do we prepare children to be ready to learn?
There is great interest on the part of parents in teaching children their letters and numbers and writing skills. The following lists show the pre-reading and pre-writing skills and beginning number skills that every child must develop in order to learn to read, write, and do well in math.
After that, I have listed many of the activities that quality preschools and daycare centers do in the learning areas (physical, mental, social, emotional) to develop these readiness skills so that children will go to school ready to learn.
Reading skills develop in a sequence and we as educators try to help each child progress along that sequence as he/she is ready to progress.
- First, a child develops a love for books. At the same time they are beginning to develop eye-hand coordination.
- Next, they acquire tracking skills (the ability to follow words and pages from left to right through a book).
- Then children begin to recognize individual letters and later they realize that letters form words.
- Next they begin to understand that words remain the same from day to day.
- Listening skills improve at about the same time. The child begins to hear letter sounds and connect them with the written letters. Later, he/she begins to string sounds together to make words. The child then learns to hear and use the rhythm of the language.
- Reading ability continues to improve as he/she receives positive feedback from interested adults.
This is a sequence which each child passes through. One step follows another. A lot of practice is required at each stage.
- First the child begins to develop the sequence of drawing skills (from scribbling to making representational drawings). Encourage them to draw often. Small muscle strength needed for controlling writing instruments is increased through activities using squeezing, pinching and cutting.
- Then the child begins to recognize written names.
- Next he/she begins to imitate letters and numbers for fun and then to write for a purpose.
- When they receive positive feedback from interested adults, children's skills will continue to improve at a fast pace.
These skills develop with much practice and we encourage their development as the child is ready.
- The child begins to count for fun (rote counting).
- Then they begin to see the purpose for counting and begin counting objects in a set (meaningful counting).
- Next they begin adding to or subtracting objects from a set.
- They begin comparing objects in a set.
- Then the child begins sorting (by size, shape, color, etc.) and ordering (by size, first-second-third, etc).
- They enjoy learning to estimate (guess how many) and predict (what will happen next).
- They begin to sequence objects (red, yellow, blue, red, yellow, ____). This is a slow process and requires a lot of practice.
- At last the child begins to recognize numbers and associate the number with a like number of objects. They also begin to write numbers.
- Later, they will write the number words. If we make this learning fun, children will enjoy learning math through their school years.
How do better preschools and daycare centers prepare children to be ready to learn?
To encourage physical development they...
- Feed children meals with good nutritional value and teach nutrition activities to children and parents.
- Teach children and families about good hygiene.
- Practice large motor skills (balancing, galloping, skipping, building muscles in the arms, legs, and trunk).
- Build small motor skills through practice (cutting, holding writing instruments, drawing, painting, stringing beads, using play dough, water play).
- Present activities to develop eye-hand coordination.
- Offer many movement activities.
- Play instruments to the rhythm of the music.
- Play games that involve listening to and following directions.
- Don't forget to take your child for regular medical and dental checkups.
To encourage mental development they...
To encourage social development they...
- Ask open-ended questions (questions which encourage children to think because they have no right or wrong answer).
- Give children choices.
- Allow and encourage creativity (through art, music and movement, dictation, retelling stories and creating new ones).
- Build language skills (through conversations with adults and each other, word games, reading stories, learning nursery rhymes, singing, dramatic play, introduction of new words, providing a writing center with word cards and writing materials, activities with puppets, listening center activities).
- Provide science experiments and introduce concepts about our world to help them make sense of it.
- Learn about the neighborhood and the city through walks and field trips.
- Provide many manipulative materials which encourage the development of problem solving skills.
- Encourage counting objects through games and individual activities.
- Ask the children for their opinions.
- Make charts with their predictions and their opinions and reread them often.
- Provide small group and individual activities involving counting sets and adding or subtracting; provide manipulatives which encourage classifying (by size, color shape, general classes like animals or plants and by function such as library and book or mower and grass).
- Read daily to the children.
- Help them learn sequencing by telling stories back to you.
- Observe each child in order to provide activities to encourage their individual learning. Remember, what children know depends on the experiences they have had.
To encourage emotional development they...
- Set up their classrooms in learning centers to enable and encourage children to work together in small groups.
- Help them develop self-esteem by accepting and respecting their efforts.
- Give them jobs and responsibilities in the classroom.
- Teach children to clean up and straighten up at the end of their work time.
- Help them learn to respect others through adult actions, words, stories and conversations.
- Encourage children to help other children in need and to share.
- Give them love and encouragement.
- Invite them to share their culture with others and encourage their parents to come in to the centers.
- Introduce them to children of other cultures and different abilities.
- Help children develop a positive attitude by being trustworthy models.
- Read books and have discussions which show parents leaving their children at school and being there when their children arrive home.
- Talk about careers and jobs and why parents have to work or go to school.
- Have a structured day so that children will feel secure.
- Let children help make the rules for the classroom and let them choose projects to work on.
- Through example and opportunity help them learn to work and play cooperatively with others.
- Give them the words to use to solve their problems with other children.
- Help children learn to control their own behavior through setting a positive example.
- Help them learn to wait for a turn and to share with others.
- Help them develop plans for activities to do while waiting for a turn.
- Reassure children that it is okay to have feelings and to express them in acceptable ways.
- Give them the ability to channel their energy in constructive ways.
- Through showing respect to our children we help them learn to show respect for each other.
- Give children self-respect through accepting them as they are and helping them develop their negotiating and problem-solving skills.