Tag Archives: DAP

Little Shoulders

My grandmother had a lot of sayings.  “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”  “Do not throw upon the floor the food you can not eat.  For many a starving children would think it quite a treat.”  And when my husband asked if I was OK dating him at 10 years my senior, Grandma’s words jumped right out.  “Better to be an old man’s darling than a young man’s slave.”  (Though my then-suitor didn’t appreciate the old man reference at the tender age of 34.)  But apparently there was one I had forgotten until my mom used it the other day:

“You can’t put a big head on little shoulders.”

 It’s a quick reminder, in Grandma’s style, that you can’t expect a small child to think as an adult.  You can’t expect a child to act as an adult.  Children are, after all, children. 

And yet we do it from time to time.

We expect them to wait patiently without giving them something to do.  (And then get upset when they find something to do.)  We say things like, “the baby’s sleeping” but leave out the real message, “it’s time to be quiet”, and assume they’ll fill in the blanks.  And we expect them to ignore that wriggling worm on the sidewalk because we are in a hurry. 

Too often we project our understanding, our perspectives, and our priorities on to the children we love and teach.   Developmentally, children are supposed to be ego-centric.  What’s our excuse as adults?

Monitor your expectations and the words you use with young children and beware of trying to put big heads on little shoulders.  Slow down now and then and see things from their view.  (You were there once, remember?)  Keep expectations appropriate to their abilities, and instructions clear for their understanding. 

Be patient when kids act like….well, kids.

Top photo by Wynand Delport.



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It’s First Friday!

Well here it is!  There were so many great questions and so little time!  I’ve supplemented with some links below.  Please add your links and input in the comment section as well!

(By the way, on my computer the video seems a bit smoother over at YouTube for some reason.  It won’t hurt my feelings if you watch it there– just promise to come back and join in the discussion!)

On-Task Behavior and Developmentally Appropriate Practice (0:10)

As a parent, how do I know what is DAP in my child’s various classrooms? (1:27)

Resources for Developmentally Appropriate Practice:

Basics of Developmentally Appropriate Practice by Carol Copple and Sue Bredekamp

DAP Statements from NAEYC

DAP: What Does it Meant to Use Developmentally Appropriate Practice (From right here at NJC!)

Should food be used as sensory or art medium? (4:22)

Letter of the Week Dilemma (8:33)

Why Don’t You Teach Reading?  A Look at Emergent Literacy

A Culture of Literacy: Teaching Preschoolers the ABC’s and More  (More articles linked there.)

Preschool Tattle-Tells (10:23)

How do I stay consistent with my child’s behavior when I know it’s caused by physical factors? (11:50)

Parenting with Positive Guidance: Building Discipline from the Inside Out

Children and Nature  (14:01)

Why Our Children Need Nature

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

Blogs:

Children & Nature Network

The Grass Stain Guru

Add your links and tips below as well!  And keep those First Friday Questions coming to notjustcute@hotmail.com, with Q&A in the subject line!
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Finding the Sweet Spot for Early Literacy

It seems the older I get, the more I realize the importance of moderation.  Over and over again, I find that answers lie in between dogmatic extremes.  Perhaps nowhere is this realization more important than when considering approaches to early literacy.

When looking at the extremes of this discussion, you’ll find champions of developmentally appropriate practice who shy away from any intentional literacy experiences in the early years, relying on maturation alone to prepare young readers.  On the other extreme are those who recognize and capitalize on the young brain’s amazing ability to acquire new skills by promoting and using programs designed to churn out “readers” at astonishingly young ages.

I am a big proponent of early literacy.  I’m also a big proponent of developmentally appropriate practice.  So how can the two possibly go together? 

 Here are a few things I have considered as I form my (ever-evolving) personal philosophy of developmentally appropriate approaches to early literacy.

