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Developmentally Appropriate Practice

Focus on Preschoolers Carol Copple, Sue Bredekamp, Derry Koralek and Kathy Charner, editors

National Association for the Education of Young Children Washington, DC


National Association for the Education of Young Children 1313 L Street NW, Suite 500 Washington, DC 20005-4101 202-232-8777 • 800-424-2460 www.naeyc.org NAEYC Books Chief Publishing Officer Derry Koralek Editor-in-Chief Kathy Charner Director of Creative Services Edwin C. Malstrom Managing Editor Mary Jaffe Senior Editor Holly Bohart Senior Graphic Designer Malini Dominey Associate Editor Elizabeth Wegner Editorial Assistant Ryan Smith Through its publications program, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) provides a forum for discussion of major issues and ideas in the early childhood field, with the hope of provoking thought and promoting professional growth. The views expressed or implied in this book are not necessarily those of the Association or its members.

Contributing editor: Steve Olle

Developmentally Appropriate Practice: Focus on Preschoolers Copyright Š 2013 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Library of Congress Control Number: 2013936368 ISBN: 978-1-928896-96-8 NAEYC Item #169


Contents About the Editors...........................................................................................................................vi Acknowledgments.........................................................................................................................vii Editors’ Preface.............................................................................................................................. ix 1. What Is Developmentally Appropriate Practice? .......................................................... 1 Key Messages of the Position Statement............................................................................1 What Is Developmentally Appropriate Practice?.....................................................1 A Call to Reduce the Achievement Gap.....................................................................2 Comprehensive, Effective Curriculum.......................................................................2 Improving Teaching and Learning.............................................................................2 Core Considerations of Developmentally Appropriate Practice ...................................4 Principles of Child Development and Learning ................................................................4 2. To Be an Excellent Teacher......................................................................................................7 Carol Copple and Sue Bredekamp Excellence in All Areas of Practice.......................................................................................9 Excellent Teachers Use a Wide Range of Teaching Strategies............................10 Excellent Teachers Scaffold Children’s Learning..................................................12 Excellent Teachers Make Purposeful Use of Various Learning Formats...........13 Seeing the Bigger Picture ...................................................................................................19 Bridging Cultural Differences................................................................................................20 Both/And Thinking in Early Childhood Practice................................................................23 3. An Overview of Developmentally Appropriate Practice in the Preschool Years.........25 Heather Biggar Tomlinson and Marilou Hyson Physical Development.........................................................................................................28 Physical Growth and Maturation.............................................................................29 Sensation and Perception..........................................................................................29 Gross Motor Development........................................................................................30 Fine Motor Development...........................................................................................31 Promoting Physical Development in Preschool.....................................................31 Social and Emotional Development...................................................................................34 Social Development....................................................................................................35 Emotional Development............................................................................................38 Promoting Social and Emotional Development in Preschool..............................40


Cognitive Development..............................................................................................44 Influences of Social Interaction and Play......................................................45 Executive Functioning......................................................................................47 Promoting Cognitive Development in Preschool.........................................52 Language and Literacy Development .....................................................................59 Oral Language and Communication...............................................................60 Promoting Language and Literacy Development in Preschool..................62 4. Developmentally Appropriate Examples to Consider.........................................67 Creating a Caring Community of Learners ............................................................68 Fostering Positive Relationships ...................................................................68 Building Classroom Community.....................................................................69 Teaching to Enhance Development and Learning.................................................70 Environment and Schedule..............................................................................70 Teaching Methods............................................................................................72 Communication and Language Use................................................................74 Motivation and Positive Approaches to Learning........................................76 Guidance.............................................................................................................76 Planning Curriculum to Achieve Important Goals.................................................78 Curriculum Essentials.......................................................................................78 Physical Development...................................................................................... 81 Language and Literacy.....................................................................................83 Mathematics...................................................................................................... 89 Science................................................................................................................ 91 Technology.........................................................................................................92 Social Competence; Social Studies................................................................. 92 Creative Arts......................................................................................................93 Assessing Children’s Development and Learning..................................................96 Strategic and Purposeful.................................................................................. 96 Systematic and Ongoing...................................................................................97 Integrated With Teaching and Curriculum................................................... 97 Valid and Reliable..............................................................................................98 Communicated and Shared..............................................................................99 Establishing Reciprocal Relationships With Families.........................................100 5. FAQs About Developmentally Appropriate Practice.........................................103


6. Young Children Articles......................................................................................113 Intentionality in Action: A Strategy That Benefits Preschoolers and Teachers.............................................................................................................113 Gaye Gronlund and Kathy Stewart

Positive Verbal Environments: Setting the Stage for Young Children’s Social Development...................................................................................................121 Darrell Meece and Anne K. Soderman

Solving the Puzzle: Dual Language Learners With Challenging Behaviors......127 Karen Nemeth and Pamela Brillante

Assessing and Scaffolding Make-Believe Play...................................................... 134 Deborah J. Leong and Elena Bodrova

Supporting Preschoolers’ Vocabulary Learning: Using a Decision-Making Model to Select Appropriate Words and Methods............................................. 143 Tanya Christ and X. Christine Wang

The Patterns of Music: Young Children Learning Mathematics Through Beat, Rhythm, and Melody..................................................................... 150 Kamile Geist, Eugene A. Geist, and Kathleen Kuznik

From STEM to STEAM: How Early Childhood Educators Can Apply Fred Rogers’s Approach...................................................................... 158 Hedda Sharapan

References................................................................................................................ 165


An Overview of Developmentally Appropriate Practice in the Preschool Years

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Heather Biggar Tomlinson and Marilou Hyson

