Last fall I wrote about “Things I wish I’d known about teaching Pre-K.” The list is pretty long, and I only wrote about three items. Therefore, I decided a “Part 2” was a must as I’m sure there are others who could benefit from what I’ve learned along the way.
1. I wish I had known about loose parts. I used lots of cute, colorful manipulatives, not realizing they often lead children to only one right answer. Providing students with open-ended materials offers opportunities for more learning and deeper thinking. A variety of colors, textures, sizes and shapes is the ideal way to stimulate all the senses which is how young children learn best.
2. I am now aware of the importance of high quality adult/child interactions. I always knew oral language development was one of my most important jobs, but I now realize I may not have been going about it very effectively. Two basic strategies, self-talk and parallel talk, can take language development a long way. Self-talk entails narrating your actions and/or thinking as a way to model language. Parallel talk requires narrating what a child is doing or thinking. Both are simple yet powerful means of enhancing language skills.
3. Since those adult/child interactions are so impactful, don’t miss opportunities to talk with students. For example, greet your students at the door. Many mornings I was absent from that post as I ran around preparing for the day. That time is perfect for talking to children individually and can set a positive tone for the day. Breakfast was the next mistake. I was sadly misinformed that children should be quietly eating while I supervised. How many hours of great conversation were lost while I watched children slurp up a bowl of cereal? A final example would be outdoor time. Unfortunately, I spent more time talking to my assistant than to my students. These are all optimal times for true back and forth conversations. You will help build language skills and get to know your students at a much deeper level.
As my dad says, “You don’t know what you don’t know!" Hopefully, my reflections will help others to know better and thus, do better for all students.
Daly, L. and M. Beloglovsky. Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children. Minnesota: Red Leaf Press. 2015.
Gunnarson, J. (2018). Talk About It: Intentional Teaching Focused on Language.