Early Childhood Curriculum and Assessment Plan

Introduction

This paper presents an outline of an early childhood curriculum and assessment plan where it incorporates, amongst other things, the purpose, methods of assessment/tools, grade level, training and timeline. The significance of putting a lot of emphasis on early childhood education that meets the requirements of high-quality education standards is because of its ability to produce long-lasting and sustainable benefits. It is upon consideration of such vital evidence that decision makers at the local, federal and state level have been asking valid questions regarding the kind of education that young children ought to receive (Jackman & Beaver, 2014). Furthermore, they have, also, considered the kind of content that should be presented to children between birth and age eight. Therefore, these concerns about childhood education have provoked stakeholders in the education sector to develop strategies that can help children receive the right content so that they can develop in the desired manner. Besides, the same stakeholders have, also, been tasked by the need to ensure that childhood curriculum or programs are available for children starting from infancy stage to primary grades.

The early childhood curriculum and assessment plans are essential for providing a method of applying standards both in assessing the progress of children and curriculum planning. Such frameworks, also, enable teachers to develop ways of planning and implementing a curriculum in such way that meets particular standards of learning. Appropriate ways, also, help teachers in observing and evaluating the progress of children to ensure that the required standards are achieved (Jackman & Beaver, 2014). The implication of this arrangement; therefore, is that the entire system should focus planning of curriculum on achieving standards as well as the learning outcomes as opposed to the traditional focus on activities. It is essential to consider that curriculum and assessment is the tool that drives the manner in which teachers should work with children on a daily basis. Successful operation in the entire process entails achievement of positive results for the young children. Care should be taken in order to avoid confusion between the purpose of current evaluation to support learning with evaluation for program assessment accountability and monitoring.

Purpose

The fundamental purposes of an early childhood and assessment plan are for:

  • Observing and monitoring the progress of every child as related to performance standards and curricular goals.
  • Sharing information with teachers who receive such children and to ensure that there are effective transitions;
  • Organization and mutual sharing of information between program members of staff and families; and
  • Supporting development of curriculum as well as planning in order to enhance children’s learning as well as development by families and teachers (Soderman & Whiren, 2014).
  • Conducting screening for all children in order to make recommendation about follow up for any child that may be showing signs of special needs or potential disabilities.

According to the findings of Soderman and Whiren (2014), assessment should be handled with the deserving seriousness because of the critical role it plays in selecting the kind of content that should be available in the curriculum in order to be beneficial to young children. It is essential to learn that assessment supports the framework of curriculum by informing the content as well instruction methods that should be used during content delivery in order to meet the needs of children either as individuals or as a group. For this reason, teachers should utilize assessment data in order to be informed and be able to refine their methods of planning and implementing curriculum activities. In regard to monitoring the progress of children by both families and teachers, assessment should serve the purpose of enabling teachers determine if children are progressing in line with the predetermined requirements of the curriculum. This is essential for establishing if there is need for changes in the instruction. Universal screening is essential for children as it helps to determine if there are any of anomaly in their development. Assessment; therefore, should help detect such developmental anomalies in time in order to seek timely solutions. Screening should be a brief procedure and should be undertaken once each year for every child. In the view of Eliason and Jenkins, (2011), assessment of a curriculum program should be conducted on a regular basis. This is essential for determining and demonstrating the effectiveness of a child care program in term of its ability to meet its objectives for improvement of the program.

Caution should; however be taken to ensure that the childhood curriculum and assessment is not for:

  • Making comparison among children;
  • Evaluating teachers;
  • Comparing one program or one classroom to another
  • Making retention or placement decisions.

Method of Assessment/Tools

Appropriate assessment tools, on a developmental basis, offer instructions regarding administration of the tool. This includes guidance regarding collection of data and organization of methods for documentation of data as well as recording of baseline date. The manual that accompanies the tool usually contains description of the theory that supports the tool content. The manual, also, identifies ways in which assessment findings can be utilized in guiding instructional planning. In this case, it is essential for providers to undergo training in order to understand the assessment tool that they intend to use so that they can be informed about their practice and be able to individualize instructions for the children they have in their care. Eliason and Jenkins, (2011) argue that there is need for noting criterion-referenced assessments as assessments that have a basis on curriculum and aligned with the required standards irrespective of whether they are developed by education systems or commercial publishers. These criterion-referenced assessments are essential in the sense that they have individualized philosophy that is reflective of behaviors and skills of young children.

There are various assessment tools that teachers may use for children between birth and age five, and for school age children. Assessment tools for children between birth and age five are:

  • New Portage Guide
  • Work Sampling by Rebus, Inc.
  • High Scope by COR Assessment
  • Six Simple for Assessing Young Children in accordance to Developmental Milestone Checklist (Jackman & Beaver, 2014).