In ever-increasing numbers, children

ages 3 to 5 are involved in out-of-home programs, including child care centers, family child care homes, and public or private full- and half-day prekindergartens. In fact, more than half of 3- and 4-year-olds in the United States are enrolled in some type of preschool program (NCES 2008), with public schools serving more than 20 percent of 4-year-olds (Pre-K Now 2008). We refer to children ages 3 to 5 as preschoolers, even though the label has lost its former meaning as “the years before school attendance.” Now the preschool year or years before kindergarten are recognized as a vitally important period of learning and development in their own right, not merely as a time for growth in anticipation of the “real learning” that will begin in school. It is well established that important development and learning occur during these early years in all areas of human functioning—physical, social and emotional, cognitive (including perception, reasoning, memory, and other aspects of academic and intellectual development), and language. It is also well established that optimal development and learning during these years is most likely to occur when children establish positive and caring relationships with adults and other children; receive carefully planned, intentional adult guidance and assistance; and explore interesting environments with many things to do and learn. These conditions occur for many young children

An Overview of Developmentally Appropriate Practice

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Marilou Hyson is an early child development consultant and adjunct professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

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at home with their parents. But children who attend out-of-home early childhood programs spend many hours of their day away from their families. Early childhood teachers, in collaboration with families, are responsible for ensuring that the program promotes the development and enhances the learning of each individual child served; in other words, professionals must ensure that the program is developmentally appropriate. Ensuring this requires that teachers have a great deal of knowledge, skill, and training. Children entering preschool vary significantly in what they know and can do. Some have had rich learning experiences at home, in a program, or both prior to entering preschool; some have not had the kinds of stimulating or supportive environments that contribute to optimal development and learning. Because there is such a range in the types and quality of learning experiences—not to mention individual differences in children’s temperament and interests—children enter preschool with different developmental strengths. One child might love to look at picture books and know lots of letters already, but, having had little exposure to other children, he finds it difficult to share materials, cooperate in group projects, and enter play situations. Another child might have three siblings and find it easy to initiate play and share toys with new classmates. She also has wonderful capacities with realworld activities such as cooking because of her experiences at home, but she has almost no knowledge of the enchanting world of books. While every child has areas of strength and weakness, unfortunately some children living in difficult situations tend to struggle in several areas. On average, 4-year-olds living in poverty are about 18 months behind what is typical for others in their age group. This translates into achievement and school readiness gaps between children from poor families versus middle-class families in math, language, and other academic areas—gaps that are seen in preschool and that persist into elementary school and beyond (Klibanoff et al. 2006; Snow 2005). These gaps are cause for concern for every community because an alarming 43 percent of preschool age children across the country come from families with low incomes. In other words, 3.5 million 3- and 4-yearolds and 1.7 million 5-year-olds—and their families and teachers—are affected (Douglas-Hall & Chau 2008). Children living in poverty are often vulnerable in a multitude of ways, one of which is that they are more likely than other children to live with a disability. Sixteen percent of families with low incomes have a child with a disability, a rate nearly 50 percent higher than that for higher-income families (Lee, Sills, & Oh 2002). Of course, disabilities and delays affect all families, regardless of income; about 5 percent of preschoolers across the country are known to have some kind of special need (US Dept. of Education 2001). Early childhood teachers welcome these and all children into their classrooms, understanding the richness that inclusion brings in terms of diversity and interdependence. In addition, the demographics in early childhood programs reflect the country’s ever-greater cultural diversity. Teachers must be adept at integrating cultural knowledge into their teaching. This integration requires reaching out to parents and involving and empowering every family. Doing so enriches communication about their child. And it both strengthens the bond between

Focus on Preschoolers


teachers and families and builds stronger connections between teachers and children—enhancing benefits and learning experiences for children well into their future schooling (Espinosa 2007). Considerable growth and change occur in children during the preschool years in all areas of development. To function most effectively, preschool teachers need to know about the goals, sequences, and trajectories of development in all those areas—to avoid using a scaleddown version of curriculum intended for older children and to understand the importance of communicating with kindergarten and other teachers and aligning the curriculum accordingly. Three-year-olds are no longer toddlers, but they behave like toddlers at times, and they are not steady in their gains. Children’s social skills are still uncertain, they are still working on how to regulate and appropriately express strong emotions, and they are not yet able to communicate their ideas and feelings in skilled, complex ways. They believe in fairies and monsters and have trouble with logical sequences that seem basic to adults—hence adults’ tendency to underestimate their actual abilities. Yet at other times, their language ability, motor skills, reasoning abilities, and other behaviors make them seem older than they are. The challenge for the preschool teacher is to maintain appropriate expectations, providing each child with the right mix of challenge, support, sensitivity, and stimulation that promotes development and learning—all of which can happen only within the context of a close, nurturing teacher­–child relationship (Burchinal et al. 2008). Fortunately, the challenges of working with preschoolers are balanced out by the joys. Preschoolers revel in their increasing coordination, using their bodies exuberantly. They thrive in environments that encourage them to experiment with new materials, roles, and ideas through various projects and especially through play; they have great interest in feelings and are better able to express and label their emotions and identify others’ emotions; they make some important gains in cognition, allowing them the pleasure of representing their world in pretend play, symbols, objects, drawings, and words; and, given a rich language environment, they show astonishing gains in language skills. In general, preschoolers are an enchanting, enthusiastic, curious, and inherently playful and imaginative bunch, providing the adults who work with them entry to a world of great charm and delight. An Overview of Developmentally Appropriate Practice

This chapter was first published in Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children From Birth Through Age 8 (Copple & Bredekamp 2009).

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