First of all, I defer to the experts!  Drs Carol Copple and Sue Bredekemp are recognized as experts on the topic of DAP,  and Susan Neuman is a well-known literacy expert.  Representing the IRA (International Reading Association) and NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) the three came together beginning in 1997 and crafted a joint position statement: Learning to Read and Write – Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children.   After that came even more in the form of a book by the same name (the intro is very informative and can be read here). 

Within the position statement is a careful balance between the two extremes.  In one point, the statement warns against holding to the extremes of maturationist view of reading development.  It notes that withholding literacy experiences until formal schooling puts children at a disadvantage and slows their progress.

Following right on the heels of this point, however, the next statement in the paper warns that research showing the early years to be a valuable time for acquisition of literacy skills, too often leads to the implementation of teaching strategies that are inappropriate  for young children.  These practices (the statement specifies extensive whole-group instruction and intensive drilling on isolated skills) are not only inappropriate for young children, but also less effective in building readers than is teaching a broad range of early literacy skills within the context of meaningful experiences, creating connections, and building upon prior knowledge.

The statement recognizes that literacy does not begin when a child reads his first word.  It doesn’t even begin when a child is introduced to his first letter.  The foundations for reading begin long before.  Early literacy skills include language and vocabulary, symbolic representation (think dramatic play), concepts of print, and phonological awareness.  (Read more about promoting early literacy.) 

 These skills aren’t hurried by drilling toddlers with flashcards, expensive videos, or computer programs. 

 These foundational skills are best built through rich conversation, print-rich environments, imaginative play, reading and discussing books together, singing songs, and playing with sounds.  Young children learn best in a culture of literacy, which may include snippets of direct instruction or very brief mini-lessons, but is largely based on emergent literacy, and those early literacy skills that provide the foundation for formal literacy and formal literacy instruction that will come later.

When I hear someone suggest that “formal instruction” of reading should wait until 6 or 7, I assume they don’t mean literacy shouldn’t intentionally be taught and developed in those younger children (that wouldn’t be in keeping with the position statement I cited above). I assume that they are referring to the need for children to develop these earlier foundational skills through an intentional but emergent curriculum, in order to be prepared for the more formal instructional found in the later grades.

 I think much of the driving force behind the joint statement was the discussion between the two extreme schools of thought –– those that suggested learning to read was entirely developmental and who believed adults should take a hands-off maturationist approach, and those who believed that reading is an adult-driven, learned skill that requires formal, direct instruction.

It is my personal philosophy, and I believe it is the philosophy put forth in that position statement, that there is a “sweet spot” that lies between the two. There are developmental aspects that need to be honored, natural and meaningful understandings that need to be constructed, environments and experiences that add richness, self-learning that can be encouraged and promoted, and appropriate and responsive amounts of direct instruction depending upon age and developmental levels.

Sometimes finding the sweet spot is more work than is sliding to the extremes, but experts, research, and my own experience testify that that is where young readers thrive.

What is your personal philosophy about early literacy?

Top photo by Jose A. Warletta
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Age Does Matter: Your Questions Answered by Dr. Marcy Guddemi

 

On the first of this month, I wrote a post about The Gesell Institute of Human Development and their recent study, asserting that the progression of healthy child development has not changed over the past 70 years, in spite of the fact that our expectations of them have.  (You can read the full post here.)

Dr. Marcy Guddemi, Executive Director of the institute, agreed to answer your questions in regards to that post and the study itself.  Several people had similar questions, so I took the comments and created a list of composite questions, which Dr. Guddemi has so kindly answered.  (My personal favorite response is #6.  Just in case you were wondering.) 

 1.”I am especially concerned about the young children who speak home languages other than English. If English-speaking children are being rushed and pushed by developmentally inappropriate methods and content, then what chance do dual language learners have to jump in and catch up? When you consider that as many as 25% of preschool age children in this country may be DLLs, the difference between what they need in preschool and what they are getting is a service gap of great significance. I believe that as the level of diversity grows, the need to return to developmentally appropriate practices becomes even more critical.” – Karen Nemeth

How could you connect this study to the application of DAP and meeting the needs of children who are dual language learners?

