Friday, April 11, 2008

Teaching methods in Pre-schools

Preschools subscribe to many different theories and philosophies of education. You may hear some of the following terms used to describe schools you're considering. Familiarize yourself with the various styles to help determine which one is the best fit for your child. Each school may interpret the philosophy a little differently; what's most important is finding one that's a good match with your child - one that will make his first school experience a positive one that inspires a lifelong love of learning.


Montessori is centered on establishing independence, self-esteem, and confidence while fostering learning at a child's own pace.

This self-paced education is accomplished by changing the role of adults in the classroom from teachers of a whole class into that of "guides," as they are often called, for the students as individuals. According to the American Montessori Society, guides have four principle goals, which encompass what the Montessori method hopes to achieve. The guide strives to:

  • awaken your child's spirit and imagination
  • to encourage his normal desire for independence and high sense of self-esteem
  • help him develop the kindness, courtesy, and self-discipline that will allow him to become a full member of society
  • help him learn how to observe, question, and explore ideas independently

The guide may introduce a lesson to the class as a whole, but will then focus on working with students in small groups as they investigate topics on their own in a carefully prepared classroom environment. This individualized attention means children with special needs - whether they are gifted or delayed - often do well in a Montessori environment.

This environment is another trademark of a Montessori program. With so much emphasis on individual and small-group exploration, the room itself is kept bright, warm, and inviting. It will often contain many learning centers that allow a child to focus on what they are most interested in, while being shown through gentle encouragement that they should not be afraid of trying new things either. These centers are filled with objects that cater to what preschoolers are most responsive to - highly tactile, very hands-on learning materials that teach through manipulation.

The sense that they are in charge of this environment also fosters feelings of responsibility and accountability in the children, another focus of the Montessori approach. Studies have shown that a feeling of ownership contributes to better care of belongings. Visitors to Montessori classrooms are often amazed to see children working together to clean up centers after they are done experimenting and learning in them, feeding the animals they are helping raise, even watering plants and tending to small gardens in some instances.

This in turn helps create a mentality of cooperation, instead of competition, among the children. To further this cooperative spirit, Montessori classrooms are divided into three-year sections, which allow children to get to know their teachers and one another better. Older children are encouraged to help the younger children in their explorations, teaching compassion and instilling the lesson that there is no shame in needing help in life all at once.

Waldorf programs strive to stimulate kids' bodies, spirits, and souls with a nurturing, homelike environment that engages all five senses. Rudolf Steiner, who founded the first Waldorf school in Germany in 1919, believed that small children learn best by imitation and their physical surroundings. Creative play is the most important means of learning in a Waldorf classroom, with a heavy dose of teamwork and togetherness. If your child attends a Waldorf school for many years, he will remain with the same teacher from preschool through eighth grade! The result is a deep, close relationship, one in which your child's needs are better understood from year to year.

In preschool, children learn concentration, interest, and a love of learning through cooking, dress-up, singing, art projects, storytime, and other activities. Waldorf classrooms are all natural: no televisions, computers, or even plastic toys. The philosophy teaches that children benefit from the feel, sight, and smell of natural materials.

Waldorf programs are more group-oriented and have a stronger sense of rhythm and routine than Montessori programs. Children with special needs are welcome, although those with severe delays will do better in a program designed especially with their needs in mind.

Multiple Intelligence Theory of Howard Gardner (MI)

MI is based on the research of Harvard-based neuropsychologist, Howard Gardner. It was his belief that intelligence is not only an IQ score, but a compilation of multiple gifts or strengths. In Gardner 's mind, there are ten intelligences that should be developed or concentrated on:

  • Verbal/Linguistic or Word Smart
  • Logical/Mathematical or Number Smart
  • Visual/Spatial or Picture Smart
  • Bodily/Kinesthetic or Body Smart
  • Musical or Music Smart
  • Interpersonal or People Smart
  • Intrapersonal or Self Smart
  • Natural or Nature Smart
  • Existential or Spirit Smart
  • Moral or wise smart
  • physical, emotional, cognitive, and social growth.


Many child care centers, community centers, and religious organizations offer preschool programs. These typically feature the classic preschool experience you might remember from your own childhood, with an emphasis on both socialization and pre-academic skills. If age-appropriate religious instruction is important to you, you'll want to consider one of these programs seriously.

These programs vary greatly depending on the philosophy of the director and teachers. They may include elements from several styles of programs (such as Montessori or Projects ). To varying degrees, children will learn by playing and experimenting with language, toys, and art materials. Some schools may have a stronger emphasis on pre-academic skills and direct instruction, while others will offer a more hands-on curriculum. Talk to the director to find out what her approach is and whether it fits well with your child's temperament and your goals for her preschool education.


If you can't afford a traditional preschool, or can't find one with a philosophy that meshes with your own, consider looking for or even founding a cooperative school. These parent-run programs are usually less expensive than other schools (because of the sweat equity that parents contribute) and allow participating families to help decide what kids will learn and how.

In a cooperative preschool, parents take turns doing everything from managing the finances to washing the windows to assisting in the classroom. Usually, a professional teacher oversees the classroom, but parent volunteers recruit and hire her, serve as her aides, and help develop the curriculum.

Of course, this takes a good deal of time and energy. It's not a commitment to be entered into lightly. But many families believe it's worth it. Aside from the financial benefit and the direct influence over your child's education, you get the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded parents, to observe your child and his peers as they learn and socialize, and even to learn skills that could be valuable in your current or future career.

Reggio Emilia

Many experts have hailed the Reggio Emilia approach as an exemplary system for helping children develop strong thinking skills. The primary goal of this method is to create learning conditions that help children develop these abilities through exposure to all matter of expressive, communicative, and cognitive experiences. Four guiding principles work together to meet this objective:

Emergent curriculum: Topics for study are built on the interests of the children, determined by discussions with the class and their families, and by areas that fascinate many children, such as puddles and dinosaurs. Teachers use these observations to decide what projects are best suited to the interests of the class, what materials will be needed, and how they can get parents, or possibly even the community, involved.

Projects: Children participate in in-depth studies of concepts, ideas, and interests. Such projects are often explained to the children as adventures, and can vary in duration from a week or two to the entire school year. Teachers stand by as advisors to the group, helping them decide what directions they should take their research in, how they should represent what they learn, and what materials would be best suited for this representation.

Representational development: Teachers present new ideas and concepts in multiple forms, such as print, art, drama, music, puppetry, etc. This variation is considered essential in making sure that all children (who have many different styles of learning) have the chance to understand what is being taught to them.

Collaboration: Groups both large and small are encouraged to work together to solve problems using dialogue, comparisons, negotiations, and other important interpersonal skills. Each child's voice should be heard within the group to promote the balance between a sense of belonging and a sense of self.

Teachers play a dual role as researchers in a Reggio Emilia classroom. Their primary purpose is to learn alongside the children, being involved in their group learning experiences as a guide and resource. A Reggio Emilia teacher must always carefully observe and track the growth of the children and the community within the classroom, and also spend time reflecting on what they have learned about themselves and their teachings as well.

The documentation of these observations on the growth of both teacher and children is another facet of the Reggio Emilia approach. Pictures of the children at work and play, dictations of their words, and their interpretations of their experiences help both teacher and parent learn more about what does and does not work for their young ones. This allows for the dynamic of the classroom to be adjusted in whatever way best helps the learning process.

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