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Planning a curriculum should be based around the child's development needs in the classroom. According to National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC, 2007), "early childhood educators should implement curriculums that are engaging, challenging, planned thoughtfully, comprehensive and have a positive impact to the children." A curriculum based on culture helps children to be able to understand their world and create a concord between their homes and schools. "Foundation of a curriculum should be footed on the following principles: All children are given an opportunity to learn, equal opportunities for different learners, reliable learning in and out of school, enactment of self-governing practices by children from a concerned community" (Crawford, 2002). Creation of experiences can help children develop their skills while solving problems, reasoning, and experiment the skills acquire in their classrooms.
Early learning-kindergarten curriculum is a learning program for four and five-years-old children that is integrative, child-centered and developmentally appropriate. The program aims at providing a strong learning foundation in the early years and engages the children in a safe play-based environment to encourage social, physical, and emotional development to all children. The program is based on understanding that children grow-up in a set of related systems that are the family, school, community and the world. According to (Kearsley&Greg, 2000) the goals of an early childhood-kindergarten program are:
To provide a learning environment that is play-based.
To assist children in having an easy transition to grade 1
To help children in their projection for achievements in school and in their lives
To provide young children with integrated learning days by setting up stronger foundation in the early years.
Planning a curriculum should aim at promoting learning and physical, language, social, emotional development. In order to provide instructions that are appropriate for each child early- learning kindergarten panel uses planned observations and different assessment strategies to identify the needs, strengths, and interests of each child. Activities set by the educators should balance with activities initiated by children. According to, (Wanda, 2000) Children should also be involved in the making of a curriculum. They need opportunities to choose activities that will enable them to exhibit their knowledge. Learning experiences should allow children to handle, discover, and experiment what they have learnt in the classroom. To be able to make effective curricula, teachers should emphasize on additional observation and performance assessment throughout the year in order to determine the children progress.
(NAEYC, 2007) states that "Goals are important when constituting a program because they provide a reason for developing that program and establish the purpose of teaching." They give answers to questions like, the purpose of the program, the expectations of children achievements by parents, the approaches, and emphasis. It is essential for each center to make a list of long-term goals and ensure that the entire school community i.e. parents; teachers and administrators read and understand them.
A planned curriculum support early learning. Children develop learning and knowledge skills differently. Each child is exceptional and teachers require adjusting their teaching methods and equipment consequently. According to (Gredler &Margaret, 2007), "an effective program for young children is aware of how they learn and lay down specific goals for learning and development." For children to explore and discover, opportunities must be created to put in to practice their obtained knowledge, generate, and clarify their understanding and familiarize themselves to certain approaches to problems.
Playing is the core of innovation and creativity so it is very essential in learning. According to (Wanda, 2000), "there is a very strong connection between playing and learning especially when activities like problem solving, acquisition of language, literacy, social, emotional, and physical skills are involved." Children explore their environment through plays based on learning i.e. when children manipulate objects, imitate, or try out with different materials they engage themselves in learning through plays. (Kearsley& Greg, 2000) states that "when children engage themselves to playing their learning and activity is incorporated across developmental areasâ€¦ children learn about trust, social skills, and empathy through playing"
Using real-life contexts can help in development and learning because young children are curious to know about their surroundings and this will help them grasp more ideas when an education program that enables them to connect to their real-life is applied. The program should highlight learning experiences obtained when the children are in class, at home and when they are involved in real-life situations. Real-life contexts help children to distinguish what is real or theoretical.
Language Development and Literacy
Oral language development is important because the language is the foundation for opinions, literacy, and link to any language. Learning experiences should be applied to help young children understand, gain, and build on oral language. Introduction of language improvement starts at birth and continue through relationships with adults and other children at home (Vygotsky, 1999). Early learning-kindergarten programs ought to be language-oriented and use resources based on past knowledge that is beneficial to the children and that offer chances for thinking, exploring and solving problems.
Literacy programs help teachers to discuss with parents on the importance of having adults who support, listen, and respond to young children. When a teacher or an adult read stories to children, they have opportunities to learn new words and become familiar with the language. A child's first language is essential and parents are encouraged to use it more often, because it is the basis for language and literacy development. All children have unique ways of learning and classroom experiences that emphasize literacy are beneficial to them.
Teaching young children how to read and write helps them to succeed at school and in their later lives. Teachers should be familiar with the stages of reading and writing and should apply the knowledge when planning literacy programs and when assessing the children literacy skills (Kearsley& Greg, 2000). During their earliest learning stages, children understand what reading entails and become aware that what can be learnt can also be written down. When children are familiar with writing, they start including pictures, symbols, and later they learn about difficult words.
