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Teaching - the Early Years

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Audience Nutshell: To inform anyone about what a preschool teacher does.

As a preschool teacher, one is responsible for teaching the future generation the fundamentals of learning. It can be an extremely fulfilling and rewarding profession. With learning tools such as blocks, sandboxes, finger puppets, and Lincoln logs, it is the perfect profession for those who are young at heart.

There are several different routes you can take to become a preschool. For time sake, this paper is only going to address the most traditional route that one might follow. By the end of the 2005-2006 school year, according to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), all teachers must have a bachelor's degree, full certification or licensure (as defined by the state), and demonstrate competency (as defined by the state) in each core academic subject that he or she teaches ("Routes").

Early childhood programs are available at four-year schools. Almost all courses for earning a bachelor's degree in elementary teaching include classes in early childhood development, math teaching, and reading teaching ("Preparation"). Both the University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College require classes like developmental psychology, phonemic awareness/phonics, and the principles of learning and development. They both also require classes that teach methods for teaching social studies, science, and other school subjects.

Before a person can graduate from a teacher education program, he or she must complete some form of teaching internship, most commonly in the form of student teaching. A student teacher works in a classroom with an experienced teacher. They begin by observing the teacher and the classroom, and work to achieve teaching on their own by the end of the year ("Preparation").

Upon completing a teacher education program, the next step to becoming a teacher, is obtaining full certification and licensure as defined by the state. All fifty states and the District of Columbia require public school teachers to be licensed. Almost all states require teachers applying for their license to be tested for competency in basic skills, such as reading, writing, and teaching ("Teachers"). According to NCLB, new elementary teachers must pass a test demonstrating subject knowledge and skills in reading or language arts, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the basic elementary curriculum ("Licensing"). The most common type of certification is the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. The CDA requires a mix of classroom training and experience working with children, along with an independent assessment of some person's competence. Once all these requirements are met, a person is ready to teach ("Teachers").

Preschool teachers play a vital role in the development of children. Since preschoolers are so malleable, "what they learn and experience can shape their views of themselves, the world, and can affect their success and failure later in life at school, work, and their personal lives." Preschool teachers provide the tools and the environment for their students to develop the skills needed to interact with others and think through problems logically. "Preschool children learn mainly through play and interactive activities." Teachers use games, music, artwork, books, and other similar "props" to help their students understand the concepts and develop critical thought processes and to introduce the children to mathematics, science, social studies, and language ("Teachers").

Teachers can do many things to help their students understand mathematical concepts. Counting, patterns, geometry, spatial sense, and measuring are all difficult things for preschool students to grasp. But the creative teacher's classroom is full of fun activities that make it easier for their students to understand.

Blocks are a great example. Teachers can teach number concepts by having the children put three blocks away at a time, or by asking the children how many blocks they have or how they can divide the blocks so they can all have an equal amount. Blocks can also be used to emphasize concepts about geometry and spatial sense. Teachers can instruct the children to arrange blocks by their shapes, and to ask them what shape is next to the square. Children can also use rulers or strings to measure the size of the buildings they created ("Blocks").

Art can also be a good math teaching tool. It can help children understand the one to one correspondence as they place one paintbrush in each paint pot or put a cap on each marker. Children can also observe patterns in artwork. Teachers can have their students make play dough with them and let the children measure ingredients as they follow the recipes ("Art").

Another great tool for teaching math is music and movement. The students will learn to count better if they learn, counting songs (i.e. "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" and "The Rolly Polly Song"), rhyming, and chants. Music is also good for teaching patterns and rhythm by clapping to the music ("Music").

Some of the most fun experiences the children will have with math are outdoor activities. By playing games like "Mother, May I?", "Hide-n-Seek", and "Hopscotch", a child is practicing his or her counting. Games like "Squirrels and Trees" reinforce one-to-one correspondence by having each student find a partner. Children can not the different patterns on caterpillars, flowers, and leaves. Taking a class on a shape walk to find triangles or rectangles emphasize concepts of geometry ("Outdoor").

Teachers can use some of these same activities and others to introduce science to preschoolers. They can help teach about physical and life science and help children understand the earth and environment.

With blocks, preschoolers can explore physical science by using balancing scales to weigh their blocks. They can also learn about the different textures and stability of the different shapes ("Blocks").

The different plastic toy animals in the classroom can be useful in teaching children the difference between animals that live in the sea, or in the woods, or on a farm. Concepts about gravity, balance, and strength can be taught with Legos, Lincoln Logs, and other construction toys ("Toys").

One of the best ways for preschoolers to learn about science is by being outside and observing the world for themselves. Teachers can help their



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