answered: I work with birth to 3-year old’s Template is provided below One of the most important aspects o

I work with birth to 3-year old’s

Template is provided below

One of the most important aspects of your role as an educator will be to effectively plan developmentally appropriate learning experiences for each child. An important part of your ability to create effective learning opportunities is the learning environment you create for children. This assignment is your opportunity to put together a cohesive plan for your dream learning environment for young children.

To prepare for this assignment, read the following scenario:
Imagine you are given the opportunity to set up your dream classroom learning environment. What would it look like? Create a plan for what your ideal early childhood classroom would look like, keeping in mind each of the different learning domains.

Consider reviewing the Microsoft Office resource Tips for Creating and Delivering an Effective Presentation (Links to an external site.) to make sure your presentation is professionally designed. For this assignment, you will elaborate on your own slides by providing slide notes.

To prepare for your assignment,

· Refer to the Week 2 Instructor Guidance for further tips and examples that will support your success with this discussion.

· Review Chapters 4, 6, and 7 of your textbook.

· Utilize the Template to assist you with organizing this assignment.

In your five- to seven-slide Power Point presentation, include the following:

· Developmental Age: On one slide, recalling the scenario above as your frame of reference for this assignment, state what age level you are creating this environment for and why you want to work with this age level. In the slide notes, elaborate on your bullet points in at least one paragraph.

· Developmental Milestones: On one slide, list the top five developmental milestones that are important to consider at this age level (e.g., for infants, developing secure attachments with adults). In the slide notes, for each developmental milestone, provide a one-paragraph rationale for it being in the top five and include support from at least one scholarly source.

· Learning Environment Considerations: On one slide, describe the top five considerations that must be made while setting up the learning environment for this age group (e.g., posters at eye level, etc.). In the slide notes, give a detailed explanation of your rationale in at least one paragraph, using at least one scholarly source for support.

· Classroom Set-Up Requirements: On two to three slides, explain each of the seven areas of your future classroom listed below. In the slide notes, in one paragraph for each point, elaborate and provide support from at least one scholarly source.

· What larger furniture will you utilize in your classroom (e.g., desks, tables, etc.)?

· What teaching materials will you need?

· How will you set up the various areas or stations in your learning environment?

· How will you assess each child’s growth?

· How will you accommodate atypically developing children?

· How will you incorporate families into your learning environment (e.g., family meeting space, communication board, etc.)?

· How is play incorporated into your learning environment?

The Developmentally Appropriate Environments presentation

· Must be five to seven slides in length (not including title and references pages, but including the completed observation checklist) and formatted according to APA style as outlined in the University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center (Links to an external site.)’s APA Style (Links to an external site.) resource.

· Must include a separate title page with the following:

· Title of paper

· Student’s name

· Course name and number

· Instructor’s name

· Date submitted

· Must use at least two scholarly sources in addition to the course text.

· To assist you in completing the library research required for this assignment, view this Help! Need Article (Links to an external site.) tutorial, which can help you find a good starting place for your research.

· The Scholarly, Peer Reviewed, and Other Credible Sources (Links to an external site.) table offers additional guidance on appropriate source types. If you have questions about whether a specific source is appropriate for this assignment, contact your instructor. Your instructor has the final say about the appropriateness of a specific source for a particular assignment.

· To assist you in completing the library research required for this assignment, view this Quick ‘n’ Dirty (Links to an external site.) tutorial, which introduces the University of Arizona Global Campus Library and the research process, and provides some library search tips.

· Must document any information used from sources in APA style as outlined in the University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center’s Citing Within Your Paper (Links to an external site.) guide.

· Must include a separate references page that is formatted according to APA style as outlined in the University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center. See the Formatting Your References List (Links to an external site.) resource in the University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center for specifications.

Curriculum and Development

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

1. Describe the general characteristics of typically developing children.

2. Explain what special needs are and some of the ways in which teachers make adapta-
tions to meet those needs.

3. Describe, from social and cognitive perspectives, how children’s play develops over time.

4. Explain how play is integral to important elements of curriculum.

5. Match developmental characteristics of different age groups with appropriate curricu-
lum considerations.

1. Typically developing children attain

developmental milestones in approximately
the same sequence and time frame. T/F

2. Children with developmental needs are best
served in special education classrooms. T/F

3. Play is enjoyable for children but
not connected to cognitive or social
development. T/F

4. Time for play should be included in the
daily schedule to give children a break from
curriculum activities. T/F

5. Infant caregivers can use routines such as
diapering and feeding to promote language
and motor development. T/F

Answers can be found at end of the chapter.

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Teaching from a Developmental Perspective Chapter 4

You have conducted home visits with the seventeen preschool children in your class. Their
ages at the time of your visits ranged from 3 years, 11 months, to 4 years, 10 months. You
read a story as one part of each visit, either from a book the child chose from those they had
at home or one they chose from the three that you brought with you. After your visit, you
made notes on each child, including these two entries:

1. Maria (age 4 years, 7 months) sat next to me on the sofa and introduced me to her
stuffed monkey, which she used as a puppet to ask questions and respond to mine. She
eagerly selected Curious George, telling me it was one of her favorite stories. She pointed
out the title on the book’s cover, and the letters “C” and “G.” As I read the story, Maria
pointed to and identified details in the illustrations, laughed at several points, predicted
what would happen next, and turned the pages carefully each time I paused. After we
finished, she clapped her hands and asked me to read the book again.

2. Marissa (age 3 years, 11 months) sat on her mother’s lap next to me on the sofa. When I
asked if she had a book that she wanted me to read, she shook her head. When I asked
if she would choose a book I had brought, she pointed to Eating the Alphabet (Ehlert,
1989). While I read, she was quiet and sucked her thumb with one hand and played
with her mother’s hair with the other. She was very attentive, looking back and forth

between my face and the book, but did not volunteer ques-
tions or comments. When we finished, I asked if she liked the
book and she nodded her head.

Although these anecdotal entries do not constitute a formal
assessment, it should be clear that while both children are
interested in age-appropriate books, you would have to pro-
vide different types of access to literacy curriculum activities
for each child. Maria clearly appears enthusiastic about shar-
ing what she already knows about books, stories that have
characters and a plot, and letters (print). Marissa seems very
interested in books, perhaps letters and the alphabet, but,
given her demeanor, it might be difficult to tell what she
knows about them and how likely it is that she will engage in
reading activities independently.

In this chapter, we will consider the relationship between
development and curriculum; as you read, think about what
these anecdotes reveal about teaching all areas of the curricu-
lum from a developmental perspective. This chapter focuses
on how developmental knowledge—both general and indi-
vidual—about infants, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergar-
teners, and primary-aged children should guide and inform

decisions that teachers make about curriculum. We also consider the reciprocal and integrated
relationship between play and development and the important role of play in the curriculum.

4.1 Teaching from a Developmental Perspective
One of the primary goals of teachers as decision makers is to make sure that the curriculum
“opens the door” to learning for all children in the group or class (Hull, Goldhaber, & Capone,
2002). Excellent teachers evaluate and adapt curriculum to respond to the interests, abilities,

© Comstock / Thinkstock

Teachers’ notes from home visits can
provide information that will help
to adapt curriculum to the individual
needs and interests of children.

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Teaching from a Developmental Perspective Chapter 4

needs, and culture of every child. As explained in Chapter 1, developmentally appropriate
curriculum for young children changes as their particular characteristics change over time.

Universal Expectations vs. Individual Variations

You already know that developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) addresses both the gen-
eral characteristics of groups of children as well as unique variations from child to child at
any particular point in time. A good curriculum will be one that is flexible enough to allow
the teacher to use insights and observations of children to plan, adapt, and implement activi-
ties. The scenario from the opening vignette illustrates the need for a flexible curriculum. It
is also advisable to describe and communicate curriculum decisions and adaptations in terms
of the elements of DAP, so that families and administrators can understand the rationale for
your choices (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009; Gestwicki, 2011). To do this, teachers need to be
aware of:

• What is generally accepted as typical in each of the three major domains of develop-
ment (physical, affective, cognitive)

• What constitutes normal individual variations in both development and learning style

• The influence of culture and family on development

• How developmental delays and other special needs affect children’s learning and
behavior patterns

Further, we know that developmental researchers describe, from differing theoretical perspec-
tives, how children grow and learn. Teachers need to be able to recognize when a curriculum
is written or described from a particular point of view. The DAP position statement describes
growth and development generally from a constructivist perspective (Copple & Bredekamp,
2009). However, a behaviorist orientation emphasizing sequential learning and positive rein-
forcement for desired responses or actions can be seen in early childhood curricula as well,
particularly those that focus on direct instruction. For example, teachers provide children with
exploratory experiences (constructivist), by using materials like blocks, to promote acquisition
of fundamental concepts about size, shape, balance, symmetry, and so on. But they also use
rhymes, songs, and stories to provide intentional practice and positive reinforcement for rote
counting (behaviorist).

The constructivist influence can be seen in advocacy for standards and curriculum that are
goal-oriented, while curriculum scope and sequence still display activities for development
of discrete skills on a time line (Clements & Sarama, 2004). Teachers use their knowledge of
diverse developmental perspectives to make decisions about curriculum that match what they
observe about how individual children learn best.

We expect to see children’s development follow a general trajectory over time as they master
increasingly complex skills and gradually move from concrete to abstract thinking. For exam-
ple, a 2-year-old will learn to put on his shoes, but by the time he is 4 or 5 he will also be able
to tie them. That same 2-year-old may be able to name and differentiate between a horse
and tiger, but 2 years later he will also be able to describe how they are similar and different.

Within this predictable sequence, curriculum must account for and support uneven develop-
ment from child to child and differences in personality, interests, and dispositions (Copple &
Bredekamp, 2009; Gestwicki, 2011). Some children are more physically active or assertive;
others are passive or submissive; some children are very verbal; others are introspective and

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Teaching from a Developmental Perspective Chapter 4

quiet. One child may hone fine motor skills primarily through the use of manipulative materi-
als like Legos or puzzles; another might want to spend a lot of time cutting paper, painting,
and drawing. And during any general age period, a child may seem to be surging ahead in
one area of development seemingly to the exclusion of others. It all evens out eventually, but
a “one-size-fits all” approach to curriculum for young children is not considered developmen-
tally appropriate at any time.

Typically Developing Children

Typically developing children are
those considered to be representa-
tive of most children in a population.
The developmental progression of
typically developing children is often
expressed in terms of norms, bench-
marks, or milestones. Growth and
development are usually described
with respect to specific domains,
such as physical, social/emotional,
cognitive, or creative.

However, researchers and curriculum
specialists also emphasize that growth
and learning occur as an integrated
process across multiple domains
(Alvior, 2014; Gestwicki, 2011; Hull,

Goldhaber, & Capone, 2002; Levine & Munsch, 2011). For example, as Maria interacts with
the story of Curious George in our opening vignette, she is using cognitive skills and language
in different ways and demonstrating symbolic representation in her use of the monkey as a
puppet and by pointing out letters. She uses fine motor skills to point, clap, and manipulate
her puppet. Her attentiveness and engagement indicate emotional connection with the char-
acters in the story and emerging understanding about the social roles of reader and listener.

A brief summary of typical developmental progression follows. Developmental progression
will be discussed with respect to curriculum in greater detail later in the chapter.

Physical Development
From infancy throughout the early childhood period (birth to age 8), physical development
typically progresses from the head downward (cephalocaudal) and from the center of the
body outward (proximodistal). As the body lengthens and the head assumes a smaller propor-
tion of the rest of the body, the child’s center of gravity gradually rises. Gross motor control
progresses from nonlocomotive movements to eventual walking, running, hopping, skipping,
and so forth. Control of fine motor processes involves everything from eye tracking to the
highly controlled manual dexterity needed to draw, write, or play a musical instrument. The
brain grows at a faster pace during early childhood than at any other time across the life span
(Charlesworth, 2004; Levine & Munsch, 2011).

Affective Development
Affective development describes how children behave and feel. Social competence, emo-
tional character, and personality develop in highly individualized patterns influenced by the

© iStockphoto / Thinkstock

Children in any particular age group exhibit generally similar
developmental characteristics, but with many variations for
which teachers must adapt.

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Teaching from a Developmental Perspective Chapter 4

interplay of nature (biological processes) and nurture (environmental influences). Over time
and as children acquire language, their affective responses become less outwardly focused—
on physical needs (e.g., crying when hungry, tired, or wet)—and more internally focused—on
emotional motivations such as pride, guilt, and wanting to belong. An ethic of sharing, caring,
and moral reasoning develops as children gradually gain the ability to consider multiple per-
spectives and adapt to various forms of authority. Theories from many branches of psychology
inform our understanding about the development of ego, personality, identity, empathy, and
morality in young children (Charlesworth, 2004; Levine & Munsch, 2011) and lead to the dif-
ferent approaches that teachers use to guide children to function in socially acceptable ways.

Cognitive Development
Our views of intelligence, thinking, and understanding of neurological functions are changing
as a result of significant research conducted over recent decades. We know that the brain
receives, processes, and stores different kinds of information in specific locations. Neural con-
nections, the development of hard and soft “wiring,” and brain density increase dramatically
from the neonatal period throughout early childhood. Children’s thinking skills shift in focus
from processing stimuli through their senses, to learning how to pay attention, understand
and process information, and construct memory (Hull, Goldhaber, & Capone, 2002). Children
learn to speak and develop language in predictable patterns that culminate in the ability to
read, write, speak, and comprehend the nuances of language. Bilingual or multilingual chil-
dren develop the ability to code switch back and forth between languages.

Learning theories describe these mental processes differently but not necessarily in ways that
are mutually exclusive. Constructivists believe that children acquire mental constructs or con-
cepts through reciprocal processes of responding and adapting to experiences. Behaviorists
believe that learning across the life span is represented by a continual process of operant
conditioning based on positive and negative reinforcement (Charlesworth, 2004; Levine &
Munsch, 2011).

Developmental Delays and Special Needs

When we observe that young children do not seem to be following the generally expected
path of development in one or more domains, evaluation may be indicated to determine

© Photodisc / Thinkstock

Children achieve several significant milestones in their gross motor development as they acquire
mobility, strength, and coordination.

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Teaching from a Developmental Perspective Chapter 4

whether the child has a special need. Special needs include any kind of need—physical,
emotional, or cognitive—that differs substantially from the normal range of abilities. The child
could have a developmental delay, or she could be gifted.

While it is not unusual, as discussed earlier, for an individual child’s growth and development
to be uneven, at some point it may become apparent that the child is either not meeting
or exceeding expected benchmarks or milestones. Sometimes special needs are apparent at
birth, as in a child with a cleft palate. But in many instances it takes months or years for such
needs to be recognized. You wouldn’t know, for example, if a child had speech articulation
problems until that child was expected to be speaking clearly, between ages 3 and 4.

Sometimes delayed progress, a physical condition, or atypical behavior is due to factors
that can be addressed with the expectation that a child will “catch up.” For instance, a tod-
dler with frequent ear infections may experience a hearing impairment resulting in delayed
language fluency. While medical intervention and natural growth of the structures of the
inner ear will eventually resolve the frequency of infections, speech therapy and hearing
accommodations may be indicated for a period of time until the child has regained normal
functioning. A child born with a congenital physical condition like club feet (abnormally
rotated inward) may experience many surgeries to correct the condition. The child’s ortho-
pedic disability may require adaptations to the arrangement of the classroom to accom-
modate leg braces or a wheelchair, with the expectation that the condition will eventually
be corrected.

But other developmental disabilities will require long-term support to address learning and
emotional needs throughout the early childhood period and beyond. For example, a child who
displays distinctive physical behavior such as hand-flapping, inability to make eye contact, or
repeating the same words over and over again should be referred for evaluation to determine
if the child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Once diagnosed with ASD, the child
may be offered occupational, speech, and cognitive therapies. Other cases of physiological,
biological, or genetically inherited conditions, such as cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, con-
stitute special needs that require active intervention and support on a long-term basis. Table
4.1 describes various special needs conditions (Cook & Cook, 2005).

Federal law—the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)—requires that chil-
dren with disabilities be included in regular classroom or care settings to the maximum extent
possible and provides funding for resources to meet their special needs. (IDEA does not pro-
vide funds to address the special needs of gifted children; programs and funding for these
children are localized.)

Inclusion of children with disabilities serves several important purposes. First, typically devel-
oping young children who grow up within a diverse environment learn and internalize accep-
tance of their differently abled peers, which leads to higher levels of self-esteem among
children who might otherwise feel marginalized or stigmatized. Second, separating children
with disabilities and categorizing them by a single factor they may have in common (such
as ADHD) risks grouping those who are otherwise very different from one another in many
respects (Greenspan, Wieder, & Simons, 1998). Third, keeping children with delays or special
needs isolated from their peers almost guarantees that they will be labeled for life in spite of
the fact that except for their identified special need, they are like typically developing children
in many other ways.

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Teaching from a Developmental Perspective Chapter 4

Therefore teachers are expected to adapt all elements of the curriculum to serve and engage
not only typically developing children but also those with special needs of all different kinds.
Some teachers and caregivers without extensive training in special education may feel that
they are not prepared to meet the needs of children with disabilities. Early childhood educa-
tors must remember that one of the key principles of DAP is that if we consider each child as a
unique individual, we accept that all children have special needs (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009).
Making decisions about how to individualize curriculum—including the environment, materi-
als, and teaching strategies—is appropriate for all children. The key is a thorough understand-
ing of development across all the domains, so that curriculum is implemented with sensitivity
to each child’s strengths and challenges as he or she grows and learns.

Adapting for Children with Special Needs
Adaptations for children with disabilities are intended to provide as normal a school or child
care setting experience for the child as possible. An adaptation is something we do to alter
the physical environment, curricular materials, and/or teaching strategies to include the child
in the daily life and learning opportunities of the classroom or child-care setting.

IDEA requires that all states have a Child Find process to identify children with disabilities and
provide services as early as possible. Communities administer special education services for pre-
school children in different ways. But if a child has been officially referred, evaluated, and diag-
nosed with a condition that qualifies under IDEA as a special need, a team of people—including
the teacher, family, and specialists—will work together to provide support in the school or
care setting. The team will work with an individualized plan (called an Individualized Family

Table 4.1: Special Needs

Special Need Description

Physical (orthopedic)

Physical limitations caused by birth defects or injury that prevent or impair
mobility and/or dexterity.

Visual impairment Many potential causes that result in partial to total blindness or limited sight
requiring corrective lenses.

Hearing impairment Any condition that results in less than normal hearing; may be permanent
or temporary; profoundly hearing-impaired children may also have limited

Speech/language impairment Difficulty in producing speech, or delayed development of language.

Attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD)

Difficulty paying or maintaining attention and organization, possibly accom-
panied by high activity levels and restlessness.

Conduct (behavior) disorder

Oppositional defiant disorder

Problems with authority, obedience, or anger/impulse control.

Learning disability Normal intelligence but difficulty learning due to a variety of perceptual
problems such as reversing or inverting letters and numbers.

Autism spectrum disorder

Broad continuum of behaviors that range from mild (Asperger’s syndrome)
to profound difficulties with sensory processing, social interaction, and

Intellectual disability Lower than normal intelligence that can be due to a number of factors, mostly
genetic in origin.

Giftedness Much higher than normal intelligence or aptitude in one or more develop-
mental domains.

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The Importance of Play Chapter 4

Service Plan [IFSP] for children from birth to age 3 or an Individualized Education Plan
[IEP] for a child over 3 years of age) that identifies specific curricular and developmental goals,
needed resources, adaptations, and support personnel, time lines, and follow-up measures.

Table 4.2 provides examples of the kinds of adaptations that might be made for children with
different kinds of special needs.

Table 4.2: Examples of Adaptations for Special Needs

(Office of Head
Start, 2012)

(Cox & Dykes,
2001; Monahan,

Speech and/
or Hearing
(Anderson, 2012)

and Behavioral
(Office of Head
Start, 2012)

Gifted and
(Cook & Cook,

Modify equipment
for access (e.g.,
raising or lowering
easel, taping feet to
trike pedals).

Maintain unob-
structed pathways
and keep furniture
and materials
always in the same

Reduce background
noise; make eye
contact when

Reduce distrac-
tions (e.g., give one
material at a time,
limit choices).

Offer differentiated
materials and activi-
ties that provide
sufficient challenge.

Arrange furniture
for safe and easy

Familiarize with
locations of all
spaces the child will

Use hand signals
to communicate
needs; offer inter-
preter and/or sign
language training.

Use picture charts
for step-by-step
directions or

Provide oppor-
tunities to work

Adapt materials so
child can work as
independently as

Arrange special
lighting and/
or magnification

Maintain predict-
able routines.

Work with children
in small groups or

Work with children
in small groups or

Allow extra time for
physical tasks that
are difficult, such as
dressing or eating.

Provide seating
close to needed

Arrange seating
close to the teacher.

Seat distract-
ible child in lap
for large-group

Simplify routines
to as few steps as

Provide reading
matter with large or
raised print; large,
brightly colored
or high-contrast
toys; materials with
textured surfaces.

Provide amplifica-
tion devices.

Ensure that there
is ample time and
notice of transition

4.2 The Importance of Play
Whatever their needs, we know that all young children learn through all their senses, and
that a good curriculum will provide activities that encourage looking, listening, tasting, smell-
ing, and touching. Early childhood educators and researchers agree that young children are
primarily active learners. They should not spend long periods of time in whole-group or drill-
and-skill activities; that is, hands-on experiences with objects and materials and time to move
and use their bodies are the best match for this developmental period. The primary focus of

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The Importance of Play Chapter 4

a curriculum for young children should be the integration of experiences across all of a child’s
developmental domains and learning through play.

The child’s right to play was expressed as a global concern in 1989 in the form of a U.N.
General Assembly resolution at the Convention on the Rights of the Child (International Play
Association, 2009). Article 31 states the following:

That every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational
activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life
and the arts.

That member governments shall respect and promote the right of the child to partici-
pate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate
and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.

What Is Play?

Most early childhood educators agree that play is an active and enjoyable activity that is
internally motivated, process-oriented, and directed by the players. The International Play
Association (2009) has this to say about play:

[It should be] controlled by children rather than adults, and . . . undertaken for its
own sake and not for prescribed purposes. The term “free play” is often used to dis-
tinguish this from organized recreational and learning activities, which of course also
have important roles in child development. However, the characteristics of free play—
such as control, uncertainty, flexibility, novelty, non-productivity—are what produce a
high degree of pleasure and, simultaneously, the incentive to continue to play. Recent
neurological research indicates that this type of behavior plays a significant role in the
development of the brain’s structure and chemistry.

Play seems to be a universal. Left to their own devices, all children play, regardless of parental
or teacher involvement. We examine and research play, then, in terms of how children engage
and the influence and impact that play has on child development and learning.

Benefits of Play

Neuroscientists have become increasingly focused on the connections between play and brain
development. A theory of mind has emerged that describes how the child’s process of under-
standing the difference between reality and the abstract develops through symbolic play
(Bodrova & Leong, 2007). When a 3-year-old begins to use wooden blocks to represent a road
or pieces of colored paper to represent fish in an imaginary aquarium, the foundation is laid
for later representation of sounds with the squiggles we call letters or the measurement of
temperature by a column of mercury in a thermometer.

Much has also been learned over time about the role of language as children develop play
scripts (Bateson, 1976). When one child announces to another, “Let’s play veterinarian—I’ll
be the doctor and you be the puppy,” we see them acquiring the ability to assume roles that
may be based on reality or what they clearly know to be absurd. They demonstrate a tenta-
tive understanding about the relationships between doctors and patients or the difference
between doctors who treat humans and those who treat animals. As they share their ideas
about how to act out this theme, perhaps arguing or changing the direction of the story line,

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The Importance of Play Chapter 4

they practice using words to be persuasive, solve problems, and give each other feedback on
how the play is going.

Some studies have also confirmed that play promotes higher-order thinking. This is charac-
terized by children’s ability to carry on an internal dialogue, essentially self-talking their way
through the decision-making process by weighing options, analyzing information, and mak-
ing subsequent choices. Children develop cognitive control as they stifle impulsivity and learn
to focus and concentrate (Bodrova & Leong, 2007; Bunge & Crone, 2009). This happens when
they are encouraged to make their own activity choices, learn through trial and error, and
construct and apply rules to different situations. Cognitive science is helping teachers learn
when, how, and how much to intervene to promote the kind of complex play scenarios that
develop executive functioning.

Play provides powerful natural consequences and opportunities for children to use language
so that the play can continue. Adults tell children to use their words to solve problems, but
children need practice that play provides in order to do so. Let’s say that four children have
proceeded to set up the veterinarian’s office, with one child assuming the role of a sick puppy.
As they act out bringing the puppy to the examining table, he is creeping on all fours as a
puppy would but using words to tell how he feels sick. The other three children complain and
claim that he is ruining their play because “puppies don’t talk, they whine or whimper when
they are sick. If you don’t act like a puppy, someone else will have to be the puppy.” They have
given the puppy actor the information he needs to modify his actions so he can continue to
be included in the play.

While the children have had a difference of opinion, they have also used matter-of-fact lan-
guage to explain their feelings without being hurtful. It’s important for children to have time
and the opportunity to invent their own games and direct their own play if they are to under-
stand the value of rules and consequences and the importance of consensus.

Play is where everything children experience in isolation comes together. It’s where they begin
to make sense of the present world and to imagine the future. It happens inside a bubble of

© Smith Collection / Getty Images

All children are motivated to play. In 1989 the United Nations expressed the conviction that
every child has a right to play.

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The Importance of Play Chapter 4

safety that allows mistakes to occur without pun-
ishment, encourages experimentation without the
pressure of accountability, and supports risk taking
without fear of disapproval or a bad grade. It is
where creativity, imagination, and problem solving
are rewarded with acceptance, joy, and satisfaction
(Jaruszewicz, 2008).

Play Perspectives

Most modern research and theory about play falls
into two categories: play as cognitive construct and
play as social construct. Both of these perspectives
are important and provide a useful framework for
teachers to observe and interpret children’s play as
a part of the curriculum planning and implementa-
tion process.

Cognitive Perspectives
Piaget described qualitative changes to play over
the early childhood period; he saw play develop-
ment as a series of stages that paralleled the child’s
increasing complexity of thought and reasoning.
Practice play is characterized by reflexive, repetitive, or functional actions, as when a toddler
pounds large pegs into a block of wood with matching holes. Also known as functional play,
this type of activity takes place during the sensorimotor stage of development in infants and

Symbolic play develops during the preoperational period from ages 2 to 7 but includes two
distinct types of representational play. In the early part of this stage, children begin to use one
thing to represent another, such as a block for a truck or, on the playground, wood chips and
water to make soup in a bucket. A higher and more complex form of symbolic play occurs as
4- and 5-year olds begin to develop and engage in pretend play with roles and themes.

Play that focuses on games with rules emerges as children move from preoperational to
concrete operational thinking. At the early part of this stage, children in kindergarten and first
grade attempt to play games with rules, understanding their purpose but not necessarily the
concept that for a game to work, all players must be using the same ones! For instance, while
playing tag, with the very simple rule that when you are tagged you are out, different children
may have very different ideas of what constitutes a “tag”—one child may interpret a tag as a
touch while another equates a tag with a tackle.

As they gain an understanding of the need for constancy, children embrace and enjoy all
kinds of board and card games as well as sports and active games, and they make up games
with their own rules. During this period, children also become consumed with the concept of
fairness, since they often interpret what is fair according to their developing understanding
of rules.

© Brand X Pictures / Thinkstock

Dramatic play is important to development in
many ways.

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The Importance of Play Chapter 4

Social Perspectives
In 1932 Mildred Parten described a continuum of four increasingly interactive social levels of
play. She named these solitary, parallel, associative, and cooperative to correspond with chil-
dren’s level of involvement with others during play. Although the time frames Parten initially
described have been shown to be more fluid than was first thought, early childhood educa-
tors still widely accept this way of characterizing the social aspects of play over time (GEMS
World Academy, n.d.; Howes, Unger, & Matheson, 1992).

In solitary play, the older infant or young toddler (1 to 2 years old) is absorbed in her own
actions, independent of other children, manipulating objects and engaging in the type of
practice or functional play Piaget described.

