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Preschool Teaching Models - Which Is Right for Your Child?

Preschools and Kindergartens
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There are a number of different preschool teaching models, each of which offers its own educational focus and philosophies. Some may center on academic matters, while others give more attention to social interaction. Some preschool teaching programs may be group-oriented, while others may focus more on the individual needs of the child.

Montessori Preschool Teaching Model

Maria Montessori was a pediatrician and psychiatrist who taught poor children in Italy during the late 19th century. In 1907, she founded the Montessori school program to teach children about the connection between all living things and to help them find their place in the world. In the Montessori preschool teaching model, children are regarded as independent learners and thinkers, and the teachers take on the roles of facilitators (or “guides”). In addition to reading, language, and mathematics, children are taught practical skills (dressing themselves, preparing their own snacks and drinks, and cleaning up after themselves) and cultural subjects (geography, zoology, history, science, music, and art).

Waldorf Preschool Teaching Model

In 1919, Rudolf Steiner founded the Waldorf preschool teaching model at the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. The philosophy of Waldorf preschool teaching is that people are made up of three components—soul, spirit, and body. The Waldorf immerses its young students in nurturing surroundings in an effort to stimulate and develop these three aspects. Children are discouraged from watching TV or playing video games; instead, they are afforded a comfortable, homelike environment in which they are encouraged to indulge in creative free play. Daily activities at a Waldorf school may include drawing, painting, singing, reciting poems, modeling with clay, baking bread, constructing play houses out of boxes, or simply playing make-believe.

High/Scope Preschool Teaching Model

The High/Scope preschool teaching program is similar to Montessori in that children are encouraged to pursue their own personal interests and goals. However, High/Scope goes a step further by allowing children to make their own choices about activities and materials, with the teachers supporting the children in their independent decision making. The idea is one of “shared control,” where the adults and the children learn together. The curriculum runs the gamut from arithmetic and language to arts, physical activity, and social interaction. The High/Scope preschool teaching program often makes use of computers and developmentally appropriate software.

Bank Street Preschool Teaching Model

Bank Street is a less structured preschool teaching model, similar to Montessori and High/Scope. The philosophy is that children are active learners, as well as experimenters, explorers, and artists. Bank Street focuses on encouraging children to study and learn about the world at large through an interconnected curriculum of art, science, and social studies. Children are allowed to work by themselves or in groups, and given the opportunity to progress at their own rate.

Reggio Emilia Preschool Teaching Model

In the Reggio Emilia preschool teaching model, the teachers determine the interests of the children by observing them, listening to them, and talking to them. Children with similar interests are then placed in small groups where they are given the opportunity to plan their own projects and learn. The Reggio Emilia approach is much less pragmatic than Montessori, with an emphasis on creativity and open-ended exploration. The curriculum is focused on artistic development, sensory exploration, and aesthetics.

Other Preschool Teaching Models

While some schools may strictly adhere to a single model, many others choose to overlap their curriculum by incorporating different elements from various preschool teaching programs. Some may follow educational paths set by curriculum publishing companies, while church- or temple-run programs may incorporate religious teachings and spiritual development. Finally, some parents may feel that none of the existing preschool teaching models are a good fit for their children, so they choose to join (or start) a parent-run cooperative preschool.

No matter which preschool you choose, the important thing to consider is how much your child will enjoy his or her experience there. The main goals of the preschool teaching program are to teach your child to interact with others, and to foster a curiosity and love of learning.

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