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What should I teach?

  • 1.  What should I teach?

    Posted 11-16-2019 01:05 PM
    What words should I be teaching 4-year-old/5-year-olds? I'm a new teacher and while all of my education has stressed the importance of play the new school I'm working at stresses academics as well. What words should I be teaching my students? They know their ABC's, phonetic alphabet sounds, common shapes (square, circle, oval, triangle, trapezoid, diamond or rhombus, rectangle, hexagon, octagon, pentagon, crescent, star, heart), they can count forward and backward from 1-20 .
    by sight.



    Deborah Cutshall

    Phi Theta Kappa Member

    Early Childhood Education Major

  • 2.  RE: What should I teach?

    Posted 11-17-2019 12:08 AM
    Have them identify shapes in classroom, different colors in classroom example chairs, doors, etc. Amp up your ABC sounds and items that correspond to letters. 

  • 3.  RE: What should I teach?

    Posted 11-17-2019 12:27 AM
    By "words" I think you mean concept.  If you have a rich vocabulary, they should learn lots of new words.  Just reading lots of books and getting them interested in things in books gives them a large vocabulary. I teach concepts with the curriculum I use.  With Creative Curriculum, you do "Studies" that last about 6 weeks each.  One example of a study is "simple machines."  With that study you do teach words, such as "inclined plane", "lever," and "pulley."  However, you don't just drill these concepts, you have the children explore them through play and experimentation.  For the insect study you learn head, thorax, & abdomen.  We even had a song that was like "Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, but using bug parts.  "Head, thorax abdomen and 6 legs..."  If the kids are just being drilled, they won't learn as well as if it is embedded with play.  During the studies we learn shapes, colors, alphabet, sounds, numbers and math, etc.  My suggestion if they want more academics is to embed them in their play and investigations.  Another example is during our "pet" study, we created a dramatic play area to be the "vet" and had a sign up sheet for people to sign their name when they brought their pet.  Then the vet would use doctor office tools on the pet and then write on a pad of paper instructions for the pet owner how to care for their pet.  There were always opportunities to write.  For our snack we often had them read the recipe to make their own snack.  All we did was cut out the labels of cereal boxes and a raisin box and they made their own trail mix following the recipe, such as 1 scoop of Cheerios, etc, with the labels.  Once you get going thinking of these things, you'll learn how to embed the learning in the play.  Teach some concepts during group time and then reinforce them during play time with props and materials.

    DeAnn Jones
    Co-Facilitator for the Family Child Care Interest Forum
    Discovery Place Child Care, LLC
    Bozeman, MT

  • 4.  RE: What should I teach?

    Posted 11-17-2019 12:59 AM
    A very interesting question, Deborah. I agree with DeAnn's response where it seems to me she is responding to your question using  athe evidenced-based curriculum she is following to create a high quality learning environment to support the growth, development and achievements of the children that will provide them with the foundation they need to succeed in school and life.

    I am curious to know what evidenced-based curriculum used by the Early Childhood Education Program where you are working.

    As a former kindergarten teacher and Director of several Early Childhood Education Centers, I am reminded early childhood education is focused on the children. Therefore, I always start with what do I know about how the children learn, what is of interest to them and then how do I plan meaningful activities and experiences to support the children in meeting the goals and, if applicable, Early Learning Standards in the state.

    Next, I think about best practices I am aware of to support what the children are learning as they engage in activities and experiences included in the curriculum and the activities and experiences I create that are based on my observations of the children as I engage with them in these activities and events, in small groups and individually, connected to the goals for each experience.

    I happen to enjoy planning Projects with young children that are based on the interests of the children.  The "Project Approach" developed by Lillian Katz and Sylvia Chard. I happen to enjoy following the steps included in information about the Project Approach. I found I was able to design a project that included a variety of activities and resources that helped reach the goals for the project. For example, getting books from the local library for the Project selected and reading the books with the children helped identify new words for the children that I included on a Word Wall I created with the children that included new words they identified as we read the books associated with the project. In addition, I was and am always sensitive to listening to questions the children ask about words they hear and ask, "What does that word mean?"

    I love to read about whatever I was studying with the children led me to books, articles and other resources to help me go deeper into understanding what we were studying and I would engage in conversations with the children about what I learned.

    So, all this to say, I think when I planned activities and experiences linked to the curriculum and/or a project that were driven by my observations and interactions with the children, new words that went on the Word Wall responded to your question about what words to teach the children.

