Reflective journal 6 – chapter 6

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this assignment is based in chapel 6 of the book. 

Effective Practices
in Early Childhood
Education
Building a Foundation

Su e Bredeka m p
Early Childhood Education Consultant

Third Edition

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Bredekamp, Sue.
Effective practices in early childhood education : building a foundation / Sue Bredekamp, Early Childhood Education Consultant. —
Third edition.
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-13-395670-2—ISBN 0-13-395670-9 1. Early childhood education—United States. 2. Child development—United States.
I. Title.
LB1140.23.B72 2015
372.21—dc23

2015029580

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Student Edition
ISBN 10: 0-13-395670-9
ISBN 13: 978-0-13-395670-2

Loose-Leaf Version
ISBN 10: 0-13-411549-X
ISBN 13: 978-0-13-411549-8

REVEL eBook
ISBN 10: 0-13-430324-5
ISBN 13: 978-0-13-430324-6

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To Joe Bredekamp, for a lifetime of love, friendship, wonderful memories, and tolerance
of craziness, and to Darby whose unconditional love enriches our lives every day.

Dedication

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About the author
Dr. Sue Bredekamp is an early childhood education specialist from the Washington,
D.C., area who serves as a consultant on developmentally appropriate practice, curricu-
lum, teaching, and teacher education for state and national organizations such as NAEYC,
Head Start, the Council for Professional Recognition, and Sesame Street. From 1981 to
1998, she was Director of Accreditation and Professional Development for NAEYC where
she developed and directed their national accreditation system for early childhood centers
and schools. Dr. Bredekamp is the editor of NAEYC’s best-selling, highly influential publi-
cation, Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs.

Dr. Bredekamp is Chair of the Board of the HighScope Educational Research Foun-
dation. She was a member of the National Research Council’s (NRC) Committee on
Early Childhood Mathematics, which produced a landmark report, Mathematics in Early
Childhood: Paths toward Excellence and Equity. Dr. Bredekamp serves on several advisory
boards and is a frequent keynote speaker and author of numerous books and articles re-
lated to standards for professional practice and teacher education. She has been a visiting
lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia; Monash University in Melbourne;
University of Alaska; and University of Hawaii. She holds a PhD in Curriculum and In-
struction from the University of Maryland. The McCormick Center for Early Childhood
Leadership at National Louis University recognized Dr. Bredekamp with its Visionary
Leadership Award in 2014. For 45 years, Dr. Bredekamp has worked for and with young
children toward the goal of improving the quality and effectiveness of early childhood
education programs.

About the contributor
Dr. Kathleen (Kate) Cranley Gallagher is an educational psychologist and scientist
at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at University of North Caro-
lina at Chapel Hill. She is a Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Education at
UNC, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate early childhood professionals.
Dr. Gallagher has herself been an early childhood professional for over 30 years; she has
taught in and administered diverse programs for children birth to 8 years of age, with and
without disabilities. Dr. Gallagher’s publications and applied work focus on developing,
implementing and evaluating evidence-based interventions to support social- emotional
well-being and development for young children, their families and early childhood pro-
fessionals. Dr. Gallagher has served on state advisory panels, developing standards and
assessments for early childhood education and health and is a founding member of the
North Carolina Infant Mental Health Association. She developed Be Well to Teach Well,
a program designed to support the well-being and of early childhood professionals.
Dr. Gallagher is an accomplished teacher and frequently invited speaker nationally,
and presented a keynote address at the International Preschool Teachers’ Conference in
Hangzhou, China as a guest of Zhejiang Normal University. She delivered a TEDx talk,
entitled, The Healthy Child: Assembly Required in which Dr. Gallagher argued that the
single most important feat of construction that our society undertakes is the assembly
required to build physically, emotionally, cognitively, and socially healthy children. She
lives in Carrboro, North Carolina, with her husband, John, and enjoys time with her two
adult children, Jack and Bridget.

iv

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v

In the previous editions of this book, I described the challenge of my first day of

teaching preschool in a child care center many years ago. It was the hardest job I have ever

had, primarily because my bachelor’s degree in English did not prepare me for it. I didn’t

know enough about child development, how and what to teach, how to communicate with

families, how to positively guide children’s behavior—the list goes on and on. Feeling com-

pletely incompetent, I seriously thought about not going back the next day. Then I realized

that although I had a choice not to return, the children did not. They deserved a better

teacher than I was at that time. As a result, I continued teaching, went back to school, and

set out to learn as much as possible about child development and how best to teach young

children. And I have been learning ever since. In short, my initial motivation in writing

this book was a personal one—to help ensure that new teachers get off to a better start

than I did and that the children do, too.

In the decades since I entered the early childhood profession, however, there has been

an explosion of new knowledge and research, and a huge increase in public recognition

and support for early education. A great many parents, policy makers, and researchers

now consider early childhood programs essential for fostering school readiness and long-

term success in life. Economists and business leaders consider high-quality child care and

early education a necessary investment in the future of our country. Nobel Prize–winning

economist James Heckman believes that investing in early education is a cost-effective

strategy that will improve educational and health outcomes, strengthen the economy, help

solve America’s social problems, and produce a more capable, productive workforce.

But the power of early education depends on the quality of interactions teachers have

with children, and the effectiveness of their instructional practices. To achieve their po-

tential, children need and deserve highly competent, well-educated teachers. My goal in

writing this book is to help all teachers, whether beginning or continuing their profession-

al journeys, gain access to the exciting new knowledge about child development, engaging

and challenging curriculum content, and effective ways of teaching. Today, our profes-

sion has a deep responsibility to meet the expectations of families, the general public, and

policy makers and to fulfill the promise that has been made to children.

My hope is that every teacher embraces new knowledge as well as the enduring values

of early childhood education, and encounters the sheer joy of teaching young children.

Every child needs and deserves a highly qualified teacher from day one.

Preface

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New to This Edition
This is the first edition of Effective Practices in Early Childhood Education: Building a
Foundation offered in REVELTM.

REVELTM is Pearson’s newest way of delivering our respected content. Fully digital
and highly engaging, REVEL offers an immersive learning experience designed for the
way today’s students read, think, and learn. Enlivening course content with media inter-
actives and assessments, REVEL empowers educators to increase engagement with the
course, and to better connect with students.

REVEL offers:
Dynamic content matched to the way today’s students read, think, and learn

• Integrated Videos and Interactive Media Integrated within the narrative, videos
empower students to engage with concepts and take an active role in learning.
REVEL’s unique presentation of media as an intrinsic part of course content brings
the hallmark features of Pearson’s bestselling titles to life.

• Quizzing and Short-Answer Response Opportunities Located throughout
REVEL, quizzing affords students opportunities to check their understanding at
regular intervals before moving on. Quizzes are in multiple-choice and short-answer
response formats.

• Chapter Quiz “Demonstrate Your Learning” end-of-chapter multiple-choice ques-
tions allow students to check their understanding on chapter concepts.

Additional Significant Changes to this Edition
• A new feature, “Promoting Play,” in every chapter addressing a different issue re-

lated to supporting children’s learning through play or protecting children’s right to
play. See the Special Features page at the end of the Table of Contents for a list of all
of the feature topics by chapter.

• Revised Chapter 3 with examination of current issues such as the Common Core
State Standards and accountability through the lens of developmentally appropriate
practice.

• New sections on the implications of the Common Core State Standards for curricu-
lum and teaching in preschool through grade 3 in Chapter 10 on planning curricu-
lum, Chapter 11 on assessment, Chapter 12 on language and literacy, and Chapter
13 on mathematics.

• Updated Chapter 1 with discussion of new policy initiatives, changing demograph-
ics, new research on the effectiveness of early education, and trends in the field.

• Updated Language Lenses on research-based classroom practices for effectively
teaching dual language learners.

• New examples of developmentally appropriate use of digital media with children,
teachers, and families throughout the text.

• Reorganized content by moving sections on developmentally appropriate learning
environments, materials, and schedule to Chapter 3, Developmentally Appropriate
Practice.

• Reorganized Chapter 10, Planning Effective Curriculum, to include discussion of
Reggio Emilia.

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• Updated research and new examples of effective practices for children with diverse
abilities, particularly children with autism spectrum disorder.

• Expanded discussion of current research on brain development and executive
function and implications for teaching.

• New artifacts and examples of children’s work, especially from children in the
primary grades.

Book Organization Reflects
Guidelines for Developmentally
Appropriate Practice
This book is designed to teach the concept of developmentally appropriate practice for
students because an understanding of its principles is the foundation on which to build
early childhood programs and schools for children from birth through age 8. Chapters
are organized according to NAEYC’s guidelines for developmentally appropriate practice,
which I have coauthored for 30 years.

Part 1, Foundations of Early Childhood Education, describes the current profession
and the issues and trends effecting it today (Chapter 1), the rich history from which
developmentally appropriate practices evolved (Chapter 2), and an overview of its
principles and guidelines, which are described in depth in later chapters (Chapter 3).

Part 2, Dimensions of Developmentally Appropriate Practice, includes chapters
describing the key factors teachers must consider as they make professional decisions.
Chapter 4 presents an overview of current knowledge about how all children develop and
learn. Chapter 5 addresses the unique, individual differences among children, including
children with diverse abilities. Chapter 6 discusses the critical role of social, cultural, and
linguistic contexts on all children’s development and learning and how teachers must
embrace a diverse society to help every child succeed in school and life.

Part 3, Intentional Teaching: How to Teach, describes the role of the teacher in
implementing developmentally appropriate practices. Each of the interconnected aspects
of the teacher’s role is addressed in separate chapters: building effective partnerships with
families (Chapter 7), creating a caring community of learners and guiding young children
(Chapter 8); teaching to enhance learning and development (Chapter 9); planning effective
curriculum (Chapter 10); and assessing children’s learning and development (Chapter 11).

Part 4, Implementing an Effective Curriculum: What to Teach, describes both
how and what to teach children from birth through age 8 in language, literacy, the arts,
mathematics, science, technology, social-emotional development, social studies, physical
development, and health. Each chapter demonstrates how the continuum of children’s
development determines the appropriateness of curriculum content and intentional,
effective teaching strategies for children of different ages.

Early childhood educators join this profession and stay in it because they believe their
work can make a difference in the lives of children and their families. But to make a last-
ing difference, our practices must be effective—they must contribute to children’s learning
and development. This book reflects this core goal by building on the basic framework
of developmentally appropriate practice while going beyond to emphasize intentional
teaching, challenging and interesting curriculum, and evidence-based, effective practices
for a new generation of early childhood educators. Each of these key themes is discussed
on the following pages.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach118

gets over the last hurdle herself. Ave gives him a big smile as she pushes off with her feet
and makes a circle around the room.

By giving Ave “a leg up,” Khari helped her accomplish a goal that she couldn’t do on
her own, but could achieve with his assistance. Vygotsky (1978) identified this as the
zone of proximal development (ZPD)—the distance between the actual developmental
level an individual has achieved (their independent level of problem solving) and the
level of potential development they could achieve with adult guidance or through
collaboration with other children. The assistance, guidance, and direction teachers pro-
vide children in their ZPD is called scaffolding. To gain deeper understanding of how
children learn in their ZPD, read the feature Becoming an Intentional Teacher: Teaching
in the “Zone.”

Social Construction of Knowledge Scaffolding does not mean that teachers
control or shape learning, as behaviorists believe (see p. 124). Instead, children learn by
solving problems collaboratively with the teacher’s support or by working with peers,
which is called co-construction, or social construction of knowledge.

zone of proximal development
(ZPD) The distance between
the actual developmental level
an individual has achieved (her
independent level of problem
solving) and the level of po-
tential development she could
achieve with adult guidance
or through collaboration with
other children.

scaffolding The assistance,
guidance, and direction teach-
ers provide children to help
them accomplish a task or
learn a skill (within their ZPD)
that they could not achieve on
their own.

co-construction Children
learning by solving prob-
lems collaboratively with the
teacher’s support or by working
with peers; also called social
construction of knowledge.

Becoming an Intentional Teacher
Teaching in the “Zone”
Here’s What Happened In my kindergarten, we are
working on the basic mathematical number operations—
adding and subtracting. In our classroom, children work in
centers for part of the morning. Through assessments that I
do during center time, I learned that Miguel can add two sin-
gle-digit numbers on his own. I also learned that he is strug-
gling with subtracting single-digit numbers, but is successful
when I talk through the subtraction activities with him. I also
observed that Miguel is able to subtract more successfully
when the problem is applied, such as when he is playing
cashier and giving “change” in our Home Improvement Store
center. Miguel especially likes to play there because his Dad
works in construction. I decided on a three-pronged approach
to support his understanding and application of subtraction:

1) I set aside 5–10 minutes twice a week to work individ-
ually with Miguel. Using manipulatives, including an
abacus and small counting trains. Miguel loves trains!
During this time, I verbally support Miguel’s grouping
and counting, using short word problems and number
cards.

2) I also intentionally join Miguel and other children in
the Home Improvement Store at center time. I intro-
duce the concept of “Supply Lists” to the center, using
cards with pictures and labels of the different supplies.
Children can add nuts, bolts, and tools to their baskets,
according to the list, and return (subtract) things they
no longer need for their building projects. As Miguel
purchases and returns items for his building project, I
support and make explicit his adding and subtracting,
pointing out to Miguel how successfully he uses math
for his project.

3) Finally, during the morning math challenge, I pair
Miguel with a friend who understands subtraction con-
cepts well, and is very verbal. I have them work together

to solve the problem, ex-
plaining each of their steps.

After about two weeks of this more
intensive approach, Miguel demonstrates ability to subtract
single-digit numbers on his own, and begins to experiment
with double-digit numbers. He insists on being the employee
at checkout in the Home Improvement Store to showcase his
adding and subtracting.

Here’s What I Was Thinking As a kindergarten teach-
er, I know that understanding and applying these founda-
tional mathematical concepts is essential for building chil-
dren’s later competence in math. I also understand that
children learn best in the context of supportive relation-
ships, and I structure interactions in my classroom to in-
tentionally support each learner. I do this by: (1) assessing
each child’s level of independent performance on a skill,
(2) assessing each child’s level of supported (with help)
performance on a skill, and (3) developing lessons that al-
low a child to practice in their supported level, until the
child can do the skill independently. I then set the next
higher level of skill as the child’s goal skill.

Vygotsky used the term zone of proximal development
(ZPD) to describe the child’s skill level when supported by
an adult or more experienced peer. He believed that by as-
sessing only what a child knows, a teacher does not have
information on how to support the child’s progress. But by
assessing a child’s ZPD, I am able to structure for progres-
sive development and learning.

Reflection How did this teacher use assessment to
guide her intentional teaching? What other strategies could
she have used to teach Miguel in his Zone of Proximal
Development?

Intentional Teaching of Young Children
This text builds on the framework of developmentally appropriate practice emphasizing
that effective teachers are intentional, thoughtful, and purposeful in everything they do.

Intentional teachers know not only what to do with children
but also why they are doing it and can explain the rationale
for the decisions they make to other teachers, administrators,
and families. To help students understand this concept,
Becoming an Intentional Teacher features reveal what
teachers are thinking in classroom situations, how and why
they select the strategies they do, and challenge students to
reflect further on these scenarios.

Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education84

should not be viewed in isolation. All three considerations, in fact, interact with and
influence each other; they are always intertwined in shaping children’s development and
behavior. For example, children all over the world follow a similar developmental pat-
tern when learning language. They all progress from cooing, to babbling, to one-word
utterances, to telegraphic speech (“Daddy up”), to short sentences, and finally to more
complex sentences. However, a wide range of individual variation exists in language
acquisition of children who are roughly the same age, because of differences in language
experience as well as developmental variation. At age 3, Joey speaks in three-word ut-
terances, whereas his same-age cousin, Michael, expounds in paragraphs. Finally, each
child speaks the language, including the dialect, of his or her own cultural group. Six-
year-old Amelia speaks English to her mother and Spanish to her father. All of these fac-
tors influence children’s language development and how teachers think about supporting
it optimally for all children.

Now let’s look at how the meshing of the three considerations plays out in the deci-
sions of one primary grade teacher:

Frida Lopez has 22 children in her first-grade class. Her first challenge each year is to
get to know the children well. She meets with their families, engages in one-on-one
conversations with children, observes their behavior and skills throughout the day,
and sets up specific tasks to evaluate their skills such as literacy tasks or solving math
problems with counters.

As she gets to know her students, she regularly assesses their abilities and in-
terests in relation to what she knows from her study of child development, the cur-
riculum goals, and her experiences teaching other 6- and 7-year-olds. She finds that
a few children exceed her expectations in reading or social skills, whereas others are
significantly behind their peers in some areas. Each child has a unique personality
and profile of abilities, and Frida becomes more aware of these.

Neela has Down syndrome, and Frida has already met with her parents and the
team of special education professionals who create and implement an individualized
educational plan for her. After a few weeks, Frida becomes concerned that another
child, Almonzo, might have an undiagnosed language delay. In the case of the six
children whose home languages are not ones Frida knows, she recognizes that she
must take extra steps to find out about them. Using community volunteers and, in
one case, a paid translator, Frida connects with the families of her students to build
relationships and to learn what capabilities the children exhibit in their homes and
communities.

So we see that in meeting the children, Frida seamlessly draws on her knowledge
of child development and learning, as well as her knowledge of them as individuals and
members of cultural groups. Precisely because children are so different and their abilities
vary so greatly, Frida will need to draw from a wide repertoire of teaching strategies to
help them achieve developmentally appropriate goals.

So far we have described the areas of knowledge that teachers consider in making
decisions about developmentally appropriate practice—what teachers need to know and
think about. Now we turn to the work of the teachers—what do early childhood teachers
do? What are the dimensions of practice that describe the teacher’s role?

✓ Check Your Understanding 3.3: Developmentally Appropriate Decision Making

The Complex Role of the Teacher
According to the NAEYC’s (2009) guidelines for developmentally appropriate practice,
the complex job of an early childhood teacher has five interrelated dimensions: (1)
creating a caring community of learners, (2) teaching to enhance learning and devel-
opment, (3) planning curriculum to achieve important goals, (4) assessing children’s
learning and development, and (5) establishing reciprocal relationships with families.

M03_BRED6702_03_SE_C03.indd 84 10/8/15 11:56 AM

Effective teachers are informed decision makers who adapt
for individual differences, including for children with dis-
abilities and special needs. Check Your Understanding
features engage students in assessing their own learning.
Some questions involve critical thinking about a complex
teaching situation or issue confronting the early childhood
field. These quizzes appear only in REVELTM and include
feedback.

Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 99

Key Terms
■ age appropriate
■ assessment
■ caring community of

learners
■ culturally appropriate

■ culture
■ curriculum
■ developmentally appro-

priate practice (DAP)
■ individually appropriate

■ intentional teachers
■ learning centers
■ position statement

■ push-down curriculum
■ reciprocal relationships
■ scientifically based

curriculum

Carter, M., & Curtis, D. (2014). Designs for living and
learning: Transforming early childhood environments.
St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S. (Eds.). (2009). Devel-
opmentally appropriate practice in early childhood
programs serving children from birth through age 8
(3rd ed.). Washington, DC: National Association for the
Education of Young Children.

Epstein, A. S. (2014). The intentional teacher: Choosing
the best strategies for young children’s learning (Rev.
ed.). Washington, DC: National Association for the Edu-
cation of Young Children.

ASCD Whole Child Initiative
This website provides resources promoting elementary
education that supports all areas of children’s develop-
ment and learning.

National Association for the Education of Young
Children
NAEYC’s website has a special section on resources for
developmentally appropriate practice and play, plus cop-
ies of all their position statements.

ZERO to THREE—National Center for Infants,
Toddlers, and Families
This website provides resources and practical tips for
working with infants, toddlers, and their families.

Readings and Websites

Demonstrate Your Learning
Click here to assess how well you’ve learned the content in this chapter.

Intentional teachers must reflect and apply their knowl-
edge using a broad repertoire of effective teaching strat-
egies. Demonstrate Your Learning features at the end
of each chapter require students to practice these skills.
This end-of-chapter quiz appears only in REVELTM and
includes feedback.

viii

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Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 81

quietly with a puzzle or pegboard. A second grader loves to read and spends all of her free
time with a book, while another struggles with reading but looks forward to math because
it’s her best subject.

The term individually appropriate refers to teachers using what they know about the
personality, strengths, interests, and abilities of each individual child in the group to adapt
for and be responsive to individual variation. Consider, for instance, two tricycle riders:
The fearless rider may need more careful supervision to prevent injury, while the warier
child may need extra encouragement and support to develop his large motor skills. Similar-
ly, some children will need enriched experiences to accelerate their language development,
while a few may need individual support to continue to build on their precocious reading
ability. A withdrawn, timid child may need a great deal of emotional support to cope with
life’s challenges, while another needs help controlling aggression to make friends.

With the individual differences that exist, teachers clearly cannot expect all children
in a group to learn the same thing in the same way at the same time. Even when the
teacher introduces a concept or reads a book to a whole group, each child will take away
something different from the learning experience. Therefore, to help children progress,

individually appropriate
Information about the strengths,
interests, abilities, and needs
of each individual child in the
group that enables teachers to
adapt to and be responsive to
individual variation.

People sometimes wonder if developmentally appro-
priate practices are effective for children with dis-
abilities. The fact is that the basic elements of de-
velopmentally appropriate practice are necessary for
inclusion to succeed. Consider the following example:

Isaac is 4 years old and has a diagnosis of autism.
He is sitting on a brightly colored carpet square
between two of his preschool peers at circle time.
His teacher is reading a book the class made called
Friends, Friends, Who Do You See? It is adapted
from Brown Bear, Brown Bear (Martin, 1996), but
features pictures of the children in the class paired
with their names. Isaac loves the book, and reads
along with the teacher. As the teacher reads each
child’s name in the story, he or she stands up and
moves. After the story, it is time for singing. Isaac
knows this because circle time happens in a similar
routine each day.

The teacher pulls out the “song chart” featur-
ing the pictures and titles of eight different songs.
One song is about a train. Isaac loves trains and
seems eager to hear the new song. He points to the
“Trains on the track.” The teacher helps Isaac re-
move the song card. Isaac holds the card while the
children sing. Then Isaac makes the sign for “play”
with his hands. The teacher says, “Yes, Isaac, it is
time for centers.” She lets Isaac choose a center
first because she knows it is hard for him to wait.
Isaac brings the teacher the song card and then
points to the picture of the water table. His teacher
models, “I want to play at the. . . .” Isaac says,
“Water table.” His teacher, proud of his increasing
verbal skills, gives him a hug and says, “Off you go
to the water table.” When Isaac’s mother picks him

up from school, his teacher describes how often he
used his words and which friends he played with
during center time.

By contrast, when children with disabilities are included
in programs that are not developmentally appropriate,
it becomes difficult for the child with special needs—
indeed, for all of the children—to make meaningful
progress. Compare this child’s experience to Isaac’s:

Tara, also a 4-year-old with autism, is sitting next to
her teacher at circle time. The teacher is reading from
a small-sized book, and many of the children can-
not see the pictures very well, including Tara. Circle
time has been in progress for over 20 minutes and
many of the children are getting restless. Tara begins
rocking back and forth and looking at the door. With-
out warning, the teacher stops reading the book and
tells the children to stand up for a finger play. Tara
bolts from the circle and runs to the water table. She
begins splashing and yelling. The teacher stops and
asks Tara to return to circle. When Tara does not re-
turn on her own volition, the assistant teacher physi-
cally moves her back to the circle, and a 10-minute
struggle ensues. When Tara’s father comes to pick her
up, the teacher describes “her bad day” and asks him
to talk to Tara about listening at school.

A child with a disability acts like a magnifying glass on
the developmental appropriateness of an early child-
hood program. As is clear from Isaac’s case and by
contrast Tara’s experience, developmentally appropri-
ate practice provides the necessary foundation for his
successful inclusion in the program. But individually
appropriate adaptations are also essential for children
with disabilities and other special needs.

Developmentally Appropriate Practice
and Children with Disabilities

Including All Children

Chapter 13 Teaching Children to Investigate and Solve Problems 449

What Works
Teaching STEM to Dual Language Learners
Considerable attention is paid to research on how dual language
learners acquire English and learn to read. At times, there is an as-
sumption that because mathematics is about numbers and quan-
tity, language is less of a barrier. However, mathematics itself is
a language, and as we have seen, math talk is what makes its ab-
stract concepts comprehensible for children. Other areas of STEM
have their own vocabulary and involve academic language that
children do not encounter in everyday interactions. In short, STEM
learning presents unique challenges for dual language learners.

Many of the same strategies for teaching dual language
learners in general are effective in teaching STEM. For example,
gestures such as a circling motion are useful in helping young
children understand basic concepts such as the whole amount or
putting together and taking apart. Children readily count or form
shapes with their fingers. Teachers can set up an obstacle course
for children to use their whole bodies to learn position words such
as above, below, between, and through. A strategy for older chil-
dren is to create a math, science, or technology dictionary of rel-
evant terms. Such a resource engages children in using different
ways of representing a concept—in this case, words that can be
referred to later.

Another effective strategy is having children talk to one another
in pairs or small groups. When children are learning a new lan-
guage, it is important not to put them on the spot. They shouldn’t
be expected to respond in front of the whole class. In a small group,
it is easier to practice concepts and “errors” are more likely to be
viewed as part of the learning process. This is especially important
with a topic like math that may have only one correct answer.

Introducing a math or science concept to the whole class can
be done effectively using an interactive whiteboard. Then chil-
dren can be prompted to respond to questions chorally as a whole
group. Not every child will answer correctly, and no one child’s
response will be singled out.

Another proven strategy when introducing a math or science
concept is to explicitly teach it by modeling, supplying the spe-
cific name, and having children repeat the word. Also helpful is
introducing and using a consistent sentence such as the one first

graders used to interpret their graphs in
Figure 13.1.

Problem solving is playing a larger role in
today’s curriculum due to the Common Core standards, but word
problems complicate the challenge of math instruction for dual
language learners. Teachers should avoid tricky word problems
that create confusion, such as: “Jonas has 2 cars and 3 trucks;
how many vehicles does he have?” Such a question poses a lan-
guage test rather than a math problem. A related challenge pre-
sented by word problems is the culturally implicit knowledge they
often require. Solving a problem usually requires that a child un-
derstand the situation in which it occurs, whether it’s purchasing
groceries or driving a car at a certain speed.

Manipulatives are hailed as an excellent tool to teach STEM,
and yet many children cannot relate to these toys. Few such toys
reflect the racial, cultural, and gender diversity of our classrooms.
For example, Lego® has introduced some plastic figures portray-
ing people of color as doctors, scientists, architects, and other
STEM occupations. However, most STEM toys still promote ste-
reotypes of only white males in these roles.

What works most effectively are the practices that are de-
velopmentally appropriate for all children—hands-on, meaning-
ful experiences coupled with teacher scaffolding, as opposed
to worksheets that test what children should have already
learned. Dual language learners need to actively “do” science,
technology, and engineering tasks—as teachers and other chil-
dren supply the words. And most important of all, teachers need
to have high expectations that all children can learn challenging
STEM content.

Sources: Based on “6 Tips When Discussing Math with the English Language
Learner,” by B. Austin, 2014, Chicago, Erikson Early Math Collabora-
tive, retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://earlymath.erikson.edu/6-tips-
discussing-math-english-language-learner; “It’s Time for More Racial
Diversity in STEM Toys” by M. Weinstock, 2015, Scientific American,
Voices: Exploring and Celebrating Diversity in Science, retrieved March
8, 2015, from http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/voices/2015/02/23/
its-time-for-more-racial-diversity-in-stem-toys/?WT.mc_id=SA_sharetool_
Twitter.

STEM skills and understanding, with T standing for technology. In other words, children
need to think critically about how technology is used to solve problems as well as learn
how to use technological tools in intentional and creative ways.

A Developmentally and Technologically
Appropriate Classroom
A preschool teacher creates a class website that is updated regularly. The children create
a slide show about their class pet using Kid Pix software to share with families. For an
integrated science study on the properties of water, kindergartners produce information
books on the computer using digital photos of their water experiments.

Current Research on Effective Practices
In an era of Common Core State Standards and Early Learning standards, accountability,
and rapid change in the field, the text makes research understandable and meaningful for
students and illustrates the connections between child development, curriculum content,
assessment, and intentional teaching.

What Works features present research-based practices in
action, including descriptions of demonstrated effective
practices such as teaching mathematics to dual language
learners, father involvement, and using evidence-based cur-
riculum to narrow the achievement gap.

Lens features present insights on culture, language, and in-
cluding all children. These features discuss practice through
diverse lenses, expanding the sources of information teach-
ers use to make decisions and helping them look at questions
or problems from broader perspectives. Widening the lens
with which teachers view their practice is a strategy to move
beyond the persistent educational tendency to dichotomize
difficult or controversial issues into “either/or” choices, and
move toward “both/and” thinking.

• Current research findings, such as effective strategies for teaching dual language learn-
ers or children with autism spectrum disorder, are brought to life and made meaningful
by connections to classroom and community examples.

• The terms and definitions used in this text contribute to establishing a shared vocabulary
for all of those in and entering the field.

• Approximately 40% of the references are from 2012 and beyond.

Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach192

Dual language learners are individuals. They need differentiated instruction to devel-
op their English skills, to maintain and further develop their home language, and achieve
in school. Today’s vast array of digital tools make individualizing instruction for multi-
language learners much easier than in the past, as described in the feature Language Lens:
Using Technology to Teach Dual Language Learners.

Awareness and responsiveness to all forms of diversity must be integrated across all
areas of curriculum and teachers’ relationships with children to ensure that all children
succeed in school. But more than that, schools have a responsibility to provide today’s
children with the skills to function in a complex, global society. In short, they benefit from
an anti-bias education, which we describe in the next section.

Anti-Bias Education
The early childhood field has embraced the concept of an anti-bias education. Anti-bias
education includes learning experiences and teaching strategies that are specifically
designed not only to prepare all children for life in a culturally rich society but also
to counter the stereotyping of diverse groups and to guard against expressions of bias
( Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). In this section, we discuss goals of culturally
responsive, anti-bias education and ways of helping children achieve those goals. The
overarching goal of anti-bias education is to help all children reach their full potential.
To do so, anti-bias education focuses on four core goals for children (Derman-Sparks &
Edwards, 2010; Teaching Tolerance, 2012):

1. Identity. Teachers foster and support children’s self-awareness, confidence, and
pride in their family and own identity.

anti-bias education Learning
experiences and teaching
strategies that are specifically
designed not only to prepare all
children for life in a culturally
rich society, but also to counter
the stereotyping of diverse
groups, and to guard against
expressions of bias.

Language Lens
Using Technology to Teach Dual Language Learners

With growing numbers of dual and multi-language learn-
ers in our classrooms, all teachers need to be prepared
to support English language acquisition while also pro-
moting continued home language development. Using
technology exponentially increases teachers’ options to
achieve these goals, as these examples illustrate:

Yao is a Chinese speaker who doesn’t talk at all in
preschool. He is isolated from the other children who
won’t play with him. His teacher knows that without
social interaction, his English skills won’t develop. She
loans his family an iPad and with the help of a trans-
lator shows him a digital storytelling app to create a
story about his family with photos and narration in both
English and Chinese. When he shares the story with the
other children, they realize that Yao has an interesting
life and several of them decide to use the app to create
stories about themselves.

Kara’s kindergarten includes speakers of four different
home languages, some of whom are newly arrived immi-
grants. She relies on technology to create an accessible
environment for all the children as they acquire sufficient
English to navigate the school. Kara posts pictures and
labels in various languages (in some cases with phonetic

spellings) to help children learn routines and safety pre-
cautions. On the Internet she finds images, songs, and
stories that accurately depict children’s homelands, and
uses these to spark conversations among small groups of
children. She teaches all the children to use iTranslate
on classroom tablets to aid communication and support
burgeoning friendships. The class uses Skype to com-
municate with children’s relatives in other parts of the
country or world. Within a few weeks, all the children,
including native English speakers, enjoy helping each
other explore different languages and learn together.

Children all over the world speak multiple languages. The
opportunity to become bilingual or multilingual awaits
every child in America if schools take advantage of young
children’s inborn ability to learn language and the afford-
able, technological resources now available.

Sources: Digital Story Helps Dual Language Learner Connect
with Classmates, by D. Bates, no date, Washington, DC: National
Association for the Education of Young Children, retrieved August
27, 2014, from http://www.naeyc.org/technology/digital-story-
helps-dual-language-learner; “Using Technology as a Teaching
Tool for Dual Language Learners in Preschool through Grade 3,”
by K. N. Nemeth and F. S. Simon, 2013, Young Children, 68(1),
48–52.

Chapter 12 Teaching Children to Communicate: Language, Literacy, and the Arts 393

Stage Description How Teachers Can Help
Stage 6: Advanced
Language Proficiency

Children have developed understanding
of specialized, content-related vocabu-
lary. It can take from 5 to 7 years for
children to master this level of cogni-
tively demanding language.

Teachers intentionally teach the vocabu-
lary and language skills required for
academic achievement in school. For
example, mathematics requires knowing
words like addend or double-digit mul-
tiplication that are not used in everyday
speech.

Sources: Based on Getting It Right for Young Children from Diverse Backgrounds:
Applying Research to Improve Practice, by L. M. Espinosa, 2010, Upper Saddle River,
NJ: Pearson; Oral Language and Early Literacy in Preschool: Talking, Reading, and
Writing. 2nd edition, by K. A. Roskos, P. O. Tabors, and L. A. Lenhart, 2009, Newark,
DE: International Reading Association.

Code switching is the ability to understand and use both
the commonly accepted version of English and the home
language or dialect. When children are learning a second
language, they often code switch, usually beginning a
sentence in one language and then switching to the other
as in: “I drew a picture de mi madre” or “Mi mano es
dirty.” Code switching is not limited to children. In fact,
bilingual people of all ages alternate between languages
depending on the setting and the topic of conversation.
Many bilingual individuals find that they can best ex-
press their feelings and personal thoughts in their native
language.

In the past, it was assumed that code switching meant
that children were confused or incompetent. But now we
know that the opposite is true: children are able to sepa-
rate the languages in their brains and apply the differ-
ent rules of grammar of each language. Code switching
is actually a sign of children’s growing communicative
competence. They are using all they know to communi-
cate as clearly as they can.

So what should teachers do about code switching? First,
they should expect code switching as a normal aspect
of dual language learning. The most important thing is
not to correct children when they mix languages. Cor-
recting children’s language attempts sends a signal that
they’ve done something wrong. They may stop trying to
communicate in order to avoid making the “mistake” of
code switching.

Instead of focusing on children’s “errors,” teachers
should focus on understanding the child’s message. They
should view code switching as a strength. As always,
teachers should be good language models themselves,

using the same strategies that promote language learning
in all children: listening and responding in a meaningful
way, using real objects and nonverbal cues, intentionally
teaching new words, and extending conversations with
questions and ideas.

Sometimes bilingual teachers think that they can sup-
port dual language learning by alternating languages
themselves. Again, the opposite is true. Children’s brains
will automatically listen and respond to the language
they know best and tune out the other one. To promote
dual language development, bilingual teachers can read
books in each language but should do so at separate
times.

Encouraging children to code switch and responding
positively honors the language system that they already
possess and helps them adapt to different communica-
tion requirements in different situations. And it also
respects and supports their cultural identity because
language and culture are inextricably linked. Teach-
ers should always create a warm, positive classroom
climate in which children feel safe to express them-
selves. Capable code switchers acquire the ability to
think about their own use of language, which serves
them well in other learning situations and has long-
lasting positive effects on language, cognition, and so-
cial development.

Source: Code Switching: Why It Matters and How to Respond, by
National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness, no
date, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, Office of Head Start. Retrieved January 26, 2015, from
http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-system/cultural-linguistic
/fcp/docs/code-switching.pdf.

Understanding and Responding to Code Switching

Culture Lens

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Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 31

Addressing Threats to Children’s Play
Pediatricians and psychologists agree that too many
children today experience high levels of unrelent-
ing stress. Factors such as poverty and violence are
the primary sources, but stress affects the lives of
all children to some extent. Teachers today report
that more children are aggressive and disruptive as
a result of stressful events. Increasing numbers of
children, especially boys, are inaccurately diagnosed
as hyperactive and needlessly medicated. Childhood
obesity is also endemic.

Research demonstrates that exercise and child-
initiated play are effective stress-relievers. Ironically,
however, a survey of child care, preschool, and Head
Start teachers found that they tend to limit chil-
dren’s opportunities for active play, especially out-
doors, due to safety concerns and the need to pre-
pare children academically for school. And children
living in poverty are most likely to suffer because
they have less access to safe outdoor play areas and
programs feel extra pressure to focus on academic
instruction to close the school readiness gap.

Part of the solution is that teachers, parents, and
administrators need to understand that play and
school readiness is not an either/or choice. The
American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes that
play is essential for children’s physical health, emo-
tional and mental well-being, social relationships,
and brain development and cognition. Vigorous play
develops large motor skills, and can reduce obesity.
In short, play contributes to all areas of develop-
ment and learning.

In an attempt to get children ready for school and
protect them from injury, early childhood programs
may actually be contributing to children’s stress by
minimizing children’s large muscle activity and child-
initiated play time. Because children spend so much
time in early childhood programs and school, it may
be their only opportunity to have physical activity or
outdoor play.

Early educators need to draw on the support of
physicians and other experts to help educate parents
and policy makers about the importance of play in
children’s lives and its essential role in helping chil-
dren cope with stress and improve school success.
They also need to advocate for funding to provide
safe playgrounds and adequate spaces indoors and
outdoors for active engagement. Play spaces and
opportunities must be designed to protect children
from injury, but protecting them from stress is
equally important.

Sources: “Societal Values and Policies May Curtail
Preschool Children’s Physical Activity in Child Care
Centers,” by K. A. Copeland, S. N. Sherman, C. A.
Kendeigh, H. J. Kalkwarf, & B. E. Saelens, 2012,
Pediatrics, 129(2), retrieved from http://pediatrics.
aappublications.org/content/early/2012/01/02/
peds.2011-2102.full.pdf+html; “The Importance of
Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and
Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bond: Focus on
Children in Poverty,” by R. M. Milter, K. R. Ginsburg, &
Council on Communications and Media Committee
on Psychological Aspects of Child and Family Health,
Pediatrics, 129(1), e204–e213, retrieved from http://
www.pediatrics.aappublications.org.

Continuity and Change
One overarching trend always affecting education is continuity and change. As the field
expands and changes occur in response to new political and economic realities, many
longtime early childhood professionals are concerned that the fundamental values of the
field will be lost. Development, including development of professions, is characterized by
both continuity and change. In this book we describe how the fundamental values of early
childhood education can be retained and enhanced (thus maintaining continuity with the
important tenets of the past), while also presenting what is known from new research
about effective teaching practices for all children. Some ways of thinking and practicing
should be cherished and held onto, whereas others may need to be updated or abandoned.

Promoting Play

Chapter 12 Teaching Children to Communicate: Language, Literacy, and the Arts 383

Developmental Continuum
Oral Language

Age of Child Developmental Expectations
Birth to about
8 months

• Communicate through behaviors rather than words; signal distress by crying. Caregivers
need to interpret babies’ sounds and gestures.

• Smile or vocalize if they want someone to pay attention or play.
• Begin vocalizing vowel sounds called cooing. Soon after, they begin to babble, producing

consonant/vowel sounds such as “ba.”
• Continue to babble using all kinds of sounds and will play with sounds when alone.
• Begin to understand familiar names such as those of siblings or pets.
• Laugh and appear to listen to conversations.

Between 8 and
18 months

• Become more purposeful in their communications.
• Use facial expressions, gestures, and sounds to get their needs met. (If a bottle falls from

a high chair tray, instead of just crying, the 14-month-old may grunt and wave at the floor.)
• Understand many more words than they can say.
• Speak in long, babbled sentences that mirror the cadence of conventional speech.
• Soon start to shake their head “no” and begin to use the word me.
• Usually crack the language code and begin to use their first words between 12 and

18 months.

From 18 to
24 months

• Experience a burst in vocabulary and begin to combine words into two-word utterances
called telegraphic speech. Like old-fashioned telegrams, they waste no words in commu-
nicating their message: “No nap.”

Ages 2 to 3 • Progress from using two-word combinations (my truck) to three- and four-word sentences
with words in the correct order more often (Where’s my truck?).

• Speaking vocabulary may reach 200 words.
• Use adjectives and adverbs. (Give me my blue truck now.)
• Most children’s speech becomes more understandable. Constantly ask, “Wassat?” as

they seem to want to name everything.

Ages 3 to 6 • Have a vocabulary of about 1,000 words.
• Although some may still have difficulty, most are better able to articulate some of the

more difficult sounds, like s, th, z, r, and l.
• Can initiate and engage in more complex conversations.
• Use 1,500 to 2,000 words as vocabulary expands rapidly during kindergarten.
• Usually speak clearly and are lively conversation partners with adults and other children.

The primary grades • Language development continues at a rapid pace.
• During these years, children need a large vocabulary to learn to read and to comprehend

what they read. Explicit teaching of vocabulary needs to be an instructional goal.
• At the same time, the more children read, the more words they learn because the lan-

guage of books is more elaborate than everyday conversation. Some researchers estimate
that children need to learn 3,000 words a year throughout the elementary school years.

Sources: Based on Assessing and Guiding Young Children’s Development and Learning, 6th
edition, by O. McAfee, D. Leong, and E. Bodrova, 2015, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson;
Learning Language and Loving It: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Social, Language,
and Literacy Development in Early Childhood Settings, 2nd edition, by E. Weitzman and
J. Greenberg, 2002, Toronto: The Hanen Centre.

Connections between Curriculum and
Child Development
Unlike many early childhood texts that focus on child development only, this text shows
how child development and curriculum content knowledge are connected.

In the Developmental Continuum feature, the text provides
an overview of the continuum of learning in the areas of
language, literacy, mathematics, and cognitive, social, emo-
tional, and physical development and describes how child
development is linked to curriculum planning for children
from birth through age 8.

• Chapters 12 to 15 help early childhood teachers understand right from the start
that there is content in the curriculum for young children. They describe the goals
for young children’s learning and development that predict success in school and
life. Each of these chapters includes examples of effective strategies such as teach-
ing children of diverse abilities in inclusive classrooms or ways to promote dual
language learning.

A new feature, Promoting Play, presents new research on the
important role of play in development and effective strategies
to help children learn through play or protect their right to play.
These features address play across the full age range, from birth
through age 8. Discussions of play are also integrated in each
chapter throughout this book as an effective means to support
all domains of development and promote learning in all cur-
riculum areas. Today many people are concerned about how the
standards movement is negatively impacting play. We often hear
statements such as “We can’t let children play because we have
to teach literacy,” or “We don’t have time for outdoor play in
primary grades because we have to get children ready for stan-
dardized tests.” Play should not be treated as a separate part of
an early childhood program or day that can be cut if someone
deems it unimportant. Therefore, you will find a discussion of
play in every chapter of this book.

• The emphasis on implementing effective curriculum reflects current trends such
as the goal of aligning prekindergarten and primary education, NAEYC accredita-
tion and CAPE professional preparation standards, and enhanced expectations for
teacher qualifications as described in the 2015 report, Transforming the Workforce
for Children Birth through Age 9: A Unifying Foundation by the Institute of Medicine
and the National Research Council.

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O ver more than four decades in early childho o d education, I have had the
privilege of working with and learning from countless friends, colleagues, teachers, and
children. This book would not have been possible without the help and encouragement of
the following people:

My deepest appreciation goes to Kathleen Cranley Gallagher, my collaborator on this
edition, who revised Chapters 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 14, and 15. Kate’s vast experience with chil-
dren, with and without disabilities, as well as her research on children’s social-emotional
development and mental health greatly inform this edition. Kate contributed research and
effective practices on early intervention, teaching children with autism spectrum disorder,
and other cutting-edge topics. Without Kate’s help, I can’t imagine completing this work
in a timely fashion.

I especially wish to thank Carol Copple, with whom I have collaborated on Devel-
opmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs for several decades, and
who contributed features as well as invaluable assistance in conceptualizing aspects of the
book. Thanks also to Laura Colker for her overwhelming generosity, sharing of ideas, and
gracious support.

I want to acknowledge Carol Brunson Day for teaching me so much about diver-
sity, anti-bias education, and cultural influences on development. Her work contributed
greatly to the Culture and Language Lens features and Chapter 6.

Thank you to Gail E. Joseph, who was especially helpful on the first edition, and many
of her contributions are still present in Chapters 5 and 14 and the Including All Children
lenses.

Thanks to my longtime friend Kay M. Albrecht, who contributed to Chapter 15 and
provided numerous examples from her extensive classroom experience.

I wish to thank Linda Espinosa and Luis Hernandez for helping ensure that the book
reflects the most current research and practical examples for teaching dual language
learners.

Close colleagues whose wisdom and encouragement have educated and sustained me
for decades include Marilyn Smith, J. D. Andrews, Barbara Willer, and Barbara Bowman.
My deepest gratitude goes to Sharon Lynn Kagan for writing the foreword to this edi-
tion. The debt is never paid to the late Carol Seefeldt, who taught the first early childhood
course I ever took and mentored me through my dissertation. I hope that my work con-
tinues to reflect her vision.

A sincere thank you and acknowledgment of support to Arlington Public Schools
(APS) in Arlington, Virginia. Those assisting in the effort include: Arlington Public
Schools administrative personnel Regina Van Horne, Lisa Stengle, and Linda Erdos;
K. W. Barrett Elementary principal, Mr. Dan Redding; and K. W. Barrett instructional
staff Joshua McLaughlin, Anastasia Erickson, Emily Sonenshine, Stephanie Shaefer, Judy
Concha, Jennifer Flores, Elizabeth Jurkevics, and Richard Russey. Also, a big thanks to
those students and their parents who allowed us to use the student artwork and artifacts
found in this book.

I am also grateful to the many other schools, teachers, and administrators who
welcomed me as an observer, shared examples, and contributed artifacts, including:
Cathy Polanski, Second Grade, Arcola Elementary School; Hoaliku Drake Preschool,
Kamehameha Schools Community-Based Early Childhood Education; the Center
for Young Children at the University of Maryland; The Shoenbaum Family Center in
Columbus, Ohio, including Anneliese Johnson; Wickliffe Progressive Community School
and the Jentgen family; Linden, New Jersey, Public Schools; Far Hills Country Day School
in Far Hills, New Jersey; the HighScope Demonstration Preschool in Ypsilanti, Michigan;
and Easter Seals Blake Children’s Achievement Center in Tucson, Arizona.

I continue to be indebted to Julie Peters, my editor at Pearson, for contributing her
wealth of knowledge about early childhood teacher education, and her unwavering support
for my work. I also wish to thank Linda Bishop for leading me through the development

Acknowledgments

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of an Interactive eText for the first time. Thanks also for the creative contributions to the
first edition of Max Effenson Chuck and Kelly Villella Canton.

My life and work continue to be inspired by Patty Smith Hill, founder of NANE,
whose vision for early childhood education laid the foundation for NAEYC’s commitment
to developmentally appropriate practice.

I would also like to thank the many reviewers who contributed to the development
of this book. They are: Margaret Charlton, Tidewater Community College; Jody Eberly,
The College of New Jersey; Amy Howell, Central Oregon Community College; Claire
Lenz, St. Joseph’s College; Marilyn Roseman, Mount Aloysius College; and Lois Silvernail,
Spring Hill College.

Instructor Supplements
The following instructor tools supplement, support, and reinforce the content presented
throughout the text. All supplements are available for download for instructors who adopt
this text. Go to http://www.pearsonhighered.com, click “Educators,” register for access,
and download files. For more information, contact your Pearson representative.

• Online Instructor’s Manual (013402687X). The Instructor’s Resource Manual pro-
vides chapter-by-chapter tools to use in class. Lecture or discussion outlines, teach-
ing strategies, in-class activities, student projects, key term definitions, and helpful
resources will reinforce key concepts and applications and keep students engaged.

• Online Test Bank (0134026756). These multiple-choice and essay questions tied to
each chapter provide instructors the opportunity to assess student understanding
of the chapter content. An answer key is provided.

• Online PowerPointTM Slides (0134026829). Each slide reinforces key concepts and
big ideas presented throughout the text.

• TestGen (013402673X). This powerful test generator contains the same items that
are in the Online Test Bank, but you may add or revise items. Assessments may be
created for print or testing online. You install TestGen on your personal computer
(Windows or Macintosh) and create your own tests for classroom testing and for
other specialized delivery options, such as over a local area network or on the web.

The tests can be downloaded in the following formats:
TestGen Testbank file – PC • TestGen Testbank file – MAC • TestGen Testbank –
Blackboard 9 TIF • TestGen Testbank – Blackboard CE/Vista (WebCT) TIF •

Angel Test Bank • D2L Test Bank • Moodle Test Bank • Sakai Test Bank

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Like all Sue Bredekamp’s work, Effective Practices in Early Childhood Education:
Building a Foundation has become a landmark. Since its publication, it has been
the major benchmark against which all volumes related to early childhood practice are
measured, domestically and internationally. Indeed, it has been a driving force, not only
guiding practice and scholarship, but also serving as a seminal vehicle to codify and
chronicle the impact of history, the experiences of practitioners and leaders, and the im-
pact of policy on the changing field of early education. In so doing, it has converted static
assumptions and understandings about early childhood pedagogy into living, dynamic,
and far more intentional practices.

Since its appearance, Effective Practices has been widely read and used to guide early
childhood teacher preparation and practice. Its popularity has placed a special burden on
the work; it, like the field, cannot remain stagnant or isolated from changes in the social
context. Precisely because it is so well used and because the field is changing so rapidly, a
new edition is necessary. Consider for example, the impact that the emergence of the K–12
Common Core has had on early education: whether one favors or disparages the Common
Core ideologically, it is here to stay and is having profound impacts on American educa-
tion generally, and American early education specifically. In addition, the revitalization
of an emphasis on continuity and transition, emerging currently in the form of the “P–3
Movement,” is altering the way early educators conceptualize and actualize the linkages
between pre-primary and primary education. Within the birth to 5-year-old component
of early childhood, a renewed emphasis on supporting the infrastructure through the Ear-
ly Learning Challenge Fund, with its focus on Quality Rating and Improvement Systems,
standards, and assessments, is precipitating dramatic changes in the way early childhood
education services are being designed and delivered. Finally, new research related to the
way children learn and process information is calling forth compelling pedagogical align-
ments that address the importance of dual language learners, executive functioning, early
mathematics, and learning progressions.

With the early childhood field changing so rapidly, time-honored questions are be-
ing catapulted to new prominence, often begging for urgent response: What should be
the balance between cognitive development and other domains historically important to
early childhood? What should be the balance between a focus on learning processes and
content? What should be the balance between teacher-guided, intentional pedagogy and
child-guided experiential learning? Note that none of these questions is new and that each
recognizes the critical importance of balance.

Indeed, the majesty of this volume is that it, too, understands and addresses the im-
portance of the contemporary context and the balance in perspective and practice it de-
mands. In this volume, Bredekamp takes a long-haul view; she renders solid definitions
of the field, situating the reader firmly in reality, and provides one of the most thorough
historical overviews available. But Bredekamp does not stop there, nor does she skirt the
tough issues, the new research, or the new demands being placed on early educators.
Rather, with clarity and grace, she systematically addresses them all, setting before the
field a rich compendium of research, firsthand and extremely well-cultivated practice,
and ever-wise counsel. Readers will be impressed by the currency, practicality, and clear
intentionality of the volume, evoking the same from those who regard it with the care with
which it was written.

Of particular importance in this ever-changing and increasingly connected world
is the role of culture and language. Bredekamp addresses these issues with honesty and
integrity, treating readers to a richly nuanced understanding of the important roles of
each in the development of young children. Cautiously, she reminds us that the words
“developmentally appropriate”—although bywords of the profession—must be deeply
contextualized in order to be understood and mastered. Indeed, in discussing how to
balance developmentally, individually, and contextually appropriate practices, Bredekamp
brilliantly notes that “a child with a disability acts like a magnifying glass on the

xiii

Foreword

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developmental appropriateness of an early childhood classroom.” In turn, early educators
must regard this seminal edition as the best possible lens through which to see and enlarge
what matters most in our field; with wisdom and prescience, it sheds all the light necessary
to advance our evolving, joyous profession and our critically important work on behalf of
children, their families, and their countries.

