ExchangeEveryDay - email received by Joan Sare
Illiterate Finish Kindergartners, October 12, 2015
"Forget the Common Core, Finland's youngsters are in charge of determining what happens in the classroom," boldly proclaims Tim Walker in his Atlantic article, "The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland."
While in the US, the Common Core dictates that children should be able to "read emergent-texts with purpose and understanding" by the end of kindergarten, in Finland children are not required to engage in formal literacy instruction until the age of six. Yet year after year Finland outperforms most nations in literacy and mathematical tests of its 15-year-olds in international tests like the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
"Children learn so well through play," remarked teacher Anni-Kaisa Osei Ntiamoah to Walker. "They don't even realize that they are learning because they are so interested in what they are doing."
Walled Lake uses the High Scope Curriculum and the High Scope Child Observation Record assessment tool in all of our programs. This research based curriculum aligns with the Michigan Department of Education Standards of Quality for Early Childhood as well as with the Common Core. The most recent research shows that children learn best at this age through active participation with their peers and their environment. Our staff engages your child throughout the day in activities that will both interest and challenge your child. Using an approach supported by the work of Lev Vygotsky, and many others, we seek opportunities to nudge your child when they are in their zone of proximal development. If they are frustrated because they just can't continue to build a taller tower, we will be there asking them what else they can do to support their structure. We will offer ideas when needed, and expand their vocabulary by giving them the words with which to express themselves.
You know that your child does best when they know what their day is going to be like: What am I going to have for dinner tonight? Who is picking me up from preschool? How long until I get to see grandma?
Our structured day gives them the comfort of a predictable routine in a schedule that is also flexible to daily needs. Here are the key parts to our preschool day, although the order for some things may vary for your child's class:
- Morning message - This gives children the opportunity to know what to expect, if there are special visitors, if they are going outside, and maybe how many days until they come back to school. Teachers begin with pictures, and add words as the year progresses. Your child will be learning that pictures and words have meaning, and they will soon be reading the message on their own!
- Small group - these activities occur with the same teacher and same group of children throughout most of the year. Staff plan activities to support their small group of children in whatever unique ways that they may need. Even within a table group the activities may differ according to a child's abilities.
- Planning - Children decide where they wish to go during "Work time". These plans get more purposeful and more detailed as the year progresses. (Think middle school group projects...children need to be able to think about what choices they will make and have a plan to put them in action!)
- Work time - sometimes called choice time, or play time. This is where children can get deeply involved in an activity that is freely chosen by them. Research shows that children need this time to make connections to previous learning, to try out new ideas, and to build the cognitive foundations of learning. This is what high scope refers to as DO, in the plan, do, review cycle.
- Clean Up - Yes, we ask every child to help put the toys away! This is a an important social skill, and we support your belief at home that even three year olds can know where and how to put the toys away. Our carefully planned environment is like a third teacher in the classroom: it is labeled with pictures and words to guide the children both as they choose to get an item as well as when they must replace it so everyone knows where to find it tomorrow!
- Recall - This is also called review time. It is an opportunity for your child to reflect on both their initial plan and their follow through. It is okay if they did not do what they planned. The important thing is that they are thinking about their thinking - metacognition - and reflecting about that. They may even decide that they want to continue something on their next day at school. We want our children to be able to make plans that will continue over time! What great thinkers they are in process of becoming!
- Large Group Time - Children need to move, and this is a time for them to do so. This is also a time in which children will often have the opportunity to make decisions for the whole group! When a teacher asks your child how they will move, and the group does it, that is a powerful moment for your child. He is being a leader and decision maker, and having fun while he is doing it!
- Snack or Meal Times - Here again, we support your family values. We sit together as a group, teachers and children, and have discussions about what is happening. Children and staff have back and forth discussions and get to know one another better. Children are involved in setting the table, passing and pouring their own milk, and cleaning up their spots.
- Outside or Gym Time - We know that your child's brain and body will work better when it has proper nutrition, proper rest, and plenty of exercise. Going outside will always be our first choice when possible.
Links to the Common Core State Standards from the High Scope website: