You probably have academic goals for your child: to be a good reader and writer, to solve problems in math
and science, to be a good citizen in the world, to appreciate the arts, and to use technology. We share the
same goals, but learning in preschool looks different from learning in elementary school.
The ability to communicate with others-through speaking and listening, reading and writing--is essential for
success in school and in life. In our program, we plan experiences every day to help your child develop these
*Listening and speaking: Children who know lots of vocabulary words usually have an easier time learning to
read. They learn new words when adults talk with them, describe what they see, name things, and explain what
new word mean. During these conversations children learn to listen to and understand what others say and to
express their ideas in words and sentences.
When you visit our program, you will hear a lot of talking. We talk with children as they play to describe what
they are doing ("You made a tall tower," or "You used three colors in your picture: red, yellow, and blue.") We
ask questions to encourage children to express their ideas in words ("What do you see the caterpillar doing?"
or "What do you like best about this picture?"). We take time to listen carefully to what children have to say.
And we encourage children to talk with each other as they play.
*Early reading: Reading is about getting meaning from print. Readers know that written words convey
messages. They understand how books work: you turn pages from right to left; pictures show what the words
say; stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. Readers know that words are made up of letters and letters
stand for sounds.
In preschool, children begin to learn the names of the letters and their order. Of
course, the most important letters in the alphabet are those in each child's name.
So we start with those letters first. We post children's names on their cubbies, on
our job chart, on their work, and we encourage them to start writing their names.
Your child will also learn to explore the sounds in language: words that rhyme (hop/pop, cat/mat), and words
that start with the same sound (Peter, pet, pot). This is called "phonological awareness." To teach this skill we
sing songs, recite poems, and read books that play with words.
Most importantly, we want children to want to read. The best way to encourage children to become good
readers is to read to them every day. We have lots of wonderful books in our classroom, not just in the Library
but in every interest area.
*Early writing: Reading and writing go together. When children scribble on paper and tell us what it means, we
know they are beginning to understand what writing is all about. We encourage this beginning writing. We show
children how we use writing to convey messages--writing down their words, their names, making lists and signs
for the room. In our classroom you will see paper and writing tools in our Library and in other places in the
room. For example, we keep writing supplies in the Block Area so children can make signs for their buildings
and in the Dramatic Play Area so children can take phone messages and write prescriptions.
Bigger. Longer. Smaller. More. Less. The same. How many? Math is more than just knowing numbers and
counting. It's about organizing information, comparing amounts, seeing relationships. Math involves logical
Just as the alphabet song helps children learn the names of 26 letters and their order, counting songs and
rhymes teach children to recite numbers in the correct order. But they need lots of experiences with objects to
really understand what a number like "4" actually represents, and to be able to think logically--like a
As you can see, children develop math skills every day as they play with different materials and have
conversations about what they are doing.
Young children are natural scientists. They notice and wonder about things, ask questions, and come up with
possible answers. Then they test their ideas, observe what happens, and share their discoveries.
Some children love insects and pets and want to find out what they eat, how they move and feel, and how they
reproduce. Other children are more interested in how things work. They want to take apart a flashlight, use a
balance scale to weigh objects, or test how fast a toy car can go down a ramp.
In our preschool, children can be scientists every day as they play. We have living things and materials for them
to care for, observe, and explore. We give children tools to use in their science explorations--magnifying
glasses, eyedroppers, measuring cups, magnets, gears, and scales. We encourage children to wonder and
explain by asking:
*What do you see? Hear? Smell?
*What would happen if you tried it this way?
*What did you find out?
And we listen carefully who what children say to understand what they are thinking.
Children are naturally curious about the world they live in--where people live, what jobs they do, how they use
and take care of the environment. This is social studies. Perhaps your child asks questions like:
*What do you do all day when I am in school?
*Who takes care of the animals at the zoo?
*Did those workers build this street?
*What happens to the bus when the driver eats lunch?
In our program, children learn about social studies by being in a group. They help to make the rules for our
classroom, make choices, learn to accept different points of view, and treat others as they want to be treated.
And we study different topics, sometimes for weeks or even moths, so children get to be"experts" in
investigating why things are the way they are. We might study the grocery store--who works there, how they do
their jobs, how they display the food and keep it fresh, where food comes from. We hope you will join us on one
of our field trips and share what you know about the topics we are studying.
Young children love to draw, paint, cut and paste, and mold clay and dough. They also enjoy moving to and
making music, and pretending. They love these activities because they are fun and satisfying. But the arts are
important for another reason. They give children different ways to express what they know and feel. This is why
it is so important for children to create their own works of art. If we gave children coloring books, asked them
to follow patterns, or told them that everything had to be done the same way, they would just be copying
another person's ideas.
In our program, we provide lots of creative art materials--paints,
markers, crayons, paper, clay dough, collage materials, scissors, and
glue--and encourage children to create their won pictures and structures.
We take an interest in what they do and we say: "Tell me about your
picture." Because children's artwork shows their learning, our walls are
covered with children's work. You won't see art projects that all look the
We involve children in all the arts. We encourage them to pretend about situations or experiences they have had
so they gain understanding. We sing songs every day, and we invite children to move to music, all different
kinds. Children play instruments to make up their own songs or to keep time with a march or a song we are
Most of think of computers when we hear the word "technology." We show children how to use computers to
find information, write stories, solve problems, and play games.
But technology is more than computers. It's about using tools to get a job done.
Children use tools at our workbench--hammers, saws drills. They use a tape recorder
to listen to stories and songs or to record on their own. They show their
understanding of how to use tools when they pretend to scan items in the grocery
store, open and close a cash register, use mouse and keyboard to navigate through
a computer program, or use binoculars to observe a mother bird feeding her babies
in a tree.
|What Children Learn in Preschool
A Parent's Guide to Preschool
Diane Trister Dodge and Joanna Phinney
4527 Southwest Hwy.
Oak Lawn, IL 60453
Fax : 708-424-1445