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Going to School

Grade-by-Grade Learning: Preschool

What They Learn | How Kids Learn

What Kids Learn in Preschool

preschool learningThe Basics
In preschool, children learn about the world through play. Subject areas aren’t separate in their minds or in the classroom. The objects preschoolers find on a nature walk, like feathers, rocks and leaves, might help them figure out math concepts like “big, bigger, and biggest” or motivate them to visit the book corner to find out more about birds. Teachers may introduce children to basic concepts such as shapes, letters, and colors, but preschool is about learning much more than what a circle looks like. It’s where children first develop a relationship with learning.

Language & Literacy
Children spend most of the preschool day working together with classmates. Each conversation, whether talking about the class pet or deciding which color block to put on top of their tower, helps children develop their thoughts and language. Preschool teachers read aloud simple stories like “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle to show children that text runs from left to right, expose them to new vocabulary, point out letter sounds and rhyming words, and help children talk about what they read.

Writing often appears as scribbles in the preschool classroom, but letters or shapes that resemble letters soon pop up as children try to write their own names in creative ways. Teachers model writing for preschoolers throughout the day. Many children will not be able to write words conventionally. However, every scribble shows that a child understands that the printed word carries messages, and that she is excited to be able to create these messages.

Preschoolers use numbers every day when they count milk cartons for lunch or figure out how many children are at a table. They work with geometric shapes such as triangles, rectangles, and squares in the block center, and through art projects. They measure at the water table when they compare the size of their hands and feet. Preschool teachers invite children to arrange items in a series or pattern when they make collages and other art projects. Teachers also use simple graphs to present concepts, for example, determining how many children wear mittens to school and how many wear gloves.

Preschoolers are scientists. They learn about the world by observing and experimenting. Natural things fascinate them, from rocks, to animals, to their baby brothers and sisters. They also notice the many ways that they can influence the natural world. Preschoolers may plant seeds, or watch what happens to an ice cube in a warm room. They’ll test what sinks and what floats at the water table, and which blowers make the biggest bubbles. They’ll find non-fiction books about animals and nature in the classroom library.

Social Studies
Preschool social studies is where children learn about their place in the world. Understanding how to get along with others can often take up the biggest part of a preschooler’s day. Children learn how to resolve conflicts and practice skills like sharing, taking turns and cleaning up. They figure out how to express their feelings using words. The class may also explore its community and the people in it by taking short field trips around the neighborhood.

How Kids Learn in Preschool

preschoolBecoming Learners
In preschool, children first learn “how to learn.” They begin to form their attitudes toward school and to see themselves as learners. Strong preschool experiences will help a child think, “I am a good learner. I can find problems to solve. I can master a difficult task.” These experiences show preschool children the power that learning holds.

Learning through Play
If you want to know how your preschooler learns at school, just think about the way she learns at home. When your child helps you measure ingredients for her favorite cookie recipe, she’s getting a math lesson. When he makes sand castles at the beach and then watches the wave wash them away, he’s learning earth science — although he’s probably not ready to understand the term “erosion.”

In school, preschoolers learn through play in the same ways, with the guidance of their teachers. They experiment with the properties of matter at the sand and water tables. They learn phonics when they sing songs together. They master important physics concepts like balance and stability as they build blocks at the block center.

One Skill at a Time
Most preschoolers are not developmentally ready to keep more than one concept in their heads at a time. Take counting, for example. At first, numbers that a child counts in a sing-song manner are just a sequence of words. Then all of a sudden the words become useful as the child learns to match them to an amount by counting fingers. The numbers have now been matched to a meaning.

Forming Pictures in their Heads
“Preschoolers also learn about their world by forming visual pictures — or little movies in their heads,” notes Diane Levin, Ph.D. “Each thought they’re thinking is like a frame of the movie. They construct these visual movies in their minds as they play. One movie could be about how to make the blocks fit together, another about how to make the blocks into something else. More movies might be about how to work with other kids to create what they want to do and how to solve the problems that can arise. These mental movies help them get familiar with a process and figure out a situation.”

  • tessa

    As preschool teachers we are always being asked by parents to send work home to teach their preschoolers how to do something. Many times they are eager for their smart child to excel and they do not realize that learning builds on steps, just like crawling before they walk. I would like to see articles that I could copy for parents on how children develop their writing sequences and how expectations beyond appropriateness can cause stress on kids.

    • A Khan

      As a preschool teacher for 20 + years I am guess you have been brainwashed to think children at this level can do little or nothing. Honestly I find most teachers who get annoyed at parents asking for homework to just be too lazy to appreciate these parents want to help you. No you do not need to send home dittos with written homework as that is inappropriate, but how about books for the parents to read with the kids. or learning packs with age appropriate activities. Matching activities are great. I have to be honest all the kids in my class have always left preschool able to identify most if not all the letters, and knowing all the letter sounds. And a full working knowledge of numbers to 10. Not because I force them into it but because I worked hard to provide activities that were age appropriate but provide something the kindergarten teacher can truly work with. You can teach all the letters and letter sounds with ONE song if you stop wasting your time with the “ABCs Song” and use a truly effective ABC phonics song instead. I am really sick of one day my fellow teachers are griping because the parents want to know how to help (this is what asking for homework is), and the next they are griping because the parents are not involved. You can not have it both ways. If you want to keep the parents involved send them some fun age appropriate homework.

