The programs structure and schedule- When I look at a program I like to see that there is a schedule. This provides predictability for the children. It also gives the parents a good snapshot of what their child is doing throughout the day. I also like to look at how the overall day is structured.
- Free Play-When thinking about my dream program I would want to see plenty of time devoted to free play. I can almost hear the deep sighs of horror. Before you run screaming let me explain what I mean by free play. This does not mean the kids are running around cray. Free play means the teacher has planned a variety of activities for the children to choose from. So for example the teacher may have set up the magnatiles, allowed for the dramatic play area and sensory table to be opened. In addition, there may be play dough out on a table or access to the indoor easel and paints. The term “free” comes from the fact that the children will engage in these activities or areas with little to no direction or interruption from the teacher. This allows for independent choices on the part of the child and a chance for wonderful social interactions through cooperative play (I can see Vygotsky smiling down on this classroom). This allows for free exploration and self-paced learning. The children can use their own curiosity to drive their choices and interactions.
- Outdoor Play-As you have read above and in my previous posts outdoor play is an absolute must have! I put it after free play because it is a great opportunity for children to take part in free play. Free play could be conducted in the classroom or outside. However, outdoor play can also be structured such as organized games or activities. However it is done outdoor play is a must! In todays world our children have a huge deficient in outdoor play. I am so passionate about this that I volunteered my husband to build a sandbox for my daughter’s PreK playground this year. We got Lowes to donate the sand and we supplied everything else. I wanted to make sure the kids had many different experiences on the playground. So outside play is a must have in any preschool setting.
- Small Group-As important as large group time is for children it is also important to make time for small group interactions. The activities completed during small group require more individualized instruction. The children gain the benefit of working with the teacher but also interacting with their peers. Again, we see signs of Vygotsky’s cooperative learning taking place in small groups as well as peer tutoring.
- Large Group-As a teacher large group time was always one of my favorites. It was always a time for us to come together as a classroom community. The children always loved to be together and share their own experiences and feelings. A very small portion of the overall day should be devoted to large group. In many classrooms you will hear it called “circle time”. The activities that you will see in circle time are music, fingerplays, group games, reading aloud, group discussion or even small lessons can be done during this time. My daughter’s class does this first thing in the morning. They do songs and dance, the weather, talk about who is at school and who is missing and read a story. At the end the teacher provides the choices for free play. This lasts maybe ten minutes. At the end of the day they meet for a very short time to talk about the day and dismiss by name. It is a chance to be together as a group but is short enough to keep the attention of the 3-5 year olds in the room.
- Snack-in my dream program there would be a snack time or meal time of some kind. There is SO much that can be learned during the interactions at the table. Children learn so many valuable social skills through the interactions at the table with their peers. As a teacher my favorite conversations took place at the table over food. Ideally the snacks would be healthy food choices for the children. I cringe each day when my kids come home and tell me about the pop tarts or chocolate cereal they were given for their morning snack.