    Robert Gundling, Ed.D.
    Better Futures LLC
    Senior Consultant
    Washington, DC

  • 5.  RE: What should I teach?

    Posted 11-17-2019 08:28 AM
    Although, as you mentioned, it would be inappropriate to teach words in isolation to 4-5 year olds, there are ways to introduce sight words that are more age appropriate.  At our preschool, the children pick their name tag off the door on the way into the room and proceed to a "question of the day".  The teacher reads the question to the child while pointing to the words.  The child then puts his name tag in the yes or no column under the question.  Including words from the Dolch sight word list can expose them to words they will be learning in Kindergarten the following year.

    The children really enjoy the process and it also provides a nice way to ease the separation from their caregiver in the morning.  They like having a "job" to do.  By the end of the year, there are sometimes children who can read the question to the teacher.  We never pressure them to do so.

    Susan Ricci
    Director/Lead Teacher
    Vale UMC Preschool
    Oakton VA

  • 6.  RE: What should I teach?

    Posted 11-17-2019 09:32 AM
    Sorry, I think I misunderstood your question.  I thought your school was trying to push academics such as pre-reading skills.  It sounds like you are more interested in expanding their vocabularies.

    Susan Ricci
    Director/Lead Teacher
    Vale UMC Preschool
    Oakton VA

  • 7.  RE: What should I teach?

    Posted 11-17-2019 09:17 AM
    Try looking into the project approach. You follow the children's interested in a study that lasts for several weeks. For example, let's say the children are interested in frogs. You make a web about everything you can think of about frogs that will be your guide. You could talk about where they live, what they eat, what kinds of frogs there are, etc. Usually these projects springboard into other studies as the children want to know more.

    Amy Latta
    Lead NC PreK Teacher
    "All that is gold does not glitter; not all who wander are lost." --J.R.R. Tolkien

  • 8.  RE: What should I teach?

    Posted 11-17-2019 09:19 AM


    It seems like your children have a great academic vocabulary.  Perhaps you can add talking about the natural world and what they might find outside around the center--bringing the outside into the classroom.  As others have mentioned, I would do this in context and as an exploration of materials, concepts, and the world around them.  Similarly, an exploration of the emotional world will enrich them and help their development.  I would also find out what they're curious about and head in that direction. I'm not implying that you don't include these areas of 'study' already, as you probably do, but encouraging you to think of them as on par with the academic words you mention. They're not separate.  I think it's more important for children to have emotional literacy than academic literacy at this young age as this fosters the self-regulation skills to enable happiness and academic learning. I can stretch emotional literacy to include the natural world and the ability to choose their own areas of interest to study, as both of these foster self-regulation skills.

    Aren Stone
    Child Development Specialist
    The Early Years Project
    Cambridge, MA

  • 9.  RE: What should I teach?

    Posted 11-18-2019 04:49 AM
    I absolutely agree. AN integrated approach is definitely best and teach SEL as explicitly as academic learning (Word Recognition, Numeracy, Shapes, etc.). To add, we must recognize the "Power of Play," as it supports theme, hands-on, experiential, inquiry-based learning, life skills, and self-regulation.

    Richae Benjamin-Nesbitt
    Hamilton Parish

  • 10.  RE: What should I teach?

    Posted 11-17-2019 12:10 PM
    How about more complex words for feelings and social/emotional skills just to balance the academic focus. Bias, justice, fairness, acceptance, compassion and resilient come to mind.

    Linda Boss
    University of WI - Platteville
    Lewistown PA

  • 11.  RE: What should I teach?

    Posted 11-18-2019 03:49 AM
    First. Agreeing with everything others have suggested about what to teach.

    Adding. Vocabulary/words are more than important.
    • Teach the labels (nouns, names) of everything in your environment. For example: entry, door, jamb, frame, knob, hinge.
    • Teach the words that describe the action (verbs) of everything in your environment. For example: open, close, swing, slam, ajar.
    • Make sure they know the names of every item on the shelves and what they do. They aren't just manipulatives or table top toys; they are bristle blocks, small duplo, pegs, sorters, stackers, gears, links . . .
    • Add more descriptor words to identify by location, color, size, and more.
    Best to you in your quest to bring more/additional and better/best to your students and their families.

    Mary Wonderlick
    co facilitator
    At Risk & Special Needs Interest Forum
    Chicago IL