Our study clearly shows where a child is on that developmental pathway that all children proceed on as he/she learns and grows—thus leading the teacher to be able to personalize and adapt the curriculum to meet the developmental needs of that child. 

2. “Are there any connections you can see between your findings regarding DAP and after-school over scheduling?” – Emily @ Random Recycling

 There is no clear connection, but if afterschool over-scheduling is more of the same inappropriate things we see in our classrooms, we must stand back and stop this craziness.  Children need time to play spontaneously for large uninterrupted blocks of time (45-90 minutes) without a teacher or an adult directing their every move.

3.  “I have a question; Is there any ongoing research in regards to pushing kids developmental to enter school earlier and earlier and the high rate of ADHD diagnosis?” -Mona

I believe there is a clear relationship between over diagnosing ADHD and children being expected to perform tasks that they are not ready for developmentally.  We will have to look for more research in this area, but I do remember seeing a study just recently on this topic. (*For those who are interested, you may want to read these articles here, and here and consider the increasing expectations for these young children.) 

4. “How does the Gesell research compare to research done in other countries that widely embrace a play-based early childhood curriculum? How does the U.S. match up in things like crime rate and test scores?” – Sarah 

I believe our research support what other countries are doing—waiting until age 7 to start formal instruction of reading!  Other countries do a better job at respecting the unique needs of the child under age 8.

5. Can you talk a bit more about “splinter skills”?  How do performance and proficiency differ?  If children seem to “rise to the occasion” why shouldn’t we capitalize on that? 

The problem with splinter skills or “performances” is that it is not REAL learning.  Real learning happens when brain cells are connected to build meaning for the child.  When a child memorizes a splinter skill with no  brain connection, it is quickly forgotten—like cramming for a test!  What a waste of time for the child when they could be developing real meaning that will stay with them and also be the foundation for more and more difficult and challenging learning!

6. What is your response to people who reject your study, saying their children did learn to read at 4 and have been successful ever since? 

Some children do learn to read at 4.  But not all children CAN learn to read at four.  Walking is another example.  Some children learn to walk at  9 mo but no one can teach all 9 mo old babies to walk!!  Our research supports that fact that we must respect developmental differences.  Early walkers are not better walkers than later walkers, and research shows us that early readers have no advantage over later readers by the end of third grade.  Each child is different!  Gesell Institute wants each child to be respected and supported in the type of learning that is right for where the child is developmentally.

7. (This was a continual theme in questions that were asked and discussions that were had.)   How do you balance what you know is right for kids with what you know will be expected of them? I know many parents choosing preschools struggle because they know that the play-based preschool is the most appropriate choice, but they also realize the frustration their children will face in kindergarten.  It’s tempting to find those “preparatory” type preschools in the hopes of mitigating the kindergarten frustration.  Likewise, preschool teachers who are well-versed in DAP, who know what will be expected of their students the following year, struggle with deciding whether or not to introduce concepts they don’t feel are age-appropriate, hoping to keep their students from struggling the following year.  What can be done?  What can we do as parents and as teachers if we don’t agree with the push-down curriculum, but it is in full force in our children’s schools? 

We need to be strong advocates for our children!  We need to demand appropriate curriculum and policy in our public and private schools.  Parents need to be active participants in the PTA’s, meet with the principal,  speak and write letters to their legislators.  Visit your child’s classroom and spend the whole day there.  Know the facts.  Knowledge is power.  Do not allow your child to become merely a test score.  Also bombard the principals, etc. with research papers!  The Alliance for Childhood’s “Crisis in the Kindergarten” is an excellent example.  (Summary and recommendations here.)

Thank you so much to Dr. Marcy Guddemi for agreeing to field our questions.  And thank you also to all for your input and interest.  Let’s keep this conversation going!