Sharon Lynn Kagan, Ed.D.
Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Early Childhood and Family Policy,

Teachers College, Columbia University;
and Professor Adjunct, Yale University’s Child Study Center

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Brief Contents

Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education 2
Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36

Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice . . . . . . . . 68

Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach 100
Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development . . . . . 100

Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138

Chapter 6 Embracing a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170

Part 3 Intentional Teaching: How to Teach 204
Chapter 7 Building Effective Partnerships with Families . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204

Chapter 8 Creating a Caring Community of Learners: Guiding Young Children . . . . . 238

Chapter 9 Teaching to Enhance Learning and Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 272

Chapter 10 Planning Effective Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 308

Chapter 11 Assessing Children’s Learning and Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 344

Part 4 Implementing an Effective Curriculum: What to Teach 378
Chapter 12 Teaching Children to Communicate: Language, Literacy,

and the Arts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 378

Chapter 13 Teaching Children to Investigate and Solve Problems:
Mathematics, Science, and Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 420

Chapter 14 Teaching Children to Live in a Democratic Society: Social-Emotional
Learning and Social Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 454

Chapter 15 Teaching Children to Be Healthy and Fit:
Physical Development and Health . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 484

Chapter 16 Putting It All Together in Practice: Making a Difference for Children . . . 516

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education 2
Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

What Is Early Childhood Education? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

Why Early Childhood Education Is a Field on the Rise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

The Landscape of Early Childhood Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

How Early Childhood Education Is Expanding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

Access to Early Childhood Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

How Early Childhood Education Is Changing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

Why Become an Early Childhood Educator? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

The Joys of Teaching Young Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

Dimensions of Effective, Intentional Teaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

Career Options for Early Childhood Educators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

The Culture of Early Childhood Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

Early Childhood Program Quality and Effectiveness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

Setting Standards for Quality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

Measuring Quality in Early Childhood Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

Measuring Effectiveness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

The Positive Effects of Early Childhood Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

Brain Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

Lasting Benefits of Early Childhood Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

The Positive Effects of Prekindergarten, Head Start, and Child Care . . . . . . . . 24

Social Justice and Closing the Achievement Gap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

Current Trends in Early Childhood Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27

New Federal and State Policy Initiatives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27

Standards and Accountability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

Higher Teacher Qualifications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

Alignment of Services from Birth Through Age 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

Advances in Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

Stress in Children’s Lives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

Continuity and Change . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
Learning from the Past . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37

Why History Is Relevant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38

The Changing View of Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

European Influences on American Early Childhood Education . . . . . . . . . .41

John Amos Comenius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

Table of Contents

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Johann Pestalozzi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

Friedrich Froebel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

Maria Montessori . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45

Early Childhood Movements in the United States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .47

The Kindergarten Movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47

Progressive Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48

The Nursery School Movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50

The Child Care Movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

A Wider View of Early Childhood History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .57

African Americans in Early Childhood History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58

Native American Early Childhood History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59

Latino Early Childhood History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60

Bringing the Stories Together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .62

The Story of Head Start . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62

The Prekindergarten Story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64

Building on a Tradition of Excellence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64

Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate
Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68

What Is Developmentally Appropriate Practice? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .70

NAEYC’S Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice . . . . . . 70

Current Issues in Developmentally Appropriate Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70

Developmentally Appropriate Practice in the Classroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73

Intentional Teaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .75

Purposeful Planning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76

Understand and Explain Practices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76

Developmentally Appropriate Decision Making . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .78

Make Informed Decisions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79

Consider All You Know When Making Decisions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83

The Complex Role of the Teacher . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .84

Create a Caring Community of Learners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85

Teach to Enhance Learning and Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86

Plan Curriculum to Achieve Important Goals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87

Assess Children’s Development and Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87

Build Relationships with Families and Communities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87

The Teacher’s Role in Context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88

Widening the Lens: Moving from Either/Or to Both/And Thinking . . . . . . . . . . 89

Developmentally Appropriate Learning Environments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .91

Organize the Physical Space . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91

Organize the Day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92

Research on Developmentally Appropriate Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .94

Research Reviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94

Research on Elements of Developmentally Appropriate Practice . . . . . . . . . . . 95

The Future of Developmentally Appropriate Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach 100
Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning

and Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
Understanding Development and Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102

What Is Development? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102

What Is Learning? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103

The Role of Theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103

The Relationship between Theory, Research, and Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103

Why Study Child Development and Learning? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105

Brain Development and Implications for Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105

How the Brain Promotes Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105

Implications for Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106

Implications for Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107

Child Development Theories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108

Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory of Human Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108

Maslow’s Self-Actualization Theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111

Piaget and Cognitive Developmental Theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112

Vygotsky and Sociocultural Theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117

Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory of Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122

Learning Theories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124

B. F. Skinner and Behaviorism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124

Albert Bandura and Social Cognitive Theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128

The Role of Play in Development and Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131

Types of Play . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131

The Benefits of Play . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133

Play and Motivation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133

Connecting Theory and Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133

Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138
The Importance of Individual Differences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140

Why Pay Attention to Individual Differences? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140

Where Do Individual Differences Come From? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140

How Experience Affects Outcomes for Children: Risk or Resilience . . . . . . . . . 142

What We Know About Individual Differences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142

Gender Differences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143

Cognitive Development and Abilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144

Emotional and Social Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144

Approaches to Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145

Physical Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146

Seeing Each Child as an Individual . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146

Multiple Intelligences: A Theory of Individual Differences . . . . . . . . . . . . 147

Gifted and Talented Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149

Responsive Education for All Learners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150

Differentiating Instruction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150

Response to Intervention . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151

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Individual Differences in Ability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153

The Language of Early Childhood Special Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154

What Teachers Should Know about Children with Disabilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155

Seeing Children with Disabilities as Individuals: The Case of Autism . . . . . . . . . 155

What Teachers Should Know about Legal Requirements
for Children with Disabilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157

Embracing Natural Learning Environments and Inclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161

Effective Practices for Children with Diverse Abilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162

Work on a Team . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163

Assess Young Children of Diverse Abilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163

Plan Individualized Instructional Strategies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164

Chapter 6 Embracing a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World . . . . . . . . . . 170
Understanding Cultural Diversity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172

What Is Culture? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172

The Role of Culture in Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173

How Culture Functions: Principles to Keep in Mind . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175

A Framework for Thinking About Culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177

Individualistic Cultural Orientation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177

Interdependent Cultural Orientation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178

Continuum of Common Cultural Values . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178

Applying the Continuum in Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178

Understanding Your Own Cultural Perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180

Become Aware of Your Own Cultural Experiences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180

Learn about the Perspectives of Various Cultural Groups . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181

Teaching in a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182

Why Does Culture Matter to Teachers? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182

Embracing Linguistic Diversity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185

Cultural Competence: The Key to Effective Teaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187

Cross-Cultural Communication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 188

Effective Practices for Diverse Learners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190

Culturally Responsive Teaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190

Linguistically Responsive Teaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190

Anti-Bias Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 192

Part 3 Intentional Teaching: How to Teach 204
Chapter 7 Building Effective Partnerships with Families . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204

Today’s Families . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206

Welcoming Diverse Families . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207

Family Dynamics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 208

Family Circumstances and Challenges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209

Reciprocal Relationships with Families . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 212

Roles of Teachers and Parents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 213

Family-Centered Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 214

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Communication with Families . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216

Barriers to Effective Communication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216

Effective Communication Strategies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218

Family Engagement in Programs and Schools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 227

Benefits of Family Involvement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 227

Opportunities for Meaningful Family Engagement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 228

Community Partnerships . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230

A Framework for Building Partnerships with Families . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230

Clarify Preferences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231

Communicate Preferences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231

Negotiate Successfully . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232

Demonstrate Willingness to Learn and Change . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 234

Chapter 8 Creating a Caring Community of Learners: Guiding
Young Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 238

A Caring Community of Learners: The Teaching Pyramid Model . . . . . . . . 240

The Value of a Caring Community of Learners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 240

The Teaching Pyramid Model . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 242

Positive Relationships with Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 244

The Importance of Relationships . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 244

Effective Strategies to Build Positive Relationships . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 248

High-Quality Supportive Environments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 251

Establish Clear, Consistent, Fair Rules for Behavior . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 253

Support Children to Do Their Best . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 253

Teaching Social-Emotional Competence and Guiding Behavior . . . . . . . . . 255

Guidance and Punishment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255

Teach Emotional Literacy and Social Skills . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 256

Conflict Resolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 257

Intensive Individualized Interventions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 259

Understand Challenging Behaviors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 260

Assess and Address the Function of the Child’s Behavior . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 260

Team with Families and Professionals to Implement Individualized Plans . . . . 261

Use Positive Behavior Support . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 262

Applying the Teaching Pyramid Model . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 263

Apply the Pyramid Model to Teaching Boys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 263

Apply the Pyramid Model to Address Biting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 266

Apply the Pyramid Model to Alleviate Bullying . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 268

Chapter 9 Teaching to Enhance Learning and Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 272
Teaching: Both a Science and an Art . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 274

The Science of Teaching. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 275

The Art of Teaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 276

A Repertoire of Effective Teaching Strategies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 277

What Are Teaching Strategies? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 277

Teacher-Initiated and Child-Initiated Experiences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 278

Using an Array of Teaching Strategies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 278

The Power of Scaffolding: An Integrated Approach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 285

Connecting Teaching Strategies and Learning Goals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 288

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Reflect on Your Own Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 288

Strategies That Make Learning Meaningful . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 289

Strategies That Develop Concepts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 291

Strategies That Promote Higher-Level Thinking and Problem Solving . . . . . . . . 292

Grouping as an Instructional Approach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 294

The Learning Environment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 294

Play as a Context for Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 298

Teachers’ Involvement during Play . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 298

Teachers’ Role during Play . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 299

Teaching with Digital Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 301

Research on Digital Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 301

Using Technology and Digital Media to Teach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 302

Assistive Technology for Children with Diverse Abilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 304

Chapter 10 Planning Effective Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 308
Defining Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 310

What Is Curriculum? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 311

Curriculum Models, Approaches, and Frameworks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 311

Written Curriculum Plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 312

The Teacher’s Role . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 313

Components of Effective Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 315

The Role of Standards in Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 318

What Are Standards? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 318

How Do Standards Affect Curriculum? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 318

Alignment of Standards and Curriculum across Age Groups . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 319

Approaches to Planning Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 322

Emergent Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 322

Integrated Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 324

Thematic Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 324

Webbing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 325

The Project Approach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 325

Scope and Sequence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 327

Research-Based Early Childhood Curricula . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 328

Comprehensive Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 328

Focused Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 332

The Reggio Emilia Approach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 333

Research on Preschool Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 335

A Model for Planning Effective Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 335

The Child in the Sociocultural Context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 336

Sources of Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 337

Applying the Curriculum Model in Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 337

Adapting for Individual Differences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 339

Chapter 11 Assessing Children’s Learning and Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 344
Learning the Language of Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 346

Formative and Summative Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 346

Informal and Formal Assessments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 347

Observation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 347

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Performance Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 347

Dynamic Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 348

Standardized Testing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 348

Types of Standardized Tests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 349

Purposes of Assessment: Why Assess? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 349

Assessing to Improve Teaching and Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 350

Identifying Children with Special Learning or Developmental Needs . . . . . . . . . 351

Evaluating Program Quality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 352

Assessing for Accountability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 352

Connecting Purposes and Types of Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 353

Indicators of Effective Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 353

Developmentally Appropriate Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 354

Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 356

Individually Appropriate Assessment for Children with Special Needs . . . . . . . . 358

Observation and Recording to Improve Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 360

Observing and Gathering Evidence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 360

Recording What Children Know and Can Do . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 363

Interpreting and Using Evidence to Improve Teaching and Learning . . . . . . . . . 369

Standardized Testing of Young Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 372

Types of Standardized Tests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 372

Appropriate Uses of Standardized Testing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 373

Concerns about Standardized Testing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 373

Assessment and the Common Core . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 375

Kindergarten Entry Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 375

Part 4 Implementing an Effective Curriculum: What to Teach 378
Chapter 12 Teaching Children to Communicate: Language, Literacy, and the Arts . . . 378

Children’s Language Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 380

The Critical Importance of Language Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 380

Types of Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 380

Language Differences in Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 381

Developmental Continuum: Oral Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 382

Impact of Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 382

Scaffolding Children’s Language Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 384

Supporting Language Development in Babies and Toddlers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 384

Scaffolding Preschoolers’ Language Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 385

Dual Language Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 390

How Children Learn a Second Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 390

Developmental Continuum: Dual Language Acquisition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 391

Teaching Dual Language Learners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 391

Early Literacy: Birth through Age 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 394

Developmental Continuum: Early Literacy Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 395

Literacy-Rich Environments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 395

Early Literacy from Birth to Kindergarten . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 397

Literacy in the Primary Grades . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 404

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Learning to Read . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 404

Developmental Continuum: Literacy in Kindergarten and Primary Grades . . . . 404

Evidence-Based Reading Instruction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 404

Digital Literacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 407

Impact of the Common Core State Standards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 408

Communicating Through the Arts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 409

The Value of Creative Arts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 409

Visual Arts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 412

Music, Movement, and Dance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 415

Drama . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 416

Seeing the Arts with New Eyes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 416

Chapter 13 Teaching Children to Investigate and Solve Problems:
Mathematics, Science, and Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 420

The Importance of Mathematics and Science . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 422

The Need for an Educated Workforce . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 422

The Mathematics Achievement Gap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 422

The Cognitive Foundations of Early Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 423

The Continuum of Cognitive Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 424

Executive Function . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 424

Children’s Thinking. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 424

Language and Cognition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 427

Mathematical Language and the Achievement Gap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 428

Effective Mathematics Curriculum and Teaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 429

Mathematics Curriculum Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 429

Mathematics Process Skills . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 434

Effective Mathematics Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 436

Effective Mathematics Teaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 436

The Role of Play in Teaching and Learning Mathematics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 439

Effective Science Curriculum and Teaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 441

Science and Technology in the Early Childhood Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 441

Science Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 442

Effective Science Teaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 444

Teaching about and with Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 448

A Developmentally and Technologically Appropriate Classroom . . . . . . . . . . . . 449

Chapter 14 Teaching Children to Live in a Democratic Society:
Social-Emotional Learning and Social Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 454

Social-Emotional Foundations of Early Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 456

Emotional Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 456

Self-Regulation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 457

Social Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 457

Stress in Children’s Lives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 458

Continuum of Social and Emotional Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 459

Infants and Toddlers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 459

Preschool and Kindergarten . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 460

Primary Grades . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 463

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Diversity and Social-Emotional Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 463

The Role of Play in Social-Emotional Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 466

Emotional Development and Play . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 466

Social Development and Play . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 467

Effective Social-Emotional Curriculum and Teaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 468

Social and Emotional Curriculum Goals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 468

Effective Social Studies Curriculum and Teaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 472

What Is Social Studies? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 473

Social Studies Content Goals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 474

Effective Strategies for Teaching Social Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 480

Chapter 15 Teaching Children to Be Healthy and Fit: Physical
Development and Health . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 484

The Importance of Physical Fitness and Health . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 486

Benefits of Physical Fitness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 486

Childhood Obesity Crisis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 486

Implications for Early Childhood Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 487

How Physical Development Occurs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 488

The Continuum of Physical Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 489

Phases of Motor Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 489

Gross-Motor Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 490

Fine-Motor Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 496

The Role of Play in Physical Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 503

Childhood Experiences with the Natural Environment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 504

Outdoor Play Environments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 505

The Value of Rough-and-Tumble Play . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 506

Health and Safety Standards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 507

The Teacher’s Role in Health and Safety . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 507

Effective Curriculum and Teaching to Promote Physical
Fitness and Health . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 509

Curriculum for Physical Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 509

Effective Health Curriculum and Teaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 511

Chapter 16 Putting It All Together in Practice: Making a Difference
for Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 516

Life as an Early Childhood Educator . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 518

Caring for and Educating Infants and Young Toddlers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 518

Teaching the Whole Child in the Preschool . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 519

Teaching the Whole Child in the Kindergarten . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 522

Teaching the Whole Child in the Primary Grades . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 524

Beginning Your Journey as an Early Childhood Professional . . . . . . . . . . . 526

Become a Professional . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 527

Protect Children from Abuse and Neglect . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 532

Join a Profession That Makes a Difference . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 534

Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 537

References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 545

Author Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 566

Subject Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 572

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xxv

Promoting Play

Ch. 1: Addressing Threats to Children’s Play . . . . . 31

Ch. 2: The Image of the Child and the Role of Play. . . 42

Ch. 3: Does Developmentally Appropriate
Practice = Play? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73

Ch. 4: Incorporating Playful Exercise into the
Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121

Ch. 5: Supporting Pretend Play for Children with
Disabilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158

Ch. 6: African American Children and Play . . . . . 186

Ch. 7: Get Outside and Play! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223

Ch. 8: All Can Play . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 247

Ch. 9: Teaching and Learning through
Transmedia Play . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 303

Ch. 10: Involving Children in Planning Their Play . . . 329

Ch. 11: Play as an Assessment Context . . . . . . . . 361

Ch. 12: How Play Supports Language and Literacy
Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 403

Ch. 13: Digital Play and Traditional Play . . . . . . . . 451

Ch. 14: Learning to Get Along Using Board Games . . . 473

Ch. 15: Teaching Sports Skills in Primary Grades . . . 496

Ch. 16: Resolving an Ethical Dilemma about Play . . . 530

Becoming an Intentional Teacher

Ch. 1: Being Purposeful and Playful . . . . . . . . . . . 15

Ch. 2: Expanding Children’s Experience . . . . . . . . 55

Ch. 3: Expanding Thinking and Communication
Skills . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77

Ch. 4: Teaching in the “Zone” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118

Ch. 5: Individualizing Group Time . . . . . . . . . . . . 167

Ch. 6: Responding to Cultural Differences . . . . . . 199

Ch. 7: Responding to Parents: Welcoming
“Complainers” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221

Ch. 8: Easing Separation Woes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 245

Ch. 9: Working in Small Groups . . . . . . . . . . . . . 296

Ch. 10: Shaping Curriculum to Connect with
Children’s Needs and Interests . . . . . . . . . 315

Ch. 11: Using Assessment to Inform Teaching . . . 365

Ch. 12: Teaching the Alphabet and Phonological
Awareness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 399

Ch. 13: Integrating Physical Science in Block
Building . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 446

Ch 14: Integrating Social Studies Content to Meet
Standards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 477

Ch 15: Teaching Fine-Motor Skills . . . . . . . . . . . . 501

Ch 16: Advocating for Effective Inclusion of Children
with Disabilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 531

What Works

Ch. 1: Increasing School Readiness for All Children . . . 25

Ch. 2: Developing Mathematical Skills with
Unit Blocks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53

Ch. 3: How Both Teacher-Directed and Child-Initiated
Experiences Promote Learning . . . . . . . . . . 90

Ch. 4: Exposing Babies to Different Languages . . . 107

Ch. 5: Principles of Universal Design . . . . . . . . . 162

Ch. 6: Making Education Culturally Compatible . . . 191

Ch. 7: Father-Friendly Practices . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229

Ch. 8: Teaching Emotional Literacy . . . . . . . . . . . 257

Ch. 9: Reciprocal Teaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 293

Ch. 10: Using Tools of the Mind to Close the
Achievement Gap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 332

Ch. 11: Using Technology to Assess Learning . . . . 371

Ch. 12: Dialogic Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 389

Ch. 13: Teaching STEM to Dual Language
Learners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 449

Ch. 14: The Turtle Technique . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 471

Ch. 15: Teaching Physical Skills . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 511

Ch. 16: Having an Effective Teacher . . . . . . . . . . . 534

Special Features

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xxvi

Developmental Continuum/Learning Trajectory

Ch. 12: Oral Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 383

Ch. 12: Second Language Learning . . . . . . . . . . . 392

Ch. 12: Early Literacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 396

Ch. 12: Literacy in Kindergarten and Primary
Grades . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 405

Ch. 13: Cognitive Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 425

Ch. 14: Social-Emotional Development in Infants
and Toddlers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 461

Ch. 14: Social-Emotional Learning in 3- through
5-Year-Olds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 462

Ch. 14: Social-Emotional Learning in the Primary
Grades . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 464

Ch. 15: Gross-Motor Skills from Birth through
Age 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 491

Ch. 15: Fine-Motor Skills from Birth through
Age 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 498

Including All Children

Ch. 1: What Does Inclusion Mean? . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Ch. 2: Early Childhood Special Education in Historical
Perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63

Ch. 3: Developmentally Appropriate Practice and
Children with Disabilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81

Ch. 4: Teaching Self-Help and Social Skills to Chil-
dren with Disabilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127

Ch. 6: Cultural Diversity and Diverse Ability . . . . . 184

Ch. 7: Family-Centered Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215

Ch. 8: When to Teach Social and Emotional Skills 258

Ch. 9: Project DATA: A High-Quality Comprehensive
Early Intervention Program for Children with
Autism Spectrum Disorders . . . . . . . . . . . 287

Ch. 10: Individualized Education Plans: Meeting Chil-
dren’s Individual Needs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 339

Ch. 11: Individually Appropriate Assessment
Practices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 359

Ch. 13: Science Exploration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 448

Ch. 14: Fostering Friendships in the Inclusive
Classroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 465

Ch. 15: Nutrition and Children with Developmental
Disabilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 513

Culture Lens

Ch. 2: Early Childhood Education through the
Lens of Non-Western Culture . . . . . . . . . . . 57

Ch. 3: The Role of Culture in Development . . . . . . 83

Ch. 4: The Effect of Culture on Research and
Theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104

Ch. 5: Responding to Cultural and Individual
Differences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147

Ch. 7: Developing Partnerships with Latino
Families . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216

Ch. 8: Helping Each Child Adapt to School . . . . . 250

Ch. 12: Understanding and Responding to Code
Switching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 393

Ch. 13: Finger Counting in Cultural Context . . . . . 432

Ch. 14: Learning about Cross-Cultural Similarities
through the Milestones Project . . . . . . . . . 476

Ch. 15: Cultural Influences on Gross-Motor Movement
and Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 492

Language Lens

Ch. 1: Preparing to Teach Dual Language
Learners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

Ch. 5: Accurate Assessment of Linguistically
Diverse Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153

Ch. 6: Using Technology to Teach Dual Language
Learners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 192

Ch. 9: Teachable Moments with Dual Language
Learners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 297

Ch. 10: Curriculum Approaches for Dual Language
Learners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 317

Ch. 11: Involving Parents in Assessment of Dual
Language Learners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 357

Ch. 12: Teaching Dual Language Learners . . . . . . 394

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1

Tables—Effective Practices

Ch. 1: NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards . . . 20

Ch. 4: Erikson’s Stages of Personal and Social
Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109

Ch. 4: Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development . . 115

Ch. 4: Comparing Theories of Child Development . . 130

Ch. 4: Principles of Development and Learning to
Guide Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134

Ch. 5: Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences . . . 148

Ch. 5: Some Types of Exceptionality . . . . . . . . . . 154

Ch. 7: Characteristics of Family Systems . . . . . . . 210

Ch. 7: Planning and Conducting Family
Conferences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226

Ch. 7: Strategies for Engaging Families . . . . . . . . 228

Ch. 8: What a Caring Community Looks Like . . . . 249

Ch. 8: Strategies for Teaching Conflict Resolution . . 259

Ch. 8: Effective Teaching and Intervention
Strategies for Boys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 265

Ch. 9: Effective Teaching Strategies . . . . . . . . . . 279

Ch. 9: Learning Centers and Suggested Materials . . 295

Ch. 10: Continuum of Curriculum Approaches
and the Teacher’s Role . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 314

Ch. 10: Components of Effective Curriculum . . . . . 316

Ch. 11: Matching Purpose and Types of
Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 353

Ch. 11: Effective Assessment Practices . . . . . . . . . 354

Ch. 11: Learning to Observe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 362

Ch. 11: Methods of Gathering Assessment Information:
Advantages and Disadvantages . . . . . . . . 364

Ch. 11: Methods of Recording Assessment Information:
Advantages and Disadvantages . . . . . . . . 370

Ch. 12: Improving Teacher–Child Conversations . . . 387

Ch. 13: Scientific Inquiry Processes in Children . . . 445

Ch. 13: Effective Science Teaching Strategies . . . . 447

Ch. 14: Levels of Social Play . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 467

Ch. 14: Social Studies Themes and Concepts . . . . 475

Ch. 14: Geography Education Standards . . . . . . . . 479

Ch. 14: Teaching Early Economics . . . . . . . . . . . . 479

Ch. 15: Phases of Motor Development . . . . . . . . . 490

Ch. 15: Effective Strategies: Gross-Motor Skills from
Birth through Age 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 494

Ch. 15: Effective Strategies: Gross-Motor Skills
in the Primary Grades . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 495

Ch. 15: Effective Strategies: Fine-Motor Skills in
Infants and Toddlers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 499

Ch. 15: Effective Strategies: Fine-Motor Skills in
Preschool and Kindergarten . . . . . . . . . . . 500

Ch. 15: Effective Strategies: Perceptual-Motor
Development from Birth to Age 8 . . . . . . . 503

Ch. 16: Considerations for Infant/Toddler
Teachers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 520

Ch. 16: Considerations for Preschool Teachers . . . 522

Ch. 16: Considerations for Kindergarten
Teachers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 524

Ch. 16: Considerations for Primary Grade
Teachers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 526

Ch. 16: Recognizing Potential Signs of Child
Abuse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 533

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1
After studying this chapter, you should be able to:

1.1 Define early childhood education.

1.2 Describe the career options of early childhood educators and the dimensions
of intentional, effective teaching.

1.3 Explain high-quality early childhood education and how it is measured.

1.4 Report research about the positive effects of early childhood education.

1.5 Analyze the current trends affecting early childhood education.

Continuity and Change in
Early Childhood Education

Learning Outcomes

© Kali9/E+/Getty Images

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3

At Cresthaven Primary School, teachers, children, and family members of all generations are viewing children’s work and sharing memories during the year-end celebration. This public school serves children
from age 3 to grade 3, through a partnership with Reed Child Development Center nearby. The Reed Center

provides state-funded preschool classrooms for 3- and 4-year-olds who will attend Cresthaven as well as before-

and after-school care and child care for infants and toddlers.

The preschoolers are in awe of the “big school” where they will attend kindergarten and are excited to see their work

displayed in the hallway. “Look, Mommy! Here’s my painting of the yellow fish,” cries 4-year-old Amber as she tugs on her

mother’s hand. “See where I wrote my name. And here’s Brenda’s picture. She’s my new best friend.” Amber’s mother

smiles and tries to read what her daughter wrote: “I lk fsh.” The teacher, Ms. Engels, comes up and says, “Amber knows

a lot about writing and letters. She can write her name, and she is starting to write the consonants she hears in words.”

For several years, Cresthaven School has been involved with its neighbors in a community garden project.

In each class, the teachers connect the larger curriculum—especially science and social studies goals—to

aspects of the garden project. Six-year-old Sergio and his grandmother walk down the hall to find the list of all the

meals the kindergartners prepared with the vegetables they harvested. He exclaims, “And tonight, we get to eat

strawberries!” Meanwhile, first-grader Mathias quietly explains to some parents, “Me and my friends made this

graph. It shows the vegetables the kids liked most.” Third-grader Carola describes her class project to her father.

“You’ll like this, Dad. For social studies, we’re figuring out where food comes from and why it costs so much.”

The second-grade teacher, Ms. George, gets everyone’s attention. “Our class is going to present their video of

the garden project in 15 minutes.” Seven-year-old Kelsey takes 75-year-old Mrs. Carrero by the hand and invites

her to see the show. The children share most of the food raised in the garden with elderly neighbors such as

Mrs. Carrero. “I’ll show you the chapter book I can read, too,” says Kelsey.

Four-year-old Cooper, who has autism, has been in Ms. Watson’s class for 2

years. His mother comes up and quietly whispers to Ms. Watson,

“I wanted you to know that Cooper got invited to Martie’s birthday party.

I never thought that would happen, but he’s made more progress here

than I ever imagined.”

As she’s leaving, Nicky’s mom stops to thank Isela and Evan,

who are finishing their first year of teaching 2-year-olds. They

remember their struggles with Nicky’s tantrums

as he hugs his mom’s leg and playfully peeks

around at Evan. She says, “I know he is growing

up and has to move to preschool, but we are really

going to miss you two.” ■

L
istening to these children, parents, and teachers, some new to the field and others
with many years of experience, reveals the most exciting—as well as challeng-
ing—dimensions of early childhood education. Teaching young children is hard

work. It takes energy, physical stamina, patience, a sense of humor, and a wide range of
knowledge and skill. But early childhood professionals soon discover the rewards of their
efforts. Nothing is quite as exciting as making a baby smile and giggle, seeing a toddler’s
grin as he climbs the stairs on his own, or observing a preschooler’s serious look as she
comes to the rescue as a pretend firefighter. And what can compete with a first grader’s
feeling of utter accomplishment that accompanies learning to read?

Case Study

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education4

Early childhood education is a rewarding profession for many reasons. We describe
the diverse field of early childhood education and discuss its rewards in this chapter. We
also discuss why early childhood education is a field on the rise and what the current trends
are that present both challenges and opportunities. We also describe how, in a period of
rapid change, the early childhood profession continues to be shaped by its enduring values.
Above all, early childhood educators enter and stay in the field primarily for one reason—
they know that their work makes a difference in the lives of children and families.

What Is Early Childhood Education?
Early childhood education is a highly diverse field that serves children from birth
through age 8. During these years, children participate in many different kinds of care
and education settings. Regardless of where they work or what their specific job titles
are, however, early childhood teachers are professionals. This means that they make de-
cisions based on a specialized body of knowledge, continue to learn throughout their
careers, and are committed to providing the best care and education possible for every
child. The opportunity to make a difference in this exciting field has never been greater.

Why Early Childhood Education
Is a Field on the Rise
Early childhood education benefits greatly from increasing public recognition, respect, and
funding. In fact, a bipartisan poll reported that 86% of American voters believe that “ensur-
ing children get a strong start in life” should be a national priority, second only to increas-
ing job opportunity and growing the economy (First Five Years Fund, 2014). A Gallup poll
found that 70% of voters supported federal funding to make high-quality preschool pro-
grams available for all children (Jones, 2014). Although higher percentages of Democrats
and Independents supported such funding, a majority of Republicans were also in favor.

Forty states—as diverse as Oklahoma, Georgia, New Mexico, New York, Illinois,
Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Florida—provide funding for prekindergarten programs
(Barnett, Carolan, Squires, & Brown, 2013). Continued funding even in challenging eco-
nomic times reflects growing public recognition of the benefits of early education, espe-
cially for children at risk of later school failure, but also for middle-class children. A great
many policy makers, parents, and researchers now consider early childhood programs
essential for fostering school readiness and long-term success in life (Barnett, 2013a).
Groups such as the prestigious Committee for Economic Development (2012) consider
quality child care and early education a necessary investment in the future of our coun-
try. A powerful advocate for early education, Nobel Prize–winning economist James
Heckman (2013) believes that investing in early education is a cost-effective strategy
that will improve educational and health outcomes, strengthen the economy, help solve
America’s social problems, and produce a more capable, productive workforce.

Early education is also considered an effective crime-prevention strategy. A presti-
gious group of America’s police officers and prosecutors call themselves, “the guy you
pay later” because America’s failure to pay for quality services for young children in-
creases the costs of the criminal justice system (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2014).

Several factors have contributed to the rise in status of early childhood education. These
include an impressive body of research on the positive effects of early childhood programs
and concerns about the persistent achievement gap in our schools. Next, we examine the
overall landscape of the field, including the types of settings where children are served.

The Landscape of Early Childhood Education
Although early childhood terminology is not uniform across diverse settings, throughout this
text we will use vocabulary that is consistent with that used by the National Association for
the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and that we feel best represents the present

early childhood education
Education and child care ser-
vices provided for children from
birth through age 8.

professionals Members of an
occupational group that make
decisions based on a special-
ized body of knowledge, con-
tinue to learn throughout their
careers, and are committed to
meeting the needs of others.

National Association for the
Education of Young Children
(NAEYC) The world’s largest
organization of early childhood
educators, whose mission is to
act on behalf of the needs and
interests of children from birth
through age 8. NAEYC estab-
lishes standards for teacher
preparation and accreditation of
early childhood programs.

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Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 5

and future of the field. NAEYC, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is the world’s largest
professional organization of early childhood educators. Founded in 1926, NAEYC’s mis-
sion is to act on behalf of the needs, rights, and well-being of all young children from birth
through age 8.

One way the association achieves its mission is by establishing standards for teacher
preparation at the associate, baccalaureate, and graduate-degree levels (NAEYC, 2011b).
NAEYC’s standards have considerable influence in the field; it is likely that the course
you are now taking is designed to meet the association’s teacher education standards.
NAEYC (2008b) also administers an accreditation system for high-quality children’s pro-
grams and provides resources such as publications and conferences to support teachers’
continuing professional development.

Given NAEYC’s definition of the field—birth through age 8—early childhood teachers
work with various groups:

1. Infants and toddlers: birth to 36 months
2. Preschoolers: 3- and 4-year-olds
3. Kindergartners: 5- and 6-year-olds
4. Primary grades 1, 2, and 3: 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds.

Because early childhood is defined so broadly, the field encompasses child care
centers and homes, preschools, kindergartens, and primary grade schools. Figure 1.1 pro-
vides an illustration of the various settings where young children are educated and cared
for. Young children are always learning, and they always need loving care. Therefore, it is
important not to distinguish child care from early education, but rather to ensure that all
children have access to programs that are both caring and educational, regardless of the
length of day or who provides the service.

FIGURE 1.1 Types of Early Childhood Settings Early childhood education is a diverse field
because young children’s care and education occurs in a variety of settings as depicted here.

Types of
Early Childhood Settings

Schools

Kindergarten to 3rd grade
Public schools
Charter schools
Private schools

Head Start/Early Head Start

3-, 4-, & 5-year-olds in centers
& home-based programs
Infants/toddlers & families
Income-eligible families

Family Child Care Homes

Birth through school-age
Caregiver’s home
Individuals and groups

Child Care Centers

Infants/toddlers
Ages 3, 4, & 5
Before- and after-school for
school-aged children
For-profit or nonprofit

Preschools

3-, 4-, & 5-year-olds
Private or public
Prekindergartens
Parent cooperatives
Laboratory schools

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education6

Child Care The term child care typically refers to care and education provided
for young children during the hours that their parents are employed. To accommo-
date work schedules, child care is usually available for extended hours, such as from
7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. In some settings, such as hospital-affiliated child care centers,
care is offered for longer hours to accommodate evening, weekend, or even night-shift
employment.

Child care is typically provided in two types of group programs: child care centers
and family child care homes. In either setting, children’s care may be privately funded
by parent tuition or publicly subsidized for low-income families. Child care centers usu-
ally enroll children from infancy through preschool-age children, and many also offer
before- and after-school care for primary grade children. In family child care homes,
caregivers provide care in their own homes for a small group of children, often of varying
ages. Family child care is the setting of choice for many parents of infants and toddlers
because of its home-like atmosphere.

Preschool Preschool programs, as the name implies, serve 3- and 4-year-olds pri-
or to their entrance into kindergarten. Preschool programs may be operated by com-
munity organizations or by churches, temples, or other faith-based organizations and
also by parent cooperatives, which are run and partially staffed by groups of parents.
Preschools often operate half-day, although extended hours—the school day—are be-
coming more common. Some colleges and universities operate laboratory schools,
which usually serve children of students and faculty and also act as models for student
teachers.

Preschools are called by various names, including nursery schools and prekindergar-
tens. (To further complicate matters, child care centers are also called preschools.) Pre-
school programs are both privately and publicly funded. Those that are primarily funded
by parent tuition tend to serve middle- or upper-income families. Two particular types of
preschool are designed primarily for children from low-income families: public prekin-
dergarten and Head Start.

Public Prekindergarten The term prekindergarten (pre-K) usually refers to
preschools that are funded by state and local departments of education. Currently, public
prekindergarten is in the news media regularly and is the fastest-growing sector of the
field, with enrollment increasing enormously in recent years. In 1980, 96,000 preschool-
ers were served in public elementary schools; in 2012, enrollment had increased to more
than 1.3 million children across 40 states (Barnett, Carolan, et al., 2013).

The primary purpose of prekindergarten is to improve school readiness; that is, to
prepare children for kindergarten. Although some state officials narrowly define readi-
ness as literacy and math skills, the early childhood profession uses a broad definition of
school readiness that describes the whole child (Head Start, 2015):

• Language development and early literacy skills
• Cognitive development and general knowledge, including mathematics and science
• Social-emotional development
• Physical development and health
• Positive approaches to learning such as curiosity and motivation

The majority of public prekindergarten programs are designed for children from low-
income families or those who are considered at risk for school failure due to conditions
such as low levels of maternal education or speaking a language other than English in the
home. However, a growing number of people, including the president and members of the
U.S. Congress, are calling for funding of universal voluntary prekindergarten, the goal
of which is to make these programs available to families of all income levels who choose
to use them. Publicly funded prekindergarten has contributed to the field’s growth; today
the number of 4-year-olds in state pre-K programs exceeds the number enrolled in Head
Start (Barnett, Carolan, et al., 2013).

child care center Group
program that provides care and
education for young children
during the hours that their
parents are employed.

family child care home Child
care in which caregivers provide
care in their own homes for a
small group of children, often
multi-age groups.

preschool Educational
programs serving 3- and
4-year-olds delivered under
various sponsorships.

parent cooperative Preschool
program owned, operated, and
partially staffed by parents.

laboratory school School
operated by colleges and
universities that usually serves
children of students and faculty
and also acts as a model of
excellent education for student
teachers.

prekindergarten (pre-K)
Educational program serving
3- and 4-year-olds, usually in
public schools.

school readiness Children’s
competencies related to success
in kindergarten, including
physical development, health,
and well-being; social-emotional
development and learning;
cognitive development and
general knowledge such as
mathematics and science;
positive approaches to learning
such as curiosity and motivation;
and language development and
early literacy skills.

universal voluntary
prekindergarten Publicly
funded preschool, usually for
4-year-olds but sometimes
3-year-olds; available to any
family that chooses to use it.

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Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 7

Head Start Head Start is a federally funded, national program that promotes school
readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children ages 3, 4, and 5.
Head Start provides educational, health, nutritional, social, and other services to the na-
tion’s poorest children and families whose incomes fall below the official poverty level
(Head Start, 2013). Head Start’s goal is to improve school readiness by supporting all areas
of children’s development and promoting the early reading and math skills needed for later
success. In addition to these comprehensive services, parent involvement is a special focus
of the program. Parents volunteer in the classroom and also serve in governance roles, with
the goal of empowering families to move out of poverty. In fact, 23% of Head Start staff
members are parents of current or former Head Start children (Head Start, 2013). Children
with disabilities make up about 12% of Head Start’s enrollment (Head Start, 2014b).

Head Start programs are quite diverse. Most Head Start children are served in
classroom-based preschool programs, although in rural or remote areas, a home-based
option is available. One of the smallest serves 30 children on the Havasupai reservation
in the Grand Canyon, accessible only by helicopter or donkey, while the largest programs
serve over 22,000 children in 400 centers across Los Angeles (Head Start, 2011a).

The families represent all the racial and cultural groups in the United States (Head
Start, 2014b). About 43% of the children are White, 38% are Latino, and 29% are Afri-
can American. A sizable number of families—almost 10%—report that their children are
biracial or multiracial. In addition, the program has a special focus on serving American
Indians, Alaska Natives, and migrant and seasonal workers. About 30% of the children
speak a language other than English at home. Of these, 85% speak Spanish, but 140 other
languages are spoken.

In response to brain research and concerns that age 4 or even age 3 is too late for
services to be effective, the government launched Early Head Start in 1995. Early Head
Start serves low-income pregnant mothers, infants, and toddlers and promotes healthy
family functioning. As of 2012, there were more than 1,000 Early Head Start programs in
all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico (Head Start, 2014a). Research on
Early Head Start (Vogel, Yange, Moiduddun, Kisker, & Carlson, 2010) demonstrates that
it achieves its promise of lasting positive effects on children and families.

Head Start Federally funded,
national program that promotes
school readiness by enhancing
the social and cognitive develop-
ment of children ages 3, 4, and
5 through providing educational,
health, nutritional, social, and
other services to the nation’s
poorest children and families.

Early Head Start Federally
funded program serving
low-income pregnant mothers,
infants, and toddlers that
promotes healthy family
functioning.

Early childhood education includes child care centers, preschools, prekindergartens, family child care
homes, and schools. But every high-quality program provides both loving care and education for young
children and support for their families.

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education8

Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education Early
childhood special education serves children with disabilities or special needs who
meet eligibility guidelines that are determined on a state-by-state basis, according to the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In addition to serving children
with identified disabilities, some states provide early intervention services for infants
and toddlers who are at risk of developmental delay and their families.

Federal legislation enacted during the past three decades has fundamentally changed
the way in which early childhood services are organized and delivered to children with
disabilities and special needs (Division for Early Childhood & NAEYC, 2009). These
children, including children who are at risk for disabilities or who exhibit challenging be-
haviors, are far more likely to participate in a typical early childhood program than in the
past. This trend, called inclusion, is defined and described in the Including All Children:
What Does Inclusion Mean? feature.

All early childhood educators are likely to work with children with disabilities at
some point in their careers. This inevitability broadens what teachers need to know right
from the start, and requires that general early childhood teachers develop skills to col-
laborate with special educators.

Kindergarten and Primary Grades Most 5- through 8-year-old children at-
tend public schools, although many attend secular or faith-based private schools funded

early childhood special educa-
tion Services for children with
disabilities or special needs who
meet eligibility guidelines that are
determined on a state-by-state
basis according to the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act.

Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA) Federal
law governing provision of ser-
vices for children with disabili-
ties and special needs.

early intervention Services for
infants and toddlers who are at
risk of developmental delay and
their families.

inclusion Participation and ser-
vices for children with disabilities
and special needs in programs
and settings where their typically
developing peers are served.

Mark and Monique Berger operate a family child care
program in their home. Their state permits group homes
such as theirs to serve up to 12 children. The licens-
ing agent informs them that they are required by law
to serve children with disabilities and special needs.
One mother, whose son Barry has cerebral palsy, has in-
quired about enrolling him in their program. Mark wants
to be sure that they abide by the law, but Monique is a
little unsure about what it means to include a child with
a disability in her child care home.

Although full inclusion of children with disabilities in
early childhood programs has been the law of the land
for several years, Mark and Monique are not alone in
being unsure about what it means. To help them and
other professionals like them, the Division for Early
Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children and
NAEYC (2009) jointly developed a statement defining
early childhood inclusion:

Early childhood inclusion embodies the values, poli-
cies, and practices that support the right of every in-
fant and young child and his or her family, regardless
of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities
and contexts as full members of families, commu-
nities, and society. The desired results of inclusive
experiences for children with and without disabili-
ties and their families include a sense of belonging
and membership, positive social relationships and
friendships, and development and learning to reach
their full potential.

The statement describes the key features of high-
quality inclusive programs, which are (1) access,
(2) participation, and (3) supports.

A defining feature of high-quality early childhood in-
clusion is access, which means providing children
with a wide range of learning opportunities, activities,
and environments. In inclusive settings, adults also
promote belonging, participation, and engagement of
children with disabilities and their typically develop-
ing peers in a variety of intentional or purposeful ways.

Finally, an infrastructure of inclusion supports must
be in place to ensure a foundation for the efforts of
individuals and organizations that provide inclusive
services to children and families. For example, Mark
and Monique will need access to ongoing professional
development and support to acquire the knowledge,
skills, and dispositions required to effectively meet
Barry’s needs and contribute to his development. In
addition, specialized services and therapies for Barry
will need to be coordinated and integrated with the
other activities they offer the children.

Source: Early childhood inclusion: A joint position statement
of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and the National
Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC),
by Division for Early Childhood and National Association for
the Education of Young Children, 2009, Chapel Hill: The
University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute,
retrieved from http://community.fpg.unc.edu/resources/ articles/
files/EarlyChildhoodInclusion-04-2009.pdf.

Including All Children
What Does Inclusion Mean?

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Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 9

by parent tuition. Typically considered the first year of formal schooling,
kindergarten has traditionally been designed for 5-year-olds. States estab-
lish varying dates for the legal entrance age to kindergarten, but 40 states
require that children who are entering kindergarten must have their fifth
birthday before the end of September or earlier (Education Commission
of the States, 2013). This means that today’s kindergartens enroll many
6-year-olds. By contrast, in 1975, only nine states required that children be
5 by September (Colasanti, 2007)

First, second, and third grades are the primary grade years of school
(6 through 8 years of age). These grades are especially important because
during these grades, children are expected to acquire the fundamental abilities of read-
ing and mathematics, along with the foundations of other academic disciplines includ-
ing social studies, science, the creative arts, technology, and physical education. In
first to third grade, children are learning to read; after that, they are expected to read
to learn (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2010). Therefore, if a good foundation is not laid
during the primary years, children are likely to struggle in later years (U.S. Depart-
ment of Health and Human Services, 2014).

Forty states and the District of Columbia permit funding of public charter
schools. A charter school is a publicly funded school that is independently oper-
ated under a contract with the state or district. Typically, charter schools have
greater f lexibility than do regular public schools for meeting regulations, but they
must also meet accountability standards. In school districts where charter schools
are an option, parents have a choice of where to send their children. More than
2 million children attend charter schools and the percentage is increasing (National
Center for Education Statistics, 2014a).

How Early Childhood Education Is Expanding
Participation in early childhood programs has increased steadily for many decades
as more children participate in group programs at younger ages. In 1965, only 60%
of 5-year-olds went to kindergarten, whereas today about 95% do (National Center
for Education Statistics, 2014b). A similar but steeper growth trend is apparent for
younger children. In 1960, only 10% of 3- and 4-year-olds were enrolled in any
type of early childhood program. By 2012, 64% of 3- to 5-year-olds were enrolled
in preprimary programs (National Center for Education Statistics, 2014b). Although
the economic downturn has affected enrollment, all types of early childhood pro-
grams have seen growth over the years, including private preschools and child
care centers, state-funded prekindergartens, preschool special education, and Head
Start (Barnett, Carolan, Fitzgerald, & Squires, 2011; National Center for Education
Statistics, 2014b).

Growth in Preschool Attendance Changes in preschool participation are ap-
parent in the findings of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (Jacobson
Chernoff, Flanagan, McPhee, & Park, 2007). The study revealed that preschool, rather
than kindergarten, is now seen as the first year of school for children. The percentage of
children who attend center-based preschools is approximately the same whether or not
their mothers are employed. This finding indicates that the growth in preschool enroll-
ment is related to increased demand for early education as much as increased need for
child care (Barnett & Yarosz, 2007).

Child Care for Employed Families Expansion of the early childhood field is
directly related to the demand for child care for employed families. Currently, 64% of
women with children under age 6 are in the labor force (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014).
Infant and toddler care is a particular need because 58% of mothers of children under age
1 are in the workforce. Almost 80% of school-agers need care for some hours of the day
(Children’s Defense Fund [CDF], 2011).

kindergarten Typically
considered the first year of
formal schooling; serves 5- and
6-year-olds.

primary grades First, second,
and third grade; sometimes
includes kindergarten.

charter schools Independently
operated, publicly funded
schools that have greater
flexibility than regular schools
in meeting regulations and
achieving goals.

Classroom Connection
This video defines inclusion as
“belonging.” How does inclusion
benefit all children?

http://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=n_qgW9FWEgQ

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education10

Recognizing how important good child care is to maintaining a productive work-
force, some employers sponsor on-site child care centers or subsidize child care expenses
as an employee benefit. Employers find that support for child care reduces absenteeism
and turnover (National Child Care Information Center, n.d.).

In addition, the federal government provides child care assistance through
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The TANF program provides
temporary financial aid but requires recipients to move into the labor force or school-
ing, further increasing the demand for child care. The Child Care and Development
Block Grants (CCDBG) allocates funds to states for low-income working families
to purchase their own child care. In 2014, Congress reauthorized the CCDBG for the
first time since 1996, with significant bipartisan support. The new law significantly
improved provisions designed to protect children’s health and safety and improve
the quality of care.

Access to Early Childhood Education
Despite the overall increase in the number of children attending preschool, access to
programs varies considerably depending on family income and other factors. In fact, the
children who are most likely to benefit from high-quality programs are the least likely to
participate in them. Consider the following statistics:

• Young children who live in poverty are less likely to attend preschool than children
from higher-income families.

• Head Start and state-funded prekindergarten programs increase the participation
rates for low-income families, but insufficient slots are available to serve all the
eligible children.

• Families with moderate incomes face the greatest hurdle because they are not eli-
gible for subsidized programs and cannot afford private ones.

• Preschool participation varies considerably depending on the mother’s
education. About 75% of children whose mothers have a college education
or higher participate in preschool, compared to 54% of those whose mothers
are high school dropouts (National Center for Education Statistics, 2014b).
Again, the children who need preschool the most—those whose mothers are
less likely to provide educational experiences at home—are the least likely
to get it.

How Early Childhood Education Is Changing
Recently, two enormous transformations in the United States have had significant im-
pacts on early childhood education—changing demographics and economics. The nation
is becoming increasingly diverse. At the same time, economic hardship and poverty—
including homelessness—are affecting increasing numbers of families.

Changing Demographics The 2010 U.S. census revealed that the population is
highly diverse, both racially and culturally. As illustrated in Figure 1.2, the racial and
ethnic composition of the child population has changed dramatically since 1990. The
white population of children declined from 60% to 53%. By 2018, the majority of young
children will be children of color—members of groups currently identified as minorities
(Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2014). In many school districts today, this is already the
case (Ennis, Ríos-Vargas, & Albert, 2011).

The largest increase is among individuals who identify themselves as Hispanic or
Latino. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43%, accounting for
over half of the total increase in the U.S. population (Ennis et al., 2011). Due to both
higher birth rates and immigration, Latinos now constitute 24% of the nation’s children

Temporary Assistance for
Needy Families (TANF)
Federally funded program, more
commonly known as Welfare to
Work, that provides temporary
financial aid but requires
recipients to move into the labor
force or schooling.

Child Care and Development
Block Grants (CCDBG) Federal
funds allocated to states for
low-income working families to
purchase child care.

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Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 11

FIGURE 1.2 Child Population by Race and Ethnicity In the last two decades, the population of
young children in the United States has become dramatically more ethnically and racially diverse.

Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2014). 2014 Kids Count data book: State trends in child well-being.
Baltimore: Author. Retrieved November 16, 2014, from http://www.aecf.org/2014db

(Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2014). Many of these children are dual language learners
because they are learning to speak two languages at the same time—their home
language and English. These demographic shifts have important implications for early
childhood educators as discussed in the feature Language Lens: Preparing to Teach
Dual Language Learners.

Changing Economics The recent economic crisis led to millions of children
and families falling into poverty, with potentially devastating impacts on children’s
health, development, and learning. Almost 25% of all children under 6 live in poverty,
but African American and Latino children are about three times as likely to be poor as
White, non-Hispanic children (CDF, 2014). Most alarming, in 2014, 2.5 million chil-
dren, or nearly 1 in 30, experienced homelessness, an 8% increase in one year (National
Center on Family Homelessness at American Institutes for Research, 2014). Children
growing up in poverty are especially in need of high-quality early childhood experiences
and good teachers.

Increased unemployment also negatively affects enrollments in early childhood pro-
grams as families struggle to pay for child care (NACCRRA, 2011). In some situations,
families remove their children from preschool or child care centers because they can no
longer afford or do not need these services. Some employers are less willing or able to
subsidize child care as a benefit.

The effects of the economic downturn on children, families, and early childhood
programs are real. However, increased funding for child care and early education at
this difficult time in the nation’s history is solid evidence of its broad support and the
recognition of its value.

dual language learners
Children who are learning to
speak two languages at the
same time—usually their home
language and English.

100%

3%
1% 1%

5%

24%16%

69%

53%

4%

14%15%

80%

60%

40%

20%

0%
1990 2012

African American

American Indian

Asian and Pacific Islander

Latino

Two or More Races

White

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education12

✓ Check Your Understanding 1.1: What Is Early Childhood Education?

Why Become an Early
Childhood Educator?
Choosing to teach young children, like every career decision, involves weighing many
factors. Prospective teachers need to be familiar with what the work entails and the pos-
sible career options. Most important, they need to determine whether the demands and
rewards of their chosen profession are a good match with their own strengths, disposi-
tions, and personal goals (Colker, 2008).

The Joys of Teaching Young Children
Working with children demands patience and the willingness to care for and about other
people’s children, even or especially the least lovable of those children. Teaching young
children is truly rewarding work, even when it is most challenging (Colker, 2008). Each
day brings new discoveries, accomplishments, and joys for children and teachers.

Picture a 4-year-old child. What are the first thoughts that come to mind? Is he
or she curious? Eager to learn? Excellent early childhood teachers take advantage of
young children’s deep desire to actively engage with and make sense of the world

Preparing to Teach Dual Language Learners
Eight different languages are spoken among the children
in Natalia’s kindergarten class. Natalia and two of the
children are the only ones whose first language is Eng-
lish. Natalia works hard to create a caring community
where all the children comfortably experiment with learn-
ing English while also developing their home language.
She strives to communicate with the parents by using
translators. Last year, Natalia’s class also included eight
languages—but some of them were different from those
spoken this year.

The number of languages represented in Natalia’s class-
room may seem extreme, but linguistic and cultural diver-
sity is now the norm in our nation’s schools. In the next
20 years, the biggest single child-related demographic
change is predicted to be an increase in dual language
learners. Most of these children speak Spanish as a home
language, but many others speak Asian, Middle Eastern,
and African languages. California, Florida, and Texas con-
tinue to have the largest percentages of Spanish- speaking
families, but according to the last census, between 2000
and 2010, the Hispanic population grew in every region
of the country.

