I taught Pre-K for many years and I was great at a lot of things. However, the more I learn about early childhood best practices, the more I realize I wasn’t so great at everything. That led me to make my list of “Things I wish I’d known about teaching Pre-K.” Perhaps you too can benefit from my new wisdom.
1. Use a picture schedule and avoid calendar time. Pre-K students do not have a well enough established sense of time to understand the concepts of days, months and years. I spent lots of time repeating the date, counting how many days until our field trip and making patterns with the dates on the calendar thinking I was “doing math.” I now realize students would have benefited more from a picture schedule of our daily routine to understand sequencing and time. Also, doing patterning or counting in a context that was more meaningful to children than the abstract calendar would have been a more productive way to work on math standards.
2. Problem solving or conflict resolution is much more effective than a color chart. Every year I would hang up my pocket chart of colors and every year the same children were on red each day. I knew it didn’t work, but I never knew what to do instead. Now I know the steps to problem solving that lead children to begin to resolve their own conflicts. Approaching calmly, acknowledging children’s feelings, gathering information about the conflict, restating the problem, asking children for solution ideas and then being prepared to follow-up and give support is more successful than threatening to change someone’s color.
3. High quality interactions are more powerful than quiz questions. I was like a broken record asking, “What color is that? How many do you have? Is that a square or a rectangle?” After some analysis, I realized those questions did not tell me much about my students. I could discover so much more if I asked them, “How do you know that?” or “Why do you think that?” Really seeing students as thinkers will benefit them and you more than teaching them to recite colors, shapes and numbers.
Learn from my mistakes. Sometimes we just don’t know what is best for our students because no one ever taught us. Educating ourselves and making small changes can make a huge impact in our classrooms.
Beneke, Sallee J., Michaelene M Ostrosky, and Lilian G. Katz. (2008, May). Calendar Time for Young Children: Good Intentions Gone Awry. Young Children, 63, 12-16.
Epstein, Ann S., PhD. (2012). Social and Emotional Development. Ypsilanti, MI: HighScope Press.