The next three stages of social play occur during Piaget’s cognitive stage of symbolic play and
occur as the child becomes more interested in friendship and playing with others. Parallel
play continues with 2- and 3-year-olds, who play separately but with increasing curiosity in
the activities of other children nearby. You might see two children playing side by side with
wooden tracks and toy cars, watching each other and one perhaps imitating what the other
is doing but not choosing to share their cars and build a road together.

Between 3 and 4 years of age, preschoolers begin to engage in associative play, which
involves sharing play items with another child, taking turns, and showing interest in play
activities with a shared goal. For instance, you might see two 3½-year-olds both pushing a big
truck to move a pile of wooden blocks across the floor.

Cooperative play is the highest form of social play. Observed in 4- and 5-year-olds, it is
characterized by group play and differentiated roles. Although children may negotiate or
argue about details, they will commit to a general understanding of how they want the play
to evolve.

Play as an Organizing Element of the Curriculum

A convincing body of evidence confirms the importance of play in the setting of early child-
hood education. As the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stated in a 2011 clinical report,
“Play is essential to the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical wellbeing of children begin-
ning in early childhood. It is a natural tool for children to develop resiliency as they learn to
cooperate, overcome challenges, and negotiate with others (Milteer, Ginsburg, Council on
Communications and Media and Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family
Health, 2011, p. e203). Nonetheless, pressures on early childhood educators to limit play in
favor of more “academic” activities remain, especially in grades 1 to 3.

All major early childhood curricula either suggest or direct classroom organization to support
play and exploration. Let’s look at the ways in which teachers and caregivers provide for inte-
grated play across the curriculum.

Activity areas or centers provide a means for children to move freely and efficiently within the
environment. Early childhood teachers establish clearly defined spaces for both focused and
integrated play activities. Table 4.3 describes typical dedicated play spaces that support differ-
ent types of development and learning.

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The Importance of Play Chapter 4

All teachers must consider the characteristics and
limitations of their classroom’s physical indoor and
outdoor spaces so that play can occur safely. They
also make decisions about planning the environ-
ment for play based on their knowledge about
how children play at different ages. Early childhood
curricula encourage an organizational scheme that
provides for a balance of quiet and active play.
Finally, teachers arrange materials and equipment
to encourage independence and responsibility
without disrupting the flow of play.

Play requires materials that children can use to
explore their physical limits, to learn about natu-
ral phenomena, to employ imagination and make
believe, and to develop language and conceptual
understandings. An extensive commercial market
offers an array of choices targeted to the needs
and interests of young children. However, a teacher
must be able to distinguish between items that are
flexible and open-ended versus those needed for
the development of specific skills. For example,

Table 4.3: Types of Activity Centers

Dedicated Space Play Focus

Dramatic play Pretend play with props (themed materials) that allows children to take on roles and
develop play scenarios about familiar themes

Construction Building with blocks and other materials that can be put together and taken apart;

Language and literacy Reading, listening to tapes and stories, learning about letters and sounds, emergent

Art Using a variety of materials to explore line, color, shape, texture, and dimension;
exposure to works of art that are pleasing and interesting to children

Music Exposure to many genres of music and opportunities to sing and make music with
different kinds of instruments

Science Opportunities to explore physical and natural properties of organisms and the

Math Materials, games, and activities that help children develop concepts about number,
quantity, measurement, and time

Sensory Materials and activities that engage the senses, such as sand, water, and modeling

Fine motor Experiences with objects that develop manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination

Gross motor Room, equipment, and materials that encourage the development of large muscles

© Ross Whitaker / Getty Images

Classroom space is defined for specific activi-
ties, in this case an area for block play.

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The Importance of Play Chapter 4

children can use wooden blocks and props
such as animals, people, or vehicles to build an
airport, racetrack, or space station. But they
need writing implements such as pencils, mark-
ers, and chalk that allow for their emerging
fine motor skills, and scissors designed to help
them safely coordinate the motions needed to
cut on a line without becoming frustrated.

Children also need materials that will help
them to explore and develop their ideas about
both real and imaginary worlds. Teachers can
easily purchase ready-made puppets, dress-up
clothes, pretend foods and dishes, but a trip
to the local thrift shop for pots, utensils, oven
mitts, and other items can also provide tools
for play—tools that children recognize and
can practice using as they create scenarios and
roles around a theme.

Similarly, many print and online resources are
available with recipes for everything from play
dough to paint and paste that help teachers
stretch their budgets and also generate oppor-
tunities to involve children in making play
materials. Parents and families can sometimes
contribute items like cell phones, old clothes
and scarves, or restaurant menus. The Reggio
Emilia preschools make such extensive use of
recyclable materials that there is a dedicated
community Remida (an Italian word meaning
“recycle”) center for the collection, organiza-
tion, and display of such materials as well as
for teacher training in how to use reclaimed
objects of all kinds for creative and useful pur-
poses (AGAC, 2004).

The Challenge of Time
Time is one of the biggest challenges for teach-
ers who want to use play as the foundation for
their curricula. Curricula may be divided into
segmented blocks of time that may be inad-
equate for optimal focus and engagement.
Consider children playing with blocks. Block
building involves a developmental sequence
of increasingly complex skills. If playtime is
restricted, there is only a limited supply of
blocks and props, and all the blocks must
be put away at the end of each play period,
children may lose interest in block building

© Ryan McVay / Thinkstock

Real-world materials help children make connec-
tions in make-believe play.

© Scholastic Studio 10 / Getty Images

Children need extended periods of time to fully
develop their ideas. Block structures, for example,
can take several days to complete.

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The Importance of Play Chapter 4

altogether. When they are repeatedly denied the time they need to acquire block-building
skills, children can become frustrated or disinterested and the potential value of this play is

Teachers may be reluctant to encourage block play when they observe it devolving into seem-
ingly random or destructive activity. However, children will benefit from more, rather than
less, building time to fully engage with the process. In classrooms where time and supply
must be limited, teachers can create ways in which structures in progress can be preserved
from one play period to the next, and they or the children can document or photograph the
children’s work.

A Box with Three Lives

On a Monday morning, Owen’s dad brought a large cardboard box to the class after a weekend
delivery of a new washing machine. The teacher, Ms. Mary, set the box in the middle of the meet-
ing circle and said, “Hmmm, I wonder what we could do with this, would you like to play with it?”
A chorus of voices ensued with many children talking all at once. Ms. Mary said, “Let’s get a big
piece of paper and write down all of our ideas and then maybe we can decide.” A few minutes
later, the list included turning the box into a space ship, boat, zoo, race car, and bus.

The children decided after much
discussion that it should become
a spooky house. Ms. Mary helped
the children generate a list of
needed materials, create a design
team, and assign jobs. After the
house was finished and the chil-
dren had played in it for several
days, they decided they wanted
to share it with the children in
another classroom. They made
additional items such as spiders,
paper ghosts, and bats. They
recorded a sound track of scary
noises and wrote invitations, and,
when the other children came to
visit the house, took turns as tour
guides using dress-up clothes from
the dramatic play area.

When Ms. Mary noticed that the children’s interest in the box had waned, she asked them if they
were finished. Instead of discarding it, the children decided that since it already had windows and
doors, they could repaint it to turn it into the Three Little Pigs’ brick house, which they worked on
over the next two weeks. Play in the box ended only when it finally collapsed, but then, since it had
been painted on the outside to look like bricks, they cut it up to make a road on the playground.
One box, weeks of inventive play!

▶ Stop and Reflect
Can you think of other materials that might provide the kind of open-ended play described above?
What might be the pros and cons of each?

© Alistair Berg / Getty Images

With some craftwork and creativity, a simple card-
board box can become almost anything.

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Development and Curriculum across the Early Childhood Years Chapter 4

Early childhood curricula may diverge significantly in the logic and labels applied to center
locations, how boundaries are established, the level of emphasis devoted to specific areas,
or materials and strategies used to support children’s interactions. For example, Montessori
classrooms include an area called “practical life,” in which children use everyday things like
pitchers, spoons, brooms and dusters that would be consistent with the concept of a house-
keeping center in other models. But the intended outcomes of these two seemingly compa-
rable activity centers and the means by which they are achieved are very different. Regardless
of interpretation, all early childhood curricula devote considerable effort to articulating the
way in which play serves as an organizing element for the curriculum.

4.3 Development and Curriculum across the Early
Childhood Years
This final section of the chapter examines how the developmental characteristics of children
at different times influence the way curriculum is conceived to meet their needs and interests.

Infants and Toddlers

Good curriculum for infants and toddlers is significantly different from curriculum for pre-
schoolers and older children in many ways, but it is grounded in the same principles of DAP
(described in Chapter 1) that apply throughout the early childhood years (Gestwicki, 2011).
Curricula for children from birth to age 3 focus on developing a warm and secure relationship
between child and adult and providing an environment that is safe, calm, orderly, predictable,
responsive to the child’s needs, and engaging (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009; Gestwicki, 2011).

A key to planning a curriculum for infants and toddlers is applying the concept of the zone
of proximal development—that is, anticipating what skills are likely to emerge soon, actively
working on what is current, and practicing what has already been mastered (Deiner, 2009, p.
515). Curricular goals for infants and toddlers focus on attainment of expected milestones in
each of the developmental domains, primarily:

• Locomotion and control of large muscles

• Acquisition of self-help skills through fine motor control

• Comprehending and beginning to express language

• Developing secure attachments with adults

• Acquiring an emerging sense of self

• Expressing curiosity about others and the environment (Miller & Albrecht, 2001; South
Carolina Program for Infant and Toddler Care, 2009)

Physical Domain
Infants are completely dependent on adults to meet their physical needs and move them
from place to place. As they become mobile and develop an “upright” perspective (Copple
& Bredekamp, 2009), older infants and toddlers become more interested in exploring their
surroundings; they need freedom to move about while maintaining their sense of security
and safety. Infant-toddler curriculum that supports the acquisition of locomotion will include:

• Supporting the head, body, and limbs as the infant gains control and balance of the
upper and lower trunk

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Development and Curriculum across the Early Childhood Years Chapter 4

• During routines such as diapering or floor play, moving the infant’s arms and legs in
motions that mimic those needed for later crawling and walking

• Providing room and time to creep and crawl; using motivators such as a soft squeaking
toy to entice the child to move toward the adult holding the toy

• Manual and environmental assistance for the child attempting to stand and take tenta-
tive steps, such as standing behind the child, letting him or her grasp the adult’s fin-
gers for support

• Placement of low furniture that the child can use for cruising, which means holding
onto objects to move around the room

• Opportunities to practice walking forward, backward, and sideways on different kinds
of surfaces both barefoot and with shoes

• Opportunities to practice climbing and walking on steps and stairs safely

• Time and space for learning to run, stop, and regulate speed (Deiner, 2009)

Like gross motor development, fine motor movements of the hands and feet involve the inte-
gration of vision, perception, and muscle control to master reaching, grasping, holding, and
coordinating movements of the hands, fingers, and feet (Deiner, 2009). These movements are
necessary for all eventual self-help skills such as dressing, feeding, and maintaining balance

The “Jump, Jump” Song for Toddlers

Learning to jump involves coordinating the legs and body to move upward of one surface and land
in the same place or on another surface, such as a lower step. Children learn to jump from one
foot to another, jump off a surface with both feet, and develop the skill to jump from increasingly
high levels. To encourage children to develop this skill, one toddler teacher uses what she calls the
“Jump, Jump” song as part of the children’s daily greeting circle.

The song serves four purposes. It (1) helps children learn names of friends, (2) encourages and moti-
vates children to develop their jumping skill, (3) encourages coordination of fine (clapping) and gross
(jumping) motor skills, and (4) provides a means to monitor skill development of individual children.

Children love this activity and take increasing delight over time as their jumping skill develops.
Learning to jump in this kind of safe environment also helps them develop the control they will
need in using their emerging ability to jump in less structured environments such as the playground.

The activity proceeds as follows:

• Children sit in a small circle with the teacher on the floor.

• The teacher invites a child to the center of the circle to jump. The child may accept or decline,
choosing to watch other children instead.

• While the child inside the circle jumps, the teacher and children clap and chant or sing, “There
was a child in a class and [insert name of child] was her name-o; jump, jump [name of child];
jump jump [name of child]; jump, jump [name of child]; we’re glad you’re here today.” The activ-
ity is repeated until all children who want to jump have had a chance to do so.

▶ Stop and Reflect
In addition to development of motor skills, what other benefits do the children gain from this kind
of activity?

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Development and Curriculum across the Early Childhood Years Chapter 4

and control of locomotion. An infant-toddler cur-
riculum for fostering fine motor skills will include:

• Helping infants develop their visual tracking abil-
ity by moving a small toy or object across their
field of vision or, for example, providing a rotat-
ing mobile above the crib. Providing incentives
for children to reach out by placing interesting
objects in front of them

• Letting the infant practice grasping an adult’s
fingers and small toys

• Coordinating movements with both hands and/
or feet, such as clapping, playing peek-a-boo,
and so on

• Providing a selection of interesting objects,
materials, and toys that give older infants and
toddlers opportunities to practice and refine
their fine motor skills and coordinate eye-hand
movements. Objects must be sized appropri-
ately—small enough to be managed without
frustration but not so small they pose a choking
hazard. Objects that are small should be tested
with a choke tube

Affective Domain
Human beings are social creatures, and early affec-

tive development is highly dependent on the extent to which the child learns to trust adults,
form secure attachments, and feel secure that her needs will be met consistently. If an infant is
consistently left wet, tired, hungry, or alone most of the time, it isn’t hard to see why it will be
more difficult for her to develop a cheerful disposition and interest in others (Maslow, 1943).

Many mid-twentieth-century studies of institutionalized infants who had only their physical
needs met but were otherwise deprived of interaction with adults reported failure to thrive
physically, severe delays and/or intellectual deficits, and even death (Bowlby, 1940; Ribble,
1944; Spitz, 1945). These and similar findings were so alarming that, in the United States,
they led to replacement of institutionalized care with the foster home system. Adults are
also reminded, for example, that toddlers are motivated to test their boundaries and may use
temper tantrums to express what they have not yet developed the ability to communicate
efficiently in words.

A good curriculum for infants’ and toddlers’ social and emotional development is likely to

• Pairing each infant with a single or primary caregiver or teacher to the extent

• Giving prompt attention to the child’s physical needs

• Helping children manage separation from their families

• Allowing time for cuddling, holding, and soothing

• Acknowledging the child’s emerging personality

© iStockphoto / Thinkstock

Babies’ development is rapid, and they quickly
become interested in exploring their surround-
ings, starting with the parts of their bodies.

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Development and Curriculum across the Early Childhood Years Chapter 4

• Offering activities that promote a
sense of self, gender identity, and

• Supporting the toddler’s increas-
ing desire for independence within
an atmosphere of acceptance for
an emerging capacity for verbal

• Providing opportunities to engage
with other children and adults

• Providing opportunities to help with
simple chores and classroom care

Curricula for infants and toddlers also
address the need to help children acquire
self-control. Teachers are expected to pro-
vide encouragement and maintain reason-
able expectations. They also manage the
environment and daily schedule so that children are not overwhelmed or overstimulated with
too many choices, activities, or materials.

Cognitive Domain
While many of the behaviors of very young infants are driven by instinctive survival needs,
they react, respond, and begin to acquire mental concepts (schema) as a result of interaction
with their environment from birth. Infancy and the toddler periods are incredibly important
for cognitive development, as all later intellectual functioning is based on earlier learning;
therefore infants and toddlers need stimulation and exposure to new experiences, objects,
and language (Deiner, 2009). Long before children can speak, they recognize voices, tone and
inflection, and are fascinated by words and language.

Important curriculum features for cognitive development include:

• Access and opportunities to observe their surroundings and the people in them

• Games and activities that promote the concept of object permanence, awareness
that objects or people that are out of sight still exist

• Opportunities to play with toys and sensory materials that develop early concepts of
cause and effect

• Simple sorting activities and materials

• Naming and narrating what is happening during care routines

• Reinforcing words and the names of people and objects

• Frequent opportunities to handle board books, picture cards, and other materials that
introduce shapes, objects, words, animals, and so on

• Reading to children individually and in small groups frequently throughout the day

• Predictable routines that help children develop a rudimentary sense of sequence
and time

© iStockphoto / Thinkstock

Infants and toddlers become very interested in mirrors
and other reflective surfaces as part of the develop-
mental process of forming a self-image.

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Development and Curriculum across the Early Childhood Years Chapter 4


Young children are perpetual motion machines! In addition to developing increasing con-
trol over their bodies, 3- to 5-year old preschoolers use language to express their feelings,
questions, and thoughts. With preschoolers, much of the guesswork about their needs and
interests is replaced by the need to provide a wider variety of experiences and materials that
(1) challenge them to refine their physical skills, (2) help them begin to form friendships and
navigate social relationships and conflicts, (3) explore their theories about how things work,
(4) foster emergent literacy, and (5) develop a love of learning. Further, beyond the infant-
toddler period, preschoolers have acquired the ability to engage in much more complex play
that provides a platform for highly integrated development of thoughts, feelings, and concep-
tual understandings (Gestwicki, 2011).

Critical considerations for preschool curriculum from the perspective of DAP (Copple &
Brekekamp, 2009) include the following:

1. A preschool curriculum should represent real
learning in the present, not preparation for later
(p. 111).

2. Three- to five-year-olds bring an already wide
variety of experiences to the preschool setting,
which should serve to inform curricular decisions.

3. The curriculum should support and integrate cul-
tural knowledge.

4. Scaled-down versions of curricula for older chil-
dren are not appropriate.

Physical Domain
The goals of curricula for physical development focus
on developing coordination and fluidity of move-
ment. Children are growing so fast during this time
that their body image may lag behind their actual
physical appearance, and they may have difficulty
with spatial awareness. Preschoolers are also, com-
pared with adults, farsighted, and may not yet have
firmly established “handedness,” bolstering the case
against using work sheets and small print with chil-
dren of this age (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009).

Many of the physical developmental needs of pre-
schoolers can be supported by careful planning of
the environment and blocking out indoor and out-

door time periods where children are free and expected to make choices, direct their own
play, and moderate their personal behavior; thus the curriculum can be largely intentional
without being overly teacher-directed. This is not to say that specific activities focused on
movement and exercise should be excluded. Many fine resources and activities are included in
comprehensive preschool curricula, including supplementary programs specifically directed at
physical growth and health activities and practices for 3- to 5-year-olds.

© Antoine Juliette / Oredia / Oredia Eurl / SuperStock

Access to plenty of writing materials can
help encourage preschoolers to develop
their fine motor skills.

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Development and Curriculum across the Early Childhood Years Chapter 4

In general, curricular considerations for supporting and promoting physical development
indoors include:

• Organizing the classroom or care setting for high mobility (Gestwicki, 2011)—allowing
for freedom of movement from center to center and with room for children to play on
the floor

• Displaying and labeling materials so that children can retrieve, move/carry, and replace

• Access to age-appropriate games that encourage movement and dexterity

• Access to a wide variety of materials in each activity area that encourage refinement of
fine motor skills while allowing for differences in interests and ability levels

• Plentiful formal and informal opportunities for learning to use and practice with writ-
ing tools

Extending the curriculum for physical development to the out-of-doors should be intentional
to ensure plentiful opportunities for the development of physical strength, agility, coordina-
tion, and endurance. Increasing concern about obesity among young children in particular
points to outdoor play as a critical strategy for encouraging children to be more active.

Outdoor curriculum is addressed in more detail in Chapter 8, but in general the curriculum
should include the following:

• Opportunities for swinging, sliding, rolling, climbing, jumping, running, throwing, kick-
ing, and riding (Gestwicki, 2011, p. 105)

• Organized games and activities intended to develop particular skills and learning about

• Engaging interest areas that provide additional opportunities for active play, such as
digging, gardening, water play, dramatic play, and so on, which support the develop-
ment of fine motor and perceptual skills

Affective Domain
Curricula for preschoolers support the affective domain primarily by promoting the development
of identity, community and friendship, and self-regulation. The emergence of the social self takes
center stage and with it attention to cultural and gender identity, making and being friends, and
solving problems without coming to blows or hurting someone else’s feelings. Children at this
age are also emerging from what Erikson called the psychological stage of trust vs. mistrust into
the period of autonomy vs. shame/doubt. In other words, infants and toddlers have learned to
trust and feel secure in their relationships with those who are most significant in their daily lives
and care. Now, as preschoolers, they are ready to venture into a wider circle of people, places,
things, and ideas, but they are perhaps not always confident and sure about how to do so.

Children of this age are also highly motivated by the desire to please the adults they care
about, and are apt to forge significant bonds with, and admiration for, their teachers.
Sensitive teachers channel these tendencies toward the development of prosocial behaviors
while also realizing that the bravado often displayed by a 3-, 4-, or 5-year-old child may
camouflage a surprisingly fragile and easily damaged ego. How children navigate their way
through this new territory can significantly impact their social competence for the rest of their
lives (Gestwicki, 2011).

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Development and Curriculum across the Early Childhood Years Chapter 4

The curriculum supports preschoolers’
affective development with an environ-
ment, activities, ample time, and materials
that provide opportunities for:

• Exploring identity (gender, culture,
language, personality)

• Creating an ethic of acceptance,
respect, and caring for self and others

• Modeling and practicing effective
strategies for problem solving and
conflict resolution

• Extended sociodramatic and pretend

• Identifying and communicating feel-
ings and ideas with words

• Developing resilience, or the ability to
cope with stress and a range of emo-
tions that can be volatile and difficult
to manage at this age

Cognitive Domain
Preschool curricula abound with ways to promote and extend cognitive development. Key
goals in this area include development of memory, attention, symbolic representation, logic
and reasoning, language and literacy, multiple perspectives, and the acquisition of concepts
fundamental to later learning across all content areas. Balance in curriculum is extremely
important in the preschool years, so teachers must not concentrate on this area of develop-
ment to the exclusion of the other important domains.

Curriculum supports preschool children’s cognitive development with activities, materials,
room, and extended periods of time for:

• Sorting, classifying, and grouping objects

• Exploring number, quantity, matching, and patterning

• Observing objects and processes

• Learning about the physical properties of objects

• Pretend play focused on themes with ready access to props

• Drawing, painting, writing

Finally, an increasing number of studies confirm the highly integrated nature of learning at this
age. Healthy social, emotional, and physical development in preschoolers provides a founda-
tion for future academic success and is closely correlated with it (Bakken, Brown, & Downing,
2017; Bodrova & Leong, 2007; Copple & Bredekamp, 2009). Preschoolers’ experiences with
curriculum have a significant impact on their long-term attitudes toward learning and school.
High levels of natural energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity can be nurtured or destroyed during
this time!

© Stockbyte / Thinkstock

Preschool children are just beginning to learn how to
make and keep friends; they need a lot of practice and
understanding as they develop socially.

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Development and Curriculum across the Early Childhood Years Chapter 4

Many states currently recognize these connections with a section of their early learning stan-
dards that addresses “Approaches to Learning” (South Carolina Department of Education,
2012). These are dispositions that represent a merging of social, emotional, and cognitive
development such as initiative, persistence, engagement, risk taking, creativity, compliance,
and reflection.

Preschool curricula that support development in these integrated domains include:

• Daily chances for children to make and be accountable for choices

• Regular practice in planning and communicating actions and intentions

• Having a voice in discussion of issues and events that are important to the classroom

• Ways to include and respect the interests of children about topics and ideas in curricu-
lum content

• Documentation and sharing of children’s ideas, efforts, and products with others

Primary Grades

Of paramount concern to early childhood educators is maintaining a developmentally appro-
priate approach to curriculum for children in kindergarten through third grade in the face of
increasing pressures to test, pace, and standardize curricular goals and content. The NAEYC
states that “Education quality and outcomes would improve substantially if elementary
teachers incorporated the best of preschool’s emphases and practices (e.g., attention to the
whole child; integrated, meaningful learning; parent engagement)” (Copple & Bredekamp,
2009, p. 2).

Many schools use a patchwork of limited-scope curricula to address learning standards and
desired outcomes in defined content areas such as language arts, mathematics, science, and
so on. It can be especially difficult, therefore, to ensure that children’s developmental needs
are addressed in an integrated fashion within and across domains.

Unfortunately, many of the practices that characterize primary classrooms are those that are
least connected with the ways in which children of this age learn and grow, including:

• Segmented curricula with many transitions from one subject to another during
the day

• A curriculum that does not allow for children to work at their own pace or provide for
a range of interests and abilities

• Large-group instruction or small group instruction (e.g., reading groups) that leaves
the remaining children to do seat work or using work sheets and spending a lot of
time waiting for the next activity

• Using appropriate activities as incentives or rewards rather than as primary learning
modes (special projects, learning centers, outdoor play)

• Large amounts of time spent in solitary, silent work with limited opportunities for
using oral language and conversation

• Limited or no opportunities for children to make choices (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009;
Gestwicki, 2011)

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Development and Curriculum across the Early Childhood Years Chapter 4

In the face of such challenges, well-prepared teachers of children in K–3 settings do need to
know how curriculum for this age group can be developmentally oriented to effectively pro-
mote learning and growth across all domains.

Physical Domain
Primary aged children still have a great need for activity, although their rate of growth slows
over this time period and much of their activity serves to refine skills that have already emerged.
A number of recent research studies confirm strong positive correlations between physical
activity/exercise and intelligence, academic achievement, and learning (Donnelly, et al., 2016;
Smith & Lounsberry, 2009; Tomporowski, Davis, Miller, & Naglieri, 2008; Tubic & Golubovic,
2010). In other words, active children are smarter and learn better! Experts recommend that
14 to 26 percent of the elementary-aged child’s time be spent in physical activity (Smith &
Lounsberry, 2009). For a typical week in a school with a seven-hour day, that amounts to
approximately 5 to 8 hours per week of not sitting.

It is highly preferable, therefore, that the primary class-
room be arranged and organized with many of the
same features as that for younger children so as to
allow as much freedom of movement as possible. The
curriculum should prioritize the use of learning/activ-
ity centers and continue to emphasize real, concrete
materials over paper-and-pencil activities. Since many
elementary school classrooms are not large enough to
accommodate individual desks and learning centers,
tables and chairs distributed around the classroom in
activity areas can also serve as work areas for times
when children do need to be seated for instructional

Primary children still need extensive opportunities for
active hands-on learning, which is also helpful for
refining the fine-motor skills they now need for writing
and developing advanced manual dexterity, strength,
and coordination. They should have time to play out-
doors or with a trained physical education specialist at
least thirty to sixty minutes per day.

Affective Domain
Erikson characterizes the years when children are in
the primary grades as those when they are highly
motivated psychologically to be industrious but also
extremely vulnerable to feelings of inferiority. The
primary school curriculum should therefore provide
for an individualized approach that encourages chil-
dren to use their energy and motivation to become
fully engaged in learning and experience success and
feelings of competence. A good primary curriculum
promotes acceptance and respect for social, cultural,
and intellectual differences. It is also flexible, allowing
for in-depth investigations of topics that interest and

© Photodisc / Thinkstock

Children of primary school age should have
at least thirty to sixty minutes per day of
unstructured and unguided time to engage
in games, movement, and strength/coordi-
nation activities.

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Development and Curriculum across the Early Childhood Years Chapter 4

engage children rather than surface learning of facts and concepts unrelated to children’s
prior experiences. Learning centers as well as individual and small-group times should also be
emphasized, rather than large-group instruction.

The years from kindergarten to grade 3 are also a time when children are passionately involved
in making and maintaining friendships. They do this on a much more sophisticated level than
preschoolers, who are just taking their first tentative steps into the social world. Compliments
and insults, real or imagined, affect primary school children deeply, as they are losing their
egocentric perspective and really beginning to develop empathy, compassion, and concern
for others (along with parallel negative feelings of envy, jealousy, and rejection). Their strong
need for belonging lends itself to a curriculum that
fosters collaboration, cooperation, and working in
pairs and small groups.