In the past, most teachers could safely assume that they
would never encounter a language other than English in
their entire careers. Today, Natalia’s experience or some-
thing like it is not so very rare. New teachers may find
it beneficial to learn another language themselves, but
learning eight languages is not a reasonable expectation.
What can new and experienced teachers like Natalia do?

They can start by remembering some important princi-
ples about dual language learners:

• People who speak the same language, whether Spanish
or another language, are not all alike—they come from
a variety of countries and cultures.

• Learning two or more languages does not confuse chil-
dren as some people think, but rather enhances brain
development.

• Supporting home language development is essential
because children can learn many skills in their home
language and apply those skills as they learn English.

• Teachers need to intentionally teach English vocabulary
and provide lots of opportunities for children to play
together and practice their developing language skills.

• Communicating with families is essential regardless of
the effort required.

The children of today must be prepared to function as
citizens of a global society. Speaking two or more lan-
guages is an important skill for the 21st century. When
children enter early childhood programs speaking a lan-
guage other than English, the foundation is already there
to build on.

Sources: The Hispanic population: 2010. 2010 Census Briefs,
by S. R. Ennis, M. Ríos-Vargas, and N. G. Albert, 2011, U.S.
Census Bureau, retrieved from http://www.census.gov/prod/
cen2010/briefs/c2010br-04.pdf; Pre-K-3rd: Challenging
common myths about dual language learners, an update to
the seminal 2008 report by L. Espinosa, 2013, New York:
Foundation for Child Development.

Language Lens

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Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 13

around them. Recall the sense of satisfac-
tion you felt when you mastered a difficult
task such as learning to read or ride a bike.
Children, too, gain great pleasure from the
sense of mastery that comes from learning
something new or overcoming an obstacle.

Another word that comes to mind when
thinking of children is fun. Yes, early childhood
programs prepare children for success in school,
but they also provide them with joyful learn-
ing experiences every day of their young lives.
Children should have fun in child care centers
and homes, preschools, and schools. They love
to joke, tease, and be silly; to sing, move, and
dance; to play by themselves and with friends;
to know that adults care for them; to wonder
about and explore the natural world; and to
generally enjoy living. When teachers create a
safe and supportive place for children to experi-
ence the unique joys of childhood, children will
thrive—and their teachers will also.

Dimensions of Effective, Intentional Teaching
One overarching theme of this book is that effective early childhood practice requires teachers
to be intentional in everything they do. Intentional teachers have a purpose for the decisions
they make and can explain that purpose to others (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009; Epstein, 2014).
However, we believe that intentional teaching involves much more. Intentional teaching is a
multifaceted, multidimensional concept that conveys many of the personal and profes-
sional qualities of an early childhood educator. Consider how well your own aspirations
and dispositions fit with our description of the dimensions of intentional teaching that
appears in Figure 1.3.

For an example of intentional teaching, read the Becoming an Intentional Teacher:
Being Purposeful and Playful feature. Now that we have described both the dedication
and the delight that teaching young children entails, we turn to an overview of the job
opportunities in the field.

Career Options for Early Childhood Educators
As the field of early education grows, so do the potential career options and opportunities
for early childhood professionals. At the same time, however, the field is experiencing
a shortage of qualified teachers (Whitebook, 2014). Even as a large percentage of the
current teaching staff is nearing retirement, teacher qualification requirements are being
raised in many sectors of the field.

Because the early childhood field is so diverse and covers such a broad age range,
early childhood educators have many possible career choices. Careers tend to fall into
two categories:

• Working with children involves daily interaction and direct responsibility for chil-
dren’s care and education and includes positions such as classroom teacher or fam-
ily child care provider.

• Working for children involves work that supports children’s development and edu-
cation, whether in proximity to the children, such as being a child care center direc-
tor, or at a further distance, such as being a teacher-education professor.

Over the course of their careers, many early childhood professionals move back and
forth between these types of jobs. However, we believe that success in working for chil-
dren is greater if an individual has actually worked with children. No one in the early

intentional teachers Teachers
who have a purpose for the deci-
sions they make and can explain
that purpose to others.

Intentional teachers are
purposeful, but they are also
playful. How can teachers keep
the fun in childhood while
helping children achieve
important learning goals?

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education14

FIGURE 1.3 Characteristics of Professional, Intentional Early Childhood Teachers Intentional teaching involves a
wide range of personal and professional qualities such as those listed here.

• Caring and committed. They recognize that developing a personal, positive, warm relationship
with each child is the foundation for everything they do. Their commitment to children means
putting children’s needs before their own and recognizing that teaching young children is less a
job than a calling.

• Enthusiastic and engaged. They genuinely enjoy being with young children however messy or
challenging they may be, and share in the excitement of their discoveries. They become energetically
and intensely involved in children’s activity, whether it means getting down on the fl oor to play and
talk with a baby or thinking through the solution to a problem with a kindergartner.

• Curious and creative. They are eager to learn, just as children are. Young children want to learn all
sorts of things that teachers themselves may not know—what’s inside a bug, why the sky is blue, how
an airplane fl ies. Intentional teachers model an inquisitive attitude. They want to fi nd out along with
children, and they approach questions or problems in new, imaginative ways.

• Respectful and responsive. They value and treat children, families, and colleagues with dignity and
esteem. They respond thoughtfully to diversity in all of its forms: language, culture, race/ethnicity,
ability/disability, age, gender, and sexual orientation. They are open and accepting of perspectives
that are different from their own.

• Passionate and patient. They bring into their work their own emotions and deep interests, such as a
passion for music, painting, or poetry; a preference for belly laughs or quiet smiles. At the same time,
they recognize that children have their own intense feelings that can spill over into anger, frustration,
or fi ts of tears. Intentional teachers respond calmly and thoughtfully, without becoming upset or
annoyed themselves.

• Purposeful and playful. They have important goals for children—to help them make friends,
regulate their emotions, control their bodies, learn to read and write—and they plan carefully to help
children achieve their goals. But along the way, they joke and laugh with children, accept silliness,
encourage and support play, and make learning itself playful. A sense of humor is a necessity.

• Focused and fl exible. They are like cameras that can scan the entire classroom and then narrow
their attention to meet one child’s need or respond to her question or idea. They can be teaching
a reading lesson with a specifi c goal in mind and switch gears when a child starts talking about his
brother’s illness.

• Aware and accountable. They are self-aware, they refl ect on and evaluate their own performance,
and they strive to improve. But their judgments are not made in isolation; they compare their
performance to a standard of excellence. Intentional teachers are willing to be accountable; they
accept responsibility for their actions.

• Informed and effective. They know how children develop and learn; they know how to teach and
what to teach. They use research-based teaching practices that lead to positive outcomes for children
and help children make sense of the world around them. Intentional teachers also regularly check to
see if what they are doing is actually working. Are children making progress toward developmentally
appropriate goals?

• Listening and learning. They realize that the more they learn about children, the more they need
to know. They understand that choosing to teach is choosing to be a lifelong learner. Intentional
teachers learn from children every day; they listen to children, and they pay close attention to all of
children’s cues. They stay up to date about new knowledge and continue to grow as professionals.

childhood community can do his or her job well without knowing what life is like in an
early childhood setting (Colker, 2008). This experience informs decisions at every level.

Working with Children Early childhood teachers are usually the first to admit that
they aren’t in this profession for the money. It is the satisfaction they get from working
with children that is deeply rewarding. For many of them, the fact that they make an
impact on the life of every child they encounter is a powerful incentive and the reason
that, once they enter the field, they are there to stay (Colker, 2008).

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Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 15

Being Purposeful and Playful
Here’s What Happened It was the fifth straight day
of rain facing my kindergarten children as they arrived at
school on Friday. Some of them were already dragging their
backpacks in apparent dread while others rambunctious-
ly ran down the hallway as though they couldn’t contain
themselves another minute. The bell rang and the class-
room door opened. The children stopped abruptly, almost
stumbling over each other. Their eyes opened wide as if
they thought elves had been at work overnight transforming
the environment.

Laughing, I suggested they put away their things and
come to the gathering area for morning meeting. We
usually discuss the day’s plans but today I gave some
new directions. “Instead of our regular choice time in
centers, we are going to divide into two groups and then
switch group assignments later. Group 1 is going to
use the obstacle courses we’ve set up here and in Mrs.
D’Onofrio’s room. Group 2 is going to go on a treasure
hunt. Each group will have a map with clues in pictures
and writing. You’ll find answers to some of the clues in
our classroom and some in hers. Her children will take
turns switching rooms with us to look for clues. You’ll
divide up into teams to help each other find the trea-
sure, but you’ll want to be quiet deciphering your maps
because you don’t want to give away the clues to the
other teams.”

Here’s What I Was Thinking Our kindergarten cur-
riculum is packed with learning goals based on the state
standards. I always keep those goals in mind and have a
purpose for everything I plan each day. After five straight
days of rain, my fellow kindergarten teacher and I knew
that we would have to adjust our regular plans. No outdoor

play time again could only mean very
distractible children whose attention
spans would suffer greatly.

As kindergarten teachers, we know how much children need
to play and how much their healthy development depends
on it. That’s why we thought of setting up the obstacle
course. The course included a balance beam and narrow
space to scoot through as well as objects to go over, around,
and through. Each time children attempted the course,
they were handed a different set of directions not only to
use different muscles, but also to learn to read and follow
directions. The children repeated the course several times
as they practiced their developing skills.

We had different purposes for the treasure hunt. We still
wanted children to be physically active, moving around the
room. But we made the clues difficult to figure out, requir-
ing kindergarten-level literacy skills. Having the children
work in teams meant they had to use language, employ
problem-solving skills, and cooperate. They also had to self-
regulate so as not to give away their plans to other teams
and to solve the puzzle.

At the end of the day, we’d all forgotten about the rain.
Some of the children said it was the most fun they had ever
had at school. It took a lot of work, but being playful and
purposeful meant that we were able to accomplish curricu-
lum goals and have a lot of fun as teachers, too.

Reflection Feeling pressured to cover the curriculum,
teachers may limit vitally important opportunities for chil-
dren to play. What other ways do you think these teachers
could have playfully but purposefully addressed their cur-
riculum goals?

Becoming an Intentional Teacher

Early childhood teachers work with different age groups from infancy through pri-
mary grades in a wide range of settings. The qualifications and required certifications
for specific jobs will vary, but a broad-based education in the field is necessary prepara-
tion. Following are some of the options and opportunities available for interesting and
rewarding work:

• Head Start teachers can alter the life trajectory of young children and their families
who are most in need. They help ensure that children from low-income families re-
ceive an excellent education and comprehensive health, nutrition, and other services.

• Early Head Start teachers intervene early with mothers and their babies to help set
them on a course of healthy development.

• Child care center teachers provide loving care and education to children for ex-
tended periods of time each day, and help employed parents feel secure about their
children’s care so they can do their jobs. Careers in child care offer the option
of teaching various age groups: infants and toddlers, preschoolers, and school-
age children before and/or after school. Although teaching in child care pays less
than does teaching in other settings, many teachers relish its flexible and cre-
ative environment. Conditions also vary by administrative agency; for example,

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education16

an employer-sponsored child care center may offer more benefits and higher com-
pensation than a community-based one.

• Teachers in family child care homes literally open their doors to small groups of
children from infancy through school age, providing a home-like atmosphere of
care and education. Family child care means being your own boss, but requires
administering a small business as well as caring for children.

• Preschools vary a great deal—public, private, faith-based, and so on—each with
its own benefits that will appeal to different teachers’ interests and match their
goals. A public prekindergarten, for example, may provide better salaries, whereas
a private one may be more flexible about curriculum and expectations for children.

• A teacher in a parent cooperative preschool has the opportunity to develop par-
ticularly close relationships with families but also needs the ability to work with
parents as co-teachers, an acquired skill.

• Teachers in public schools have the option of teaching different age groups from
kindergarten through primary grades. Schools are bureaucracies with regulations
and an established curriculum and tests, but as professionals, teachers make hun-
dreds of classroom decisions every day. Salaries and benefits in the public schools
are the most secure of any sector in early childhood.

• Early childhood special educators and early intervention specialists are qualified
individuals who work with children with special needs in various settings such
as in school systems, Head Start, or child care. Inclusion of children with spe-
cial needs means that early childhood special educators work closely with regular
classroom teachers. In fact, in some states, the same teacher education program
prepares teachers for certification in both fields simultaneously.

• Mentor teacher is an evolving career option for more experienced, outstanding pro-
fessionals. It is helpful for new teachers to work with a mentor teacher to improve
their skills or to get help for children with particular learning challenges. Mentor
teachers are becoming more common in elementary schools, preschools, and child
care programs.

• The need for bilingual teachers and those who are qualified to teach dual language
learners is growing. As the population becomes ever more diverse, these qualifica-
tions will be useful in any early childhood setting.

Given the variety of careers available, early childhood teachers have many options.
Even when an entire career is spent teaching the same age group in the same workplace,
teachers will always encounter new challenges and new experiences. I once asked a for-
mer teacher who had taught for 40 years, “Didn’t you ever get tired of teaching first
grade?” She looked stunned and replied, “Never, because every group was different.”
Having been a child in her class at one time, I clearly understood what she meant—that
every child is different and unique and that being a teacher never loses its fascination.

Working for Children At some point in their careers, all early childhood profession-
als should work with children in order to understand, firsthand, how educators help shape
our young children. However, there are many opportunities for early childhood educators
to pursue positions working for children. With additional education, specialized training,
and experience, a background in early childhood can lead to positions such as these:

• Director of a child care center or preschool, or school principal (with additional
course work in administration)

• Curriculum developer for an individual school, network of schools, or publisher
• Home visitor or family services worker in Head Start, Early Head Start, or another

community agency
• Policy staff at local/state/federal agencies, associations, and organizations
• College faculty teaching teachers and/or conducting research
• Writer/producer of resources for children such as children’s book author, technol-

ogy developer, children’s museum staff, or media performer

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Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 17

In previous sections, we discussed what it means to be a professional, intentional
early childhood teacher. These definitions reflect the profession’s core values and beliefs,
a topic to which we turn next.

The Culture of Early Childhood Education
A key theme of this book is the important role that culture plays in development and
learning. Broadly defined, culture is the rules and expectations for behavior of members
of a group that are passed on from one generation to the next. These rules determine to a
large extent what group members regard as important and what values shape their actions
and judgments.

Like other professional groups, the early childhood profession has its own culture.
This culture is transmitted both explicitly and implicitly from more experienced, com-
petent members to new initiates in three ways: through formal education, through on-
the-job experiences, and through mentoring in either setting. New teachers may become
confused or flustered when the cultural rules transmitted in one setting, such as their
college classroom, do not seem to match the expectations for behavior in another, such as
their first teaching assignment.

Cultural groups define themselves in many ways, including through the language
they use, how they identify themselves, the values they share, and their fundamental be-
liefs. We discuss these topics in the following sections.

Shared Vocabulary One aspect of early childhood culture is a shared vocabulary.
Shared language facilitates communication and minimizes misunderstandings within
groups. The profession gives particular meaning to terms like developmentally appropri-
ate, play, relationships, comprehensive services, or inclusion (all of which are defined in
this book). Their definitions are tailored to our profession and may not mirror how these
words are used in other professions or everyday life.

An essential part of joining a profession is learning its language. For example, al-
though the larger society uses the term day care, within the profession the accepted term
is child care. We believe that saying child care is more respectful of children and a more
accurate description of the setting and the job.

Shared Identity Most professionals feel a sense of belonging to their group. They
identify themselves as members of the profession, whether it is as a doctor, a lawyer, or
an accountant. In early childhood education, it is often harder to “name” ourselves. The
profession itself does not have an agreed-on name (Goffin & Washington, 2007). Among
the names it is known by are early care and education, child care, early education, and
early development and learning. In this book, we refer to the field as early childhood edu-
cation. We prefer this term because it contains the word child, which is an ever-present
reminder of the primary focus of our work. We also believe that the term encompasses the
key elements of caring, development, and learning.

Another challenge to establishing a clear identity is what to call the role itself. Infant/
toddler teachers and teachers in center-based care are often called caregivers. In family
child care, adults are called providers. But we embrace the term teacher because it is the
broadest term, captures most of the job responsibilities, commands society’s respect, and
is after all what children usually call the adults who care for and educate them no matter
what the setting.

Shared Values The early childhood profession is committed to a core set of values
that is deeply rooted in the history of the field. NAEYC (2011a) articulates these core
values in its code of ethical conduct:

We have made a commitment to:

• Appreciate childhood as a unique and valuable stage of the human life cycle
• Base our work on knowledge of how children develop and learn

culture The explicit and
implicit values, beliefs, rules,
and expectations for behavior
of members of a group that are
passed on from one generation
to the next. These rules de-
termine to a large extent what
group members regard as im-
portant and what values shape
their actions and judgments.

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education18

• Appreciate and support the bond between the child and family
• Recognize that children are best understood and supported in the context of family,

culture (including ethnicity), community, and society
• Respect the dignity, worth, and uniqueness of each individual (child, family mem-

ber, and colleague)
• Respect diversity in children, families, and colleagues
• Recognize that children and adults achieve their full potential in the context of

relationships that are based on trust and respect.

I often take informal polls of teachers during speeches at education conferences. A
question I always ask is: “What are your values as an early childhood educator?” Most of
the core values just listed are mentioned. Yet there is one that is always stated emphati-
cally and is usually first—“play!” Early childhood professionals strongly value play as
essential for children’s development and learning. Because play is so important in early
childhood, we will revisit the topic throughout this book. Political and economic forces
threaten these values at times, but they nevertheless endure.

Shared Beliefs Although early childhood culture shares many beliefs, a few dominate:
• The strong belief in the potential of all children, regardless of their life circum-

stances and individual abilities or disabilities.
• The belief in the power of developmentally appropriate practice to produce posi-

tive results for children. Developmentally appropriate practice is teaching that en-
gages children’s interests and adapts for their age, experience, and ability to help
them meet challenging and achievable goals.

• The belief that early childhood teachers are professionals who make informed deci-
sions about what is developmentally appropriate for each child in each situation.

• The fundamental belief in the potential of our work to make a real and lasting dif-
ference in the world.

This is the final justification for joining the profession: the opportunity to make a con-
tribution to children’s lives. Many professions exist primarily to solve problems. Doctors
and nurses treat illnesses. Firefighters put out fires and rescue people. Insurance agents

developmentally appropriate
practice Ways of teaching that
engage children’s interests and
adapt for their age, experience,
and ability, to help them meet
challenging and achievable
learning goals.

Early childhood educators are members of a profession that shares knowledge, values, and beliefs
about children and their work. Meeting with more experienced teachers is one way of becoming a
professional. Can you think of others?

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Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 19

help people recover from losses or catastrophes. The work of early childhood profession-
als, on the other hand, is to prevent problems from occurring. Our job is to set children on
a positive course from the beginning. The proven effectiveness of early intervention when
young children face difficulties creates room for optimism and hope.

✓ Check Your Understanding 1.2: Why Become an Early Childhood Educator?

Early Childhood Program Quality
and Effectiveness
Growing attention to early education primarily results from impressive research dem-
onstrating its effectiveness in improving outcomes for children. All of the research that
has influenced policy, however, finds that the key ingredient in the effectiveness of early
childhood education is the quality of the program for children. But what is quality?

Setting Standards for Quality
Earlier in this chapter, we described different types of early childhood programs. Various
kinds of programs must meet different sets of standards, which are intended to determine
the program’s quality. Early childhood educators have been instrumental in setting stan-
dards for quality that, in addition to research, reflect the profession’s core values and
beliefs.

Child Care Licensing Standards Child care centers and, in some states, family
child care homes, are regulated by each state’s child care licensing standards. These
set minimum requirements for a program to operate legally. Such standards usually
establish a minimum number of teachers required per child ( teacher/child ratios), teacher
qualifications, and health and safety requirements.

These standards, designed to ensure children’s protection, vary considerably from
state to state. For example, one state requires a teacher for every four infants, whereas
another permits a ratio of one to six. Child Care Aware® of America (2013) evaluates
state licensing standards and monitoring of centers’ compliance. They find
that no states rank at the highest level, while 21 states rate a grade of D and
20 are failing to provide basic protection for children’s health and safety and
support for their development.

Because licensing standards vary and represent minimums, the quality
of child care also varies considerably. Some licensed programs exceed the
required standards, whereas others barely meet them (Child Care Aware® of
America, 2013). To address this issue and help parents make informed deci-
sions, many states now operate quality rating and improvement systems
(QRIS). These tiered systems rate program quality according to achievement
of benchmarks beyond those required for minimal licensing, such as having
more highly qualified teachers or better ratios (Mitchell, 2012). The state
recognizes centers that meet higher standards with more stars and pay higher
reimbursement rates for children served. In some states, achieving accredita-
tion is the highest level. QRIS also helps families make informed decisions
about choosing child care.

Accreditation Standards The early childhood profession under the leadership of
NAEYC (2008) is committed to raising the overall quality of early education for all chil-
dren. Toward this end, the association sets high-quality standards and administers a vol-
untary accreditation system for all types of early childhood centers and schools serving
children from birth through kindergarten. The standards that programs must achieve to
obtain accreditation are listed in Table 1.1. These standards apply to any early childhood

child care licensing
standards Minimum require-
ments, legally established by
each state, for a child care
program to operate.

quality rating and improve-
ment systems (QRIS) State-
operated tiered systems that
evaluate and rate the quality of
child care programs according
to achievement of benchmarks
beyond those required for mini-
mal licensing, such as having
more highly qualified teachers
or better ratios.

accreditation system NAEYC’s
voluntary system for identifying
high-quality early childhood
centers and schools serving
children from birth through
kindergarten.

Classroom Connection
The video outlines the high
standards required of early child-
hood programs to become NAEYC
accredited. The 10 program
standards are the mark of quality
and best practices for the field.
Accreditation also assists families
in choosing the best programs for
their children.

http://www. youtube.com/
watch?v=rhBBd9Tl4k4

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education20

NAEYC’s accreditation standards describe all the key elements of a high-quality early childhood program.

Standard Standard Description

1. Relationships The program promotes positive relationships among all children and adults to encourage
each child’s sense of individual worth and belonging as a part of a community and to
foster each child’s ability to contribute as a responsible community member.

2. Curriculum The program implements a curriculum that is consistent with its goals for children and
promotes learning and development in each of the following areas: social, emotional,
physical, language, and cognitive.

3. Teaching The program uses developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate and effective
teaching approaches that enhance each child’s learning and development in the context
of the program’s curriculum goals. Teachers purposefully use multiple instructional ap-
proaches to optimize children’s opportunities for learning.

4. Assessment of children’s progress The program is informed by ongoing systematic, formal, and informal assessment approach-
es to provide information on children’s learning and development. These assessments occur
within the context of reciprocal communications with families and with sensitivity to the
cultural contexts in which children develop. Assessment results are used to benefit children
by informing sound decisions about children, teaching, and program improvement.

5. Health The program promotes the nutrition and health of children and protects children and staff
from illness and injury.

6. Teachers The program employs and supports a teaching staff that has the educational qualifica-
tions, knowledge, and professional commitment necessary to promote children’s learning
and development and to support families’ diverse needs and interests.

7. Families The program establishes and maintains collaborative relationships with each child’s fam-
ily to foster children’s development in all settings. These relationships are sensitive to
family composition, language, and culture.

8. Community relationships The program establishes relationships with and uses the resources of the children’s com-
munities to support the achievement of program goals.

9. Physical environment The program has a safe and healthful environment that provides appropriate and well-
maintained indoor and outdoor physical environments. The environment includes facili-
ties, equipment, and materials to facilitate child and staff learning and development.

10. Leadership and management The program effectively implements policies, procedures, and systems that support stable
staff and strong personnel, fiscal, and program management so all children, families, and
staff have high-quality experiences.

Source: From Overview of the NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards, 2008, by National Association for the Education of Young Children,
Washington, DC, retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/academy/file/OverviewStandards.pdf.

program regardless of length of day or sponsorship. NAEYC accreditation standards are
designed to answer the question “What is high quality?”

To understand what we mean by quality, it is important to see the relationships
among the standards rather than to see them as a discrete list. In the accreditation system,
the primary focus is on children as described in the first five standards: relationships, cur-
riculum, teaching, assessment of children’s progress, and health. The other five standards
address teachers, partnerships with families and communities, and administration, includ-
ing the physical environment and leadership and management. Meeting these standards
establishes a supportive context that makes it possible to achieve and maintain the quality
of life for children described in the first five standards.

Head Start Standards Quality is also a critically important issue in Head Start, par-
ticularly so because it serves the nation’s most vulnerable children. Head Start programs are
regularly monitored for compliance with the national Head Start Program Performance
Standards (Head Start, 2006). These standards are similar to accreditation standards, but
they also address the comprehensive services that are part of Head Start’s mandate.

Head Start Program Perfor-
mance Standards National
standards that establish the
level of quality of services
provided by every Head Start
program.

Table 1.1 NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards

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Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 21

Military Child Care Act The largest employer-sponsored child care system in the
world is the U.S. military. Its voluntary workforce of men and women depends on the
provision of high-quality child care. In 1989, Congress passed the Military Child Care
Act to ensure consistently high standards of quality in these programs. The act required
that centers seek NAEYC accreditation, and also included provisions for teacher training
and a career ladder tying compensation to increased professional development. The Mili-
tary Child Care Act resulted in significantly improved quality and learning outcomes for
children that have been maintained for decades (Child Care Aware® of America, 2013;
Neugebauer, 2011). In addition, the military child care system is now seen as a model for
improving all child care systems (Whitebook, Phillips, & Howes, 2014).

Measuring Quality in Early Childhood Programs
The early childhood field defines quality as having two dimensions: structural and process
(Minervino, 2013). Structural quality includes features such as maximum group sizes,
teacher/child ratios, and teacher qualifications, which are relatively easy to quantify and
measure. Process quality, on the other hand, refers to the quality of the relationships and
interactions among teachers and children, and the appropriateness of the materials, learn-
ing experiences, and teaching strategies. These features are more difficult to evaluate, and
yet they are the key aspects of the quality of children’s experiences. They describe what
life should be like for children in a program, how they should be treated, and how their
learning and development should be promoted.

Structural quality and process quality are interconnected. For example, well-qualified
teachers are needed to plan and implement an engaging curriculum and teach effectively.
Similarly, positive relationships between teachers and children are more likely to be es-
tablished when the size of the group and ratio of adults to children is relatively small.
An age-appropriate, well-equipped, and organized environment is needed to protect chil-
dren’s health and safety and to promote active learning.

The most difficult challenge is determining how to measure compliance with quality
standards. To see if a program is meeting requirements, it is relatively easy to examine
transcripts of teachers or count the number of children in a group. But it is much harder—
especially for an outside evaluator—to decide if teachers have positive relationships with
each child and family or if they are using effective teaching strategies. These standards
can be assessed only by directly observing what goes on in classrooms (FPG Child
Development Institute, 2008).

To provide consistent ways of measuring quality, researchers have developed obser-
vation tools. The most widely used observational measure is the Classroom Assessment
Scoring System (CLASS), with versions for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and primary
grades (Hamre, La Paro, Pianta, & Locasale-Crouch, 2014; La Paro, Hamre, & Pianta,
2012; Pianta, La Paro, & Hamre, 2008). The CLASS focuses on the quality of teachers’
relationships with children and the instructional strategies they use to support children’s
learning. Research shows that how well classrooms and teachers score on these mea-
sures predicts how well children score on measures of language, literacy, mathematics,
and social-emotional abilities (Curby, Brock, & Hamre, 2013; Downer et al., 2012). The
CLASS has been adopted as a tool for monitoring quality in Head Start, state prekinder-
gartens, and QRIS.

Another widely used program quality assessment is the Early Childhood Environment
Rating Scale (ECERS-3) (Harms, Clifford, & Cryer, 2014) with versions for preschool,
infant/toddler, family child care, and school-age programs. ECERS is used by many state
QRIS systems.

The overall conclusion of all of the research on the effectiveness of early educa-
tion is that what teachers actually do with children is the most important determinant
of the quality of children’s experiences and their learning outcomes. After decades of
research on quality in early childhood programs, one thing we know for certain is that
teachers matter. If children are to reach their full potentials, then professionals must
also reach theirs.

structural quality Features of
an early childhood program,
such as maximum group
sizes, teacher/child ratios, and
teacher qualifications, that are
relatively easy to quantify and
measure.

process quality The quality of
the relationships and interac-
tions among teachers and
children, and the appropriate-
ness of the materials, learning
experiences, and teaching
strategies occurring in an early
childhood program.

Classroom Assessment Scor-
ing System (CLASS) Preschool
and elementary classroom
observational instrument that
assesses the quality of teachers’
relationships and interactions
with children and the instruc-
tional strategies used to support
children’s learning.

Early Childhood Environment
Rating Scale (ECERS-3)
Observational instrument used
to rate program quality on a
7-point scale from inadequate
to excellent.

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education22

Brain research demonstrates
the importance of early child-
hood education, especially for
infants and toddlers.

Measuring Effectiveness
As we have seen, program quality is usually defined and measured in terms of “inputs”—
the environments children experience and their interactions with teachers. However, pro-
gram effectiveness is usually defined in terms of “outcomes”—the effects of these expe-
riences on children’s development and learning. As a result, effectiveness is measured
against specific, usually age- or grade-related goals. For preschoolers, the most common
source of outcome goals are state early learning standards, which describe what chil-
dren should know and be able to do before entering kindergarten (Scott-Little, 2011). All
50 states have comprehensive learning guidelines for preschool children, and 30 states
have such goals for infants and toddlers (Barnett, Carolan, et al., 2013).

Head Start has established its own set of comprehensive goals for children—the Head
Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework. Head Start programs are re-
quired by law to periodically assess children’s progress toward the framework’s goals.

State departments of education establish outcome standards for children in kinder-
garten and primary grades. Children’s progress toward these goals is often measured by
state-wide testing programs usually beginning at third grade, as we discuss later in this
chapter.

✓ Check Your Understanding 1.3: Early Childhood Program Quality and Effectiveness

The Positive Effects of Early
Childhood Education
We began this chapter by citing ways that early childhood is a field on the rise. The
positive attention and support the field has garnered is to a large extent the result of an
impressive body of research on the importance of the early years and the lasting benefits
of early childhood programs.

Brain Research
Among the most exciting achievements in developmental psychology in the past cen-
tury were new insights into how the brain grows and functions during the earliest
years of life. Brain research, which had previously been confined to laboratories,
is now reported regularly in popular newspapers and magazines. Technologies such
as positron emission tomography (PET) scans and functional magnetic resonance
imagery (fMRI) reveal the inner workings of babies’ brains to policy makers, educa-
tors, and the public.

Major conclusions from brain research have significantly lifted the profile of early
childhood education—and especially the importance of experiences in the first three years

of life (Shonkoff, 2011; Shonkoff, Garner, & the Committee
on Psychosocial Effects of Child and Family Health, 2012):

1. Positive experiences in the early years—especially
warm, responsive, caring, conversational relation-
ships—literally grow babies’ brains and lay the foun-
dation for later learning.

2. Negative experiences such as prolonged stress,
physical or sexual abuse, or exposure to violence
can have dire and long-lasting effects on brain ca-
pabilities.

3. Early intervention including intensive early educa-
tion and comprehensive support services for fami-
lies—the earlier and more intensive, the better—can
ameliorate the negative effects.

early learning standards
Describe what children should
know and be able to do before
entering kindergarten.

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Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 23

Dramatic evidence, along with powerful visual images of brain scans,
has raised awareness of the vital importance of early experiences. For exam-
ple, brain scans of maltreated children provide striking evidence of smaller
brain volumes than those of children who have not suffered maltreatment,
with more negative effects the earlier the abuse began and the longer it lasted
(De Bellis et al., 1999). Findings such as these demonstrate the critical im-
portance of early intervention.

Lasting Benefits of Early
Childhood Education
A large body of research demonstrates that high-quality early childhood
programs can have long-lasting positive consequences for children,
especially children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and can
be cost effective (Minervino, 2014; Yoshikawa et al., 2013). Three well-
designed longitudinal studies—the Perry Preschool Project, the Abecedarian
Early Childhood Intervention Project, and the Chicago Child-Parent Centers—followed
children from early childhood into adulthood. The findings of these studies have been
singularly influential with policy makers and are largely responsible for increased
investments in early education such as President Obama’s universal preschool initiative
(Barnett, 2013b).

The Perry Preschool Project The Perry Preschool Project, which began in the
early 1960s in Ypsilanti, Michigan, was one of the first studies to demonstrate the lasting
effects of a high-quality preschool program on educational and economic outcomes. (Perry
Preschool later became the HighScope Educational Research Foundation.) Researchers
found that Perry Preschool graduates were less likely to be assigned to special education
or be retained in grade and had better achievement test scores than children who did not
attend preschool (Berrueta-Clement, Schweinhart, Barnett, Epstein, & Weikart, 1984).
Preschool participation was also related to less involvement in delinquency and crime and
a higher rate of high school graduation (Schweinhart, Barnes, & Weikart, 1993). At age
40, program participants were significantly more likely to have higher levels of education,
be employed, earn higher wages, and own their own homes; they were less likely to be
welfare dependent and had fewer arrests (Schweinhart et al., 2005).

These outcomes benefited not only the participants but the larger society as well.
Economists estimated that for every dollar spent on the program, as much as $16 was
returned on the original investment (Schweinhart et al., 2005). This means that Americans
saved money in terms of the decreased costs of crime, special education, grade retention,
and welfare payments, as well as increased taxes paid by those children who achieve in
school and later earn higher incomes.

The Abecedarian Project The University of North Carolina’s Abecedarian
Early Childhood Intervention Project demonstrated that intensive early intervention
(five years of full-day, high-quality child care with parent involvement) can greatly
enhance the development of children whose mothers have low income and education
levels (Campbell et al., 2008). The Abecedarian program produced positive effects on
achievement in reading and mathematics throughout elementary and high school. Chil-
dren who participated were significantly less likely to be retained in grade or placed
in special education, and they were more likely to attend 4-year colleges and to have
skilled jobs. Access to free child care improved the mothers’ long-term employment
opportunities and earnings.

Chicago Child-Parent Centers Perry Preschool and Abecedarian were rela-
tively small-scale demonstration programs. A third longitudinal study of the Title I fed-
erally funded Chicago Child–Parent Centers reached similar positive conclusions with

Classroom Connection
This video highlights brain re-
search and the impact of qual-
ity early learning opportunities.
Dr. Jack Shonkoff, founder of the
Center for the Developing Child at
Harvard University, presents the
importance of positive early child-
hood experiences based on what
scientists have learned by study-
ing the brain.

http://www. youtube.com/
watch?v=tLiP4b-TPCA

M01_BRED6702_03_SE_C01.indd 23 10/7/15 12:48 PM

Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education24

a large-scale, public school program involving more than 1,500 children
(Reynolds, Temple, Robertson, White, & Ou, 2011). Since 1985, the Chicago
Child–Parent Centers (CPC) have provided preschool and kindergarten for
children from low-income families and family support services with contin-
ued intervention in early elementary school.

Children who participated in CPC demonstrated higher school achieve-
ment, better social adjustment, less frequent grade retention, lower drop-
out rates, and lower rates of juvenile arrest. A follow-up study conducted
25 years later found strong positive effects into adulthood (Reynolds et al.,
2011). Children who attended the program at age 3 attained better levels of
education, income, job skills, and health insurance coverage, and lower rates
of substance abuse, arrest, and imprisonment.

The Positive Effects of Prekindergarten, Head
Start, and Child Care
As publicly funded prekindergarten programs have expanded, a great deal of research
evaluating their effectiveness has become available. Numerous states across the country
have found positive effects on children’s readiness for school (Camilli, Vargas, Ryan, &
Barnett, 2010; Minervino, 2014). For example, a longitudinal study of Michigan’s pre-
kindergarten program found that it decreased grade repetition and increased the number
of children who passed the state’s reading and mathematics tests and graduated from high
school on time, and all these differences were greatest for children of color (Schweinhart,
Xiang, Daniel-Echols, Browning, & Wakabayashi, 2012). Similar results were found in
Virginia’s state-funded prekindergartens (Huang, Invernizzi, & Drake, 2012). A study
involving more than 60,000 children found that prekindergarten was related to improved
literacy and less kindergarten retention. Results were most positive for Hispanic and Af-
rican American students and also children with disabilities, and persisted through first
grade.

Some of the strongest, most positive results were found in an evaluation of Tennes-
see’s statewide prekindergarten program (Lipsey, Farran, Hofer, Bilbrey, & Dong, 2011).
Children who attended prekindergarten improved on measures of literacy, language, and
math between 37% and 176% more than did children who did not attend. The greatest
gains were in language, which is very difficult to improve.

Most research demonstrates the value of preschool for children from low income
families, but a growing body of research provides evidence of the positive effects of early
education for all children. Read the What Works: Increasing School Readiness for All
Children feature for an example.

Perhaps no other federally funded project has been as thoroughly studied as Head
Start over the nearly 50 years of its existence. An overall conclusion that can be drawn is
that Head Start has positive effects on children’s overall development, health and dental
care, and preparation for school, including improved literacy skills and social-emotional
development (Barnett, 2008; Puma et al., 2005). Although there is evidence that Head
Start needs to be improved and participation does not close the achievement gap between
poor and middle-class children, it does narrow the gap. The effects are most positive for
children who enter at age 3 and participate in full-day programs that include regular home
visiting (Walters, 2014; Yoshikawa et al., 2013).

Child care research consistently finds that children who participate in high-quality
programs demonstrate better language and mathematics ability and fewer behavior prob-
lems than do children in poor-quality care (Cost, Quality, and Child Care Outcomes
Study Team, 1995; NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2002; Peisner-Feinberg
et al., 1999). Positive effects are evident for all groups of children but are greater for
children from lower-income families.

We could cite many other studies from states as diverse as New Jersey, Louisiana,
Maryland, New Mexico, Massachusetts, and South Carolina that prove that high-quality

Classroom Connection
This video describes the Chicago
Child–Parent programs and
cites the results of the studies
conducted on the success of the
program. Why has participating
in this program resulted in lasting
benefits for children and families?

http://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=ToCbcbpEfDw

M01_BRED6702_03_SE_C01.indd 24 10/7/15 12:48 PM

Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 25

early childhood programs can have positive short- and long-term consequences for young
children. Research is also powerfully connected to another reason early childhood educa-
tion is a field on the rise—the country’s need to close the achievement gap, as addressed
in the next section.

Social Justice and Closing the Achievement Gap
One of our nation’s greatest challenges is addressing the persistent gap that exists between
the school achievement of African American and Latino children and their white peers
(Aud, Fox, & KewalRamani, 2010; Hemphill & Vanneman, 2011). Scholars tend to agree
that these differences result primarily from the fact that race and ethnicity are strongly
associated with socioeconomic status (SES) in the United States (National Center for
Children in Poverty, 2014). For example, 42% of African American children and 35% of
Latino children under the age of 5 are in the lowest socioeconomic level of U.S. citizens
compared with 15% of white non-Hispanic children (CDF, 2014). And children of color
are much more likely to live in conditions of extreme poverty (CDF, 2014). Achieve-
ment differences between racial and ethnic groups narrow considerably among children
when they are from similar socioeconomic backgrounds (U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, 2014).

As we have seen, the number of young children growing up poor in our country is
increasing, with the largest growth in poverty among children under age 5 and children of
color, which could further widen the achievement gap in the future. The achievement gap
has profound consequences for our nation’s future and its ability to compete in a global,
highly technological society. Moreover, the potentially devastating effects on the life tra-
jectories of individuals cannot be ignored.

socioeconomic status
(SES) Family income level.

Increasing School Readiness for All Children
As policy makers consider whether to increase funding for Head
Start, public prekindergarten, or child care for needy families, they
want to know whether these programs are effective. They want to
know, “How well do early childhood programs prepare children for
school?” and “Who should be eligible to attend?” A big issue is
whether programs should be universal—that is, available to fami-
lies of all income levels who choose to enroll their children—or
targeted to low income families as Head Start is.

Oklahoma’s state-funded prekindergarten has generated con-
siderable attention. It is universal, based in the school system,
and reaches a higher percentage of 4-year-olds than any other
state pre-K program. Although most classes are located in public
schools, some classes are located in Head Start and child care
programs that meet the same standards for quality.

The Oklahoma program has high standards compared to other
states, with lead teachers required to have a B.A. degree and be
certified in early childhood education. Notably, prekindergarten
teachers earn the same wages and benefits as other public school
teachers. Student–teacher ratios are 10 to 1 and class sizes are
limited to 20.

An evaluation of the program involving more than 3,000 children
found strong positive effects for children from all income groups. All
children’s language and cognitive test scores improved, regardless

of their economic status or ethnicity.
The largest gains were for poor children
of color, with Hispanic children making
the most learning progress, followed by African
Americans. But even though gains were somewhat higher for
low-income children, gains for children in the higher income group
were almost as large. A similar study comparing Tulsa’s ( Oklahoma)
pre-K program and the Tulsa County Head Start program (which also
receives state funds) found that both programs produce substantial
improvements in early literacy and math.

It is increasingly clear that children from low-income families
are not the only ones who need and can benefit from attending
preschool. Research shows that many middle-income children are
also behind their peers from the highest-earning families at kin-
dergarten entry and they are less likely to have access to the kind
of high-quality programs provided in Oklahoma.

Sources: The Effects of Oklahoma’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program on
Hispanic Children, by W. T. Gormley, 2008, Washington, DC: Center for Re-
search on Children in the U.S. (CROCUS), Georgetown University, retrieved
July 28, 2009, from http://www.crocus.georgetown.edu; “The Promise of
Preschool: Why We Need Early Education for All,” by W. S. Barnett and E.
Frede, 2010, American Educator, 34(1), 21–29, 40.

What Works

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education26

Where the Gap Begins Differences in children’s cognitive abilities are substan-
tial at a very early age and widen over time (U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, 2014). By 18 months of age, SES differences in language development
are evident, and by 24 months, economically disadvantaged children are as much as
6 months behind their more advantaged peers (Fernald, Marchman, & Weislader, 2013).
At age 4, children who live below the poverty line may be 18 months below what is
considered normal for their age group. In fact, inequity in socioeconomic status is the
most important predictor of children’s cognitive skills (Aud et al., 2010; McLoyd &
Purtell, 2008).

To describe this discrepancy, a more accurate term than achievement gap is really
knowledge gap. The differences in achievement are likely the result of differences in
children’s opportunities to gain knowledge from a variety of learning experiences. For
example, children from higher-income families are much more likely to attend pre-
school.

Schools’ Contributions to the Gap Children from low-income families not
only enter kindergarten with fewer cognitive skills than their more aff luent peers, but
also are more likely to encounter poorer-quality elementary schools (Neuman, 2008).
These schools are likely to have fewer resources and qualified teachers, more nega-
tive teacher attitudes, and poorer neighborhood or school conditions. As a result, the
inequalities in cognitive abilities that are present even before kindergarten entry are not
eliminated and often are magnified by their elementary school experience (Parkinson &
Rowan, 2008).

One of the frequent criticisms of Head Start and prekindergarten is that the gains chil-
dren make “fade-out” by later grades. These criticisms focus on standardized test scores
rather than lasting social-emotional and meaningful life outcomes, and fail to take into
account the quality of children’s education in primary school (Barnett & Carolan, 2014).
A more accurate term than fade-out is convergence (Yoshikawa et al., 2013). Children’s
achievement scores converge in the early grades because their school experiences do not
build on preschool gains.

Children who begin school behind tend to stay behind. Although achievement has
improved on average in the last few years, problems remain. By fourth grade, only 41%
of public school students are proficient or above in mathematics and only 34% are profi-
cient in reading (National Center for Education Statistics, 2013). Reading achievement at
the end of first grade predicts reading skill at the end of fourth grade (Hernandez, 2011),
which subsequently predicts high school graduation. Moreover, deep-seated inequities in
communities and schools tend to increase rather than diminish these early achievement
gaps over time. As one child advocacy group states, “Our children are not failing to learn.
Our schools are failing to teach them effectively” (Foundation for Child Development,
2008, p. 4).

Early Education and Social Justice As we saw from research cited previ-
ously, these initial inequalities can be reduced. Children from low-income families who
attend high-quality early childhood programs begin kindergarten with higher achieve-
ment, thus providing the potential to narrow the gap at the outset. This research, as well
as studies on the effectiveness of services for children with special needs, proves that
early intervention is less costly, more effective, and more humane than later remediation
(Reynolds et al., 2011). Children living in poverty, however, are less likely to have access
to high-quality programs.

Improving quality and increasing access to early childhood programs are important
strategies for enhancing social justice in America and improving learning outcomes for
all children. These goals can be addressed, however, only in the context of current trends
in the field and the nation, which we discuss next.

✓ Check Your Understanding 1.4: Positive Effects of Early Childhood Education

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Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 27

Current Trends in Early Childhood
Education
Early childhood education is literally a field in transition, experiencing rapid growth and
widespread attention. Current trends affecting the field include major new policy initia-
tives at the federal and state level, more focus on standards and accountability resulting in
increased emphasis on child assessment, calls for greater alignment across the full early
childhood age span, increased teacher qualifications, expanding role of technology, and
increased stress in the lives of children. These changes present new challenges, but also
opportunities. In the sections that follow, we describe the potential benefits as well as
the controversies of each trend. Even a cursory look at these trends reveals that they are
interconnected.

New Federal and State Policy Initiatives
The first two decades of the 21st century have seen enormous growth in public support
and funding for early education. The Obama administration proposed new investments to
establish a continuum of high-quality early learning from birth to age 5 and to meet the
following goals (Office of Early Learning, 2014):

• Provide access to high-quality infant and toddler care through Early Head Start-
child care partnerships;

• Expand voluntary evidence-based home visiting to support our country’s most vul-
nerable families; and

• Develop partnerships with states to provide voluntary, high-quality, full-day pre-
school for all 4-year-olds from families at or below 200 percent of the federal
poverty line.

In response, a bipartisan group in Congress introduced the Strong Start for America’s
Children Act in 2014. The U.S. Department of Education distributed $1 billion in Early
Learning Challenge Grants for statewide systems to improve the quality of early child-
hood programs and increase access for children who need them. Early Learning Chal-
lenge Grants support state efforts to build high-quality, accountable systems of early
education; the grants call for states to use the same learning standards across all pro-
grams, measure children’s learning outcomes, and improve professional development
and compensation for teachers. As a result, the grants led states to develop or adopt
kindergarten entry assessments (KEAs) to help teachers adapt instruction to individual
children’s needs. Preschool Development and Expansion Grants were also distributed to
states to move the country forward in achieving universal prekindergarten.

Most public prekindergarten programs are not universal. Attendance is
limited to children who qualify because they are from low-income families,
are dual language learners, or have an identified disability. Proponents of uni-
versality cite research showing that middle-class children also benefit from
prekindergarten, but the cost of high-quality programs is out of reach for
most of these families (Burger, 2010; Yoshikawa et al., 2013). There is also
evidence that academic and social skills of children from low-income fami-
lies improve when they participate in mixed-income programs (Barnett &
Frede, 2010; Schechter & Bye, 2007). In contrast, critics believe that limited
funds should go to the neediest families (Fuller, 2007). Another concern is
the competing need to fund services for infants and toddlers.

Expanding prekindergarten contributes to another trend: greater involve-
ment of public schools in preschool education. In the past, young children
rarely encountered a public school before kindergarten, but now the public
education system is a major player in the early childhood landscape. As a

Classroom Connection
Watch this video from the Na-
tional Institute for Early Educa-
tion Research to learn about the
research on effective teachers in
high-quality preschool programs.
How would this information be
useful to advocate for universal
prekindergarten?

http://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=or10f-YcM8Q

M01_BRED6702_03_SE_C01.indd 27 10/7/15 12:48 PM

Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education28

result, issues that have dominated K–12 education for some time now affect programs for
younger children, such as more focus on standards and accountability.

Standards and Accountability
Since the 1990s, educational systems in the United States have emphasized learning
standards—what children should know and be able to do at various ages. At the same
time, a stronger emphasis on accountability has emerged, as seen in the Early Learning
Challenge Grants. The concept is that schools and teachers, which receive public dollars,
need to be held accountable for children’s achieving learning standards. This leads to two
related issues: (1) What are teachers to be held accountable for? and (2) How will it be
measured?

Elementary and Secondary Education Elementary and secondary educa-
tion is primarily controlled and funded by state governments, which means that learning
standards vary widely, with some states setting standards lower than others. The federal
government provides support to states through the Elementary and Secondary Educa-
tion Act (ESEA). This law is periodically rewritten and therefore its requirements and
funding are influenced by prevailing political trends. Since the 1990s, Congress has used
the law as a lever to hold public schools accountable for eliminating the persistent gaps in
achievement between different groups of children. Accountability is most often measured
by test scores in core academic programs (reading and mathematics).

The law has also addressed the need for more highly qualified teachers to implement
effective, scientifically based instructional practices, ways of teaching that research has
demonstrated to improve learning outcomes. Emphasis on standards and accountability
in elementary school has led to the development of learning standards for younger
children and a stronger emphasis on early literacy and mathematics in Head Start and
prekindergarten.

The Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative (which includes the Early
Challenge Grants) was a recent approach to improving accountability and school reform.
States competed for funding to adopt high standards that will prepare students to succeed

accountability The process
of holding teachers, schools,
or programs responsible for
meeting a required level of
performance.

Elementary and Secondary
Education Act (ESEA) Law
governing how the federal
government distributes educa-
tion funds to states and holds
public schools accountable for
the use of funding.

scientifically based instruc-
tional practices Curriculum
and instructional practices that
research has demonstrated
improve learning outcomes.

Current trends in early childhood education include more focus on standards and accountability from
prekindergarten through third grade. The overarching goal is to help children become more successful
readers and writers.

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Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 29

in college and the workplace and compete in the global economy, ensure highly qualified
teachers and principals, and turn around failing schools.

Common Core State Standards One problem with a large-scale accountability
movement is the great variability among state content standards. To address this issue, in
2010, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governor’s
Association (NGA) released the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which are de-
signed to establish a set of rigorous national standards in English language arts and math-
ematics for kindergarten through grade 12. The Common Core is intended to provide a
consistent, clear understanding of what all students are expected to learn to be successful
in college and careers, and for America to compete successfully in the global economy.
As of 2014, 44 states and the District of Columbia officially adopted the Common Core,
requiring much additional work to align curriculum and teaching practices, and create
new assessments to measure achievement of the standards.

Although the Common Core began as a bipartisan effort, it has become politically
controversial. A few governors who initially supported it withdrew their support. Some
view it as a federal intrusion on state control of education because the federal govern-
ment offered incentives to states to build systems around the CCSS. Others criticize the
standards for being unachievable, narrowing the curriculum to two areas, and leading to
overreliance on standardized tests for which students and teachers are not prepared.

Although the goals of increasing accountability and equity are worthy, the methods
that have been used are highly controversial (Ravitch, 2013). Criticisms of the Common
Core reflect broader concerns about the accountability movement in general. Some stan-
dards are actually unachievable for most children to meet even when they are in excel-
lent schools (Graue, 2009). Although the standards do not apply to preschool, like many
elementary school initiatives, they have a “push-down” impact on younger children.

Overemphasis on standardized test scores does tend to narrow the curriculum to what
is tested, does not truly measure all of children’s important capabilities, and punishes
schools that need the most help. Regardless of the requirements of any specific piece of
state or federal legislation, accountability is unlikely to go away in the future.

Higher Teacher Qualifications
Another related trend is to raise preschool teacher qualifications, with an emphasis on
college degrees in early education or child development (Institute of Medicine [IOM] &
National Research Council [NRC], 2015; Whitebook, Phillips, & Howes, 2014). Sev-
eral research reviews have concluded that having bachelor’s degree–level teachers with
specialized preparation in early childhood education leads to better outcomes for young
children (Minervino, 2014). Although some research has not found clear benefits of de-
grees (Walters, 2014), studies tend to support the fact that the more specialized education
teachers have, the better it is for the children they teach.

Head Start’s teacher qualifications have incrementally been raised over the years.
For many years, teachers were required to have only a Child Development Associate
(CDA) credential. This competency-based credential requires 120 clock hours of train-
ing (which may or may not be credit bearing) and 480 hours of experience with children,
plus passing a written test and being observed working effectively with young children.
The Head Start Act of 2009 requires that 50% of teachers hold a bachelor’s degree with
early childhood specialization. The program has exceeded this goal, with 66% of its pre-
school teachers holding a bachelor’s degree or higher (Head Start, 2014c). Similarly, at
least 50% of teacher assistants are required to have at least a CDA credential or be en-
rolled in a degree program. In addition, the CDA credential is the required qualification
for teachers in Early Head Start.

Raising teacher qualifications has the potential to improve quality for children and
also compensation and status for teachers. The biggest challenge is providing adequate
funding to increase compensation commensurate with teacher qualifications, which, sad-
ly, is far from the case (Whitebook, Phillips, & Howes, 2014).

