Early Childhood Education

Introduction

Early childhood education is a field of study that has been growing in research and practice and focuses on all the experiences that define the early life of an individual. From the anxiety children go through after separation to the initial development of literacy, early childhood teachers take into consideration the physical and emotional changes that occur in children.

They are therefore expected to work in close association with the parents of the children. This paper focuses on the factors that should be considered when designing the curriculum for early childhood education.

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Age Group

Age bracket is an important factor to consider in early childhood education since the focus is on young children. Most of the children in early childhood education classes are between three and four years. This implies that early childhood education teachers play a great role in assisting the learners to develop cognitive and other developmental skills at a young age. As a result, total commitment from the teachers is required in order to ensure that the young children develop the required skills.

Jean Piaget

Cognitive Development

There are different theories that explain the mental development of children as they grow up. One of the most famous theories of child development is the cognitive development theory by Jean Piaget. The theory explains how individuals think, perceive and understand the world they live in. This happens through their interaction with learnt or genetic factors.

Cognitive development theory is comprised of areas such as reasoning, development of language, intelligence and memory. Researchers continue to carry out studies in various ways to establish children’s cognitive development. The oldest method of conducting the studies is intelligence tests such as the intelligence quotient test. The IQ test involves a scoring system which is based on mental age where scores obtained by children whose intelligence is average reflect their age.

On the other hand, the performance exhibited by talented children is matched with that of children who are older while scores of slow learners are equated with young children’s scores. Although IQ tests are common, they are criticized since they present a narrow definition of intelligence and lack fairness with regard to gender (Oakley, 2004).

Jean Piaget’s theory is a comprehensive one that explains cognitive development. He came up with the theory after observing children in a natural set up for a long period of time. The theory argues that cognitive development progresses in four distinct stages that follow each other, and are marked by complex and abstract thought levels. The stages follow a definite order, with each stage expanding the knowledge acquired in the previous one.

The first stage is referred to as sensorimotor or infancy stage where children demonstrate intelligence by means of motor activity. At this stage, there is little knowledge of the world but children continually acquire it since the acquisition occurs through interacting with physical things.

The second stage is referred to as the pre-operational or toddlerhood and childhood where children demonstrate intelligence by using symbols. It is also during this stage that children exhibit mature use of language and developed memory and imagination.

The third stage is referred to as the concrete operational stage and it is during this stage that operational thinking becomes fully developed. The fourth stage is referred to as formal operational stage or the adolescence and adulthood. In this stage, symbols are used logically to demonstrate intelligence (Popkewitz, 1999).

Learning through Experimentation

Apart from Piaget’s theory of cognitive development which is comprised of a number of distinct steps which follow one another, there is also experimental learning which is different from cognitive development. Experimental learning is also known as discovery learning and involves using the domain knowledge coupled with observations made on the environment in order to learn. When agents manipulate the environment systematically, their behavior becomes more inclined to the experimental ways of learning that were used in the past.

Classroom/Curriculum

Curriculum refers to the content that learners are taught at every stage of their learning process. It is important to design the curriculum for early childhood education in such a way that learners benefit from the most critical skills that they are supposed to acquire when they are young.

Creative Curriculum

Creative curriculum is appropriate for early childhood education since it gives the learners a chance to develop mentally. It enables children to develop cognitive, emotional and physical attributes that are important for their continued growth. In addition, creative curriculum emphasizes research with the aim of achieving the goals and standards that children are supposed to achieve at every age.

This goal is met by identifying the development and learning processes children are supposed to undergo. This perspective enables early childhood educators to appreciate the disparities between children while crediting the general patterns of children growth. Creative curriculum also values the home school since it plays a vital role in teaching young children certain skills.

Developmentally Appropriate Skills

The early childhood education curriculum is comprised of developmentally appropriate skills for the children. This implies that the learners acquire skills that assist them to develop in the right manner. Early childhood teachers focus on achieving set goals that form part of the instructional content for the learners hence their preoccupation is to ensure that the learners achieve the goals. In doing this, the educators make many crucial decisions on which skills to include in the content.

Organized curriculum

Organization is a critical aspect of early childhood education curriculum. It is important to ensure that the curriculum is organized in such a manner that the learners are able to follow the instructional content. In addition, an organized curriculum assists the educators in organizing their work to ensure that they cover what they are supposed to cover within the right time. An organized early childhood education curriculum is therefore very crucial towards ensuring that the set goals are achieved.