 Assessment tools that are appropriate for school-age children

  • Parent, child surveys, provider, evaluations, or questionnaires.
  • National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) (Jackman & Beaver, 2014).

Grade Level

In regard to grade level, it is essential for curriculum providers to note that early childhood education, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), is the education that children receive before they reach age eight (Soderman & Whiren, 2014). This represents the period children undergo the most rapid growth and development phase of their life. They experience rapid brain development during this period as compared to any other stage of their life. Besides, this is the level at which establishments of foundations for their moral outlook, perception of life, self-esteem and social skills happens. Also, this is the key period for the development of cognitive skills. Therefore, it is essential for teachers handling such children at this level to consider the delicate nature of their assignment and, thus exercise he necessary caution.

Training

Selecting an early childhood curriculum is highly-critical decision. This is because the kind of curriculum that is preferred, and the manner in which it is implemented has immense effects on children’s outcomes. The training technique that should be embraced in early childhood curriculum as suggested by Jackman and Beaver (2014), is High Scope. This is the method that has capacity to revolutionize early childhood education by embracing a modern style to teaching as well as learning. High Scope is child focused and research based, and has capacity to achieve positive, powerful outcomes through active participatory learning. It is essential for education researchers, teachers and parents to embrace High Scope in early childhood curriculum because it promotes fundamental skills such as problem solving, creativity, decision-making, persistence, cooperation, curiosity and independence, which are critical for determining success in later years. Furthermore, High Scope assists children to excel in cognitive and language learning.

During training; however, it is essential that teachers heed the following considerations: the daily routine, the classroom, and adult-child interaction. In regard to daily routine approach, High Scope requires consistence in providing a balanced assortment of learning opportunities and experiences (Soderman & Whiren, 2014). It is essential for children to participate in various activities, engage in social play, socialize during meals, help with cleanup, exercise their muscles, and develop their self-care skills. This is a High Scope approach that allows children make plans about their activities, execute their ideas, and then later reflect on those activities together with other children and adults. In regard to classroom, High Scope approach requires division of the classroom into interest areas, and each area to be supplied with necessary materials to stimulate the objective. Examples of other areas aside from the classroom include writing and reading area, computer area, small toy area, block area, art area, and house area. Shelves in all these areas should have consistent materials and labels that are child-friendly (Cook & Klein, 2015). It is essential to note that a classroom’s organization is critical for enabling children understand the world’s organization. The last and most significant High Scope approach of training young children is adult-child interaction. Through this process, teachers (adult) work alongside children and maintain constant communication through verbal and nonverbal methods in order to encourage learning.

Goals

In an early childhood curriculum, goals are essential for providing guidance with regard to what children require learning. Development of goals for an early childhood curriculum should address the following significant areas:

  • Emotional/social development, which should help children develop the feeling of confidence and responsibility. Therefore, a curriculum should help children relate in a positive manner with others (Eliason & Jenkins, 2011).
  • Cognitive development, which is significant for the development of children’s thinking skills. The curriculum should aim at developing children’s symbolic and logical thinking skills, problem-solving skills as well as other approaches to learning (Eliason & Jenkins, 2011).
  • Physical development, which is essential for boosting fine as well as gross motor skills of children, and lastly
  • Language development, which is essential for helping children develop communication ability through words (Eliason & Jenkins, 2011). The curriculum should aim at developing children’s writing, reading, speaking and listening skills.

These goals are essential for enabling a program that provides stimulating daily experiences for the children. The above-highlighted goals signify the reason early childhood educators considered “the whole child” as the center of focus (Eliason & Jenkins, 2011). Intentional focus on the whole child is essential for promoting learning as well as growth, objectives and goals within the early childhood curricula in order to address all the necessary areas of development. To arrive at the appropriate goals in case of early childhood curriculum, educators should scrutinize child development and narrow down to typical expectations required of this age group. The next step should entail reviewing standards from various disciplines such as technology, the arts, social studies, science, math and literacy for children below the age of five years.

Objectives

The objectives of an early childhood curriculum should, amongst others, include the following as proposed by Schwarz (2013):

  • Accommodate the diverse needs of children ranging from socioeconomic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds, as well as those who may be experiencing disability issues;
  • Offer teachers and families the methods for monitoring as well as documenting the individual growth and progress of the children over time;
  • Utilize measurable and observable demonstrations of skills and knowledge in the context of typical occurrence of children’s behavior both at home and within the preschool program;
  • Be consistent and reliable across teachers, classrooms and different sites;
  • Evaluate significant and meaningful markers that correlate with goals of the curriculum at preschool level;
  • Consider every child in terms of areas of individual interest and strength, identify areas requiring strengthening, potential concerns and appropriate goals;
  • Enables teachers and families obtain useful information that can assist them understand the learning needs and individual styles of every child;
  • Unite teachers and families in developing the best approaches for supporting the growth of children both at school as well as at home; and
  • Be practical, realistic and simple to implement.

