What You Do and Don’t Want to See in an Preschool Classroom
What you want to see
Teachers provide a curriculum and meaningful classroom activities that challenge children to explore their interests, acquire knowledge, and build new skills. At the same time, children can practice skills, achieve goals, and experience success so that they gain self-confidence, feel proud of their accomplishments, and learn to love learning.
Teachers arrange the classroom to give children easy access to toys and other materials. Children have the space to interact with their peers and adults—one-on-one and in small and large groups.
Teachers maintain a safe, healthy environment and carefully supervise the children at all times.
Teachers take adequate safety precautions so that children can take age-appropriate risks. For instance, 3- and 4-year-olds can help bake cookies and, with a grownup’s assistance, use pot holders to take the baking sheets out of the oven.
Teachers plan a balanced schedule in which children don’t feel rushed or fatigued.
Teachers nurture children’s developing language and communication skills in English and in the children's home languages. They talk to the children, listen to their responses, and provide opportunities for children to share information, ideas, feelings, and so on with each other.
Teachers help children get the most out of every learning situation. They make comments, ask the children questions about what they are doing, suggest other things to do, and add new challenges as the children are ready for them.
Teachers set clear limits about acceptable social behavior. At the same time, they know that many preschoolers can get easily frustrated and are not always able to express their feelings verbally.
Adults read to the children every day—individually, in small groups, and sometimes as a whole class. Teachers help the children talk about what they have heard and help them relate the stories to activities in the classroom or at home.
Teachers make families part of the community of learners. Parents are welcomed into the classroom, and teachers and parents communicate frequently about the child’s experiences, interests, skills, needs, and progress.
What you don’t want to see
Teachers give children tasks that they find boring or too easy—such as gluing precut shapes onto pieces of paper. –OR– Teachers have expectations that are out of line with the children’s developmental capabilities—such as expecting a 3-year-old to write his name legibly.
The classroom is disorderly; children wander around, not really becoming involved in activities. –OR– The environment is so rigidly structured that children are not free to explore materials or interact with others. For instance, all the markers and crayons are put away on a high shelf, and the children must ask to use them.
Teachers are inattentive and careless about monitoring children’s safety indoors and outdoors. –OR– Teachers are so nervous about safety that children feel constrained. For instance, children are not allowed to ride tricycles around the playground although the track is free of obstacles.
Teachers say they are teaching the children to be independent, when in fact they put them in dangerous situations. (For instance, they allow a 3-year-old to chop vegetables with a sharp knife.) –OR– Teachers do things for children that they could do for themselves, such as pour juice or prepare bread dough, because it is faster and less messy.
Teachers let an activity go on too long, so children become either tired out or bored. –OR– Teachers jump quickly from one activity to another without sufficient time for transitions, so children become overstimulated and, eventually, exhausted.
Teachers talk a lot to children, but they speak baby talk or ask questions the children can’t possibly answer. –OR– Teachers make it clear that they want a quiet classroom, and when children “talk out of turn,” teachers get annoyed.
Teachers think of themselves as supervisors and do not get involved with the children’s play. Children may repeat the same tasks over and over without the teachers helping them find another interesting activity. –OR– Teachers rigidly control all choices, assigning specific tasks to each child, so children do not have the opportunity to explore new materials and make the mistakes they might learn from.
Teachers spend a lot of time yelling at children who break the rules and punishing “troublemakers.” –OR– The teachers don’t set clear limits. The classroom is chaotic, and there are no consequences for harmful behavior.
Teachers read stories only occasionally, and always to the whole group. –OR– Children hear stories, but the teachers do not integrate these into the rest of the curriculum; children are not encouraged to talk about or illustrate the stories they have heard.
Teachers feel that they are the experts, and they discourage parents from offering suggestions or visiting the classroom. –OR– Teachers fail to explain classroom situations to parents and give in to parents’ demands even when it means going against what they think is best for the children and the group as a whole.