Common Core State Stan-
dards Rigorous national
standards in English language
arts and mathematics for
kindergarten through grade 12
developed by the Council of
Chief State Officers (CCSSO)
and the National Governor’s
Association (NGA).

Child Development Associate
(CDA) credential National
competency-based credential
for entry-level early childhood
educators.

M01_BRED6702_03_SE_C01.indd 29 10/7/15 12:48 PM

Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education30

An additional concern is the need to maintain a diverse workforce that reflects the
population of children served. State prekindergarten programs have a larger percentage of
teachers with bachelor’s degrees than do Head Start or center-based programs. However,
Head Start teachers are much more likely to reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity of
the community (CLASP, 2011). For example, 30% of Head Start staff are proficient in a
language other than English (Head Start, 2013).

Alignment of Services from Birth Through Age 8
A trend that is related to accountability and increased involvement of public schools in
early education is the call for bridging the continuum of services for children from birth
through third grade (Bornfreund, McCann, Williams, & Guernsey, 2014). Traditionally,
preschool and K–3 have been two separate worlds with very little communication be-
tween them. Alignment means that curriculum at the preschool level would lay a founda-
tion for the kindergarten curriculum, which could then more easily build on what children
have learned. The idea is to ease transitions for students between schools and school lev-
els and enhance continuity of learning while also respecting the needs of young children
(Kauerz & Coffman, 2013).

Many early childhood educators are concerned that the push for alignment will nar-
row the curriculum to literacy and mathematics, apply learning standards intended for
older children, and lead to inappropriate testing of young children (Graue, 2009; NAEYC,
2009). They are especially concerned that schools will eliminate valuable experiences
such as play, the arts, and support for social-emotional development.

Advocates for Pre-K–3 alignment support better connected education for preschool
and elementary children. They stress that alignment does not mean that preschool children
should learn primary grade skills at an earlier age (Kauerz & Coffman, 2013; NAEYC,
2009). Rather, curriculum should reflect what children can and should learn at each age,
and teachers should know how to help children make progress.

Advances in Technology
In no aspect of life is the speed of change as rapid as in the area of technology. In educa-
tion, technology has a tremendous impact on how teachers teach and function in their
work, but also on children’s experiences at home and in school. Increasingly innovative
uses of interactive media in all aspects of early education is a major trend. Given the de-
mand for highly qualified teachers, online teacher preparation and professional develop-
ment options are increasing rapidly.

As digital media such as handheld mobile devices and video games proliferate, so has the
development of educational apps, the majority of which are targeted to preschoolers (Shuler,
2009; Thai, Lowenstein, Ching, & Rejeski, 2009). In their position statement on technol-
ogy, NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media (2012)
acknowledge legitimate concerns about potential inappropriate uses of technology but also
promote the almost unlimited creative ways that interactive media can support learning and
development. The question is no longer whether young children should be exposed to digital
media, but rather what is the quality of technological tools provided for them.

Stress in Children’s Lives
The foregoing trends coupled with the economic downturn, increased violence in society,
and other challenges facing families have all contributed to growing stress in the lives of
young children (Almon & Miller, 2011). In turn, mounting stressors endanger children’s
long-term mental and physical health (Shonkoff et al., 2012). Teachers and parents are
concerned about children’s safety, while at the same time they feel pressured to prepare
them for the academic rigors of school. These conditions conspire to threaten one of the
most important and beneficial activities of childhood—play, as discussed in the feature
Promoting Play: Addressing Threats to Children’s Play.

alignment Coordination of
the curriculum from one level
of education to the next in
order to build on what children
have already learned and to
ease transitions for students
between schools and school
levels.

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Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 31

Addressing Threats to Children’s Play
Pediatricians and psychologists agree that too many
children today experience high levels of unrelent-
ing stress. Factors such as poverty and violence are
the primary sources, but stress affects the lives of
all children to some extent. Teachers today report
that more children are aggressive and disruptive as
a result of stressful events. Increasing numbers of
children, especially boys, are inaccurately diagnosed
as hyperactive and needlessly medicated. Childhood
obesity is also endemic.

Research demonstrates that exercise and child-
initiated play are effective stress-relievers. Ironically,
however, a survey of child care, preschool, and Head
Start teachers found that they tend to limit chil-
dren’s opportunities for active play, especially out-
doors, due to safety concerns and the need to pre-
pare children academically for school. And children
living in poverty are most likely to suffer because
they have less access to safe outdoor play areas and
programs feel extra pressure to focus on academic
instruction to close the school readiness gap.

Part of the solution is that teachers, parents, and
administrators need to understand that play and
school readiness is not an either/or choice. The
American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes that
play is essential for children’s physical health, emo-
tional and mental well-being, social relationships,
and brain development and cognition. Vigorous play
develops large motor skills, and can reduce obesity.
In short, play contributes to all areas of develop-
ment and learning.

In an attempt to get children ready for school and
protect them from injury, early childhood programs
may actually be contributing to children’s stress by
minimizing children’s large muscle activity and child-
initiated play time. Because children spend so much
time in early childhood programs and school, it may
be their only opportunity to have physical activity or
outdoor play.

Early educators need to draw on the support of
physicians and other experts to help educate parents
and policy makers about the importance of play in
children’s lives and its essential role in helping chil-
dren cope with stress and improve school success.
They also need to advocate for funding to provide
safe playgrounds and adequate spaces indoors and
outdoors for active engagement. Play spaces and
opportunities must be designed to protect children
from injury, but protecting them from stress is
equally important.

Sources: “Societal Values and Policies May Curtail
Preschool Children’s Physical Activity in Child Care
Centers,” by K. A. Copeland, S. N. Sherman, C. A.
Kendeigh, H. J. Kalkwarf, & B. E. Saelens, 2012,
Pediatrics, 129(2), retrieved from http://pediatrics.
aappublications.org/content/early/2012/01/02/
peds.2011-2102.full.pdf+html; “The Importance of
Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and
Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bond: Focus on
Children in Poverty,” by R. M. Milter, K. R. Ginsburg, &
Council on Communications and Media Committee
on Psychological Aspects of Child and Family Health,
Pediatrics, 129(1), e204–e213, retrieved from http://
www.pediatrics.aappublications.org.

Continuity and Change
One overarching trend always affecting education is continuity and change. As the field
expands and changes occur in response to new political and economic realities, many
longtime early childhood professionals are concerned that the fundamental values of the
field will be lost. Development, including development of professions, is characterized by
both continuity and change. In this book we describe how the fundamental values of early
childhood education can be retained and enhanced (thus maintaining continuity with the
important tenets of the past), while also presenting what is known from new research
about effective teaching practices for all children. Some ways of thinking and practicing
should be cherished and held onto, whereas others may need to be updated or abandoned.

Promoting Play

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education32

Resolving Contradictions Between Enduring Values and Current
Trends We propose that the way to resolve potential contradictions that arise over diffi-
cult or controversial issues is to “widen the lens.” Widening the lens is a metaphor for ex-
panding the sources of information professionals use to make decisions; gaining insights
from diverse perspectives including through the lenses of culture, language, and ability/
disability; and looking at questions or problems from broader perspectives. Widening the
lens is a strategy to move beyond the tendency to oversimplify complex educational issues
into “either/or” choices and to move toward “both/and” thinking.

Embracing Both/And Thinking Widening the lens to consider diverse points of
view—both/and thinking—is a constructive response to addressing both continuity and
change in the field. Figure 1.4 illustrates how this process applies to the field today. The left
side of the arrow describes traditional practices that have held sway in the past; the right
side of the arrow illustrates how current views encompass these earlier approaches and
extend beyond them, thus reflecting both/and thinking as well as continuity and change.

Throughout this text, we will revisit these issues as well as the profession’s core val-
ues and demonstrate how new research can help teachers effectively put these values into
practice. Chapters are devoted to each of the core values: child development and learning,
relationships, families, communities, individuality, and cultural diversity. We discuss the
overarching value of play in the context of all the key topics in this book.

We began by pointing out that early childhood education is a field on the rise. The
profession is expanding, growing in status, and gaining support from policy makers and
the general public. A huge body of research supports the importance of the work. It is
indeed an exciting time to be an early childhood educator.

✓ Check Your Understanding 1.5: Current Trends in Early Childhood Education

FIGURE 1.4 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education Early childhood education today builds on the enduring
values of its past but also changes as we acquire new knowledge about children, families, and the contexts in which they live.

• Both child-initiated, developmentally valuable play and playful learning

Traditional Practices

• Processes of child development and learning • Both how children learn and what they learn

• Inputs – standards such as licensing or accreditation
that mandate what programs should do

• Quality • Both quality and accountability

• Activities

Current Practices

• Free play

• Developmental appropriateness

• Observation of children

• Facilitating learning

• Development, not academics (viewing early childhood
education as separate from primary grades)

• Typical, normative development

• Both program standards and outcomes
(early learning standards)

• Both coherent curriculum plans and links to learning goals

• Both effectiveness and developmental appropriateness (Are children making
progress from the experiences we deem appropriate?

• Both observation and formal assessment of child outcomes

• Both intentional teaching and positive, supportive relationships

• Both viewing learning and development as a continuum from birth to
age 8 and alignment from pre-K to grade 3

• Both adapting for individual variation of every child and
intervention and adaption for children with disabilities and
special needs, as well as children who are advanced

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Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 33

Revisiting the Case Study
. . . Cresthaven Child Development Center

We began this chapter by peeking in and eavesdropping on the end-of-the-year event for Cresthaven

Primary School and Reed Child Development Center. Now that we have seen the broader picture

of the early childhood landscape, the teachers’ thoughts and emotions become more meaningful.

At this event, we saw the wide range of age groups that early childhood encompasses as well as

some of the diverse settings. In addition, these teachers exemplify fundamentals of intentional

teaching.

The collaborative partnership between the school and child care program supports alignment of

curriculum from preschool through third grade, and eases transitions for children and families. The

garden project is one example of how these teachers connect the curriculum to the larger community

and provide children with meaningful, hands-on learning opportunities. Children, families, and teach-

ers not only celebrated the good times they’d had, but children also demonstrated how much they’d

learned through the displays of their work and through technology.

Across the classrooms, we saw the value of communication and responsive relationships among

teachers and families. New teachers Isela and Evan have learned that early childhood education is

hard work but have also begun to experience the rewards. Their patience and focus on intentional

teaching is paying off for Nicky. Cooper’s experience demonstrates the power of inclusion and how

it benefits children with disabilities and their peers. At the end of the day, these teachers go home

feeling good about what they’ve accomplished, but knowing that there is more to learn and new

adventures awaiting them tomorrow. ■

1 Chapter Summary
• Early childhood education is a diverse field that covers

the broad age range of birth through age 8. Teachers
work in child care centers and homes, preschools,
kindergartens, and primary grade schools.

• Becoming a professional, intentional early childhood
teacher is a challenging and rewarding opportunity.
Early childhood education is expanding and is a field
on the rise, benefiting from growing public recognition
and support. Many career options are available to work
with children or work for children.

• Early childhood professionals are part of a cultural
group that shares a vocabulary, an identity, values, and
beliefs. These include emphasis on the uniqueness
of early childhood, the value of play, the importance
of relationships and a sense of community, valuing

and teaching each child as an individual, respecting
linguistic and cultural diversity, and relationships with
families.

• The early childhood profession sets high-quality stan-
dards for programs. The most important determinants
of the quality of children’s experiences and strongest
predictors of positive outcomes are the social and
instructional interactions that occur between teachers
and children.

• Brain research demonstrates the importance of early
experience to later development. A large body of
evidence exists supporting the positive long-term and
short-term consequences of high-quality early child-
hood programs.

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education34

Key Terms

• High-quality early education has an important role
to play in improving children’s school readiness and
addressing social justice concerns about closing the
achievement gap in our schools.

• New political and economic realities present challeng-
es and opportunities for the field including the federal
and state policy initiatives, universal prekindergarten
movement, more focus on standards and accountabil-
ity, increased teacher qualifications, calls for greater

alignment across the full early childhood age span,
stress in children’s lives, and advancing technology use
by teachers and children.

• Early childhood education is a rewarding profession
for many reasons, but above all, early childhood
educators enter and stay in the field because they
know that their work makes a difference in the lives of
children and families.

■ accountability
■ accreditation system
■ alignment
■ charter schools
■ Child Care and

Development Block
Grants (CCDBG)

■ child care center
■ child care licensing

standards
■ Child Development

Associate (CDA)
credential

■ Classroom Assessment
Scoring System
(CLASS)

■ Common Core state
standards (CCSS)

■ culture
■ developmentally appro-

priate practice
■ dual language learners
■ early childhood

education
■ Early Childhood

Environment Rating
Scale (ECERS-3)

■ early childhood special
education

■ Early Head Start
■ early intervention
■ early learning standards
■ Elementary and Sec-

ondary Education Act
(ESEA)

■ family child care home
■ Head Start
■ Head Start Program

Performance Standards
■ inclusion
■ Individuals with

Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA)

■ intentional teachers
■ kindergarten
■ laboratory school
■ National Association for

the Education of Young
Children (NAEYC)

■ parent cooperative
■ prekindergarten (pre-K)
■ preschool

■ primary grades
■ process quality
■ professionals
■ quality rating and

improvement systems
(QRIS)

■ school readiness
■ scientifically based

instructional practices
■ socioeconomic status

(SES)
■ structural quality
■ Temporary Assistance

for Needy Families
(TANF)

■ universal voluntary
prekindergarten

Chenfield, M. B. (2014). Still teaching in the key of life:
Joyful stories from early childhood settings. Washington,
DC: National Association for the Education of Young
Children.

Feeney, S. (2012). Professionalism in early childhood
education: Doing our best for young children. Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Hyson, M., & Tomlinson, H. B. (2014). The early years
matter: Education, care and the well-being of children,
birth to 8. New York: Teachers College Press.

National Association for the Education of Young
Children (NAEYC)
NAEYC’s website has a wealth of resources on every
aspect of early childhood education, including their pub-
lications, accreditation system, position statements on
controversial topics, and public policy.

National Institute for Early Education Research
(NIEER)
On this website, you will find summaries of research
conducted by NIEER and other resources to learn about

Readings and Websites

✓ Demonstrate Your Learning
Click here to assess how well you’ve learned the content in this chapter.

M01_BRED6702_03_SE_C01.indd 34 10/7/15 12:48 PM

Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 35

and advocate for high-quality, effective early childhood
education for all young children.

National Resource Center for Health and Safety in
Child Care and Early Education
This site provides access to child care licensing informa-
tion for every state and resources for educators, families,
and health professionals.

New America Foundation Early Education Initiative
The Early Education Initiative of New America
Foundation, a nonpartisan organization that brings to-
gether diverse perspectives to address current issues, pro-
motes a high-quality and continuous system of early care
and education for all children, birth to age 8. Read their
blog, EdCentral, to stay informed on the latest develop-
ments and research in the field.

M01_BRED6702_03_SE_C01.indd 35 10/7/15 12:48 PM

2
After studying this chapter, you should be able to:

2.1 Explain why it is important to learn from the past.

2.2 Describe how European educators influenced early education practices.

2.3 Describe the events and people that propelled the kindergarten, nursery
school, and child care movements in the United States.

2.4 Explain the experiences and contributions of African Americans, Hispanic
Americans, and Native Americans in the history of early childhood education.

2.5 Discuss the trends in early childhood history that came together to influence
the launch of the national Head Start program and current trends in early
childhood education.

Building on a Tradition
of Excellence

Learning Outcomes

© Alistair Berg/Digital Vision/Getty Images

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37

Grant, Melinda, and Reece are enrolled in an introductory course in early childhood education. Their first assignment is to observe a preschool classroom. The professor says, “I want you to pretend that
you are from another planet, or from such a remote part of the earth that you have never seen a preschool

classroom before. Observe for one hour and write down exactly what you see. Don’t try to guess what I want you

to observe or second-guess yourself, just write what you see.”

After completing their observations, Grant, Melinda, and Reece compare notes. Their lists are different in some

respects but the following items appear on all three lists: child-sized furniture, one-inch cube blocks, and wooden

parquetry blocks in various colors and shapes. They see groups of children building roads and towers with wooden

blocks. Each classroom has a library area with picture books, alphabet books, and stories (each room even has

a copy of Goodnight Moon on the bookrack). One class has sandpaper letters. There are also woodworking
benches, sand tables, a posted recipe for cooking a snack, and dress-up clothes and props. In all three classes

children are actively playing or working with teachers in small groups. One group had been to visit the firehouse

(as evidenced by a chart on the wall recording children’s remembrances) and there are firehats and hoses to play

with. At snack time in one room, the children sing “Happy Birthday” to their friend.

During class, the professor asks each student to share one thing on his or her list and

then for a show of hands to see who else had seen the same thing. There is remarkable

uniformity among the observations. The professor explains, “What you

observed are traces of the history of early childhood education. Your unfiltered

observations are like the first steps archaeologists take in uncovering what

has gone before. You may be surprised to find that all these things

you observed can be traced back to specific people or events in

the history of the field. They were put there and they remain

there for a reason. First, we’ll find out how they

got there, and the rest of this course will help you

understand why they are still there or how practices

have changed in the intervening years.” ■

Case Study

E
arly childhood educators tend to like stories. We love sharing stories about the en-
chanting things that young children say and do. We listen to parents’ stories about
their children. And we exchange stories about our teaching—sometimes when we

have a bad day, and almost always when we have a very good day. Those good days usu-
ally involve seeing an exciting example of a child’s developmental progress.

Stories—that is what history is. The goal of this chapter, then, is to tell the story
of early childhood education. We begin by describing how studying history is relevant.
Next, we describe how the concept of childhood has changed over the course of history.
Finally, we tell several stories about major historical movements and how they influence
early childhood education practice today. Parts of these stories occurred simultaneously
and overlap. Click here to review the major events in early childhood education.

Learning from the Past
Early childhood education is a field with a long and rich history going back to ancient
times. Its history differs from that of education for older children, which has been consid-
ered a public responsibility for more than a century. By contrast, young children’s care and
education are so closely tied to families that private and public support for early childhood

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education38

care and education is a very recent phenom-
enon. In addition, early childhood education
is a more interdisciplinary field than is ele-
mentary education, with historical influences
coming from not only child development and
education but also from medicine, psychol-
ogy, sociology, and other areas. As a result,
many historical paths have converged to lead
the field to where it is today.

Why History Is Relevant
The history of early childhood education,
especially during the past 150 years, reveals
that the past and the present are inexorably
linked. Most of the current issues and contro-
versies have been visited in some form in the

past. For example, even all those years ago, teachers grappled with questions such as these:
What environments and materials should be provided? What are the goals for children’s
learning and development? How should children be taught? What is the role of the teacher?
How should parents be involved? Who is qualified to be a teacher? All of these issues have
dominated debates about early education since its inception, and continue to do so.

Rather than assuming that these issues are being encountered for the first time,
understanding how they have been resolved in the past can inform current discussions.
One reason this is so important is that “the solution to every problem contains the seeds
of a new problem” (Bredekamp & Glowacki, 1996). For example, early in the 20th
century, advocates fought for kindergarten to be part of public schools. Succeeding in
doing so eventually meant that kindergarten teachers were able to earn public school
salaries and that services became available for all children. But this solution also cre-
ated a new problem—kindergartens became, and still are, more like first grades than
like preschools in curriculum expectations and teaching methods. Today’s advocates
for public prekindergarten need to be aware of this history as they pursue their goals.

Consider how this phenomenon may be evident in your own life. A problem that many
college students face is the high cost of tuition. Students solve this problem in different ways—
taking out loans, working full time or part time while going to school, or choosing less expen-
sive schools. But each of these solutions can lead to new challenges. The loans need to be re-
paid; a full-time job delays graduation; the accessible schools may not meet the students’ needs.
In turn, each of these “problems” leads to a subsequent solution, and the process begins anew.

The idea that solving problems creates new challenges can be discouraging; however,
it need not be. As long as we are working on solving new problems or challenges, we are
making progress. History is composed of such progress in spurts as well as in setbacks.
As you reflect on early childhood history you will encounter many example of solutions
creating new challenges.

Avoid Getting Stuck in the Past Just as it is true that we continue to confront
questions and challenges similar to those faced by our forebears, it is equally true that
responses to these issues need to reflect current knowledge. As we will see, many of the
principles and values that guide the field today are remarkably consistent with earlier
views (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009). There are also essential differences based on newer
research, theories, and realities. Getting stuck in the past can lead to defending past prac-
tices simply because we have always done it that way. Knowing why it was “done that
way,” however, can lead to changing it for the better.

Aspire to Make a Difference for Children History is not just the story of
events, but the stories of people. The history of early childhood education is replete with
inspiring stories of women and men who devoted themselves to improving the lives of

Traces of the history of the field
of early childhood education
can be found in any preschool
classroom today. What in this
classroom environment might
have been present in a pre-
school 80 years ago? Why do
you think it is still being used?

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Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence 39

children and families. Many “dauntless women” (Snyder, 1972) contributed in count-
less ways to early childhood education at a time when women’s opportunities for higher
education and careers were severely restricted. Similarly, men have been at the forefront
of building the profession even though children were considered the purview of women.

The stories of these pioneers of early childhood education, who were forward look-
ing in both their thinking and their deeds, serve as inspiration and motivation for cur-
rent and future professionals. Learning about their lives, the obstacles they faced in their
work, and the brilliance of their minds sets a high standard for the rest of us.

Advocate for Change Understanding the paths history has taken is important if
early childhood educators are to be successful in improving services in the future. Even a
brief summary of historical underpinnings reveals that change is a constant. For example,
at times, services for children have been a priority while at other times (regularly, in fact),
the services are threatened. The Head Start program is a case in point. In the mid-1960s,
Head Start was launched to great fanfare as a means to end poverty in this country, an
impossibly unrealistic goal. But over the years, the program has fallen prey to changing
public attitudes and funding priorities.

Throughout these years, some advocates have set idealistic goals, which can be in-
spiring; yet history has taught us that unrealistic goals doom a program to failure. In
the intervening years, advocates have made it plain that Head Start plays a key role in
empowering low income families to improve their lives and in preparing their children
for success in school. However, Head Start is not a cure for the ills of poverty, nor is it an
inoculation against poor school experiences that might follow. To be most effective, ad-
vocates for improving Head Start and other early childhood programs and services should
use the lessons of successful efforts in the past.

Examining the history of childhood education reveals that there have been significant
changes—transformations, actually—in how children are viewed. In the sections that fol-
low, we examine the changing view of childhood and its effect on children’s lives.

The Changing View of Children
Different periods of history have had differing perspectives on children and the idea
of childhood itself (Aries, 1962). These perspectives matter because they have direct
implications for how children are treated and what kinds of education they are pro-
vided. Different eras in history have tended to view children as miniature adults,
born in sin, blank slates, innocent, economic valuables, competent, and as
citizens with rights. At different times, one or the other of these perspec-
tives has tended to prevail. To some extent, all of these views of children
persist to this day. In the sections that follow, each of the perspectives
of childhood just mentioned is described, along with the potential
positive and negative consequences for children’s lives.

Children as Miniature Adults From the Middle Ages
to about the 17th century in Western Europe, children were basi-
cally seen as adults on a smaller scale (Aries, 1962). Children
dressed like adults, did adult-like work, and even played the same
games. In fact, it wasn’t until the 15th and 16th centuries that children
appeared in paintings wearing specialized children’s clothing.

In the 18th century, discovery of smallpox inoculation and better condi-
tions in general reduced the death rate among children, which likely contributed
to changes in the idea of childhood (Aries, 1962). Previously, the extremely high infant
mortality rate motivated families to produce a large number of children to ensure the sur-
vival of a few. Families depended on their children to provide labor to support the family.
As children’s survival became less precarious, so too did their value as individuals and
the image attached to them.

Centuries ago, children were
viewed as “miniature adults.”
Children today are once again
dressing like adults, playing
adult-type games, and be-
ing exposed to adult images
through the media at younger
and younger ages.

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education40

Today, the image of children as miniature adults is apparent once again in the clothes
children wear and the images they are exposed to through the media. Primary-grade girls
dress like teenagers or young adults. Concern exists that they are too sexy too soon (Levin &
Kilbourne, 2008). Preschoolers engage in team sports previously reserved for older children.
Children’s toys have been replaced by adult-like video games and digital devices.

Children in Need of Redemption The image of the child during the 1300s to
1800s was shaped by the religious belief that children were born in sin and needed re-
demption. Misbehavior of any kind was considered sinful and punished harshly.

Schools in Europe and America in the 18th and 19th centuries were based on this
image of children. Children learned to read from the Bible, recited memorized passages,
and were often beaten or ridiculed for errors. Many people today continue to believe that
severe punishment is necessary to shape children’s moral character.

Children as Blank Slates English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704) coun-
tered the religious argument that children are born with a predetermined sinful nature.
Instead, he believed that children are born as tabula rasa, blank slates. What gets written
on the slates is determined by their experiences in the environment. Locke’s view was a
step forward because it rejected the notion of inherent sinfulness and strongly emphasized
the importance and value of education.

Locke was accurate in assuming that environmental experiences play a major role in
children’s learning; however, he did not see individual differences in children or how they
actively shape their own experiences. Nevertheless, Locke’s image of children as blank
slates persists. Many schools today still operate on the notion that children are empty
vessels that need to be filled, rather than active participants in the process of education.

Children as Innocents In contrast to Locke’s theory as well as the notion of
children as sinners in need of redemption, French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau
(1712–1778) introduced the Romantic image of the child as innocent. Rousseau’s novel
Emile promoted the idea that children are born good rather than evil, and that they have
inherent abilities upon which to build (Wolfe, 2000). He thought education should build
on children’s natural goodness.

Rousseau believed that it is important to observe children. He was among the first to
propose the concept of stages of development. He believed that children should not be
rushed through stages, nor that one stage was simply preparation for another, a concept
that continues to influence practice 150 years later.

Rousseau’s image of childhood was a radical departure from the views of his day.
Although he did not put these ideas into practice, they influenced many thinkers who fol-
lowed and continue to have an influence today. Early childhood education has a strong
tradition of focusing on the positive in children to develop individual potential.

Children’s Economic Value At various points in history, children’s value has been
calculated in response to a number of factors. Even today, some consider children to be
their parents’ property. They were, and still are in some communities, economically neces-
sary to contribute work to the sustenance and care of the family; this includes taking care
of other children and parents in old age. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, however,
child labor laws limited children’s potential economic contributions to family well-being.
As children’s economic contributions diminished, they began to take on more intrinsic
emotional value in the family. For example, insurance companies compensated parents for
a child’s death or injury not only because of the costs involved and the potential income
lost, but also as an attempt to compensate for the emotional loss (Zellizer, 1981).

The Competent Child Scientific study of children beginning in the 20th century
led to an alternative view of childhood—the competent child—the idea that children
are active players in their own development and learning. The more researchers learned

competent child The image
of children as active players
in their own development and
learning.

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Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence 41

about children’s competencies beginning at birth, the less plausible it became to see them
as blank slates. Brain research in recent decades has further reinforced this image of chil-
dren’s innate competence.

The image of the competent child has had a major impact on early childhood prac-
tices and the larger culture. But negative consequences can emanate as well. Producers
of videotapes and television and computer programs claim that they can teach a baby
to read or produce a future Einstein. In addition, the image of the competent child has
contributed to the trend to hurry young children through childhood toward expectations
or experiences more appropriate for older children or adults (Elkind, 2007; Levin &
Kilbourne, 2008).

The Child as a Citizen with Rights The image of the child throughout his-
tory has come almost full circle in its relation to adults. But rather than seeing children
as small-scale adults, a present-day development is to view children as citizens who have
rights just as adults do (Hall & Rudkin, 2011). In a democratic society, rights are imple-
mented as laws such as those that protect children from abuse or prosecution as adults.
Similarly, toys and products used by children must meet safety regulations.

Internationally, the image of a child with rights has gained widespread attention.
In 1989, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (http://www.unicef.
org/crc) went into effect. It has been ratified by every developed country in the world
except Somalia and the United States. The declaration calls for protection of all children
from physical, mental, and sexual abuse. One provision states that, although parents have
primary responsibility for children’s upbringing, states should provide appropriate assis-
tance and support for child care programs. This is one of several provisions that have been
politically controversial in this country. Although the United States has not endorsed the
UN Convention, its existence promotes an image of the child with rights.

Images of Childhood Today Elements of all of these images of childhood are pres-
ent in children’s lives today and influence how they are treated. Although our country tends
to see children as innocents in need of protection by parents and the government, we also
propel them into adult experiences at young ages. Our schools swing back and forth, between
taking an approach that children are empty vessels, and viewing them as competent contribu-
tors to their own learning. On the one hand, children are highly valued, and on the other hand,
they are abused and neglected. As we have seen throughout history, the prevailing image of
children impacts their lives in many ways. One example is the role of play, which is described
in the feature Promoting Play: The Image of the Child and the Role of Play.

As we explore the evolution of early childhood practice in the sections that follow,
it will become apparent which of these images has had the greater influence on the field.
We can only present highlights of the rich history of the field here; for a more complete
picture, click here to consult the timeline of major events.

✓ Check Your Understanding 2.1: Learning from the Past

European Influences on American
Early Childhood Education
Like much of American history, early education was strongly influenced by Western Euro-
pean ideas. Although European ideas were not the only, nor necessarily the best, educational
concepts in the world, current practices in the United States strongly reflect these early
influences. Later in this chapter, we consider early childhood history through a wider lens.

Rousseau’s belief in the inherent goodness and potential of children had a strong im-
pact on the educational ideas and practices that followed. Two other thinkers who shared
similar views are Comenius and Pestalozzi. Unlike Rousseau, both created schools that
implemented their vision.

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education42

John Amos Comenius
John Amos Comenius (Jan Komensky in his native Czech) (1592–1670) was a minister
who wrote about educational reform and directed a school where he could put his ideas
into practice. He believed in three key ideas (Wolfe, 2000): (1) Teaching methods needed
to be radically changed from punitive approaches to make learning easier, deeper, and
more pleasant; (2) teachers should engage children with nature and follow their lead; and
(3) children should learn in their own language, rather than in Latin.

To accomplish his last goal, Comenius wrote a new kind of book, Orbis Pictus, or “the
world in pictures.” Popular for the next 200 years, this was the first children’s picture book or

The Image of the Child and the Role of Play
Children always play. However, many factors influ-
ence how they play and the materials they play
with. To some extent, children’s play reflects the
prevailing image of the child. For example, when
children were considered miniature adults, there
was little difference between their play pastimes
and those of their elders. Adults and children
played with hoops and danced the same dances.
When children were thought to be born in sin,
Puritanical adults frowned on play as idleness and
thought children’s time should be spent in Bible
study or productive work.

The view that children are innocents who are inher-
ently good meant greater freedom for children to play
in less restricted, more creative ways. The late 19th
and early 20th centuries saw changes in children’s
play as living conditions improved. When child labor
laws went into effect, children enjoyed more time for
free play unsupervised by adults. Children created
their “toys” from real objects, such as bats out of
sticks. Boys and girls played make-believe, often out-
doors. Boys tended to engage in informal ball games,
and girls enacted housekeeping scenarios with dolls
and pretend, rather than manufactured, props.

As scientific study of child development expanded
in the later 20th century, the image of the “compe-
tent child” had a significant impact on children’s
play. Whereas previously toys such as balls, dolls,
blocks, and cards were relatively open-ended and
primarily designed for fun, “educational toys” began
to flood the market. Middle-class parents purchased
toys to teach rather than entertain their children.

And children’s free time became much more
structured with formal dance or music lessons and
participation on sports teams at younger ages.

The recent image of children as citizens with rights
is a noteworthy development relevant to play. Article
31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights
of the Child affirms that governments recognize the
right to “engage in play and recreational activities
appropriate to the age of the child.”

Although play is influenced by adults’ image of the
child, children always exercise a certain amount of
control over play, or the activity isn’t play at all. And
their play is often based on their image of adults.
As a result, children prefer toys and play themes
that are connected to the adult world. For instance,
when horses were the primary mode of transporta-
tion, children played with hobby horses or stick
horses. Subsequently, these were replaced by cars,
and then airplanes, and eventually spaceships.

The U.S. culture now seems to have come full
circle. In many respects children are once again
seen as miniature adults. They dress like adults,
play with adult-like toys (Barbies instead of baby
dolls), and desire the same exact “toys” as adults—
video games, cell phones, and iPads.

Sources: Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of
Family Life, by P. Aries, 1962, New York: Vintage Books;
Play and Child Development, 4th edition, by J. L. Frost,
S. C. Wortham, and S. Reifel, 2012, Upper Saddle River,
NJ: Pearson; United Nations Convention on the Rights of
the Child, 1989, retrieved from http://www.ohchr.org/en/
professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx.

Promoting Play

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Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence 43

illustrated textbook ever published. It was
organized around topics of interest such as
birds and plants and included pictures with
labels attached. Comenius also wrote the
first illustrated alphabet book to teach chil-
dren to read in their own languages.

Some of the educational ideas that Co-
menius practiced in his school were radi-
cal for his time but sound familiar today.
For example, he thought the early years
were an extremely important foundation
for later learning. He believed that chil-
dren learn through their senses and need
to be active, and he felt that children’s in-
terests and firsthand experiences promote
learning and memory. Comenius believed
that children are born in the image of God,
and was vehemently opposed to physical
punishment (Wolfe, 2000). Like Rousseau, he identified developmental stages.

Comenius’s ideas have endured for centuries. For example, in the 1990s Eastern
European countries that had been under Communist dictatorship moved toward democracy.
One strategy was to reform previously rigid educational systems. With the help of American
philanthropy, the International Step by Step Association (http://www.issa.nl) was founded to
develop Head Start–like preschool programs. There was some concern that these “American”
ideas—such as child-centered education—would be culturally inappropriate. However, these
concerns underestimated the lasting reverence for native son Komensky (Comenius)—who
is, after all, the forerunner of much of American early childhood education.

Johann Pestalozzi
Johann Pestalozzi (1746–1827) was a Swiss educator who, like Comenius, founded his
own school and trained the teachers. He believed that all children—including children
who lived in poverty—could benefit from education (Nourot, 2005). The field’s current
views of best practice are remarkably consistent with many of Pestalozzi’s ideas about
teaching and learning.

Learning and Teaching in Pestalozzi’s School Pestalozzi (1894/2007) de-
scribed his philosophy in a book titled How Gertrude Teaches Her Children. He believed
that teachers must study child development. He thought that learning proceeds through
stages, with children needing to master skills and knowledge before moving on to the next
stage (Wolfe, 2000). Pestalozzi promoted what came to be called the “whole child” point
of view—that children’s physical, emotional, social, moral, and intellectual development
are integrated. He called these “the hand, heart, and head.”

Other important ideas of Pestalozzi included the notion that children need to dis-
cover ideas for themselves through their own activity—a precursor of Piaget’s theory of
constructivism. He rejected punishment and threats and felt that children are motivated
to learn by their interests. Like many early theorists, Pestalozzi viewed development as a
natural unfolding or blossoming from within, with teachers acting as gardeners who nur-
ture the process rather than direct it. Although this view is simpler than our understanding
of development today, it persisted well into the 20th century.

Impact of Pestalozzi’s Work Pestalozzi’s ideas directly influenced schools
for young children in the 19th century. Particularly influential was his notion of object
lessons—learning from direct observation and sensory experience in the natural world—
that begin with the here and now and move beyond (Wolfe, 2000).

constructivism Learning
theory derived from the work
of Jean Piaget, which assumes
that children actively build
their knowledge from firsthand
experiences in stimulating
environments.

First created more than
400 years ago, picture
books remain one of the
most popular, valuable, and
engaging learning materials in
early childhood programs and
homes.

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M02_BRED6702_03_SE_C02.indd 43 10/7/15 12:52 PM

Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education44

A well-known school influenced by Pestalozzi was founded by Robert Owen (1771–
1858) as part of his idealized community in Scotland, New Lanark. Owen spread his ideas
to America by founding a similar model community in New Harmony, Indiana. Although
his experiment did not survive long, the school provided care and education for hundreds
of children, from infancy to age 10, whose parents worked in the mills—one of the earli-
est examples of a child care center.

Friedrich Froebel
Friedrich Froebel (1782–1852) built on Pestalozzi’s ideas but extended them
to develop educational materials. His view of development as a process of
natural unfolding is evident in the name of his school, a “garden for chil-
dren.” Froebel is well known as the “father of the kindergarten.”

Froebel believed in the innate goodness and capacities of children,
and saw God’s image in them. Like Pestalozzi, he believed that education
should be based on children’s interests and their active involvement, and that
teachers need to understand children’s development by directly observing
their actions (Giardiello, 2014).

He described stages of development that are similar to those Piaget ar-
ticulated in the 20th century. He saw infancy (birth to 3 years) as focused on
the family and the infant’s relationship with the mother. He wrote Mother

Play and Nursery Songs to assist mothers in their interactions with very young children—
something most mothers today take for granted. Froebel’s second stage (ages 3 to 7), for
which he developed his kindergarten materials, was the focus of most of his work. The
third stage (ages 7 to 10) focused on more formal school instruction.

Froebel’s Kindergarten Froebel’s metaphor of the children’s garden was more
than poetry. He strongly believed that children’s learning is a process of unfolding from
within. He also believed that learning would occur on the child’s own timetable and not
until the child was ready. Froebel’s kindergarten emphasized children’s free play, singing,
and movement (Nourot, 2005). The materials he developed, which were called Froebel’s
occupations and gifts, were used to guide and structure children’s play. As a result,
Froebel’s view of “free” play was not as free as some interpret today.

The role of the teacher in Froebel’s kindergarten was to be like a gardener. Teachers
were to observe, nurture, and help but not interfere with the natural growth of the child.
They needed to be aware of children’s development, however, so they could provide a
new challenge as children engaged with the gifts and occupations.

Froebel’s Gifts and Occupations Froebel’s gifts were concrete materials for
children to manipulate in specific ways. The first gift was a box of six wooden balls in the
colors of the spectrum—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet—plus correspond-
ing strings. Each child could use these materials in many creative ways, but Froebel and
his teachers identified more than 100 games to play with this one gift and accompanying
songs and rhymes (Elkind, 2015).

Another gift was a cube that could be divided into eight smaller cubes and put back
together to form a whole. Children could play many games with this gift, but it also
promoted basic math concepts related to number and geometry. Froebel also invented
parquetry blocks—a set of flat, colored, wooden shapes that could be put together to form
various designs. Other gifts included sticks and rings made of wire and natural materials
such as seeds and pebbles. The same or similar materials are prevalent in early childhood
classrooms today, where children use them in creative ways, and also to learn mathemat-
ics and science.

In contrast to the gifts, occupations were planned experiences designed to train chil-
dren’s eye–hand coordination and mental activity (Wolfe, 2000). The occupations includ-
ed activities such as drawing on grid paper, lacing paper strips, weaving mats, folding and
cutting paper into designs, constructing with sticks, or making models from cardboard.

Classroom Connection
This video clearly depicts the ma-
terials Froebel developed for use
in the first kindergartens. How
did Froebel’s educational phi-
losophy influence early childhood
today, and which materials are
still popular toys for children?

https://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=LNBzmCKLNdU

Froebel’s occupations and
gifts Invented by Froebel for
kindergartners, occupations
were planned experiences de-
signed to train children’s eye-
hand coordination and mental
activity, and gifts were concrete
materials, many of which influ-
enced later toy development.

M02_BRED6702_03_SE_C02.indd 44 10/7/15 12:52 PM

Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence 45

Froebel believed that the use of the gifts and occupations engaged children in sym-
bolically representing objects and events in the real world—such as creating a model or
drawing a picture of a building. The importance of representation, which Froebel pre-
saged, is now supported by research.

Impact of Froebel’s Work Froebel’s work had a major impact on education in the
United States, leading directly to a large-scale kindergarten movement here. Several teach-
ers and teacher educators who studied Froebel’s methods in Europe—“kindergartners” as
they were called—transplanted his ideas to this country.

Kindergartens today bear less and less resemblance to Froebel’s “children’s garden”;
today they have become more like formal first grades (Strauss, 2014). However, many
of his basic ideas are still evident in preschool and child care programs. His gifts and
occupations were clearly the prototypes for many of the toys and materials, such as one-
inch cube and parquetry blocks, that are pervasive in preschool classrooms. Common ac-
tivities—constructing models or using natural materials in art and projects—also mirror
some of his occupations.

Froebel’s work had a significant impact on the development of American kindergar-
tens, which we return to later in this chapter. First, we visit another European educator
who lived a century later than Froebel, but whose work also stands out for its contribu-
tions to the field—Maria Montessori.

Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori (1870–1952) was a major figure in the history of early childhood edu-
cation. A brilliant woman, she was Italy’s first female physician. She was nominated for
the Nobel Peace Prize, and her face graced the 1,000 lira note until Italy abandoned the
lira for the euro. Montessori was, and probably always will be, the only early childhood
educator whose face adorned a currency.

History of the Montessori Method Montessori’s contributions grew out of
her work with poor children in the slums of Rome. The prevailing opinion was that these
children were mentally deficient. However, Montessori believed that what appeared to be
mental retardation was not biologically based, but rather caused by the lack of stimulation
in their environments.

In 1907, she started a program for children, ages 4 through 7, called Casa dei Bam-
bini (Children’s House), and developed a highly successful approach to teaching the chil-
dren, which revealed that they were not mentally disabled at all. Montessori demonstrated
that educating needy children is a less costly and more effective strategy than waiting
until they create problems for society. This is the same justification that was used to
launch Head Start, and it is still the core rationale for much of the current investment in
early education.

Key Elements of the Montessori Method The Montessori method includes
several basic elements. In the sections that follow, we briefly describe Montessori’s views
about children and learning, the environment, and the teacher’s role.

Image of Children: The Absorbent Mind Like other key figures in early childhood
history, Montessori (1909/1964) believed that children develop naturally in an orga-
nized environment. Her image of the child is the absorbent mind—actively learning
from sensory experiences. She also believed that children from 4 to 7 years old are in-
ternally motivated to interact with the world, and do not need external encouragement
or rewards.

Where Montessori deviated greatly from others in the field was in her opinion of play.
Montessori dismissed play as a waste of children’s time (Wolfe, 2000). She also minimized
the value of social interaction for children’s learning. As evidence, children each had an
individual small mat to work on and not be disturbed by others.

absorbent mind Maria Mon-
tessori’s image of the child as
actively learning from sensory
experiences.

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education46

A Prepared Learning Environment
Montessori believed that poor children
deserve high-quality experiences. She
thought that children need an orderly
environment that supports their ability
to work on and complete tasks inde-
pendently. Accordingly, she designed
classroom environments and materials
that demonstrate respect for children.
Montessori innovations included child-
sized tables and other furnishings, and
materials arranged on open shelves for
easy access by children.

To facilitate learning and prevent
wasted time, she developed educa-
tional materials for children to use in
prescribed ways. Montessori designed
self-correcting learning materials for
children, many of which are still com-
monly used. For example, she created

puzzles with little knobs attached to each piece, for very young children to practice the
pincer grasp used for writing; and to practice fine motor skills, she invented a cloth board
with buttons and buttonholes. Montessori emphasized that there was one right way to use
each of her materials. She did not consider her materials to be toys; instead, she viewed
them as educational tools. Children were also taught practical life skills such as washing
a table and sweeping a floor.

Montessori’s belief in sensory learning extended to academic areas as
well, specifically writing, reading, and mathematics (Montessori, 1912/1964).
For example, she created sandpaper alphabets so that children could feel the
shapes of the letters as a first step toward writing. She thought children should
learn to write as a strategy to teach reading. This was an innovative concept
for its time (when promoting reading at an early age was not accepted by
her peers in early education), and also presaged later understandings of the
strong connection between writing and reading in becoming literate.

The Teacher’s Role Montessori’s view of the teacher’s role is to prepare
the environment, observe children, and demonstrate materials, but not to
interfere with their natural exploration. Although teachers’ interactions with
children are very intentional in the Montessori method, much of the learning
is assumed to occur as children interact with materials. The teacher presents
brief individual or small-group lessons, but most of the day children choose
their activities. Their choices have limits, however, because the adults arrange
those choices.

Impact of Montessori’s Work From 1910 to 1920, interest in Montessori’s ap-
proach gained popularity in the United States; several elements of her approach remain
widely accepted. However, overall interest in her methods soon faded here, primarily
due to her unwillingness to adapt to new knowledge and her rejection of key elements of
American philosophy, such as the importance of play. Maria Montessori’s lasting con-
tribution to the field was her development of Montessori materials and her impact on the
organization of environments.

Not until the 1950s was interest in Montessori revived in the United States. In contrast
to Montessori’s original intent to serve poor children, Montessori schools in the United
States tended to be private, serving a more affluent population. In recent years, however,
the approach has been embraced by some magnet and charter public schools. A study of

Montessori classrooms are spe-
cially designed environments in
which children learn by inter-
acting with the materials. What
skills might children acquire
by working with the Montessori
materials depicted here?

Classroom Connection
This video shows the arrange-
ment and the materials found in a
typical Montessori classroom. As
you watch, reflect on the key ele-
ments of the Montessori Method,
how the materials themselves
promote learning, and the role
of the teacher in a Montessori
classroom.

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M02_BRED6702_03_SE_C02.indd 46 10/7/15 12:52 PM

Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence 47

a public Montessori school in Milwaukee found that the approach contributed positively
to 5-year-olds’ literacy, math, and social skills (Lillard, 2005) and to creativity and social
skills at age 12 (Lillard & Else-Quest, 2006). With its emphasis on individualized instruc-
tion, the Montessori approach also has been found to be effective in improving the school
readiness of Latino prekindergartners (Ansari & Winsler, 2014). Interestingly, the found-
ers of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, attribute their success to the self- motivation
they gained from attending Montessori preschool (http://msr.org/google-founders-
pay-homage-to-dr-maria-montessori/).

✓ Check Your Understanding 2.2: European Influences on American Early
Childhood Education

Early Childhood Movements
in the United States
The following sections present three interwoven stories of early childhood education in
America—the kindergarten movement, progressive education, and the nursery school
movement. These stories are described separately but, in reality, they happened simulta-
neously and were inextricably connected. A parallel story—the child care movement—
was also occurring, but played out differently as you will read later in this section.

The Kindergarten Movement
The United States provided fertile ground for the growth of Froebel’s “children’s gar-
dens.” In the sections that follow, we describe how the movement began and spread wide-
ly and its lasting impact.

Early Days of the Kindergarten Movement The earliest leaders in the kin-
dergarten movement transplanted Froebel’s ideas directly. The first kindergarten in the
United States was founded by Margarethe Schurz (1833–1876) in Wisconsin in 1856
(Snyder, 1972). Schurz had studied with Froebel and, upon immigrating to the United
States, started a German-speaking school to teach her own and neighbors’ children. Later,
Schurz met Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804–1894), and their encounter was the impetus
for the American kindergarten movement.

Elizabeth Peabody was part of a well-known family of social reformers. Her sister,
Mary, was married to Horace Mann, considered to be the father of public education in the
United States. In Boston, Elizabeth Peabody organized the first English-speaking kinder-
garten in 1860, and soon after wrote the first American kindergarten textbook for teachers
(Cantor, 2013). She understood that teachers needed to be trained in Froebel’s philosophy
to ensure the quality and integrity of the expanding kindergarten movement. She also trav-
eled widely and became an outspoken advocate for the cause, inspiring new generations
of leaders, the most influential of whom was Susan Blow.

Susan Blow’s Leadership Susan Blow (1843–1916) was the major voice in ex-
panding the kindergarten movement and in fighting to keep it true to Froebel’s original
vision. Inspired by Elizabeth Peabody’s promotion of kindergarten, Blow visited Froebe-
lian kindergartens in the United States and Germany and became the leading interpreter
of the approach at home.

Founding Public Kindergarten In 1873, with the support of William Harris, a reform-
minded school superintendent in St. Louis, Blow founded the first public school kin-
dergarten (Snyder, 1972) in response to Harris’s concern that schooling did not begin
until age 7. Blow was ambivalent about connecting kindergarten to public school, fearing
that “the formality of the grades would seize kindergarten in its grip” (Snyder, 1972,
p. 66). Nevertheless, she worked with Harris and launched more than 50 kindergarten

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education48

classrooms. Teacher training was an essential part of her strategy, with teachers working
with children in the mornings and attending lectures in the afternoons on topics such as
the correct use of Froebel’s gifts and occupations—a combination of theory and practi-
cum that continues to this day in teacher education.

Upon Harris’s departure from his post, a new school administration was less sup-
portive of Blow’s cause and threatened her ideal vision of kindergarten. Subsequently,
Blow turned her energy from developing and spreading Froebelian kindergarten ideals to
defending them (Snyder, 1972). Blow promoted a rigid application of Froebel’s methods
(such as using the gifts in narrowly prescribed ways), which was actually antithetical to
his vision of kindergarten.

Founding the International Kindergarten Union In 1892, Blow convened a group
of ardent kindergartners from throughout the country and formed the International
Kindergarten Union (IKU). (Much later the IKU became the Association for Childhood
Education International.) The original mission of the IKU was not just to disseminate
information but also to protect the integrity of Froebelian kindergartens. Within two
decades, this mission was to come into direct conflict with winds of change that were
occurring in the wider educational world, emanating from the progressive education
movement, described in the next section.

Progressive Education
The progressive education movement was a major effort to reform schooling at all lev-
els to make it more democratic. Its tenets were in direct contrast to the prevailing practices
in schools of the time, which emphasized rote memorization, strict conformity, and harsh
discipline. The traditional curriculum was limited to the “3 Rs”: reading, writing, and
arithmetic.

The story of the progressive education movement in the United States is integrally
connected to the story of the nursery school movement (or preschool, as we now call it).
Many principles of developmentally appropriate practice are derived directly from the
work of early progressive leaders. Although differences exist between the earlier ideas
and current views, the commonalities between the two visions—progressive education
and developmentally appropriate practice—are striking. The following sections present
the contributions of John Dewey.

John Dewey John Dewey (1859–1952) was a professor of philosophy first at the
University of Chicago and then for 47 years at Teachers College, Columbia University, in
New York City. While in Chicago, John and his wife, Alice Chapman Dewey (d. 1927),
founded the University of Chicago Laboratory School to implement their philosophy of
a humane approach to education. Alice taught at the school, prepared the curriculum, and
served as principal. The school, which they ran from 1893 to 1903, became a laboratory
for developing and trying out their approach.

Principles of Progressive Education Dewey (1916) believed that the purpose of educa-
tion is to ensure the effective functioning of a democratic society. He believed that the
traditional approach to schooling could not produce citizen decision makers. He was con-
cerned that in a democratic society, it is “impossible to foretell definitely what civilization
will be twenty years from now” (Dewey, 1929, p. 6). Therefore, it is important to teach
children to take initiative and use judgment. Dewey (1929) articulated his philosophy in
My Pedagogic Creed. Let’s take a look at some of the principles of progressive education,
as described by Dewey in that document.

What Education Is “Education is the process of living and not preparation for future
living” (Dewey, 1929, p. 7). This famous quote of Dewey summarizes his definition of
education and continues to influence early childhood education.

Dewey was a prolific writer whose words still inspire. The titles of his books alone
convey his basic ideas about education: Democracy and Education, Education and

progressive education
movement Major effort to
reform schooling in the early
20th century to make it more
democratic and responsive to
children’s needs. This move-
ment was highly influential on
early childhood education and
later ideas about developmen-
tally appropriate practice.

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Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence 49

Experience, The School and Society, Freedom and Culture, and The Child and the Cur-
riculum. In Dewey’s mind, schooling could not be separated from the larger needs of
democratic society, and children, rather than subject matter, needed to be at the center of
the curriculum.

What the School Is Dewey (1900) believed that the school should function as a commu-
nity. The teacher’s role is to be a member of the community. Teachers should not directly
impose discipline, but rather influence and assist children as they work together.

According to Dewey, teachers and parents should learn from each other—an accept-
ed idea today, but radical for his time. In his school, parents and teachers met regularly to
discuss topics such as why children should or should not learn to read at an early age—
again, an issue that many educators and parents debate today (Wolfe, 2000).

What the Curriculum Is Dewey believed that subject matter—reading, writing, geog-
raphy, history, science—should be introduced to children in ways that they can under-
stand and that involve them in social interaction. He introduced the idea of integrated
curriculum, now a staple of early childhood education, which addresses learning goals
across multiple subjects at the same time. For example, children might learn economics,
history, geography, and other subjects by studying the workers in their neighborhood.
A tenet of Dewey’s philosophy is that teachers should find ways to integrate traditional
curriculum into topics of interest to children, such as building a model of the neighbor-
hood. Dewey also brought expressive and constructive activities into the classroom such
as cooking, sewing, and woodworking. He felt academic skills should grow out of these
activities.

