Q&A from Sue Bredekamp’s Webinar: Effective Practices in Early Childhood

View the recording from March 15th 2012

Can you please explain the difference between supplementary and comprehensive curriculum?

“Comprehensive curriculum” refers to a curriculum plan or model that is designed to address all areas of children’s development (social, emotional, physical, cognitive, etc.) and subject areas such as literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, and the arts. To “cover” all this, many comprehensive curriculum models use an integrated curriculum approach. “Supplementary” curricula are usually designed to focus one or a limited number of subject areas or developmental domains. For example, in recent years a number of research-based mathematics curricula have become available for preschool. Others have been developed that focus on social-emotional skills. These curricula are usually designed to be integrated into a comprehensive curriculum plan. But they are useful because they bring more intentionality and focus in areas where they may be needed.

Any suggestions for children who do not like “socio-dramatic” play? I have children that only like to do activities such as puzzles, writing, books, etc and we have tried everything to try to get them to interact more with the other children.

Children certainly have their own interests and early childhood educators value these and try to build on and extend those interests. Because socio-dramatic play is especially valuable for children’s development, it is worth trying to cultivate children’s interest in it. One strategy is to examine the kinds of themes and props that are available for pretend play. Are they related to the child’s interests? For example, boys won’t want to play house but they may want to play airport or space station. Another is for the teacher to take a role in the play—a subordinate role such as the passenger on the airplane—to model fun pretend play. If a child likes books, there is the opportunity to act out the story afterward, maybe use a flannel board or white board (whatever technology is available to you). If a child likes writing, she or he could tell a story and then pretend it. One idea is to look at various apps or computer software that stimulate imagination—children actually do interact a lot with each using the right technology. You might try using a curriculum model such as Tools of the Mind or HighScope where children plan their play before they have choice time. It gets them thinking about more options.

Finland, a nation of about 5.5 million that does not start formal education until age 7, scored at the top of a well-respected international test in 2001 in math, science and reading. Excerpt from NYTimes 12/12/11. What are your thoughts about this?

The success of Finland’s education system is well-known and often talked about as a model that the U.S. should emulate because of their scores on international tests. Early childhood educators often cite Finland to advocate against push-down curriculum. The assumption is that if we delayed formal education until age 7, our children would do as well as the Finn’s. The situation is not simple, however, nor is the comparison. In Finland, teachers are among the most highly-educated, highly paid, and well-respected of professionals in the country. Colleges that prepare teachers are very selective. Obviously this is not the case in America. In addition, there are differences between our two countries in children’s prior xperiences before school starts–Children in Finland have universal access to high quality child care programs while our child care “system” does not provide good quality for all. And finally, their population is more homogeneous than ours.

While it’s true that we should not be pushing down next grade expectations into earlier grades or with younger children, it does not automatically mean that withholding “formal” learning experiences till age 7 is the solution. In the U.S., if children are not reading by the end of first grade, they usually aren’t reading successfully at the end of4th grade and are set on a path toward continued failure and drop-out. My goal would be to do a better job of providing high quality, developmentally appropriate care and education for young children at every level.

I was recently in a program that previously provided at least an hour of ‘choice time’ that now has ’20 minute blocks’ of math, writing etc. with multiple transitions required. I am concerned about the ’20 minute blocks of time’ because I can’t get in-depth with a 20-minute time period! What are your thoughts on the extended periods of ‘play’?

One of the things we know for certain from research on children’s challenging behavior is that multiple transitions contribute to it. A good strategy for minimizing challenging behaviors is to minimize transitions. Most of the people who do research on play recommend 45 minutes to an hour in order for children to deeply engage with the experience and also have time to make other meaningful choices. The 20 minute blocks of time seem to me to be useful for small group work time, which shouldn’t take the place of a more extended period of child-initiated choice time.

Do you have any information on teacher preparation programs and effective practices at a national level/criteria?

I would recommend that you contact the accreditation department at the National Association for the Education of Young Children in Washington DC. They have an accreditation system for associate-degree early childhood programs, and they also approve B.A. degree programs as part of the accreditation that colleges of education receive.

About Ginny Norton

  • Joe Dirvin

    Ms. Daniel,

    Might we have your thoughts on the implementation and ratings (1 to 7) involved in ECERS-R as used in a large public school setting with a varied distribution of resources for clasrooms and teachers?