When planning mathematical experiences, teacher should consider that for learning to be successful experiences should be based on understanding the child's development. Teachers can begin learning experience by encouraging the children to use their knowledge to solve problems. By observing, the teacher becomes aware of what the children know and can be able to plan for further learning experiences to help them. The children need to be encouraged to use their mathematical knowledge in significant ways. Some use pictures, numbers, or words while others can represent their way of thinking through concrete materials. Kindergarten teachers should provide question to the children to promote problem solving and to challenge children's mathematical thinking and reasoning. Children should be encouraged to pose mathematical questions, explore, and investigate.
Early-learning kindergarten program starts to provide an understanding of scientific concepts through exploring freely. The children through their curiosity learn about physical properties of materials such as sand and water, learn about living things, and learn ways of caring for them. When the children engage themselves in project learning, they involve themselves in studying a particular topic. For children to develop skills in their learning environment, they need time and repeated opportunities. Children can demonstrate their skills in various ways: through representation e.g. drawing diagrams and taking photos, through recording e.g. noting how to handle an Insect to help while handling them later and lastly through discussing ideas with their fellow classmates.
In early-learning kindergarten program, fine arts, music, and dramas help a lot in the development of child's critical thinking and their communication skills. Children are able to express themselves through arts by gaining the ability to think creatively, have memory stimulation, and be able to communicate symbolically. Teachers should give opportunities to children to express themselves through arts in order to support different learning styles, abilities, and interests of each child.
(NAEYC, 2003) alleged, "Early childhood assessment needs to be appropriate, steadfast, and applicable." The children in the kindergarten are in their first years at school and are in an adjustment period so they need ample time to be able to show what they have learnt through opportunities that are appropriate to them without any guidance. Children are likely to demonstrate what they have learnt in various ways according to the situation, type of question asked and time of the day. The purpose of assessing young children is to be accountable, evaluate programs, recognize children with special needs, and improve learning. Early childhood educators should assess the children using various strategies and tools. According to NAEYC (2007), there are indicators to show that an assessment is effective. The indicators include:
The tools and equipments used for assessment matches the professional quality criteria.
Assessing children according to their age and personalities is important.
Assessment confirmation is important to understand and improve learning.
Ethical values provide a direction for assessment practices.
Tools used for assessment are applied in their respective areas.
Assessment facilitates early learning-kindergarten teachers to establish how effective their designed activities and strategies are and if change is needed to suit the children learning prospects.
Assessment and evaluation methods put in place need identification and must focus on the children learning expectations. For teachers to be able to choose an appropriate approach, they should first understand the purpose of assessment. After evaluation of results, the teachers can find an approach to determine the goals for each child. (Vygotsky, 1999)
Informal Assessment is an assessment with intentions of supporting ongoing learning and verifying teaching methods. For example in assessment based on observation, Collecting of data for learning can be done throughout the entire days activities. Documentation of observation is important because it assist in gaining the assessment information of a child as they involve themselves in various activities. Teachers can find a great opportunity of learning about their children by observing them and noting their behaviors and statements. Interviewing the children can also assist the teacher to learn what the child knows or can do. Daily observation should entail both the planned observation and observation done on the spot.
Formal assessment aids teachers to make responsible and informed decisions about the children and their needs. The party involved in the assortment, management, evaluation of a particular assessment must have the required training involving assessment of children. (Gredler &Margaret, 1997)
When planning a curriculum, it should focus on a children developments needs. Educators should plan a curriculum that will involve children in activities that will assist them in learning, engage them in other activities, and challenge them. For a curriculum to be effective it should have certain principle, different children should have equal opportunities to learn, all children are entitled for an opportunity to learn and learning in and out of school should be reliable (Crawford, 2002).
In summary, it is essential for every centre to have a curriculum that will help in shaping children learning behaviors and activities. Early-learning kindergarten program enable teachers to lay a strong foundation to the children in their early years. When planning a curriculum, goals need highlighting because they will help to find out the reasons for establishing the program and the purposes of teaching. There are different approaches used to teach children for reasons that every child is unique and have different ways of learning. Playing is essential in child development because children grasp many ideas while engaging themselves in play-based learning environment. Teaching through real life context can help children to relate what they learn in class and their real-life experiences. Assessment is the best way to help teachers to improve learning, identify children with special needs, and evaluate programs. Assessment can be formal or informal.