      • cvanburen

        Could you please recommend a song or two other than the “abc’s song”? Much appreciated.

        • 1seekingjannah

          I have put a link to a youtube video the song we have always used below.

          We sang it slightly different. Instead of just saying the sounds first we say the letter name, then the letter sound.

          At the same time we had matching letter cards(capital and lower case with the picture of the item) that we showed the kids. Within a few weeks the kids would sing along and many understood what it meant and knew all the sounds and were able to identify the letters. Some students( 2-3 out of 20) were not ready, but could sing the song, When it finally clicked, they already had the tools they needed for success. Here is the text of the song.

          When we learn these sounds, you’ll see,

          Ready to read then we will be.

          A, a, apple….B, b. ball

          C, c cat ….And D, d, doll.

          E, e, egg….F, f, fan

          G, g, goat …And H, h, hand.

          I, i, Indian….J, j, jam

          K, k, king……And L, l , lamb.

          M, m, man….And N, n, nickel

          O, o, ox…..And P, p, pickle.

          Q, q, queen…..R, r, rail

          S, s, sun…..And T, t, tail.

          U, u, umbrella….V, v, vase

          I’m nearly through, see my happy face!

          W, w, wagon….X, x, box

          Y, y, yard and do you see a fox?

          See him in the Z, z, zoo.

          It was fun and now we’re through.

          We if sing these well, indeed,

          Then it’s time for us to read!

          I also highly recommend you start reading “Bob books” by the middle of pre-K. They are very simple docode-able 3 letter word books that the students can quickly read on their own. Our school does this and most of the students who attend our PreK enter our Kindergarten(I am teaching Kindergarten this year). At first grade level in reading. My kindergarten class is only 3 weeks into the school year and we are 1/2 way through the kindergarten dolch sight words and already writing journals with 4-5 word sentences. That is the power of a private school where teachers are not bound by ridiculous rules about what is “developmentally appropriate” to teach. The reality is development has almost Nothing to do with age. Different children develop at different levels. The reality is what is Developmentally appropriate is what the child enjoys doing and is gaining knowledge from, not what the text books say.

  • Lynda Way

    The first gateway of childhood education are preschool. Here kids not only learn from text books, but also through various educational programs and extra curricular activities.

  • essay writing

    You can really see the importance and the advantage on a child who undergo preschool and in here, they can be able to nourish their skills and learn basic things that they can use in the future.

  • scarlet

    or maybe as parents we dont want our children held back to learn with the slowest child in the class.

  • Stu

    Our daughter has been at nursery for three weeks. She is three years old. Today she came home with her first school book “Tusk Tusk”

    It is about racist elephants that rage war on each other and kill each other.

    When me and my wife realised what it was about it made us feel sick. We came up with the conclusion that our daughter was far to young to learn and understand these principles in this way.

    Now I understand that chrildren need to learn dicipline, race, values and standards, ethos. Our way of life and our history. But this is to much to soon.

    What do other think please. Any help would be great. Cheers Gem and Stu

    • cckb

      Discuss the book with her and find out what she understands from the story. Its a book imo that is intended for older children than 3, but I would let her tell me what she understood from this philosophically complex book.

    • Helen

      Rudolph, the red nosed reindeer, is also a kids song about racism. Do you feel this song is also too much too soon for a three year old?

  • vincigenius

    I appreciate your work for posting the berief information about toddler preschool learning

  • camronn

    They start to learn to IT certification MB7-701 exams organize this information into paragraphs, essays, projects, and 70-687 real brain dumps presentations that help students synthesize their learning — although their work is appropriately far from perfect 642-999 braindumps demo

  • cckb

    Its upsetting to see grammatical errors made by teachers when they write.

    • EM


      • cckb

        You are right. :)

  • Sony Paul

    As a parent we should have a goal on what our child should achieve although there is a school system to follow it can help parent to guide their child on the strengthening its personality better.

  • Ruby Singh

    Hey many thanks for sharing this informative article with all of us. Being a mother i am always curious to know about teaching methods so that i can give my best to my child at home. I have recently admitted my child to pre nursery school in pune, thanks for the guidance you shared about learning in pre nursery school. This article will make parents aware about learning process . Keep posting.

  • Myriam al-Jannah

    interesting article!!! I practice a lot of the skills with my two daughters, Upsannah and Umma each day. I can definitely say that they work well with my kids!!

    –Myriam al-Jannah

    • Michelle

      Myriam, I do the same with my son. We always go to farms, the beach etc. to learn. I teach him about various things we see out the window, in stores, anywhere really. It’s fun to see where his mind takes him.

  • Linda Durbin

    Love that you point out that learning happens in steps. That is absolutely the best thing to recognize for parents and educators. Kids need the basic “learning blocks” to build from.
    Linda – Nesting Right

  • sundu

    Seriously, whatever we have listed as things to learn in pre school, will be naturally be picked up by the kid, when it grows, will there be a difference? kindly take this question seriously

  • Dastagir Ahmed

    There are more to say how they learn. Most kids learn through fun. Make sure that they have fun when they learn.

  • Sunirmal Das

    Hi, its such amazing kids, i love preschoolers then other stages kids, some of them learn so fast, while some take times to learn, But i believe that learning through fun is the best way to get them engage with learning, or else these days kits love to fly away.

    Here, i found one kit that help them learning in fun ways,

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