Student Learning Outcomes

In regard to student learning outcomes, it is essential for educators to note that they have a huge responsibility that entails active promotion of learning outcomes. This is a collaborative assignment when it comes to acquisition of knowledge, skills and dispositions by children. The major indicators of student outcome include: physical development and health, language development, approaches to learning, emotional and social development, logic and reasoning, creative arts expression, and literacy skills and knowledge (Schwarz, 2013).

The following table shows the major indicators for student outcomes at different stages

Different Domains and their Elements

Objectives and Dimensions

Realm: Physical Development & Health
Physical health status–          Ability to demonstrate self-knowledge
Gross motor skills–          Exhibit travelling skills

–          Exhibit gross-motor scheming skills

–          Exhibit balancing skills

Health Knowledge & practice–          Demonstrate self-knowledge

–          Control own behaviors and emotions

Fine motor skills–          Make use of hands and fingers

–          Exhibit fine-motor coordination and strength

–          Utilizes drawing and writing tools

Sphere: Approaches to Learning
Initiative and curiosity–          Indicates motivation and curiosity

–          Exhibit desirable approaches to learning

–          Demonstrates inventiveness and flexibility in thinking

Cooperation–          Intermingles with peers

–          Demonstrate positive and constructive cooperation in group situation

–          Creates and maintains positive relationships

Persistence & attentiveness–          Attends and engages exhibits desirable approaches to learning

–          Persists

Sphere: Emotional & social development
Social relationships–          Creates and maintains positive relationships

–          Responds to emotional signals

–          Establishes relationships with adults

–          Makes friends

Self-efficacy & self-concept–          Controls own behaviors and emotions

–          Exhibits knowledge about self

Self-regulation–          Controls own behaviors and emotions

–          Follows expectations and limits

–          Manages feelings

Sphere: Logic & Reasoning
Reasoning & problem solving–          Exhibits desirable approaches to learning

–          Remembers and relates experiences

–          Solves problems

–          Utilizes classification skills

Symbolic presentation–          Utilizes images and symbols to represent a missing thing

–          Participates in sociodramatic play

–          Reasons symbolically

Sphere: Language development
Receptive language–          Listens to and understands progressively complex language

–          Follows directions

–          Understands language

Expressive language–          Expresses needs and thoughts using language

–          Utilizes conventional grammar

–          Speaks in a clear manner

Sphere: literacy skills & knowledge
Book knowledge and appreciation–          Exhibits knowledge of print as well as its uses

–          Uses books and appreciates them

–          Utilizes emergent reading skills

Alphabet knowledge–          Demonstrates alphabet knowledge

–          Utilizes letter-sound skill

–          Names letters after identifying them

Early writing–          Exhibit emergent skills of writing

–          Writes to pass meaning

–          Writes names

Sphere: Creative arts expression
Music–          Explores musical expression and concepts
Creative movement & dance–          Explores concepts of movement and dance

Some Specific Activities as Justified by Research

Intentional Teaching

As far as early childhood education is concerned, teaching requires being a continuous process that entails continual planning and observation. The early childhood curriculum drafters are expected to develop plans that contain experiences that can promote children’s rate of learning (Hoffman, 2014). Through observation, teachers should be able to understand such young children in order to develop new teaching strategies and activities for presenting further challenges to the children. Therefore, through intentional teaching process, teachers give a careful thought to the planned activities. Selection of performance standards is the step that takes precedence when it comes to intentional teaching. It entails making decision about the content that children require learning. In order to have a successful preschool process of assessment, teachers should choose a number of weekly performance standards to be used as children’s learning goals. Through time, the teacher progresses and familiarizes with the assessment. The learning activities should fall within the major domains of child development, which include: communication and language, approaches to learning, social and emotional, and physical and health development (Schwarz, 2013).

