As a teacher in a busy preschool classroom, you may become caught up in each day’s demands, leaving little time for reflection. But it’s important to slow down to explore what motivates you as a teacher and what you hope to achieve with your students.
Before you decide what you are going to teach and how you are going to teach it—even before you know who your students will be—you need to clarify who you are as a teacher and what your role is in the classroom.
Set your intention
In The Intentional Teacher, Ann Epstein writes that intention is acting with a purpose. People with intention have a goal in mind and a plan for accomplishing it. This can’t happen without time set aside for careful thought and planning.
But just because you’re building a framework for teaching and learning doesn’t mean you’re banning spontaneity from your classroom. It doesn’t mean your classes will be quiet and chaos-free. Far from it! Being intentional means that you can articulate a purpose for each preschool activity. It means you have a plan for what specific learning activities to engage in, which learning contexts and settings to use and when, how much time to spend in each, and how to integrate it all together for optimal learning. It actually makes room for more fun!
ScienceStart!, a preschool curriculum, provides a foundation on which to build the kind of preschool learning that you want to provide.
- Take a few minutes to jot down what you think your strengths are as a teacher.
- What do you do in the classroom that creates moments of real learning? Real joy?
Motivation is huge
There are many benefits of being intentional about how to structure the preschool learning environment. With ScienceStart!, one thing all these structural benefits have in common is that they boost children’s motivation to learn.
Kids need to be motivated to learn because learning is demanding: They have to be willing to pay attention, exert effort, persist through difficulties, and deal with the frustration of not getting something right or not understanding it the first time.
Here are a few ways to boost motivation in your preschool classroom:
More active, less passive. Children are more motivated to learn when their teachers are emotionally responsive and less controlling. In fact, instruction that is highly teacher-directed and focused on basic skills—such as flashcards, workbooks, and rote counting—pours cold water on motivation. It’s just boring. Young children are active and curious, and they learn by exploring their environment. ScienceStart! teachers provide lots of options for playful, active learning for children at all developmental levels.
Talk to me. Current research shows that young children learn best when they are actively engaged in the topic of study. This happens when learning is fueled by the student’s curiosity and guided by the teacher using a balance of instructional activities. Students better understand concepts when they talk, read, and write about them. The most enriching interactions between adults and kids develop cognitive and language development skills in children. They involve give and take, an honest exchange between two people, based on what the child is currently interested in. Each interaction is unique because it is flavored by the child’s prior knowledge, activities, and skill level.
Social beings. Children learn most effectively in socially sensitive and responsive environments through interactions with caring adults and peers. ScienceStart! teachers get to know their students personally. They can identify their strengths and learning needs easily. They can support positive interactions among their students, and they value and incorporate the experiences children bring with them to the classroom.
Real-life connections. Lessons hit home when there’s a real-life context for the things children are learning. They can relate this information to their everyday lives. ScienceStart! makes those connections through conversation and literature, using topics that connect to their interests and experiences and stoke their curiosity about things they’re not familiar with.
Value the process. It’s not just what students learn, but how they do it. The process is as important as the product. Facilitating children’s language, attention skills, problem solving, flexible thinking, and self-regulation is crucial to academic success. ScienceStart! promotes conversations between adults and children and presents real problems for kids to solve.
Children are sponges, capable of learning a great deal when they are in an environment that supports their development. Strong, supportive relationships between children and their teacher have a direct effect on children’s learning—because emotional security leads to greater participation.
So spend some time reflecting on what you love about teaching young children, and watch how your intention transforms the classroom experience for all of you.