Cognitive Domain
Given the characteristics of primary children previ-
ously mentioned, curriculum for this age group best
complements cognitive development with organiza-
tion and content that promote and/or include:

• Thematic or project-based inquiry to allow for
in-depth integrated learning across content/
subject areas

• Large blocks of time for work that allow chil-
dren to pace themselves, stay involved, and
work interactively with other children

• Opportunities for children to engage in plan-
ning and making choices directly connected
to children’s learning experiences

A literacy-rich environment in the primary years is
critical to the development of the written and oral
communication skills and comprehension that are
so necessary for later academic success. Primary
school children benefit greatly from daily opportu-
nities to interact with meaningful printed materials
that become part of the curriculum, such as charts,
lists, schedules, labels, and notes, which represent
practical applications of language. Literacy materi-
als should be available in all areas of the classroom,
so that children can incorporate reading and writing
in all of their activities and play. Books and other curricular materials for reading and writing
should be plentiful, varied, and reflect the cultural experiences and real lives of children in the

Primary curricula are typically designed with good intentions by knowledgeable people to meet
specific needs and goals; this is not a guarantee, however, that all the important domains of
development will be addressed adequately or evenly. It may indeed be challenging for teach-
ers in the primary grades to forge a comprehensive, developmentally appropriate approach
from multiple separate subject area curricula, but it is not impossible, and such teachers have

© iStockphoto/Thinkstock

The cognitive development of children in the
primary grades is best supported when they
can engage in integrated learning that is
closely related to their interests; this kinder-
garten child is working on her science journal.

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Posttest Chapter 4

an opportunity to advocate for best practices that can make the school lives of children more
productive, effective, and developmentally appropriate.

Chapter Summary
• Developmental knowledge about infants, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarteners, and

children in the primary grades should guide and inform the decisions that teachers
make about curriculum.

• While we expect children to achieve specific developmental milestones in the physical,
affective, and cognitive domains, growth and learning occur in a highly integrated and
gradual process.

• Curriculum must account for and support the needs and interests of both typically
developing children and those with special needs. Specific supports, processes, and
adaptations are implemented when children exhibit developmental delays or other
special needs.

• A large body of research confirms the benefits of play across all developmental
domains. Early childhood curriculum should incorporate support for play as a primary
means of integrating experience and learning.

• Theories about play describe it as a developmental process from both cognitive and
social perspectives; they are useful for teachers as they plan for, observe, and facilitate
children’s play activities.

• In developmentally appropriate classrooms, teachers typically provide for play with
designated activity or learning centers, materials that support development in many
different ways, and large blocks of time that allow children to engage deeply in vari-
ous activities.

• Curriculum for infants centers on care routines and developing secure relationships
with adults.

• Toddler curriculum supports their increasing mobility and desire for exploration, acqui-
sition of language, and emerging social behaviors.

• Curriculum for preschoolers focuses on the refinement of gross and fine motor skills,
developing social relationships, fostering emergent literacy, and internalizing a love of
learning through exploration of their environment.

• Classrooms for children in the primary grades should look in many ways similar to
those for younger children. Curricula for children from kindergarten through third
grade include an increased emphasis on literacy and mathematics but should continue
to balance learning in an integrated and individualized fashion.


1. Applying universal developmental expectations for children means that:

a. Teachers understand that while children vary individually, they develop along a gen-
erally sequential and predictable time line.

b. If a child isn’t talking by the time he is 18 months old, he is delayed.

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Posttest Chapter 4

c. Teachers should test children regularly to make sure they are on target

d. Teachers can confidently plan whole group lessons assuming that such lessons are
developmentally appropriate for children of the same age.

2. The following statement best describes children’s physical development:

a. Small muscles develop before large muscles.

b. The body’s center of gravity lowers as children grow taller.

c. The body generally develops from the head downward and the center of the body

d. Physical growth during the early childhood period is almost as rapid as during

3. When children with special needs are placed in regular classrooms and care settings,

a. It interferes with the teacher’s ability to provide all the children in the class indi-
vidual attention.

b. Typically developing children don’t accept them, leading to rejection and poor
achievement outcomes.

c. All the children can learn that they are alike and different in unique ways.

d. They are almost guaranteed to be labeled for life in spite of the fact that they are
like typically developing children in many other ways.

4. Children with developmental delays:

a. Will never catch up with typically developing children, even with early intervention

b. Will only catch up with typically developing children if their delay is due to a condi-
tion that can be corrected with surgery.

c. Must wait until elementary school to receive services.

d. May be delayed for a variety of reasons, some of which are temporary and others
that may require long-term support.

5. Play is an important feature of early childhood curriculum primarily because:

a. It promotes the physical, social, and emotional development of children and is
closely connected to the development of higher order thinking.

b. Without it, teachers find it difficult to plan activities that will catch the children’s

c. It’s the only way children can burn off the extra energy they accumulate from sit-
ting too long.

d. Only children play, so if they don’t get to play in the early years, they will be devel-
opmentally delayed as adults.

6. Piaget’s description of the cognitive stages of play includes:

a. Parallel play.

b. Associative play.

c. Cooperative play.

d. Games with rules.

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Discussion Questions Chapter 4

7. Teachers integrate play across the curriculum when they:

a. Provide at least thirty to sixty minutes of time for outdoor play every day.

b. Provide dedicated space and materials that support different areas of learning.

c. Encourage children to make friends with others while they play.

d. Show children how to solve problems by themselves.

8. The following statement best describes how materials should be selected to support

a. Materials should be purchased only from reliable early childhood education

b. Play materials should primarily be ones that promote the development of literacy
skills to prepare them for first grade.

c. Play materials should offer children opportunities for both open-ended play and skill

d. Infants should not have toys because they might choke on them.

9. The primary goals of curriculum for infants and toddlers are:

a. Developing secure relationships and helping them achieve developmental milestones
in all the domains of development.

b. Making sure they know their colors and can count to five by the time they are 3
years old.

c. Toilet training and language development.

d. Teaching them emotional control and how to make friends.

10. According to NAEYC, curriculum for preschoolers should be designed to:

a. Focus on what they need to know in the future.

b. Parallel the kinds of curriculum that are used in the primary grades so they will be
prepared for success.

c. Support and integrate what children already know with new experiences.

d. Help them conform to mainstream culture and values.

Answers: 1 (a); 2 (c); 3 (c); 4 (d); 5 (a); 6 (d); 7 (b); 8 (c); 9 (a); 10 (c)

Discussion Questions

1. What do you think will be most challenging as you work at learning and understanding
how to teach from a developmental perspective?

2. Think about your experiences playing as a child; what kind of things did you enjoy doing
the most and how do you think your play experiences supported your growth and

3. What themes can you identify that run throughout early childhood curriculum?

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Key Terms Chapter 4

Answers and Rejoinders to Chapter Pretest

1. True. Development proceeds in universally predictable sequences considered “typical”;
time lines can vary considerably from child to child and still be considered normal.

2. False. IDEA legislation requires children with special needs be included in classrooms
with typically developing children to the extent possible.

3. False. Play has many cognitive and social benefits.

4. False. Play is an integral part of curriculum for young children.

5. True. Caregiving routines provide opportunities for verbal interactions and practice
using large and small muscles.

Key Terms

Adaptation Modifications made to environments, materials, curriculum content, or

Affective development The domain of development that focuses on social and emotional

Associative play Social stage of play when children begin to share and play together with-
out necessarily sharing a desired goal or theme

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) Broad continuum of behaviors related to difficulties
with sensory processing, social interaction, and communication

Choke tube A small tube open on both ends that is the approximate size of a baby’s air-
way, used to determine whether a toy or material presents a choking hazard

Code switch The ability to shift seamlessly between one language and another

Cooperative play Highest social level of play, when groups of children play together with
a shared purpose or theme

Cruising Holding onto furniture or other objects placed close together to move from one
spot to another

Developmental delay Exists when a child does not meet benchmarks or milestones typi-
cally expected for children in a particular stage of development

Domain Patterns or sequences of development or learning specific to a particular dimen-
sion of the human organism, such as the cognitive (thinking), affective (social/emotional) or
physical (gross/fine motor and brain) domain

Games with rules The highest stage of cognitive play, which parallels concrete operations;
groups of children play games with common understanding of rules or make up their own
rules for games they want to play

Gifted Characteristics indicative of intellectual capacity beyond what is considered typical

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References Chapter 4

Inclusion A practice that places children with special needs in regular classroom or care
settings with typically developing children

Individualized education plan (IEP) A plan developed for an individual child with spe-
cial needs 3 years of age or older that includes curricular and developmental goals, needed
resources, adaptations, and support personnel, time lines, and follow-up measures

Individualized family service plan (IFSP) Service plan developed for children from birth
to 3 years of age with services sometimes delivered in the home

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) A federal law requiring that children
with disabilities be included in regular classrooms or care settings to the maximum extent
possible, also providing funding for resources to meet these children’s special needs

Object permanence A developmental milestone achieved when an infant realizes that an
object or person out of sight continues to exist

Parallel play Playing side by side but not interacting with another child

Practice play Cognitive stage of play that parallels the sensorimotor stage, when children
engage in repetitive or reflexive activities

Primary caregiver An adult designated as the principal caregiver for a child or children

Solitary play Characteristic of infant and young toddlers, playing without awareness of or
interest in others

Special need A condition or set of characteristics or behaviors that is not typical for other
children of the same age, requiring resources or support services

Symbolic play A cognitive stage of play that occurs during the preoperational period,
characterized by using objects to represent other objects and pretend

Typically developing child A child whose observable characteristics conform to those
reported and/or observed in the majority of children in a given population


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efits. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 31(2), 255–269.

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Charlesworth, R. (2004). Understanding child development (7th ed.). Clifton Park, NY:
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Cox, P. R., & Dykes, M. K. (2001). Effective classroom adaptations for students with visual
impairments. Teaching Exceptional Children, 33(6), 68–74.

Deiner, P. (2009). Infants and toddlers: Development and curriculum planning (2nd ed.).
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What Are My Responsibilities
as a Planner?

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

1. Describe factors that affect the planning context.

2. Describe important considerations for planning the environment.

3. Explain the types of resources available to teachers for planning.

4. Describe a continuum of approaches to planning and how they are similar and different.

1. Making decisions about planning mostly

focuses on the standards you need to
address. T/F

2. Planning the physical environment of
the classroom must be a very thoughtful
process based on specific design principles.

3. All the resources you need for planning will
be provided with a curriculum. T/F

4. There is only one best way to plan activities
for children if you are to meet the goals of
the curriculum. T/F

5. Thematic units and emergent curriculum
basically represent examples of the
continuum of approaches to planning. T/F

Answers can be found at end of the chapter.

© Brand X Pictures / Thinkstock

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Contextual Factors That Affect Planning Chapter 6

Now that you have met your children and their families, collected information, and consid-
ered many ways to connect with them in the context of your community, it’s time to begin
planning curriculum activities and how you will set up the environment to support them.
Remember from Chapter 2 that you have the printed material accompanying the compre-
hensive curriculum used in your school and the supplementary literacy program that specifi-
cally targets at-risk learners. You also have your administrator’s assurance that you will have
a good bit of freedom to make your own decisions as long as they are consistent with the
curriculum’s goals.

Your teaching space has some nice features—notably access to a lavatory for the children
inside the room, plenty of natural light from windows along one wall, a door to the adjacent
playground, a classroom sink with counter space, a variety of child-sized furniture and mov-
able storage units, and a storage closet. It also presents challenges that will affect how you
will arrange your space, including where some of the above features are located, a limited
number of electrical outlets, and permanently installed carpeting in one part of the room.
With all of this in mind, how might you begin making decisions about how to arrange the

In addition to thinking about how to organize the physical environment, you might ask your-
self several additional questions as you begin to plan your curriculum activities. What approach
will you take to organize your ideas? How will you plan curriculum activities in ways that are
developmentally appropriate and flexible? How will you make sure you are addressing learn-
ing standards? This chapter focuses on practical strategies for effective planning.

6.1 Contextual Factors That Affect Planning
Regardless of where you teach, your circumstances (or context) will impact your planning.
Among the most important factors that affect planning are the curriculum, the children, their
families, your teaching colleagues, and the physical setting—the building and learning spaces.

The Planning Context

Whether you are given a curriculum to implement or expected to select or design curriculum
yourself, planning should be a responsive process. You will need to balance planned activities
with what you observe about the needs, interests, and characteristics of children (Copple &
Bredekamp, 2009; Gestwicki, 2011).

To varying degrees, the type of early childhood setting in which you work will influence how
planning occurs. Home-care providers are typically independent and care for the widest age
range of children in the same setting. They have to plan and implement care and activities
for infants and toddlers as well as preschoolers and school-age children. Early childhood
educators in child-care centers or preschools may have considerable flexibility or be expected
to implement a particular curriculum. In primary classrooms, especially in the public schools,
planning will likely be closely correlated with prescribed curriculum, state learning standards,
and designated assessment procedures.

Context can also influence the planning tools you use and your accountability for them. Some
teachers may be given or expected to use a planning book or specific forms on which to
write their plans. You might be required to turn in plans weekly, monthly, or on some other
schedule for review by a supervisor. Most state child-care licensing regulations also require

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Contextual Factors That Affect Planning Chapter 6

that current/ongoing activity plans be prominently displayed and shared with parents. For
example, the Pennsylvania Regulation reads as follows:

3270.111 Daily activities.

(a) A written plan of daily activities and routines, including a time for free play shall be
established for each group. The plan shall be flexible to accommodate the needs of
individual children and the dynamics of the group. 

(b) The written plan shall be posted in the group space.

Even if you are wholly in charge of your class or group of children, you may have a coteacher
or assistant, or you may be part of a bigger teaching team, which means that other individuals
will influence or perhaps have some control over your planning. Teachers in a center or school,
for example, often plan collaboratively, as a group, by grade or age level. Further, the extent
to which your ideas are incorporated into plans may be influenced by the group dynamics or
competing points of view. For example, if you plan with a team of two lead teachers and two
assistants, one of those individuals may tend to dominate conversation or another may be
reluctant to consider trying new strategies. These are issues that would have to be worked out
as you developed a collaborative approach to sharing ideas.

Finally, the physical setting within which learning takes place will impact your planning. You
will have to consider what space you have, how the classroom will be arranged, what space
you must share with other classes, and so on. Your planning for both the physical environment
and activities will certainly have to consider how to reflect the diversity and cultural character-
istics, experiences, and interests of the children and families in your group.

Integrating Developmental Principles and Beliefs

In considering our opening vignette, you may have wondered how an open-ended, compre-
hensive play-based curriculum could be compatible with planning and scheduling for a teacher-
directed supplemental literacy program. Curricular activities may be conceptually organized by
developmental domains or by academic content areas, but the planning process for any cur-
riculum should prioritize and integrate developmentally appropriate principles and strategies.

For example, you can plan a literacy activity that focuses on identifying beginning word
sounds as small-group or one-on-one interactions at the beginning or end of a large block
of free-choice time rather than as a whole-group lesson. This way, children’s play is not inter-
rupted; you maximize opportunities for interpersonal interactions and control the time and
frequency of these activities for the capabilities of each individual child. Likewise, a curriculum
or program that requires a whole-group “circle time” for 3-year-olds should challenge you to
plan a format for such a time that is interactive, enjoyable, meaningful, and no longer than
the children can reasonably be expected to manage.

As the teacher, your thoughtful approach to planning will be based on your observations,
record keeping, and interactions with the children, ensuring that:

• Themes and topics of study support program goals and curriculum objectives but
curriculum is not “one-size fits all,” so that children have ongoing opportunities for
activities and experiences that support their individual interests and developmental

• Teacher-directed and child-initiated activities are balanced

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Contextual Factors That Affect Planning Chapter 6

• The curriculum is flexible and adaptable to accommodate learning opportunities that
arise unexpectedly

• Children can offer questions and ideas that are incorporated in planning of future

• The environment and curriculum reflect and honor the real lives of the children and
their families

• Planning balances active and quiet times and individual, small-group, and whole-group

• Exploratory play is supported as an important mode of learning

Effective planning integrates the key themes of this book: (1) understanding the theoretical
and/or philosophical foundation of the curriculum; (2) knowledge of human growth and devel-
opment; (3) coordinating integration of the roles you, as the teacher, families, and communi-
ties assume as curriculum informants; (4) identification of curriculum content that supports
children’s needs and interests; and (5) choosing and enacting developmentally appropriate
teaching and assessment strategies.

Table 2.7 in Chapter 2 provides a simple format for organizing your essential ideas and beliefs
so that you can compare them with ideas represented in various curricula you may be inter-
ested in or asked to use. In planning, you apply these ideas as an action plan (Nilsen, 2010).
For example, Mary, a kindergarten teacher in South Carolina, knows that one of the physical
science standards relates to exploring matter, “Standard K.P.4: The student will demonstrate
an understanding of the observable properties of matter.” The indicator for this standard
(K.P.4A.1) reads: “Analyze and interpret data to compare the qualitative properties of objects
(such as size, shape, color, texture, weight, flexibility, attraction to magnets, or ability to
sink or float) and classify objects based on similar properties” (South Carolina Department
of Education, 2014, p. 10). She knows that this standard can be addressed through explicit
teaching about the concept, but her constructivist belief that children learn science concepts
through exploration of the environment and materials leads to intentional planning for that
learning to occur naturally.

Table 6.1 represents what her broad plan for a given week might include to support open-
ended inquiry about the observable properties of water. She’ll build the activities around the
use of a water table.

Table 6.1: Water Table Activities

Prompts and Facilitation Strategies Materials

Monday Generate and record ideas about why objects sink or float in
water; examine a variety of materials for experimentation; chart
children’s predictions

Paper clips; marbles;
recycled styrofoam
packing peanuts trays and
soda/water bottles; paper
plates; bottle caps; wood
scraps; aluminum foil;
paper cups; play dough;
small rocks and sticks;
string; rubber bands; tooth
picks; plastic straws

Tuesday Discuss ideas about how children could make a boat that will
float in water; construct and test in the water table; record
observations; photograph or videotape the water table as a
work in progress



Friday Construct a diagram (sink/float/both) with the children to
organize observations made over the week; compare with their
original predictions; begin a book with images or drawings
of the boats and transcription of children’s tentative answers
to the question of why a boat floats; generate new questions
about sinking and floating to continue inquiry

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Creating a Physical Environment for Your Curriculum Chapter 6

6.2 Creating a Physical Environment for Your Curriculum
The physical environment is a powerful messenger, and “every environment implies a set
of values or beliefs about the people who use the space and the activities that take place
there . . . each environment also influences the people who use it in subtle or dramatic ways”
(Carter & Carter, 2003, p. 13).

Thinking and making decisions about how to design and arrange classroom spaces has been
influenced by many individuals. Friedrich Froebel introduced the idea of materials specifically
created to support the way young children learn. Maria Montessori pioneered the use of child-
sized furniture and the careful organization of materials. Rudolph Steiner promoted the use of
natural materials and a homelike environment. Elizabeth Jones and Elizabeth Prescott’s work
in the 1970s also emphasized the importance of a homelike environment and the idea that
teachers should look to the environment as a source for solving problems (Prescott, 2004). For
example, if you observed that children in an activity area were not sharing, a comparison of
the number of things to do with the number of children using the center might suggest that
additional materials need to be added (Prescott, 2004, p.

Diane Trister-Dodge and David Weikert applied all of these
ideas to the Creative Curriculum and High Scope class-
rooms. Finally, the Reggio Emilia programs demonstrate
how planning an environment is driven by respect for the
rights of the child to a beautiful, welcoming space that
promotes relationships and attention to detail.

This section of the chapter will address how your curricu-
lum influences the indoor physical environment, principles
of good design, and aesthetics. Considerations for plan-
ning the outdoor environment are addressed in Chapter 8.

Does Your Curriculum Dictate or Provide

Given the innumerable different kinds of locations, class-
room shapes, sizes, and building designs, it would be
almost impossible for a curriculum to dictate exactly what
a classroom or care space should look like. Curricula do,
however, to varying degrees, implicitly or explicitly suggest
and guide decisions about what equipment and materials
are needed and how activity spaces should support chil-
dren’s play, learning, and development.

For example, Montessori programs are expected to have
at least a minimal set of designated materials arranged in a defined sequence and accord-
ing to particular design principles. Creative Curriculum identifies ten distinct activity centers
and gives teachers guidance about suggested materials for each. High Scope and Creative
Curriculum teachers are also expected to label shelves and materials with pictures and/or
words. The literacy curriculum mentioned in the opening vignette might come with a particular
set of books, manipulative materials, and teacher resources with directions to store or display
them in a prescribed sequence or order.

© Susan Woog-Wagner / Getty Images

Children use a variety of materials to
explore concepts about water, including
different-sized containers (in which they
can pour the water back and forth) and
objects that sink and float.

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Creating a Physical Environment for Your Curriculum Chapter 6

Other curriculum approaches set forth desired goals for what the environment should be
designed to achieve as well as the particular elements it should include, but they assume that
each classroom will also have its own unique character. For instance, the atelier or miniatelier
feature of Reggio Emilia programs and classrooms (introduced in Chapter 2) is expected to
include art and an array of interesting recycled materials arranged in an organized and aes-
thetically pleasing manner (Edwards, Gandini, & Forman, 1998).

In Waldorf education, according to teacher Sarah Baldwin (2012), “A Waldorf kindergarten
is typically furnished to look much like a home, with silk curtains, wool rugs, a rocking chair,
and wooden tables and chairs. Teachers consciously choose playthings for the classroom that
will nourish a young child’s senses and sheathe them in beauty. Toys found in the classroom
are made from natural fiber and materials.”

Regardless of a curriculum’s specifics, the teacher will plan the environment according to gen-
erally accepted ideas about good design for developmentally appropriate spaces to be used
by young children.

What General Principles Should Guide Environmental Planning?

Early childhood space planning is guided by general principles adapted to the specific needs of
children and curricular priorities at different ages. All early childhood classrooms need a bal-
ance of functional, formal, and informal spaces (Shalaway, 2012; Swim, 2012). The classroom
or care space should include functional areas for greeting and departure, storage of children’s
personal belongings, feeding/dining, and toileting; it should be clean and organized. Furniture
and activity areas should be arranged to provide for visual supervision at all times. Early child-
hood spaces must include equipment appropriate to the size of the children, with visual mate-
rials posted or displayed at the child’s eye level.

Variations by Age
In an infant classroom, you would expect to see furniture and designated areas for diapering,
feeding, sleeping, and playing with babies. A mobile might be suspended over a crib or floor
mat in the child’s line of sight, as infants spend some of their time lying on their backs looking
up. Furniture will include rocking chairs for feeding, holding, and soothing and floor items and
soft toys that encourage crawling, grasping, and exploring.

Toddler spaces need access to a bathroom as well as diapering, and also equipment designed
for children who are now vertical and active much of the time, with designated areas for
exploring their emerging interest in gross motor activities, dramatic play, books, and sensory
activities. Children may now be napping on cushioned mats or cots that can be stored until
needed. Small tables and chairs are appropriate for feeding times but may have to include
high-chair seating as well as small chairs. Pictures and mirrors can be mounted where children
can see them on the walls, and selected materials may be arranged on low shelves where
toddlers can reach them.

Preschool furniture will be slightly larger than that for toddlers, with additional areas and
materials that support a wide variety of curricular activities, a longer attention span, more
refined fine-motor skills, a growing interest in reading, writing, and collaborative play. Children
at this age can tend to many of their personal needs independently, and their expanded field
of vision allows for additional possibilities for visual displays.

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Creating a Physical Environment for Your Curriculum Chapter 6

Safety First
All decisions about how a classroom space is arranged should be made with safety in mind.
Water-absorbing washable mats can be purchased that limit the risk of slipping or falling.
Electrical cords or outlets should not be left exposed, taped to the floor, or used near water.
Materials should always be approved for the age of children using them. We mentioned in
Chapter 4 the use of a choke tube for infants and toddlers; this device alerts the teacher or
caregiver to materials that are not safe for use.

Children with asthma or allergies may be especially vulnerable to things like powdered paints,
chalk, or sprays. Every teacher should have a working knowledge of applicable child-care
regulations and current access to consumer product safety announcements and recalls.

Controlled Movement
Well-thought-out spaces for young children are designed for controlled movement; they pro-
vide secure work/play spaces and reduce opportunities for conflict (Carter & Carter, 2003;
Shalaway, 2005). Furniture and equipment are arranged to provide visible boundaries so that
children know where different types of activities are expected to occur (Deviney, Duncan,
Harris, Roday, & Rosenberry, 2010; Swim, 2012). Teachers use furniture, equipment, and floor
coverings such as area rugs to define spaces. Because young children are not yet abstract
thinkers, they must be able to see where one space ends and another begins.

The classroom is also designed to provide logical “traffic patterns” that promote efficient
movement from one place to another and don’t cause interference with normal activities.
Imagine how upset a child setting up wooden train tracks would be if other children came
charging through the space and ruined her work!

Early childhood furniture is child-sized, so that an adult scanning the room can see everything,
while from the child’s perspective, there are “walls,” pathways, and “rooms.” Look at the two
room plans shown in Figure 6.1. Which one would encourage running or confuse children
about where to play? Which one provides clear dividing lines between activity areas? Which
space encourages whole-group activities vs. small-group or individual interactions?

Sensitivity to Physical Features
Teachers should be aware of the major permanent features of the physical space and use
common sense to arrange furniture and equipment accordingly. These features include the
location of electrical outlets, doors, natural and artificial light and windows, access to water,
and built-in storage spaces.

Potentially messy activity areas such as art, science, and sand/water stations should be located
as close to the water source as possible and on a floor surface that can be mopped or cleaned
easily. If there is no access to water in the classroom, then those areas should be close to the
nearest exit to where water is located. Activities that require electrical power, such as a listen-
ing center with a plug-in tape recording/headphone station, should be adjacent to an outlet,
limiting the need for extension cords.

Furniture or learning center placement should complement usage, such as storage cubbies for
children’s personal belongings/outerwear adjacent to the classroom entrance, open shelving
for blocks, and individual containers or small trays for implements such as crayons, glue sticks,
or scissors.

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Creating a Physical Environment for Your Curriculum Chapter 6

Designated Activity Areas and Capacity Limits
The number and size of learning centers depends on curriculum priorities as well as classroom
and group size. We want to maximize children’s opportunities to make choices and work/play
independently but also minimize conflicts over materials and space (Gestwicki, 2011; Swim,
2012). Each learning center should be equipped and sized to accommodate a particular num-
ber of children, such as four in the art center, three in the manipulative area, two in the listen-
ing center, and so on. The number of children an area accommodates should also take into
consideration the nature of the activity. For example, dramatic play and block building occur
best with a small group of children, while a light table or sand/water table will be limited by
the size and capacity of the equipment.

The total number of children accommodated by learning centers should at least equal the
number of children in the group. Marking the center with a symbol/sign indicating the num-
ber of children per center helps children know if they may enter or need to make a different
choice until space is available. You can also provide physical cues or signs (Figure 6.2), such as

Chair Chair

Chair Chair




r Student





Chair Chair

Chair Chair




r Student


Chair Chair

Chair Chair




r Student

Chair Chair

Chair Chair




r Student


Square Rug

Square Rug

Circle Rug

Circle Rug

Square Rug

Square RugSquare Rug

Square Rug

Square Rug

Square Rug






s Sh


Shelves Shelves



s Sh




Easel Easel Easel Easel





Sink Sink
Storage Storage





Room A Room B

Chair Chair

Chair Chair




r Student





Chair Chair

Chair Chair




r Student


Chair Chair

Chair Chair




r Student


Chair Chair

Chair Chair




r Student


Square Rug

Square Rug

Circle Rug

Circle Rug

Square Rug

Square RugSquare Rug

Square Rug

Square Rug

Square Rug






s Sh


Shelves Shelves



s Sh




Easel Easel Easel Easel





Sink Sink
Storage Storage





Room A Room B

Figure 6.1: Floor Plans

These two spaces represent contrasting approaches to design, one which encourages running
(Room A) indoors and the other (Room B) with distinct pathways to direct children’s movements.

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Creating a Physical Environment for Your Curriculum Chapter 6

a small table with two sets of headphones
and two chairs for a listening center, or a
four-sided easel with one piece of paper and
set of paints/brushes on each side.

Promoting Independence and
Spaces for early learning are designed to
encourage independence and maximize the
amount of time you can devote to interacting
or observing work/play in progress (Carter
& Carter, 2003; Gestwicki, 2011). Carefully
arranging sorted materials in open baskets or
clear totes on accessible shelves helps chil-
dren know where things belong and conveys
our expectation that they will put them away
properly when finished. Taping a picture or
tracing of the material that belongs on each
shelf or in each container promotes cognitive
skills such as sorting and one-to-one correspondence as well as providing organizational guid-
ance. Children can also learn to internalize procedures such as toothbrushing, handwashing,
or self-serve snacks by posting a sequence of photo or prompts for each step in the process.

