Best Practices

The early childhood teachers in Olathe strive to provide best practices in each and every classroom.  To achieve this, the department provides guiding principles that each teacher is expected to follow.

A best practice is a technique or methodology that, through experience and research, has proven to reliably lead to a desired result.  Best practice is defined in The Intentional Teacher as “Educational practices based in child development theory, educational research, and the reflections of generations of teachers that reflect common ideals and beliefs about human development” (Epstein, p 241).

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Best practices in the classroom:

 

The preschool daily routine serves as an important tool for curriculum implementation

Characteristics of a successful daily schedule include:

  • Varied periods of child directed and teacher directed activities
  • Balance of active and quiet activities
  • Sufficient blocks of time for centers and other child directed activities (45-60 minutes for centers each day and 20-30 minutes of outdoor time each day)
  • Utilize both large and small group instruction
  • Large and small group instruction will fit the developmental needs of children
  • Minimal amount of time spent in transitions

 

Child directed activity should DOMINATE the school day.

Children thrive in environments which support their interests and initiatives. When children are able to choose activities, they are motivated to learn. Rather than being passive recipients, children construct their own knowledge through physical, social, and mental activity during play. All activities, including art, should be focused on the process instead of the product. The teacher’s role is to facilitate this learning by supporting the children’s direction, experimentation and discovery.  Play is the primary mode of finding answers in the world of early childhood (Piaget & Inhelder, 1969; Bredekamp & Copple, 1997).

 

Teacher directed learning is critical and must be carefully planned

Children are dependent on guided learning experiences. Ideas, concepts, language, and social skills that children construct or gain spontaneously can be extended, expanded and clarified by appropriate early learning experiences. Teachers must be actively involved in helping identify appropriate topics, levels and formats for learning new skills. With their guidance, children can learn more than they could on their own (Vgotsky,2012).

 

Classroom Lesson Plans

While the actual format of a lesson plan may vary amongst teachers, it is important that key components be evident within any lesson plan that is being used. These components include but are not limited to:

  • Dates for lesson plan
  • Unit of study
  • Learning objectives and/or vocabulary for unit
  • Reference to early childhood skills checklist
  • Activities (included for each part of the daily routine, circle, centers, groups)
  • Daily routine/class Schedule (may be embedded into lesson plan or separate document

 

Managing children’s behavior requires a whole child approach and goes beyond rewards and punishments

To ensure social/emotional growth in young children, it is imperative that significant relationships are nurtured and a sense of community is built. Young children’s “misbehaviors” should be viewed as opportunities to teach new and more productive alternatives that can be generalized across these environments. Lasting behavior management which builds internal self-control goes beyond extrinsic motivation.

In the Olathe School District there are several curricula that are used to support positive behavior and relationships. These include but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Conscious Discipline – Dr. Becky Bailey: “Conscious Discipline is a life-changing, research-based classroom management system and social-emotional learning program for early childhood and elementary schools. It revolutionizes the classroom approach to social-emotional learning by addressing the adult’s skill set and internal states first, and then empowering the adult to teach and model these skills with children. Conscious Discipline is structured around the seven powers for self-control and the seven skills of basic discipline” (Bailey, 2000).
  • Second Step – Social Emotional skills for Early Learning:  “An early learning program that teaches self-regulation and executive function skills (planning, organization, time-management, impulsivity control, feeling regulation, etc.) that help children learn and manage their feelings, make friends and solve problems”  (Committee for Children, 2014).
  • Let’s Be Better Friends– “A Peer Integration Program…designed to foster positive peer relationships between children. The primary intent of this program is to enhance self-esteem and increase social language. It also teaches children specific words and actions to use in everyday situations with peers (Delaney, Fox, & Griffin,1998).”

 

Parents and family members are included in the learning process

Family participation is integral to the growth and development of children in an early childhood classroom.  “In reciprocal relationships between practitioners and families, there is mutual respect, cooperation, shared responsibility, and negotiation of conflicts towards achievement of shared goals” (NAEYC, 2006).  When families and teachers work together a continuity of learning is created for the child.

Each ECD classroom in the Olathe School District is expected to establish and maintain regular, frequent, two-way communication with each family of the children in their classroom. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Classroom Newsletters – A weekly, bi-weekly or monthly newsletter that gives an outline of what is happening in the classroom. This could include units of study, special events, vocabulary, songs, ideas to implement at home, celebrations and more.
  • Daily or Weekly Communication with Parents regarding their child. This looks different depending upon each teacher’s style. Communication should be acceptable and beneficial for both parties and relay pertinent information individualized for each child.

 

Program Assessment

The Early Childhood Programs in the Olathe School District are regularly and continually assessed in order to ascertain that services being provided are of the utmost quality and include current research based strategies and techniques that best serve our population. The following are scales that are used to help identify these components:

  • The Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale-Revised (ECERS-R):  The ECERS-R is an environmental rating scale that is used to help assess process quality in our early childhood classrooms. “Process quality consists of the various interactions that go on in a classroom between staff and children, staff, parents, and other adults, among the children themselves, and the interactions children have with the many materials and activities in the environment, as well as those features, such as space, schedule and materials that support these interactions” (Harms et. al, 2005).
  • The Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale-Extension (ECERS-E):  The ECERS-E is designed to be used in conjunction with the ECERS-R. It was developed to assist early childhood programs with developmentally appropriate activities that introduce young learners to basic skills that prepare them for later academic success.  These items being expanded include Language-Reasoning, Math/Number, Nature/Science and Promoting Acceptance of Diversity (Sylvia et. al, 2011).

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Written By: Melissa Thomas Date posted: October 1, 2012