What Teaching Should Be Dewey (1929) believed that the traditional
emphasis on children as passive learners was a “waste of time.” He strong-
ly emphasized the importance of teachers observing children and building
on their interests. In progressive schools, the role of teachers is to guide or
facilitate learning based on what they know about children and to choose
the right problems and questions to further children’s learning. For example,
teachers don’t simply teach geography as adults know it; rather, they teach
the geography concepts and topics that the child is interested in and capable
of learning. This approach, called the child-centered curriculum, has been
falsely interpreted over the years to mean that children determine the curricu-
lum (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997). Although teachers build curriculum from
children’s experiences and interests, Dewey felt strongly that teachers needed
to know both what children are interested in and the content that children
needed to learn. This both/and thinking principle in progressive education
has often been lost in translation.

The Impact of Progressive Education on Schooling Although progres-
sive education has often been misinterpreted and periodically comes under
attack by proponents of more traditional practices, its contributions to American educa-
tion are profound. Lois Meek Stoltz (1977), the first president of NAEYC and a contem-
porary of Dewey, eloquently captured the impact:

I think it is very difficult for people of this generation to realize, or even picture, what
the public schools were like in the early 1900s. Children were in their seats all day
long. When they rose, they rose to count, “1, 2, 3,” they then turned, marched, and
went to the cloakroom. Then they did the same thing when they marched out of the
school and when they marched in. Everybody read out of the same book at the same
time. There was very little consideration for individual differences. (p. 103)

Earlier in this chapter, we talked about how solutions to problems contain the seeds of
new problems. Progressive education was a case in point. Giving children more freedom
meant that some people interpreted this as chaos, creating a backlash or a new problem.

integrated curriculum
Learning plan that addresses
goals across multiple areas of
the curriculum at the same
time.

Classroom Connection
This video shows how an inte-
grated curriculum can be used
effectively in the classroom. As
you watch, consider the ways
in which key elements of John
Dewey’s educational approach
have influenced early childhood
education and continue to be
implemented today.

child-centered curriculum
John Dewey’s idea that curricu-
lum should reflect the concepts
and topics that the child is
interested in and capable of
learning.

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education50

And yet, as Stoltz points out, the efforts overall led to real change in schools—and that
change is progress.

Although he was a philosophy professor, Dewey was strongly influenced by the trend
in his day toward more scientific approaches in education. This trend, called the child
study movement, is described in the next section.

The Child Study Movement As far back as Pestalozzi, educators understood that
teaching should be based on direct study of children. Beginning in the late 19th century,
G. Stanley Hall (1844–1924) launched the child study movement. Hall was interested in
understanding individual differences in children through direct observation.

Hall’s students went on to develop systematic scientific approaches to studying child
development. Arnold Gesell (1880–1961) is famed for launching a child study laboratory
at Yale University called the Gesell Institute. There he observed large samples of children
and derived age-related norms for children’s growth and development such as by what
age children should take their first steps or speak their first words. These norms were con-
sidered “universal” and have been widely influential. However, in the late 20th century,
Gesell’s age-related norms were criticized for understating individual differences and not
using diverse samples of children.

Hall was a strong critic of Froebelian kindergarten. He thought that its rigid methodol-
ogy lacked a scientific basis. Thus, the child study movement played an important role in
bringing about changes in the kindergarten movement, and it also contributed in large mea-
sure to the growing nursery school movement. We tell this story in the section that follows.

The Nursery School Movement
Dewey’s laboratory school and his emphasis on child observation reflected his under-
standing of the need to base education on the study of children. Similarly, other univer-
sities launched lab schools to train teachers and study children. Many of these schools
served children younger than kindergarten age, and were called nursery schools, based
on their philosophy of nurturing development. Laboratory schools were established for
the purposes of research and demonstration of teaching methods, rather than to serve
parents or neglected children (Hewes & the NAEYC Organizational History and Archives
Committee, 2001). As a result, many of these programs served middle- and upper-class
children of faculty or community members.

The nursery school movement eventually launched the wider field of early child-
hood education. It grew out of the kindergarten and child study movements through
the leadership of two women whose contributions to early childhood education are
unparalleled: Patty Smith Hill, founder of NAEYC, and Lucy Sprague Mitchell,
founder of Bank Street College. Every early childhood educator should know the

stories of these women and their contempo-
raries, who played seminal roles in laying
the foundation of early childhood education
as we know it today. We who follow are their
direct descendents.

Patty Smith Hill Patty Smith Hill’s life
story parallels the early history of early child-
hood education, with each phase of her life con-
nected to important developments in the field.
She was a joyful child, teacher of young chil-
dren, creator of resources for children, teacher
educator, and national leader.

Hill’s Early Life Experiences Patty Smith
Hill (1868–1946) had an idyllic childhood. Her

child study movement Early
20th century effort to scien-
tifically observe and system-
atically document children’s
individual development under
the leadership of G. Stanley
Hall and Arnold Gesell.

nursery schools Schools
serving children younger than
kindergarten age; out-of-date
term for preschool or prekin-
dergarten.

Early leaders of the nursery
school movement in the United
States, such as Patty Smith Hill,
saw the value of pretend play
for children’s development. The
need to defend children’s right
to play continues to this day.

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Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence 51

father believed that girls should be educated, a radical idea at the time. Her mother was
a progressive thinker who had secretly, and also illegally, taught enslaved people to read,
write, and calculate (Wolfe, 2000). Furthermore, Hill’s mother believed that play was
essential to childhood.

Work as a Kindergarten Teacher By the 1880s, the kindergarten movement was under-
way and Anna Bryan launched a teacher training program in Louisville, Kentucky, where
Patty Hill became one of the first students (Snyder, 1972). Hill started her own kinder-
garten where she encouraged creative uses for Froebel’s gifts as toys, and constructive
materials such as blocks and clay. Her kindergarten evidenced her belief in the value of
children’s play as a way to learn.

In 1896, Hill and Bryan were among a group of influential kindergarten educa-
tors who attended one of G. Stanley Hall’s lectures on new knowledge and insights
gained from the systematic study of children’s development. Hall’s severe criticism of
the Froebelian approach as unscientific outraged the attendees, all of whom stormed out
of the meeting—with the exception of Hill and Bryan (Hewes, 1976). They stayed and
continued to study with Hall, and they developed a new curriculum for teaching young
children.

In 1903, Louisville’s kindergartens became part of the public schools. Hill was ex-
cited about the potential benefits, but feared that key kindergarten practices, including
parent education, would be lost (Snyder, 1972). Hill’s vision for kindergarten included
three purposes: (1) to meet the needs of 4 to 6 year olds, (2) to lay the foundation for the
first-grade curriculum while ensuring the right of kindergarten children to develop at
their own level, and (3) to connect the child’s experiences at home and school, building
on what children learn there (Hill, 1926/1987). This vision of kindergarten, especially the
role of parents, was not just ahead of Hill’s time, but one to aspire to today.

Creator of Resources for Children Hill developed resources for children, including a
set of lumberlike wooden blocks from which children could build structures large enough
for them to play in. She and her musician sister, Mildred, wrote songs for children, us-
ing music as a teaching tool. Their most famous song is “Happy Birthday,” although few
people know its composers.

Hill also wrote many poems about children’s interests as well as books to help chil-
dren learn to read. Much like her mother, Hill was concerned about racial inequality. In
the early 1940s, she worked for months on a set of readers showing African American
children, but she despaired when no publisher would consider them (Hewes, 1976). She
believed that respectful images would help resolve racial prejudices.

Hill’s Work as a Teacher Educator In 1905, Hill joined the faculty of Teachers College
in New York, where she stayed for 30 years and was considered a master teacher (Snyder,
1972). She focused her work in the community school, which served poor children, as
opposed to the campus lab school, which served well-off children of faculty.

The Dean of Teachers College, James Earl Russell, was famous for bringing to-
gether divergent points of view (Snyder, 1972). One of his provocative ideas was to
bring Susan Blow to coteach a course on kindergarten methods with Hill. Among the
topics they debated were opposing views of work and play. Although students loved their
lively debates, eventually it became clear that Hill’s point of view was carrying the day
(Snyder, 1972).

Hill’s Contributions as a National Leader Hill was active in the IKU and served as
its president. However, her more liberal ideas about kindergarten methods, including her
promotion of play and creativity, came into conflict with others’ more rigid interpretations
of Froebel’s ideas.

In 1904, the IKU formed the Committee of Nineteen, a group with varying per-
spectives on kindergarten practice, to resolve disputes on topics such as the role of play
and the curriculum (Wolfe, 2000). Each year the committee issued a report, and dis-
agreements became more apparent over time. By 1909, differences could not be resolved

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education52

and three reports were produced: one by Blow, another one by Hill, and a compromise
report by Lucy Wheelock (Snyder, 1972). Hill’s report was to become the vision for early
childhood practice as we know it today. Nevertheless, the process of debating conflicting
points of view, which she embraced, continues to be an essential part of the work of early
childhood educators (Bredekamp, 2001).

Founder of NAEYC As nursery schools began to proliferate in the 1920s, Hill was con-
cerned about the lack of standards and curriculum and the threat of unqualified people
taking leadership positions (Hewes, 1976). In 1926, she formed the National Commit-
tee on Nursery Schools, which became the National Association for Nursery Education
(NANE). The committee included Lois Meek Stoltz, Arnold Gesell, and Abigail Eliot.
Stoltz became the first president.

In the 1960s, NANE changed its name to NAEYC, the National Association for the
Education of Young Children. Hill was its first member, and her views dominated the
work of the nursery school movement during its early years. NANE’s first publication in
1929 was Minimum Essentials for Nursery School Education. In this tradition, NAEYC
has been involved in setting standards ever since (Bredekamp, 2001).

We have chosen to tell the story of Patty Smith Hill in such detail because she lived so
many of the historical events that helped define present-day early childhood education. In
the next section, we share the story of one of her close colleagues working in progressive
education, Caroline Pratt.

Caroline Pratt Caroline Pratt (1867–1954) attended the kindergarten education pro-
gram at Teachers College. Like Hill, Pratt rejected the Froebelian approach. She believed
that it was far too structured and did not allow children to play freely or experiment with
materials.

Pratt’s Educational Philosophy Pratt focused her energies on studying children direct-
ly. Her motto, as well as the title of the book for which she is best known, was “I learn
from children” (Pratt, 1948). She became intrigued by the potential of engaging children
with open-ended play equipment and materials.

Like others in the progressive education movement, Pratt looked to education to trans-
form society and worked in settlement houses with poor children. She set up classrooms
with her own hand-made blocks and toys, crayons, and paper and observed children’s
play. Based on her observations, Pratt realized the benefits for children of firsthand expe-
riences and self-directed plans, field trips and pretend play, letting children find answers
to their own questions, the relationship of play and intelligence, and the need to nurture
children’s play (Wolfe, 2000). Pratt also saw an active role for teachers in supporting
children’s play. These conclusions have all been supported by empirical research in the
intervening years.

Inventor of Unit Blocks Pratt’s most last-
ing contribution is undoubtedly her design of
wooden unit blocks. She admired Hill’s blocks
but found them difficult for younger children to
manipulate. She wanted blocks that would al-
low children to openly express their ideas about
the world. Her blocks are made of natural hard-
wood, in various three-dimensional shapes, and
mathematically precise because each block is
a fraction or multiple of the standard unit. For
example, the standard unit block is one-half
of the next size block, one-quarter of the size
after that, and so forth. What Pratt intuitive-
ly believed about the value of these tools for
children’s learning has been proven true by

Caroline Pratt’s invention of
wooden unit blocks was a major
contribution that countless
children have enjoyed and
benefited from ever since.
Research continues to uncover
new and lasting learning
benefits of block play.

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Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence 53

research. For a summary of these benefits of block play, read the feature What Works:
Developing Mathematical Skills with Unit Blocks feature.

Pratt created wooden people representing families and community workers to add
a pretend element to the block play. She also designed large hollow wooden blocks to
encourage large muscle play and for outdoor use. For more than a century, millions of
children have enjoyed and learned from these wonderful, creative materials. However,
because she did not patent them, Pratt never benefited financially.

One of Pratt’s closest colleagues was Lucy Sprague Mitchell. Mitchell’s enormous
contributions to the field are described in the next section.

Lucy Sprague Mitchell Lucy Sprague Mitchell (1878–1967) has been identi-
fied as a major link between Dewey’s progressive education movement of the early
20th century and NAEYC’s current concept of high-quality, developmentally appro-
priate education (Field & Baumi, 2014; Greenberg, 1987). Indeed, her life spanned the
period from the beginning of John Dewey’s work to the birth of Head Start in 1965.
In the sections that follow, we describe her early life, her educational experiments
and ideas about curriculum, and the important role of Bank Street College, which she
founded.

What Works
Developing Mathematical Skills with Unit Blocks
Terence and Sam are building tracks for their subway train. “It
isn’t finished,” Terence says. “Let’s make the dark part where it’s
got a roof [the underground].” He starts to lay blocks along the
side and then a roof.

“Wait, that’s not going to work,” Sam worries. “The subway
cars can’t get in. We need to make it higher for them.”

After some trial and error, the boys use taller blocks for the
tunnel sides, add a roof and run the train underneath, shouting,
“Yay, we did it!”

The wooden unit blocks Terence and Sam are using are
among the most popular and highly regarded play and learn-
ing materials for young children. In the early 1900s, when
teacher Caroline Pratt designed these blocks—called unit blocks
because each block is a fraction or multiple of the standard
unit—she was most interested in providing open-ended tools to
promote children’s creative play. But many learning possibilities
emerged. As children built with the blocks, they developed their
fine motor skills; measured blocks and classified them by size
and shape; explored symmetry, balance, and stability; discov-
ered the mathematical relationships among the blocks (e.g., two
small blocks equal one longer block); engaged in pretend play;
worked and solved problems together; and did many other things
that would contribute to their development and give them hours
of pleasure.

Today, researchers agree that unit blocks are indeed valu-
able learning materials. Because of the spatial and mathemati-
cal relationships that exist between the types of unit blocks,

researchers studying children’s math
development and learning have been
particularly interested in the effects of block
play. Young children’s spontaneous activities with blocks do in
fact include mathematical play and exploration of spatial relation-
ships. Research suggests that benefits from block play persist over
the years.

Evidence also indicates that teachers make a difference
in the complexity level of children’s constructions and the out-
comes of their block play. Children’s block structures are more
complex when teachers talk with children during their play, say-
ing, for example, “What would happen if . . .?” or “Sometimes
people use a block to join a structure. . . .” And children are es-
pecially likely to develop math concepts in block play if teachers
introduce math vocabulary and engage children in mathematical
thinking related to their play. For example, the teacher might
comment, “For your wall you have the blocks standing on their
thin edge,” or “Hmm, you’ve run out of the long blocks for your
road. What can you do … and how many will you need?” When
teachers give voice to thought and extend children’s thinking,
they enhance the learning potential of an already valuable and
much-loved learning material—unit blocks.

Source: Based on Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths toward
Excellence and Equity, edited by C. T. Cross, T. A. Woods, and H. Schwe-
ingruber, Committee on Early Childhood Mathematics, and National
Research Council, 2009, Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education54

Mitchell’s Early Years Lucy Sprague Mitchell was a brilliant woman who studied at
Teachers College with John Dewey and Edward Thorndike, the father of educational mea-
surement and statistical research. Her life’s work drew on both of these influences—a
progressive philosophy combined with research-based practice.

The Bureau of Educational Experiments In 1916, using inherited funds, Mitchell
launched the Bureau of Educational Experiments (BEE) to teach teachers and conduct
research. The goals of the Bureau of Educational Experiments (Wolfe, 2000) were to:

• Focus on child development rather than learning specific curriculum
• Take a whole-child approach to learning and development
• Observe how children’s development is stimulated by experiences and activities
• Focus on scientific measurement of stages of development and establishing norms

(representing the influence of Arnold Gesell as well as Thorndike).

Bank Street College When the bureau moved to 69 Bank Street in New York City, its
name was changed to Bank Street College of Education. A graduate program in teacher
education, Bank Street College played essential roles in the history of early childhood
education and continues to do so. We can only mention a few here.

Most notably, Mitchell’s educational philosophy emphasized children’s firsthand ex-
periences and play. Her ideas came to be called the Bank Street approach, later called
the Developmental-Interaction approach to more accurately describe its tenets. In this
model, children’s experiences in the “here and now” provide the launching pad for their
learning (Mitchell & David, 1992). These experiences, such as the field trips or projects
described earlier, gradually widen children’s horizons beyond the here and now. The con-
cept is that curriculum should be based on individual children’s development, and that
learning occurs through interaction with the environment and other people (Biber, 1977;
Shapiro & Nager, 1999). The Bank Street approach has been widely influential in early
childhood curriculum development, especially in teaching social studies.

One element of the Bank Street approach that has sometimes been underemphasized
is the role of the teacher. In Mitchell’s words, “We were looking at children learning, and
intentionally facilitating the process every day” (Greenberg, 1987, p. 75). Read the fea-
ture Becoming an Intentional Teacher: Expanding Children’s Experience for an example
of the teacher’s role in the Bank Street approach.

The Writer’s Workshops for Children’s Authors Mitchell herself was a prolific writer
and authored a series of children’s books. She created a writer’s workshop in 1937 for
authors of children’s books at Bank Street, which offered scholarships to ensure racial and
socioeconomic diversity. The writer’s laboratory was established to help authors better
understand children’s development and interests, and to promote their use of the rhythms
and rhymes of language that are so important and enjoyable for children (Wolfe, 2000).
Among the best-known writers who participated in the workshop were Margaret Wise
Brown and Ruth Krauss. Brown’s books Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny re-
main classics, as does The Carrot Seed by Krauss.

Near the end of her life, Mitchell was instrumental in numerous national efforts to ex-
pand early childhood education beyond laboratory schools and use it for true social reform
(Field & Baumi, 2014). She lived to see the Bank Street approach used as the model for
the Head Start program. Head Start is also known for its emphasis on parent involvement,
which was another part of the nursery school movement, described in the next section.

Parent Cooperative Preschools As early as 1916, parents organized to start
their own nursery schools. In these programs, which are called parent cooperatives or
co-ops, the parents “own” and administer the program. They hire a teacher and take turns
volunteering in the classroom as a second staff member. Most parent co-ops throughout
the 20th century used a play-based, progressive education–influenced approach.

The number of parent cooperative nursery schools grew rapidly in the 1950s and
1960s, and through the leadership of Katherine Whiteside Taylor, an association was

Bank Street approach
Originating with Lucy Sprague
Mitchell at Bank Street
College and later called the
Developmental-Interaction ap-
proach, a curriculum framework
based on individual children’s
development, emphasizing that
learning begins in children’s
experiences in the immediate
environment (here and now).

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Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence 55

formed, Parent Cooperative Preschools International (http://www.preschools.coop). In
recent years, the number of parent cooperative preschools has declined due to the increase
of mothers in the workforce. Nevertheless, the movement reinforced the integral role of
parents in early childhood education.

In the previous sections, we discussed the interconnected stories of the kindergarten,
progressive education, and nursery school movements. Many more outstanding leaders
contributed to these efforts than we can describe briefly. Click here to review the timeline
of major events in early childhood history to fill in the chronology. Consider this chrono-
logical review as you read about the history of child care in the United States, which
followed a different path from that of kindergarten and preschool.

The Child Care Movement
Kindergartens and preschools grew out of child study, were focused on middle-class chil-
dren, and were associated with education and development. By contrast, child care grew
out of social welfare efforts for poor families and focused on the need to support work-
ing parents. Consequently, child care became associated with physical care rather than
education.

In the later part of the 20th century and into the 21st century, these differences have
become less distinct. However, these histories still play out in public policy and attitudes.
For example, federal child care funding is part of public assistance for needy families,
whereas prekindergarten support comes from state education agencies. In the sections
that follow, we describe some of the key events and people involved in the history of the
child care movement.

McMillan Sisters Margaret McMillan (1860–1931) and Rachel McMillan (1859–
1917) worked to improve the lives of young children in London and North America dur-
ing the early 20th century. The purpose of their work was to offer children a temporary
alternative to the dreadful living conditions in the London slums, which severely damaged

Becoming an Intentional Teacher
Expanding Children’s Experience
Here’s What Happened The preschool I work in uses
the Bank Street curriculum approach. I was planning to do
some cooking with my 4-year-old class, so I wanted them
to learn more about where foods come from. In our urban
neighborhood, most children have limited experience with
growing things; however, there is a community garden that
a few of the families participate in, and those children are
involved with planting, watching things grow, and eating
the produce. In talking with the “garden families” to find
out what they grow and what the children do in the garden,
I found that the parents were eager to send in a tomato or
zucchini from their gardens for the class to see and taste.
We did that first, and then made a trip to the garden. After
the trip, I encouraged the children to draw and write about
what they had seen, and I brought in library books like
The Carrot Seed (Krauss, 1945) and Whose Garden Is It?
(Hoberman, 2004) to share with them.

Here’s What I Was Thinking When children have
little experience with growing things, they eat fruits, veg-
etables, and other foods without understanding where they

come from. Even if an adult tells
them, “Tomatoes come from the
ground,” it doesn’t compute.
There’s a gulf between their ex-
perience and what someone tells them or shows them in
a book, and this gulf limits their understanding, interest,
and willingness to try new foods. Part of what should be
happening in preschool, and later in school, is bridging this
gulf, and sometimes the best way to do that is with di-
rect, hands-on experience. Other children in the group may
know about gardening and growing things but haven’t seen
pictures representing them or read stories about them, so
providing that experience is valuable in the early childhood
classroom too.

Reflection Many public school kindergartens today
are given a curriculum that prescribes certain topics of
study such as weather or animals. If you were a teacher
in such a situation, how could you apply the principles of
the Bank Street approach to make the experiences more
meaningful?

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education56

the health of most poor children. Accordingly, they set up a health clinic, a nursery school
(they coined the phrase) for children under age 5, and teacher training.

The McMillan sisters developed a model open-air nursery that was unique in em-
phasizing outdoor play, nutritious food, cleanliness, and rest to promote healthy develop-
ment. The program was also educational. These centers for working families were called
day nurseries—the forerunner of present-day child care centers.

The McMillan sisters’ work was influential in the United States. Several Americans
studied with them in England, including Abigail Eliot (1892–1992), who subsequently
imported many of their ideas and founded one of the first nursery schools in the United
States in 1922.

As always happens, events in the larger context had a major impact on early child-
hood education and particularly on the history of child care. These included the Great
Depression and World War II.

Works Progress Administration Nurseries During the Great Depression of
the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was established to address the high
unemployment rate (25%) and to build needed public works throughout the country. One of
the WPA programs established in 1933 was the Federal Emergency Relief Nursery Schools.
The purpose of the WPA nurseries, which were open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., was to support
the economy by providing jobs for those who worked on the site and child care to families
seeking work (Nourot, 2005). Like the day nurseries of the McMillan sisters, WPA centers
focused on promoting physical care and healthy living habits (Nourot, 2005). But in con-
trast to the McMillan sisters’ vision, most WPA centers did not emphasize education.

The WPA nurseries had both positive and negative effects on early childhood educa-
tion. Because day nurseries served children from poor families, the idea of expanding
nursery education to all children was born (Nourot, 2005). However, the rapid expansion
of WPA nursery schools meant that teachers were hired with minimal training. This cycle
of expanding services without attention to ensuring qualified staff has plagued the child
care field throughout its existence. As the Depression ended, so too did the WPA nursery
schools. But a major national crisis—World War II—followed shortly, leading to another
important chapter in the history of child care.

The Lanham Act World War II necessitated full deployment of not only men into
the armed services but also women into the workplace to replace the men and support
industry. This massive workforce shift required immediate child care assistance, which
the federal government provided in the form of the Lanham Act. This legislation funded
emergency work-site child care centers, which operated for 10 to 12 hours per day.

One of the most famous centers was located at the Kaiser Shipbuilding company in Ore-
gon (MacKenzie, 2011). Kaiser was the largest of the Lanham Act centers, operating 24 hours
a day all year long. Lois Meek Stoltz was the director, and the manager was Jimmy Hymes,
who later became a professor and president of NAEYC (Anderson, 2013). The program, still
considered a model, provided health services and nutritious meals for children and mothers,
parent education, teacher training, and a play-based educational experience for children.

As happened with the WPA nurseries, the Lanham Act centers ended along with the
war. Child care was no longer supported because mothers left the workforce as fathers
reentered it. These high-quality centers remain an ideal for working families; yet it wasn’t
until the 1980s that employer-sponsored child care again became a major sector of the
early childhood field.

The stories related thus far of the kindergarten, nursery school, and child care move-
ments were lived and recorded by members of the majority group—white, European
Americans. However, various groups of Americans were also part of these stories and
have made significant contributions to the history of early childhood education, which we
discuss in the next section.

✓ Check Your Understanding 2.3: Early Childhood Movements in the United States

day nurseries Programs
designed to serve working fami-
lies in the late 19th and early
20th centuries; the forerun-
ner of present-day child care
centers.

WPA nurseries Federal
emergency relief nursery
schools, funded by the Works
Progress Administration (WPA)
during the Great Depres-
sion, designed to support the
economy by providing jobs
for those who worked on the
site and child care services to
families seeking work.

Lanham Act Federal legisla-
tion to provide emergency child
care and other services for
families employed in the war
effort during World War II.

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Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence 57

A Wider View of Early
Childhood History
History is written by those who gain the largest amount of power. It is important to note
that the previous discussion is dominated by white European Americans because they
were the individuals with the most power in the society, and their work is most often
included in the “official” written history of the field. At the same time, however, parallel
stories were occurring among the many groups that populated the United States. That his-
tory is less well known primarily because historical sources are scarce, but also because
there is a strong oral rather than written tradition in these communities (Simpson, n.d.).

These stories deserve our attention and respect because they also have made the field
of early childhood education what is it today. Here we briefly describe historical events and
contributions from the perspective of African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic
Americans. It is essential to point out that there is huge diversity within these population
groups. In fact, they are hardly groups at all except as designated by the United States Cen-
sus Bureau. To further understand history from an even wider view, read the accompanying
Culture Lens: Early Childhood Education through the Lens of Non-Western Culture feature.

Ideas from non-Western, alternative histories have much
to offer early childhood education practices. One con-
temporary scholar who has written of diverse cultural
approaches to educating children is Timothy Reagan
(2005). He studies views from Africa, the Aztecs, North
American Indians, the Rom, Chinese Confucians, Indian
Hindus and Buddhists, and Islamic traditions.

Consider the African culture in which child-rearing prac-
tices and education are based on African people’s view of
the relationship between the physical and spiritual reality
(Mbiti, 1992). They believe that understanding children
requires understanding their spiritual purpose. Before a
child is born, the child is a complete spirit—in some
traditions, the child is an ancestor returning. At birth,
children are celebrated and the community is expected
to make room for this child’s purpose in the community.
Because the spirit has come home to a community, not
just to a biological set of parents, it becomes a com-
munity responsibility to take care of this child (Bunseki
Fu-Kiai & Lukondo-Wamba, 1988; Some, 1999).

According to Dr. Itihari Toure (C. B. Day, personal com-
munication, December 2008):

The view of the spirit returning for the sake of the com-
munity also informs the responsibilities for the child.
Child rearing is a collective process and children
in different traditions not only have specific family
responsibilities but partake in various community tradi-
tions as they must retain and transmit the values of the

specific community. Biological parents and community
members take care of all children. Exposure to various
crafts and skills needed for the community to thrive,
songs and dances that represent various stages of life,
and the countless stories that recall the history of the
people are part of the child-rearing experience.… When
children engage in formal schooling, the motivation is
not based on personal achievement alone; there is a de-
sire to bring pride and regard to the community through
the personal achievement. This perception of purpose
and success comes from a consistent socialization
about the value of one’s family and community interde-
pendent with the value of oneself. It is often referred to
as Ubunutu (I am because we are; we are because I am).

Understanding how other cultures rear children brings to
light a very important consideration for all educators: Ev-
ery child is a product of his or her own history. Knowing
that other cultures rear their children according to non-
Western beliefs deepens and broadens the possibilities for
educating children to their full potential, in ways that may
resonate with their own historical and cultural realities.

Sources: Kindezi: The Kongo Art of Babysitting, by K. K.
Bunseki Fu-Kiai and A. M. Lukondo-Wamba, 1988, New York:
Vantage Press; African Religions and Philosophy, 2nd edition,
by J. Mbiti, 1992, Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann; Non-Western
Educational Traditions: Indigenous Approaches to Education
Thought and Practice, 3rd edition, by T. Reagan, 2005,
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; Welcoming Spirit
Home: Ancient African Teachings to Celebrate Children and
Community, by S. Some, 1999, Novato, CA: New World Library.

Early Childhood Education through the Lens
of Non-Western Culture

Culture Lens

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education58

African Americans in Early Childhood History
Throughout U.S. history, African Americans have been denied power beginning with
slavery, when it was illegal to teach enslaved people to read and write, much less attend
school. Once schooling became available, it was legally segregated by race until the 1954
Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision banned the practice. But even
after desegregation became the law of the land, equal rights and equal educational op-
portunity for all racial groups were still denied.

Over the centuries of enslavement, a few formal, mostly religious schools provided
education for African American children (Cunningham & Osborn, 1979). By the 1830s,
however, such schools were prohibited. Educating enslaved people was a clandestine and
dangerous operation, requiring courage on the part of teachers as well as students. We saw
earlier how Patty Smith Hill’s mother was one of those who took that risk and what its
effects were on her daughter’s life choices thereafter.

African American Kindergartens and Teacher Training After the Civil
War, education became the vehicle for advancement of African Americans, propelled by
national leaders such as Mary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955), who founded Bethune-
Cookman College in 1904, and became an effective voice for civil rights and equal edu-
cational opportunity. Between 1865 and 1890, prominent African American institutions
of higher education were founded such as Howard University (1867), Hampton Univer-
sity (1868), Tuskegee University (1881), and Spelman College (1881). These and other
historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) made important contributions to the
study of child development, then usually housed in Home Economics departments (Cun-
ningham & Osborn, 1979).

Early childhood education was seen as an important foundation for future advance-
ment. Many HBCUs operated teacher education programs and laboratory schools (Os-
born, 1991). These programs reflected the prevailing philosophies of Pestalozzi, Froebel,
and later Dewey and G. Stanley Hall. By 1873, Hampton Institute (now University) in
Virginia had a kindergarten teacher-training program and a children’s school that was
influenced by Montessori’s ideas about children learning practical skills (Cunningham &
Osborn, 1979). Tuskegee in Alabama offered training for parents in child-rearing meth-
ods. In the early 1900s, Howard University in Washington, D.C., awarded degrees in
kindergarten education, and Atlanta University operated a Froebelian kindergarten and
an elementary and high school for African American students (J. E. Hale, personal com-
munication, February 2009).

The National Association of Colored Women (NACW) was founded in 1896. Its first
president, Mary Church Terrell (1863–1954), was the daughter of enslaved parents and
one of the first African American women to earn a college degree and later a master’s.
She was a strong supporter of early education. Under her leadership, the NACW helped
establish kindergartens for African American children throughout the country (Cunning-
ham & Osborn, 1979).

African Americans and the Nursery
School Movement In 1927, five years after Abi-
gail Eliot started the first nursery school in the United
States, Dorothy Howard founded the “first Black nurs-
ery school” in Washington, D.C., to serve professional
families. She operated the school for more than 50 years
(Simpson, n.d., p. 262). Spelman College in Atlanta
opened the first laboratory school in an African Ameri-
can college in 1930, under the direction of Pearlie Reed
(Cunningham & Osborn, 1979). This school used the
“whole-child” philosophy of the larger nursery school
movement. Still in operation, the school is named for

Historically Black Colleges and
Universities have played impor-
tant roles in the study of child
development and the education
of future generations of teach-
ers. Although not well-known,
the contributions of African
American early childhood edu-
cators have been significant in
the field’s history.

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Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence 59

Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, the na-
tion’s premier children’s advocacy organization (http://www.spelman.edu).

From 1929 to 1969, Oneida Cockrell (1900–1970) directed the Rosenwald-Garden
Apartment Nursery School and Kindergarten in Chicago (Simpson, 2012). This program
became a model for children’s centers in urban apartment dwellings, and also served
children with disabilities early on. Cockrell participated in the White House Conference
on Children and Youth in 1950. Cockrell also taught at the University of Chicago labora-
tory school.

Spelman College produced many future early childhood luminaries. Its first graduate
student, Ida Jones Curry, became head of teacher training at Hampton Institute in 1932
(Cunningham & Osborn, 1979). Curry worked with the McMillan sisters for a time in
London and was a leader in NANE.

Among Curry’s students at Hampton was Evangeline Ward (1920–1985), who made
significant contributions to the field (Simpson & McConnell-Farmer, 2013). Ward was
president of NAEYC from 1970 to 1974, and not only was she the first African American
president of the organization but also the only president ever to serve two terms. In the
mid-1970s, Ward (1977) was the first to take on the challenge of developing a code of eth-
ics for the profession. She was also the first executive director of the Child Development
Associate (CDA) national credentialing program.

Many other African American early childhood leaders played major roles in the
field’s history. Space does not permit citing all of their accomplishments. At a time when
their educational opportunity was severely limited, these professionals overcame huge
obstacles to earn doctoral degrees at major national and international universities, to edu-
cate and mentor future generations of teachers, and to voluntarily serve in professional
organizations. The harvest of their work is still being reaped, but was essential as the field
expanded tremendously.

Native American Early Childhood History
The native population of this country is highly diverse within and among various tribes—
each with its own cultural traditions, identity, and languages—and encompassing Ameri-
can Indians, Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Today, almost half
of Native Americans live in urban areas rather than on reservations. However, the history
of oppression, broken treaties, and removal from native lands has had a uniformly devas-
tating impact on our indigenous population.

Schooling for Indian Children Historically, education was part of the govern-
ment’s strategy of oppression and control. For example, in the 19th century, children
were often removed from the reservation to attend boarding schools in which they were
not allowed to wear native dress, speak their language, or practice their cultural traditions
(Wortham, 2002). Schools were also established on reservations but controlled by the Bu-
reau of Indian Affairs with the goal of assimilating native peoples into the larger society
and thus suppressing their cultural identity (Wortham, 2002). Surprisingly, one exception
was William N. Hailmann, Superintendent of Indian Schools both on and off reservations
from 1894 to 1898, who tried to implement Froebel’s ideas and methods and introduced
kindergarten teacher training (Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000).

In 1928, a government investigation resulted in the Meriam Report, which concluded
that previous policies toward Indians had been detrimental to their health, social, and
economic well-being. The report led to a shift in Indian education toward more progres-
sive practices—connecting education to family and the values of the community, and to
relevant skills and knowledge (Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000). However, schooling contin-
ued to be mostly segregated and inferior.

Federal legislation between 1965 and 1978 brought about significant change in the
education of Indian children. Funds became available to public schools to better meet
their needs and to provide bilingual education, enabling transmission of the culture and

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education60

preservation of the languages, many of which were becoming extinct. In 1972, the Office
of Indian Education of the U.S. Department of Education was established. Regulations
began to require that parents and tribal leaders be involved in setting policies.

American Indian/Alaska Native Head Start Head Start had a major im-
pact on Native communities, bringing more emphasis on early education and compre-
hensive services. For example, Head Start played a significant role in ensuring that
Indian children with disabilities receive intervention (T. Dobrec, personal communica-
tion, August 2, 2011). Dr. James Wilson, an Ogalala Sioux, worked with tribal leaders
to get them to accept programs on reservations (T. Dobrec, personal communication,
August 2, 2011).

Today, American Indian/Alaska Native Head Start programs are located in 26 states
(Marks & Graham, 2004). Promoting home language and cultural identity are key goals
of families and tribal leaders. Some, like the Cherokee nation, are committed to tribal
language preservation, and many Pueblos have teachers who are fluent in the tribal lan-
guage. But generally, language preservation is a challenge because in many situations,
only a few tribal elders still speak the language, and there is no written form. Head Start
and foundations such as Kellogg have been instrumental in expanding teacher preparation
by providing grants to tribal colleges.

Native American Early Childhood Leaders The field and Native American
children and families have benefited from the contributions of many key leaders. One who
was particularly important in higher education was Alice Paul (1930–2005). A lifelong
educator in Tucson, she was the first Tohono O’odham woman to receive a Ph.D. from
the University of Arizona. She served on the faculty of the University of Arizona from
1986 through 1999 and became head of Teaching and Teacher Education. Paul helped
create the Tohono O’odham Community College and served on the Board of NAEYC in
the 1990s.

Winona Sample (1917–2008), another important role model and national leader, was
involved with Head Start from its beginning. Born on the Redlake Chippewa reservation
in Minnesota, Sample had to go away to school like many Indian children. She became
director of a large Head Start program and eventually head of Indian Health Services for
the state of California. She, too, served on the NAEYC Board. In her own words, “The
highlight of my life was being selected as the vice chair of the International Year of the
Child (1979–1980)” (Neugebauer, 1995, p. 57).

Helen Scheirbeck (1935–2010) has been described as one of the 20th century’s most
significant American Indian leaders. She was an untiring advocate for American Indian
civil rights, Indian children and families, Indian control of their own education, and the
sovereignty of her Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. She served as director of the Office
of Indian Education, where she led efforts to pass the Indian Education Act of 1975. She
was the head of the Indian Head Start Program beginning in 1991. Notably, Scheirbeck
was a member of the first Board of Trustees of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of
the American Indian in Washington, D.C., for which she planned museum exhibitions,
cultural arts programs, and educational materials.

Latino Early Childhood History
As with African Americans and Native Americans, the history of early education
among Latinos has involved social injustices and shifting political winds. We use the
term Latino to describe a highly diverse population with countries of origin including
Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and various Latin and South American nations. Despite
recent controversies surrounding immigration, most Latinos in the United States are
American citizens and were born here.

In this brief overview of history from a Latino perspective, we address the two
most significant inf luences: bilingual education in the K–12 sector, and the history
of dual language programming in preschool and Head Start. Of course, the topic of

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Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence 61

bilingual education is relevant to hundreds of lan-
guage groups in this country, but we discuss it
here because the Spanish-speaking population of
children is by far the largest group. Only Mexico
has a larger population of Spanish speakers than
the United States (Rumbaut, 2006). Also the
issue of bilingual education is central to the his-
tory of early education from a Latino perspective.

K–12 Bilingual Education Perhaps be-
cause the United States has always been a nation of
immigrants, bilingual education has always been
an issue. As far back as the colonial era, German,
French, and Scandinavian immigrants provided
bilingual schools (Cerda & Hernandez, 2006). In
the 1870s, William Harris, the Superintendent of Schools in St. Louis who helped Su-
san Blow found the first public kindergarten, also founded the first kindergarten taught
in German to help immigrant children get a “head start” on their education (Cerda &
Hernandez, 2006). By the 1920s, however, most bilingual schools were abolished and
children were expected to learn only English.

Modern bilingual programs began in the 1960s. The first two-way immersion pro-
gram (taught in both Spanish and English) was established in Miami in 1963. Several
important court cases in the 1970s, such as the Lau vs. Nichols decision in California and
Aspira vs. the City of New York on behalf of Puerto Rican children, established that meet-
ing linguistic and cultural needs, including providing bilingual education, was essential
for children to have equal educational opportunity.

The federal government has played an important albeit changing policy-setting role
in this history. Consider how names have changed in the U.S. Department of Education
over time. In 1973, the Office of Bilingual Education was established to implement the
first national Bilingual Education Act. From 1980 to 1995, the agency was called Office
of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs (OBEMLA). Eugene Garcia, a
highly respected scholar and advocate for early childhood education, was a director of the
agency. Another important early childhood advocate, Delia Pompa, also led the agency
and is now an executive at National Council of La Raza. OBEMLA’s mission included
helping school districts serve “limited English proficient” children (sadly called LEPs)
and administering provisions in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that in-
cluded serving preschool children.

In the 1990s, bilingual programs came under attack as not effective and voters suc-
ceeded in banning them in California, Massachusetts, and Arizona. Emblematic of this
political shift, OBEMLA was renamed the Office of English Language Acquisition. Many
more states now have English-only laws for K–12 schools. These laws have not yet been
applied to preschool programs but certainly have an effect on how and by whom children
are taught. Despite research in support of dual language programs, strong public senti-
ment against them prevails. In the words of Antonia Lopez, Early Childhood Director at
the National Council of La Raza: “The history of Latinos in early childhood education is
tied into the history of not being seen as fully fledged Americans” (A. Lopez, personal
communication, March 30, 2012).

Preschool Level A slightly brighter picture of Latino history has prevailed at the
preschool level, with Head Start leading the way from its earliest days in support of chil-
dren and families who speak languages other than English. In 1972, The Head Start Pro-
gram Performance Standards required that programs help each child build cultural iden-
tity and that staff speak the primary language of the children and are knowledgeable about
their culture. As part of the Strategy for Spanish-Speaking Children in the 1970s, Head
Start funded development and dissemination of four Bilingual and Bicultural Curriculum

American schools have always
served large numbers of
children who speak a language
other than English at home.
Every early childhood teacher
needs to know and use effec-
tive strategies to teach dual
language learners.

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education62

Models. These models provided an important foundation on which subsequent curricula
and professional development have been built.

In 1982, the Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential Bilingual Specializa-
tion was established for candidates who have a working knowledge of two languages
and to provide more well-prepared staff to work with dual language learners. In 1991,
Multicultural Principles for Head Start Programs were developed by a cadre of profes-
sionals such as Yolanda Garcia, who provided training on the four multicultural curricula.
In 1996, they were incorporated into the revision of the Head Start Program Performance
Standards. For decades, Head Start has served migrant and seasonal workers, most of
whom now are Spanish-speaking, which has stimulated much of the Bureau’s work on
linguistically and culturally responsive resources.

Despite these positive contributions to the field, historically, Latino children have
been underrepresented in Head Start. The prevailing view has been that Latino families
have a cultural preference for in-home care rather than formal programs for their children.
This view, which is not supported by research, masked the reality that Latino families did
not have adequate access to programs in their communities, nor were all programs cultur-
ally and linguistically responsive (M. Lopez, personal communication, January 26, 2012).
However, the expansion of Head Start and increase in Early Head Start programs led to
its population now being one-third Hispanic. In 2009, Yvette Sanchez Fuentes became the
first Latina director of the Office of Head Start.

Latina Early Childhood Leadership As we have seen throughout this chapter,
history is primarily the story of how people impact organizations. The efforts of a small
but committed group of leaders brought about real change within the early childhood
establishment. Leaders such as Antonia Lopez, Amie Beckett, Mary Margarita Contie,
Lily Wong Fillmore, Lourdes Diaz Soto, and Marlene Zepeda launched the Early Child-
hood Interest Group of the National Association of Bilingual Education. A handful of
people attended its first meeting, but before long, more than 400 people flocked to their
sessions (A. Lopez, personal communication, March 30, 2012). These advocates were
joined by many others, including Governing Board member Rebeca Barrera, to influ-
ence policy within NAEYC. As a result, in 1995, the association adopted a position state-
ment, Responding to Linguistic and Cultural Diversity, and also significantly revised its
position statement on developmentally appropriate practice to reflect their input.

In widening the lens on the history of early childhood education to include the per-
spective of African Americans, Native Americans, and Latino Americans, it is apparent
that Head Start has played a key role in providing services for these populations of chil-
dren and families. We conclude by describing how Head Start wound all the various
strands of early childhood history together.

✓ Check Your Understanding 2.4: A Wider View of Early Childhood History

Bringing the Stories Together
The separate stories described previously continue to influence early education today.
For example, we struggle with the large gap between preschool practices and what fol-
lows in kindergarten and primary grades. Similarly, child care and preschool continue to
be divided in terms of standards, funding, and populations they serve. But over time, the
stories began to converge, most notably in the national Head Start program and, more
recently, in the prekindergarten movement.

The Story of Head Start
The harvest of the work of diverse leaders in the past is still being reaped, but was essen-
tial as the field expanded exponentially with the launch of Head Start in the mid-1960s,

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Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence 63

which brought together the strands of early childhood history (Hinitz, 2014).
The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s brought about real change in virtu-
ally every aspect of society. Early childhood education was no exception. In
response to the call for equal opportunity in this country, President Lyndon
Johnson launched the War on Poverty. One of the cornerstones of this effort,
and the only one that still exists, was the Head Start program. Head Start
represents a coming together of the nursery school movement, which had
previously served middle-class families, and the child care movement, which
originated to serve the indigent and working poor. The following sections
describe how the key elements of Head Start reflect the lessons learned from
early childhood history.

A Comprehensive Program Just like Patty Smith Hill, Maria Mon-
tessori, the McMillan sisters, and so many others, the framers of Head Start
believed in serving the whole child. Early childhood education has long been
a multidisciplinary field. Head Start reflects this history as a comprehensive program
providing health, mental health, social services, and parent involvement in addition to
education.

Head Start was also a pioneer in fully including children with disabilities, who
must constitute 10% of the population served. This mandate harkens back to the lessons
learned from Montessori about the benefits of early intervention. Early education for all
children with disabilities is a relatively recent phenomenon. For an overview of its history,
see the lens on Including All Children: Early Childhood Special Education in Historical
Perspective.

Classroom Connection
This video shows a quality Head
Start program. How does Head
Start today reflect the lessons
learned from early childhood
history?

When I first met my neighbor Clark—a large, friendly
man about my age—I was struck by his delightful
sense of humor and learned of his love of fishing and
television. Even a brief encounter with Clark revealed
that he had an intellectual disability, but spending
time with him was always great fun. One day, while
reading a book on my porch, I spied Clark watching
me. When I asked him to join me, he replied, “I’d like
to read a book.” An older neighbor who’d known Clark
since he was a child later explained, “Clark started
school like all the other kids, back in the mid-1950s,
but after a few days, they sent him home. They said,
‘It didn’t work out.’ ” Clark never returned to school.

If Clark had been born today, he would probably be di-
agnosed as having mild intellectual disability. His life
experience would have been quite different due to ma-
jor changes in special education services. In the lat-
ter part of the 20th century, parents of children with
disabilities who were unable to obtain services formed
organizations such as the Association for Retarded
Children (ARC) and United Cerebral Palsy and also
started preschools for the children. With the advocacy
of parents, special educators, and other profession-
als, public laws began to change. In 1972, the gov-
ernment mandated that 10% of Head Start’s student
population be children with special needs.

By far the most important event in the history of
special education was the passage of Public Law
94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Chil-
dren Act of 1975, which in 1990 was renamed the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
This law established standards for how public
schools must serve children with disabilities, from
ages 3 to 21. A few years later, Public Law 99-457
extended services to children from birth to 3 years
of age with emphasis on the role of families in early
intervention. In addition, the Americans with Dis-
abilities Act (ADA) of 1990 requires that programs
be accessible for persons with disabilities, and pro-
hibits child care centers from discriminating on the
basis of disability.

Early childhood special education today is the result
of an amalgamation of traditional K–12 special educa-
tion, regular early childhood education, and compen-
satory education including federal programs such as
Head Start that were originally designed to “compen-
sate” for areas of need in children’s lives. The history
of special education goes back to well before Maria
Montessori demonstrated the power of early interven-
tion to change children’s lives. It is the story of many
people working together to make a difference on be-
half of children like Clark.

Including All Children
Early Childhood Special Education in Historical Perspective

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education64

An Educational Program The educational model for the Head Start program is
the nursery school, specifically the Bank Street model (Shapiro & Nager, 1999). Over the
years, Head Start’s educational program has changed as new knowledge has emerged. But
its core is developmentally appropriate practice, with its foundation going as far back as
Comenius and Pestalozzi.

Because it was based on the laboratory nursery school model, many Head Start pro-
grams were and still are half-day. This is changing as more families need full-day child
care, but Head Start has yet to completely merge the child care and nursery school threads
of the field.

The rapid launch and expansion of Head Start meant that, like the WPA and Lanham
Act centers, a large workforce was needed on short notice. As a result, minimal training
was required for teachers. In recent years, the program has raised qualifications signifi-
cantly but compensation remains a challenge.

A Parent Involvement Program A core component of Head Start’s mission
is parent involvement. Here we see the influence of Lucy Sprague Mitchell and Jimmy
Hymes, and the parent cooperative movement. In Head Start, however, parents are not
only involved in the classroom; they are also part of the governance of the program, acting
in major decision-making roles.

As part of the War on Poverty, Head Start’s mandate included hiring parents as teach-
ers and in other positions. At times, as many as one-third of the staff have been parents in
the program. As in the case of WPA nurseries, however, hiring parents has presented the
challenges of ensuring that the teachers are professionally qualified and has created the
need for a professional development system.

The National Laboratory An important part of Head Start’s mission is to act as
the national laboratory for the field. In this role, Head Start has funded seminal research
and contributed to the development of curriculum and teacher training models. Head Start
programs also partner with universities on research projects. In this capacity, Head Start
has supplanted the child study laboratory schools of the early 20th century.

Head Start programs are locally administered and controlled. But Head Start has
maintained its integrity and consistency despite its national scope because every grantee
must meet the Head Start Program Performance Standards. These standards address, at
least for Head Start, the recurring questions that confront the early childhood field.

The Prekindergarten Story
Leaders such as Susan Blow and Patty Smith Hill were deeply concerned about the po-
tential negative consequences of public school involvement in kindergarten and nursery
school. Some of their deepest fears have come to pass. With kindergarten an integral part
of the public school system, much of the child development focus they espoused has been
lost. Similarly, with the movement toward universal, voluntary preschool and more states
providing funding for pre-K programs, the rigid dividing line between preschool and
public education no longer exists.

On the other hand, bringing the nursery/kindergarten movements together with pub-
lic education has contributed to more children having access to early education. This
story is only beginning; the consequences have yet to be revealed. However, if Pre-K–3rd
grade curriculum were aligned in a developmentally appropriate way and comprehensive
services offered for all children from birth through age 8, all the stories could be brought
together in the best possible way.

Building on a Tradition of Excellence
The fundamental questions that have faced the field since its inception continue to domi-
nate the conversation: How is quality defined in programs for children? What should be
the qualifications for teachers and how should they be prepared? What are the goals for

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Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence 65

children’s learning and development? What should be the content of the curriculum and
how should it be taught?

Looking back through history, we find that many ideas are revisited: stages of devel-
opment, active learning, children’s interests, sensory learning, positive guidance, image
of the child, the teachers’ role, and the role of materials and environments. But differences
emerge as well. Today we view the teacher’s role as more intentional than our predeces-
sors did, and we no longer see children’s development as a natural unfolding. Instead, we
better understand the interaction of environment and biology. In addition, developmental
stages are not rigid as previously assumed. Standards and approaches need to be flexible
and changing—based on new knowledge—unlike Maria Montessori and Susan Blow,
who refused to change their views.

The most basic history lessons that early childhood teachers should never forget in-
clude these:

• We all need to learn from children, as did all of the historical figures discussed in
this chapter and as Caroline Pratt wisely put it.

• We need to draw on science and the wisdom of experience, as Patty Smith Hill and
Lucy Sprague Mitchell modeled for us.

• And, as Patty Smith Hill believed, it is always valuable to listen to opposing points
of view and to learn from them.

✓ Check Your Understanding 2.5: Bringing the Stories Together

. . . the Preschool Classroom

Take a moment to revisit the classroom observations of the college students in the opening vignette

of this chapter. The traces of early childhood history should now be apparent. The students saw

Comenius’s picture books and alphabet books, evidence of Froebel’s gifts in the wooden cube and

parquetry blocks, and the legacy of Maria Montessori in the child-sized furniture and sandpaper

letters. They also observed children’s active play with Caroline Pratt’s unit blocks and Patty Smith

Hill’s beloved dramatic play. Their firehouse field trips are reminiscent of John Dewey’s call for ac-

tive learning and integrated curriculum as well as Lucy Sprague Mitchell’s Bank Street approach.

The woodworking tables and cooking are more evidence of Dewey’s influence. Finally, the students

saw the lasting contribution of Lucy Sprague Mitchell’s writer’s workshops in Margaret Wise Brown’s

Goodnight Moon and the enduring joy of singing Patty Smith Hill’s “Happy Birthday” on one child’s

most special day. ■

Revisiting the Case Study

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education66

• Studying history is valuable because it helps people
understand current issues, avoid getting stuck in the
past, aspire to make a difference for children, and
advocate for change.

• Different periods of history have had different perspec-
tives on children and childhood, which have implica-
tions for how children are treated and what kinds of
education they are provided.

• Early education in the United States was strongly
influenced by Western European ideas, such as those
of Comenius, Pestalozzi, Froebel, and Montessori.
Although European ideas are not the only, or necessar-
ily the best, educational concepts in the world, current
practices strongly reflect these early influences.

• The kindergarten movement in the United States was
based directly on the work of Froebel and led by Eliza-
beth Peabody, Susan Blow, and others who spread his
ideas widely through teacher training and founding the
International Kindergarten Union.

• The progressive education movement led by John
Dewey had a profound impact on education in the
United States, especially early childhood education,

whose principles of developmentally appropriate prac-
tice are congruent with progressive ideas.

• The nursery school movement, which grew out of the
child study movement, eventually launched the wider
field of early childhood education through the leader-
ship of Patty Smith Hill and Lucy Sprague Mitchell,
among many others.

• The child care movement grew out of social welfare
efforts for low-income families, focused on the need to
support working parents, and became associated with
physical care rather than education, although this divi-
sion is changing.

