Last week I had the pleasure of seeing many parents coming and going from their parent and teacher conferences and heard many comment on the depth in which our teachers knew their child: their strengths, challenges, and opportunities for growth.
Parent and teacher conference conversations are one way in which we share our intentional teaching strategies and further build reciprocal relationships with families. We take pride in helping families to understand how our preschool curriculum unfolds through a balance of child-guided and teacher-guided experiences.
Understanding how young children learn in a school that uses best teaching practices today can be somewhat confusing… especially since we often do not have “tangible” documentation of teaching strategies and children’s learning. The worksheets and test results that – as adults – we often associate as evidence are not applicable. Instead, what you see is portfolio-style documentation of work samples that range from photos of the children at work, to writing samples, to artwork, to evidence of number understanding to help “show you” what the children know.
What is sometimes hidden is the thoughtful intention that goes into what and how the teachers teach. With the topic of this letter in mind, I took a few photos last week around the preschool building. These photos show the kind of invisible teaching that you might not know about if you were not present as the experience unfolded.
Faengle’s Flower Shop:
The photo on the right shows two children working in Mrs. Fagan and Mrs. Engle’s (Faengle) dramatic-play area flower shop. They are putting together a bouquet of six total flowers: one orange, one green, 2 yellow, and two blue. One might think “Oh, that’s cute!” However, what they are demonstrating as they work is their understanding of numbers. Let’s think for a minute about what the numbers mean… We might think that if a child counts 1-2-3-4-5-6, that they understand six. However, that is often not the case…
To truly understand numbers, a child must reason that numbers are composed of individual parts that can be manipulated (the concept related to this understanding is called one-to-one correspondence). As these children worked on the bouquet, they had to work through the complexity of 1+2+1+2=6. The bouquet flowers don’t go home, and the order sheets get reused. Without the photo, it would be hard to see the story of their learning. It would also be easy to only see the flower shop and to miss that what Mrs. Fagan and Mrs. Engle really created is a math laboratory.
What is Love?
In these photos, we see two students’ hearts and words. Again, so cute! but really what these children are showing us is that they feel empowered.
Mrs. Hawkes captured the children’s energy surrounding Valentine’s Day to focus on the social and emotional component of learning. She took the time to take dictation, type their words, and tastefully display the hearts.
In doing so, she strongly communicated that the children’s work is valued and appreciated. Mrs. Hawkes also took the time to enthusiastically show me the children’s hearts and thoughts on love. As we talked, she explained that she would keep the hearts on display for a few days. However, after that she planned to use the children’s work to make a classroom book for the children to read. When children feel respected they eagerly participate in learning.
Don’t Splash the Sasquatch!
If you look closely, you can see active engagement on the children’s faces as Mrs. Castro reads the book, Don’t Splash the Sasquatch! The children roar with laughter and eagerly anticipate the suspense of the book as the lifeguard warns the swimmers not to splash the sasquatch who happens to be sunbathing by the side of the pool.
Mrs. Castro intentionally pauses as she reads to encourage the children to chime in “don’t splash the Sasquatch!” Positive experiences with books and printed materials, motivates and encourages children to learn about language and literacy concepts.
These photos show a few examples from three of our classrooms. However, intentional teaching abounds throughout the building all day – every day – in every classroom and from every teacher on our team.
Our preschool teachers consistently think about our curriculum content areas and use thoughtfully planned and spontaneous opportunities to capture the children’s interest and delight. Their teaching is the essence of what is referred to as “Best Practice.” More on BCD's Preschool Inquiry Now!