However obvious your system and organization might seem to you, children will still need
direction and modeling to help them learn how it works. Early childhood teachers spend time
orienting new children to the classroom, showing them how to select and use materials and
activity areas and how to put things away when they are finished.

Young children don’t have a well-developed sense of time; they also become deeply involved
in activities and may resist being asked to stop when they are in the middle of working or
playing. So it also makes sense to provide them with several minutes advance warning and a
signal such as a small bell or flipping the light switch before cleanup times and a reasonable
amount of time to finish cleaning up.

Activity Area Compatibility
Some curriculum activities are naturally compatible and others are not, so balancing environ-
mental factors such as quiet/noisy or messy/dry is important (Conant, 2012; Swim, 2012). In
a typical learning environment, noise and interaction levels will naturally vary depending on
the type of activity. For example, it is not unusual for dramatic play and block centers to be
noisy, and children may transport props (small figurines, vehicles, animals, play food, and so
on) back and forth depending on the theme of play. Therefore, in most early childhood class-
rooms, these centers are typically located in adjacent areas or at least in very close proximity.
Conversely, children listening to audiotapes or sitting on an adult’s lap listening to a story
need quiet to hear and concentrate.

Separating noisy and quiet activities can be challenging, especially in smaller spaces. When
possible, carpets or other acoustically absorbent materials can considerably cut down on noise
levels and should be used in noisy areas, but they must also not impede activity. Thus, for
example, a rug in the block center should be flat and have a very low pile so that block struc-
tures will be stable. Curtains, soft furniture, and pillows can also cut down noise in quiet areas
while also providing a cozy, comfortable feeling.

Easel Painting

Figure 6.2: Sign for Easel Painting Center

“Crowd control” can be facilitated by providing picture/
symbol signs that indicate the capacity for each learning
center. In this picture, three children may paint in the
easel center at one time.

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Identifying and Understanding Resources Chapter 6


Principles of design used to create aesthetically pleasing home or commercial environments
can and should be applied to classroom or care spaces. Children and adults alike benefit from
spaces that are soothing to the senses and inviting without being overwhelming or artificial
(Deviney, Duncan, Harris, Roday & Rosenberry, 2010; Edwards, Gandini & Forman, 1998). Early
childhood commercial catalogs tend to feature plastic, brightly colored materials in primary
colors (red, yellow, and blue) that are cheerful but do not necessarily promote the warmth and
familiarity of a more homelike setting.

In their 2010 book Inspiring Spaces for Young Children, Jessica Deviney and her colleagues
identify seven principles of good design to consider for establishing environments that are not
only functional and efficient but also calming and inspiring to children and adults alike:

• Use natural items to bring the outdoors in, reflect the local climate, and promote a
sense of tranquility. Elements such as plants, rocks, seashells, twigs, and flowers pro-
vide pleasant sensory connections.

• Color establishes mood and generates interest, but overdoing it creates “visual clut-
ter.” A good rule of thumb is to focus on a neutral color scheme and use primary col-
ors conservatively.

• Use furniture positioned at 45- or 90-degree angles to define spaces and create cozy
areas that remind children of home. Include authentic items such as lamps, pillows,
upholstered furniture, and decorative/functional items that children recognize from the
real world.

• Texture adds depth and sensory stimulation. Items such as wall hangings, weavings,
and mobiles made from natural materials provide visual interest. Natural or recycled
materials such as pine cones, corks, bark, and stones can provide opportunities for
observation and differentiating the physical properties of materials.

• Displays, especially those that feature children’s collections and creations, personalize
the space. Items such as baskets, buckets, and interesting containers can be used for
sorting, classification, and storage.

• Lighting, scent, and sound dramatically influence the way the environment is experi-
enced and perceived. Think about ways to minimize the “surgery” effects of fluores-
cent lights and balance low- and high-level lighting.

• Focal points invite engagement and attract the children’s attention. It is very important
from time to time to view the environment from their vantage point so you are aware
of how they see the space.

6.3 Identifying and Understanding Resources
Teachers and caregivers use many different kinds of resources and materials that help them
select, organize, and evaluate activities to support curricular goals, objectives, and standards.
Since early childhood curricular options (as discussed in Chapter 1) range from open-ended
approaches to specific models, the types of materials teachers use to plan can vary widely
as well. This section describes a variety of concrete tools and how you can use them in your

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Identifying and Understanding Resources Chapter 6

Primary and Secondary Resources

Primary resources are works produced by the authors
of a curriculum model or approach that describe the
theoretical premises, philosophy, and tenets that guide
the teacher to implement the curriculum with fidelity to
its principles. For example, The Hundred Languages of
Children, initially published in 1994 by Edwards, Gandini,
and Forman (revised in 1998), and the writings of Loris
Malaguzzi are considered essential resources for Reggio
Emilia educators.

Secondary resources can also be very useful but do not
originate from the founders or authors of a program. For
example, secondary Reggio Emilia resources would include
such things as books and articles published by authors out-
side of Reggio Emilia, and media such as blogs and pro-
gram websites. These resources provide helpful insights
into the ways in which teacher educators, program direc-
tors, and teachers interpret the Reggio Emilia approach for
American schools and classrooms.

Waldorf educators rely on the writings of Rudolph Steiner
to make sure that the classroom environment and activi-
ties they plan are consistent with the program’s original
vision and purpose. Similarly, officially sponsored training programs for Montessori teachers
are based on and informed by the ideas expressed by Maria Montessori in the books she
wrote over a span of many years.

© Cover of ECRQ reprinted by permision of Elsevier

Teachers must keep up with current
research of all kinds but especially as it
relates to the curricula they use.

© John Humble / Getty Images

In these two photos of preschool classrooms, you can see that one is cluttered, crowded, and a
kaleidoscope of colors; the other has natural light, natural elements such as plants, and a low-key
color scheme. Which classroom better applies the principles described above?

© Hutchings Richard / Getty Images

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Identifying and Understanding Resources Chapter 6

Remember that planning for any curriculum includes keeping abreast of current studies
(Chapter 2) and the ongoing development of the theories that support them. For example,
in the second edition of their book, Bodrova and Leong (2007) described how Tools of the
Mind was conceived from a Vygotskian perspective on social constructivism and continues to
evolve. They have produced many subsequent publications and media presentations report-
ing on the achievement effects of implementation in various settings and how those results
impact their ongoing conceptualization of the curriculum. Teachers using the Tools curriculum
would certainly want to incorporate those evolving ideas as they plan activities.

The NAEYC publications describing developmentally appropriate principles and practices also
serve as primary resources for early childhood educators (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009). Since
DAP is not a specific curriculum but offers guidelines for how to think about curriculum, it
provides the overarching frame of reference from which all planning decisions should be made.

Learning Standards

As explained in previous chapters, as part of the No Child Left Behind legislation, most states
wrote developmental early learning standards and K–12 academic learning standards for each
content area indicating what children are expected to know and be able to do by the end of
each age or grade level. As of 2012, that initiative was expanded to adoption of uniform core
standards for kindergarten through grade 12 math and language arts in all but five states
(Virginia, Wisconsin, Alaska, Texas, and Nebraska).

Learning standards provide teachers with planning guidance, as standards are typically framed
to describe (1) exit goals for high school graduates, (2) statements about what a child is
expected to know or be able to do at incremental points in time between kindergarten and
high school graduation, and (3) indicators or benchmarks that suggest what a teacher might
observe that provides evidence a child is meeting standards. Table 6.2 displays information
excerpted from the 2009 Colorado Social Studies Standards representing one example of how
the standard for history is addressed from preschool through grade 1.

You can see that as this standard is worded, it does not specify what activities, themes, or les-
sons a teacher should plan or what books, resources, or materials to use, but it does provide
direction about what should be accomplished. A standard does not dictate what to teach,
when to teach it, how much time to spend on a topic, or even what teaching strategies or
materials to use. Those are decisions and plans made by schools, programs, and teachers.

Early learning standards address what children in preschool should know and be able to do
and are written in a format similar to K–12 academic standards. The National Early Childhood
Technical Assistance Center provides extensive information about early learning standards
for each state. Using standards to guide the planning and implementation of a curriculum is
discussed in further detail in the last section of this chapter and in later chapters as they apply
to different areas of curriculum.

Instructor Resources and Supplemental Materials

Published curriculum products may include multiple components that provide specific direc-
tion or guidance for planning, such as:

• Teaching manuals that present essential information and guidance about curricular
goals, activities, strategies, and assessments

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Identifying and Understanding Resources Chapter 6

Table 6.2: Colorado History Standard for Preschool, Kindergarten, and Grade 1

Expectation for High School Graduates:
Develop an Understanding of How People View, Construct, and Interpret History

Grade Level Concept(s) to be


Preschool Change and sequence
over time.

Students can:
a. Use words and phrases correctly related to chronology and time.

Among words to include: past, present, future, before, now, later.

b. Select examples from pictures that illustrate past, present, and

c. Sequence a simple set of activities or events.

d. Identify an example of change over time that may include
examples from the child’s
own growth.

Kindergarten Ask questions, share
information, and
discuss ideas about
the past.

The first component
in the concept of
chronology is to place
information in sequen-
tial order.

Students can:
a. Ask questions about the past using question starters. Among

questions to include: What did? Where? When did? Which did?
Who did? Why did? How did?

b. Identify information from narrative stories that answer questions
about the past and add to our collective memory and history.

c. Use the word because correctly in the context of personal experi-
ence or stories of the past using words. Among words to include:
past, present, future, change, first, next, last.

Students can:
a. Order sequence information using words. Among words to

include: past, present future, days, weeks, months, years, first,
next, last, before, after.

b. Explore differences and similarities in the lives of children and
families of long ago and today.

c. Explain why knowing the order of events is important.

Grade 1 Patterns and chrono-
logical order of events
of the recent past

Family and cultural
traditions in the
United States in the

Students can:
a. Identify similarities and differences between themselves and


b. Discuss common and unique characteristics of different cultures
using multiple sources of information.

c. Identify famous Americans from the past who have shown coura-
geous leadership.

d. Identify and explain the meaning of American national symbols.
Among symbols to include: the American flag, bald eagle, Statue
of Liberty, Uncle Sam, the Capitol, and the White House.

Students can:
a. Arrange life events in chronological order.

b. Identify the components of a calendar. Among topics to include:
days of the week, months, and notable events.

c. Identify past events using a calendar.

d. Use words related to time, sequence, and change.

Source: Adapted from Colorado Department of Education, 2009

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Identifying and Understanding Resources Chapter 6

• Supplemental printed matter or masters for duplication (e.g., suggested unit or lesson
plans, instructional support such as worksheets, picture charts, and so on)

• Recording and reporting forms

• On-line technical support

• Materials and/or equipment specifically designed for use with children, such as books,
toys, learning games, and math, science, music, or other items for learning centers

These resource materials may be accompanied by opportunities for training and professional
development designed to assist teachers in planning and implementing activities. Head Start
teachers might, for example, engage in several days of regional in-service workshops con-
ducted by Creative Curriculum or High Scope trainers prior to implementation of the curricu-
lum in their programs.

In consideration of developmentally appro-
priate principles, teachers should evaluate
and incorporate with discretion all materi-
als supplied by any curriculum. The wide-
spread use of worksheets, in particular, is
very difficult to justify, as they often rep-
resent or contain content or images dis-
connected from or not representative of
children’s real-world ideas and experiences
and don’t point to a single “right” answer
(Copple & Bredekamp, 2009).

For instance, the worksheet in Figure 6.3
intended for a cut-and-paste activity to

reinforce the concept of a simple “a/b/a/b” pattern sequence, could certainly provide a child
with practice in developing the fine motor skills needed to cut out the paper squares or
serve as a simple assessment to determine whether the child recognizes an a/b/a/b pattern
sequence. However, from a developmentally appropriate perspective, these kinds of materials
should be set aside in favor of those that give children opportunities to observe patterns in
the natural world and to manipulate real objects to replicate and create patterns of different
kinds. Apples, leaves, and small toys are all examples of real-world materials that are easily
found in or around early childhood classrooms and that children could use to develop their
sense of the a/b/a/b pattern sequence.

Scope and Sequence
A commercial curriculum may contain a scope and sequence, a graphic in chart form that
represents how and when particular concepts and skills are developed over time when the cur-
riculum is implemented as intended. For example, the website for the Success for All Curiosity
Corner preschool curriculum includes an excerpt for the scope and sequence of the reading
program for kindergarten.

Teachers may find a scope and sequence useful as a planning resource but must always keep
in mind that the needs, characteristics, and interests of their students are the primary priori-
ties in planning (Copple & Bredkamp, 2009). Knowledge and skills represented in a scope and
sequence are developed from assumptions about children in general; they may or may not
accurately reflect the actual children in your care.

© iStockphoto / Thinkstock

Early childhood educators believe that the use of materi-
als from the real world provides more meaningful learn-
ing than the use of worksheets.

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Identifying and Understanding Resources Chapter 6

Pacing Guides
Similarly—especially in public schools, including kindergarten and primary classrooms—some
districts and programs are developing and implementing pacing guides. These documents,
in effect, prescribe or schedule when and how state learning standards are to be addressed
in planning for each academic content area over the course of a school year. Theoretically,
when they are implemented in the strictest sense, a principal or administrator could expect to
visit five first grade classrooms on a single day and see all the children in all the classes doing
exactly the same thing at the same time.

While the goal of pacing guides is to ensure that all children are experiencing the same cur-
riculum, their use in the primary grades is widely discouraged by early childhood experts and
professional organizations (Datnow & Castellano, 2000; David, 2008; David & Greene, 2007;
Louis, Febey, & Schroeder, 2005; Sornson, 2016). From a practical perspective, however, a
comprehensive pacing guide can be very helpful as a resource (Kauffman, Johnson, Kardos,
Liu, & Peske, 2002). Pacing guides may include many ideas for activities, themes, and strate-
gies that can be implemented in developmentally appropriate ways.

Graphic Organizers
Graphic organizers are simple charts, diagrams, or templates that represent multiple con-
cepts and the connections between them (Figure 6.4). They are useful with young children

Figure 6.3: Worksheets

Worksheets are most often used in elementary school classrooms, but they can be seen in pre-
schools or child-care programs as well. They are not considered to be developmentally appropriate.

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Approaches to Planning Chapter 6

to help them visualize ideas. You will see several examples of different kinds of graphic
organizers in this and later chapters. There are literally hundreds of examples on websites;
these often provide free downloadable examples that teachers can use for planning and
organizing activities. At the end of this chapter is a short list of online resources for graphic

6.4 Approaches to Planning
You probably already know what kind of planning style might suit you best. Think about how
you might approach planning a road-trip vacation. Your goal is to see places you have not
visited before and your objectives are what you want to accomplish each day of the trip; there
is more than one way, however to plan this journey. You might be the kind of person who
would predetermine the places you will visit; research information about sights, attractions,
and restaurants; map out your route to determine how far you will drive each day; and make
hotel reservations ahead of time.

Or maybe you would prefer to pack the car with plenty of provisions—food, drinks, snacks,
your bike and camping gear—with a general starting direction but no destination in mind,
mapping out your trip as you go, and stopping at places you find interesting. Either way, you
may have fellow travelers and encounter other people, developments, or events that chal-
lenge your plan or cause you to modify it as you go along. But you may also arrive home
feeling entirely satisfied that the trip was worthwhile and lived up to or exceeded your initial
expectations regardless of which plan was followed.

Teacher planning is in many ways analogous to the road trip—we have common goals for
what we want or expect children to ultimately accomplish but different ways of getting there.
The first approach described above represents one end of the planning continuum, a linear
(or “top down”) sequential process that begins with identification of standards and objectives
and determines how each step or stage of an activity or series of activities will be carried out.
The second approach represents the other end of the continuum, a global (emergent or “bot-
tom up”) process, with anticipation and preparation for a range of possibilities, developing

Figure 6.4: Venn Diagram

A graphic organizer provides a visual representation of ideas or information. One example
of such a device is a Venn diagram, which illustrates where ideas or facts about two separate
things overlap.

© iStockphoto / Thinkstock

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Approaches to Planning Chapter 6

direction through facilitation and negotiation of child-
directed explorations and documenting how standards
are being met over time.

Many teachers’ approach to planning will fall some-
where in between. While the planning styles represent
different approaches, teachers planning both kinds of
experiences will keep in mind the principles of develop-
mentally appropriate practice, so that learning is mean-
ingful and provides a balance between child-directed
and teacher-initiated activities.

All approaches to teacher planning in early childhood
should place a high value on structuring the environ-
ment and activities to integrate, or connect, learning
across all areas of the curriculum. Good planning also
relies on teacher flexibility to make ongoing deci-
sions based on the knowledge and observation of
children, adapting the curriculum to maximize learn-
ing opportunities. In this section, we will follow two
long-term studies with preschool and kindergarten
children to illustrate the planning continuum. This type
of learning can be planned as a thematic unit or
emergent study.

Long-term investigations offer the opportunity to
focus on a topic in depth, especially if the teacher maintains an open-ended time frame
rather than a rigid schedule (Katz & Chard, 2000; Pearlman, 2006). Topics can come from
the children, teachers, supplied curriculum materials, or ideas that emerge from studying
state standards and objectives. Planning for either a thematic unit or emergent study rep-
resents a comprehensive investment of time; therefore it is very important that topics be
relevant to the cultural contexts and experiences of the children. A study of the ocean and
marine life makes a great deal of sense for children who live in coastal areas. It may not be
as relevant to the daily lives of young children who live in landlocked states like New Mexico
or Colorado. However, children are interested in many things they have no hands-on experi-
ence with (dinosaurs, space travel, and so forth) and are exposed to a great deal of infor-
mation vicariously through media sources; therefore any topic that captures their interest
should be open for discussion.

Thematic Unit: Ladybugs, Butterflies, and Bees

As described above, a thematic unit is a long-term investigation of a topic intended to capture
and engage children’s interest and provide opportunities to develop skills and knowledge in
multiple areas. Typically, planning for a thematic unit represents a top-down approach, with
the teacher making most or all of the decisions about how to proceed according to a general
decision-making sequence that includes the following:

1. Identifying goals: learning standards and objectives to be addressed.

2. Identifying important considerations about children’s developmental and cultural char-
acteristics, interests, and needs.

© Flying Colours Ltd / Thinkstock

Teacher planning is like preparing for a
road trip. You can approach it in a variety
of ways.

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Approaches to Planning Chapter 6

3. Selecting a topic or theme that provides opportunities to meet goals.

4. Brainstorming ideas for activities that support and connect different areas of the

5. Creating and scheduling plans for lessons and activities.

6. Planning for a balance of individual, small-group, and large-group activities.

7. Planning for accommodations to address the needs of individual children.

8. Deciding on how to evaluate children’s learning to determine the extent to which the
unit objectives and learning standards are met.

9. Preparing materials and resources.

10. Arranging the environment.

11. Making adaptations to the plan as the unit progresses based on observations about
learning and interests.

Identifying goals: Learning standards and objectives to be addressed This unit was
implemented by teachers of two groups of children between 3 (twelve children) and 4 years
(fifteen children) of age at the time of the study. For this unit, one of the teachers (Phyllis)

At this time of the year [late spring] I have been working on the early learning stan-
dards that support the children’s increasing interest in nonfiction books, beginning
writing, and growing confidence as problem solvers. These kids are very good at pat-
terns and we have been making graphs all year, so a couple of the math standards for
4’s apply. I’m building on their interest in friendships to create opportunities for them
to work in groups. They also need practice with fine-motor skills to be ready for the
increased emphasis on writing that they will be doing in their class next year.

Table 6.3 displays the state early learning standards that Phyllis has been working on.

Table 6.3: Early Learning Standards

Standard Substandards

Approaches to Learning

AL 2. Children show curiosity,
eagerness, and satisfaction as learners.

AL 3. Children demonstrate initia-
tive, engagement, and persistence in

AL 5. Children extend their learning
through the use of memory, reasoning,
and problem-solving skills.

AL-3K-2.2 Demonstrate eagerness and interest as learners by
responding to what they observe.

AL-3K-3.3 Show ability to focus attention on favorite activities for brief
periods of time (5 to 10 minutes).

AL-3K-5.1 Talk about prior events and personal experiences.

AL-3K-5.2 Use prior knowledge to understand new experiences.

Social and Emotional Development

SE2. Children demonstrate self-control,
respect, and responsibility.

SE-3K-2.2 Use classroom materials responsibly with modeling and
guidance from adults.


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Approaches to Planning Chapter 6

Standard Substandards

Language and Literacy

LL1. Understanding and using literary

LL2. Understanding and using informa-
tional texts

LL3. Learning to read

LL4. Developing written communication

LL5. Producing written communication
in a variety of forms

LL6. Applying the skills of inquiry and
oral communication

ELA-3K-1.1 Explore realistic books and materials in classroom centers.

ELA-3K-2.1 Explore realistic books and materials in classroom centers.

ELA-3K-3.1 Rehearse vocabulary by identifying familiar objects pictured
in books.

ELA-3K-3.19 Begin connecting text read aloud with personal

ELA-3K-4.3 Tells a brief story (one or two ideas).

ELA-3K-4.8 Participate in small-group reflections on recent event.

ELA-3K-5-3 Identify and briefly describe important people, objects, and
events in their world.

ELA-3K-6.1. Ask “why” questions about things in their world.

ELA-3K-6.3 Classify familiar objects by one or two observable


M1. Mathematics processes

M3. Algebra

M4. Geometry

M5. Measurement

M6. Data analysis and probability

M-3K-1.2 Begin to make predictions based on appearance and

M-3K-1.5 Begin to see how similar items can be grouped together.

M-3K-1.7 Show an awareness of numbers in a personally meaningful

M-4K-3.2 Identify and copy a simple pattern.

M-3K-3.4 Recognize similar objects in the environment by color, shape,
or size.

M-3K-4.1 Recognize simple shapes in the environment.

M-3K-4.2 Match shapes in the environment.

M-3K-4.3 Begin to show an understanding of the common positional
words up, down, under, over, and in.

M-3K-5.2 Compare the size of objects.

M-3K-5.6 Begin to show awareness of time concepts.

M-4K-6.1 Organize and represent data with real objects.

Physical Growth and Health

PD 2. Fine motor control: Children
use their fingers and hands in ways
that develop hand-eye coordination,
strength, control, and small-object

PD-3K-2.2 Use hand-eye coordination to perform simple tasks.

Identifying important considerations about children’s developmental and cultural
characteristics, interests, and needs Phyllis explained what she had observed and learned
from evaluating and reflecting about recent activities with the children:

This group of children gets along very well most of the time and can be frequently
observed working intently together in pairs or groups of three on a common focus,
such as a light-table construction, or making a road for the trucks on the playground.
They spend a lot of time outside collecting and sorting small things like leaves and

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Approaches to Planning Chapter 6

acorns. In circle discussions, some of the children are really beginning to understand
how a question is different from a statement or anecdote. When I was writing down
their favorite family recipes for a cookbook, I also noticed narratives becoming less
rambling and more focused and related to the topic. A couple of them have asked me
to put out more books about nature. Some of them are really fascinated with “big
words,” and the magnifying glasses in the Discovery Center are very popular lately.

Selection of a topic or theme that provides opportunities to meet objectives
Phyllis continued,

We just finished planting tomato and strawberry plants, bean seeds, and an amaryllis
bulb. We learned about pollination and talked briefly about “good” insects. I noticed
that a lot of the children were curious about the insects they might see in our garden,
in particular ladybugs and butterflies, and they have been looking for both on the
playground. They have been asking me to reread some of their favorite stories about
bugs. The weather is getting very warm, so we can spend lots of time outside, and I
think this might be a good time to pursue a study about insects, starting with a focus
on ladybugs and butterflies.

Brainstorming ideas for activities that support and connect different areas of the
curriculum As Stephanie and Phyllis began to plan the thematic unit, they brainstormed
ideas and concepts that would support the standards they are working on and what they
have observed about the children
lately. They used the five cat-
egories of the standards listed in
Table 6.3 to organize a concept
map of ideas (Figure 6.5). When
teachers brainstorm, they record
any idea that might be relevant to
the topic and appropriate to the
developmental levels of the chil-
dren; at this stage it is not neces-
sary to have a specific plan for an
activity or to make a commitment
to enact every idea on the map.
It is simply an efficient and effec-
tive strategy for generating and
organizing possibilities that may
or may not ultimately be feasible
to include in the unit plan.

As they continued to brainstorm,
listing ideas for particular activi-
ties and experiences that would support the concept map, they thought about the centers
in their room and materials on hand or that could easily be procured or created (Figure 6.6).

Creating and scheduling plans for lessons and activities In this step of the planning
process, the teachers took their ideas for activities and experiences and blocked out a week-
at-a-glance schedule for three weeks, using the daily schedule as a framework:

• Week one: Insects (focus on lifecycle)

© iStockphoto / Thinkstock

Children are often fascinated by magnifying glasses; one
of their favorite pastimes is looking for insects.

© 2019 Bridgepoint Education, Inc. All rights reserved. Not for resale or redistribution.

Approaches to Planning Chapter 6

• Week two: Ladybugs

• Week three: Butterflies

As she continued to research resources for the topic, Phyllis was delighted to discover that she
could order butterfly and ladybug larvae online. She decided that this would provide a great
opportunity to link many of the activities together and give the children first-hand experience
with observation of the life cycle of insects. She added to her plans a “release party” on the
playground and recording the children’s daily observations of the metamorphosis process in
a class log/chart, with the possibility of making a book to tell the story of what the children

Planning for a balance of individual, small-group, and large-group activities As the
teachers created week-to-week plans (Table 6.4), they made decisions about how activities
and discussions would be best implemented as whole group, small group, or individual for-
mat. They also thought carefully about how to provide for a balance of child-directed explor-
atory play and teacher-directed learning experiences.


Ladybugs, Butterflies,


Approaches to Learning
• Observing life cycle
• Predicting (when will they hatch, what will
happen next, and so on)
• Curiosity (how do ladybugs fly, what do
butterflies do, metamorphosis stages, and so on)
• Memory (recall, steps in life cycle, and so on)
• Engagement (interest in topic, pursuing questions,
• Persistence (catching bugs)
• Problem solving (? )

• Responsibility (caring for materials and equipment)
• Self-control (being gentle with specimens,
taking turns)

Physical: Fine Motor
• Drawing/painting
• Using tweezers
• Magnifying glasses
• Puzzles
• Cutting (shapes)

• Patterns (wings, bodies, honeycombs)
• Symmetry (wings, bodies, antennae)
• Matching (different types of insects, puzzles)
• Shapes (body parts and markings)
• Sorting/classifying (by color, size, shape, and so on)
• Counting (spots, number of bugs, and so on)
• Positional words (up, down, beside, behind,
• Graphing data (?)
• Time (observing life cycle)
• Sequencing (life cycle)


• Vocabulary (life cycle words, names
of insects, body parts, environmental words)
• Understanding and using literary texts (storybooks/
picture books)
• Understanding and using informational texts
(non-fiction, images, photos)
• Connecting text/narrative with real life (sharing
stories, describing activities and experiences)
• Inquiry (asking and charting “why” questions
about bugs; following up over time with
observations and tentative answers)
• Reflecting (talking about observations)

Figure 6.5: Insects Concept Map

A concept map is different from a plan for activities. It focuses on the goals or objectives of the
unit. Specific activities are derived from the ideas represented.

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Approaches to Planning Chapter 6

Planning for accommodations to address the needs of individual children There
was one child in Phyllis’s class with a sensory processing disorder and language delay; this
child was easily overwhelmed and Phyllis made notes about particular activities he might find
soothing (sand table, sponge printing, easel painting). She also noted activities he might not
enjoy (matching/memory games and puzzles, using the magnifying glasses, and dancing). She
included in her planning looking for audiotapes at the public library for some of the stories
they would be using to include in the listening center so that he could use the headphones to
screen out classroom noise.

Deciding on how to evaluate children’s learning to determine the extent to which
the unit objectives and learning standards are met Phyllis and Stephanie decided
that the matching and memory games, observation log, felt board stories, and whole
group discussions could also serve as assessments. As Phyllis’s children were a bit older,
she devised an additional activity for cutting/pasting pictures to represent each stage of
the life cycle on a timeline that she could do with each child in small group or individually
(Figure 6.7).




