Early Childhood Programs
Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) is a set of ideas used to guide educators in teaching students of all ages. The basic idea of DAP is to reach students on an individual level and as a whole group. The educator must also help students reach goals that are challenging, yet achievable. In teaching young children, the educator must understand children’s way of learning and the different stages of development. A good teacher is always observing her students to learn each child’s interests, abilities, and level of development. This paper will focus on preschool children ages four to five years old. An educator who treats the class in a uniform way will not have much success. She must meet the children on their level individually and as a group. In order to meet the children where they are, the teacher must continually observe children’s play and their interaction with the physical environment and with other children in order to learn about each child’s interests, abilities, and developmental progress. If the educator teaches material on a level that is too low for the children, the students will become bored and will begin to shift their focus away from the teacher. If the educator teaches material on a level that is too high, the children will become frustrated and lose interest in the material with the feeling that they are simply not smart enough to learn about the subject being taught. This can prove to be very discouraging for children. In order to follow DAP guidelines, a teacher must consider what is age appropriate for the group she is teaching. Knowing the age-related characteristics of four and five year olds is essential. The teacher can then gauge the type of material to present and the best way to approach it. The material should be accessible. It should not be too challenging while not being too simple. Going by the “average” of children’s abilities at a certain age is not the way to teach due to the fact that there are always going to be differences with each group and between each individual child. It is necessary to help each child reach challenging and attainable goals because learners will gain most from materials or experiences that build on what they already know and can do, but also make them stretch a reasonable amount toward what they do not know or cannot do yet. The teacher must also consider the children’s cultural life. Each of us are raised to learn and understand different rules about how to interact with people, showing respect, ways to dress, and religious beliefs. Young children that grew up with a certain language and cultural background may find that entering into a preschool environment that is completely different from what they were raised in to be very scary and confusing. A good teacher must create an environment that is welcoming to all children. She must understand that there is more than one way to see the world. The biggest mistake a teacher can make is to assume everyone is like her. Play for preschoolers is probably the most essential tool for the classroom. The freedom to play allows preschoolers to develop in many ways. Play helps to increase attention span, especially when open-ended materials are used such as blocks, art materials, and dramatic play props. Children learn best through active, hands-on involvement. Children are always trying to make sense of experiences, and they learn best when they can relate new knowledge to what they already know, as well as what is already important to them. Children who are allowed to construct their own understanding of the world around them often come up with ideas that are very different from what adults think they have conveyed to the children. Manipulatives are essential in play for preschoolers. Preschoolers can be taught the concept of mathematics, counting, shapes and colors through the use of manipulatives. Children’s initiative, curiosity, resourcefulness, and creativity can shine during play. Reasoning and problem-solving abilities can be stretched, as well as social and communication skills. There is also the added benefits of physical improvements with the increase of fine and gross motor skills, as well as hand-eye coordination. Children’s participation in high-level play activities is a great predictor of success later in school.