This report provides a detailed reflection of the activities, environment, and knowledge obtained during a visit to a preschool class in one of the local public schools. The visit took place on a Wednesday, from morning to afternoon, when the children were active when learning and playing. During the entire process, I only observed the class’s progress as the children engaged and the teacher engaged in different activities. Data collection was done through observation and note-taking. The specific class had 12 children with an average age of 4 years and was drawn from diverse social, economic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. The class had five girls and seven boys, and only two female teachers were providing instructions both inside the classroom and in the playground. In my methodology, I focused on visible artifacts used in class, such as children’s work, photos, tape recordings, books, and other objects for education and play.
The physical environment within the classroom had several utilities that included soft furniture, couches, a common table, chairs, nontoxic plants, and neutral paint colors. Others were photos, wall charts, various educative toys, artifacts hung on walls, wallboards, bookshelves, easels, decorative touches, and others. In addition, natural light was provided through large windows during summer, and there was no need for other sources of light or warmth. The classroom temperature was about 180C, allowing the children to participate in outdoor and indoor activities. The social environment in the classroom was also noted and recorded. Theoretically, a social environment in a classroom is how the environment influences and supports the interactions between the children and their teachers (Schickedanz & Collins, 2013). The idea is to help foster positive peer relationships and the interactions between the children and their teachers.
From a personal view, the optimum social environment in the classroom was achieved, given that the children appeared to have good knowledge of each other. They freely interacted in groups during learning, when taking meals and snacks, and during plays. In addition, the children freely shared materials and activities, and there were no incidents of competition for materials and utilities. In addition, visual supports were provided to promote social interactions and independence of the children in the room. All the children readily participated in activities, which provided evidence that they had a good understanding and knowledge of what they were supposed to do and which roles to take during the activities. I noted that the children would readily brainstorm in groups to find solutions whenever challenges arose. The teachers designed situations in which challenges would arise to ensure that the children would cooperate to find solutions. Furthermore, it was noted that the teachers were able to consider limiting the number of children to about four per group in a given area at a time. A large variety of toys was provided to the children to promote social interactions.
Promoting the development of language skills was an important part of the classroom environment. The teachers had arranged the classroom to participate in activities that allowed them to speak their minds and participate in conversations. For instance, during the sessions, the teachers involved the children in different activities such as storytelling. Each child would be asked to give a small story about a certain aspect, such as “cooking” or “watching TV.” In another session, the teacher provided the children with picture books in which different stories of animals were narrated using pictures and a few words. The teacher would read out the story and the children would follow based on their picture books.
In addition, the teachers involved songs during storytelling as a means of helping the children develop oral skills. For example, I noted that most storybooks involved songs in some sections, such as when a character would sing. For example, a story about animals included a section where the rabbits sang the children’s song “Row, rowel row your boat.” In this way, songs and stories were involved in the same session. I also noted that songs were part of the learning as teachers would ask the student to sing at least one song in each session, including when doing arithmetic. Furthermore, the children would be asked to act out certain scenes at “home,” wherein they would assume the roles of the mother, father, and children and converse in that capacity. Noteworthy, all these activities were conducted in English even though some of the children were bilingual.
Different toys and play materials were provided in the classroom. The children were given about an hour during the play session and chose the type of activity to attend. During this session, the teachers were minimally involved in these activities and only did monitoring work to avoid conflicts. In essence, the play activities were child-directed and would decide how to complete tasks. Some tasks involved were building houses out of blocks provided, completing collage and mosaic, developing models of animals and people using such materials as cartons and blocks, and ranging materials to develop a skyscraper model. All these activities required some form of cooperation as the materials provided have specific ways of interacting to achieve the expected shape and form. Therefore, problems would arise, such as the inability to find a way to fit the edges of blocks to achieve the final form. In such cases, the children would cooperate to find solutions. Moreover, the children matched numbers, colors, charters, letters, and shapes to achieve some meaning, such as names of animals and objects. All these activities would give the children some challenges, and they would cooperate to find solutions.
The children were exposed to materials designed to improve their reading skills during the sessions. For example, the teachers would provide pictures of objects and items and their names written in simple letters to form word meaning. For example, pictures of animals were provided, and the children were asked to identify their identities as written in a list of names. During story times, the teachers would introduce the names of animals, including those unknown to the children and their physical appearance. They would also be asked to paint the pictures of these animals with their names on a stencil.
To support early reading growth among children in my class, I would create an activity of reading in which the children would be asked to fix blocks to form the names of animals provided in a storybook. For example, after teaching them the names of some animals like dogs and cats, I would ask them to make these names using letters provided as blocks and fit them in a jig-saw style to form the actual names of each picture of an animal.
Writing activities followed the reading, play, and storytelling to ensure that the children developed writing skills and other knowledge. The teachers would write the name of an object on the walls in large letters beside the picture of the specific object. The children were asked to copy these names next to the picture of a similar object. Each time a new vocabulary was introduced in a story or song, this task was done.
I would also develop a scenario where the children will be introduced to a new song written in a book. I will also include the pictures and names of the characters or objects appearing in the narrative. For example, when singing the song “here comes the sun,” the shapes and appearances of objects such as the sun, stars, and moon should be provided in colorful pictures and the names beside them on large wallboard. Then, the children are provided with books bearing the same objects and asked to write the names as provided on the wall hangings.
In my plan, children can best learn through participation in various activities in class and outside. The best way to teach children is to divide the lessons so that each activity takes place differently and with other materials. Secondly, there must be connections between writing, reading, language, play, and the environment. In essence, the classroom environment must have all the materials necessary to facilitate all the other activities.
Schickedanz, J. A., & Collins, M F. (2013). So much more than the ABCs: The early phases of reading and writing. National Association for the Education of Young Children.