“In an effective pre-k classroom, the first thing you would see would be a lot of activity that is organized and directed by the teacher and a lot of engagement on the part of the kids,” says Dr. Robert C. Pianta, a nationally recognized early childhood education expert and Dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. “It would be a classroom in which it is very evident the kids like what they’re doing, there’s a level of energy, and the teacher is engaged with the children – not just with the group, but also with each individual child – moving around the room, involved with conversation, stretching them along.”
Pre-k teachers adapt and integrate their instruction throughout the day to a host of activities and structures. At times the teacher leads whole group activities. During other periods the teacher works with a small group of kids on structured lessons such as math or literacy skills. Moving through “stations,” kids engage in lively play and exploration – touching, smelling, listening, and seeing. The teacher moves about the room right there with the kids, giving feedback and support so they get the most out of each activity, whether writing the alphabet or molding playdough.
“Good early childhood education involves a teacher engaging kids almost on the fly, in conversation that stretches kids’ thinking, in activities that draw their attention into learning new concepts,” Pianta says. “That happens in a fluid way in a classroom setting.”