Discovery table:
Magnifying glasses;
insect specimens;
pictures of insects

Gentle, Gentle Butterfly;
Mr. Caterpillar; I Wish I
Were a Ladybug; Five

Little Ladybugs

Felt board lifecycle

story; memory game;
magnetic ladybug

story; daily
story reading

Sand/water table:
Sifters; plastic bugs;
bug catchers; large


Puzzles of insects;

butterfly matching game;
bug hunt board game;

put together bugs;
translucent bugs for
light table; plastic
insects for sorting

Butterfly crackers;

English muffin
ladybugs; butterfly


and dramatic play:
Butterfly wings for
pretending; scarves

Arts: Easel painting,

folded sponge prints
(wings); coffee filter

butterflies; pipecleaner
antennae; gluing spots

on ladybugs; paper flower
garden mural

Butterfly books:
I am a Caterpillar; Very
Hungry Caterpillar; Ten

Little Caterpillars; Butterfly
Alphabet; The Butterfly
Kiss; Over in the Garden;

The Lamb and the
Butterfly; Caterpillar to


Ladybug books:
Ladybug on the Move;

Lara Ladybug; Bubba and
Trixie, Ladybug; Ladybug;

Where are You Going; Five
Little Ladybugs;

informational texts

Figure 6.6: Brainstorming Ideas for Activities and Experiences

This organizer represents ideas for activities that will support the concepts map and indicates
where they will take place.

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Approaches to Planning Chapter 6

Table 6.4: Week-at-a-Glance Plans for Insect Unit

Sunflower Week-at-a-Glance Planner

Week April 30 to May 4 May 8 to May 11 May 14 to May 18

Study topic Butterflies/Insects Insects: Ladybugs Insects: Butterflies


Caterpillars to study

Bugs, bug catchers, and sifters
in the sensory table

Butterfly, ladybug, and other
insect puzzles

Special snack: butterfly

Make coffee-filter butterflies

Pretend to be butterflies

Felt board butterfly life cycle

Newly hatched ladybugs to

Bugs, bug catchers, and sifters
in the sensory table

Butterfly, ladybug, and other
insect puzzles

Special snack: ladybugs made
from English muffins with jam
and chocolate chips or raisins

Paint ladybugs at easel

Pretend to be ladybugs and/
or other insects with wing
costumes, etc.

Magnetic ladybug story

Newly hatched butterflies to

Bugs, bug catchers, and sifters
in the sensory table

Butterfly, ladybug, and other
insect puzzles

Special snacks: butterfly pasta,
drinking “nectar” from flower

Make symmetrical butterfly

Pretend to be butterflies

Felt board butterfly life cycle

Small Group

Monday Butterfly matching/memory

No school Butterfly shape graphing

Tuesday Continue butterfly matching/
memory game

How many spots on the
ladybug? Craft and math

Continue butterfly shape

Wednesday Yoga Yoga, garden bug-hunt board


Thursday Make symmetrical butterfly

Make antennae for ladybug
matching game

Butterfly life-cycle sequencing

Friday Finish butterfly wings Continue to make antennae;
ladybug release in playground

Finish butterfly sequencing;
butterfly release party

Large Group

Books of the

Butterflies, I am a Caterpillar,
Waiting for Wings, Very
Hungry Caterpillar, Ten
Little Caterpillars, Butterfly
Alphabet, The Butterfly Kiss,
Over in the Garden, The Lamb
and the Butterfly, Caterpillar
to Butterfly

Ladybug on the Move; Lara
Ladybug; Bubba and Trixie;
Ladybug, Ladybug, Where
are you Going?; Five Little
Ladybugs; and various ladybug
information books

Monarch Butterfly, Waiting
for Wings, Very Hungry
Caterpillar, Ten Little
Caterpillars, The Butterfly
Kiss, Over in the Garden,
The Lamb and the Butterfly,
Caterpillar to Butterfly,
Butterfly Counting Book,
Butterflies, the Caterpillar and
the Pollywog

Songs of the

“Gentle, Gentle Butterfly,”
“Mr. Caterpillar”

“I Wish I Were a Ladybug,”
“Five Little Ladybugs”

“Gentle, Gentle Butterfly,”
“Mr. Caterpillar”


Learning/discussing the
stages of a butterfly’s life and
pretending to be each stage

Vocabulary: chrysalis,
proboscis, symmetry,

Learning/discussing the stages
of a ladybug’s life; characteris-
tics of an insect

Vocabulary: larva,
pupa, aphid, antennae,

Learning/discussing the
stages of a butterfly’s life and
pretending to be each stage

Vocabulary: chrysalis,
proboscis, symmetry,

© 2019 Bridgepoint Education, Inc. All rights reserved. Not for resale or redistribution.

Approaches to Planning Chapter 6

Preparing materials and resources With plans in hand, the teachers then took stock of
available materials and supplies and made a list of those to add to the classroom centers and
what was needed for teacher-directed small- and large-group activities (Table 6.5). In the
book list, they noted with an asterisk those they would have to get from the public library.
They also noted materials they would create/make for the unit with their classroom teaching

Arranging the environment Finally, Phyllis ordered the insect larvae kit online and made
a “to-do” list. Stephanie made a trip to the public library and worked with her assistant to
construct the teacher-made materials. They referred to the plan for week one to set out the
items needed in centers for exploration and play and organized what would be needed for
small- and large-group activities from day to day. In weekly newsletters, they announced the
coming study and invited parents to send in any books or interesting insect-related materials
they might want to share with the class. Figure 6.8 displays some of the materials and activi-
ties that were incorporated into the plan for this unit.

Making adaptations to the plan as the unit progresses based on observations about
learning and interests As the unit progressed, both teachers made notations in their daily
journals, jotting down anecdotes, observations, and questions as they conducted activities
and guided exploratory experiences. They rearranged some of the materials and noticed in
particular that the children were very excited and engaged in the progress of the ladybug
and butterfly larvae. As anticipation built for their eventual release in the garden, Stephanie
observed that the children framed the event as a birthday party. She explored this idea at
circle time and in small-group discussions and decided to help the children make a birthday
cake, decorations (ladybug hats and butterfly antennae), and invitations to the party (younger
children in the adjacent classroom).

As the third week began, Phyllis observed that interest in insects had not waned but contin-
ued at a high level. Flowers had emerged on the strawberry and tomato plants by this time,
questions about pollination continued, and the children began to ask questions about bees.
In addition, they knew that unlike the innocuous ladybugs and butterflies, bees have stingers,
and they wondered what they were for. Phyllis decided to continue the unit with her group of
children for another week to focus on bees, adding to her concept and activity maps. Figure
6.9 displays the additional activities and materials she selected for learning about bees.

At the end of the fourth week, Phyllis was pleased that she had made the decision to extend
the unit on insects, as she recorded the following statements/quotes the children offered dur-
ing discussion about what they learned:

Figure 6.7: Lifecycle Strip

Phyllis designs a simple task-based activity to use as an additional assessment activity, asking chil-
dren to place pictures of the stages of the life cycle in proper order.

© 2019 Bridgepoint Education, Inc. All rights reserved. Not for resale or redistribution.

Approaches to Planning Chapter 6

What We Have Learned about Bees
They have 2 plus 3 eyes: that equals 5
You can see out of their wings
Girl bees sting and boy bees don’t
When the mommy or the eggs are in danger, the girl bee stings them
They make honey from nectar
They sprinkle pollen on the flowers to make them grow
Boy bees (drones) don’t do much but girl bees (workers) do
The queen bee is the boss
There are lots of bees in the hive
They make honey in the honeycomb
The honeycomb is shaped like a hexagon
. . . and a hexagon has six sides

Table 6.5: Materials List for Insect Unit


and Props


Art Supplies

I am a Caterpillar

Very Hungry Caterpillar

Ten Little Caterpillars
Butterfly Alphabet

The Butterfly Kiss

*Over in the Garden

*The Lamb and the

Caterpillar to Butterfly

Ladybug on the Move

Lara Ladybug

Bubba and Trixie

Ladybug, Ladybug Where
are You Going?

Five Little Ladybugs

National Geographic

Magazines and photos
from the Internet

4 Magnifying glasses

Insect specimen set

Caterpillar specimen set

Live insects/caterpillars
from playground?

7 Puzzles: (2 ladybug, 3
butterflies, 1 bumblebee,
1 garden with insects)

Felt board set (life cycle)

Magnetic ladybugs and
magnet board

4 colanders

4 sifters

4 bug catchers

4 pairs of tongs

Colored netting

Wing costumes

Paper sentence strips

Life cycle cutouts

Glow-in-the-dark insects
for light table

Butterfly crackers

English muffins



Butterfly pasta


Pineapple juice

Coffee filters


Tempera paint (yellow,
black, red, orange)

Construction paper

Colored tissue

Pipe cleaners

Wire hangers


Easel paper



Butterfly matching (lotto-style) game with printed images from the Internet

Number/puzzle cards with foam butterfly and ladybug stickers

Bug-hunt board game

Vocabulary/picture cards: chrysalis, proboscis, symmetry, metamorphosis, larva, pupa, aphid, antennae, symmetry

Cutouts for graphing (1-inch yellow triangles, circles, squares) and blank four-column graph

© 2019 Bridgepoint Education, Inc. All rights reserved. Not for resale or redistribution.

Approaches to Planning Chapter 6

fiction and
non-fiction related
to butterflies and

Puzzles with insect
or butterfly

Sorting and
classifying with
realistic plastic

Graphing shapes
observed on
butterfly wings
and writing
numbers (with

Sand table
exploration with
plastic insects,
glasses, scoops
and sifters

Pretend play with
butterfly props

Construction of
paper garden for

Light table play
with plastic insect

Tongs and bowls
for fine motor
practice with small
plastic insects

Modeling symme-
try with folded

number matching
cards with insect

activities with
butterfly wings
and scarves

Props for pretend-
ing to be ladybugs
or butterflies

Using art media to
create representa-
tions of insects

Figure 6.8: Materials and Activities for Butterfly/Insect Unit with
Two- and Three-Year-Old Children

A balance of open-ended and teacher-directed activities was carefully planned to engage children
across the developmental domains in activities designed to promote learning about insects in this
thematic unit.

© 2019 Bridgepoint Education, Inc. All rights reserved. Not for resale or redistribution.

Approaches to Planning Chapter 6


Examine honeycombs, taste
honey, make “nectar”; add
props to dramatic play area;
felt-board story; construct
painted representation of

honeycomb; hexagon patterns;
put hexagons together to
make beehive; drawing to

music of “Flight of the
Bumblebee”; discuss how

bees collect pollen to make
honey; differentiate between
bumblebees and honeybees;
discuss different roles (new
vocabulary—queen, worker,

drone, honeycomb, hive);
assign bee colony roles to
jobs charts for the week;
printing with hexagons;
mixing paint to make

color of honey.

Bumble Bees; Very Greedy
Bee; Buzz Bumble to the

Rescue (audio CD); Are you a
Bee? Busy, Buzzy Bees; Buzz,
Buzz, Buzz went Bumblebee;
Bumblebee, Bumblebee, Do

you know Me?; Bumblebee at
Apple Tree Lane; Buzz Bumble
to the Rescue; Download mp3
of “Flight of the Bumblebee”;

Images of bees, hives, and

Additional Materials
Honeycomb; easel paper,
sponges cut into hexagon

shapes; yellow/brown paint;
hexagon pattern blocks;
pineapple juice (nectar);

straws; felt board bee story;
biscuits and honey; pipe
cleaners for antennae;

black/yellow paper and rubber
bands for bee masks.

Figure 6.9: Week Four: Bees

Activities focusing on honey and bumblebees were added to the unit, some as extensions of activi-
ties already in place and others new.

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Approaches to Planning Chapter 6

Emergent Project: Power, Force, and Motion

Planning for an emergent study represents the other end of the road-trip analogy, a “bottom-
up” process. This type of planning focuses on identifying starting points for the exploration of
an idea or topic, developing insightful observations via teacher-child interactions, documenta-
tion about what is happening, and expanding the plan accordingly. The teacher consistently

• What did I see?

• What does it mean?

• What does it tell me about the children’s needs, interests, knowledge, and skills?

• What might happen next or how can I help children to further the inquiry/exploration?
(Chaille, 2008; Gestwicki, 2011 Helm, 2007)

Planning for an emergent project generally proceeds as follows:

1. Observe/identify an interest through exploratory activities, active listening, focused dis-
cussions, and representation of children’s initial ideas about their thinking.

2. Choose a tentative topic.

3. Provide materials and resources to support multiple possibilities for directions the inquiry
might take.

4. Document what happens.

5. Organize and reflect on documentation.

6. Adjust future planning to adapt to the direction of the inquiry.

7. Account for learning standards as the project proceeds.

Observe/identify an interest or topic through exploratory activities, active listen-
ing, focused discussions, and representations of children’s initial ideas about their
thinking This study was initiated by a team of two teachers (Mary and Jane) and their
assistants, working with a group of twenty-eight 4- and 5-year-old children. It started with
observations they made early in the school year about the children’s play and interest in
superheroes, documented in the case study notes in Chapter 1. As time went on, the teachers
continued to observe that this interest did not wane but continued to evolve, especially in the
dramatic play area, where many scenarios and characters were developed and acted out. It
also showed up during writing workshop time, where the children’s daily dictations and story
writing contained similar characters and story lines, and in daily play outside.

Late in the spring, Mary worked with some of the children who asked the teachers to con-
vert the dramatic play area to a woodland forest. They subsequently started requesting time
several days in a row to present “plays” that featured fairies, transformers, and animals of
different kinds. Always the theme of these stories involved the exercise of “special powers”
to solve problems or explain phenomena the children did not understand. One of the stories
developed by five children (three girls and two boys) was dictated to the teachers as follows:

Captured in a Woodland Forest

Once upon a time, on a spring night, a troop of fairies were visiting a woodland for-
est. Owls hooted and small animals were scurrying in the forest. The fireflies were
dancing among the trees and the little fairies tried to catch them. When they got
bored, they began to play tag. A hungry cat was stalking a mouse in the bushes when

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Approaches to Planning Chapter 6

he got distracted by the darting fairies. He chased the fairies and when he caught one,
he took it off to a cave to play. Meanwhile, the transformers were in their hideout
testing their new supersecret spy equipment. They heard the fairies’ call for help. They
grabbed their powers and flew to the aid of the fairies. They followed the trail of the
cat and found him nibbling on the fairy’s leg. They used their powers to freeze the
cat. Two of them returned the fairy to her troop. While the fairies were celebrating the
return of their friend, the other transformers [used their powers again to] unfreeze the
cat. Then they fed it some yummy cat food and took him back to his home.

Concurrently, the teachers were observing extended play in the block area and on the play-
ground that focused on the building of ramps and catapults. They had also recorded chil-
dren’s comments during the water-table activities described in Table 6.1 (sinking and floating).
Among them were several comments about the amount of force it took to sink a boat and a
loud argument about the power of water to move or control heavy objects.

Grayson: When I pressed on the boat, it went down.

Sami: When you push down, the boat always sinks.

Luke: That’s because your hand is heavy.

Zach: But boats can come back up.

Finn: Well, can water move things up?

Jon: No, that won’t work because water won’t go uphill.

Eli (shouting): Then how does it come out of the shower?

Finally, Mary and Jane realized that the children were very intrigued by a new feature of the
physical environment—two large plastic barrels that had recently been installed on a platform
on the playground for rainwater collection. The children intently observed what happened
to the water after rain showers, asked many questions, and offered theories about how the
barrels worked.

Choose a tentative topic As the teachers revisited their observation journals and looked
back through the children’s writing journals, their insight was that the concepts of power,
force, and motion were themes the children had already been exploring for months; but
because the contexts for this exploration had seemed so disconnected, they had not recog-
nized it before. With several weeks left in the school year, they decided to focus planning on
an exploration of these three interrelated concepts.

They knew from what the children had done already that there would be many opportuni-
ties to address science, math, and literacy standards. In focused discussions with the children,
they created an initial KWL chart (Table 6.6) with them—a graphic organizer that organizes
thinking into three categories: “what we know,” “what we want to know,” and “how we can
learn/find out.” The teachers transcribed the students’ exact words, which helped them make
specific plans about how to begin the study.

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Approaches to Planning Chapter 6


• Challenge children to design pulley system on climber
to haul things to the platform
• Put wood gears in discovery center

• Explore factors that influence height and distance
• Put balance in the rock pond

• Find out if their ideas about powers are grounded
theories about physical forces

• Add flexible track and cars to the block center
• Build a pyramid

• Build a water wall
• Use playground blocks and channels to move water
• PVC pipe to build a sprinkler for the garden
• Water colors/eye droppers, beakers and oil
• Add sails to boats
• Visit Water Authority
• Make diagrams to predict how rain barrels work
• Explore ice/water melting, condensation and evaporation




Inclined Planes


Figure 6.10: Brainstorming for Exploring Power, Force, and Motion

This graphic organizer indicates Mary and Jane’s initial thinking about open-ended activities that
would help direct the project.

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Approaches to Planning Chapter 6

Table 6.6: KWL Chart on Power, Force, and Motion

K: What We Know W: What We Want to Know L: How We Can Learn/Find Out

Water is strong.

Water has invisible powers.

Water can’t go up.

Wind is strong.

Wind is invisible, like water, but
you can feel it.

Sails make boats go if they
don’t have a motor.

Things go down by “their-
selves,” but not up.

Superheroes have special
powers that regular kids don’t

Machines help us do work.

How does water move things?

How do you make water?

How can you make water go up?

Is power the same as magic?

What makes things go fast if they
don’t have a motor?

How come machines are stronger
than people?

Make a waterfall.

Make more boats.

Ask the engineer how the barrels work.

See how fast we can make our cars go.

Make a lot of ramps.

Make cool “constraptions” to get
things to go up.

Find some books about ramps.

Provide materials and resources to support multiple possibilities for directions the
inquiry might take As with thematic unit planning, teachers use brainstorming to organize
their ideas about potential activities and explorations. Mary and Jane’s brainstorming included
the ideas represented in Figure 6.10 to investigate the questions and theories represented in
the children’s KWL chart.

Since much of the KWL chart contained water-related questions and ideas, Mary and Jane
decide to focus initial planning on how water moves from one place to another. Materials and
equipment they had on hand included:

• A water table

• Flexible tubing and an electric pump

• Large interlocking playground blocks with modular sections designed to channel water

• Hoses and water source outside the classroom

• Large tubs

• Funnels, buckets, watering cans, squirt bottles, and other assorted implements that
can be used with water

• Several wading pools

• A garden sprinkler

• Ping-Pong balls, small cars, and many other small waterproof objects

The teachers planned two initial activities with water on the playground over the course of
the week, combining the morning times when children are usually engaged in center-based
activities and outside play. The framework for these activities is represented in Figure 6.11.

Document what happens Mary and Jane review their notes and the drawings done by the
children (Figure 6.12). Among their observations, they note that:

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Approaches to Planning Chapter 6

• The children are highly motivated to get water to move uphill but realize that without
the pump, no matter how they adjust the block/channeling structure, it won’t happen.

• They are very interested in trying to manipulate the water channels to increase the
speed of the moving water so that their balls and cars will go faster; they become
focused on making steeper inclines but realize that the strength/power of the pump is


Activity: Channeling Water I

Materials: Large playground blocks; water channel modules; hose; wading pools and
large tubs; ping pong balls and small cards; buckets; cups; and watering cans.

Initial Setup: Two stacks of blocks, one higher than the other, with one water channel
module bridging the two stacks; set up hose at top so that water is flowing
downhill; have other blocks and channeling modules nearby for later. Put
wading pool at bottom of water channel to capture water.

Introduction: Ask children what will happen when they put balls or cars on the top of the
channel with the water running downhill. Advise them when pool at bottom is
full, the hose will be turned off and no more water can be added.

Exploration and Facilitate/supervise free play with structure until pool is full.

Ask them how they will get water back up to the top so play can continue.

Encourage adaptation, addition of blocks, channeling modules, and water
capture tubs/pools to make more complicated structure with additional

Prediction: Children will make use of buckets, cups, etc. to take water out of pool(s) and
pour back in at top to keep play going.

Activity: Channeling Water II

Materials: Same as Activity I, small whiteboards and markers.

Initial Setup: Hook up tubing and pump to existing structure.

Intervention: Demonstrate operation of pump to circulate water from bottom pool back to
top of structure.

Exploration and Experiment with different ways to add blocks/channels to structure and
Scaffolding: observe how water moved with assistance of pump.

Encourage children to use whiteboards to draw plans for water circulating

Use additional blocks/water channeling modules to replicate plans.

Prediction: Children will begin to experiment with changing elevations, degree of incline
for water channels, and so on.

Water Table

Materials: Spray bottles, tubing, funnels, ping pong balls.

Initial Setup: Set up water table.

Intervention: None. See what happens.

Figure 6.11: Week One Water Activities

During the first week, as Mary and Jane began predicting the direction of the long-term study,
they focused on moving water.

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Approaches to Planning Chapter 6

limited and that, at some point, it won’t work. They ask if there is a way to make the
pump have more power.

• Some children become highly engaged with dumping water out of the pools and onto
the ground as they notice that the water spilling out of the pools runs downhill across
the playground, moving the wood mulch ground cover and creating erosion channels
that go in different directions. They experiment with Ping-Pong balls to see how they
can make them move through the mud.

• Some children express increased interest in the rain-barrel system as they observe the
plumbing and realize that somehow water inside the barrels must be moving up and
down without the aid of a pump.

• Children working in the water table figure out that the spray bottles operate on the
same principle as the water pump, and they begin taking them to different places on
the playground to experiment with their ability to move leaves, wood mulch, rocks,
sticks, etc. They ask if they can take them apart to see if they can figure out where
their power comes from.

Organize and reflect on documentation After several days of water activities, in their
subsequent discussions with the children, the KWL chart was revised to add:

K: Spray bottles are pumps (but we don’t know why they work); some water can go
up without a pump; we can make water go faster if we make it steeper; water can
move dirt to make little rivers; some of our designs worked really good, but others not
at all; does the water in the sink and bathtub have a pump?

Figure 6.12: Designing a Water-Moving System

The challenge of designing water-moving systems was difficult, but the children were very invested
in this part of the initial activities and every design presented was subsequently built and tested.

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Chapter 6Chapter Summary Chapter 6

W: How does a pump work? How can water go up without a pump? Do rivers only go
downhill? What happens to the water in the rain barrels if they get full?

L: We need to ask the engineer to come over and explain how the rain barrels work;
we can look on the Internet to find out more about pumps; maybe the engineer can
tell us about pumps, too.

Adjust future planning to adapt to the direction of the inquiry To proceed with the
inquiry, Mary and Jane decided to focus on three things based on the interests represented
in the children’s observations and questions: (1) how the water harvesting system works, (2)
how pumps work, and (3) how vertical drop affects the descent speed of objects. Their next
stage of planning included:

• Consulting with the environmental science graduate students who installed the rain-
barrel water collection system. The students suggest painting a mural on the wall
behind the rain barrels to diagram how the system works and collaborating with the
children on a book about water harvesting.

• Identifying resources providing information about how pumps work. They printed
off images and diagrams of different kinds of simple pumps to add to the classroom
library and share in group discussions.

• Bringing in the bicycle pump that they use to blow up playground balls and let the
children use it.

• Bringing in several different common items with simple hand-pumping (nonpressurized
for safety purposes) mechanisms including toothpaste, hand lotion, insect repellent,
sunscreen, and a variety of squirt guns, including a supersoaker.

• Adding flexible plastic track to the block center that the children can build elevated
systems for their small cars.

• Adding wood panels on the playground to be used with the large interlocking play-
ground blocks for constructing larger ramps.

• Continuing with waterfall exploration by building a water wall, providing recycled
bottles and funnels, tubing, and a flexible dryer duct that the children could attach in
different ways to a wood panel to channel water.

• Encouraging children to use paper and markers to make large diagrams of the systems
they are constructing to show how they work.

Account for learning standards as the project proceeds As this project moved for-
ward, Mary and Jane repeated this cycle of steps several times as they continued to plan.
The project continued for more than a month. They used a checklist to indicate which of the
South Carolina learning standards were being addressed. Like Phyllis and Stephanie’s thematic
unit, this work enabled them to make progress on meeting many of the standards for which
they are accountable. Their visual and written documentation of the children’s work provided
ample evidence that the standards were being met.

Chapter Summary
• Planning is a comprehensive process that includes making decisions about how to

address curriculum, respond to the needs and interests of children and their families,
work with colleagues, and arrange the physical setting.

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Posttest Chapter 6Posttest Chapter 6

• Planning also includes considering all the decisions you make within the context of
developmentally appropriate practices and your belief system.

• The decisions you make about how to structure the physical environment of the class-
room will be affected by the curriculum you use, specific principles of good design,
and aesthetics.

• Principles of design that are considered when planning the environment include a
vision for the kind of environment you want to create and attention to safety, move-
ment, permanent features of the classroom, and planning space and materials for the
kinds of behaviors and activities you want to promote.

• Teachers use primary resources from the authors of curricula, research about develop-
ment and learning, and spokespersons for the field of early childhood education in

• Learning standards serve as a guide, not a substitute for curriculum. Purchased cur-
ricula include many different kinds of resources such as scope/sequence or pacing
guides that can be helpful.

• Approaches to planning can be considered as a continuum of thought. A top-down
process begins with standards and objectives as the teacher makes subsequent deci-
sions about materials, activity plans, adaptations, and timing.

• An emergent approach to curriculum represents a bottom-up process driven by the
interests of children. The teacher plans initial activities and the plan unfolds over time,
as the teacher documents learning and standards, reflects, and adapts to pursue the
direction it takes.


1. The planning context is influenced by:

a. The type of materials you use to do lesson plans.

b. The characteristics of the setting in which you work.

c. Your salary.

d. Your primary language.

2. A comprehensive and effective approach to planning is best described as integration of:

a. Time, daily schedules, and scope and sequence of the curriculum.

b. Activity plans, assessments, and standards.

c. Theory, developmental knowledge, stakeholders, content, and strategies.

d. Budgets, purchasing of materials, and arranging the classroom.

3. Which of the following statements provides the best example of a practical decision to
improve the functioning of the physical environment?

a. You turn the art center into a scrapbooking center and encourage the children to
bring in photographs from home for a study on families at the beginning of the
school year.

b. You move the art easels closer to the sink to reduce water and paint spillage on the

c. You take away all the paint colors at the easel except yellow and blue so the chil-
dren can learn how to make green.

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Posttest Chapter 6

d. You add magnifying glasses and egg cartons with small stones of different kinds to
the discovery area to see if there is enough interest for a study of rocks.

4. A decision that reflects principles of good aesthetics planning would be:

a. Filling the room with materials and equipment that represent all the primary and
secondary colors because it helps children recognize and name them.

b. Making sure that you only use materials made of heavy-duty or recycled plastic so
they will last a long time, be easy to clean, and be environmentally responsible.

c. Arranging all the furniture at right angles around the edges of the room so that the
pathways between activities are straight and there is plenty of room in the middle
for a large group.

d. Using a limited “color palette” with neutral colors to promote a calm feeling and
counterbalance the bright colors represented in many early childhood curriculum

5. An example of primary resources for planning with a curriculum purchased by your pro-
gram would be:

a. Teaching materials you make yourself to supplement the curriculum.

b. Information from a blog that another teacher using your curriculum has set up for
asking and answering questions about how to use it.

c. The scope and sequence that were included in the curriculum materials.

d. A newspaper article that profiles all the schools in the community that use the cur-
riculum your program is thinking about buying.

6. Which statement represents a developmentally appropriate use of learning standards for
planning curriculum?

a. Take each standard in order and plan an activity for each one so you make sure you
cover them all over the course of a year.

b. Plan activities for only those standards that represent things you think are worth

c. Use the benchmarks and indicators in the standards to make decisions about how
to adapt the curriculum to meet the needs and interests of the children you teach.

d. Don’t use the standards at all, as they are developmentally inappropriate.

7. A top-down approach to planning represents the following selected steps:

a. Identify goals/objectives, select content or topic, plan activities, prepare materials.

b. Select content or topic, identify goals/objectives, plan activities, prepare materials.

c. Prepare materials, plan activities, identify goals/objectives, select content or topic.

d. Identify goals/objectives, prepare materials, select content or topic, plan activities.

8. Planning for emergent curriculum differs from planning thematic units because:

a. It applies the same planning principles but doesn’t address learning standards.

b. Teachers plan for the beginning of a study but continue to plan as the study evolves
in response to what they observe about the learning that takes place.

c. The topics children are interested in are always different from those the teachers
would plan for thematic units.

d. The teachers don’t really plan; they just let the learning “emerge.”

