Developing children’s interests during the preschool years is particularly important so that they learn to extend their ability to focus and maintain attention at an early age. Planning for children to spend sustained time with focused content and prioritizing the quality of learning experiences over the quantity of topics covered, is recognized as a developmentally appropriate practice (NAEYC, 2009).
When teachers plan curriculum experiences that draw on children’s interests, they are recognizing the importance of creating meaningful connections that promote young children’s learning. Developing children’s interests during the preschool years is particularly important so that they learn to extend their ability to focus and maintain attention at an early age. Planning for children to spend sustained time with focused content and prioritizing the quality of learning experiences over the quantity of topics covered, is recognized as a developmentally appropriate practice (NAEYC, 2009). Arranging for such meaningful play with extended learning time is particularly important in classrooms serving children with disabilities, where students must be provided with multiple opportunities to learn and practice new skills across many routines and environments in order to ensure mastery.
- Find out what topics are interesting and important to your students by asking parents to complete a student interest inventory. Doing so will provide valuable information that can be utilized to plan meaningful curriculum experiences.
- Many skills that are often targeted in curriculum units and Virginia’s Foundation Blocks for Early Learning are easily introduced and practiced during play in centers. Rather than directing children away from focused play in these interest areas, use a curriculum planning web (broken link) like this one, to ensure you’re embedding instruction on target skills during children’s play and within daily routines throughout the day. Children will be motivated to learn size concepts, for example, as they decide who built the tallest tower in the block center because the activity is meaningful and the instruction is relevant to their interests.
- Utilize resource books like Building Blocks for Teaching Preschoolers with Special Needs or CARA’s Kit: Creating Adaptations for Routines and Activities (both available in the T-TAC ODU Library) to modify your current curriculum in order to meet the needs of all students. For example, when teaching younger children, consider substituting trade books that accompany various curriculum kits with simple books on topics of interest that contain repetitive text. Repetitive text will assist children with developing early literacy skills. Additionally, extend a week long curriculum unit to a full month to allow flexibility for adding extension activities that will provide students with more practice on target skills, and with concepts that require modified instruction or that children have found of particular interest.
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). (2009.) Developmentally appropriate practice in programs serving children from birth through age 8. Position statement. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/positionstatements/dap