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Strategies for the Early Learning Classroom

  • Date Submitted: 12/03/2014 12:40 AM
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Strategies for the Early Learning Classroom

Elizabeth Garcia
Founder and Head of School, Discovery Day Academy, America Achieves Fellow

A marble rolls down a ramp, and children cheer as it reaches the target they have adjusted numerous times. After a small-group reading of Frog and Toad, children gather in a community of inquiry to discuss the nature of being scared and brave at the same time. In an adjacent area, two children complete their construction of treasure chests. They begin classifying rocks as gems or geodes, sorting them into the compartments of their wooden creations. A child preserves flowers using waxed paper and heavy books in the science center.

These are activities occurring in a project- and play-based early learning classroom, where children are exploring the concepts of living and non-living things. These and other early learning experiences that support inquiry and creativity have significant long-term benefits. Thinking is an art form, similar to the actions of a visual artist perfecting his or her craft. We must focus on creative learning dispositions early, during the brain's most active period of synaptic growth.

I suggest five strategies that can be implemented in early learning classrooms and beyond, to support children's long-term success with rigorous learning standards. The strategies range in complexity and cultural commitment. Therefore, I recommend starting small and building a culture of student-centered learning and flexibility, prior to full-scale implementation.

1. Practice PBL and STEM Within Community Partnerships

PBL (project-based learning) supports teachers in developing authentic learning experiences with a focus on inquiry-based instruction. Content is key, so I recommend outlining flexible project guides vetted through learning standards within the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects. For example, the traditional community helpers project can extend beyond the...


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