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Answers and Rejoinders to Chapter Pretest Chapter 6

9. Which of the following statements best describes a planning decision that promotes
independence and responsibility?

a. Putting materials out of children’s reach, so they need to ask the teacher to retrieve

b. Arranging sorted materials in clear containers with picture labels on low open

c. Making a plan each day for how children will rotate in and out of different interest

d. Having children memorize routines at the beginning of the school year.

10. Graphic organizers are helpful planning tools for teachers because they:

a. Provide a visible means for representing how concepts and ideas connect.

b. Save teachers time, serving the same kind of purpose as note cards.

c. Clearly describe what children should know and be able to do.

d. Use drawings and other kinds of graphics to illustrate the plot in a story.

Answers: 1 (b); 2 (c); 3 (b); 4 (d); 5 (c); 6 (c); 7 (a); 8 (b); 9 (b); 10 (a)

Discussion Questions

1. As you think about planning a classroom environment, what is your vision of the way it
might look and feel? How will you personalize it?

2. Find the kindergarten learning standards online at the state department of education for
the state in which you live or work. Choose a content (subject) or developmental area.
Look at the standards and the indicators or benchmarks for it. Brainstorm some ideas
about topics and activities that might support learning about the standard.

3. Think about the planning styles described in this chapter; which do you think best rep-
resents your natural inclinations about how to organize and plan activities? Why?

Answers and Rejoinders to Chapter Pretest

1. False. Planning addresses all dimensions of curriculum—activities, needs and interests
of children and their families; working with your teaching colleagues; and designing,
equipping, and arranging the physical setting.

2. True. The physical setting has a significant influence on the way children interact, learn,
and behave.

3. False. Even a purchased curriculum that supplies an extensive selection of teaching
resources represents a starting point for planning.

4. False. There is a continuum of planning strategies that complements the different ways
teachers think about curriculum and the way children learn.

5. True. Thematic units are planned generally from a top-down perspective, while emer-
gent curriculum represents a bottom-up process.

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Online Resources for Using Graphic Organizers Chapter 6

Key Terms

Atelier A special area in a Reggio Emilia school that is set up like an art studio and serves
as a dedicated space for working on projects

Brainstorming Generating ideas about possibilities without necessarily committing to
them as a plan

Concept map Ideas about concepts that can be learned in a study organized to show how
they relate to different areas of the curriculum

Emergent study A long-term investigation about a topic that evolves over time rather than
being entirely preplanned

Indicator A statement in standards about a typical behavior or action showing that a child
is meeting the standard

KWL chart A graphic organizer that categorizes brainstorming ideas into “what we know,
what we want to know, and how we might learn”

Pacing guide A tool that provides sequencing information about when different aspects of
a curriculum should be addressed

Primary resources Those resources that come directly from an author or developer of a

Scope and sequence Tool provided with some curricula that indicates when and how dif-
ferent skills and concepts are addressed

Secondary resources Information and resources about a curriculum that are developed by
people other than the original authors

Thematic unit A long-term study that is generally planned in advance

Online Resources for Using Graphic Organizers

Birbili, M. (2006). Mapping knowledge: Concept maps in early childhood education. Early
Childhood Research & Practice, 8(2). Retrieved from
This article explains how a particular graphic organizer, a concept map, can be used to
help children organize and process their thinking.

EduPlace: An online site sponsored by Houghton-Mifflin that provides different kinds of
templates; many are designed for elementary school and focus on English and language
arts but might be adapted for use with preschoolers or as teacher planning tools. http://

EdHelper: Illustrated examples of graphic organizers with links to templates for many differ-
ent kinds. Many are designed for elementary-aged children and are not appropriate for

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References Chapter 6


Baldwin, S. (April 15, 2012). Waldorf Education in a Nutshell. Retrieved from Moon Child:

Bodrova, E., & Leong, D. J. (2007). Tools of the mind: The Vygotskian approach to early
childhood education (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Carter, D., & Carter, M. (2003). Designs for living and learning: Transforming early childhood
environments. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

Chaille, C. (2008). Constructivism across the curriculum in early childhood classrooms: Big
ideas as inspiration. Boston: Pearson.

Colorado Department of Education (2009). Social studies standards. Retrieved from: http://

Conant, B. (April 4, 2012). Room arrangement: The basics. Retrieved from

Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S. (Eds.) (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early
childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8. Washington, DC: National
Association for the Education of Young Children.

Datnow, A., & Castellano, M. (2000). Teachers’ responses to success for all: How beliefs,
experience, and adaptations shape implementation. American Educational Research
Journal, 37(3), 775–799.

David, J. L. (October 2008). Pacing guides. Educational Leadership, 66(2), 87–88.

David, J. L., & Greene, D. (2007). Improving mathematics instruction in Los Angeles high
schools: An evaluation of the PRISMA pilot program. Palo Alto, CA: Bay Area Research

Deviney, J., Duncan, S., Harris, S., Rody, M., & Rosenberry, L. (2010). Inspiring spaces for
young children. Silver Spring, MD: Gryphon Press.

Edwards, C., Gandini, L., & Forman, G. (Eds.) (1998). The hundred languages of children: The
Reggio Emilia approach advanced reflections. Westport, CT: Ablex.

Gestwicki, C. (2011). Developmentally appropriate practice: Curriculum and development in
early childhood education (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Helm, J. (2007). Windows on learning: Documenting young children’s work (2nd ed.). New
York: Teachers College Press.

Katz, L., & Chard, S. (2000). Engaging children’s minds. New York: Praeger.

Kauffman, D., Johnson, S. M., Kardos, S. M., Liu, E., & Peske, H. G. (2002). “Lost at sea”:
New teachers’ experiences with curriculum and assessment. Teachers College Record,
104(2), 273–300.

Louis, K. S., Febey, K., & Schroeder, R. (2005). State-mandated accountability in high
schools: Teachers’ interpretations of a new era. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis,
27(20), 177–204.

Nilsen, B. (2010). Week by Week: Plans for documenting children’s development (5th ed.).
Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

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References Chapter 6

Pearlman, B. (2006). New skills for a new century: Students thrive on collabora-
tion and problem-solving. Retrieved from Edutopia:

Prescott, E. (March/April 2004). The physical environment: A powerful regulator of experi-
ence. Child Care Information Exchange, 34–37.

Shalaway, L. (2005) Learning to teach. . . . not just for beginners: The essential guide for all
teachers (3rd ed.). New York: Scholastic.

South Carolina Department of Education. (2014). South Carolina academic standards and
performance indicators for science [PDF file]. Retrieved from

Sornson, B. (2016, September/October). The journey to mastery: How competency-based
learning creates personalized pathways to success for young learners [PDF file]. Principal,
96(1), 16–19. Retrieved from

State of Pennsylvania (2018, April 28). Pennsylvania code. Retrieved from Chapter 3270:

Swim, J. (April 4, 2012). Basic premises of classroom design: The teacher’s perspec-
tive. Retrieved from Early Childhood News: http://www.earlychildhoodnews.

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Approaches to Learning:
Exploratory Play and Creative Arts

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

1. Explain the difference between early learning and academic standards as well as the
different ways in which curricula may be organized.

2. Describe concepts, skills, and interest areas that support the Approaches to Learning

3. Identify four important themes in national standards for the arts and describe an arts-
infused approach to curriculum.

4. Describe how teachers support the visual arts in early childhood settings.

5. Describe how teachers support the performing arts of music, creative movement/dance,
and drama in the early childhood setting.

1. Standards for early learners and

kindergarten-second grade children
are essentially similar. T/F

2. The Approaches to Learning standards stress
the development of executive functioning.

3. An arts-infused curriculum supports both
early learning standards and national
standards for the creative arts. T/F

4. Teachers support the visual arts with
activities that encourage children to use
patterns and copy adult-made examples. T/F

5. Teachers encourage children to practice,
rehearse, and perform songs, dances, and
plays in front of an audience so that they
can get over their performance anxieties.

Answers can be found at end of the chapter.
© iStockphoto / Thinkstock

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Early Learning and Academic Standards Chapter 7

You have put a lot of thought and work into creating an inviting and interesting classroom.
Photographs and cultural materials throughout the room represent the children in your class
and their families. You’ve labeled materials and equipment with images and words in English
and Spanish. To make a tentative plan for interest areas, you went through all the materi-
als in your classroom and used information from your comprehensive curriculum resources
and the interest inventories you made at home visits to select books, puzzles, dramatic play
props, and other materials for activity areas that you hope will be a good match for some of
the things the children might be interested in. You’ve made sure that these areas are flexible
to accommodate working with children individually or in small or large groups. How will you
now make sure that you are incorporating activities and experiences that are consistent with
the developmentally focused early learning standards for preschoolers in your state? Do those
standards provide guidance and support for play? How do the early learning standards con-
nect with those the children will encounter in elementary school?

In this chapter, we begin to focus on the “what’s worth knowing” (the content of curricu-
lum) and “curriculum in action” (implementation) dimensions of curriculum. Each chapter will
emphasize important concepts, skills, and activities for interrelated areas in the early learning
standards for preschoolers and academic standards that apply to children in K–2 settings. We
begin by examining early learning standards for Approaches to Learning and the National
Content Standards for the Arts.

7.1 Early Learning and Academic Standards
Most states now have two types of standards for children in the early childhood period.
Standards for children from birth to age 5 are provided as guidelines for infants and toddlers,
and early learning standards for 3- to 5-year-old preschoolers. These standards emphasize
child development. Standards that apply to children in the primary grades are part of the
academic standards for children from kindergarten through grade 12. Each set of academic
standards articulates what children should know and be able to do in the content (subject)
area (e.g., math, literacy, science, social studies, physical education and health, and the arts).

The fifty states diverge on implementation time lines, but in general the country is moving on
a steady path toward both early learning and academic standards (Kauerz, 2006; Petersen,
Jones, & McGinley, 2008; NAEYC, 2016; Scott-Little, Kagan, Frelow, & Reid, 2008). Some
curricula used in early childhood classrooms provide teachers with alignments, or mapping
of the elements of the curriculum to early learning or academic standards. In other instances,
teachers do that themselves as they interpret curricular goals, planning and adapting activities
to be consistent with learning standards.

Early Learning Standards

In 1990, the president and fifty governors created the National Education Goals Panel (NEGP)
to formulate goals for education in the twenty-first century. Subsequently, in 1995, the NEGP
endorsed recommendations from the early childhood education field to write learning stan-
dards for young children from a developmental perspective, encouraging the use of common
language and terminology to promote clarity in five areas of development (Kagan, 2003;
Kagan, Moore, & Bredekamp, 1995):

1. Approaches to Learning

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Approaches to Learning Standards and Interest Areas for Exploratory Play Chapter 7

2. Physical Well-Being and Health

3. Social and Emotional Development

4. Language Development

5. Cognition and General Knowledge

By 2008, more than twenty states and several territories had produced guidelines for infants
and toddlers that addressed these five domain areas (Petersen, Jones, & McGinley, 2008;
Scott-Little, Kagan, Frelow, & Reid, 2008). By 2010 more than forty states had also either
adopted or adapted the Good Start Grow Smart early learning standards template proposed
with the 2001 No Child Left Behind initiative or used the NEGP recommendations to address
the five domains in their early learning standards for preschool children (aged 3 to 5) (NIEER,
2012). As of 2017, more than 40 states adopted or have adapted early learning and develop-
ment standards (NIEER, 2018).

Academic Standards

While the early learning standards clearly reflect the developmental focus from which they
are written, it can be more difficult to discern those developmental goals in K–2 standards.
For instance, the South Carolina Good Start, Grow Smart early learning standards explicitly
state one standard as: “Children [will] demonstrate initiative, engagement, and persistence
in learning” (p. 16). In contrast, this desired outcome appears in the area of social studies
(for example) not as an explicit standard to be met for learners but as part of the intro-
ductory explanation in expectations for social studies teachers about how the standards
should be taught, “Social studies teaching and learning are powerful when the learning
is active . . . . teachers gradually move from providing considerable guidance by model-
ing, explaining, or supplying information that builds student knowledge, to a less directive
role that encourages students to become independent and self-regulated learners” (NCSS,
2002, p. 13).

Integrating curriculum content, materials, and activities in the early childhood years from both
developmental and academic perspectives, as evident in the various sets of standards and
guidelines, can be challenging. Therefore Chapters 7 to 11 will address academic content areas
(creative arts, physical education and health, social studies, mathematics, science, and literacy)
within the context of the five early learning developmental domains (Approaches to Learning,
Physical Well-Being, Social-Emotional, Language, and Cognition/General Knowledge) listed
above. This chapter begins with the early learning standards that address Approaches to
Learning and the National Core Standards for the Arts.

7.2 Approaches to Learning Standards and Interest Areas
for Exploratory Play
Approaches to Learning (ATL) standards are grounded in research on brain development.
They emphasize the importance of a particular set of skills and mental processes that con-
stitute executive functioning, which is necessary for effective problem solving and higher-
order thinking (Berk, 2001). Central to executive functioning are self-regulation, attention,
and memory—skills that prove highly valuable later in life for such tasks as completing home-
work assignments independently or planning, researching, and writing a report. The extent to

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Approaches to Learning Standards and Interest Areas for Exploratory Play Chapter 7

which a child exhibits these characteristics may actually be a better predictor of future success
in school than intelligence measures (Berk, 2001; Insititute of Medicine and National Research
Council of the National Academics, 2015; McClelland, Cameron, Wanless, & Murray, 2007).
Figure 7.1 displays key elements of executive functioning.

ATL early learning standards stress the importance of mental processes that represent, “learn-
ing how to learn” (Kagan, Moore, & Bredekamp, 1995). They further suggest that the mere
acquisition of knowledge, skills, and capacities is insufficient for developmental success, as hav-
ing a capacity, for example, does not mean that it will be used. Children must go further and
marshal these qualities. For example, a child may have the capacity to listen (her hearing may
be intact), but she may or may not have the disposition to be a listener (Kagan, 2003, p. 2).

The five elements of ATL standards emphasize development of executive functioning via:

1. Learning through play

2. Curiosity, eagerness, and satisfaction as a learner

3. Initiative, engagement, and persistence

4. Setting and achieving goals

5. Memory, reasoning, and problem solving (Kagan, Moore, & Bredekamp, 1995)

Let’s look at how learning through play, for example, the first element of ATL standards, fos-
ters the development of executive functioning. Open-ended play is a highly integrative activity
that promotes intuitive learning in many ways (van Hoorn, Nourot, Scales, & Alward, 2011).
Play gives children opportunities to explore the properties of objects and materials, experi-
ment and take risks, and use their imaginations to assume roles and situations grounded in
both reality and pretend. When children are encouraged to make choices about how they
play, they engage in self-talk, weighing the merits of one direction over another—the kind


The Brain’s

• Organizing
• Prioritizing
• Getting to

• Tuning in
• Sustaining
• Shifting

• Regulating
• Sustaining
• Adjusting

• Managing
• Modulating

• Holding on
and working
• Retrieving

• Monitoring

Figure 7.1: Key Elements of Executive Functioning

Executive functioning is the process by which the brain organizes, processes, and applies informa-
tion to active problem solving.

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Approaches to Learning Standards and Interest Areas for Exploratory Play Chapter 7

of internal dialogue that leads eventually to abstract reasoning. They develop the ability to
focus and are more likely to sustain or persist in longer-term or more complex play that can
eventually extend from one play period or day to the next (Wood & Atfield, 2005).

When children experience school or care in an inviting environment that validates their curios-
ity about the world, their eagerness to learn translates into a willingness to try new things,
adding to the child’s store of experiences. These are important to establishing a knowledge
base that children will draw from as they continue to learn. Success in play, satisfaction with
the results of their efforts (such as a painting or completed block structure), and reinforce-
ment of interests and questions also build the confidence children need to be able to set a
goal and believe that it can be achieved, despite the insecurities or lack of experience accom-
panying an intellectual risk.

We also know from brain research that both short- and long-term memory are needed for
reasoning and problem solving. Reasoning requires consideration and determination of
cause-and-effect relationships, and application of logic to decision making and problem solv-
ing requires that multiple possible solutions be weighed and considered. In play, children have
the opportunity to work through problems that are real to them and to practice using what
they know and remember to make decisions about how to proceed.

Now consider a classroom scenario that illustrates how the five elements of ATL apply. A child
decides to go to the painting easel, puts on a smock, and attaches a clean sheet of paper with
clothespin clips to the easel. Paint choices include red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and purple.
Suppose, as the child begins to paint, he notices that layering of yellow and blue paint results
in the color green, but it is not exactly the same shade of green as the paint in the green con-
tainer. Curious, (#2) his attention shifts to reasoning (#5) that he might use different amounts
of yellow and green to achieve a goal (#4) of trying to match the green in the container in
the grass he is painting across the bottom of the paper. He takes the initiative (#3) to do so,
and begins applying and observing what happens by mixing different amounts of yellow and
green on the paper. As he works, he becomes deeply engaged (#3) and actually fills up and
changes paper three times, persisting (#3) in this activity until at last he exclaims, “I did it!”
calling the teacher to come and view his painting and recounting (#5) with great satisfaction
(#2) how he approached (#5) and solved the problem (#5).

Now imagine how this child’s learning would be affected if, for example, the teacher told the
child what or how to paint, required children to move from center to center every 20 minutes,
or limited them to one sheet of paper per painting. Would he be inclined to start his meth-
odological trial-and-error process knowing that he might not be allowed to finish? Would
he experience satisfaction or frustration if he filled his first paper and could not continue on
another? Would he have found out what results could be achieved by mixing colors in differ-
ent proportions?

Early childhood educators keep the important elements of ATL standards in mind as they plan
the environment and opportunities for open-ended play and exploration. In the remainder of
this section, we consider three major interest areas/centers in the early childhood classroom
to illustrate how play supports these most important dispositions toward learning. These areas
are sensory play, blocks/construction, and dramatic play.

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Approaches to Learning Standards and Interest Areas for Exploratory Play Chapter 7

Sensory Play

Teachers understand that sensory play provides a perfect context for exposing children to
both familiar and unfamiliar materials that challenge them to process and organize stimuli
through their senses. Children use their sense of touch to explore textures, surfaces, and
weight/pressure. They acquire depth perception, learn to differentiate between colors and
shapes, and develop a sight vocabulary of objects and eventually words through visual pro-
cessing. They learn to distinguish tone, pitch, and volume through hearing. As a sense of
smell develops, children learn to identify and classify odors, acquire preferences, and acquire
an “early warning system” for things that might not be good for them. Their sense of taste is
closely correlated to smell; exposure to a wide variety of foods encourages discernment of the
sweet, sour, salty, or bitter qualities of foods.

The process of converting sensory inputs helps the brain grow and become more efficient
(Rushton, 2011). In this section we discuss open-ended sensory play in two areas common to
many early childhood settings, sand/water (sensory) tables and exploratory activities with light.

Sand/Water (Sensory) Table
A sand or water sensory table provides children with opportunities to touch, feel, and manip-
ulate different types of solid and liquid materials. (Sand and water tables are also used to pro-
mote the development of mathematics and science concepts, discussed in Chapter 10.) The
ATL standards are supported because children are intensely curious about materials available

in this kind of experience and become
deeply engaged in exploring their proper-
ties and figuring out what happens when
they try different things.

The materials used are intrinsically satis-
fying to the senses; many a teacher will
attest to the calming influence of a sen-
sory table for a child who is upset or one
with the sensory processing difficulties
that some children on the autism spec-
trum experience. Technically, any con-
tainer such as a large plastic dishpan or
baby bathtub can be used to hold water,
sand, or other materials, but most early
childhood settings make use of equip-
ment designed for this purpose and sized
to accommodate three or four children at
a time. Commercially produced tables are
widely available in different sizes/heights
to accommodate a range of child age

groups and contexts, have drains for easy cleanup, and may include space for storage or addi-
tional features such as a water pump.

Sensory play is not limited to the indoors, since most sand/water tables are made of durable
materials and have wheels that enable them to be easily transported outside. In addition,
a sandbox and/or dirt-digging area is a common feature of most child-care and preschool

© Susan Woog-Wagner / Getty Images

Sand/water tables are functionally flexible, so teachers
have many options for activities that engage the chil-
dren’s senses and foster exploration of the properties of
many different kinds of materials.

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Approaches to Learning Standards and Interest Areas for Exploratory Play Chapter 7

As soon as a child can stand unassisted, the sensory table typically becomes a magnet for
activity, beckoning the child to touch, pour, sift, squish, poke, dig, mold, and handle materi-
als that behave in both predictable and unpredictable ways. The list of materials for use in
sensory play is limited only by requirements for safety and cleanliness, such as emptying and
disinfecting water tables daily. Materials should be chosen with regard to the age of children;
for instance, dried beans would not be a good choice for toddlers who might want to put
them in their noses or ears! When sand or dirt-based material is used, it should be clean and
free of any debris that could be harmful to the skin or if ingested.

Table 7.1 includes a list of base materials, tools or props, and activities that can be used or
adapted for the sand/water table to promote the kinds of activities listed above.

Table 7.1: Sensory Table Materials, Tools/Props, and Activities

Water and

Sand and Other
Natural Materials

Other Media Including


Food coloring Beach or playground
sand, plain or colored

Packing materials (peanut-
shaped, disc-shaped, and
so on)


Dish soap Potting media Cotton or fiberfill Flour/cornstarch

Bubble liquid Pebbles or small rocks Buttons Oatmeal or other

Ice cubes Aquarium gravel Rubber bands Dried beans/peas

Snow Cedar chips or shavings Shredded paper Dried pasta

Gelatin Sawdust Ribbons Pumpkin seeds

Cornstarch (“oobleck”) Straw (not an allergen
like hay)

Pompoms or confetti Popcorn kernels

Baking soda and vinegar Dried leaves, seed pods,
pine cones

Torn or cut colored tissue, or
wrapping papers

Flax seed

Natural clay Artificial grass filler Bird seed

Small metal objects such as
paper clips



Cups, funnels, things that sink/float (aluminum foil,
corks, clothespins, etc.), plastic pitchers, rotary egg
beater or whisk, straws cut into different lengths,
bubble wands, items with pumps (like a hand soap
dispenser), washcloths and sponges, droppers/
poultry basters, spray bottles, small toys or plastic fish,

Sand/Other Solids

Kitchen utensils such as spoons, funnels, measuring
cups and spoons, ice cream scoop, strainers/sieves/
sifters, tongs or tweezers, small hand rakes or combs,
seashells and/or small toys/plastic animals, buckets,
shovels, cookie cutters, rolling pins, pie tins, magnifying
glasses, scissors, hole puncher, magnet wands

Examples of Prompts/Activities for Water, Sand, and Other Materials

Digging: bury items in sand to be uncovered (perhaps relating to a current theme) such as plastic dinosaurs,
insects, worms, coins, plastic “jewels,” small mirrors or laminated photos of the children


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Approaches to Learning Standards and Interest Areas for Exploratory Play Chapter 7

Washing: wash baby dolls, small cars, dishes, toys

Molding: provide molds of different kinds for damp/wet sand, dirt, or other modeling materials

Fishing: bamboo poles with magnet attached to end of string, paper clips and small paper or rubber fish with
paper clips attached

Road building: sand or dirt-based materials, small vehicles

Challenges: use tongs or giant plastic tweezers to pick up different sized colored pom-poms and put them in
plastic tubs or jars

Sensory Material Recipes

Many materials for sensory play can be made cheaply and
easily with readily available ingredients. Following a recipe
and making sensory materials with children can also be a
valuable and enjoyable activity. The distinct sensory quali-
ties of these materials support the ATL standards because
they engage children for long periods of time in experi-
ences that are satisfying to their senses and promote explo-
ration and experimentation.

The following recipes can be used or adapted to make
materials that are well known and often used in early child-
hood classrooms and care settings.

Cooked play dough (very similar to the commercial prod-
uct): 2 cups flour, 2 cups water, 1 cup table salt, 4 tea-
spoons cream of tartar, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or
baby oil), and food coloring or scents such as oil of pep-
permint or vanilla if desired. Mix all ingredients and heat
over medium heat, stirring constantly till mixture forms into
large ball. Remove from pot, let stand till cool enough to
handle, and then knead for several minutes.

Oobleck (also known as goop): 1 part cornstarch, 1 part
water (and food coloring if desired). When mixed together,
the material confounds children because it exhibits proper-
ties of both solids and liquids.

Silly putty (also known as gak): 1 part liquid laundry starch, 1 part white school glue. Food coloring
may be used to tint it. Mix together and knead on a flat surface until it has the texture of silly putty.

Colored rice or pasta: 2 cups uncooked white rice or pasta plus 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol
and food coloring to achieve the desired color intensity. Dissolve food coloring in alcohol and add
to pasta, stirring till evenly colored. Let dry. Because the rubbing alcohol takes the place of water,
the rice or pasta does not become gummy and the resulting colors are bright and durable.

Moon sand: 4 cups play sand, 2 cups cornstarch, and 1 cup of water or 9 cups sand and 1 ¼ cup
baby oil (if colored sand is desired, use powdered tempera added to dry sand for best results).

Artificial snow: Ivory Snow powder or flakes and water; mix with rotary or electric beater till light

© iStockphoto / Thinkstock

Many familiar commercial sen-
sory materials such as model-
ing dough can easily be made
following recipes that closely
approximate the commercial


Examples of Prompts/Activities for Water, Sand, and Other Materials

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Approaches to Learning Standards and Interest Areas for Exploratory Play Chapter 7

Playing with Light
Over the past several decades many American early childhood educators have embraced light
play as a valuable part of the curriculum. As with the sand/water table, light play delights a
child’s visual and tactile senses but also promotes learning
in other areas of the curriculum—such as art, science, and
mathematics—that are discussed in other sections of this

The idea of playing with light came from the Reggio Emilia
programs in Italy (Fraser & Gestwicki, 2002). Light is intan-
gible, endlessly fascinating to children, and provides oppor-
tunities to engage, manipulate, and develop visual memory
and perception differently than with more concrete materi-
als such as water, sand, or modeling dough. A child’s visual
perception of the world changes or expands when he or
she is introduced to the element of transparency that occurs
when light shines through an object or when an object is
viewed through a colored lens. Conversely, the element of
three-dimensionality disappears in the opaque images of
shadows, challenging the ways in which children store and
remember images of shapes and objects. One only has to
observe the facial expressions of a child engaged in activi-
ties with light to see their value as an option for play.

A light table is a piece of equipment with a translucent
horizontal surface lighted from below. Both stand-alone
and tabletop versions are available through education sup-
ply companies, along with a rapidly expanding commercial
selection of translucent learning materials children can use

and fluffy. Using brand-name soap achieves the best consistency.

Artificial mud: 1 or 2 toilet paper rolls and 2 bars of Ivory Soap plus hot water. Grate soap with a
cheese grater; tear toilet paper roll in pieces and soak everything in a bowl of warm water, mixing
with hands till it reaches the consistency of mud.

Slime (also known as flubber): 1 tablespoon borax powder dissolved in 1 cup water, ¼ cup school
glue (clear or white) and ¼ cup water (add food coloring if desired or glow-in-the-dark paint). Pour
both mixtures into a sealable plastic bag, seal, and knead. Keep refrigerated when not in use.

Source: Recipes for these materials can be obtained from a wide variety of sources. These recipes come courtesy of the N. E. Miles
Early Childhood Development Center, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC.

▶ Stop and Reflect

1. What kind of sensory materials did you enjoy playing with as a child? Why?

2. How might engaging children in making and using one of the above recipes promote the five
elements of the ATL standards?

© Eyecandy Images / Thinkstock

As children manipulate translucent and
opaque materials on a lighted surface,
they learn about color, shadow, and

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Approaches to Learning Standards and Interest Areas for Exploratory Play Chapter 7

to observe and examine, manipulate, or construct on the lighted surface. These materials
include two-dimensional geometric shapes (pattern blocks), magnetic tiles, letters, numbers,
color paddles, Lego-style blocks, and three-dimensional shapes of different kinds.

An inexpensive homemade light table can be assembled easily by putting a string of rope
lights inside a translucent plastic storage tub, cutting a hole for the cord and plug, and using
the tight-fitting lid as the table top. As with materials for a sensory table, household items
or materials found at local stores are suitable or adaptable for a light table. Using a shallow
tray with a clear bottom facilitates the use of granular substances like salt or materials that
need cleanup like finger paint with no risk of scratching the surface of the table or having the
materials leak into the light chamber. Table 7.2 displays some of these materials and different
types of exploratory play in which children might engage with them.