Communication and language

Activities

Clap a name- this is an activity that enhances a special feeling among children, and makes them learn their friends’ names, and even count syllables. Research shows that ‘clap a name’ activity is an essential in developing phonological awareness. In this case, the teacher should teach children how to separate count syllables. For instance, children should clap three times when pronouncing a name that has three syllables. ‘How does something feel’ as argued by Hoffman (2014), is a sensory activity that enables children to explore objects that are familiar through touching in order to develop language concept to explain the feeling. This activity utilizes normal materials found in the environment of children such as paintbrushes, animals, trucks, small cars, and plastic fruits. The third activity under communication and language entails the teacher asking children whether they hear what the teacher hears. It is an activity that has a lot of fun and it is meant for helping children identify sounds through listening to them. This is an essential activity that enables children to understand communication that is conveyed through speaking.

Approaches to Learning

Activities

Tissue paper collages- as argued by several researchers including Hoffman (2014) enables children to experiment their creativity. It is, also, an activity that is meant to enhance fine-motor skills. Children, also, improve their cognitive skills by learning the names of various colors. Free exploration is another essential activity under approaches to learning. This activity enables children to experiment physical properties by applying their skills of solving problems.

Emotional and social development

Activities

Scary face, mad face- is an activity that entails expression of ideas that deal with feelings. It is essential for improving self-expression and coping skills thereby sharpening creative, thinking and problem solving abilities. The necessary material for this activity include stuffed puppet or animal, huge pieces of paper, and books that can give a scary impression. The ‘quilt of my scary things’ is an activity that many researchers such as Soderman and Whiren (2014), and Hoffman (2014) believe enhances discussion and sharing. It actually allows children to discuss their drawing while harboring the feeling of quilt. At the same time, it allows the uniqueness of every child to be celebrated. The material required in this activity include: construction paper containing various colors, crayons and markers, glue or masking tape, and butcher paper. ‘My hands can speak’ is a learning activity under emotional and social development that encourages children to use words and their hands while expressing their feelings.

Physical and Health Development

Activities

Jump the river activity is a jumping game for fun meant for capturing the children’s imagination enhancing the development of their gross-motor skills. The relevant materials for this activity are sheet or towel (Hoffman, 2014). The second activity under physical and health development is the bowling game. It is an essential activity for sharpening ball skills, and it involves counting and some math. The necessary materials for the game include: ball, broomsticks, empty shoe boxes, and empty milk carton.

Literacy Skills in Early Childhood Curriculum

The journey of a child towards literacy entails learning to speak, read, listen, understand, draw, watch and write (Griffin & McGraw, 2013). It is, therefore, essential to note that through playing word and sound games, singing, talking, drawing, writing and reading with young children is the most appropriate way of establishing a strong literacy foundation for them.

Literacy Activities that Entail Talking and Singing

Adult-children interaction through talking and singing is essential for helping them learn about sound and the manner in which such sounds combine to create language. Teaching children songs and language games is essential for promoting their speaking and listening skills. Listening to children is equally significant because it is the only way adults get to learn about the most enjoyable songs and stories to children (Griffin & McGraw, 2013).

Literacy activities for the children are:

  • Making use of rhymes whenever possible. For instance, children handlers can use rhymes such as ‘a rug in a bug’. Older children should be allowed to come up with rhymes on their own, and learn songs and poems.
  • Repeat sounds children make, or better still make sounds and let children copy them.
  • For young children, sing nursery rhymes with them. Children love singing and nursery rhymes are essential for teaching them language.
  • Talk about animal sounds and ask children to copy them.
  • Read books with children while ensuring that they see the face of the lead reader and the book that is being shared.
  • Visit the library with children and encourage them to pick books they prefer to read.
  • Read stories then discuss them with children.
  • Encourage children to write and draw using markers, crayons, pencils and pens.
  • Encourage children to write their names and those of their friends.

Formative Assessment Activities

The following are some of the activities that can be used in formative assessment to evaluate a student’s progress (Griffin & McGraw, 2013):

  • Graphic organizers, charts and lists- learners should be asked to organize information in such a way that demonstrates their ability to make connections and identify relationships by using different graphic organizers.
  • Summaries and reflections- learners will be expected to stop or pause in order to reflect as way of determining the information they have heard or read. This activity will serve the metacognitive skills of students.
  • Collaborative activities- learners will get the chance to move around and communicate with one another to develop and exhibit how well they comprehend the concepts.
  • Representation of information through visuals- here, learners will be expected to utilize pictures and words, determine connections and enhance their memory in order to facilitate subsequent retrieval of information. Many scholars refer to this process as dual coding because it enables teachers address various approaches of knowing, preferences in the style of learning, and classroom diversity.

Summative Assessment Activities

According to Griffin and McGraw (2013), summative assessments should be undertaken on a periodic basis to establish what the learners know and what they do not know. Summative assessment activities include:

  • Semester and/or end-of-term exams
  • Chapter or end-of-unit tests
  • Interim or district benchmark assessments
  • State assessments

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