Top photo by Aron Kremer.
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DAP: What Does it Mean to Use Developmentally Appropriate Practice?

It’s occurred to me that I’ve used the term DAP a lot around here lately, and that it’s a term that warrants a full discussion in itself.   This is a term you can take an entire series of courses on, but here’s my best attempt to get you the basics — quick and dirty!  I’m hoping this will serve as a reference point for more discussions!

DAP, or Developmentally Appropriate Practice, encompasses a wider set of beliefs and practices, which are professed by many experts in the field of early education and child development to be “best practice” for teaching young children, from birth to 8.  According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), DAP encourages teachers to make choices about education based on sound knowledge of child development and learning processes while taking into account individual differences and needs, as well as social and cultural constructs.  Sounds like a reasonable expectation right?

  What this means, is that teachers need to be free to make decisions based on what children need developmentally (generalized by age and stage), individually, and culturally to make the most of their educational experiences.  This implies highly trained teachers with an appropriate amount of autonomy.  You can’t very well create a one-size-fits-all approach, implement it across the board, and call it DAP because the entire philosophy implies an attention not only to general developmental levels, but those of individuals as well.

According to Carol Copple and Sue Bredekamp, authors of Basics of Developmentally Appropriate Practice, teachers who practice DAP meet learners where they are (not necessarily where they should be) and take into consideration all the developmental areas of the whole child (physical, emotional, social, cognitive).  They provide learning opportunities that are challenging yet achievable, working within the ZPD.  And they recognize learners as individuals, with different needs, backgrounds, and stores of experiences.  More succinctly, they state:

“Developmentally appropriate practice refers to teaching decisions that vary with and adapt to the age, experience, interests, and abilities of individual children within a given age range.” (pg7)

DAP is a way of teaching that focuses on how children learn best.  And it’s something that policymakers would do well to become more aware of.  Ignoring DAP in an effort to “get ahead” is generally counterproductive because it ignores the way children are naturally wired to develop.  It replaces in-born motivation and inquisitiveness with mandates no 5-year-old can understand or care about.  Considering DAP while creating policy, curriculum, and individual learning environments yields the best results because it is based on what is known through research and observation and recognized widely in the field of early education as best teaching practices.  It is built from what we know about how kids learn.

So how do kids learn best? 

Again from Copple and Bredekamp’s book, children need:

  • Relationships with responsive adults
  • Active, hands-on involvement
  • Meaningful experiences
  • Opportunities to construct their understanding of the world (a process supported by the three previous constructs)
  • 

So what would you see in a DAP learning environment? 

Teaching would take place in a variety of formats.  It’s woven into every aspect of the environment from procedures and environment, to experiences, activities, and even moments of direct instruction.  In Copple and Bredekamp’s book, they outline four learning formats where teachers can implement a variety of teaching strategies.  They are:

  • Large groups
  • Small groups
  • Play and engagement in learning centers
  • Daily routines

Each format provides a different opportunity for teaching, learning, and discovering together.  Within the variety of teaching formats, strategies, and particular activities, practitioners of DAP promote the health and development of the whole child, not just the aspects measured on the standardized tests.  Copple and Bredekamp, as well as NAEYC, promote attention to:

  • social-emotional development
  • language development
  • literacy development
  • mathematics
  • technology and scientific inquiry and knowledge
  • understanding ourselves and our communities
  • creative expression and appreciation for the arts
  • physical development and physical skills

These areas of development are interrelated and many are often supported with the same activity.  For example, painting at the easel may promote physical development (motor skills), creative expression and appreciation for the arts, social-emotional development (if painting to express feelings), and language development (if discussing the painting with a thoughtful teacher).  So as you can see, the notion that a developmentally appropriate approach can be pitted against an “academic” approach is really nonsensical.  The method of DAP certainly yields academic understandings, but the method of instruction may take on a different (and I would say more appropriate and effective) form.

