Preschool children have short attention spans by nature. They are naturally curious and want to use all their senses to explore the world and learn actively. Instead of forcing their natural curiosity into a solid routine of sitting still, hands folded, and rote learning, take advantage of their desire to participate. Make the classroom and the natural world their lab experiment and see what they do with it.
Teach them science by helping them to plant seeds (how plants grow), bring snow inside and watch it melt (early physics), and create collages of different colored fall leaves (how seasons change). Learn about insects and earthworms in gardens (plenty of library books on that, and some counting games in most classrooms), and lots of schools have zoo trips that allow children to learn about all kinds of animals – some zoos have “petting zoos” that allow children to brush and care for animals themselves.
Math can be taught with manipulatives, even “kitchen centers” can be turned into “restaurants” where the kids create ‘menus’ and serve each other or the teacher and learn about prices and how portion out foods and make sure everyone is fed. Blocks are another way children can learn math, as are train sets – there is usually a limited number of trains, and children may start squabbling over how many trains they each have. Help them calculate how many trains each can play with so the number is fair (early division). This also helps them learn how to take turns (telling time, early addition and subtraction).
Early literacy begins in circle time and in the library center, where classmates can pick any book they want and ‘read’ to themselves or each other. Often one student will play ‘teacher’ and ‘read’ to her friends, or another student will read quietly to himself about his favorite subject. During circle the teacher may choose a favorite book and have the students finish the sentences for her, or “guess what happens next, what do YOU think?” Or she may have the students create their own books.
Have the children bring in “found items” from home to make their own musical instruments and form a “marching band” in the classroom. Containers of paint, sponges, crayons, cotton swabs, chalk, all kinds of things can be used so children can create their own artistic expressions. Lots of possibilities!
Young children want and need to be actively involved in learning – it engages their minds as their bodies are moving, and it helps to keep them focused. Then they don’t realize they are learning, because they are enjoying the process. They say “play is a child’s learning” because play is how a child learns. When a child is playing and exploring, a child is actively learning and his mind is growing.
[Additional Info: For Keystone Stars Families]