Table 7.2: Common Materials Suitable for Light Table Play

Materials Applications

X-ray films; colored or black/white slides; micro-
fiche film; shells; small clear plastic boxes for
holding specimens children might collect, such as
butterfly wings or leaves

Close observation with magnifying glasses to examine
images and/or embedded details that are enhanced when
lighted from below

Salt, flour, gelatin crystals, colored sugar or rice Using hands and fingers for tactile exploration and making
impressions/designs, tracings, or drawings in the material

Colored cellophane, tissue, glow-in-the-dark
festival bracelets

Layering and observing color transparency, creating shapes
and images

Clear plastic tubing cut to different lengths; fill
with clear or colored liquids, oils, gels, or glitter,
and seal with hot glue

Observing movement of liquids, layering and observing
how light reveals changes in colors and density

Tightly sealed clear heavy-duty zip-locking-style
bags filled with colored hair gel, baby food,
shaving cream, or “water beads” (expandable
beads used in floral arrangements)

Tactile exploration by pressing, squishing, and moving
material inside the bags. Observing changes in density and

Colored pasta, plastic buttons, beads, jewelry, and
clear plastic ice cube trays, bowls, or small trays

Sorting/matching, moving, arranging, or stacking in
different ways to create patterns and shapes

Children can play with and explore light in other ways. Taping a white sheet of paper, poster
board, or mural paper to a wall in front of a traditional overhead projector allows children to
pantomime, create shadows, and make and use stick puppets. They can also enlarge drawings,
text, or photographs. Flashlights or strings of holiday lights can be used inside a cardboard
box to make a small shadow theater. Children can use colored cellophane and cardboard and
tubes to make “sunglasses,” binoculars, kaleidoscopes, or colored viewing filters that alter
their visual perception of everyday scenes and objects. Children love to trace their shadows
on a sidewalk, observe how a prism hung in a window or oil in a puddle creates the colors of
the rainbow, and track the movement of the shadow on a sundial over the course of a day.

Like sensory play, play and activities with light and shadow support the ATL standards since
they can engage children for extended periods of time in open-ended play, provoking curios-
ity and exploration through introduction to unfamiliar materials and the exploration of familiar
materials in unfamiliar ways.

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Approaches to Learning Standards and Interest Areas for Exploratory Play Chapter 7

Blocks and Construction

Children’s use of blocks for construction
play has been heavily researched and
the benefits of such play, particularly as
related to later mathematical achieve-
ment, are well documented (Trawick-
Smith et al., 2016; Shaklee, O’Hara, &
Demarest, 2008). As in many other kinds
of play, children playing with blocks refine
physical coordination, use language to
represent thinking, and develop self-
esteem, the ability to cooperate, and
responsibility through social interactions
(Hewitt, 2001). Block play follows a devel-
opmental sequence over time as children
between birth and age 5 acquire and
internalize concepts about space, balance,

© iStockphoto / Thinkstock

Shadow play with or without props can provide endless
hours of fun, creativity, and learning about how light
affects the creation of shadows and makes them change.


Stage 1
blocks, but
not building
(e.g., holding,

Stage 2
Stacking or
laying out
vertically or
with multiple
or combined
stacks or

Stage 3
Bridging, by
setting up
2 blocks
and laying
across the
top to span
the empty

Stage 4
and problem
solving to
figure out
how to make
blocks meet

Stage 5
and balance

Stage 6
to plan,
name, and

Figure 7.2: Developmental Stages of Block Building

Block-building skills and concepts develop over time in a predictable sequence that requires time,
space, and an adequate number and variety of blocks and accessories.

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Approaches to Learning Standards and Interest Areas for Exploratory Play Chapter 7

weight, symmetry, shape, size, number, and operations (Shaklee, O’Hara, & Demarest, 2008).
While the developmental stages of block building have been described in many different con-
figurations (Guanella, 1934; Reifel & Greenfield, 1982), Figure 7.2 illustrates block building in
six stages as described by Sharon MacDonald in 2001.

Block Center
There are many different kinds of building blocks and construction materials; the most familiar
to early childhood educators are unit (kindergarten) blocks, created by Caroline Pratt in
the early 1900s. These and other types of blocks of different sizes, shapes, and materials are
incorporated into the block-building area as children are physically able to handle them. The
benefit of having various types of blocks is that they provide children with different options
for the types of constructions they want to build.

Figure 7.3 displays and describes different kinds of blocks children use at different develop-
mental stages. Teachers should also provide accessories and planning tools. As children’s
experience with blocks increases, they frequently build structures around play themes such as
airports, stores, or mapped layouts of other kinds.

Props can include things like:

• Small cars or other vehicles

• Play people and animals

• Flexible tubing or track

Figure 7.3: Building Blocks

Children benefit from having an assortment of different types of building blocks that complement
their behavior and activities at different stages of block building.

Stacking blocks Blocks of uniform or
graduated size for easy
handling, primarily used
by younger children in
earliest stages of

Soft blocks Building blocks made of
soft materials, appropriate
for younger children.


Lightweight blocks usually
in cubes or rectangular
shape, made of
heavy-duty cardboard that
resemble bricks.

Filled blocks Blocks with see-through
centers that come
pre-filled or can be filled
by teacher as desired.
Useful for accents with
accomplished builders, or
to attract and engage
children in block play.

Unit blocks Made of maple or other
hardwood, but also
available in dense foam
and softer materials. The
standard block measures
5.5” x 2.75” x 1.375”. Other
blocks are multiples or
fractions of these

Hollow blocks Larger wooden blocks,
scaled similarly to unit
blocks, that enable
children to build large
structures, but made with
hollow center to facilitate
carrying, hoisting, etc.

Miniature unit

Same principle as unit
blocks, but in much
smaller versions to enable
use on tabletop or by
younger children not able
to yet manage traditional
sets. Available in colored

Table blocks –

Small blocks with
distinctive architectural


Children can recycle
cardboard boxes of all
kinds to use for
construction activities,
particularly appropriate for
outdoor construction play.


Heavy-duty weatherproof
plastic blocks that can be
used to build large or
extended structures

Block Type/Style Description/Features Sample


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Approaches to Learning Standards and Interest Areas for Exploratory Play Chapter 7

Stacking blocks Blocks of uniform or
graduated size for easy
handling, primarily used
by younger children in
earliest stages of

Soft blocks Building blocks made of
soft materials, appropriate
for younger children.


Lightweight blocks usually
in cubes or rectangular
shape, made of
heavy-duty cardboard that
resemble bricks.

Filled blocks Blocks with see-through
centers that come
pre-filled or can be filled
by teacher as desired.
Useful for accents with
accomplished builders, or
to attract and engage
children in block play.

Unit blocks Made of maple or other
hardwood, but also
available in dense foam
and softer materials. The
standard block measures
5.5” x 2.75” x 1.375”. Other
blocks are multiples or
fractions of these

Hollow blocks Larger wooden blocks,
scaled similarly to unit
blocks, that enable
children to build large
structures, but made with
hollow center to facilitate
carrying, hoisting, etc.

Miniature unit

Same principle as unit
blocks, but in much
smaller versions to enable
use on tabletop or by
younger children not able
to yet manage traditional
sets. Available in colored

Table blocks –

Small blocks with
distinctive architectural


Children can recycle
cardboard boxes of all
kinds to use for
construction activities,
particularly appropriate for
outdoor construction play.


Heavy-duty weatherproof
plastic blocks that can be
used to build large or
extended structures

Block Type/Style Description/Features Sample

Stacking blocks Blocks of uniform or
graduated size for easy
handling, primarily used
by younger children in
earliest stages of

Soft blocks Building blocks made of
soft materials, appropriate
for younger children.


Lightweight blocks usually
in cubes or rectangular
shape, made of
heavy-duty cardboard that
resemble bricks.

Filled blocks Blocks with see-through
centers that come
pre-filled or can be filled
by teacher as desired.
Useful for accents with
accomplished builders, or
to attract and engage
children in block play.

Unit blocks Made of maple or other
hardwood, but also
available in dense foam
and softer materials. The
standard block measures
5.5” x 2.75” x 1.375”. Other
blocks are multiples or
fractions of these

Hollow blocks Larger wooden blocks,
scaled similarly to unit
blocks, that enable
children to build large
structures, but made with
hollow center to facilitate
carrying, hoisting, etc.

Miniature unit

Same principle as unit
blocks, but in much
smaller versions to enable
use on tabletop or by
younger children not able
to yet manage traditional
sets. Available in colored

Table blocks –

Small blocks with
distinctive architectural


Children can recycle
cardboard boxes of all
kinds to use for
construction activities,
particularly appropriate for
outdoor construction play.


Heavy-duty weatherproof
plastic blocks that can be
used to build large or
extended structures

Block Type/Style Description/Features Sample

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Approaches to Learning Standards and Interest Areas for Exploratory Play Chapter 7

• Measuring tools

• Clipboards, paper, and writing tools for drawing or planning

• Miniature traffic signs

• Stickers or labels with familiar print, such as store or product logos

Teachers can provide inspiration and reference information for children by displaying pictures
or posters of buildings and creating a file or notebook with photographs of structures children
are familiar with, such as those in the immediate neighborhood or city, as well as those they
may not know that have interesting architectural features, such as arches, turrets, bridges,
skyscrapers, famous buildings, and airports. Documenting structures that children build by
keeping photos of them in a three-ring binder or file-card box is also highly effective, both
for tracking their progress over time and “preserving” work to make it less difficult for them
when blocks must be put away.

Physical considerations for setting up the block center include:

• As large a floor area as the room can accommodate, and protected from high traffic

• Flat, sound-absorbing floor surface (such as mat or carpet) to provide a stable building
surface and keep construction noise from interfering with other classroom activities

• Tabletop surface for working with small blocks

• Shelving that is adequate to sort and store blocks by size, type, with silhouettes or
photos taped to the shelves to show where each kind of block belongs

• Containers such as bins or baskets for accessories

• A “work-in-progress” sign to preserve structures that are more than one play period or
day in the making

• Chart with simple picture guidelines for safe and responsible play, such as handing off
rather than throwing or tossing blocks

• Digital or video camera at the ready for planned or spontaneous documentation of in-
progress and finished structures

Teachers facilitate block play by:

• Understanding the developmental process of block building

• Observing and describing what they see children doing

• Documenting structures and using them to assist children in planning and problem

• Engaging the children in conversations about their constructions

• Asking open-ended questions that help children think about their processes and prob-
lem solving, such as “Can you tell me why you put the ramp there?” rather than ques-
tions that produce a yes or no reply, such as “Is this a ramp for cars?”

Outdoor Constructions
The confines of a classroom space are not an issue when construction materials are moved or
provided outside. Most blocks are made of highly durable materials and can be transported
and used, even if they can’t be stored, on the playground. Some large, portable blocks are
specifically designed for outside use (see Figure 7.3).

Materials other than blocks—such as cardboard boxes, packing crates, milk crates, or other
everyday materials—can offer children opportunities to apply their understanding of building

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Approaches to Learning Standards and Interest Areas for Exploratory Play Chapter 7

concepts on a bigger scale. Outdoor constructions have the
added benefit of potentially being so large that children can
crawl or maneuver inside, around, and on top of them. (Revisit
Feature Box 4.1, A Box with Three Lives).

Nature Explore, a collaborative project of the Arbor Foundation
and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, provides
guidelines and voluntary certification of outdoor habitats for
children. Their recommendations include materials for outside
construction activities that include:

• “Tree cookies” (rounds cut horizontally from tree trunks)

• Tree blocks (blocks made from or to resemble parts of
tree limbs)

• Miniature but real bricks that children use as they do
Legos inside

• Bamboo, reeds, and tree branches that children use to
build enclosures

Dramatic Play

Research confirms strong connections between pretend or
dramatic play and the development of higher-order thinking
(Seifert, 2006) and early literacy (Kavanaugh, 2006; Ryan,
2018). Elena Bodrova and Deborah Leong, in particular, have
written extensively about the connections between socio-
dramatic play and executive functioning in conjunction with
the Tools of the Mind curriculum (Bodrova & Leong, 2007).
It begins with (1) a simple representation of one object to
symbolize another (such as a plastic banana for a phone); (2)
emerges through the reenactment of daily routines and events that are familiar to children
from observing adults, such as cooking, taking care of doll babies, or fixing things; and (3)
develops fully as children devise pretend themed scenarios, assign and take on characters/
roles, and negotiate conflicts to allow play to continue.

As dramatic play becomes more complex, all the elements of ATL standards are represented.
Let’s look at a sample scenario. Four-year-olds Alyssa, Noah, Niamh, and Miguel are talking
about the fiberglass cast on Miguel’s arm, the result of a fall at his home. Alyssa shares what
happened when her older brother broke his wrist, and Noah and Niamh ask many questions
about Miguel’s experience at the emergency room, remembering when each of them visited,
one for stitches in her chin and the other for an illness. Alyssa says, “I know, let’s make a
hospital in the dramatic play center and the baby dolls can be our patients.” Miguel counters
with, “No, let’s have real patients—I’ll be the doctor, Alyssa can be the x-ray lady, Niamh can
be the kid with the broken arm, and Noah can be the daddy.”

This idea appeals to the other three children and they begin to assess the equipment and
props they might need to set up an emergency room. They ask their teacher for markers and
permission to use an empty cardboard box to make an x-ray machine, set up three chairs in a
row covered with a scarf to use as the examining table, and find white lab coats in the dress-
up clothing for Alyssa and Miguel. They are stymied about what to use to make a cast and

© Tree Blocks

Both small and large blocks and
building materials can easily be
incorporated into outdoor con-
structions. Blocks that resemble
tree limbs, for example, are well
suited for outdoor use.

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Approaches to Learning Standards and Interest Areas for Exploratory Play Chapter 7

ask their teacher, who brings out a box of cloth remnants and asks, “Could you do anything
with these?” Noah says, “I know, we could cut it up into long strips and wind it around and
around.” Alyssa replies, “But it wouldn’t be hard like Miguel’s cast,” and Niahm says, “Well,
if we put tape around it, it would be kind of hard. Can we have some tape too?” A clipboard,
paper, and pencil complete their prop list and the children commence acting out the arrival
of a crying patient; the interactions between doctor, daddy, and patient; and the medical
procedures culminating in the successful application of an arm cast and discharge from treat-
ment. The next day, they switch roles, acting out the same scenario again and deciding to
invite other children to visit the ER, which extends and expands this play theme over several
more days.

This play addressed all ATL standards as the children (1) explored their curiosity about this
kind of event, (2) applied what they already knew and learned from each other’s experiences
through play, (3) displayed initiative and persistence to solve logistical challenges and differ-
ences of opinion about the direction of the play, (4) set and achieved a goal, and (5) experi-
enced satisfaction as directors of a play that eventually included other children.

The Dramatic Play Area
Like construction play, dramatic play at its best is directed by children, open-ended, and
closely tied to ideas children have that come from experiences they have had and imagining
those they might have or wish they could have. A key to facilitating effective pretend play
is to provide many real-world props for children to use, and the more similar they are to the
“grownup” versions of these items, the better.

Most early childhood settings include a housekeeping area, typically stocked with child-sized
furniture, dishes, pots/pans, a small table and chairs, play food, baby dolls, laundry items,
dress-up clothing, decorative items such as curtains or a vase with flowers, and other items
that might be found in the typical home (cell phone, camera, wall art, etc.). There have been
concerns over the years that this type of setup encourages gender stereotyping and a notion
that “boys play with blocks, girls play in housekeeping” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010;
Gestwicki, 2011; Trawick-Smith, 1994). This can be addressed by teachers as they select mate-
rials that are attractive to all children and of sufficient variety to support their interests with-
out establishing or encouraging predetermined ideas about what boys or girls might prefer
as play themes.

The dramatic play area is frequently located near blocks, since play in both areas can be
noisy and integrated by the transport of items from one area to the other. It should be large
enough to accommodate several children and flexible to facilitate moving furniture and sup-
plies around per play theme or focus.

Props, Accessories, and Themes
To properly facilitate and encourage rich and complex dramatic play, teachers provide materi-
als and accessories or props that children use, just like actors in a play or film, to lend cred-
ibility and realism to their language and actions. Artificial props and dress-up clothing for
dramatic play may be purchased, but as noted previously, real-life items may be easily acquired
and adapted if necessary, with a little help from families, neighbors, and local thrift shops
and businesses. Play props should be sorted, organized, and stored in labeled boxes (copy
paper cartons work well) or clear plastic storage tubs so they can be rotated in and out of the
classroom as needed.

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Approaches to Learning Standards and Interest Areas for Exploratory Play Chapter 7

A prop box focuses on a single or set of closely related themes. Because storage can be
a challenge in some settings, teachers keep a primary collection of prop boxes for themes
that are predictably popular with children, such as the grocery store or a restaurant, but are
always ready to create temporary collections of props by borrowing items from families or
friends when an interest or theme emerges unexpectedly. Teachers should also expect that
as play around a theme develops, additional props may be requested or larger items may
be needed that aren’t suitable for storage in a box (like a car seat for travel play or folding
beach chairs).

Teachers anticipate opportunities to involve children in making incidental or unique props
when possible. A single theme, such as a bakery, can take many possible directions—one
group of children might pretend to be the local cupcake store, wanting pictures of cupcakes
with which to create menus, name tags, and signs for the shop; they might also need a bas-
ket for deliveries. Another group might not care about cupcakes but would have great inter-
est in designing wedding cakes, which would call for a different set of items to personalize
their play.

Table 7.3 lists examples of commonly used themes and basic items to support them.

Table 7.3: Prop Box Themes and Materials

Theme Materials

Travel/Recreation Themes

Beach or pool Towels, blanket, folding lawn/beach chairs, sunglasses, hats, umbrella, flip-flops, radio,
water wings, inflatable raft, small cooler, beach ball, Frisbee, empty sunscreen bottle,
buckets/shovels and sand molds, snorkel, lifeguard hat or T-shirt, whistle, first aid kit,
bathing suits

camping, hiking

Tent, camp stools, sleeping bag, cooler, fishing pole, bobbers, wading boots, tackle box,
scoop or cast net, fishing license, binoculars, canteen or water bottle, compass, flashlight,
backpack, small grill, hooded sweatshirts and hiking pants/shorts, hiking boots, knee high
socks, utility belt, weather radio

Road trip Suitcases, maps, wallet, money, credit cards, postcards, cellphone, camera, lap games,
snacks, travel pillow, car seat, binoculars, tickets, pet carrier, sunglasses, travel magazines or
information leaflets, such as those for national/state parks or an amusement park

Airplane trip Tickets, suit jackets, name badges, security wand, cardboard box for x-ray machine,
suitcases, passport, wallet, ID cards, neck pillow, cellphone, magazines, water bottles, travel
posters, cart, empty snack and drink containers

Retail Themes

Grocery store or
vegetable stand

Empty/cleaned boxes, cans, egg cartons, and other food containers, apron, toy vegetables,
bins/baskets, cardstock for signs, shopping cart, cash register, counter space, purses/wallets,
coupons, newspaper advertising circulars, grocery bags

Frozen yogurt/
ice cream store

Small table and chairs, scoops, empty/cleaned ice cream and whipped cream containers,
bowls, spoons, confetti for toppings, cash register, play money, apron, paper cones,
clipboard/order pad and pencils, paper for signs and wipe-off or chalkboard for “specials”

Pizza shop Empty pizza boxes, play money and order pads, phone, aprons, cash register, box or play
oven, pizza paddle, cardboard circles and cutouts or play dough for shells, plastic pizza
cutter, toppings, paper for signs, wipe-off board


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Creative Arts Standards Chapter 7

Local restaurant Menus from local establishments, paper for signs and wipe-off board for daily specials, table
and tablecloth, table setting items, waiter/waitress tray, order pad, uniform or apron, chef
hat, area for cooking, play food

Salon/spa Combs, brushes, wall and hand mirror, rollers and hair pins, spray bottles, appointment
book, chair, magazines and pictures of hair models, plastic cape, nonworking dryer and
curling iron, empty shampoo and hair product bottles, towels, basin, empty nail polish


Books, magazines, old keyboard, cozy chairs or beanbags, library cards, wallet, credit cards,
play money, boxes for book cases, cash register, “Sh-h-h” sign, reading glasses, paper
coffee cups


Hospital Sheets, pillow, stethoscope, masks, scrubs, white coat, booties, first aid items, flashlight,
latex gloves, thermometer, x-ray films, crutches, empty medicine containers, Rx pad

Veterinarian White coat, stuffed animals or puppets, gloves, first aid items, stethoscope, pet carrier,
leash, play money, paper and pencils, exam table, magazines about animals, splint and
gauze, eye patch, paper ear cone


Repair shop Tool box, tools, safety glasses, broken/nonusable items such as CD player, camera, alarm
clock, watches, small appliances, name tags, order pad, workbench, plastic bins and miscel-
laneous hardware parts, PVC, measuring tape, level, work shirt

Office File folders, desk organizers, paper, markers, pens, ruler, old keyboard and/or printer, phone,
paper clips, stapler, briefcase or rolling suitcase, box to make copy machine, eyeglasses, desk
nameplate, photo frames, table/chairs, books, office catalogs, empty water cooler bottle
and paper cups

To effectively facilitate sociodramatic and pretend play, teachers must keep in mind that their
goal is to balance children’s opportunities to direct their own activity with appropriate inter-
vention or participation when needed to extend and develop play themes. Children may stop
playing simply because they get “stuck” and not necessarily because they have played out an
idea to their satisfaction. They may need additional props, more information about a topic, or
assistance with solving an interpersonal or logistical problem.

7.3 Creative Arts Standards
Creativity—considered from a broad frame of reference about how children approach, inter-
pret, and process information—is an integral element of ATL standards (Kagan, 2003). “The
creative arts are our universal language—the language of our imagination, of musicians and
dancers, of painters and sculptors, storytellers and poets” (Edwards, 2009, p. iv). Early child-
hood curricula are also informed by 1994 national standards for the arts used in grades K–12,
which can be found at the Kennedy Center Arts Edge website. New national standards for
arts education—including dance, media arts, music, theater, and visual arts—were released
by the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) in October, 2012 (Wilkerson, 2011).

Theme Materials

Retail Themes

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Visual Arts Chapter 7

The development of the new standards represents input from eight different national organi-
zations representing different areas of the arts.

The inclusion of media arts, in addition to the existing four subdisciplines in the 2012 arts
standards, is explained by the NCCAS thus:

Growing interest and use of technology in classroom instruction has gained even
more momentum as a wide spectrum of creative activity in media arts has taken the
education scene by storm. While general instructional technology continues at all lev-
els of public education, there are increasingly new and vigorous experiences in media
arts that include cinema, animation, sound imaging design, virtual design, interactive
design, as well as multimedia and intermedia. (NCCAS, April 6, 2012)

The framework for the new standards indicates that they continue to emphasize four pre-
dominant themes from the 1994 standards:

1. Active creative involvement and personal expression through the various dimensions of
the arts

2. Performing and sharing personal work with others

3. Responding to the works of others in modern and historical context

4. Making connections between the arts disciplines (NCCAS, 2012)

The intent of the standards is comprehensive, integrated involvement of children as creators,
performers, and consumers of the arts, and there are many ways in which early educators can
plan and implement curricula to do so. An arts-infused approach to curriculum in early child-
hood settings blends the goals of both early learning standards and national arts standards.
It fosters creative expression through exploratory play and intentional exposure to and experi-
ences with the arts supported by the national arts standards (Edwards, 2009; Narey, 2009).
The final two sections of this chapter focus on materials, strategies, activities, and interactive
media for the visual arts, and music, creative movement, and drama.

7.4 Visual Arts
The visual arts provide opportunities for children to use materials they know to engage in
experiences and also create products that encourage expression and imagination. In the 100
Languages of Children, from Reggio Emilia, arts media are considered a primary means for
expressing thoughts, feelings, and cognitive understandings (Edwards, Gandini, & Forman,
1998). In early childhood classrooms, the art center is usually a hub of activity, fostering
delight and satisfaction, invention, imagination, and problem solving.

Early childhood educators provide materials and experiences that encourage original rather
than programmed or expected outcomes. The processes of engagement with visual arts
media are worthwhile and satisfying in and of themselves (Edwards, 2009).

When young children produce works of art, they should be encouraged to use their own
creativity and imagination in ways that are meaningful to them. They should not be asked or
encouraged to reproduce patterns found in adult models, use precut materials (such as parts
of a face and body to construct a bunny), or be directed specifically through a series of steps
that result in identical products. This type of product is neither developmentally appropriate
nor creative (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009; Edwards, 2009; Gestwicki, 2011).

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Visual Arts Chapter 7

Teachers can and should, however:

• Encourage children to explore the properties and possibilities of different kinds of

• Demonstrate techniques for using tools and materials

• Provide inspiration with books, magazines, and print examples of realistic and
abstract art that appeal to children, and photos of animals, birds, people, boats, and

The Art Center

Artists work in different media, including drawing, painting, print making, sculpture, collage,
fabrics/fibers, and so on, choosing materials according to their intentions or ideas or what is
available. With proper supervision and safety precautions, even the youngest toddlers can use
a variety of materials.

Table 7.4 lists a broad range of supplies for different media areas and representative applica-
tions for the kinds of skills and processes they support through open-ended exploration. Note:
All art activities support to varying degrees the development of fine motor (drawing, cutting,
etc.) and gross motor (easel painting, rolling out dough, etc.) skills, which are discussed in
further detail in Chapter 8; the focus in this chapter is the creative enterprise.

Table 7.4: Art Center Materials

Media Materials Applications

Drawing Pencils, crayons, markers, colored pencils,
chalk/pastels, erasers, rulers, different kinds
and sizes of papers to draw on (drawing paper,
sandpaper, construction paper, mural paper).

(Crayons are available in “chubby” or “block”
versions for easy handling by toddlers.)

Exploring line quality, using tools in different
ways (such as the side of a chalk as well as its
point), and creating forms and shapes, with
different effects.

Print making Rollers, water-based ink, tempera, or finger
paint; Styrofoam trays, heavy string or yarn,
glue, sponges, wooden spoons; papers (see

Transferring an image from one surface to
another (such as pressing a piece of paper
onto an image made on another); using a tool
or template to make multiple repeated images
in different ways (such as using sponges or
stamps to make a picture).

Collage A variety of papers for cutting/tearing, such as
tissue, construction paper, magazines; scissors
(for children old enough to handle them); glue
sticks; tape; stickers; fabric scraps; yarn; any
small objects or materials that can be glued
onto a flat surface, such as buttons, leaves,
sequins, glitter, feathers, etc.; papers including
cardboard or posterboard; staplers, hole

Layering or using the kinds of materials listed
to create an image design, or objects such as
paper bag puppets.

Modeling Play dough, modeling clay, air-dry or ceramic
clay (requires firing); implements such as
rolling pins, scrapers, tongue depressors, small
mallets, or textured dough tools.

Rolling, cutting, and making impressions
in modeling materials to construct three-
dimensional forms or objects that might also
be decorated with paints or glazes.


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Visual Arts Chapter 7

Media Materials Applications

Painting Finger and tempera paint, watercolors, paint
cups, brushes, sponges, Q-tips, easel/clips
and paper of different kinds/sizes, including
easel paper, poster paper, construction paper,
finger-paint paper.

Exploring color and the qualities of different
kinds of paints with hands, fingers, or tools to
create abstract or realistic figures, lines, and

Sculpture Small boxes, wood scraps, wire, pipe cleaners,
straws, toothpicks, thread spools, etc.

Taping, gluing, or using other means of
attaching materials together to make free-
standing or relief creations.

Fabric/fibers Yarn, string, twine, fabric scraps, strips or
loops, felt, cotton or batting, tapestry needles
(for older children), simple looms, socks.

Fabrics can be used for collage and, as children
acquire the skill to do so, simple weaving or
sewing projects.

For cleanup, the art center should be located as close to a water source and sink as possible.
The center should have a table surface big enough to accommodate several children’s sup-
plies. The art area should have at least one easel, as children like to stand while working, and
the eye-level perspective afforded by an easel allows them to stand back and look at their
work as it emerges. Some provision is also needed to store wet products as they dry, such as
a drying rack made for that purpose to keep work horizontal or a clothesline (caution: may
drip, affecting the appearance of the original image).