What it Boils Down To

In case I haven’t bombarded you with enough bullet lists, here are the basic principles of child development that guide the decisions of practitioners of DAP, outlined by NAEYC and paraphrased by me from their position statement (linked below).  If  all educators – teachers and parents alike – and all policymakers would agree to these precepts, I would be a very happy girl, and our children would reap all the benefits.  These tenets are based on the intentionality that is central to DAP.  That teachers are intentional in their teaching, making decisions based on these researched and practiced beliefs is the central premise for DAP:

  1. All domains of child development (social, emotional, physical, cognitive) are important and interrelated.
  2. Many aspects of child development follow a consistent documented progression, with later skills and proficiencies building upon the others already acquired.
  3. Rates of development vary from child to child and even vary between domains of development within the individual child.
  4. Development and learning takes place within the dynamic interaction of both biological maturation and personal experience.
  5. Early experiences have profound effects, and there are optimal periods for certain types of learning and development.
  6. Development builds towards greater complexity, self-regulation, and representational thinking capabilities.
  7. Children learn best within caring and positive relationships with adults and peers.
  8. Development and learning occur in and are  influenced by society and culture.
  9. Children are always seeking to understand the world around them. They learn in a variety of ways and therefore a variety of teaching methods and learning experiences should be offered to reach those different learning styles.
  10. Play is an important vehicle for developing self-regulation as well as social, language, and cognitive development.
  11. Development and learning are advanced when children are challenged just above their competency and when they have many opportunities to practice new skills.
  12. Children’s experiences shape their motivation and approach to learning (persistence, initiative, flexibility) and these dispositions in turn influence their learning and development.

(You can read more about each statement in the NAEYC’s position statement linked below.)

What is your view and/or experience with developmentally appropriate practice?  How does it shape the way you approach the education and development of the children you love and teach?

For More Information:

NAEYC: DAP Frequently Asked Questions

NAEYC: 2009 DAP Position Statement

Top photo by Anissa Thompson.

Center photo by Horton Group.
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Finland’s Finest: Why We Need to Take Note of Finland’s Approach to Early Education

In recent years, Finland has been consistently at the top of worldwide rankings by nation for 15 year-old academic performance.  They’re obviously doing something right.  And in my biased informed opinion, if we want to know why their 15 year-olds are so bright, we need to look not only at what they’re doing in high school, but also (and perhaps more so) at what they’re doing in their early education programs.

While here in America, we seem fixated on the “earlier is better” philosophy, Finland is staying at the top by honoring early childhood for what it is.  In fact, Finnish children don’t even enter formal schooling until they are seven years old.  That’s right.  Finland is getting ahead by starting later.

Before seven, however, young Fins don’t just stay home watching cartoons all day.  The period of early childhood is revered and respected in Finland, evidenced by their commitment to providing access to high quality early education to all of its citizens.

In these preschools and kindergartens, you won’t find the country’s next crop of top students drilling through flashcards or poring over worksheets.  More likely, you’ll see them singing, playing, and painting.  In Finland, the focus for early education is on learning how to learn.  Children are encouraged to experience, explore, and play.  The Fins value the development of curiosity and social competency in the early years.  They know that the “academics” will come more easily later if the foundation is there. 

In addition to Finland’s developmentally appropriate approach to early education, it is interesting to note that its teachers — including its primary teachers — are required to have master’s degrees and generally come from the tops of their classes.  Teaching — even teaching preschool — is highly respected as a profession and recognized for the important and influential work that it is.  Fins realize that teaching preschoolers is more than babysitting and that early educators are intelligent and valuable members of their community.    (Oh, I could tell you the stories of comments like, “Do you have to go to college to teach first grade?” and “So your job is to fill up the paint?”  I’ll save it for another day.)  When valued in this way, teachers are not only more likely to live up to the standards created for their positions, but are more likely to find satisfaction in their profession as well.  And as many of us can attest, a happy teacher is a better teacher!  These highly trained and respected teachers are given a great deal of autonomy and are allowed to teach as they know they should.

