Curriculum & Learning

Excellence in Early Childhood Education: School readiness is defined as children possessing the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for success in school and for later learning and life. This means that their early experiences must allow for growth and development in all four domains: Cognitive, Language, Social-Emotional, and Physical. 

Children reach their full potential in a quality Early Childhood program that uses techniques based on research about child development. At Friends, we use those principles to teach the children through solid knowledge of Play & Academics, Developmentally Appropriate Practice, and Curriculum, and then we paint a picture of what it all looks like in the classroom.


Play & Academics

Academics are things related to learning, but the word has become a term associated with what is taught in school: reading, writing, science, social studies, addition and subtraction, spelling, sociology, literature, critical thinking, and much more. But before children can reach that level of learning, there is a solid foundation of six important things they need to do first: create, move, sing, and communicate (requires social-emotional competence), enjoy books, and know how to use the five senses.

But those things must be done in the way young children learn best, and that is not through formal, pencil-and-paper, lecture-driven instruction, but through PLAY.

The power of play is very strong.
Some may worry that play seems like a waste of time, but play is not a diversion from so-called “important” learning. Research shows that when children follow their natural inclinations to explore, investigate, and experiment through play, they acquire the ability to absorb from the ever-changing environment around them for the rest of their lives. They are, in effect, learning how to learn. Genuine playful learning takes place when children are given freedom within the structure, consistency, boundaries, and environment created by adults who know about early childhood and child development. (Parents are included in this, as well!)

Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP)

Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) is an approach to teaching that is grounded in research on how young children develop and learn. In short, Developmentally Appropriate Practice means that we teach the way children learn.

There are 4 domains of learning and development: Cognitive (Intellectual), Language & Literacy, Physical, and Social- Emotional. Too often, the focus is on the first three, while Social-Emotional development is ignored. Here at Friends, we cover all four domains, and we strive to balance them all equally. Children can enter Kindergarten reciting their ABCs, counting to 100, and writing their names, but that’s not enough. Research suggests that being ready for school really means being friendly, attentive, and curious (eager to learn).

Parents and teachers can improve a child’s chances of success in Kindergarten (and beyond) by encouraging confidence, independence, persistence, self-control, cooperation, empathy, and the ability to communicate. Here are some of the important principles of developmentally appropriate practice.

  • The learning environment and daily experiences are based on knowledge of child development.
  • Each child is a unique person with an individual pattern and timing of growth, and his/her uniqueness is honored.
  • Child-initiated learning: Teachers set up the classroom environment so children are always learning, no matter which activities they choose.
  • Teachers meet young children where they are (by stage of development) and help them reach challenging yet achievable learning goals.
  • Consideration is given to each child’s personality, family background, and cultural heritage.

Curriculum

Extensive research confirms that early childhood is the best time to help children build a solid foundation to succeed in school and in life! Positive outcomes result from high-quality early childhood experiences. Our teachers are Early Childhood Professionals, and as such, they are able to construct their teaching experiences and classroom environments based on best practices in the field.

Creative Curriculum

Creative Curriculum is a comprehensive resource that is widely used and highly respected.

  • It helps teachers plan and implement a rich, developmentally appropriate program that incorporates best practices and reflects how young children develop and learn.
  • It provides teachers with the foundational resources and the daily practice materials they need in their everyday work with the children.
  • Research conducted on Creative Curriculum shows that when used well, it improves program quality, promotes positive teacher-child interactions, and leads to positive outcomes for children.
The Foundations

The Foundations are Indiana’s early learning development framework and are aligned to the 2014 Indiana Academic Standards. They provide basic elements that children should achieve from birth to age five in order to be ready for future success. The 2015 revision was based on research, feedback from practitioners, and work from professionals with expertise in each specialized area. All teachers at Friends are trained in these Foundations.

What does this look like in the classroom?

  • Uninterrupted periods of free-choice play times are mandatory to give children the time to explore, experiment, fail & try again, discover, learn, and grow.
  • Until age 8 or so, children cannot think abstractly, so we give them hands-on, real, concrete, active things to do while they soak it all up. This results in explosive brain growth and development!
  • Academic learning that looks like play: blocks, dramatic play props, paint, puzzles and manipulatives, books, large motor activities, and more – that’s where academic learning takes place in math, science, literacy, and language. These experiences are also found in planned activities such as story times, science experiments, music & movement, games, art, and writing. There are signs posted in the learning centers that list all the skills children learn as they play in that area.
  • Repeated activities: Because repetition has been proven to be one of the most effective teaching and learning techniques in education, our teachers often repeat an activity several times over the course of a week or a month. Each time children engage in an activity, they see it in a different way, and they learn something new from it.
  • Reading aloud several times a day: Experts say that children need to hear 1,000 stories before they learn to read on their own. Children who love books are more likely to become good readers and do well in all subjects in school.
  • Daily activities include a mixture of individual, small group, and large group activities, some teacher-initiated and some child-initiated. Children also engage in independent exploration. These multiple methods of delivery allow children to gather new information in a variety of ways, while their prior learning is reinforced.
  • Activities and educational content are presented in many different ways to accommodate the multiple intelligences of children.
  • Lesson plans: Teachers in each classroom post weekly lesson plans that provide parents with information on the week’s activities and the skills that will be learned through those activities. However, good teachers know that at any given moment, something new can happen that will be better than what is planned, so that’s what they go with, for example a tree being cut down outside the window, or a child bringing in a bird’s nest. Spontaneous, excited, joyful learning takes place then!