When needed, children should be provided with smocks to protect their clothing. These can
be purchased or modified from adult-sized shirts to adjust the arm length and body girth.
Most “messy” materials, such as paints and markers, can and should be purchased in wash-
able versions, and paint cups and stubby brushes are available with caps that minimize spillage
and the slopping of paint from one container to another. Paints, papers, crayons, markers,
modeling clay, and colored pencils are also available in multicultural colors that represent a
variety of skin tones.

The art center should be organized and labeled with picture or symbol labels such as those
described for other interest areas. This allows for easy and independent access to and replace-
ment of materials. Teachers must show children how to use materials and tools responsibly.
For example, paintbrushes should be stored with the handles down, and caps should be
replaced on markers when children are finished using them. Many teachers use a block of
wood with holes drilled out to hold markers upright and racks for storing scissors with the
blade-side down. These make it easy for children to use the items and then put them away.

General Strategies

The general strategies listed in Table 7.5 are organized according to the four themes in the
national arts standards, but they are developmentally appropriate for young children of any
age. These practices encourage open-ended exploration and creative expression in the art
center and ways to promote exposure to the visual arts through environmental planning and
informal activities with children.

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Visual Arts Chapter 7

Table 7.5: Visual Art Standards Themes and Corresponding Strategies

Theme Strategies

Creative involve-
ment and expression

• Rotate materials in the art center so that children are exposed to a variety of media,
techniques, and processes.

• Involve children in conversation about materials—for example, talking about how
drawing with chalk produces results that are different from drawing with markers, or
what happens if the side of a crayon is used rather than the point.

• Include a florist as one of the classroom jobs; keep a selection of real or artificial
flowers and greenery and a variety of interesting items on hand.

• Create a file box with interesting pictures, photographs, and postcards that children
can use for reference and that include images contributed by children and their

• Display interesting items in the art area with a variety of shapes, textures, and colors.

• Take “drawing walks” with clipboards and encourage children to draw what they
see. (Always take clipboards/paper on field trips!)

• Collect interesting natural items such as leaves, flowers, and seashells for collages.

• Press flowers and leaves between sheets of waxed paper.

Performing and

• Ask children to describe what they are working on and transcribe their comments on
the back or create a label with their words for three-dimensional work.

• Ask about art children might see at home—on the wall or collected by their parents.

• Make blank books with different topics such as animals, flowers, and birds and
encourage children to contribute pages.

• Regularly display children’s artwork in the classroom and hallways with labels that
represent how the children describe their work.

• Be on the lookout for picture frames at garage sales and use them for displays, so
that children understand that their work is important.

• Periodically involve the children in creating a mural or group sculpture that will
promote group discussion and decision making.

Responding to the
work of others

• Look at artwork during group times and ask children to describe it, noting differ-
ences in the responses they provide.

• Display original art or reproductions representative of the cultures of the children in
the group and artists from the local region.

• Invite a local artist to visit the classroom.

• Visit an art museum, local gallery, or community festival where art will be on display.

• Look at pictures of art from earlier periods in history.

• Provide books and display examples of art from different cultures.

• Display a piece of artwork with a poster (or sticky note for each child) that includes
each child’s comments about it.

Making connec-
tions with other
areas of the arts and

• Periodically, use opportunities to create artwork for a particular purpose, such as a
school event, greeting cards, or “get well” cards.

• Go on a walk and point out different ways art is displayed in the environment, such
as murals, signs or advertising posters, artwork in an office, or a sculpture in a park.

• Include examples of art in other interest areas, such as botanical prints in the science
area, framed book jacket covers or posters in the book corner, an art print from the
cubist period in the math center, etc.

• Display examples of artworks that serve different purposes, such as a calendar,
framed decorative print, wallpaper, printed fabrics, or CD covers.

• Play music while children are engaged in the art center or encourage them to
respond to music with different kinds of media.

• Involve children in making props or backdrops for the dramatic play center or child-
created skits or plays.

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Visual Arts Chapter 7

Visual Arts-Based Themes and Studies

Visual arts-based activities, thematic units or emergent investigations might focus on an art-
ist, style, or medium and also provide a natural means for integrating different dimensions
of the curriculum. One of the richest sources of inspiration for teachers is children’s picture
books, since children are naturally drawn to the illustrations. Teachers can refer to winners
of the Caldecott Medal, an award established in 1938, in particular for examples of children’s
books with exceptional artwork.

For example, Eric Carle (and many other picture-book illustrators) works in a distinctive collage
style that is easily recognizable to children and inviting for exploration. A teacher we visited
with earlier in this book, Ms. Mary, engaged preschool children in reproducing the “Eric Carle
effect.” She set up a “finger-painting factory” in the art center, and for several days the chil-
dren filled 18- by 24-inch sheets of glossy finger-paint paper with every color of finger paint
they could possibly manufacture by mixing and combining colors on the paper and using
different kinds of tools—such as brushes, scrapers, and combs—to create textural effects.
She then cut the dried papers into smaller 6- by 8-inch sheets and the children used them
to create a massive “collage file,” sorting and organizing the papers according to the color
spectrum (a wonderful activity for visual discrimination as well). This supply of “Eric Carle
paper” was used in dozens of ways over time, from reproducing collage illustrations inspired
by the characters in Carle’s books to building a rain forest in the school’s hallway, using the
papers for tree trunks, leaves, exotic birds and flowers. The appendix to this book includes a
selected list of author/illustrators with distinctive styles that could be used to inspire activities
for exploring media.

The topics/subjects of picture books are also easy to connect with science, literacy, or math
activities. An extensive online resource for preservice and practicing teachers who want to use
picture books to design planned explorations around a theme is the Miami University search-
able database of picture books, which provides a short annotated summary of each.

Interactive Media

In recent years, many forms of technology that teachers can use to support visual arts activi-
ties have become increasingly available. Teachers can use these tools with discretion to intro-
duce and involve children in experiences with visual arts (NAEYC, 2012). Note that, particularly
with children, the use of any technology should enhance and expand rather than replace
experiences with authentic media and concrete materials.

Here are some examples of technologies that can be used to support arts activities:

• The Internet can provide vicarious and sometimes interactive access to art images that
teachers can use to share information about artists and examples of different kinds
of artwork with children. Images can be printed for display or used in collages and

• Hardware such as computers or handheld devices with touch screens, whiteboards,
and drawing tablets can also be used with young children to create and generate digi-
tal artwork.

• Digital photography—still and video cameras are available in kid-friendly models that
children can safely use with assistance to capture, print, and share images and video.
Some young children can also manage video-editing software.

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Music, Creative Movement, and Drama Chapter 7

• Software and applications made for children to use, such as KidPix, first introduced in
1989, which provides children with digital drawing and painting tools for free-form
creations and the embedding of clip-art, 3D backgrounds, and animation.

• Software and applications teachers can use to create digital stories with embedded
images of children’s artwork and audio narration, such as Microsoft PhotoStory, Apple
iMovie, or Voicethread.

7.5 Music, Creative Movement, and Drama
Music, creative movement or dance activities, and experiences with drama provide natural
support for both physical development and aesthetic awareness while simultaneously fos-
tering critical thinking and problem solving through mind-body connections. (Marigliano &
Russo, 2011) Listening to music, whether to classical works like Rimsky-Korsakoff’s The Flight
of the Bumblebee or folk tunes like She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain, produces a range
of emotional responses. Creative music and movement activities require the child to make
perceptual/motor connections in order to move, balance, and develop awareness of space,
time, and rhythm (Hendrick & Weissman, 2007).

Extending children’s love of dramatic play to creating or acting out stories provides them with
confidence and opportunities for personal expression and communication (Edwards, 2009).
Attending musical, dance, or theatrical performances gives children the chance to enjoy and
respond to the ways others interpret these artistic disciplines. Creative activities that promote
the expression of ideas and feelings are preferable for young children over teaching them
prescribed dances, steps, or memorizing/rehearsing lines to perform a scripted play (Copple &
Bredekamp, 2009; Hendrick & Weissman, 2007).

Materials for Music, Creative Movement, and Drama

Space should be provided in the classroom as well as outdoors for music, movement, and
drama activities. A music center in the classroom should provide storage and display space for
instruments, rotated regularly to give children the opportunity to focus on the distinct fea-
tures of different types. Taking musical instruments outdoors eliminates the element of noise,
which can be distracting or may interfere with conversation levels indoors.

A listening center, set up at a small table or in a cozy area with pillows on the floor, supports
exposure to music with CD/MP3 player and a multiple-jack outlet for one or more sets of
headphones. Musical selections can include those that children particularly like as well as new
music from different genres.

An open floor space, especially one with a large wall mirror, affords children the ability to see
themselves move. If the classroom is not large enough to accommodate this, outdoor space
can be used or designated for creative movement activities.

In addition to the dramatic play center, provision can be made for a puppet theater, purchased
or made with children from a cardboard box. Children also love creating spontaneous “sets”
outdoors, with sheets, sheer fabric, large boxes, or a platform constructed from wooden
planks, blocks, or bricks. Additional materials are described below for music, movement, and

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Music, Creative Movement, and Drama Chapter 7

Materials for music activities include rhythm instruments, basic pitched instruments, and other
items such as media players, audio recorders, and accompanying instruments like a piano or
autoharp (Kostelnik, Soderman, & Whiren, 2010). Rhythm instruments are those that can be
struck—like sticks, triangles, gongs and cymbals—or shaken—such as maracas, tambourines,
or rain sticks. Drums are readily available in a variety of shapes, sizes, forms, and cultural
origins (see Figure 7.4). Pitched instruments produce a note or notes when struck, such as a
xylophone or tonal bells, or blown, like a kazoo, harmonica, or recorder.

World MusicWorld Music

Figure 7.4: World Music

A music curriculum should include experiences with instruments and music that represent cultural
diversity and an appreciation for music from around the world. These examples include (from left
to right and top to bottom) Native American rain sticks, marimbas, an African talking drum, a
gathering drum, a Latin steel drum, a cabaca rasp, a thumb piano, a monkey drum, and a world
music CD.

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Music, Creative Movement, and Drama Chapter 7

Materials for creative movement may include hoops, scarves, fans, and streamers. A prop box
with dance costumes as well as ballet and tap shoes—easily procured from thrift stores—can
also inspire impromptu dancing and creative dramatics.

Props for dramatic activities will include masks, glasses, costumes, and other items already on
hand to support the dramatic play center as well as others specifically obtained or made to
enact a particular idea or story. Hats of all kinds are wonderful and beloved by children but
may not be permitted in some programs owing to the risk of transferring head lice, while they
are used in others with precautions and regular disinfecting. Similarly, teachers may need to
introduce items such as masks and costumes carefully with very young children, who might
have fears related to animals or characters.

Handheld and full-length mirrors can be very helpful for both movement and drama. Hand
and finger puppets of many different kinds can be kept in the dramatic play center or rotated
into the classroom for use with particular stories, poems, or songs. Children can also make
stick and sock puppets and set up the type of pantomime/shadow theater described in the
earlier chapter section about light play.

General Strategies: Routines and Transitions

Routines such as an opening/greeting circle and transitions that take place in changing from
one space or activity to another provide opportunities for music, movement, and dramatic
activities. For example, the opening routine could include short games such as inviting chil-
dren to take turns naming a movement that starts with the first letter of a child’s name, like
“jump with John” or “step high with Sally.” Some teachers do a series of “good-morning
yoga” poses that emphasize stretching, bending, and breathing (Orlowski & Hart, 2010).
Children can pantomime the weather report for the day or do favorite finger plays/poems
that include body movements and creative expression, such as “Going on a Bear Hunt.” There
are many online websites that offer downloadable children’s exercise music for purchase and
some for free, including Songs for Teaching, Free Songs for Kids, and The Teacher’s Guide.

Daily transitions include cleanup time, getting ready to go outside, preparing for meals, and
bathroom or water breaks. Margie LaBella, an experienced music therapist, offers these sim-
ple songs on the previously mentioned Songs for Teaching website, that announce cleanup
time and the end of circle time:

Cleanup Time
(Tune: Miss Lucy had a baby, she named him tiny Tim . . . )

It’s cleanup time everybody. 
It’s cleanup time right now.

If I help you and you help me,
Then we’ll get ready for __________.

Circle Time Is Almost Done!
(Tune: Buffalo girls, won’t you come out tonight . . . )

Circle time is almost done, 
Almost done, almost done.
Circle time is almost done, 

Then we’re going to __________.

When children have to stand in line, teachers can play simple games with them such as:

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Music, Creative Movement, and Drama Chapter 7

• Playing “snake,” passing a ball or beanbag down the line, all using a similar motion like
over the head, or under a knee, with the last child in line moving to the front to start

• Moving within their personal space as the teacher or another child calls out “hop like a
frog,” or “swing your arms like an elephant trunk.”

• Standing back to back and being instructed to move in sync up, down, and bending to
the side.

• “Scramble,” reordering the line by height, clothing color, birthday.

• “Telephone,” but instead of whispering to start the chain, doing a movement that
each child copies down the line.

• Balancing on toes up and down.

• Tapping knees, “chopping wood,” or doing karate chops to the side, keeping time to a
favorite song.

• Doing “the wave.”

• Taking a pose and then switch to another, such as standing like a soldier and then a
rag doll.

• Playing “Simon says” with movements.

• Doing the “balloon release,” or breathing in and out as if blowing up a balloon.

• Doing a “spider massage” on the back of the next child (Feldman, 2012).

Music, Creative Movement, and Dramatic Activities

Planned music and creative movement activities should emphasize enjoyment and participa-
tion without competition; it should be used to enrich children’s exposure to diverse musical
and performance traditions. For instance, at the program directed by the author, parents
most recently demonstrated and engaged children in traditional scarf dancing (from China
and Russia), step dancing with ribbons (from Ireland), and belly dancing with bells (from Iran);
these became favorite activities for months afterward.

Participating and Performing
In choosing music for singing and creative movement, you should consider the children’s
interests, vocal range, and language ability, including songs children may want to share from
home. Nursery rhymes, simple folk songs, patriotic songs, and ballads are typically easy to
learn if broken down into manageable sections or phrasing. You should make sure you have
practiced and know a song before teaching it, so that you can devote your entire attention to
the children without having to look at a book or sheet music.

If you have the music on a CD or MP3 player, you may want to play it several times so that
the children can clearly understand the words and know what they mean. It is best to focus
on one song at a time until children are very familiar and comfortable singing it rather than
trying to teach several songs at once (Edwards, 2012).

Music selections for creative movement can include songs with words that children are already
familiar with or instrumental music, encouraging focus on the melody, tonal qualities, and
rhythms. Children don’t need much direction and should never be forced to participate, but
they can certainly be encouraged with prompts or suggestions.

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Music, Creative Movement, and Drama Chapter 7

Dramatic performances often occur spontane-
ously, arising from activities in the dramatic play
center that children may want to share with oth-
ers in the group, informally with role playing
during story time, or as a means to demonstrate
such things as how to invite a friend to play or
solve a problem. Teachers can also facilitate more
formal performances if they are careful to main-
tain a developmentally appropriate approach. For
instance, the 4- and 5-year-old children in Ms.
Mary and Ms. Jane’s class, after reading several
versions of the traditional folk tale “Stone Soup,”
decided that they wanted to host a soup luncheon
and dramatic performance of the story for their
parents. Rather than assign parts and scripted
lines, the teachers acted as narrators, with the
children acting out the steps of the story in small
groups. They knew the story so well that when
they were performing for their parents, they
spontaneously, in choral fashion, echoed some of
the narration as their teacher read the story.

Responding to music can be a part of the class-
room in many ways. Some teachers like to play
classical music, world music, or soothing lul-
labies during rest time to help children settle.
Background music can certainly be appropriate
during different times of the day as well. You
might notice children in the art center quietly

humming along to music or painting in time to a
particular rhythm, or children in the dramatic play center using scarves to make costumes for
a “fairy dance.” Free movement activities encourage discovery and release (Eliason & Jenkins,
2008); children enjoy acting out imaginary sequences such as a chick hatching from an egg,
a thunderstorm, or popcorn popping.

Certainly inviting performers (especially from your parent/family community) to your class-
room or program and taking children out to cultural events should be a priority to the extent
that is logistically and economically possible. Fortunately many communities recognize the
value of these experiences and are increasingly providing free or low-cost opportunities to
make them happen. For example, in the author’s community, programs for young children are
available at little or no cost (less than $5); they include cultural events such as:

• Children’s theater productions

• Storytellers

• Cultural/ethnic festivals

• Concerts

• Ballet and culturally diverse dance troupes

• Puppet theater

© Banana Stock / Thinkstock

Singing, playing instruments, and creative move-
ment engage children from the very early stages
of development.

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Music, Creative Movement, and Drama Chapter 7

You can talk with children about music and creative movement or dramatic performances in
much the same way you would discuss visual arts. They will develop musical preferences and
respond to activities with a range of ideas and opinions. Questions and discussions encour-
age children to use language to analyze and interpret (Kostelnik, Soderman, & Whiren, 2010).
Increasingly abstract levels of questioning include the following:

• Memory—recalling details or features of a selection or performance

• Closed questions (e.g., Was the music fast or slow? Which character in Peter and the
Wolf was represented by the oboe?)

• Open-ended questions (e.g., What do you think the dancers were thinking about in
the very fast part of the music?)

• Evaluative (Why did you say you felt frightened by the loud part of the music?)

Understanding and Integrating Concepts
Activities and games with music and movement help children learn vocabulary and concepts
such as rhythm/beat, tempo, personal space, direction, melody, and harmony. The vocabulary
of drama includes terms such as script, role, director, and scene that children learn and apply
not just to dramatic play but also to stories and literacy activities.

Magliano and Russo (2011) suggest a word bank, writing words that name body parts, dif-
ferent movements (twist, bend, reach, etc.), dance elements (space, pathway, level), and
using terminology to describe what children are doing (e.g., “I see you slithering backward
and forward like a snake”). Similarly, a display of diagrams can prompt children and help
them to remember motions and concepts. Games like “paper plate twist”—giving each child
two paper plates on which to put their feet and moving to Chubby Checker’s “Peppermint
Twist”—reinforce rhythm, balance, spatial orientation, and bilateral movement. Likewise,
the teacher can use a song like “Dueling Banjos” to perform a movement for each musical
phrase, which the children can then echo/copy for the next phrase (Flynn, 2012). Keeping
time comes more naturally to some children than others, and teachers can try using different
parts of the body to tap, nod, or clap the children’s names, animal names, or simple rhymes
to help them develop awareness of rhythm and musical patterns. Identification games or
making up new words to a familiar tune can also focus on a particular element such as
melody or rhythm (“name that tune”; I’m thinking of a song . . . feel the beat and identify;
sing your name).

Interactive Media

As with visual arts, the Internet provides almost unlimited access to information, interactive
experiences with the performing arts, and prerecorded or live performances if they are not
readily available in the community. Audio devices such as MP3 players enable teachers to
develop a rich and varied library of music, video, and podcasts. Particularly useful are sites
such as:

• YouTube (for a variety of musical videos and clips)

• Virtual Piano (interactive piano and instructional resources)

• Button Bass (interactive and instructional guitar)

• Button Bass (xylophone)

• Arts Alive (interactive music, dance, and theater)

• iTunes (music, TV performances, movies, podcasts)

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Posttest Chapter 7

Chapter Summary
• Early learning standards emphasize development in ATL, physical well-being, social-

emotional, language, and cognitive development.

• Academic standards for K–2 children are included in K–12 standards for each sub-
ject area of the curriculum and focus on knowledge and skills related to the content
of each.

• ATL standards focus on the development of executive functioning and promote such
dispositions as curiosity, engagement, persistence, and problem solving through play.

• In the early childhood environment, interest areas such as sensory play, construction,
and dramatic play promote ATL through open-ended exploration with a variety of

• The 2012 National standards for the arts represent a collaborative effort to actively
engage and expose students to cultural experiences and activities across the disciplines
of art, music, dance, and drama, and media arts.

• An arts-infused curriculum approach provides early educators with opportunities to
support both open-ended exploration and intentional experiences with all dimensions
of the creative/performing arts.

• Activities with the visual arts that emphasize experiences with many media, creative
expression, and exposure to art and artists also provide an integrated introduction to
the visual arts standards for K–2.

• Using high-quality children’s picture books can provide teachers with many ideas for
arts experiences and connecting to other areas of the curriculum.

• Materials and experiences with music, movement/dance, and drama enable and foster
mind/body/aesthetic connections in many ways.

• Music, movement/dance, and drama experiences can be integrated seamlessly into
daily activities and routines as well as being provided through intentional activities and
exposure to the performing arts.

• An increasing array of technological resources provide access to informational and
interactive arts experiences.


1. Early learning standards focus on development of:

a. Concepts and skills in the academic subject areas.

b. Obedience and rote learning.

c. Preparation for kindergarten readiness tests.

d. Development across all major domains.

2. Academic standards identify and describe:

a. Knowledge and skills needed for mastery of content in the subject areas.

b. How teachers should teach each subject.

c. Curriculum that should be used to meet the standards.

d. How learning should be assessed and evaluated.

3. ATL Standards include five elements including all of the following except:

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Posttest Chapter 7

a. Curiosity, eagerness, and satisfaction as a learner.

b. Learning primarily through direct instruction.

c. Initiative, engagement, and persistence.

d. Setting and achieving goals.

4. Sensory, construction, and dramatic play support ATL standards because:

a. The standards specifically require these areas in every early childhood setting.

b. Infants and toddlers can’t learn how to learn unless these areas are included.

c. These areas promote engagement, persistence, curiosity, and problem solving.

d. Children learn all the skills needed for academic success through these activities.

5. The framework for 2012 National Standards for the Arts:

a. Prescribes specific programs schools should put in place to develop aesthetic

b. Indicates that media arts will be included as a new component of the standards.

c. Promotes support for the eight organizations that contributed to their

d. Indicates that the 2012 standards significantly depart from the priorities of the
1994 standards.

6. Early childhood educators use an arts-infused approach to curriculum when they:

a. Plan and schedule art, music, movement, and drama lessons daily.

b. Provide both open-ended and planned activities for creative expression and expo-
sure to the various arts.

c. Encourage parents to sign their children up for art, dance, and music lessons.

d. Schedule monthly field trips to arts-based destinations and activities.

7. Guidelines for setting up an art center include:

a. Distributing materials as children need them, so that they are not wasted or used

b. Limiting access to messy materials, since young children aren’t ready to handle

c. Labeling shelves and storage containers with picture/symbols so children can take
out and put away materials themselves.

d.eProviding materials for one medium at a time, so that children develop expertise
with each one before learning about another.

8. Planned activities with the visual arts are developmentally appropriate if:

a. Children are given specific instructions about how to complete a project so that the
goals of an activity that has been planned to address a standard are met.

b. Children receive no instruction about how to use materials so that their creativity is
not compromised.

c. Instruction about how to use materials, media, and tools is balanced with encour-
agement for children to explore their use in creative and imaginative ways.

d. Activities are balanced to make sure that they integrate all areas of the curriculum.

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Answers and Rejoinders to Chapter Pretest Chapter 7

9. Music, creative movement, and drama activities and experiences:

a. Shouldn’t be integrated into daily routines and transitions because those kinds of
activities would not represent authentic arts experiences.

b. Should be integrated into daily routines and transitions as the primary means for an
integrated approach.

c. Shouldn’t be integrated into daily routines and transitions because children don’t
have the opportunity for creative expression.

d. Can be integrated into daily routines and transitions as one means of engaging chil-
dren in enjoyable activities with songs, movements, and drama.

10. Technologies that provide access to interactive or informational resources related to
the arts:

a. Can be used effectively to provide children with vicarious arts experiences as long
as developmental considerations are observed.

b. Are not yet well enough developed to be accessible to young children.

c. Should not be used until all early childhood programs have the resources to imple-
ment technology in the classrooms.

d. Can be used effectively only if children are allowed to use them independently.

Answers: 1 (d); 2 (a); 3 (b); 4 (c); 5 (b); 6 (b); 7 (c); 8 (c); 9 (d); 10 (a)

Discussion Questions

1. How might you explain to parents the value of a play-based approach to the early learn-
ing standards?

2. How do your own experiences with the arts affect preferences you might have for par-
ticular kinds of activities?

3. What challenges do you face as you consider the increasing role of technology in early

Answers and Rejoinders to Chapter Pretest

1. False. Early learning standards are written from a developmental perspective; academic
standards focus on skills and knowledge that emphasize learning the content of each
subject area.

2. True. A primary focus of the ATL standards is the development of higher-order thinking.

3. True. An arts-infused approach to curriculum for young children emphasizes both open-
ended play and experiences with the four themes of the national arts standards.

4. False. Visual arts activities and experiences should promote creativity and imagination
rather than preprogrammed products.

5. False. Performing arts activities and experiences should also emphasize creative

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References Chapter 7

Key Terms

Approaches to Learning (ATL) standards Component of state early learning standards
that focuses on executive functioning and the ways children learn and develop through play,
exploration, and inquiry

Arts-infused An approach to curriculum that integrates experiences with the arts

Light table Piece of equipment specifically designed with a translucent surface lighted
from below

Media various materials and processes artists use for different effects and purposes

Picture book Distinct genre of books incorporating extensive use of illustrations as an
important storytelling feature

Problem solving Weighing multiple possible solutions to devise a strategy for resolving an
issue or challenge

Prop box Set of props related to a single theme

Props Items used as accessories for play

Reasoning Applying understanding of cause-and-effect relationships; the application of
logic to decision making

Self-talk Internal dialogue, or “talking to oneself”

Unit (kindergarten) blocks Wooden blocks of specific proportions children use for build-
ing structures


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van Hoorn, J. L., Nourot, P. M., Scales, B. R., & Alward, K. R. (2011). Play at the center of the
curriculum (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Wilkerson, C. (June 9, 2011). New coalition will lead the revision of the National
Standards for Arts Education. Press Release from the National Coalition for CORE ARTS
Standards. Retrieved from:

Wood, E., & Attfield, J. (2005). Play, learning and the early childhood curriculum (2nd ed.).
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

© 2019 Bridgepoint Education, Inc. All rights reserved. Not for resale or redistribution.

Week tWO:

Your Name

ECE203: Introduction to Curriculum & Instruction for the Early Childhood Classroom



Hint 1: This template is intended to guide you; however, you’re encouraged to add or delete what you need for your assignment.

Hint 2: Delete these highlighted “hints” before final submission.

Hint 3: Delete the prompt text included on each slide and replace it with your own content.

Hint: Ctrl + Click INTRODUCTIONS & CONCLUSIONS for help.


In this section, write a brief introduction that will allow your reader to follow the organization of your assignment and the focus of your observation.


On this slide, add your Developmental Age here, including why you want to work with this age level.

In the slide notes, elaborate on your bullet points in at least one paragraph.

{Slide Notes} This is where you will elaborate on your bullet points


Development MILESTONES

On this slide, list the top five developmental milestones that are important to consider at this age level (e.g., for infants, developing secure attachments with adults).

In the slide notes, for each developmental milestone, provide a one paragraph rationale for it being in the top five and include support from at least one scholarly source.

{Slide Notes} This is where you will elaborate on your bullet points



On this slide, describe the top five considerations that must be made while setting up the learning environment for this age group (e.g., posters at eye level etc.).

In the slide notes, give a detailed explanation of your rationale in at least one paragraph, using at least one scholarly source for support.

{Slide Notes} This is where you will elaborate on your bullet points


Classroom set-up Requirements

On two to three slides, explain each of the seven areas of your future classroom.

In the slide notes, in one paragraph for each point, elaborate and provide support from at least one scholarly source.

Add additional slides as necessary.

Hint: Add additional slides if needed. To add slides:

Select New Slide from Home tab

Select Duplicate Selected Slides from the drop down menu.

{Slide Notes} This is where you will elaborate on your bullet points


Hint: Ctrl + Click INTRODUCTIONS & CONCLUSIONS for help.


Briefly summarize the ideas that you discussed in the above paragraphs and briefly explain of the significance of these ideas.



*In the final version of your assignment, be sure that you have removed all of the hints (orange boxes) within the template.


Please use APA format to cite and reference at least two scholarly sources, in addition to the course textbook. Remember, you MUST include in-text citations throughout your paper to show your reader what information you used from these outside sources.

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