While Finland also has many other factors contributing to the favorable outcome of its students (including a high adult literacy rate among other things) it’s impossible to deny the value of its strong commitment to developmentally appropriate, high quality early education.  And yet, in our effort to get our 15 year-olds closer to where theirs are, we seem to be moving our 4 year-olds farther away from where theirs are. 

Unsatisfactory test results and “failure anxiety” have led to more academics earlier, and less time for play-based exploration and social interaction.  But from looking at the Finnish model, it seems we’ve gone about “improving” in the wrong way, throwing DAP out the window.  How can we expect to get the same results as the Fins by preparing our young children in the opposite manner?

Continue the discussion about developmentally appropriate practice.  Read about the Gesell Institute’s recent study, and comment with your questions for its executive director, Dr. Marcy Guddemi here.

To learn more:

Early Education’s Top Model: Finland – The Globe and Mail

A World of Opportunity – Video by Economic Opportunity Institute

Top photo by Arsel Ozgurdal.
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Age Does Matter…

I’ve been back in the public schools lately, as my oldest son is now a kindergartener.  It struck me right away that what I was doing with first graders just seven years ago is now considered kindergarten territory.  As was mentioned in the article I linked to previously by Alicia Bayer, “In America, we currently have this idea that our children are struggling academically so the answer lies in pushing them more and more, at earlier and earlier ages… If our children are struggling academically, it does not make sense to make them do more of the same things that are failing them and from a younger age.” 

The Gesell Institute of Human Development recently held a press conference to discuss a study they conducted to look at this shift in early education expectations.  Noting that developmental norms established through research in the 1940’s by the institute’s namesake and child development pioneer, Dr. Arnold Gesell, strongly conflict with expectations now presented to the average kindergartener, the institute decided to examine whether or not the development of the average child has actually sped up.  After a three-year study involving about 1300 3-6 year olds from 53 schools in 23 states from all points on the demographic spectrum the results show that even after 70 years, what is developmentally appropriate for a child remains the same

Gesell Institute’s Executive Director, Dr. Marcy Guddemi explained during her formal announcement of this study, that “Children have sets of abilities that are definitively bound by their developmental level.  These developmental abilities of a child are directly related to their success at processing the information given to them and to perform the tasks asked of them.”  This means that regardless of state standards and curriculum requirements, if a child has not had adequate time and experience to develop the requisite abilities, her chances for success are slim.  Unfortunately while the pace of developmental growth has not changed, what is expected of these children certainly has.  The problem is, legislation, school policies, and fancy textbooks won’t make children any more developmentally ready for it. 

As Dr. David Daniel, psychology professor at James Madison University and managing editor of the journal Mind, Brain, and Education,  stated in the Harvard Education Letter, “The four-year-old has a four-year-old brain and a six-year-old has a six-year-old brain. There are certain things connecting in a six-year-old brain that are still being worked on in the four-year-old brain.”  When asked about the more rigorous coursework being presented to children at younger and younger ages he replies, “They can be teaching it, but the question is: Is the child learning it?”

In the same article, Dr. Guddemi points out that children may actually appear to learn some of these tasks.  But points out that this “learning” is actually “training”.  Because they are not developmentally ready, the children haven’t built the appropriate connections for meaningful knowledge.  Referring to these as “splinter skills” she says, “You can train them, but the knowledge and understanding—the true learning—has not happened.  Our country has this hang up that if the child can perform, that they know.”

It’s similar to forcing a bulb to bloom indoors.  Natural laws prevent flowers from blooming in the winter, but if we really want to, there are ways we can urge a bulb and create conditions that will allow it to bloom indoors in the middle of December.  If we take that bulb back to its natural setting however, it would quickly die in the frosty air.  Just because we can get it to bloom does not change its natural timetable. 

