Just Right: The Developmentally Appropriate Classroom
Teachers in developmentally appropriate classrooms trust in children’s natural abilities and recognize their individual developmental needs. They plan environments that balance active, child-initiated learning with teacher-directed instruction. They allow for physical movement, freedom of expression, active communication and interaction, and individual and group problem solving.
Such structure fosters the child’s innate drive for purpose, competence, autonomy, and responsibility. Initiative is nurtured when children are encouraged to take appropriate risks. The resulting choice and decision-making produce interest and motivation and lead to learning that is meaningful, relevant, and lifelong.
Optimal learning is dependent on children’s manipulation of and experimentation with materials, and interaction with both adults and peers. The developmental classroom is activity centered, drawing directly from the child’s interests and abilities. Integrated theme learning allows children to live and think in the classroom as they do naturally outside of the classroom.
The curriculum fully incorporates music, art, movement, and drama. Learning through instructional themes encourages spontaneous and instructive play in the classroom and draws on the developmental progression in content areas such as reading, math, writing, science, and social studies. Perhaps most importantly, the developmentally appropriate classroom meets the needs of the individual child, providing activities and experiences that meet the child where he or she is on the developmental spectrum.21
Unfortunately, the demands of our current educational system, in large part due to No Child Left Behind legislation, have left many schools and programs with a great dilemma – with cuts in funding, resources are low; and with huge demands on accountability and test scores, more and more Kindergarten programs have been forced to take on a more academic focus. With this, truly developmentally appropriate practice is sometimes left at the curb. If this is the case in your child’s school, talk to the teachers and administrators about this problem, and work together to find the best solution for your child.
Just Right: The Developmentally Appropriate Classroom You Are Here
Reprinted with permission of the Gesell Institute. Copyright © 2010, Gesell Institute of Human Development. All Rights Reserved.
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