• African Americans, Native Americans, and Latino
Americans played significant roles in the history of
early childhood education, although their contributions
are not well documented.

• The launch of Head Start in the mid-1960s brought
together the various strands of early childhood
history, which are ref lected in its comprehensive
services, developmentally appropriate educational
program, parent involvement, and its role as a
national laboratory.

Chapter Summary2

Key Terms
■ absorbent mind
■ Bank Street approach
■ child-centered curricu-

lum

■ child study movement
■ competent child
■ constructivism
■ day nurseries

■ Froebel’s occupations
and gifts

■ integrated curriculum
■ Lanham Act

■ nursery schools
■ progressive education

movement
■ WPA nurseries

✓ Demonstrate Your Learning
Click here to assess how well you’ve learned the content in this chapter.

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Chapter 2 Building on a Tradition of Excellence 67

Readings and Websites
Hinitz, B. F. (2013). History of early childhood education
in multicultural perspective. In J. L. Roopnarine & J. E.
Johnson (Eds.), Approaches to early childhood education
(6th ed., pp. 3–24). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Wortham, S. (2002). Childhood: 1892–2002. Wheaton,
MD: Association for Childhood Education International.

American Montessori Society
Check this website for information about the history of
Montessori and also its present-day practices, profession-
al development opportunities, and other resources.

Association for Childhood Education International
Originally the IKU, ACEI now provides a global com-
munity of advocates for children from birth through early
adolescence.

Office of Head Start
The website provides many valuable resources for all
aspects of Head Start programming, which are also useful
for any early childhood program, and the list of Head
Start Program Performance Standards.

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3
After studying this chapter, you should be able to:

3.1 Define developmentally appropriate practice.

3.2 Identify the behaviors of intentional teachers.

3.3 Describe how teachers make decisions about developmentally appropriate
practices.

3.4 Identify the key roles of early childhood teachers.

3.5 Apply principles of developmentally appropriate practice in planning learning
environments and daily schedules.

3.6 Discuss research about developmentally appropriate practices.

Understanding and
Applying Developmentally
Appropriate Practice

Learning Outcomes

© Christopher Futcher/E+/Getty Images

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69

T
oday is Olivia’s first day of preschool at the elementary school that her

older brothers also attend. They have been teasing her about how hard

school is, and she is a little fearful as well as excited. She hesitantly enters

the building clutching the postcard her teacher sent her to welcome her to school. Aware that several of the newly

enrolled children and their families speak Spanish at home, Olivia’s teacher, Mr. Washington, has arranged for a

translator to be present this morning. He has also learned a few key phrases in Spanish himself, including how to

say, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish, but Ms. Lopez is here to help.”

When Olivia’s grandmother arrives at the classroom door, Mr. Washington greets her in Spanish and pulls the

translator into the conversation. Olivia’s brothers and mother speak English but her grandmother speaks only

Spanish. Then Mr. Washington stoops down to Olivia’s eye level and greets her warmly with a smile, “I’m so

happy that you are here, Olivia. We’re going to have lots of fun playing, listening to stories, and making friends.”

Mr. Washington offers his hand to Olivia and escorts her to a cubby with her name on it where she can store her

belongings. He asks, “Would it be okay if I took a picture of you? We will print it and put it next to your name. Later

we can display a photo of your whole family on the wall with the other children’s families.” She shyly smiles for the

camera and then asks to see herself.

“Now we’re going to have some quiet play time while the children are arriving and

then we’ll eat breakfast together. Your grandmother says that you like to do puzzles, so

I’ll show you where we keep them,” Mr. Washington says. Olivia’s eyes sparkle as she

spies all the materials in the room, alighting on the iPad that two children

are using to listen to a song in Spanish. She is especially delighted by

the dress-up clothes, the painting easel, and the sand table. She feels

good already because her teacher is so nice and she likes

the chairs and tables that are just her size. The puzzles are

ones that she can put together all by herself, too.

Olivia is already feeling comfortable at school on

her first day because her teacher understands

and engages in developmentally appropriate

practice. ■

T
hroughout this book and throughout your studies and work as an early childhood
educator, you will hear the term developmentally appropriate practice. In this
chapter we discuss the evolution of this concept and examine how it is used in

the classroom. We also discuss the concept of becoming an intentional teacher. Next, we
address the question of how to decide what is developmentally appropriate and the multi-
faceted role of the early childhood teacher. We apply this decision-making process to how
teachers plan appropriate learning environments and daily schedules for children. Finally,
we briefly describe the research base for developmentally appropriate practice.

The concepts addressed in this chapter are part of the foundational knowledge of early
childhood education. These topics provide a basic framework for organizing much of your
beginning knowledge. A large body of literature exists about child development and its
application to early childhood practice (see Berk, 2012; Kostelnik, Soderman, Whiren, &
Rupiper, 2014). This chapter considers some of this literature, as well as the definition,
principles, and guidelines for developmentally appropriate practice as described by the
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC, 2009).

Case Study

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education70

What Is Developmentally
Appropriate Practice?
Over time, the phrase developmentally appropriate practice (often abbreviated as DAP)
has been defined and used in different ways. Its definition has evolved as new research
and knowledge have become available.

Developmentally appropriate practice is teaching that is attuned to children’s
ages, experience, abilities, and interests and that helps them attain challenging and
achievable goals. The foundations of developmentally appropriate practice, as it is de-
fined today, lie in the history of early childhood education. Most fundamental is the
premise that teaching young children should be based on what is known about how they
develop and learn optimally.

Within the field of developmental psychology, the concept of developmentally ap-
propriate has been widely used for more than a century and refers to age-related and
individual human variation. Early childhood educators have long used the phrase devel-
opmentally appropriate to describe high-quality environments, materials, learning experi-
ences, or expectations for children of varying ages.

NaEyC’s Position statement on
Developmentally appropriate Practice
The concept of developmentally appropriate practice gained widespread recognition and in-
fluence in the mid-1980s when NAEYC published position statements on developmentally
appropriate practice (Bredekamp, 1987). A position statement is a document that articulates
a research-based stance that an organization is taking in response to an issue or a problem.
Based on new research, emerging controversies, and the changing contexts in which early
childhood education occurs, NAEYC revised its statement on developmentally appropriate
practice in the mid-1990s (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997) and again in 2009 (NAEYC, 2009).

NAEYC’s 2009 position statement describes principles and guidelines for teaching
young children from birth through age 8. NAEYC also presents recommended practices for
different age groups: infants and toddlers, preschoolers, kindergartners, and children in the
primary grades (Copple, Bredekamp, Korelek, & Charner, 2013a, 2013b, 2014a, 2014b).
The position statement is widely used as a summary of the field’s best thinking, a defense
of its valued practices, and an advocacy tool for improving programs for young children.

The position statement serves several purposes. Originally NAEYC sought to clarify
the term to help professionals consistently interpret its standards for early
childhood program accreditation. A second purpose that continues to be an
issue was to address the issue of age-appropriateness of expectations for chil-
dren, as well as curriculum and teaching practices. In addition, the 1997 re-
vision brought more attention to the critical role of culture and language in
development, the inclusion of children with disabilities, and the teacher’s role
as intentional decision maker (Bredekamp, 1997a, 1997b). The 2009 state-
ment continues these emphases and also responds to current issues such as
addressing the achievement gap and alignment from pre-K to grade 3.

Current Issues in Developmentally
appropriate Practice
The early childhood profession continues to raise concerns about what is de-
velopmentally appropriate as new issues arise in the lives of children. Three
issues are currently under serious debate: push-down curriculum, Common
Core State Standards, and appropriate practice in the digital age.

developmentally appropri-
ate practice (DAP) Ways of
teaching that engage children’s
interests and adapt for their
age, experience, and ability to
help them meet challenging
and achievable learning goals.

position statement a docu-
ment that articulates a stance,
usually research based, that
an organization is taking in
response to an issue or a
problem.

Classroom Connection
In this video, sue Bredekamp
discusses the achievement gap
within the framework of devel-
opmentally appropriate practice.
How do you think we can teach
most effectively when children
come to school with very different
levels of vocabulary or mathemat-
ics skills?

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Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 71

Push-down Curriculum Perhaps the most important motivation for defining de-
velopmentally appropriate practice over the years has been to counter the trend toward
push-down curriculum, in which content that was previously taught in first grade is
being taught in kindergarten or even preschool. This was one of the original motivations
for writing developmentally appropriate practice. However, the problem is even more
urgent today because the trend toward increased academic focus in kindergarten has ac-
celerated (Bassok & Rorem, 2014). For example, in 1998, about one-third of kindergarten
teachers believed that most children should learn to read in kindergarten. By 2005, 65%
of teachers held this expectation (Bassok & Rorem, 2014).

Not surprisingly, these increased academic expectations led to changes in the curricu-
lum. Time devoted to literacy in kindergarten has increased by 25% and social studies,
science, music, art, and physical education have decreased (Bassok & Rorem, 2014). In-
creased academic demands have resulted in many teachers using practices such as work-
sheets and whole-group, didactic instruction that are not developmentally appropriate
(Strauss, 2014). A related trend is that young children no longer are given time or materi-
als to play in school (Alliance for Childhood, 2010; Squires, 2014). As a result, increasing
numbers of children are experiencing stress, being judged not ready for kindergarten, or
struggling and failing in their earliest school experience (Almon & Miller, 2011; Bassok &
Reardon, 2013).

Push-down curriculum has been a trend for decades and is often attributed to the
accountability movement, whereby teachers are held responsible if children fail to
achieve certain standards. This trend was propelled by No Child Left Behind legisla-
tion in the early 1990s. More recently, a particularly troublesome trend is the require-
ment in many states that children read by the end of third grade or be held back. This
requirement puts additional pressure on teachers in the earlier grades, thus pushing
down curriculum even more.

push-down curriculum Con-
tent previously taught in a
higher grade in school being
expected to be learned in an
earlier grade

In developmentally appropriate classrooms, teachers get to know each child as an individual and build a
positive relationship. What is this teacher doing to “meet children where they are” as individuals?

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education72

Common Core State Standards Another controversial issue is the impact on
curriculum and teaching, and especially on children, of the Common Core State Stan-
dards (CCSS) (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2011a, 2011b). The Common
Core establishes national standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics in kinder-
garten through grade 12 that were initially adopted by 45 states but subsequently became
politically controversial. Some early childhood educators have expressed deep concern
that the Common Core standards themselves are not achievable for most children in K–3,
that they will lead to developmentally inappropriate teaching practices, and that they will
narrow the curriculum further to the two subject areas (Defending the Early Years, 2014;
Miller & Carlsson-Paige, 2013).

NAEYC (2012) charges the field to approach the CCSS with caution but also to see
it as an opportunity. Many of the standards call for the kind of higher-order thinking and
problem solving that developmentally appropriate practices promote, and they should not
automatically lead to bad teaching. The fact is that Common Core establishes standards
for what children should know and be able to do, but does not address how teachers
should teach. These words appear in the English Language Arts standards: “The use of
play with young children is not specified in the Standards, but it is welcome as a valuable
activity in its own right and as a way to help students meet the expectations in this docu-
ment” (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2011a, p. 6).

Nevertheless, some of the standards will be unattainable by many children in kin-
dergarten through grade 3, especially those children who have not had enriching prior
experiences. Therefore, it is important that early childhood educators remain vigilant as
the Common Core is implemented and children’s learning is assessed. Standards them-
selves are periodically reviewed and if they are found to not be achievable for the major-
ity of children (that is, are developmentally inappropriate), then they should be revised.

Appropriate Practice in the Digital Age A third issue that is often discussed
in the context of developmentally appropriate practice is technology. Some early educators
are troubled by the fact that children spend too much time engaged with “screens,” which
takes away time from important activities such as play, outdoor time, conversations with
other children and adults, and other joyful childhood experiences (Campaign for Commer-
cial-Free Childhood & Alliance for Childhood, 2012). The fact is that from 2011 to 2013,
the number of children under age 8 using mobile devices doubled, and the average amount
of time children spent on digital media tripled (Common Sense Media, 2013). A related
concern is the quality and value of the content that is provided via digital devices.

On the other hand, technology and interactive media permeate children’s lives
and have demonstrated great potential to support young children’s learning (Donohue,
2015). Rather than simply “protecting” children from technology by limiting screen
time, educators have a responsibility to promote the effective integration of high-quali-
ty, developmentally appropriate media (Donohue, 2015; Rogow, 2015). Lisa Guernsey
(2014), a national expert on children’s media, advises that the most important consid-
erations are the quality and appropriateness of the content on the screen, the context
within which it is used (how long, under what supervision), and the age and character-
istics of individual children.

The joint position statement on technology in early childhood programs by NAEYC
and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media (2012) is an ex-
cellent guide for decision making in the digital age. The fundamental principle is that
“Technology and interactive media are tools that can promote effective learning and
development, within the framework of developmentally appropriate practice”(p. 5). In
short, interactive media require many professional decisions on the part of early child-
hood teachers and media developers to ensure that they are of the highest quality and are
used appropriately and effectively.

Undoubtedly other issues will arise as they have in the past. Over the years, the
position statement has generated controversies, including questions about whether the
recommended practices apply equally well to diverse groups of children (e.g., Dahlberg,
Moss, & Pence, 2007; Graue & Delaney, 2011; Woodhead, 2006). In turn, new research

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Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 73

and critiques will continue to stimulate productive discussions among early childhood
educators about what is best for young children.

Developmentally appropriate Practice
in the Classroom
Developmentally appropriate practice begins with early childhood educators’ knowledge
of how children learn and develop. Its ultimate goal is to promote the development and
enhance the learning of each individual child served. “Developmentally appropriate prac-
tice” is used by some as a shorthand term for the value of play or letting children be
children, not pushing them to grow up too soon. Play is an integral component of devel-
opmentally appropriate practice; however, it is only one facet. To better understand how
play relates to developmentally appropriate practice, read the feature entitled Promoting
Play: Does Developmentally Appropriate Practice = Play?

The term, developmentally appropriate practice, is used within the early childhood
profession to describe the complex work of the early childhood teacher. Knowing how
children learn and develop is essential for teachers of young children. The more they

Does Developmentally Appropriate Practice = Play?
For many early childhood educators, play is synony-
mous with developmentally appropriate practice.
There are many reasons why this is true. The pri-
mary reason is that a vast amount of research dem-
onstrates that play is critical to healthy development
and learning in the early years. To be developmen-
tally appropriate, teaching practices must reflect
what is known about how children develop and learn
most effectively. Therefore, play must be an integral
component of a developmentally appropriate pro-
gram for young children.

But play is complex. There are many types of
play that have different benefits for children and
children play differently depending on their age,
level of development, and experience. Observe
how babies play and you will notice that they tend
to play with objects and explore the world us-
ing their senses—especially touch and taste. as
toddlers gain mobility, their play involves their
whole bodies with running and climbing among
their favorite activities. They begin to play more
with toys, and occasionally with or near one other
child. The preschool years are prime time for play,
with children engaging in virtually every type of
play both alone and with friends such as block
building, table toys, pretend, or rough-and-tumble
play. Primary-grade children continue to need lots

of play, including active outdoor free play, games
with rules, and dramatization.

Children’s play also varies with their individual in-
terests and prior experiences. Girls and boys often
gravitate toward different types of play despite the
efforts of teachers and parents to discourage gen-
der stereotyping. some children prefer solitary play
while others take the lead in organizing a small
group to build a fort or set up an airport.

Finally, children play the culture in which they live.
Play is a natural context for children to practice
adult roles, and they mimic the activities, behaviors,
and language of the adults and older children in
their cultural group. For example, in a highly tech-
nological society such as ours, children play with
digital tools as well as the typical tools of daily life
such as cars or microwaves.

Like all other aspects of development and learning,
play varies in predictable ways by children’s ages,
individual characteristics, and the social and cultur-
al contexts in which they live. To fully benefit chil-
dren, teachers must intentionally promote children’s
play and use it to help children reach challenging
and achievable goals. Developmentally appropriate
practice is more than play, but play is developmen-
tally appropriate.

Promoting Play

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education74

know about and are sensitive to the way children think and learn, the more effective their
teaching and the more satisfying their work. To successfully engage in developmentally
appropriate practice (Copple, Bredekamp, Koralek, & Charner, 2013b), teachers need to:

• Meet children where they are, as individuals and as a group.
• Use a variety of intentional strategies to help each child attain challenging and

achievable goals that contribute to his or her ongoing development and learning.

Meet Children Where They Are Knowing what children, within a given age
range, are generally capable of and how they learn provides teachers with a starting
point for planning and organizing a program. But such a broad picture is not enough.
Teachers must go beyond what is “typical”; they must recognize that they will have
little success if they try to teach everyone the same way. They must also recognize that
if their expectations are too high, children become frustrated; if their expectations are
too low, their students will become bored. In either case—teaching only what is “typi-
cal” or having unrealistic expectations—children will fail to make learning progress.

Good teachers continually observe children’s engagement with materials, activities,
and people in order to learn about each child’s abilities, interests, and needs. Based on this
information, they plan curriculum and adapt their teaching strategies to help children make
continued progress. Meeting children where they are might look something like this:

Nathan knows only a few letters, he does not sit still during story time, and he is
significantly behind on many of the kindergarten literacy goals. His teacher knows,
however, that all kinds of transportation vehicles fascinate him. On a class visit to the
library, she helps Nathan locate several information books on transportation to read
with him and have him take home. He especially likes one book about all kinds of
trucks. To interest Nathan in learning letters and words, his teacher prints the names
of the different trucks on cards for him to match with the pictures. Soon, Nathan is
drawing pictures of the trucks and trying to write the words himself.

Four-year-old Jamal speaks Arabic at home and is learning English at school.
His teacher often reads to him in a small group, with other children whose home lan-
guage is not English, using books with limited vocabulary and clear correspondence
between the pictures and words. She also uses other cues to aid his understanding.
For instance, she uses real objects as props when she introduces new words such as
the kinds of food that the Very Hungry Caterpillar (Carle, 1969) is eating. She stays
in close contact with his parents, communicating through a translator, to learn about
the competencies he demonstrates at home, and she encourages the family to talk and
read with him in their own language.

These examples demonstrate how teachers meet children where they are by assessing
what they already know as well as learning about their interests. At the same time, teach-
ers keep in mind the teaching goals.

Help Children Reach Challenging and Achievable Goals
Meeting learners where they are is important, but it is just the beginning. As il-
lustrated in the preceding examples, learning is most effective when materials
or experiences not only build on what children already know and on what they
can do, but also require them to stretch toward new skills and understandings.

Developmentally appropriate goals for a given group of children need to
be realistic and attainable for most children within the age range of the group.
However, developmentally appropriate practice does not mean making things
easier for children. Instead, goals must be challenging but not so difficult that
children are unable to achieve them. Further, children need to have plenty of
opportunities to practice their newly acquired skills to the point of mastery.
Young children often initiate such practice on their own, such as when they re-
peatedly count the steps they climb or try time and again to balance on one foot.

Classroom Connection
as you watch this video, identify
the challenging goals that the
teacher has for the children and
how she intentionally uses play to
help them achieve those goals.

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Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 75

Once new skills have been mastered, children need new challenges to continue to
learn. These new challenges should provide children with a reasonable stretch that is “just
achievable.” For example, consider a group of kindergartners learning to play catch. If
the teacher consistently throws the ball way over children’s heads, they will soon give up
in frustration. But if she makes the task too easy—rolling the ball on the ground—most
5-year-olds would quickly grow bored and call it “baby stuff.” Instead, a teacher who
is taking into account what is developmentally appropriate will provide just the right
amount of challenge. One child will need the ball thrown right into her extended arms,
while another who has had more practice will joyfully leap to catch it over her head.

Teaching in a developmentally appropriate way brings together meeting the learner
where he or she is and helping children achieve goals. Teachers keep the curriculum’s
learning goals in mind as they determine where children are and what the next steps for-
ward are. What is challenging and achievable varies from one child to the next, depending
on each child’s level of development; prior experiences, knowledge, and skills; and the
context within which the learning takes place.

To be developmentally appropriate, teaching practices must be effective—they must
contribute to children’s ongoing development and learning. That is, if children are not learn-
ing and progressing toward important outcomes, then the practices and experiences in the
program are not developmentally appropriate. To ensure their practices are in fact effective
and developmentally appropriate, teachers need to be intentional in everything they do.

✓ Check Your Understanding 3.1: What Is Developmentally Appropriate Practice?

Intentional Teaching
To be effective in their work, teachers cannot leave important aspects of children’s develop-
ment and learning to chance. In everything early childhood teachers do—from organizing

Developmentally appropriate teaching practices must be effective. Intentional teachers don’t simply as-
sume that play is developmentally appropriate. They support children’s play so that it benefits children’s
development as much as possible.

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education76

the environment to planning the curriculum to choosing specific teaching strategies or
adapting their plans for individual children—effective teachers are intentional teachers.
Intentional teachers have a purpose for their actions; they make decisions for a reason. The
intentional teacher plans carefully in advance, but also has enough knowledge to make
thoughtful decisions throughout the day, even during the unplanned, spontaneous “teach-
able moments” that inevitably arise.

Purposeful Planning
Intentional teaching and developmentally appropriate practice go hand in
hand. Sometimes in early childhood classrooms where children spend sig-
nificant periods of time in exploration, play, and activities they choose and
pursue independently, uninformed observers may think that the situation is
“anything goes.” However, if the child is in a program that truly is develop-
mentally appropriate, teachers’ intentionality undergirds the entire program
and all of the experiences provided. The teacher carefully organizes the envi-
ronment and selects and arranges the materials to promote children’s active
engagement, both mental and physical.

In planning the learning experiences, the intentional teacher thinks care-
fully about what will foster children’s enthusiasm for learning and enable
them to reach important goals in all areas of their development and learning.
She regularly observes and assesses children and then uses the information

gleaned to gauge her interactions with the children, both individually and in small groups,
to promote ongoing learning and enable children to master new challenges.

Understand and Explain Practices
Intentional teachers are able to explain the rationale for their practices to administrators,
other teachers, and family members. Intentional teachers are also alert to the need to
modify plans, recognizing that there will be times when what they have planned doesn’t
work out. Perhaps the children master a skill sooner than expected and lose interest in the
activity; conversely, a task may be beyond the children’s current abilities and they become
confused or discouraged. In either case, an intentional teacher will have planned for such
possibilities and be prepared to modify the learning experience or shift to another strategy
that will be more effective in achieving the goal. Consider the following examples of
practices, which are generally thought to be developmentally appropriate, and light of the
additional criteria of intentionality and effectiveness:

Tiana Carstairs teaches 4-year-olds. Each day she reads a different Big Book (an
oversize picture book with limited text per page) to the class. The children enjoy the
readings and respond readily to Tiana’s questions about the letters in print or sounds
they hear. She also points out concepts of print by tracking the words on the page
left to right and noting how to turn the pages. An observer in Tiana’s class would
probably view her practice as developmentally appropriate. What the casual observer
would miss, however, is that 14 of the 16 children have mastered the print concepts
that Tiana continues to teach. In addition, 4 children already know all the letters.

Rather than use this same teaching strategy every day without reflection, Tiana
should regularly assess children’s learning so that she continually adds challenge as
children achieve new goals. Although the children enjoy the Big Book readings, the
limited vocabulary contained in the books is not helping them learn new words. Tiana
needs to be more intentional about building vocabulary in this group of children who
are already significantly behind in language development. She needs to employ effec-
tive practices such as reading more complex stories and information books in small
groups and engaging children in conversations about the readings.

Jana Baker teaches in a full-day kindergarten. She believes strongly in the value
of play for children’s learning and development, and she has been able to preserve
time and materials for play in her classroom. In the early days of Jana’s career, when

intentional teachers Teachers
who have a purpose for the deci-
sions they make and can explain
that purpose to others.

Classroom Connection
Observe how the teachers in this
video engage the children in
playful activities that are fun but
also thoughtfully planned to meet
learning goals.

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Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 77

parents or principals questioned her, she defended play by simply stating that it is
developmentally appropriate. But as pressures increased for literacy instruction in
kindergarten, Jana found herself thinking more critically about her practice. She ob-
served that during choice time, children’s play had become repetitive. Boys built the
same roads and towers in the block area. Few children engaged in dramatic play, and
those who did pretended to be characters they had seen on TV or in video games.
Other children wandered from one activity to another without engagement or sus-
tained interest.

Jana realized that she didn’t know enough about play; she couldn’t explain
clearly why it was valuable for children and didn’t know how to enhance children’s
involvement. After attending workshops and reading professional journals, Jana be-
came aware that there were many missed opportunities for learning in her classroom.
She learned ways to help children engage in mature, sustained, sociodramatic play
that builds social and emotional skills and language. She introduced board games to
help children learn mathematics while cooperating and having fun.

Jana began to see that choice time provided many opportunities for her to engage
in one-on-one, extended conversations with children or to build writing, reading, and
math into their play. In short, Jana became intentional in her interactions with chil-
dren during play and in the kind of play experiences she provided. As a result, play
became a more effective teaching and learning experience for the children in her
kindergarten.

Expanding Thinking and Communication Skills
Here’s What Happened after the 45-minute learning
center time in my preschool classroom, I asked each child
to tell what he or she had done. a few children just pointed
to where they had gone or ran back over there to show me.
I thought of these children as the “Pointers.” a few oth-
ers verbally identified the center they had played in, saying
something like, “I was in the block area” or just “Blocks.”
I’ll call them the “Namers.” Other children—the “Detail-
ers”—said more about what they had done and who they
played with, though their descriptions were often unclear to
anyone who hadn’t been there (“I tried to get it to stay, but
it fell”). There were variations, but basically the children
fell into these three groups.

after a few days, I began asking children to reflect in small
groups and added some more challenge. For example, with
children who were Pointers, I had a photo of each center,
and I asked the child to find the center where they had
worked. Then I said, “ah, you were building in the block
area.” I repeated the name of the center several times.

With the Namers, I asked them to tell me what they did in
the center they identified. sometimes I asked a question
such as, “What were you building today?” and if I got no
response, I added, “Were you building a road, or something
else?” I would also say things like “Hmm, let’s see, what
was I doing? I took my sick puppy to Mark and Bobbie’s
veterinarian’s office.”

With the Detailers, I used a variety of methods. sometimes
I paired two children who responded at similar levels and
had them tell each other what they had done that day. Often

children would ask each other ques-
tions like, “What fell? What were
you trying to build?”

Here’s What I Was Thinking I decided to start this
routine—asking the children what they had done in the
centers—for two reasons. First, it helps develop their abil-
ity to reflect, to think about the past rather than the pres-
ent. at their age, children are increasing in their capacity to
think back (or forward to the future) if they are encouraged
to do so. They’re very interested in their own activities, so
they are motivated, and this is a good way to extend their
oral language and communication skills.

I started wherever each individual child was and tried to
help each one go a little farther. sometimes I tried using a
visual support like the photos to see if that would help stim-
ulate more language. I also modeled both the language—for
instance, by repeating the center names—and the practice
of thinking back and reflecting on what one has done.

Having pairs of children talk to each other is useful be-
cause children want their peers to understand them and
will try hard to get their message across. I also model talk-
ing and asking questions, and the children pick it up and
do it themselves. Gradually the more verbal children who
at first give a lot of disjointed details get better at giving a
coherent account of their activities.

Reflection are there other intentional teaching strate-
gies this teacher could use to achieve her goals? What other
skills might these experiences help children develop?

Becoming an Intentional Teacher

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education78

As we can see in the previous scenarios, intentional teachers continually reflect on
their own decisions and gather evidence of how well children are doing. They may dis-
cuss their practices with colleagues and children’s families. They modify their practices
when these are not benefiting children. Read the feature titled Becoming an Intentional
Teacher: Expanding Thinking and Communication Skills for an example of a teacher’s
actions and the thinking behind them.

Intentional teaching requires constant decision making. Next we describe what teach-
ers need to consider when making good decisions.

✓ Check Your Understanding 3.2: Intentional Teaching

Developmentally Appropriate
Decision Making
Teachers of young children make hundreds of decisions every day: which book to read
to what size group, which questions to ask when, how to intervene with a child who is
struggling to enter a play situation, and so forth. They must be able to negotiate difficult
situations, such as what to do when a child shares a confidential family secret, how much
support to give two boys who are trying to fairly divide the blocks, and what intervention
to try with a first grader who is significantly behind in reading development. The list goes
on and on. Day after day and hour after hour, teachers are called on to determine what is
developmentally appropriate.

In many cases, decisions are the result of careful advance consideration and plan-
ning. For example, teachers must consider what kinds of learning experiences will help
the group achieve important learning goals. These decisions include planning curricu-
lum so that the learning goals established for the group are achievable and challenging
for the children. For instance, although the school district prekindergarten curriculum
calls for teaching the alphabet, Ms. Jonas determines which children in her class have
not yet achieved this goal and which children have already mastered the alphabet. The
curriculum plan as written may be appropriate for many children in the former group,
but the latter group can connect letters and sounds and use recognizable letters in their
own writing.

Other decisions include setting up the physical environment, which materials to place
where, how to schedule the day, or how to group children for various learning experi-
ences. Ms. Jonas ensures that the alphabet is displayed at children’s eye level as a model
for children’s writing, and that magnetic letters and alphabet puzzles are available for
children to manipulate in their work and play. She organizes the daily schedule to ensure
that children have ample time to write on their own and, during the day, she works in
small groups with children who need extra help.

Some situations require teachers to make immediate decisions. For instance, suppose
a dump truck pulls up outside the preschool window. The teacher may decide to interrupt
his prior plans and follow the children’s interest by taking them outside to observe the
truck unloading the gravel for a new driveway. Or he may see that most of the children are
engrossed in learning centers and decide not to interrupt. Likewise, if the story a teacher
is reading to a group doesn’t hold the children’s interest, she can readily switch gears and
select another book or engage children in an active song.

Primary-grade teachers must make numerous short- and long-term decisions as they
support children’s learning, particularly each child’s reading progress. Some teaching
decisions have lasting consequences for individual children. For example, identifying a
child for special education services or determining a plan to work with a child who is
extremely aggressive and disruptive has far-reaching consequences. When making such a
decision, the teacher needs to take into consideration many sources of information, obser-
vations over time, and the diverse perspectives of family members and other professionals
such as special educators or social workers.

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Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 79

Make Informed Decisions
Large or small, all decisions that teachers make should be informed decisions. NAEYC
(2009) identifies three fundamental considerations that guide teachers in making deci-
sions about what is developmentally appropriate for children:

1. Consider what is known about development and learning of children within a
given age range. Having knowledge of age-related human characteristics allows
teachers to make general predictions within an age range about what materials, in-
teractions, and experiences will be safe, interesting, challenging, and within reach
for children, and thus likely to best promote their learning and development. This
dimension is sometimes called age appropriate.

2. Consider what is known about each child as an individual. Gathering information
about the strengths, interests, and needs of each individual child in the group en-
ables teachers to adapt and be responsive to that individual variation.

3. Consider what is known about the social and cultural contexts in which children
live. Learning about the values, expectations, and behavioral and linguistic con-
ventions that shape children’s lives at home and in their communities allows teach-
ers to create learning environments and experiences that are meaningful, relevant,
and respectful of all children and their families.

Considering all this information is important because it reflects what we know about
how children develop. At each age, they share characteristics with other people within
that age range but also develop as individuals and as members of cultural groups whose
values and beliefs shape how their development occurs. Figure 3.1 depicts this model of
child development.

In each of these three areas, the knowledge to be considered is substantial and changes
over time. Intentional teachers make sure to stay informed both through ongoing profes-
sional development, which includes gaining information from new research, and through
those avenues that will provide necessary information about the children they teach, their
families, and their communities. Let’s examine each of these areas more closely and see
what each contributes to the decisions teachers make.

Consider What Is Known about Child Development and Learning
During early childhood, it is possible to make relatively accurate predictions about
children’s capabilities based on age ranges. Babies need constant care and careful

age appropriate age-related
human characteristics that allow
teachers to make general predic-
tions within an age range about
what materials, interactions,
and experiences will be safe,
interesting, challenging, and
within reach for children and,
thus, likely to best promote their
learning and development.

FIGURE 3.1 Model of Child Development This model illustrates the three core considerations of
developmentally appropriate practice—child development in general, individual variation, and social and
cultural contexts.

Unique

• Individual abilities,
strengths, needs

• Personality,
interests

Similar to children
of same age

Predictable
expectations

Values of cultural
group

Community
influence

Predictable

Context

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education80

supervision because they put everything in their mouths. Two-year-olds who
have mastered walking waste no time in running headlong into furniture and
walls. Preschoolers are fairly good communicators but need help to keep
expanding their vocabulary. Primary-grade children are reasonably indepen-
dent learners when motivated by the topic or activity.

Adults—especially parents, family members, and teachers—consider
what is developmentally appropriate every day without necessarily recog-
nizing it. For instance, when selecting a toy for 2-year-old Hudson, his aunt
chooses a schoolhouse with a handle for carrying. The toy has a label that
indicates there are no small parts that can be swallowed. She determines that
the toy is manageable for most toddlers whose fine motor skills are limited,
so they are unlikely to become frustrated. Because the toy is age appropriate,
it should hold Hudson’s interest. Like most 2-year-olds, Hudson is beginning
to engage in pretend play and also loves to carry his toys around with him.

At other times, adults fail to recognize what is inappropriate as when competitive soccer
leagues for 4-year-olds are organized.

Some characteristics that young children typically demonstrate are common knowl-
edge. For example, when a young panda cub makes his media debut, reporters observe that
he behaves “like a toddler.” Readers immediately get the picture even without the descrip-
tion—“He squirmed in the arms of his keepers, climbed and tumbled over a rock pile, and
walked through a small stream. He also showed a penchant for putting things in his mouth”
(Barker, 2005).

Knowing age-related characteristics helps guide teachers’ expectations of children’s
behavior and abilities, the organization of the environment, and the materials provided.
They also guide teachers’ planning and affect their interactions with children. One ex-
ample of age-appropriate interaction is how parents, teachers, grandparents, friends, older
children, and even strangers talk to babies differently from how they do to each other. All
over the world, people speak to babies in a high-pitched, repetitive voice, called moth-
erese or parentese, which infants consistently prefer hearing (Matychuk, 2005). Hearing
the exaggerated sounds of parentese apparently makes it easier for babies to learn the
sounds of their own language and is emotionally engaging.

Consider What Is Individually Appropriate One of the most basic principles
of child development is that there are individual differences. In fact, children demonstrate
a wide range of variability across every area of development—physical, cognitive, social,
and emotional—while remaining within the range of “typical” development.

The development of some children falls beyond the range of what’s predictable in one
aspect or another. For example, in some respects, children with disabilities or develop-
mental delays and children who are gifted add further diversity to the range of individual
differences. A developmentally appropriate program accommodates individual variation.
The expert lens feature, Including All Children: Developmentally Appropriate Practice
and Children with Disabilities, illustrates this point.

Averages or norms never tell more than a small part of the story. Far more informative
is the range; that is, the large variation of growth or performance across different individu-
als within the age (Copple & Bredekamp, 2006). Picture a group of 4-year-old children.
They range in height from 35 to 46 inches, and in weight from 30 to 55 pounds. One can
already skip, while another still takes the stairs two feet at a time. One can read, while
another knows only a few letters. One converses fluently in two languages, while another
has just mastered talking in complete sentences. One will play for extended periods with
two or more friends, while another struggles to play cooperatively for even a short time.

Children also have individual personality traits and preferences, some of which are
obvious even in early infancy. Some babies are feisty, while others are more passive.
Some children stand back and watch for quite a while before attempting something new,
and some plunge right in. Some children talk nonstop, while others cannot be enticed
to speak up. One preschooler rides a tricycle with abandon, while another prefers to sit

Classroom Connection
as you watch this video, observe
the diverse ways that children
play in early childhood programs
and listen as Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-
smith describes what we know
from child development research
about the important benefits of
play.

https://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=vnH4Ijen7OI

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Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 81

quietly with a puzzle or pegboard. A second grader loves to read and spends all of her free
time with a book, while another struggles with reading but looks forward to math because
it’s her best subject.

The term individually appropriate refers to teachers using what they know about the
personality, strengths, interests, and abilities of each individual child in the group to adapt
for and be responsive to individual variation. Consider, for instance, two tricycle riders:
The fearless rider may need more careful supervision to prevent injury, while the warier
child may need extra encouragement and support to develop his large motor skills. Similar-
ly, some children will need enriched experiences to accelerate their language development,
while a few may need individual support to continue to build on their precocious reading
ability. A withdrawn, timid child may need a great deal of emotional support to cope with
life’s challenges, while another needs help controlling aggression to make friends.

With the individual differences that exist, teachers clearly cannot expect all children
in a group to learn the same thing in the same way at the same time. Even when the
teacher introduces a concept or reads a book to a whole group, each child will take away
something different from the learning experience. Therefore, to help children progress,

individually appropriate
Information about the strengths,
interests, abilities, and needs
of each individual child in the
group that enables teachers to
adapt to and be responsive to
individual variation.

People sometimes wonder if developmentally appro-
priate practices are effective for children with dis-
abilities. The fact is that the basic elements of de-
velopmentally appropriate practice are necessary for
inclusion to succeed. Consider the following example:

Isaac is 4 years old and has a diagnosis of autism.
He is sitting on a brightly colored carpet square
between two of his preschool peers at circle time.
His teacher is reading a book the class made called
Friends, Friends, Who Do You See? It is adapted
from Brown Bear, Brown Bear (Martin, 1996), but
features pictures of the children in the class paired
with their names. Isaac loves the book, and reads
along with the teacher. as the teacher reads each
child’s name in the story, he or she stands up and
moves. after the story, it is time for singing. Isaac
knows this because circle time happens in a similar
routine each day.

The teacher pulls out the “song chart” featur-
ing the pictures and titles of eight different songs.
One song is about a train. Isaac loves trains and
seems eager to hear the new song. He points to the
“Trains on the track.” The teacher helps Isaac re-
move the song card. Isaac holds the card while the
children sing. Then Isaac makes the sign for “play”
with his hands. The teacher says, “yes, Isaac, it is
time for centers.” she lets Isaac choose a center
first because she knows it is hard for him to wait.
Isaac brings the teacher the song card and then
points to the picture of the water table. His teacher
models, “I want to play at the. . . .” Isaac says,
“Water table.” His teacher, proud of his increasing
verbal skills, gives him a hug and says, “Off you go
to the water table.” When Isaac’s mother picks him

up from school, his teacher describes how often he
used his words and which friends he played with
during center time.

By contrast, when children with disabilities are included
in programs that are not developmentally appropriate,
it becomes difficult for the child with special needs—
indeed, for all of the children—to make meaningful
progress. Compare this child’s experience to Isaac’s:

Tara, also a 4-year-old with autism, is sitting next to
her teacher at circle time. The teacher is reading from
a small-sized book, and many of the children can-
not see the pictures very well, including Tara. Circle
time has been in progress for over 20 minutes and
many of the children are getting restless. Tara begins
rocking back and forth and looking at the door. With-
out warning, the teacher stops reading the book and
tells the children to stand up for a finger play. Tara
bolts from the circle and runs to the water table. she
begins splashing and yelling. The teacher stops and
asks Tara to return to circle. When Tara does not re-
turn on her own volition, the assistant teacher physi-
cally moves her back to the circle, and a 10-minute
struggle ensues. When Tara’s father comes to pick her
up, the teacher describes “her bad day” and asks him
to talk to Tara about listening at school.

a child with a disability acts like a magnifying glass on
the developmental appropriateness of an early child-
hood program. as is clear from Isaac’s case and by
contrast Tara’s experience, developmentally appropri-
ate practice provides the necessary foundation for his
successful inclusion in the program. But individually
appropriate adaptations are also essential for children
with disabilities and other special needs.

Developmentally Appropriate Practice
and Children with Disabilities

Including All Children

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education82

teachers must continually keep track of what children know
and are able to do, what they are struggling with, and what
is engaging their interest and meets their needs.

Consider Children’s Social and Cultural Con-
texts All learning and development occur in and are in-
fluenced by social and cultural contexts (Bronfenbrenner,
2004). In fact, appropriate behavior is always culturally
defined. The cultural contexts a child grows up in begin
with the family and extend to include the cultural group
or groups with which the family identifies. Culture refers
to the behaviors, values, and beliefs that a group shares
and passes on from one generation to the next. Because
children share their cultural context with members of their
group, cultural differences are differences between groups
rather than individuals. Therefore, cultural variation needs
to be considered as well as individual variation in deciding
what is developmentally appropriate.

Children learn the values, beliefs, expectations, and
habitual patterns of behavior of the social and cultural con-
texts in their lives. Cultural groups, for example, have char-
acteristic ways of showing respect; there may be different
rules for how to properly greet an older or younger person,
a friend, or a stranger. Attitudes about time and personal
space vary among cultures, as do the ways to take care of a
baby and dress for different occasions. In fact, most of our
experiences are filtered through the lenses of our cultural
group. We typically learn cultural rules very early and very
deeply, so they are not part of our conscious thought.

Social contexts of young children’s lives differ in ways
such as these: Is the child growing up in a large family, or
a family of one or two children? In a single-parent family,
a two-parent family, with same-sex parents, or in a house-
hold that includes extended family members? In an urban,
suburban, or rural setting? Has the child been in group care
from a young age, or is this the first time in a group pro-
gram? What social and economic resources are available to
the family? All of these situations frame the social context
and impact children’s lives in unique ways.

For young children, what makes sense and how they re-
spond to new experiences are fundamentally shaped by the
social and cultural contexts to which they have become ac-
customed. To ensure that learning experiences are meaning-

ful, relevant, and respectful to children and their families—that is, for those experiences to
be culturally appropriate or culturally responsive—teachers must have some knowledge
of the social and cultural contexts in which children live. Such knowledge helps teachers
build on children’s prior experiences and learning so they can help children progress.

All young children must adjust when they move from the security and familiarity of
their homes into schools or early childhood programs. The challenge is greatest, however,
for children whose cultural experiences at home differ sharply from those predominating
at the school or program. For these children, the transition can be confusing and frighten-
ing. Consider a Native American child, whose culture expects children to quietly listen
and observe adults, entering a classroom where the teacher expects everyone to speak up.
Think of how you feel, at least for a moment, when people around you are speaking a lan-
guage you don’t understand. Even as adults with all of our coping mechanisms intact, we

Because children’s needs,
interests, and abilities differ
as they grow and change, a
developmentally appropriate
environment for babies and tod-
dlers looks very different from
one for preschoolers or primary
grade children.

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Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 83

tend to feel uncertain, ignorant, and uncomfortable in environments different from those
to which we are accustomed. (Are they talking about us?)

For teachers, being responsive to all social and cultural variation can be challenging.
Our own cultural experience is so integral to us that we are rarely aware of it. If we are
in the position of power as a teacher, we must be especially careful to be aware of and
respectful toward those whose cultural backgrounds and accepted rules for behavior may
be different from ours. Most important, we must be careful not to assume that our own
cultural perspective is superior and make negative judgments based on our cultural varia-
tions. An example illustrates the potentially damaging result of such judgments:

A European American teacher is employed in a school serving a predominantly African
American community. One of her principal teaching strategies is questioning. But she
finds that her questions are often met with blank stares or disdain from the children
and she assumes they don’t know the answers. She doesn’t realize that within their
cultural community, people rarely ask questions that they already know the answers to.

To better accommodate the realities of cultural and linguistic diversity in schools and
early childhood programs, teachers today need to work at being especially sensitive and
responsive to the perspectives of children and their families that may be different from
their own. To broaden your own perspective, read the Culture Lens: The Role of Culture
in Development feature.

Consider all you Know When Making Decisions
The three considerations that teachers must take into account when making decisions—
knowledge about children’s learning and development, information about individual
children, and information about the social and cultural contexts of children’s lives—

culture The explicit and
implicit values, beliefs, rules,
and expectations for behavior
of members of a group that are
passed on from one generation
to the next.

culturally appropriate applying
knowledge of the social and cul-
tural contexts in which children
live, which helps teachers build
on children’s prior knowledge
and make experiences meaning-
ful and responsive.

Take a moment to think about what you understand
about culture. Do you tend to think about culture only
as characteristic of children and families who are
“culturally different”? Does the concept of culture ap-
ply only to some children? actually, it is important to
remember that every child is socialized in a cultural
group, and the most important elements influencing
children’s development are really aspects of their cul-
tural experiences that are often the hardest to observe.

What people sometimes think of as “cultural” are the
products that culture produces, such as dress or holiday
celebrations. These are the surface features of culture.
But culture produces more indiscernible behaviors and
attitudes that emerge from the same set of rules as the
surface features of culture. These deep structural as-
pects of culture act as much more powerful influences
on children’s development than the surface features do.
For example, if the cultural group believes that women
should not be seen by men except for those in the im-
mediate family, a woman’s mode of dress will reflect
this value. at the same time, this cultural belief will
have much farther reaching effects on her behavior and
life choices than simply how she dresses. Consider an
example in an early childhood classroom:

It is circle time in kindergarten and the children are
supposed to bring an object from home that has writ-
ing on it. Most of the children eagerly seek their turn,
waving their hands widely, and showing off how well
they can read the words. Jai has brought something
but is not eager to share. The teacher assumes that
he can’t read the words. so, she doesn’t call on him.

as in all developmental domains, culture influences
the expression of emotions. although emotions such
as fear, anger, and happiness are part of human inter-
action in all cultural groups, variations emerge in the
way they are expressed. Jai, who is from India, is from
a cultural group that avoids drawing too much atten-
tion to individuals or expressing emotions too openly.
Children from other, more individualistic cultures such
as the United states’ are generally encouraged to ex-
press their feelings openly. These cultural differences
account for Jai’s behavior and that of the other chil-
dren in his class more than their reading abilities do.

Cultural differences do not mean that one way is right
and the others wrong. They simply demonstrate that
there is a wide variety of developmental patterns that
can be explained best by understanding the cultural
context in which development occurs.

The Role of Culture in Development

Culture Lens

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education84

should not be viewed in isolation. All three considerations, in fact, interact with and
influence each other; they are always intertwined in shaping children’s development and
behavior. For example, children all over the world follow a similar developmental pat-
tern when learning language. They all progress from cooing, to babbling, to one-word
utterances, to telegraphic speech (“Daddy up”), to short sentences, and finally to more
complex sentences. However, a wide range of individual variation exists in language
acquisition of children who are roughly the same age, because of differences in language
experience as well as developmental variation. At age 3, Joey speaks in three-word ut-
terances, whereas his same-age cousin, Michael, expounds in paragraphs. Finally, each
child speaks the language, including the dialect, of his or her own cultural group. Six-
year-old Amelia speaks English to her mother and Spanish to her father. All of these fac-
tors influence children’s language development and how teachers think about supporting
it optimally for all children.

Now let’s look at how the meshing of the three considerations plays out in the deci-
sions of one primary grade teacher:

Frida Lopez has 22 children in her first-grade class. Her first challenge each year is to
get to know the children well. She meets with their families, engages in one-on-one
conversations with children, observes their behavior and skills throughout the day,
and sets up specific tasks to evaluate their skills such as literacy tasks or solving math
problems with counters.

As she gets to know her students, she regularly assesses their abilities and in-
terests in relation to what she knows from her study of child development, the cur-
riculum goals, and her experiences teaching other 6- and 7-year-olds. She finds that
a few children exceed her expectations in reading or social skills, whereas others are
significantly behind their peers in some areas. Each child has a unique personality
and profile of abilities, and Frida becomes more aware of these.

Neela has Down syndrome, and Frida has already met with her parents and the
team of special education professionals who create and implement an individualized
educational plan for her. After a few weeks, Frida becomes concerned that another
child, Almonzo, might have an undiagnosed language delay. In the case of the six
children whose home languages are not ones Frida knows, she recognizes that she
must take extra steps to find out about them. Using community volunteers and, in
one case, a paid translator, Frida connects with the families of her students to build
relationships and to learn what capabilities the children exhibit in their homes and
communities.

So we see that in meeting the children, Frida seamlessly draws on her knowledge
of child development and learning, as well as her knowledge of them as individuals and
members of cultural groups. Precisely because children are so different and their abilities
vary so greatly, Frida will need to draw from a wide repertoire of teaching strategies to
help them achieve developmentally appropriate goals.

So far we have described the areas of knowledge that teachers consider in making
decisions about developmentally appropriate practice—what teachers need to know and
think about. Now we turn to the work of the teachers—what do early childhood teachers
do? What are the dimensions of practice that describe the teacher’s role?

✓ Check Your Understanding 3.3: Developmentally Appropriate Decision Making

The Complex Role of the Teacher
According to the NAEYC’s (2009) guidelines for developmentally appropriate practice,
the complex job of an early childhood teacher has five interrelated dimensions: (1)
creating a caring community of learners, (2) teaching to enhance learning and devel-
opment, (3) planning curriculum to achieve important goals, (4) assessing children’s
learning and development, and (5) establishing reciprocal relationships with families.

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Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 85

One way to remember these dimensions is to visualize the five points of a star, as
depicted in Figure 3.2. Each of the five points is necessary for the star to be complete,
and they are all interrelated—take one away and the figure is no longer a star.

It may be helpful, in fact, to think of it as a “mariner’s star.” Seafaring people use the
stars to guide their way, but without considerable knowledge of the stars’ positioning and
their relation to navigation, mindlessly following a star won’t lead to a destination. So it
is with the mariner’s star of early childhood teaching. Each of the star’s points links to
a set of guidelines that represent a large body of knowledge about early childhood edu-
cation. Just as the stars guide seafaring people, the mariner’s star helps guide teachers’
professional behavior; but without that strong foundation of knowledge, the guidelines
themselves have little meaning.

In the following sections, we introduce each aspect of the teacher’s role in accor-
dance with NAEYC’s guidelines for developmentally appropriate practice. Each of these
aspects of the teacher’s role is described in later chapters.

Create a Caring Community of Learners
An early childhood setting—whether it serves infants and toddlers, preschoolers, kinder-
gartners, or second graders—needs to be a caring community of learners. The term caring
community of learners incorporates several key ideas that characterize early childhood
education: (1) Children’s care and education are equally important; (2) children learn
through positive relationships with adults and other children; and (3) the learning context
matters—the indoor and outdoor environments, how the environments are organized, and
the materials and equipment they contain.

caring community of learners
a group or classroom in which
children and adults engage in
warm, positive relationships,
treat each other with respect,
and learn from and with each
other.

FIGURE 3.2 Mariner’s Star: The Complex Role of the Teacher The image of the Mariner’s star
illustrates how the teacher’s many roles are integrally connected.

Source: adapted from Basics of Developmentally Appropriate Practice: An Introduction for Teachers of Children
3 to 6, by C. Copple and s. Bredekamp, 2006, p. 24, Washington, DC: NaEyC. Reprinted with permission from
the National association for the Education of young Children.

Plan
Curriculum
to Achieve
Important

Goals

Plan
Curriculum
to Achieve
Important

Goals

Assess
Learning and
Development

Assess
Learning and
Development

Teach to
Enhance Learning
and Development

Teach to
Enhance Learning
and Development

Create a
Caring

Community
of Learners

Create a
Caring

Community
of Learners

Build
Relationships
with Families

Build
Relationships
with Families

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education86

Children learn when they feel safe and cared for. They thrive in an en-
vironment in which they see positive images that reflect their own identity,
such as photos of themselves and their families; where they see their own
contributions to the community; and when they see their own work displayed.
They also see examples throughout the community that reinforce their cul-
tural identity. The messages are clear to each child: You belong here. We care
about and support each other. You have important things to contribute to this
group. You will thrive here.

The foundation of young children’s learning is in positive relationships
with other people who are responsive to them. At the same time, the early
childhood setting is a learning community where adults and children learn
with and from each other. Each child’s thinking can build on or challenge that
of another. When Josué tells Willa she can’t be the doctor because she’s a girl,

Willa promptly informs him, “I go to Dr. Ashai and she’s a lady, so there.” Josué has to
adjust his concept of doctor to include women as well as men.

In a caring community, children acquire the ability to regulate their own emotions
and behavior and to make friends. Teachers actively teach children social and emotional
skills and engage in individualized interventions for children who persistently demon-
strate challenging behaviors such as aggression.

Teach to Enhance Learning and Development
Teaching seems the most obvious aspect of the teacher’s role, but it isn’t simple at all.
Early childhood teachers typically do not conform to the images that come to mind for
many adults when they think of “teaching”—the teacher standing in front of a blackboard
or at a podium lecturing. Teaching simply looks different in the early childhood setting,
and it takes many forms.

Effective early childhood teachers know the children in their group very well. They
thoughtfully plan the learning experiences and environment with these children in mind
while also keeping in mind the learning goals. They use a variety of teaching strategies
to help each child develop and learn. And they guide young children to become socially
responsible, self-regulating, contributing members of the community.

Classroom Connection
Listen as these primary-grade
children describe what it means
to be part of a caring community
of learners. What other ways do
you think a caring school commu-
nity benefits children?

https://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=zjrl2HqCTua

Intentional teachers use every possible opportunity to promote children’s learning, including preplanned
small group lessons, and conversations throughout the day.