Curriculum Friendliness

A friendly early childhood curriculum implies that learners find it easy to understand what is being taught. This is because knowledge acquisition in children takes place in stages. At some developmental stages, children can only comprehend the content when taught in a particular way. As they continue to develop, their comprehension level continues to change and they adapt accordingly.

Activities

Math

There are certain instructional methods and activities that are appropriate for teaching different subjects in early childhood education. For instance, there are some that suit math while others suit other subjects.

One-to-one Correspondence

Studies that have been conducted by researchers indicate that subjects like math require effective instructional methods. One-to-one correspondence is an instructional method where the teacher and the learners engage in one-on-one communication.

The teacher is in a position to clarify difficult areas to the learners while the learners are able to interact with the teacher freely. One-to-one correspondence has a number of advantages as compared to other instructional methods of teaching math in an early childhood education scenario.

For instance, this instructional method enables the teacher to achieve learning targets which are very specific. In addition, it is an appropriate method for teaching basic skills to early childhood children since they are in their formative developmental stages. One-to-one correspondence makes it possible for teachers to measure the gains of the learners.

Matching

Matching is an important skill that teachers use during early childhood education classes. It is an effective instructional method that develops learners’ cognitive skills. Marching involves giving learners mixed up things for them to group things that share similarities. Learners who exhibit high cognitive skills find it easy to do the marching while the rest who do not have good cognitive skills find it difficult to do the marching.

Rote counting

Once children enroll for early childhood education, they are introduced to pre-school adventures, one of which is rote counting. This involves counting by speaking out memorized numbers. This is an instructional method that builds the memory of the pre-school children to a great extend. Children in early childhood education perfect their skills in rote counting since they enjoy doing it repeatedly.

Reading

Letter Recognition

Letter recognition is defined as the capacity of early child hood education learners to name letters of the alphabet in a fast and accurate pace regardless of the order they are in. knowing letter names is not something very important for adults or older children to perfect since they hardly utilize the letter names during their reading. This skill is important to early childhood learners since the capacity to assign labels to objects enables them to memorize it. Common labels also make it easy for children to explain letters.

Wordless Books

These are books that use illustrations without words. Using this instructional method enables early childhood learners to imaginatively create their own stories on the basis of what they observe in the books. This method enables the learners to develop writing skills, which form the basis of good language skills.

They are able to identify the association between illustrations and written words. Learners at all levels are given a chance to learn as evidenced by their ability to label pictures. By using this method, the cognitive ability of the learners can be measured as they retell the stories in their on words.

Recognizing Name in Print

This is also another method used by early childhood educators to develop the skills of learners. Learners are given printed names and required to recognize them. It is an instructional method that develops their writing skills by enabling them to identify printed material.

Science

Hands on Experience

Science is an important area of study that can be used by instructors of early childhood education to develop various skills in the learners. Most of the activities that are performed in science test the cognitive abilities of the learners in performing different tasks. Hands on experiences help learners to acquire practical skills as opposed to being talk theoretically. One of the advantages of hands on experience is that it enables learners to retain most of what they are taught since they do it practically.

Auditory Sounds

Auditory skills are important skills that early childhood learners should be taught appropriately. To ensure that learners grasp the skills of auditory sounds well, the skills are integrated with orthographic language forms. Auditory teaching can be done by exposing the learners to a lot of auditory information. Exposing them to the information and encouraging them to train thoroughly is an effective technique of training auditory sounds in early childhood education.

Fine Arts

Create Freely

Fine art is an area of study that identifies the creativity of learners at an early age. It is an important field since some learners are not academically gifted but they exhibit exemplary artistic skills. It is therefore important for early childhood education teachers to nurture the talents in such learners.

Creating freely is a skill that early childhood education teachers can develop in their learners through various ways. This can be done by identifying learners who are gifted in the art and giving them enough time to develop it as they continue with their normal studies.

Three Dimensional Art

Three dimensional arts is a type of art that proves the ability of the learners to use their hands in carving. It is a skill that can show the creative minds of learners. Just like free art, early childhood education teachers should identify and develop this type of skill among learners. For instance, teachers can use the learners who prove to be gifted in the art to coach their peers. This is a method that motivates them hence encouraging them to develop the skill further.

Conclusion

Early childhood education is a critical part of the development stages of children. This type of education focuses on the developmental stages that children go through and the specific instructional techniques that should be applied. The learners require special instructional methods in order to ensure that the set objectives are met. It is important for educators of early childhood education to design the curriculum in a manner that caters for individual needs of the learners.

References

Oakley, L. (2004). Cognitive Development. New York: Routledge.

Popkewitz,T (1999). Critical theories in education:changing terrains of knowledge and politics. Washngton: Routledge.