I know it's only February, but it's never too early to start thinking about the new school year. Around the country anxious parents and preschoolers alike are browsing websites, taking tours, and contemplating questions of socialization, academics, and, "Would you like Spanish or music on the side with your preschooler?"
While the choice can seem overwhelming, there are certain things that any good classroom will have. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) (a fantastic organization whose standards are far above the minimums required by state licensing) suggests you look for these 10 signs of a good classroom:
- Children spend most of their play time working with materials and other children. They do not wander aimlessly, and they are not expected to sit quietly for long periods of time.
- Children have access to various activities throughout the day. Look for assorted building blocks, props for pretend play, picture books, paints and other art materials, and table toys like matching games, pegboards, puzzles, etc. Children should not all be doing the same thing at the same time.
- Teachers work with individual children, small groups, and the whole group at different times during the day. They do not spend all their time with the whole group.
- The classroom is decorated with children's original artwork, their own writing with invented spelling, and stories dictated by children to the teachers.
- Children learn numbers and the alphabet in the context of their everyday experiences. The natural world of plants and animals along with meaningful activities like cooking, taking attendance, or serving snack provide the basis for learning activities.
- Children work on projects and have long periods of time (at least one hour) to play and explore. Worksheets are used little, if at all.
- Children have an opportunity to play outside every day. Outdoor play is never sacrificed for more instructional time.
- Teachers read books to children individually or in small groups throughout the day, not just at group story time.
- Curriculum is adapted for those who are ahead as well as those who need additional help. Teachers recognize that children's different backgrounds and experiences mean that they do not learn the same things at the same time in the same way.
- Children and their parents look forward to school. Parents feel secure about sending their child to the program. Children are happy to attend; they do not cry regularly or complain of feeling sick.