Likewise, just because we can get children to perform tasks at earlier ages, does not mean they have the natural capacity to maintain those skills and convert them to real knowledge in a natural setting.  Additionally, and perhaps more tragically, those children who cannot be “trained” ahead of their natural schedule suffer the consequences, being labeled as “difficult” or “slow”.  By the time they are naturally ready to develop skills on an appropriate developmental schedule, they have already been left behind.  It seems in an effort to create more success we have only created more unnecessary failures.

Dr. Guddemi pointed out during the press conference that the current trend towards a “push-down” curriculum is not creating better test scores, rather according to recent studies it is causing children to have negative attitudes about school and to view themselves as “failures” as early as PreK.  Additionally, expulsions for preschoolers have increased to a rate 4 times that of students in the K-12 grades.  One has to wonder if the problem truly stems from child behavior, or if it is the environment and expectations (created by adults) that are truly inappropriate. 

Test scores and expulsion rates are not the only indicators that this high-pressure system is not serving our children well.  Recent reports also show that social and problem solving skills, critical to success in school as well as in the job market are not being fully developed.  Skills like persistence, creativity, cooperation, and communication are being left by the wayside in an effort to produce higher test scores and reach benchmarks earlier.  As Dr. Guddemi stated in the New Haven Register, “When policy-makers and school leaders don’t have access to the latest research about how children learn they can make mistakes that actually keep down the very test scores they are trying to enhance.” 

Not to be misunderstood, The Gesell Institute is not against raising test scores.  They simply believe that there is a right way to do it.  That is, by working with the child’s natural developmental process rather than against it.  The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) agrees with the Gesell Institute and has recently proposed that elementary principals be required to obtain professional development in the areas of child development and early learning.  This is something that many of us would consider a logical requirement for anyone directing, planning, or supervising the education of young children.

The Gesell Institute recommends early childhood programs for children age 3 through grade 3 that emphasize experiences and exploration.  Both of which quickly disappear from a worksheet-based classroom.  The institute  also emphasizes that these programs need to teach children to “negotiate and problem solve with peers, explore materials in creative ways, and engage in the work of making sense of their world alongside teachers who are experienced, patient and creative role models.  Unfortunately, in an effort to close achievement gaps, both schools and parents endorse the “earlier is better myth,” believing that by “learning” academic skills earlier, developmental skills will follow.  Gesell’s data proves the opposite – that developmental abilities must emerge before an academic curriculum has meaning for the child and that it stimulates a corresponding motivation to learn.”

In our nation’s effort to give our children more, we are essentially robbing them of what is most rightfully theirs: their childhood.  What we know to be good and necessary for proper growth and development in the early childhood years is, in too many situations, being grossly ignored and dismissed.  Unfortunately, this philosophy that earlier is better and that play and exploration is frivolous is actually edging out the development of necessary skills in exchange for an imitation of education.  We as child advocates — parents and teachers —  have to do our part to find that balance again.

Dr. Marcy Guddemi, Gesell Institute’s Executive Director would love to answer your questions about this study and the topic of developmentally appropriate practice.  Comment here with your questions, and I will use those in an interview with Dr. Guddemi to be posted next week.  (Please comment by Friday to ensure your question is considered.)  What do you find most difficult about implementing developmentally appropriate practice?  What challenges do you face in encouraging others to implement DAP?  What aspects of the study left you scratching your head?  Please further this discussion with your comments and questions!

You can also read more about Gesell’s study here:

Kid’s Haven’t Changed, Kindergarten Has— Harvard Education Letter

The Education of Educators — New Haven Register

Does Teaching Kids Earlier and Earlier Really Work? – New Haven Advocate

Study: Children Need Time to Develop – Teacher Magazine

Top photo by Aron Kremer.

Center photo by Anissa Thompson.
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