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Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 87

Teachers also use various learning contexts such as teacher-guided group work, in-
cluding large-group and small-group preplanned experiences, and periods of play and en-
gagement in which children primarily guide their own activity with the support of teachers
(Epstein, 2014; Pianta, Barnett, Burchinal, & Thornburg, 2009). Teachers use various ways
of grouping children for learning; they may gather a reading group of similar ability level or
organize a group of children with different language abilities to work together on a project.
Teachers’ behavior needs to vary with the setting as well. In addition, routines such as eat-
ing meals and transitioning from one place or activity to another are all potentially valuable
learning contexts if teachers use these activities as opportunities for one-on-one conversa-
tions with children or to reinforce a learning goal through singing a song or reciting a poem.

Plan Curriculum to achieve Important Goals
If developmentally appropriate practice tends to focus on the how of teaching, then curric-
ulum is the what—the content that children are expected to learn. Curriculum is a writ-
ten plan that describes the knowledge and skills to be taught in the educational program
and the learning experiences through which teaching takes place (Copple & Bredekamp,
2006, p. 61).

Currently, there is increased demand for scientifically based curriculum that is
based on research about important learning goals that predict later achievement, the se-
quences in which concepts and skills build on each other, and the teaching strategies
that have proven effective. Whatever the process through which a curriculum is selected,
developed, or planned, to be effective it must be implemented with attention to individual
differences and cultural variation among children (NAEYC & National Association of
Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education [NAECS/SDE], 2003).

Good curriculum, whether published resources used in school districts or teacher
developed, offers teachers flexibility and ways of adapting, often providing many more
suggested activities or materials than teachers could possibly use. Thus, they have many
further decisions to make. Teachers need to be very familiar with the curriculum plan, es-
pecially the key learning and development outcomes for children—that is, what children
should know and be able to do as a result of their participation in this program.

assess Children’s Development and Learning
In the current era of educational accountability, assessment is often a controversial topic.
However, it is an integral component of developmentally appropriate practice. Assessment
is the process of observing and documenting the work children do and how they do it as
the basis for a variety of educational decisions. Assessment is important because teachers
must draw on assessment information about individual children in an ongoing, systematic
process to understand children’s learning and development.

Children, especially very young children, are moving targets. What they can’t do
today, they can do tomorrow. What they didn’t know or understand yesterday may gradu-
ally become clear, or they may have an “Aha!” moment of recognition. Their development
may follow a predictable though somewhat slower trajectory in one area, or they may be
in need of intervention for a serious developmental delay. To address any of these situa-
tions, teachers must use appropriate, accurate tools to assess children.

Each decision that teachers make about children has consequences. The more impor-
tant and lasting the consequence, the more vital it is that the decision is based on multiple
sources of information, including information from parents.

Build Relationships with Families
and Communities
Young children do not come with résumés; they come with families. NAEYC (2009)
guidelines emphasize the importance of teachers and administrators developing recipro-
cal relationships with children’s families. Reciprocal refers to a two-way relationship,

curriculum a written plan
that describes the goals for
children’s learning and develop-
ment, and the learning experi-
ences, materials, and teaching
strategies that are used to help
children achieve those goals.

scientifically based curriculum
Derives from research evidence
about what kinds of learning
outcomes relate to later achieve-
ment, and what types of teach-
ing and learning experiences
help children acquire those
outcomes. such a curriculum
has been evaluated and its ef-
fectiveness demonstrated.

assessment The ongoing
process of gathering evidence of
children’s learning and develop-
ment, and then organizing and
interpreting the information to
make informed decisions about
instructional practice.

reciprocal relationship a
two-way relationship in which
information and power are
shared evenly.

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education88

in which information and power are shared evenly. Such a relationship is based on mu-
tual respect, trust, cooperation, and shared responsibility. A reciprocal relationship re-
quires regular open communication and a willingness to negotiate differences toward
shared goals.

We’ve already seen that in order to teach young children effectively, teachers must
get to know each child well. The younger the child, the more teachers must rely on family
members as key informants about the child’s competencies, interests, needs, and cultural
experiences. Young children’s competencies are not always apparent, especially if they
have been acquired in a cultural context that is different from that of the teacher. For
example, a child may know colors and basic shapes and be able to count up to 20 in Rus-
sian, yet demonstrate none of this knowledge in English at school. Through a relationship
with the parents, however, this teacher can ascertain that she needs to help the child learn
the English words for concepts he already knows, rather than teach these concepts. This
allows both the teacher and child the opportunity to use what he already knows and move
on to other important concepts more efficiently.

The Teacher’s Role in Context
In each aspect of their work, whether creating a caring community, teaching, planning
curriculum, assessing, or working with families, teachers must draw on a broad base of
information to make useful decisions. The following example illustrates how the five
dimensions of the teacher’s role come together during a memorable experience for a
beginning teacher:

Scotty’s teacher, Gina, believes him to be the “bad boy” in his preschool class. Gina
feels she is constantly correcting what he has done wrong. One day, a fight breaks
out in the block corner and a chorus of voices arises, shouting, “Scotty did it!” Gina
sighs, not surprised by these events, until she remembers that Scotty isn’t there that
day. She realizes that her focus on Scotty’s misdeeds has made him the “bad boy” in
everyone’s eyes.

Developmentally appropriate practices are respectful of children’s cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Intentional teachers build two-way, reciprocal relationships with families to get to know children as
individuals and to understand their cultural context.

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Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 89

Her realization forces Gina to reflect on her own and Scotty’s behavior. She real-
izes that she doesn’t really know Scotty, and spends time systematically observing
him. Soon she discovers strengths she can help him build on, such as his exceptional
fine motor skills, and comes to see that there is much Scotty can do well. She gives
him opportunities to use these skills (she allows him to cut up the oranges for snack
under her supervision), and finally catches him doing something right for a change.
Gina also meets with Scotty’s mother so that together they can begin to focus on his
positive behavior rather than his missteps. Gradually, Gina notices that Scotty’s be-
havior improves. As a result, both Gina and Scotty’s mother begin to enjoy him more.
With more support and a sense of accomplishment, he makes friends with several
other children.

Scotty’s teacher wasn’t named Gina. I was actually his teacher, and I learned a lot
about developmentally appropriate practice from this firsthand experience. In making
professional decisions, teachers should always consider strategies to broaden their own
perspective, as illustrated by Scotty’s situation. They need to take into consideration as
many points of view as possible—to “widen the lens” with which they see children, their
families, and the educational process.

Widening the Lens: Moving from Either/Or
to Both/And Thinking
Questions of educational practices in the United States are often dichotomized as either/
or choices (Bishop-Josef & Zigler, 2011; Zigler, Gilliam, & Barnett, 2011). Is phonics or
vocabulary more important in learning to read? Should preschool stress social-emotional
development or cognitive development? Should early childhood programs provide child-
initiated or teacher-directed experiences? These either/or choices oversimplify the com-
plex processes of becoming literate or developing the whole child. Either/or thinking
assumes that there is one right answer to a complex question. Instead, children would be
better served and educators more effective if the questions were addressed with both/and
thinking. Both/and thinking rejects simplistic answers to complex questions and requires
diverse perspectives and several possible answers to be considered.

To avoid either/or thinking, it is useful to use the analogy of widening the lens. Think
of yourself as holding a camera and altering the view by adjusting the lens. Depending on
how you adjust the lens, your view and, therefore, your perspective changes. You might
zoom in on one child’s expression, or you might zoom out to see the whole room arrange-
ment. If you use a video camera, you could gain more information about the context,
perhaps including the child’s friends, extended family, or community. In fact, to engage
in developmentally appropriate decision making, teachers must indeed widen their views.
Just as the camera lens adjusts to display different views, teachers allow their minds to
expand and accommodate several ideas at once.

As we have discussed, children of similar ages are both alike and different. Like-
wise, children of the same cultural group share some characteristics but not all. When
you widen the lens, you will find that your view broadens and you can incorporate more
information. As a result, you are less likely to get stuck in either/or thinking. When you
widen the lens through which you look at children, the curriculum, teaching practices, as-
sessment, and families—all aspects of your work—you begin to recognize the complexity
and interrelationships among the principles that guide early childhood practice.

When teachers are willing to look beyond the view they have held, they enhance their
effectiveness in their work with children and families. Consider the following example
that demonstrates the power of widening the lens:

Ms. Grantham is the director of a Head Start program. Several parents complain to
her that they aren’t seeing worksheets or similar products showing their children’s
learning coming home in the backpacks or displayed in the classroom. Her program
doesn’t use worksheets because their philosophy of developmentally appropriate

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education90

practice is based on children’s active engagement. Ms. Grantham believes that work-
sheets are just busy work for children and don’t really teach them anything.

At first, she thinks that the parents are just uninformed about good early child-
hood education. But she asks a few more questions to better understand their perspec-
tive. Ms. Grantham comes to see that both she and the parents want the children to
succeed—in the wider view, they are in agreement. And what the families are asking
for is evidence that the children are in fact learning and on track to succeed in school.

Reflecting on the parents’ legitimate desire, Mrs. Grantham realizes that she
could do a much better job of sharing with the families concrete samples of the chil-
dren’s work that show what they are learning and how they are thinking. She explains
that worksheets are not effective because instead of active learning, they simply call
for right answers (“circle the 4”) and busy work like coloring. Worksheets are more
like testing than learning. She begins to collect portfolios of children’s drawings and
writing, transcripts of their language, and photos of their project work and meets
with families regularly. She displays the children’s work, describes what they have
learned and will be learning next, and what she and the teachers are doing to help
build the children’s skills and knowledge. Along with the children, Mrs. Grantham
develops a class website through which they communicate to families about their
work in progress.

Now it’s your turn. What do you see when you widen your lens? Try to think of
several examples where widening the lens would help you be a better teacher or improve
your relationships with family members, college professors, or work colleagues. For an
example of the effectiveness of both/and practices, read the feature, What Works: How
Both Teacher-Directed and Child-Initiated Experiences Promote Learning.

✓ Check Your Understanding 3.4: The Complex Role of the Early Childhood Teacher

How Both Teacher-Directed and Child-Initiated
Experiences Promote Learning
One issue that is too often presented as a dichotomy in discus-
sions of developmentally appropriate practice is teacher-directed
vs. child-initiated experiences. as we have seen, both are impor-
tant components of intentional teaching. Considerable research
supports this finding, including data from the influential, longi-
tudinal study of the Chicago Child-Parent Centers. These centers
provided preschool and kindergarten for children from low-income
families with extensive parent involvement that continued into
early elementary school. strong positive effects on participating
children’s school achievement and life outcomes were found 25
years later.

To delve deeper into what accounted for the lasting effects,
researchers analyzed the curriculum and teaching practices that
teachers reported using most often. This analysis involved more
than 900 children in 20 centers. The researchers found that chil-
dren whose teachers used a blend of teacher-directed and child-
initiated activities were more likely to be ready for kindergarten,
have higher reading achievement in third and eighth grades, and
avoid being retained in grade. Moreover, they found that teaching

practices that emphasized only teacher-directed
or child-initiated activities were less related to
children’s school success over time.

One interesting pattern they found was that child-initiated
teaching in the early years was more associated with high school
completion by age 22 than approaches that were low in both
teacher directedness and child initiation (that is, a low degree of
intentionality among teachers), and those that were overly teacher-
directed.

The researchers concluded that this both/and approach to
early childhood teaching—intentionally providing teacher-initiated
and child-initiated learning experiences—along with a high degree
of parent involvement accounted for the long-term benefits of the
Chicago Child-Parent Centers.

Source: “More Than Teacher Directed or Child Initiated: Preschool Cur-
riculum Type, Parent Involvement, and Children’s Outcomes in the Child-
Parent Centers,” by E. Graue, M. a. Clements, a. J. Reynolds, and M. D.
Niles, 2004, Education Policy Analysis Archives, 12, retrieved from http://
epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/viewFile/227/353.

What Works

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Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 91

Developmentally Appropriate
Learning Environments
How the learning environment and children’s daily schedules are organized
are the most obvious indicators of whether a program is developmentally
appropriate. The environment should be rich in equipment and materials that
are safe, healthy, interesting, and engaging for the age group of children for
which it is designed. Because children’s needs and abilities predictably vary
by age, to be developmentally appropriate, environments should look differ-
ent for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, or school-age children.

Organize the Physical space
Environments send messages, often subtle or even subconscious, about how
to behave or which behaviors are acceptable. Libraries convey the message
that soft voices and quiet reading are expected. Open spaces and playgrounds
invite children to run and chase one another around. With the knowledge that environ-
ments send messages, teachers need to consciously think about the messages they want
their classroom environments to send to children.

The classroom needs to be accessible to all children, including children with disabili-
ties, and organized so that children can interact positively, function as independently as
possible, and learn decision-making skills. For example, teachers should make sure there
is enough space for active play that is protected from traffic. They should also make sure to
provide enough age-appropriate materials and duplicates of popular toys so children do not
always have to share, which can lead to frustration and, ultimately, conflict.

A developmentally appropriate preschool or kindergarten environment should be or-
ganized into separate learning centers, which are defined areas of the classroom that
have a particular purpose and that contain relevant furnishings and materials. Learning
centers in a preschool typically include a library area, blocks, dramatic play, writing cen-
ter, art center, manipulative toys near tables, and a group meeting area. Learning centers
enable children to focus their attention, promote small-group interaction, and require
children to make choices and experience the consequences of those choices. Figure 3.3
depicts a room arrangement for a preschool or kindergarten classroom that is organized
with these guidelines in mind:

• Allow children to independently choose their own activities for part of each day.
• Establish clear boundaries between learning centers by using furniture, floor cov-

erings (carpet, tile), or shelves that help limit the number of children who work or
play in each area at one time.

• Locate quiet areas, such as the book, art, writing, and computer centers, next to
each other, separated from noisier and more active centers such as blocks, dramatic
play, or woodworking.

• Provide easily supervised places for children to be alone or with a friend.
• Locate messy activities such as sand and water play and art projects near a source

of water for easy access and cleanup.
• Provide a comfortable meeting space for the whole group to engage in music,

movement, book reading, and other large-group activities. Designate seating ar-
rangements so children are not crowded or distracted by toys within reach.

• Eliminate unnecessary clutter, which can distract and agitate some children.
• Avoid large open spaces or corridors that invite children to run.

An environment for babies and toddlers, on the other hand, should be more individu-
alized with large areas for active play and separate spaces for sleeping, feeding, and dia-
pering. There should be carpeting for crawlers and soft furniture for children to snuggle
with a teacher while looking at a book or pull themselves up on.

Classroom Connection
This video takes you on a tour of
a developmentally appropriate
preschool environment. Notice how
the furnishings, toys, and space
are organized to allow for chil-
dren’s independent use while also
encouraging them to stretch their
abilities.

learning centers Defined areas
of the classroom that have a
particular purpose and that
contain relevant furnishings
and materials.

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education92

A classroom for primary-grade children would have tables or desks arranged in clus-
ters so children can face each other and work collaboratively. Primary-grade children
should take an active role in designing the environment. Learning centers in a primary-
grade school are more closely linked to curriculum areas such as a reading corner or a
science observation area. Spaces for individual or small group work are also needed as
well as a whole class meeting area.

Organize the Day
Another way for teachers to ensure developmentally appropriate learning experiences
for children is to carefully plan how time is used. If the schedule is not carefully planned
with children’s developmental needs in mind, learning opportunities will be missed or
children’s valuable time will be wasted. Many of the difficulties that children exhibit in
school are related to how the day is organized. Teachers can alleviate these difficulties by
providing a consistent, predictable routine that children can rely on. At the same time,
teachers need to be flexible so they can easily change plans in response to children’s
interests or to unanticipated events.

Young children are often thought to have short attention spans; however, the amount
of time they engage in small-group activities that they have chosen is often considerably
longer than adults would expect. Children’s attention during activities that involve the
whole group, such as story reading or morning meetings, is usually more limited and

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Door

Table Table Table

Counter with StorageOverhead Teacher Storage SinkCots

Non-carpeted Area

Carpeted Area

Small Group Work

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Library

Discovery Area

Plants, Pets,
Investigation Tools

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FIGURE 3.3 Preschool/Kindergarten Classroom Arrangement a developmentally appropriate en-
vironment for preschoolers or kindergarteners is organized into learning centers that support child-guided
and teacher-guided experiences.

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Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 93

difficult to maintain because there are so many distractions. So time should be planned
accordingly. Figure 3.4 provides an example of a daily schedule for a preschool or kin-
dergarten classroom.

Ideally, in an effective classroom, the schedule for the day is posted so that chil-
dren can predict what will happen throughout the day. At times, the schedule will

Approximate
Times (vary
by program or
school schedule) Activity

15 to 30 minutes
8:00–8:30

Arrival: Teachers greet children and families. Children store belongings, wash hands, fi nd
a quiet activity such as looking at books or drawing, or eat breakfast.

15 to 20 minutes
8:30–8:50

Morning meeting: Teachers and children gather in whole group to plan for the day and
encourage a sense of community and belonging in the group. They share music and
movement.

60 to 75 minutes
9:00–10:15

Center time and small groups: Children play and work in learning centers that the
teacher has prepared. Teachers observe and interact one on one with children and also
work with small groups on projects, book reading, and playing a math game. Children
clean up and wash hands.

15 minutes
10:15–10:30

Morning snack time: Teachers sit with children, engage in conversation, and model
mealtime behavior. Children serve themselves.

15-20 minutes
10:30–10:45

Group time: Children share/revisit experiences of the morning. Teachers lead music,
movement, and read and discuss a book.

30 to 45 minutes
10:45–11:30

Outdoor play: Teachers supervise children at play and as they make nature discoveries;
they interact with them one on one or in small groups.

10 to 15 minute
11:30–11:45

Half-day program, group meeting: Teacher and children refl ect on the day and plan for
tomorrow.

Full-day program, group meeting: Do a calming activity, prepare for lunch.

30 to 45 minutes
11:45–12:30

Lunch: Teachers sit with children, engage in conversation, and model mealtime behavior.
Children serve themselves.

60 to 90 minutes
(varies with age and
needs of children)
12:30–2:00

Full-day program, group meeting, nap, or rest time: Teachers help children relax. They
also supervise and provide quiet activities for those who do not sleep.

15 to 30 minutes
2:00–2:30

Afternoon snack and activities: Children have an afternoon snack and engage in quiet
activities such as putting puzzles together, book reading, drawing, or writing.

45 to 60 minutes
2:30–3:30

Full-day program: Children engage in outdoor play or large muscle experiences indoors.

Children continue projects from morning and/or make different choices or play
outdoors: Continue projects from morning and/or make different choices, or outdoor
play.

10 to 15 minutes
3:15–3:30

Group time: Refl ect on the day and plan for tomorrow.

60 to 90 minutes
3:30–4:30/5:30

Full-day program center time: Children play, continue projects from morning, and/or
make different choices.

FIGURE 3.4 Sample Daily Preschool/Kindergarten Schedule young children need a predictable
daily schedule designed to meet their developmental needs, but they also need flexibility.

Source: Based on The Creative Curriculum for Preschool, 5th ed., by D. T. Dodge, L. J. Colker, and C. Heroman,
2010, Washington, DC: Teaching strategies.

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education94

change for planned or spontaneous events, such as a celebration or finding a bird’s
nest on the playground. But for the most part, a regular schedule allows children to
thrive in predictable environments. If the schedule has to be changed, teachers need to
inform the children in advance. The daily schedule should be based on the following
guidelines:

• Plan for a balance of learning experiences: large group, small group, and
individualized; child initiated and teacher initiated; active and quiet; indoor and
outdoor.

• Allow 60 to 75 minutes for learning-center time so children can become deeply
engaged in play and projects. In a full-day program, allow at least 1 hour in the
morning and another in the afternoon.

• Limit whole-group meeting times to 10 to 20 minutes (allowing more time as chil-
dren get older) and give opportunities for children to be actively engaged during
these experiences.

✓ Check Your Understanding 3.5: Developmentally Appropriate Learning Environments

Research on Developmentally
Appropriate Practice
The basic research question regarding any educational practice is this: Does it work? Is
this educational practice effective in helping children achieve important learning out-
comes? Because developmentally appropriate practice involves many different teach-
ing behaviors and aspects of classroom organization, research on the broad construct
of developmentally appropriate practice is difficult to conduct. However, subsequent
chapters present the research base for each dimension of the teacher’s role and area of
the curriculum.

Research Reviews
Well-grounded research about learning and development is the foundation for NAEYC’s
work on developmentally appropriate practice and provides solid guidance for early
childhood educators. This knowledge is summarized in major scientific reports such as
Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers (Bowman, Donovan, & Burns, 2001), From
Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development (Shonkoff &
Phillips, 2000), Handbook of Early Childhood Education (Pianta, Barnett, Justice, &
Sheridan, 2012), and Handbook of Child Development and Early Education (Barbarin &
Wasik, 2009).

A vast amount of evidence demonstrates the lasting positive effects of high-quality
early childhood programs (see Diamond, Justice, Siegler, & Snyder, 2013; Weiland &
Yoshikawa, 2013; Yoshikawa et al., 2013). Although the studies reviewed were not de-
signed to evaluate developmentally appropriate practice per se, the practices employed
in effective programs are consistent with NAEYC’s guidelines. One large-scale review
identified the key components of effective early childhood education as “stimulating
and supportive interactions between teachers and children that support learning and are
emotionally supportive, and effective use of curricula” (Yoshikawa et al., 2013, p. 10).
That review found the most benefit from developmentally focused curricula, meaning
curricula that are not intended to be completely comprehensive, but rather that focus
on a developmental area such as social skills or an academic topic such as mathematics
or literacy.

One review of research identifies the key components of effective early childhood
education as a blend of “explicit instruction, sensitive and warm interactions, respon-
sive feedback, and verbal engagement or stimulation intentionally directed to ensure
children’s learning while embedding these interactions in a classroom environment

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Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 95

that is not overly structured or regimented” (Pianta, Barnett, Burchinal, & Thornburg,
2009, p. 50). They point out that this type of teaching is also related to children’s
achievement in K–12.

The Oklahoma universal prekindergarten program, which is the largest state-
funded voluntary pre-K program in the country, found substantial improvements in
school readiness for children from all racial and ethnic groups. The largest gains,
however, were for Hispanic children and boys. When the children were followed
through third grade, the most lasting benefits were found in mathematics (Hill, Gorm-
ley, Adelstein, & Willemin, 2012). Similarly, a large-scale effort to address inequity
in the quality of education in the Abbott School District in New Jersey focused on
providing excellent prekindergarten programs for low-income children. The children
who participated made strong gains in language, literacy, and math at kindergarten
entry that persisted into second grade. Researchers followed the children through
fifth grade and found that the program helped close the achievement gap, and fewer
children were assignment to special education or retained in grade (Barnett, Jung,
Youn, & Frede, 2013).

Research on Elements of Developmentally
appropriate Practice
Some studies examined effects of developmentally appropriate practice in preschool or
kindergarten compared to “inappropriate” practices. These studies typically have defined
appropriate classrooms as those characterized by child-initiated activity, active learning,
problem solving, and positive, warm relationships between teachers and children. On the
other hand, inappropriate classrooms are characterized by didactic lessons, heavy reli-
ance on whole-group instruction, and emphasis on seatwork and rote learning. Much of
the feedback in such classrooms tends to be teachers’ correcting of children rather than
expanding on their thinking and understanding.

Several studies compare the effects of such practices on children’s social or emo-
tional outcomes. For example, studies relating teaching practice to stress behaviors in
children found significantly fewer stress-related behaviors in preschool and kindergarten
children in more developmentally appropriate classrooms compared to children in less
appropriate classrooms (Honig, 2010; Miller & Almon, 2009; Shanker, 2012). Children in
less appropriate classrooms have also been found to score lower on measures of motiva-
tion (Stipek, 2011).

Over the years, a number of observational measures have been used to evaluate the
quality of early childhood classrooms and the effects on children’s outcomes. These tools,
such as the CLASS and ECERS-R, are based on the same principles of child development
and learning as developmentally appropriate practice. Children enrolled in classrooms
that score higher on these measures are more likely to demonstrate positive outcomes
including language, early literacy, mathematics, and social and cognitive skills (Bryant,
2010; Pianta et al., 2009).

Effects of Positive Teacher–Child Interactions A large body of research
supports the efficacy of one of the key aspects of developmentally appropriate practice—
warm, responsive relationships between teachers and children (Diamond et al., 2013). In
observing numerous preschool and kindergarten classrooms, Stipek (2011) found that
positive affect among teachers and children seemed to go along with developmentally
appropriate practice, whereas negative affect was more likely to be found in classrooms
using more inappropriate practices.

Observational research in preschool and primary classrooms has also found that
positive, warm relationships with teachers that are developmentally appropriate pro-
mote academic success, social competence, and fewer behavior problems (Hamre &
Pianta, 2005, 2007, 2010; Mashburn et al., 2008). Research following children from
infancy to age 4 in child care programs also found that high-quality, developmentally

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education96

appropriate experiences and interactions with teachers contribute positively to chil-
dren’s development (NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2003).

Effects of Teaching Practices In the last decade, more research has increas-
ingly become available on the effectiveness of developmentally appropriate teaching
strategies. A large number of studies using the CLASS have found that teachers’ scores
on instructional climate (which measures the quality of their language modeling, concept
development, and feedback that engages children’s higher-order thinking) predict chil-
dren’s language, literacy, and mathematics ability and their on-task behavior (Mashburn
et al., 2008; Rimm-Kaufman, La Paro, Downer, & Pianta, 2005).

The Boston public schools are engaged in a highly successful early childhood initia-
tive to close the achievement gap by instituting high-quality prekindergarten programs
that are NAEYC accredited and use the same developmentally appropriate mathematics
and literacy curricula with professional development for teachers. A rigorous evaluation
found substantial gains in language, literacy, mathematics, and executive function for
all groups of children, but the largest gains were for Hispanic children (Weiland & Yo-
shikawa, 2013).

A large-scale observational study in England (Sammons et al., 2008) used an expand-
ed version of the ECERS that incorporated curriculum content items. The study found
that by age 5, children who attended developmentally appropriate, high-quality programs
scored better on measures of early literacy, math, reasoning, and social-emotional skills.
This study also found that the most effective preschools provided both teacher-initiat-
ed small group work and child-initiated play activities that were supported by teachers
(Sylva, Melhuish, Sammons, Siraj-Blatchford, & Taggart, 2004). A similar balance of
child-directed, free-choice activity and teacher-directed group activities was found to im-
prove low-income children’s language development in U.S. preschools (Fuligni, Howes,
Huang, Hong, & Lara-Cinisomo, 2012).

A classic, longitudinal study compared the effects of the HighScope curriculum or
child-centered nursery school experience with a highly scripted, teacher-directed curricu-
lum called Direct Instruction (Schweinhart, Weikart, & Larner, 1986). The HighScope cur-
riculum is a blended approach incorporating child-centered, active learning and intentional

Developmentally appropriate classrooms function as caring communities of learners where each child is
valued, and families are welcomed.

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Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 97

teaching. A longitudinal follow-up study (Schweinhart & Weikart, 1997) found that at age
23, the Direct Instruction group had three times as many felony arrests per person, espe-
cially those involving property crimes, while 47% of the Direct Instruction group exhibited
emotional problems during their schooling, as compared to only 6% in the other groups.
Researchers attributed these results to the emphasis on planning, social reasoning, and
other social objectives in the developmentally appropriate HighScope and nursery school
curricula, but not in the Direct Instruction curriculum.

A more recent study demonstrated the effectiveness of building on a developmentally
appropriate framework such as HighScope with additional research-based teaching strate-
gies (Bierman et al., 2008), such as those we describe in this book. This Head Start inter-
vention program involved brief lessons on literacy and social skills, hands-on activities,
and specific teaching strategies designed to promote children’s social-emotional compe-
tencies, language development, and emergent literacy skills. Materials were also provided
to parents to enhance children’s development at home. The program significantly im-
proved children’s vocabulary, emergent literacy, emotional understanding, social problem
solving, social behavior, and learning engagement.

The Future of Developmentally
appropriate Practice
One of the most important functions of NAEYC’s work on developmentally appropriate
practice has been to further discussion and debate in the field about teaching practices.
Given the history of the field, it is likely that this topic will continue to be debated. What
aspects are most likely to continue to provoke thought? Undoubtedly the realities of diver-
sity and changing cultural contexts in our country will continue to raise questions about
what is culturally responsive as well as developmentally appropriate. Increased demands
for accountability and the challenge to close the achievement gap raise the stakes over
which practices can be successfully defended (Bassok & Rorem, 2014; Graue, 2009).
Likewise, debates about curriculum have been a constant and will continue in the future,
but are likely to be driven more by research than in the past.

The word appropriate is a culturally laden term and thus will continue to provoke
controversy. Similarly, it is difficult to counteract the tendency of teachers and other pro-
fessionals to emphasize “typical development” over individual differences and cultural
variations (Graue, Kroeger, & Brown, 2003). After all, the first can be learned by read-
ing books and journals, whereas the latter two require ongoing assessment of children,
building relationships with families, and reflecting on how our own cultural perspectives
influence our judgments and behavior.

To be developmentally appropriate, practices must contribute to children’s learn-
ing and development. Therefore, this book focuses on recommended teaching practices,
which must be responsive to children’s individual development and cultural variation to
be deemed appropriate. At the same time, we also focus on whether those practices help
children achieve important learning goals. By definition, developmentally appropriate
practices should be effective practices. To be effective, teachers must know children, they
must know how to teach, and they must know what to teach. Each of these areas of knowl-
edge must be informed by research. The following equation describes these components
of effective, research-based practice.

Effective Practice = Knowing Children + Knowing How to Teach
+ Knowing What to Teach

Ultimately, the truest measure of developmentally appropriate practice is seeing chil-
dren joyfully, physically, and intellectually engaged in meaningful learning about their
world and everyone and everything in it (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009).

✓ Check Your Understanding 3.6: Research on Developmentally Appropriate Practice

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Part 1 Foundations of Early Childhood Education98

. . . Mr. Washington’s Classroom

At the beginning of this chapter we met Olivia, who was somewhat timidly experiencing school for the

first time. Having explored the basic premises of developmentally appropriate practice, we can now

see Olivia’s experience with a more informed eye. Her classroom, with its age-appropriate materials,
furnishings, and environment, not only made Olivia feel comfortable but also encouraged her involve-

ment. Furthermore, her teacher, Mr. Washington, drew on his knowledge of how children develop and

learn by working to establish a warm, positive relationship with Olivia right from the start. He also pro-

vided Olivia with a learning experience that would build on what she was already able to do, such as

her proficiency with puzzles.

At the same time, Mr. Washington demonstrated the importance of paying attention to what is

individually appropriate. He made Olivia feel welcome by sending her a personal postcard, speaking
with her at eye level, designating her cubby with her name and photo, and piquing Olivia’s interest in

puzzles. Finally, Mr. Washington was culturally appropriate—sensitive to the cultural context in which
Olivia lives—using his own language attempts and a skilled translator to communicate with and reas-

sure Olivia’s grandmother. He also plans to display a family photo so Olivia’s identity will be honored.

In so doing, he demonstrated that he values and respects Olivia’s family, their language, and cultural

background. Taken together, the actions in that brief scenario demonstrate the teacher’s broad base of

knowledge and bode well for Olivia’s successful transition to school. ■

Revisiting the Case Study

Chapter Summary3
• Developmentally appropriate practice is teaching that

is attuned to children’s ages, experience, abilities, and
interests, and that helps them attain challenging and
achievable goals.

• Intentional teachers have a purpose for everything that
they do, are thoughtful and prepared, and can explain
their decisions and actions to other teachers, adminis-
trators, or parents.

• Decisions about developmentally appropriate practice
are based on knowledge of child development and
learning (what is age appropriate), knowledge about
children as individuals, and knowledge of the social
and cultural contexts in which children live (what is
culturally appropriate).

• The role of the early childhood teacher has five
interrelated dimensions: (1) creating a caring com-
munity of learners, (2) teaching to enhance learning
and development, (3) planning curriculum to meet

important goals, (4) assessing children’s learning and
development, and (5) establishing reciprocal relation-
ships with families.

• “Widening the lens” is a metaphor to help teachers
remember to consider diverse perspectives and move
beyond either/or thinking to both/and thinking when
solving problems or making decisions about practice.

• How the learning environment and children’s daily
schedules are organized are the most obvious indica-
tors of whether a program is developmentally ap-
propriate and therefore, they should look different for
infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children
because abilities and needs predictably vary by chil-
dren’s ages.

• Well-grounded research about learning and develop-
ment is the basis for NAEYC’s position statements
on developmentally appropriate practice and provides
solid guidance for early childhood educators.

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Chapter 3 Understanding and Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practice 99

Key Terms
■ age appropriate
■ assessment
■ caring community of

learners
■ culturally appropriate

■ culture
■ curriculum
■ developmentally appro-

priate practice (DAP)
■ individually appropriate

■ intentional teachers
■ learning centers
■ position statement

■ push-down curriculum
■ reciprocal relationships
■ scientifically based

curriculum

Carter, M., & Curtis, D. (2014). Designs for living and
learning: Transforming early childhood environments.
St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S. (Eds.). (2009). Devel-
opmentally appropriate practice in early childhood
programs serving children from birth through age 8
(3rd ed.). Washington, DC: National Association for the
Education of Young Children.

Epstein, A. S. (2014). The intentional teacher: Choosing
the best strategies for young children’s learning (Rev.
ed.). Washington, DC: National Association for the Edu-
cation of Young Children.

ASCD Whole Child Initiative
This website provides resources promoting elementary
education that supports all areas of children’s develop-
ment and learning.

National Association for the Education of Young
Children
NAEYC’s website has a special section on resources for
developmentally appropriate practice and play, plus cop-
ies of all their position statements.

ZERO to THREE—National Center for Infants,
Toddlers, and Families
This website provides resources and practical tips for
working with infants, toddlers, and their families.

Readings and Websites

Demonstrate Your Learning
Click here to assess how well you’ve learned the content in this chapter.

M03_BRED6702_03_SE_C03.indd 99 10/7/15 1:11 PM

4
After studying this chapter, you should be able to:

4.1 Distinguish the meanings of development and learning and describe the
relationship between the two.

4.2 Discuss how knowledge of brain development in early childhood informs
teaching practice.

4.3 Identify key components of developmental theories (Erikson, Maslow, Piaget,
Vygotsky, and Bronfenbrenner) and apply them to early childhood practice.

4.4 Identify key components of learning theories (Behaviorism and Social Cogni-
tive theories) and apply them to early childhood practice.

4.5 Explain the role of play in children’s development and learning, and describe
ways teachers can support play in early childhood settings.

4.6 Apply theories of development and learning to early childhood practice.

Applying What We Know
about Children’s Learning
and Development
Learning Outcomes

© Rawpixel/Fotolia

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101

Y vonne Donati is a prekindergarten teacher in an inclusive public school. One of her goals is to create a caring community in which her energetic youngsters learn how to get along and work together. Yvonne’s
approach to guiding children’s behavior is to engage the children in lively discussions of the classroom rules and

how to solve conflicts that arise with their classmates.

In planning curriculum, Yvonne draws on the children’s interests to integrate literacy instruction with science

study of plants or animals, and children often work on small-group projects such as making a terrarium. She

and the children have large-group meetings and she sometimes reads to the whole group, but she keeps these

periods brief. She tries to find ways to make sure the children are physically active such as doing motions to

songs or fingerplays. She also actively engages children’s minds, as when she gives clues for the children to

guess what object is hidden in a paper bag or has them take turns figuring out what a new word means in a story.

When children encounter challenges in their play, Yvonne helps them to come up with their own solutions

rather than solving the problem for them. She asks probing questions: “Why do you think your tomato plant didn’t

grow tall?” “Let’s compare your plant and Juana’s—why is hers taller?”

Because some children in Yvonne’s class have identified disabilities, she regularly meets with the special

education team and cooperates in implementing the children’s individualized education programs (IEPs). Maya has

severe behavior problems, and the team works together to plan and implement a positive behavior support program

to reinforce her desirable behaviors. After a few weeks of systematically working with Maya, Yvonne observes that

the new strategy is working and Maya is less aggressive.

After a month of school, Yvonne observes that every day the block area is dominated by boys, while girls prefer

the dramatic play center. She isn’t sure if this is just reflecting typical gender differences or if there is another

reason. Yvonne knows from studying the importance of play that children benefit from both block building and

pretend play and that the benefits differ. She contemplates assigning children to areas,

but then she designs an experiment. One week she closes the dramatic play center,

and the next week she closes the block center, observing and recording children’s

behavior. Yvonne finds that without the availability of the dramatic play

center, girls freely enter the block area; some boys play with them while

others go elsewhere. On the other hand, when the block center is closed,

the girls continue to play in the dramatic center, but the boys

seem at loose ends and do not choose pretend play. Based on

the results of her experiment, Yvonne institutes a play planning

session each morning to make sure that girls

have block-building opportunities. She also adds

themes and props, such as creating a car wash,

to interest more boys in pretend play. ■

Case Study

T
his brief visit to Yvonne’s classroom reveals several things about her approach to
teaching. Although Yvonne may not be fully aware of it, the decisions she makes,
like those of every teacher, actually reflect various theories of how children learn

and develop. The purpose of this chapter is to help you understand and apply the prevail-
ing theories of child development and learning. At times, beginning as well as experi-
enced teachers wonder why theories matter or what relevance theories have to their work.

We begin by describing how theories of child development and learning are most
useful in informing and inf luencing practice. Next, we describe research on brain
development and its implications. Then, we discuss all the major theories and how

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach102

they apply to early childhood practice. Next, we explain the critically important role
of children’s play, which is supported by the key developmental theories. We conclude
the chapter with a summary of the main principles of child development and learning
derived from research and theory that guide early childhood practice.

Understanding Development
and Learning
Intentional, effective teaching requires that teachers understand how children think and learn,
and how best to support their healthy development at various ages in all areas—physical,
social, emotional, and cognitive. Both development and learning are complicated processes
requiring that teachers not only study research and theory but also study children themselves.

What Is Development?
If you spend any time with early childhood educators, you are likely to hear that it is im-
portant for teachers to understand child development. This is true. But what do they need
to know about development and why is it important? To answer these questions, we must
first define terms. Development refers to age-related change that results from an interac-
tion between biological maturation and physical and/or social experience.

Development occurs as children grow, adapt, and change in response to various ex-
periences. Consider how language develops. Biology plays a role, with babies all over
the world producing similar sounds at about the same age. But language development re-
quires more than maturation. Babies need social interaction with adults and older children
who talk to them. As they grow physically and are able to get around on their own, infants
and toddlers encounter more examples of language interaction, and their speech starts to
take off around age 2 (just as their legs do).

Domains of Development Different areas of human functioning, including phys-
ical, cognitive, social, and emotional, are often described as domains of development.
Physical development refers to biological growth and acquisition of fine motor skills, such
as drawing, and gross motor skills, such as running. Cognitive development is a broad term
encompassing thinking, intelligence, and language abilities. Social development refers to
interpersonal relationships such as the ability to make friends, cooperate, and resolve con-
flicts. Emotional development is the ability to regulate and appropriately express feelings.

Discussions of child development inevitably address these domains as if they were
separate. In reality, of course, human development does not occur in different categories.
Our brains do not have separate compartments for cognition or social development. As-
pects of development are inextricably linked, which is one reason we often talk about
social-emotional development as though it were a single construct. Domains of develop-
ment are an artifact of how researchers study development, rather than how development
actually occurs. The integrated nature of development requires that teachers maintain
their awareness of the whole child at all times.

Recently, researchers and educators have begun to focus less on skills related to specific
domains and more on abilities that cut across traditionally defined developmental domains,
such as executive function and self-regulation (Jones & Bailey, 2014), which we discuss
later in this chapter. Bolstered by new findings from brain research, we now know that such
broad domain-general processes strongly predict children’s success in school and life. For
example, Galinsky (2010) identifies seven essential life skills that every child needs: focus
and self-control, perspective taking, communicating, making connections, critical think-
ing, taking on challenges, and self-directed engaged learning. A similar list is promoted
by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (n.d.): critical thinking, communication, col-
laboration, and creativity. Another way of describing these skills is children’s approach-
es to learning—motivation, interest, persistence, curiosity, engagement, and enthusiasm

development Age-related
change that results from an
interaction between biological
maturation and physical and/or
social experience; development
occurs as children grow, adapt,
and change in response to vari-
ous experiences.

domains of development
Areas of human development
and functioning that include
cognitive, social, emotional,
and physical.

physical development
Biological growth and acquisi-
tion of fine motor and gross
motor skills.

cognitive development Think-
ing, intelligence, and language
abilities.

social development The
ability to establish positive
relationships with adults and
peers, make friends, cooperate,
and resolve conflicts.

emotional development The
ability to regulate and appropri-
ately express feelings.

domain-general processes
Broad abilities that cut across
traditionally defined develop-
mental domains.

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 103

(Hyson, 2012). These lists of goals are overlapping and consistent, and they demonstrate
the connection between development and learning, which we define in the next section.

What Is Learning?
Learning is a change in knowledge or skill that results from experience or instruction.
Learning and development are not the same things, although they affect each other. Learn-
ing is a similar, though not identical, process whether a person is 3 years old or 33. For
example, for a first grader, learning to read isn’t completely different from the way it is
for an older person.

Because experience plays a role in both development and learning, there is a close
connection between these processes, especially in the early years of life when chil-
dren are growing and changing so rapidly. Sometimes development leads to learning
(Piaget,  1952). For example, when a baby develops the ability to grasp objects and
begins to put them in her mouth, she learns a lot about the objects in her
world. Some are hard, others soft; some taste good, others don’t. In this
case, her development fosters her learning. Children’s developmental level
can also put limitations on what they are capable of learning. For example, preschoolers
can do some abstract thinking, but they won’t fully understand complex, abstract con-
cepts such as chronological time until they are older.

Learning also drives development. As children participate in the activities of their
cultural groups and come to understand more complex concepts, their cognitive devel-
opment is affected (Rogoff, 2012; Vygotsky, 1978). What children learn at home and
in their cultural community powerfully affects their development. Consider the devel-
opmental differences between a 5-year-old child in America, whose primary “job” is to
attend kindergarten, and a 5-year-old in rural Africa, whose primary responsibility is to
transport water for the family.

The Role of Theory
Centuries ago, human beings thought that the world was flat. No one wanted to venture
too far out onto the sea for fear of falling off the edge. Slowly, more people traveled farther
from shore, and others observed that the tops of arriving ships appeared first and then grad-
ually the rest. If the earth were flat, the entire ship would appear at once. These observa-
tions and experiences led to the conclusion that the earth is not flat, but is actually a sphere.

This simple example illustrates the power of theories. A theory is an explanation of
how information and observations are organized and relate to one another. As we can see,
theories are important because they affect how people think and behave. In education,
theories of learning and development affect how people treat children, how they structure
environments, and how they teach.

The Relationship between Theory,
Research, and Practice
Where do theories come from? Theories usually evolve from research, which can take the
form of systematic observations over time or scientifically controlled experiments. In fact,
a theory derives from a hypothesis, which is a tentative explanation for a phenomenon.
The more research is available to support the “truth” of a theory, the more useful the the-
ory becomes in guiding practice. Yvonne had a theory about why girls and boys play dif-
ferently. She tested and then revised her theory by conducting an informal research study.

When research findings contradict earlier conclusions, theories evolve, are discarded,
or are replaced with new ones. In the early part of the 20th century, the prevailing theory
of child development was maturationist. According to this theory, derived from research
by Arnold Gesell (1940; Ames & Ilg, 1979), the sequence of changes in abilities and be-
havior is largely predetermined by children’s biological growth processes rather than by
their experiences or learning.

learning A change in knowl-
edge or skill that results from
experience or instruction.

theory An explanation of how
information and observations
are organized and relate to one
another.

During early childhood,
children’s development and
learning are closely connected.
Right from the start, babies put
things in their mouths, which
teaches them about objects in
the world—how they feel and
what they do.

hypothesis An assumption
about or tentative explanation
of a phenomenon.

maturationist Theory of
development that assumes that
the sequence of changes in
abilities and behavior is largely
predetermined by children’s
biological growth processes
rather than by their experiences
or learning.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach104

Maturation theory led to the notion that teachers needed to wait until children were ready
for experiences to be effective. Because it was assumed that children were not ready to read
until first grade, few literacy experiences were provided in preschool or kindergarten. Re-
search in the intervening years demonstrated that differences in children’s abilities are heav-
ily influenced by their experiences (Sameroff, 2009; Tierney & Nelson, 2009). As a result,
maturationist theory has been displaced by other theories. Nevertheless, maturationist theory
continues to influence some practices such as kindergarten “redshirting”—holding children
out of kindergarten until they are a year older and presumably more ready to learn.

Theories can also drive the way research is conducted and findings are interpreted. For
example, if a theory is assumed to be universally true for all children, then research that sup-
ports the theory is assumed to apply to all children. Even if the research has been conducted
only with white, middle-class children, the findings are applied to children of color or children
of different socioeconomic, linguistic, or cultural backgrounds. Understanding the role of cul-
ture in development and learning requires that theory and research be more cautiously inter-
preted through these lenses. Therefore, despite the frequent claim that theories are “universal”
and apply equally well to all children, they need to be evaluated from a broader perspective, as
described in the Culture Lens: The Effect of Culture on Research and Theory feature.

Culture Lens
The Effect of Culture on Research and Theory

An especially important consideration in evaluating theo-
ries is the cultural background of the children and fami-
lies who participated in the research. For decades, one
theory of how parental child rearing affects preschool
children’s development has been assumed to apply to
all children and families (Baumrind, 1971). The theory
identifies three parenting styles:

• Authoritative. Loving, nurturing, involved, and sensitive
parents who explain their reasons for discipline have
children who are motivated to learn and are well ad-
justed socially and emotionally.

• Authoritarian. Restrictive, punishing, rejecting, and
controlling parents have children who lack initiative
and are inhibited.

• Permissive. Parents who are warm and accepting of
children but minimally involved and laissez-faire
about discipline have children with the lowest levels
of motivation and achievement.

Authoritative parenting is found to be the most effective
style of child rearing. Most research on the theory, how-
ever, has been conducted with Caucasian middle-class
families. More recent research with Head Start families
(McWayne, Owsianik, Green, & Fantuzzo, 2008) using
culturally familiar language and behaviors identified sim-
ilar but not identical types of parenting:

• Active-responsive (e.g., tell child “I’m proud” when he
tries to be good).

• Active-restrictive (e.g., I spank the child when she is
disobedient).

• Passive-permissive (e.g., tell child “I’ll punish,” but don’t).

Research with low-income, urban, African American families
found no relationships between these different parenting

styles and preschool children’s social- emotional skills.
What might account for these contradictory findings
between diverse cultural groups? When children grow up
in poverty-stricken, dangerous communities and face possi-
ble discrimination and prejudice, parents’ priorities reflect
these conditions. They may express their love by focusing
on survival skills and making sure that their children behave
maturely and competently in situations where people are
biased against them. With these goals in mind, the effec-
tiveness of restrictive parenting makes more sense.

In addition, compared to Caucasian middle-class fami-
lies, African American child rearing tends to be spread
among a number of people in the extended family and
community. The mother may be relatively passive and
permissive, for example, whereas others in the child’s
circle such as a grandmother or aunt may be more re-
strictive or actively responsive.

What can we conclude from revisiting a widely accept-
ed child development theory like Baumrind’s parenting
framework? Research that leads to a new theory needs to
be conducted with diverse populations of children and fami-
lies. Otherwise, the theory simply can’t be said to apply
to them. In addition, research needs to be interpreted
through a wide lens that considers the social and cultural
contexts in which children live—in this case, the realities
of life for low-income, urban, African American families.

Sources: “Current Patterns of Parental Authority,” by D. Baumrind,
1971, Developmental Psychology, 4, 1–103; “Parenting Behaviors
and Preschool Children’s Social and Emotional Skills: A Question
of the Consequential Validity of Traditional Parenting Constructs for
Low-Income African Americans,” by C. M. McWayne, M. Owsianik,
L. E. Green, and J. W. Fantuzzo, 2008, Early Childhood Research
Quarterly, 23, 173–192.

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 105

Why Study Child Development and Learning?
Understanding theories of learning and development is particularly important for early
childhood teachers for several reasons. During the first eight years of life, children grow
and change more rapidly than at any other period of the life span. As a result, development
and learning are more closely connected in early childhood, making the developmental
accomplishments and learning that take place at this point critically important founda-
tions for what follows.

Understanding child development and learning helps teachers in many ways,
including:

• Setting and evaluating goals that are achievable for most children within a given
age range and that also challenge children to go on learning

• Accurately interpreting children’s behavior as predictable for their age or in need
of intervention

• Knowing predictable sequences of development and learning to plan curriculum
and adapt teaching to accommodate where individual children are in the sequence

• Predicting the kinds of topics and experiences that will be interesting and meaning-
ful to children of different ages

• Understanding how children’s social and cultural contexts affect their learning and
development

• Using information about typical and atypical development to identify and diagnose
potential disabilities or developmental delays in children, as well as to determine if
children’s development is advanced

In previous sections, we defined and described the relationships between develop-
ment and learning, and between theory, research, and practice. Teachers have much to
learn about these topics, but we begin with the most current area of new knowledge, brain
development.

✓ Check Your Understanding 4.1: Understanding Development and Learning

Brain Development
and Implications for Practice
Some of the most exciting discoveries about human development ever made have occurred
in the past 30 years as advanced technologies have enabled scientists to directly study
how the brain grows and changes. Tools such as positron emission tomography (PET)
scans and functional magnetic resonance imagery (fMRI) open windows into how the
brain functions when people perform different tasks and how the brains of children and
adults compare (Fusaro & Nelson, 2009). An explosion of brain research has captured the
imagination of the general public and policy makers, in addition to educators and parents.

A major conclusion of this research is that brain development results from an interaction
between what is happening in children’s minds and their experiences in the world (Center
on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 2010). In other words, experiences, both
positive and negative affect brain development, and brain growth and change affect learning.

How the Brain Promotes Learning
The brain is the most complex of human organisms, the most important to overall func-
tioning, yet we know the least about it. But we are learning more.

The Physical Brain The brain is composed of a massive number of nerve cells, or
neurons, that receive information through the senses or from other neurons and then
communicate information back to other parts of the body (Fusaro & Nelson, 2009). One

neurons Nerve cells in the
brain that receive information
through the senses or from
other neurons, and then com-
municate information back to
other parts of the body.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach106

connection might alert the baby to look at a human face; another might signal a smile in
response to mommy’s face. These connections that carry information between neurons
are called synapses.

In utero, the baby’s brain undergoes astonishing growth. Neurons are produced at a
rapid rate, and they migrate (or move) to the places in the brain where they will develop
and be used. They also begin the process of differentiation—specialization for particular
functions. The processes of neuron production, migration, and differentiation are mostly
directed by genes. However, they are also affected by maternal health, nutrition, and en-
vironmental risks such as alcohol or drug use.

The adult brain has about 100 billion neurons, about the same number that babies
have at birth. The major difference between the newborn brain and adult brain, however,
is the intricate network of connections (synapses) between the neurons, the brain’s wiring
system (Fusaro & Nelson, 2009). During the first 2 to 3 years of life, babies’ brains over-
produce synapses, going from about 2,500 at birth to 15,000—many more than adults
have. After that, the brain starts pruning unnecessary or unused synapses. Throughout
life, new synapses are formed and others are pruned away.

Pruning is important because it contributes to efficient brain operation, aids learning and
memory, and increases the brain’s flexibility, actions that neuroscientists term plasticity.
Plasticity is the brain’s ability to develop and change in response to experiences. After prun-
ing, fewer and stronger connections among brain cells strengthen those that remain. This
process is similar to pruning a bush that has grown too large; cutting off  unneeded branches
strengthens those that remain and may mean more blossoms in the future.

The Role of Experience in Brain Development During early childhood—a
period of rapid brain growth—the brain is most receptive and responsive to experience
(Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 2010). Children’s relationships
with the family and community impact brain development and influence how well the

neurological system works. Both positive and negative experiences modify
the brain architecture, with the most emotionally intense and most meaning-
ful experiences having the greatest effects (Levitt, 2008). For these reasons,
highly stressful experiences during early childhood can have lasting negative
consequences (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 2010).

Although too little stimulation can lead to poor outcomes, exposing
young children to overstimulating environments is not supported by brain re-
search (Thompson, 2008). Babies and toddlers in particular become stressed
when they are overstimulated. They either tune out (usually by going to sleep)
or act out (usually by crying). Either way, they aren’t learning.

Brain research indicates that the years up to age 10 are the prime time for
learning. Instead of critical periods, researchers use the term windows of

opportunity to suggest that there are times in life when the brain is most open to certain
types of experiences. One such example is language development, as described in the
feature What Works: Exposing Babies to Different Languages.

