Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Should Your Child Really Learn in Preschool

(according to the DAP Approach)

By Joanne A. Jesena
Published in Philippine Star, 2001

Too many preschools, too many philosophies but what should your child really learn in preschool? Here are some questions parents frequently ask and the answers according to the DAP approach or the Developmentally Appropriate Practice which believes in educating the whole child, individualized learning and in an integrated, meaningful curriculum.

1. What is the real purpose of preschool?

On top of the list is the development of self-esteem. Equally important important are helping your child learn to get along with others, fostering your child’s curiosity and natural love for learning. Your preschool should help your child become lifelong learners and help him discover that learning is both meaningful and enjoyable.

2. Will my child learn to read and write?

First, we must realize that reading does not only mean the ability to read word-for-word and neither is writing just the ability to write recognizable letters and words.

Reading and writing both go through a process before reaching reading and writing as known to many.

Very young children are already showing pre reading skills when they display knowledge that "reading" starts from the front cover and ends at the back and that pages are turned one at a time. As your child grows older, she will be able to memorize stories in books, read pictures to tell a story, predict what will happen next and find familiar words and letters. These are important strategies that children use to make sense of written language.

A good reading program will expose your children to a variety of reading materials and will help your child have a positive attitude towards reading. The preschool should view reading not merely as a task but as an enjoyable and purposeful activity. Reading is not confined to looking at and "reading" books but also in "reading" messages, charts and other signs inside and outside the classroom.

As for writing, before a child can even scribble, he needs to have some control over his fine motor skills. Young children should be provided with activities that will help them strengthen their fine motor skills. These activities include playing with play dough, snipping, painting, building with construction toys (such as blocks and Lego) and finger play. Children need to be exposed to different writing materials. Very young children need to write in bigger pieces of paper as they have less control over their hands than older children do.

All forms of writing should be celebrated --- even those that do not seem to make any sense to others! You want your child to feel proud of his efforts so that he will continue to experiment and practice writing until he is ready to write the conventional way.

3. Will my child learn math?

Math concepts are introduced in activities with materials known as "manipulatives." These include puzzles, construction toys and objects for counting, sorting and classifying. Math concepts are also learned in special as well as everyday activities that interest the children. Counting can be learned even during snack time by looking at shapes of food, counting cookies or cereals and finding out who has more or less number of biscuits. The child is exposed to Math in such a way that he sees it as something both fun and purposeful.

4. Will my child learn science and social studies?

When your child asks you why, when and how questions and when he intently looks at an object or he curiously touches and feels unfamiliar objects, your child is already showing interest in science. Your child’s preschool should provide opportunities for your child to explore, invent, think about cause and effect and predict results. Older children go a step further by writing down their predictions and recording and graphing results of their experiments. Ideally, teachers should capture teachable moments during snack time, sand play or anytime of the day, to teach concepts in science.

A good social studies program helps your child build his sense of self within the larger view of the world and encourages an understanding and appreciation of those who live different lives. Children learn through pictures, stories, field trips and just getting to know each other’s families.

5. Will art, music and P.E. be part of the curriculum? And what are their importance?

Art does not only hone a child’s artistic skills but it can also be the core from which many skills are generated. Furthermore it is a good venue for children to express themselves and gain self-confidence. A good classroom has an art project of each child displayed and not merely one or two art works that Teachers view as "the best". At this point, art projects are not valued so much for their artistic quality but more for the effort that the child has exerted in making it.

Music is an important part of a preschool classroom. It livens up the atmosphere, it is fun for children and it provides opportunities for the use of language, reading and writing skills. Also, songs teach children different concepts.

Physical education helps children build their strength and muscular coordination as well as their skills in social interaction. A preschool should have equipment appropriate for the different ages of children in the preschool as well as a safe place where the children are free to play and do creative-movement games.

Now that we’ve tackled the questions that most parents ask about their child’s preschool, I’d like to remind parents that as important as checking if your child’s school will teach the above-mentioned "subjects", is checking if your child’s school will help your child become life-long learners. The preschool should help your child love learning by giving them opportunities to discover that learning is both meaningful and enjoyable. Ask also about their discipline strategy and make sure it is one that is appropriate for your child’s age and one that respects your child’s uniqueness and rights. Make sure the activities are age appropriate too. Remember that young children learn more by doing hands-on activities that are significant to them.

Your child’s preschool is your partner in enriching your child’s early years so take the time to visit and learn about different preschools and choose one that is best for your child.

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