Young children’s brains are much more active, connected, and flexible than are
adults’ (Thompson, 2008). However, this does not mean, as some people have concluded,
that the first few years of life are such a critical period that after age 3 or 5, the window for
learning closes. On the contrary, brains remain flexible throughout life, as demonstrated
when an 80-year-old learns to knit or a 58-year-old learns Italian.

Implications for Children
Fostering optimal early brain development is essential for positive outcomes for children.
Reviews of brain research (Fusaro & Nelson, 2009; Tierney & Nelson, 2009) conclude
that:

• The brain’s most significant development occurs before birth, placing great impor-
tance on prenatal care.

• Early experiences change and organize the physical structure of the brain.

synapses Connections in the
brain that carry information
between neurons.

pruning The process whereby
the brain eliminates unneces-
sary or unused synapses, which
contributes to efficient brain
operation, aids learning and
memory, and increases the
brain’s flexibility.

plasticity The brain’s abil-
ity to develop and change in
response to experiences.

windows of opportunity
Periods of time during which
human brains are particularly
susceptible and responsive to
certain types of experience.

Classroom Connection
Watch this video to learn more
about how the young child’s
experiences and interactions
influence the architecture and
health of the developing brain.

https://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=m_5u8-QSh6A

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 107

• Different parts of the brain are more responsive to experiences at different times.
There are windows of opportunity for particular types of learning.

• Neglect, abuse, and stress pose serious threats to healthy brain development. Pre-
vention and early intervention become even more important in light of the poten-
tially lasting negative consequences for brain development.

• Brains develop best when children experience loving relationships, play, oppor-
tunities to explore their world, interesting and engaging things to learn about, and
healthy, safe environments.

• Brain development is integrated; as children get older, the areas within the brain
become better connected.

During preschool and the primary grades, considerable growth and change take place
in the frontal lobes of the brain, the areas that are responsible for regulating thought and
action (Obradović, Portilla, & Boyce, 2012). As a result, the following skills improve
considerably during these years: attention, impulse control, planning, reasoning, problem
solving, and memory.

Implications for Practice
Brain research has electrified public interest in early childhood education. Nevertheless,
neuroscience provides clearer guidance about the kinds of experiences that harm develop-
ment, such as prolonged stress, rather than those that enrich it (Center on the Developing
Child at Harvard University, 2010). Learning to handle the typical stresses of childhood
is a normal part of growing up, such as when children go to the doctor or start a new

What Works
Exposing Babies to Different Languages
One of the conclusions from research on brain development is that
there are windows of opportunity during which human brains are
particularly susceptible and responsive to certain types of expe-
riences. One of those windows relates to language development
among very young children.

Patricia Kuhl is a leading authority on speech development.
She has conducted numerous studies with very young infants to
test babies’ ability to discriminate the sounds of diverse languages.
Using MEG (magnetic) technology to view stimulation of different
areas of the brain, Kuhl and colleagues found that the auditory
(hearing) and motor areas of the brain were activated when hearing
speech syllables of any language, including those they had never
heard. This means that American babies reacted when new sounds
were introduced, whether in English, Spanish, or other languages.
Kuhl next investigated what would happen after babies were a little
older and had more experience hearing the language around them.
At 11 months of age, babies showed more auditory reaction to sylla-
bles from their own language, and more motor reaction to syllables
from another language. This suggests that by 11 months, babies
already know the sounds from their own language, and that they
are attempting to understand and make the sounds from their non-
native language. Apparently, long before babies can talk, the brain
is practicing the sounds, especially those of their native language.

This research supports the value
of intensive social interaction for learn-
ing language for infants, for building the brain’s
capacity to learn and use language. Previously,
Kuhl and others have found that if children are introduced to a
second language before 7 years of age, they are able to speak it
like a native—that is, without an accent. After about age 10, how-
ever, people who learn another language are never able to speak it
like a native speaker. Contrary to this finding, most “foreign” lan-
guage instruction in U.S. schools doesn’t occur until high school,
long after this window of opportunity has closed, making learning
a new language more difficult.

What brain research tells us is that when babies are born, a
great deal of neurological capacity is in place. But during the first
few years of life, the brain changes in major ways in response to
experience—the brain learns, especially from human interaction.
Which leads to another conclusion: The brain—and the baby, of
course—learn best from interaction with people.

Source: “Infants’ Brain Responses to Speech Suggest Analysis by Synthe-
sis,” by P. K. Kuhl, R. R. Ramirez, A. Bosseler, J. L. Lin, and T. Imada,
2014, Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, 111(31),
11238–11245.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach108

school. At other times, children may experience more long-lasting stressful experiences,
such as an injury or death in the family, which are difficult but tolerable as long as a caring
adult is there for support. The biggest threat to children’s developing brains is toxic stress,
which occurs when children experience intense, frequent, and/or prolonged anxiety such
as abuse, neglect, violence, or economic deprivation without adult support to help them
cope (Shonkoff, Garner, & the Committee on Psychological Aspects of Child and Family
Health, 2012). Such prolonged stress can impair brain growth and have lasting negative
consequences for physical and mental health.

Threats to brain development reinforce the need to prevent child abuse and neglect
and to eliminate risk factors such as poor nutrition and exposure to toxic substances. Like-
wise, evidence from brain research supports the need for Head Start–like comprehensive
family services to minimize stress and trauma in children’s lives and improve the mental
and physical health of caregivers.

At least at the present time, brain research is not precise enough to provide guid-
ance about specific ways to optimize development (Center on the Developing Child at
Harvard University, 2010). In general, it validates the importance of positive relationships
with parents and teachers. And because the areas of the brain that contribute to social-
emotional and cognitive development are connected, early childhood programs should
focus on both (Thompson, 2008).

However, we have much less knowledge of specific curricula, products, or teaching
practices that enhance brain development; therefore, teachers should be wary of products
that claim to be based on brain research (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard
University, 2010). It appears that the best course is to use educational practices that have
been shown to be effective. Neuroscience is most useful when coupled with the larger
body of knowledge about theories of development and learning, which we describe in the
sections that follow.

✓ Check Your Understanding 4.2: Brain Development and Implications for Practice

Child Development Theories
In this section, we present the theories of child development that are influential in early
childhood education today. One of the most debated aspects of human development has
been whether biology or experience (nature or nurture) plays the bigger role in explain-
ing individual differences. Some theories place greater emphasis on inborn, biologically
driven changes, whereas others consider the environment to be the primary influence.
Most of the prominent theories, however, reflect the prevailing view that human develop-
ment is a product of both biology/heredity and environment/experiences.

Multiple theories exist because of the various dimensions of development, such as
social, emotional, and cognitive. The work of Erik Erikson and Abraham Maslow, which
we describe in the sections that follow, has been influential in guiding practice in social
and emotional development and motivation to learn. We follow with a description of two
developmental theories that explain how children develop cognitive skills, Piaget’s Cog-
nitive Developmental Theory and Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory. The section closes
with a comprehensive theory of human development that explains how characteristics of
the individual child and the settings interact, Bronfenbrenner’s Bio-Ecological Systems
theory.

Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory
of Human Development
Psychologist Erik Erikson (1902–1994) was influenced by cultural anthropologists and
came to see the importance of culture and social experience in shaping development.

toxic stress Children’s experi-
ence of intense, frequent, and/
or prolonged anxiety such as
abuse, neglect, violence, or
economic deprivation without
adult support to help them
cope.

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 109

Based on extensive investigations conducted with his wife, Joan, Erikson published his
seminal book, Childhood and Society (1950/1963).

He proposed an eight-stage theory of personal and social development in which at
each stage of life an individual confronts a major challenge or “crisis.” Successful nego-
tiation of the crisis requires achieving a balance between two possible extremes. If crises
are not resolved positively at particular points in the life span, Erikson postulated that later
problems will ensue. Table 4.1 provides an overview of Erikson’s eight stages, the typical
crisis, and successful resolution.

Stages of Personal and Social Development in Early Childhood
Erikson hypothesized the following four stages of psychological and social development
in the lives of children. He assumed that mothers and other family members are the
principal actors in children’s lives during the first three stages. However, children today
participate in out-of-home child care from birth. Therefore, teachers also play signifi-
cant roles in helping young children negotiate these critical life events. Following are
examples of how features of Erikson’s stages can be seen in young children’s behaviors
and relationships.

Stage 1: Trust versus mistrust (birth to 18 months). Eight-month-old Martin is stand-
ing up in his crib sobbing and bouncing on his chubby legs. His family child care pro-
vider, Joanne, comes in and soothingly says, “I can tell you are wet and hungry. Let’s
change your diaper now.” Martin sighs as she picks him up lovingly. Joanne knows
Martin well enough to interpret his cries and respond accordingly; in turn, Martin is
comforted by the fact that when he cries, Joanne is there for him.

The major task of infants and their caregivers is to develop a sense of trust in the
world, a feeling that their needs for food and love will be met. Babies’ trust develops
through responsive relationships with caregivers. If adults are inconsistent or rejecting,
the baby learns that the world is an untrustworthy place and that he has little power to
influence what happens to him.

TAble 4.1 Erikson’s Stages of Personal and Social Development

Approximate Age Stage Lessons Learned from Life’s Challenges

Infants Birth to 1 year Trust vs. mistrust Gaining feelings of security and positive attachment, learning to
trust other people to meet needs as well as exert some control over
environment

Toddlers 1 to 3 years Autonomy vs. doubt Becoming aware of increasing competence, strong will to
practice new skills without restriction, and growing sense of
self as individual

Preschoolers 3 to 5 years Initiative vs. guilt Becoming more purposeful in initiating play with other children
and toys, increasing power and ability to act without taking too
many risks

Elementary School-age 6 to
12 years

Industry vs. inferiority Becoming confident in school work, mastering challenging tasks,
and acting responsibly

Adolescence 10 to 20 years Identity vs. role confusion Finding sense of self and building relationships with peers

Young adulthood Intimacy vs. isolation Building close relationships with sexual partners, friends, and
colleagues, beginning career

Middle adulthood Generativity vs. self-
absorption

Gaining satisfaction from life’s work and contributing to larger
society, nurturing next generations and caring for others

Late adulthood Integrity vs. despair Reflecting on life with contentment, engaging in rewarding
activities, coping with loss and end of life challenges

Source: Based on Child Development and Education (5th ed.) by T. M. McDevitt and J. E. Ormrod, 2013, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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Stage 2: Autonomy versus doubt (18 months to 3 years). Belinda is 22 months old.
She has been in the same child care center with the same primary caregiver, Sandy,
since she was 5 months old. She and Sandy have a warm, loving relationship. But
lately, Belinda has begun to resist just about everything Sandy wants her to do. As
soon as Sandy finishes dressing her, Belinda starts pulling off her shoes or shirt. She
yells, “I want red shirt.” Sandy calmly says, “Okay, you can choose. Do you want
your red shirt or your yellow one (the one she is already wearing)?” Belinda pumps
up her chest and says, “Yellow one.”

Belinda’s behavior may seem like a step backward toward infancy, but actually it is
evidence of her advancing development. By 18 months, most babies are mobile and are
soon able to communicate their wants and needs in words. They begin to separate from
primary caregivers, try to do things for themselves, and assert their autonomy with state-
ments like “Me do it!” or “Mine.” This desire to break away from caregivers is sometimes
called the “terrible twos” because it can lead to power struggles. One minute the child
wants to hold onto the adult, and the next minute she wants to push away. But becoming
a more autonomous human being is a major task of growing up. If adults are too harsh
or restrictive with children at this age, children can feel powerless and doubt their own
competence. One effective strategy is giving a toddler a manageable amount of power,
such as Sandy did by offering a choice of two shirts.

Stage 3: Initiative versus guilt (3 to 6 years). Donald teaches 4-year-olds. He loves
this age group because he finds that most 4-year-olds can do many things on their
own, while at the same time expressing their unbridled joy at every new accomplish-
ment. He sets up his classroom and daily schedule to allow for as much choice as
possible, while also being available to assist children during these periods of child-
initiated activity. Dorcas especially needs his help because her parents have been
somewhat overprotective and she is hesitant to try new experiences.

The preschool and kindergarten years are marked for most children by an increasing
sense of their own abilities, especially improved motor skills and exploding language
capacity. This sense of confidence, at times unwarranted, leads children to initiate their
own activities. When children’s initiatives are regularly punished or thwarted, they may
begin to feel guilty and withdraw. The resolution for negotiating this stage is making sure
that encouraging children’s initiative and risk-taking is balanced by ensuring their safety.

Stage 4: Industry versus inferiority (6 to 12 years). Melodie’s second-grade class is
working in small groups on subtraction problems. One group works feverishly, argu-
ing over the correct answers and giving each other high fives when they figure them
out. Another group of children is quieter, appearing frustrated and unsure. Looking
over at the others, Max says, “We’re the dumb group. We’ll never do good in math.”

During the elementary school years, children’s spheres expand, and the opinions of
teachers and peers become more important and parents’ less so. School work becomes
a major part of children’s lives, and they begin to find satisfaction in achievement and
in mastering new skills. They also begin to compare themselves to others and are more
capable of judging their own performances. When children’s accomplishments are not up
to their standards, they may develop a sense of inferiority.

Erikson emphasized that development does not end during childhood but continues
throughout the life span. Adults—students, teachers, and parents—will see themselves in
the later stages (see Table 4.1). Understanding the struggles of the later stages—identity
versus role confusion, intimacy versus isolation, generativity versus self-absorption, and
integrity versus despair—can provide teachers with insight into the behavior of adoles-
cents (who may be parents) and other adults, including parents and colleagues. However,
the first four stages are most relevant to the work of early childhood educators.

Implications for Teaching Erikson’s theory has important implications for the
social-emotional climates of early childhood programs, as we can see from visiting the

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 111

Love and Learn Child Care Center. In this center, babies and toddlers have primary care-
givers who stay with them for 2 or 3 years so teachers get to know them well and can
provide consistent, responsive care. The preschool and kindergarten classes are structured
with extended periods of time for children to initiate their own activities within the op-
tions that the teacher provides. Teachers encourage children to voice their opinions and
ideas. The after-school program provides time, space, and materials for primary-grade
children to pursue and master hobbies and interests such as photography, computers,
painting, sports, and writing stories.

In this book, we advocate a both/and approach to many questions regarding early
childhood practice. Erikson’s theory is an example of this approach because each of the
crises that children must negotiate is resolved by achieving a balance between the two
poles. Trust is essential, for example, but children also need to develop a healthy sense of
caution when interacting with strangers. Similarly, preschool children’s initiative should
be encouraged, but they also need to learn limits.

Erikson’s theory emphasizes the role of the sociocultural context on children’s per-
sonal and social development, but parts of his theory assume particular cultural perspec-
tives. For example, his emphasis on the singular role of the mother during the first three
stages doesn’t reflect the value that some cultural groups place on multiple caregivers
(see the Culture Lens feature on page 104).

Maslow’s Self-Actualization Theory
Abraham Maslow (1908–1970) was part of a group of psychologists, called humanists,
who studied healthy personality development rather than mental illness, as psychologists
had done previously. Maslow (1954) developed self-actualization theory, which identi-
fies a hierarchy of needs, as depicted in Figure 4.1, that motivate people’s behavior and
goals that are necessary for healthy personality development.

Hierarchy of Human Needs Maslow’s hierarchy is a pyramid depicting the
relationship between needs and goals. The bottom two layers represent the basic
physical needs required to sustain life, such as food, water, and shelter, and the
fundamental psychological needs for safety and security. Maslow postulated that
unless these needs are met, humans cannot move up the hierarchy to achieve the
next goals: love and a sense of belonging and then self-esteem. The top of the
pyramid represents self-actualization, which is achievement of life’s goals in
many individual forms. Goals that contribute to self-actualization are things
that make life meaningful and satisfying. Maslow speculated that self-actu-
alization is not achieved by everyone, although most people strive for it.

Implications for Practice Maslow’s theory is useful as a
framework for understanding how people are motivated. If children
are hungry, it follows that they cannot focus their attention on any-
thing else. Similarly, if children are frightened or emotionally in-
secure, they cannot learn effectively. Meeting children’s basic
physical needs as well as their need for psychological safety
and emotional security is at the heart of good early childhood
practice. Consider free school lunch programs and state li-
censing standards that set requirements for operating a child
care center—these mandates are designed to protect chil-
dren’s health, safety, and security.

Effective early childhood programs go beyond meeting
children’s basic needs, however. Their goals include estab-
lishing positive, affectionate relationships among children
and adults (the need for love and belonging) and building
children’s competence in all areas and, therefore, their self-
esteem. Meeting children’s needs and helping them achieve

self-actualization theory
Maslow’s view that behavior
and learning are motivated by a
hierarchy of needs.

FIGURE 4.1 Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Maslow’s
Hierachy of Human Needs graphically depicts how successful
relationships, positive self-esteem, and learning depend on a strong
foundation of physical safety and security.

Source: Maslow, A., Motivation and personality. © 2013. Reprinted and
electronically reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc.,
Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Ba
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Self-
actualization

Self-esteem andrespect for others

Sense of belonging and love

Psychological safetyand security

Physical needsAir, water, food, shelter, sex

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach112

these goals contributes to life satisfaction and successful learning. Although children will
not reach the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy—self-actualization—the foundations are
laid during those early years. Adults might want to consider that a career teaching young
children can be a self-actualizing experience, especially for those who find this work
meaningful, playful, rewarding, and contributing to a better world.

The theories of both Erikson and Maslow apply primarily to social and personality
development and the motivation to learn. Next, we turn to two theorists—Piaget and
Vygotsky—whose work applies primarily to cognitive development. Because all domains of
development are so integrally connected, however, these theories also have implications
for social-emotional development.

Piaget and Cognitive Developmental Theory
The cognitive-developmental theory of Jean Piaget (1896–1980) has had enormous im-
pact on early childhood education. Although parts of his theory—particularly the stages
of cognitive development—have been criticized, he remains a towering and influential
figure decades after his death.

Swiss-born, Piaget spent the greater part of his life observing and listening to chil-
dren of various ages, beginning with detailed observations of his own children as infants.
Piaget’s wife, Valentine, did most of the minute-by-minute, day-by-day observing and
recording of the children’s behavior beginning at birth using the only tools available at the
time, pen and paper (Gopnik, Meltzoff, & Kuhl, 1999).

Several aspects of Piaget’s theory readily apply to education. The following sections
present key concepts for teachers: constructivism, the process of learning (adaptation),
types of knowledge, and the general idea of stages of cognitive development.

Constructivist Learning Theory Piaget’s relatively complex theory can be
summed up in a simple sentence: Children think differently from adults. Einstein called
this discovery by Piaget “so simple that only a genius could have thought of it” (Papert,
1999). Piaget believed that children’s minds are not empty vessels to be filled with knowl-
edge by adults; instead, children actively make sense of their experiences by building or
constructing their own knowledge. Piaget’s theory of how children learn is called
constructivism.

From his own perspective as a scientist, Piaget viewed children as little scientists who
hypothesize about how the world works, and continually test and refine their own theories
(Piaget, 1955). The following example illustrates how Piaget (1930) did his work and how
a young child thinks:

Piaget: Where does the wind come from?
Ost (age 4): From outside.
Piaget: How is it made outside?
Ost: By the motor cars.
Piaget: What else can make the wind?
Ost: Bicycles, trams, carts, dust.
Piaget: What else?
Ost: When you blow, when you sweep. (p. 35)

This dialogue demonstrates Piaget’s idea that children develop their own theories of how
the world works. With their experiences, children test their theories and eventually either
strengthen, change, or discard them.

How Development Occurs: The Process of Adaptation One way we
can tell that children construct their own knowledge is that they come up with their own
ideas about or explanations for events. This is one reason why young children can be so
enchanting. Five-year-old Pearson arrives at kindergarten one morning and proudly an-
nounces to his teacher, “I know what A + A is—B!” Pearson hasn’t discovered algebra, but
he does apply what he has learned about how numbers work (1 + 1 = 2) to the alphabet.

constructivism Learning
theory derived from the work
of Jean Piaget; assumes that
children actively build their
knowledge from firsthand
experiences in stimulating
environments.

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 113

However mistaken Pearson is at this point, he is clearly thinking and trying to connect what
he is learning to what he already knows.

Piaget believed that all children, like Pearson, have an inborn ability to organize and
make sense of their experiences. Piaget coined the term scheme or schema for the orga-
nizing structures people use to think or guide behavior. Schemes develop and change with
experience. Toddler Veronica has a big German shepherd dog named Darby. When Ve-
ronica meets the Labrador next door, she calls him Darby, too. Her mom responds, “He’s
a doggie, but his name isn’t Darby. It’s Milo.” Then, Veronica sees a pony at the petting
zoo and exclaims with glee, “Doggie!” But when she goes to pet the pony, she realizes he
is much taller than either Darby or Milo. Again, her mother clarifies: “No, he has four legs
like Darby and Milo, but he’s a pony, not a doggie.”

After many such experiences, Veronica changes her scheme for dogs (including the
fact that dogs are not all the same) and another scheme for ponies. This process of chang-
ing schemes in response to experiences is called adaptation, and occurs in two ways:
through assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation occurs when new information or
experience is understood in connection with an existing scheme. Veronica assimilated her
experience with Milo into her scheme for dogs.

By contrast, if the new information doesn’t fit within an existing scheme, the child
must modify that scheme or construct a new one, a process called accommodation.
In Veronica’s case, the pony couldn’t be assimilated into her doggie scheme, so a new
scheme for pony had to be created. As Veronica gets older and has many more experi-
ences, she will create different schemes to organize this basic information. Pony will be
connected with the general scheme of animals, as well as the narrower scheme of animals
you can ride.

When Veronica touched the pony and her mother gave her new information, she ex-
perienced disequilibrium, which is an imbalance in thinking that occurs when new in-
formation or physical experience cannot be understood in terms of what is already known
(i.e., cannot be assimilated). Piaget believed that human beings seek equilibrium—we
want the world to make sense, so we try to restore balance by creating new schemes or
adapting existing ones, the process of equilibration.

Piaget theorized that learning depends on this process of adapting schemes through
assimilation and accommodation in order to achieve equilibrium. He also believed that

scheme or schema The orga-
nization of mental structures
people use to think or guide be-
havior; the structures develop
and change with experience.

adaptation The mental
process of altering concepts
(schemes) in response to
experience, which occurs in
two ways: through assimilation
and accommodation.

assimilation When new
information or experience is
understood in connection with
existing knowledge (schemes).

accommodation When new
information or experience
doesn’t fit within an existing
concept (scheme), the child
must modify it or construct a
new scheme.

disequilibrium An imbalance
in thinking that occurs when
new information or physical ex-
perience cannot be understood
in terms of what is already
known (cannot be assimilated).

equilibration The process
whereby humans try to make
sense of new experiences by cre-
ating new concepts (schemes) or
adapting existing ones.

As young children play and interact with objects and other people, they construct their own understanding
about the world, such as what a crayon can do and how paper is used.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach114

to change schemes, or accommodate, children need hands-on physical experience (they
need to act on objects) and social interaction with peers and adults who help clarify their
thinking. In the case of Veronica, her pony scheme was constructed through her real-life
encounter at the zoo as well as her conversations with her mother.

Types of Knowledge Another important point of Piaget’s theory is that there are
different kinds of knowledge. Piaget believed that children’s minds develop as the result
of interactions between experience and biology. But the process is not identical for every
type of learning. In fact, Piaget (1952) identified three types of knowledge—physical,
logico-mathematical, and social-conventional—each acquired in different ways.

• Physical knowledge is understanding how objects move and function in space—
how the physical world works. Two-year-old Evan loves to watch the rubber ball
roll down the ramp, and repeats the action over and over. Then he tries using a rub-
ber block. Even though the block is soft like the ball, it doesn’t cooperate. Evan’s
hands-on experience with the ball and block adds to his knowledge of how different
objects function in the physical world.

• Logico-mathematical knowledge is the relationships that are constructed in our
minds between objects or concepts. Unlike physical knowledge, logico-
mathematical knowledge is not directly observable. While playing with his ramp,
Evan sees that Delia has two small balls and he has one big one. He decides that he
wants a second ball. The idea that two balls are more than one ball is an example of
logico-mathematical knowledge. Evan created the relationship between the objects
in his mind; it does not exist otherwise. He could just as easily have focused on the
relationship of size instead of quantity and decided to keep the big ball.

• Social-conventional knowledge is the culturally agreed-on names and symbols
that need to be transmitted to the learner directly. For example, the letters of the
alphabet, number names, and the meaning of the colors on the stoplight are all ar-
bitrary. This kind of knowledge can’t be reinvented by every learner. Usually,
children learn these symbols by repeated exposure (hearing and seeing them
frequently) or being directly taught.

A challenge for teachers is that different types of knowledge require different types
of teaching and learning. Just because social-conventional knowledge is most efficiently
learned through instruction does not mean that other types of knowledge can be easily
acquired this way. Complex concepts such as counting, which is logico-mathematical
knowledge, require much deeper understanding than simply reciting the number names.
At the same time, children can’t learn to count if they don’t know the number sequence,
just as they can’t learn to read if they don’t know the alphabet. Therefore, in constructing
their understanding of concepts, children often draw on all three kinds of knowledge.

Cognition and Biology: Stages of Cognitive Development Piaget be-
lieved that biology plays a key role in cognitive development, with specific cognitive
abilities changing in significant ways as children get older. His theory identifies four
stages of cognition, as listed in Table 4.2. Piaget theorized that although the ages were
approximate, the order of the stages is fixed and that every child goes through each stage.

Sensorimotor Stage (Birth to Age 2) During the years from birth to about age 2,
children learn about the world through a combination of their sensory abilities—sight,
hearing, taste, touch, smell—and their motor skills. Newborn and young infants rely on
reflexes such as sucking and grasping to build schemes. When baby Sonia grasps her
rattle and brings it to her mouth, she finds out lots of things about the rattle—it makes a
noise she likes, and it feels hard and cold. Another characteristic of the sensorimotor pe-
riod is that babies lack object permanence, which means that when an object is no longer
in their sight, it ceases to exist for them. For example, if Mommy hides the favorite rattle
under a blanket, Sonia won’t look for it. Then when the blanket is removed, Sonia will
inevitably be surprised to find the rattle there.

physical knowledge Under-
standing how objects move and
function in space and how the
physical world works.

logico-mathematical
knowledge The relationships
that are constructed in our
minds between objects or
concepts.

social-conventional
knowledge The culturally
agreed-on names and symbols
that need to be transmitted to
the learner directly.

object permanence A concept
that babies lack early in the
period of sensorimotor develop-
ment, so that when an object
is no longer in their sight, it
ceases to exist for them.

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 115

As children get older and are able to move on their own, crawling and toddling, they
use more conscious movements to find out how things work. But their learning occurs
through their actions; they don’t yet think or plan in advance. Consider 18-month-old
Ronde, who stacks his blocks in front of the cabinet door. When he opens the door, the
blocks fall over, much to his surprise and dismay. Nevertheless, Ronde keeps stacking and
knocking over the blocks, not realizing that if he moved the toys before opening the door,
they wouldn’t fall down.

Very young children also tend to see everything from their own point of view, what
Piaget called egocentrism. Their experiences, such as shaking the rattle or making milk
flow by sucking, convince them that they are the center of their world and can cause
events to happen.

By about age 2, young children begin to be able to use symbols such as words, in-
stead of relying on actions and objects to learn about the world, and they move into
Piaget’s second stage of cognitive development—preoperational.

Preoperational Stage (Ages 2 to 7) Several major cognitive developments occur dur-
ing this stage. First, children’s language development explodes, which provides symbols
that enable children to think (that is, hold a mental representation) of an object or event.
Ronde can now picture the door knocking down his blocks and, therefore, thinks ahead to
building in a safer place. As a result of this new thinking ability, children are less depen-
dent on sensorimotor learning, although active learning is still most effective.

Piaget did many classic experiments with preoperational children, trying to gauge their
ability to solve various prearranged tasks. What he concluded from these studies is that
preoperational children rely on their perceptions or intuitions about solutions rather than on
logic. For example, at snack time, 4-year-olds Isela and Ruth each have one graham cracker.
Isela breaks hers into four pieces and tells Ruth, “Look! I have more crackers than you do!”
Nothing her teacher says will convince Ruth that they have the same amount. Ruth is not
content until the teacher resignedly breaks her cracker into four pieces as well.

From his observations, Piaget concluded that there are several specific limitations to
the thinking of preoperational children. Ruth and Isela’s situation demonstrates that they
were unable to conserve quantity. Conservation is the concept that the quantity of objects
or liquids does not change just because their physical appearance is transformed. If Ruth
had a tall glass of milk and her teacher poured the milk into a short fat one, no doubt she
would think that she had less milk and feel cheated once more. Ruth is unable to reverse
the operation of pouring the milk in her mind and figure out that the amount has not
changed. The same phenomenon—judging by appearances rather than logic—is observed
when preschool children are presented with two equal rows of checkers. After one row is
spread out and appears longer, even though no checkers have been added or removed,
preoperational children will assume that the spread-out row has more checkers.

egocentrism The process
whereby very young children
tend to see everything from
their own intellectual and emo-
tional point of view.

conservation The understand-
ing that the quantity of objects
stays the same regardless of
changes in appearance.

Stage Approximate Age Characteristics

Sensorimotor Birth to 2 years Learns through senses and physical movement, gradually moving
from reflexes to conscious activity.

Preoperational 2 to 7 years Develops ability to learn through symbols—language and mental
representations of thoughts; thinking is controlled more by
perceptions than logic.

Concrete operational 7 to 11 years Able to think and solve problems more logically, through concrete
experience; abstract thinking is limited.

Formal operational 11 years to adulthood Can think and solve problems abstractly, using symbolic thought
and systematic experimentation.

Source: Based on Educational Psychology: Theory and Practice, 11th edition, by R. Slavin, 2015, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

TAble 4.2 Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach116

Preoperational children also continue to be egocentric—interpreting the world from
their own point of view, though less so over time. During a visit to the Gettysburg battle-
field, 3-year-old Ryan declares to his Nana, “I was too little to fight in the battle. I had to
stay in the van.”

Concrete Operational Stage (Ages 7 to 11) During the elementary school years,
children’s thinking becomes more logical, and they are able to solve problems mentally
and reverse operations. They are no longer fooled by a conservation problem. Children
are capable of carrying out mental actions. Piaget used the word concrete to refer to this
stage of cognition because this age group is not yet capable of thinking about and fully
comprehending complex, abstract concepts such as historical time or death. Instead,
they are most successful at solving problems they can directly experience. Piaget be-
lieved that abstract reasoning is not possible until the stage of formal observations in
adolescence and adulthood, and that some people never reach this stage of cognitive
development.

Criticisms of Piaget’s Theory Piaget’s theory was first widely disseminated in
the United States in the 1970s and had a major impact on views of how children learn
and appropriate ways to teach. Parents, toy manufacturers, and publishers were also in-
fluenced by Piaget’s ideas about the competence of children, leading to an explosion in
educational products for babies.

Piaget’s stage theory emphasized the limitations of children’s thinking at each stage,
leading some educators to focus more on what children were not able to do rather than
on their developing competencies. Preschool classrooms provided an interesting environ-
ment for children to “discover,” with little interaction with adults to support expanding
children’s thinking. And most educators assumed that mathematics and literacy, which
are based on understanding symbols, were too abstract for preoperational children and,
therefore, not taught until children were older.

In recent decades, researchers and educators have challenged some of the funda-
mental tenets of Piagetian theory. Researchers have found that Piaget overestimated the
role of biologically based stages and discovery in children’s development and underes-
timated the role of the environment and teaching. For example, researchers have found
that Piaget underestimated children’s abilities to think in more complex ways (Case &
Okamoto, 1996; Gelman, 2000; Gelman & Baillargeon, 1983; Mix, Huttenlocher, &
Levine, 2002). Using carefully designed experiments, researchers have found that
infants have object permanence much younger than Piaget theorized. With support, chil-
dren can begin to understand the perspectives of other people at a much younger age
than Piaget assumed. In addition, the inability to conserve quantity does not interfere
with some preschool children’s learning basic mathematics concepts, as Piaget assumed
(Clements & Sarama, 2009).

Researchers today agree that a major, though gradual, transformation occurs in chil-
dren’s cognitive abilities around kindergarten age, known as the 5- to 7-year shift (Berk,
2006; Sameroff & McDonough, 1994). Children don’t pass through sharply drawn stages;
rather, their brain development and experiences contribute to their expanded memory and
more logical reasoning (Bauer, 2009; Ornstein, Coffman, & Grammer, 2009).

Contributions of Piagetian Theory to Practice Despite the criticisms of
Piagetian theory, the contributions of his work are enormous. Visit any good-quality early
childhood program and you will see evidence of these contributions. Children are actively
engaged in learning—not sitting still and listening to a teacher talk most of the time.
There are concrete learning materials, and children have time to use them on their own.
The environment itself is designed to promote learning. While Piaget underestimated in-
fant and toddler understanding, he was the first to suggest—correctly—that infants have
an active intellectual life. Knowledge of the sensorimotor state of development literally
launched the industry of toys and equipment for babies—mobiles over cribs, noise-making
toys that babies control, and board books.

5- to 7-year shift Major transi-
tion in cognitive abilities that
gradually occurs between 5 and
7 years of age, resulting in
increased ability to think logi-
cally, self-regulate, and solve
problems.

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 117

Piaget changed the way we view young children and how they learn.
Piaget believed that children developed understanding by interacting with
objects and people in the environment. He relied on observing and interview-
ing to understand what children thought. However, he overestimated the role
of exploration and discovery in children’s cognitive development and un-
derestimated the important role of the teacher. Piaget also thought cognitive
development was essentially the same across cultures. Lev Vygotsky, a Rus-
sian psychologist, studied Piaget’s theory and expanded our understanding of
children’s development in important ways.

Vygotsky and Sociocultural Theory
Lev Vygotsky (1896–1934) was born in Russia the same year as Piaget. Al-
though he died young, he was a prolific writer, and after his death his theories
were further developed and disseminated by his students. Because his work
was not translated into English until 1962, it was unknown in the West until
long after his death. The Stalinist regime also suppressed his work in his
native country.

Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory is based on his belief that children
learn from social interaction within a cultural context. He emphasized that
what children learn is determined by the culture in which they grow up, such
as an urban child learning to negotiate dangerous street crossings, or a rural child learning
to milk a cow. In recent years, Vygotsky’s views on learning and teaching have become
more influential than Piaget’s, although the theories are actually complementary (Copple
& Bredekamp, 2009).

Vygotsky’s Theory of How Development Occurs Among developmental
theorists, Vygotsky provided the greatest amount of guidance for educators (Stetsenko
& Vianna, 2009). He viewed development as a continuous process driven by learning. At
particular ages, the primary learning task differs. Babies learn through their senses and
by manipulating objects (similar to Piaget’s view). Relationships with adults, who talk
and play with babies and often use objects when doing so, drive learning during the first
2 years of life.

From ages 2 to 5, children’s development is dominated by their perceptions and re-
actions. They pay attention to what is interesting and meaningful to them, rather than to
what adults prefer. They act and react without prior thinking or reflecting on past actions.
For example, when Ms. Broyles says, “It’s time to go outside, so put away your toys and
get your coats,” most 3- and 4-year-olds will run to the door. Much to Ms. Broyles’s dis-
may, they still have this reaction after weeks of school. Vygotsky believed that a major
goal of preschool is to help children move from such reactive thinking to the ability to
think before they act (Bodrova & Leong, 2012b).

During the preschool years, children need to acquire cognitive and social-emotional
competencies that shape their minds for all further learning—language, memory, focused
attention, and self-regulation (Bodrova & Leong, 2012b). If these important foundations
are in place, in the primary grades children acquire the ability to “learn on demand,” as
Vygotsky called it. They are more likely to cooperate with the school’s agenda—learn-
ing to read, calculate, and follow group rules—even when they would rather be doing
something else.

According to Vygotsky, cognitive development involves the zone of proximal de-
velopment, scaffolding, social construction of knowledge, language and other symbol
systems, self-regulation, and play. These concepts, discussed in the sections that follow,
have important implications for practice.

Zone of Proximal Development Twenty-month-old Ave is trying desperately to
get on the pony riding toy. Her teacher, Khari, observes that she is about to cry in frustra-
tion. He could pick her up and put her on it, but instead he gently lifts her leg so that she

sociocultural theory
Vygotsky’s theory that children
learn from social interaction
within a cultural context.

Classroom Connection
See constructivism in action in
this primary school classroom.
Observe how the teacher supports
children as they construct their
own knowledge. He asks questions
and encourages experimentation.
How do you think questioning
supports children’s scientific
understanding better than just
telling them the information?

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach118

gets over the last hurdle herself. Ave gives him a big smile as she pushes off with her feet
and makes a circle around the room.

By giving Ave “a leg up,” Khari helped her accomplish a goal that she couldn’t do on
her own, but could achieve with his assistance. Vygotsky (1978) identified this as the
zone of proximal development (ZPD)—the distance between the actual developmental
level an individual has achieved (their independent level of problem solving) and the
level of potential development they could achieve with adult guidance or through
collaboration with other children. The assistance, guidance, and direction teachers pro-
vide children in their ZPD is called scaffolding. To gain deeper understanding of how
children learn in their ZPD, read the feature Becoming an Intentional Teacher: Teaching
in the “Zone.”

Social Construction of Knowledge Scaffolding does not mean that teachers
control or shape learning, as behaviorists believe (see p. 124). Instead, children learn by
solving problems collaboratively with the teacher’s support or by working with peers,
which is called co-construction, or social construction of knowledge.

zone of proximal development
(ZPD) The distance between
the actual developmental level
an individual has achieved (her
independent level of problem
solving) and the level of po-
tential development she could
achieve with adult guidance
or through collaboration with
other children.

scaffolding The assistance,
guidance, and direction teach-
ers provide children to help
them accomplish a task or
learn a skill (within their ZPD)
that they could not achieve on
their own.

co-construction Children
learning by solving prob-
lems collaboratively with the
teacher’s support or by working
with peers; also called social
construction of knowledge.

Becoming an Intentional Teacher
Teaching in the “Zone”
Here’s What Happened In my kindergarten, we are
working on the basic mathematical number operations—
adding and subtracting. In our classroom, children work in
centers for part of the morning. Through assessments that I
do during center time, I learned that Miguel can add two sin-
gle-digit numbers on his own. I also learned that he is strug-
gling with subtracting single-digit numbers, but is successful
when I talk through the subtraction activities with him. I also
observed that Miguel is able to subtract more successfully
when the problem is applied, such as when he is playing
cashier and giving “change” in our Home Improvement Store
center. Miguel especially likes to play there because his Dad
works in construction. I decided on a three-pronged approach
to support his understanding and application of subtraction:

1) I set aside 5–10 minutes twice a week to work individ-
ually with Miguel. Using manipulatives, including an
abacus and small counting trains. Miguel loves trains!
During this time, I verbally support Miguel’s grouping
and counting, using short word problems and number
cards.

2) I also intentionally join Miguel and other children in
the Home Improvement Store at center time. I intro-
duce the concept of “Supply Lists” to the center, using
cards with pictures and labels of the different supplies.
Children can add nuts, bolts, and tools to their baskets,
according to the list, and return (subtract) things they
no longer need for their building projects. As Miguel
purchases and returns items for his building project, I
support and make explicit his adding and subtracting,
pointing out to Miguel how successfully he uses math
for his project.

3) Finally, during the morning math challenge, I pair
Miguel with a friend who understands subtraction con-
cepts well, and is very verbal. I have them work together

to solve the problem, ex-
plaining each of their steps.

After about two weeks of this more
intensive approach, Miguel demonstrates ability to subtract
single-digit numbers on his own, and begins to experiment
with double-digit numbers. He insists on being the employee
at checkout in the Home Improvement Store to showcase his
adding and subtracting.

Here’s What I Was Thinking As a kindergarten teach-
er, I know that understanding and applying these founda-
tional mathematical concepts is essential for building chil-
dren’s later competence in math. I also understand that
children learn best in the context of supportive relation-
ships, and I structure interactions in my classroom to in-
tentionally support each learner. I do this by: (1) assessing
each child’s level of independent performance on a skill,
(2) assessing each child’s level of supported (with help)
performance on a skill, and (3) developing lessons that al-
low a child to practice in their supported level, until the
child can do the skill independently. I then set the next
higher level of skill as the child’s goal skill.

Vygotsky used the term zone of proximal development
(ZPD) to describe the child’s skill level when supported by
an adult or more experienced peer. He believed that by as-
sessing only what a child knows, a teacher does not have
information on how to support the child’s progress. But by
assessing a child’s ZPD, I am able to structure for progres-
sive development and learning.

Reflection How did this teacher use assessment to
guide her intentional teaching? What other strategies could
she have used to teach Miguel in his Zone of Proximal
Development?

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 119

Seven-year-olds Lucrezia and Gloria are drawing a map of their school. Lucrezia is
working on the classrooms and Gloria is drawing the entrance area, lunchroom, and
offices. They have the following exchange:

Lucrezia: You are making them too big. There won’t be room for my part.
Gloria: Well, they are bigger. See all the stuff we have to put in.
Lucrezia: But the lunchroom is the biggest. How can we make this work?

Each girl has a different perspective on the problem. As they continue to work on it,
they try different solutions, none of them satisfactory to both. Finally, they determine
the following:

Gloria: We need to figure out how to measure the rooms.
Lucrezia: My brother showed me on the GPS that one inch means one mile.
We need to figure out something like that.

They then proceed to address the new problems of finding a way to measure the
school and creating a scale for their map.

In this example, peers work collaboratively to construct understanding. They chal-
lenge each other’s ideas and alter their perspectives as a result. Lucrezia, the more accom-
plished peer, introduces some cultural knowledge—what she has learned about a GPS.
In other situations, the teacher plays the role of provocateur, challenging the children’s
thinking and thus, promoting their learning.

Language and Thought Because Vygotsky (1962) believed that learning depends
on interaction with other people, he also believed that speech is the most important tool
for learning. Babies begin by communicating through gestures, as when they learn that
holding up their arms means “pick me up.” Then they connect sounds and words with
their meanings; saying “Da Da” gets a different result from saying “Ma Ma.” Language
growth during the preschool years enables children to learn through conversation. Speech
gradually becomes internalized and used for thinking.

Think of a situation, such as learning a psychology concept or solving a mathemat-
ics problem, which you didn’t really understand until you talked about it with some-
one else or at least stated your ideas out loud. According to Vygotsky, articulating an
idea is necessary for real understanding. He described the relationship between language
and thought as moving from interpersonal (between people) to intrapersonal (inside the
child). Learning begins in conversation between people and then becomes part of an in-
dividual’s thinking.

Interpersonal understanding or socially constructed knowledge is turned into intrap-
ersonal knowledge through private speech (Vygotsky, 1962). For preschool children,
private speech can look like thinking out loud. As 3½-year-old Ivor stands in front of the
easel contemplating the next color to use, thick paint starts running down the paper. Ivor
says, “Whoa, don’t do that. I’m gonna get you with my brush,” and proceeds to do so. By
age 6 or 7, private speech becomes silent and is used for thinking and problem solving.

To summarize, children first use language for conversation. Then, through the vehicle
of private speech, they literally use language to talk to themselves and to control their own
behavior—that is, for self-regulation (Bailey & Brookes, 2012).

Self-Regulation Vygotsky considered the development of self-regulation the pri-
mary task of the years before formal school entry. Self-regulation is the ability to adapt
or control behavior, emotions, and thinking according to the demands of the situation
(Bodrova & Leong, 2012b). Preschool children’s self-regulation ability, more so than
their intelligence or family background, predicts their academic success in the early
grades (Blair & Razza, 2007; McClelland, Acock, & Morrison, 2006). By contrast, early
problems in self-regulation are strongly related to later problems in school and life
(Calkins & Williford, 2009). Teachers or parents may understand self-regulation as “the

private speech The process
whereby interpersonal under-
standing or socially constructed
knowledge is turned into
intrapersonal knowledge (think-
ing aloud becomes thinking to
oneself).

self-regulation The ability to
adapt or control behavior, emo-
tions, and thinking according to
the demands of the situation.

gets over the last hurdle herself. Ave gives him a big smile as she pushes off with her feet
and makes a circle around the room.

By giving Ave “a leg up,” Khari helped her accomplish a goal that she couldn’t do on
her own, but could achieve with his assistance. Vygotsky (1978) identified this as the
zone of proximal development (ZPD)—the distance between the actual developmental
level an individual has achieved (their independent level of problem solving) and the
level of potential development they could achieve with adult guidance or through
collaboration with other children. The assistance, guidance, and direction teachers pro-
vide children in their ZPD is called scaffolding. To gain deeper understanding of how
children learn in their ZPD, read the feature Becoming an Intentional Teacher: Teaching
in the “Zone.”

Social Construction of Knowledge Scaffolding does not mean that teachers
control or shape learning, as behaviorists believe (see p. 124). Instead, children learn by
solving problems collaboratively with the teacher’s support or by working with peers,
which is called co-construction, or social construction of knowledge.

zone of proximal development
(ZPD) The distance between
the actual developmental level
an individual has achieved (her
independent level of problem
solving) and the level of po-
tential development she could
achieve with adult guidance
or through collaboration with
other children.

scaffolding The assistance,
guidance, and direction teach-
ers provide children to help
them accomplish a task or
learn a skill (within their ZPD)
that they could not achieve on
their own.

co-construction Children
learning by solving prob-
lems collaboratively with the
teacher’s support or by working
with peers; also called social
construction of knowledge.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach120

capacity to control one’s impulses both to stop doing something that is unnecessary (even
if one wants to continue doing it), and to start doing something that is needed (even if one
does not want to do it)” (Boyd, Barnett, Bodrova, Leong, & Gomby, 2005, p. 4). This is
why self-regulation is so strongly related to success. Every day preschool teachers require
children to stop playing (which they usually want to continue) and start cleaning up
(which they don’t want to do). Similarly, children in primary grades must attend to the
reading lesson when they would rather go outside for recess.

The activities of the prefrontal cortex region of the brain that allow us to self-
regulate—to manage our emotions, focus and shift attention, and regulate behavior to
meet our goals—are known as executive functions (EF) (Jones & Bailey, 2014;
Obradović, Portilla, & Boyce, 2012). They are some of the most important skills for
learning and development (Galinsky, 2010; Gilpin, Boxmeyer, DeCaro, & Lochman,
2014). Children who have ADHD typically have developmental delays in their executive
functions. They are often impulsive, and have trouble paying attention. They also may
have difficulty with working memory, the brain ability that allows us to remember infor-
mation in the short term and use the information to understand and solve problems. While
some children are identified with ADHD in preschool, children are typically diagnosed in
early elementary school, when the demands of formal schooling highlight children’s EF
skills of attention and regulation.

Teachers can support EF in development of children with ADHD in several ways
(Murphy, 2014). To help children focus better, teachers can break instructions and tasks

into structured pieces, give individualized instructions, and check for un-
derstanding of instructions. Teachers can help children regulate their own
behavior by providing positive reinforcement for positive behavior, and by
avoiding negative feedback, which can lead to poor self-image in children
with ADHD. Many children with ADHD take medication to help them attend
and regulate in the school setting; however, research suggests that the sup-
ports families and teachers can provide may help as much as medication in
helping children experience school success.

Children with ADHD benefit from an environment that allows for play
and exercise. Recent research has examined the role of physical activ-
ity in children’s attention and EF. Physical exercise enhances sustained

executive function The ability
to control emotions, focus
attention, plan and think
ahead, and monitor cognitive
processes.

Effective teachers draw on all the relevant theories to support children’s learning progress. What strategies
do you think this teacher is using to help this young girl accomplish a new skill?

Classroom Connection
In this video, learn more about
how executive function develops,
why it is important, and how
adults can support its develop-
ment in early childhood.

https://www.youtube.com
/watch?v=efCq_vHUMqs

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a

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er

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+
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ty

I
m

ag
es

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 121

attention in preschoolers (Palmer, Miller, & Robinson, 2013) and EF in elementary
school children with ADHD (Gapin & Etnier, 2010). In the feature Promoting Play:
Incorporating Playful Exercise into the Curriculum, you can learn how one teacher
integrates playful movement to support all the children in her classroom, including
children with ADHD.

Incorporating Playful Exercise into the Curriculum
Tamara has 22 children in her combined
kindergarten-first grade class. She enjoys their
energy and enthusiasm, but has noticed that
several children have been struggling with main-
taining attention during math and literacy work
blocks. A few children have even started to act
silly when they are supposed to be working. Two
of the children who struggle with attention, Mabel
and Nassim, have diagnoses of ADHD. Tamara
knows that they are intelligent, but sees that they
are falling into patterns of not finishing their work.
Mabel is acting a bit anxious, possibly in response
to frequent redirection and reminders. Nassim’s
disruptive behavior is escalating during large
group activities, and he is wandering during center
time and teasing his classmates. Tamara consults
with her co-teacher and the school resource teach-
er, and together they come up with a plan that will
support Mabel, Nassim, and all of the children in
the class.

Before implementing any changes in the class-
room, Tamara, her co-teacher, and the resource
teacher take turns observing the children during the
course of classroom routines and activities. They
notice that children are more attentive after morn-
ing recess, lunchtime recess, and physical educa-
tion. Conversely, they notice that before recess
and lunch, the children have the most difficulty
attending, following directions, and working inde-
pendently. Although Tamara and colleagues cannot
add more recess time to the children’s day, they
decide to: (1) introduce physical activities into large
group time, (2) shift activities in the daily schedule,
(3) introduce an exercise area at center time, and
(4) adjust learning environments for children who
need more activity.

First, Tamara shifts the most demanding aspects of
the daily schedule. She starts the day with a large
group activity that ends in a “dance time”—the
children pick the music and they spread out across
the room—and dance playfully. Children may move
as they wish or follow a leader. Literacy block fol-
lows, and Tamara ensures that Mabel and Nassim
complete their most demanding tasks at the begin-
ning of the literacy block. Tamara schedules other
demanding lessons such as math and science after
morning and lunch recess.

Next, Tamara and her co-teacher arrange for a move-
ment center, and choose animals for the first theme.
Using cue cards and a flip-video camera, children in
the center tape each other moving like animals. The
teachers plan themes for future movement centers,
including yoga, calisthenics, and dance party. They
discuss how to introduce rules for this center and
monitor for safety, and include the children in think-
ing of fun ways to move in the center.

Finally, Tamara makes accommodations for Mabel
and Nassim, observing any other children who might
benefit. Because she knows that children with
ADHD often benefit from being able to move while
learning, Tamara arranges for Mabel and Nassim to
stand while doing work, if they choose. She provides
“fidget toys” for them to hold during large group
time, and identifies special classroom jobs for them
to move and help during the day.

Tamara knows that she can’t let children play all
day, but by thinking about playful movement and
exercise in her daily routines and curriculum, Ta-
mara and her co-teacher witness dramatic increases
in engagement and attention for Mabel, Nassim,
and the entire class.

Promoting Play

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach122

Play and Vygotsky’s Theory According to Vygotsky (1978), make-believe play is
the leading activity in children’s development from about ages 2 through 5. Play creates a
zone of proximal development in which a child behaves “as though he were a head taller
than himself” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 102). When children pretend to be adults—parents,
teachers, or workers, as they often do—they use more sophisticated language than usual
and model grown-up behavior.

Pretend play in small groups is especially valuable for promoting self-
regulation because it is the one activity that requires children to regulate their
own behavior, be regulated by others, and regulate others all within the same
context (Bodrova & Leong, 2007; Boyd et al., 2005). Picture 5-year-olds
playing restaurant. Each child, whether playing customer, waiter, or cook,
has an assigned role and must stick to the script. The customer can’t say,
“Can I take your order?” That’s the waiter’s role. If the customer begins serv-
ing the food, the play breaks down. The waiter says, “You can’t do that. You
have to sit down, look at the menu, and eat.” The rules have to be renegoti-
ated. The customer may say, “Okay, but I get to be the waiter next.” So we
see that the customer has to regulate herself (stay in her role and follow the
rules), be regulated by others (the waiter), and regulate others (place her or-
der so the waiter can do his job).

As is evident in the foregoing example, sociodramatic play promotes
children’s ability to take another person’s perspective (Vygotsky, 1977).
Assuming a pretend role—being another person for a while—helps chil-
dren move to another perspective and then back to their own. This ability
to take another’s perspective—to go beyond egocentrism—is necessary in
school where children need to see the perspectives of teachers and other
children.

Elena Bodrova, who studied with Vygotsky’s students, and her colleague Deborah
Leong developed a Vygotskian curriculum model, Tools of the Mind (Bodrova & Leong,
2007, 2012b). The model focuses on teachers building self-regulation in children through
mature sociodramatic play.

Implications for Practice Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory has many implica-
tions for early childhood practice. Teaching in the zone of proximal development requires
that children experience a challenging curriculum—not content that is meant for older
children, but content that moves them ahead in thinking and problem solving.

Similarly, the role of the teacher becomes more important than ever, not as controller
of the classroom, but as a collaborator with children. Teachers need to scaffold children’s
learning and set up situations where groups of children work together to solve problems
and have the freedom to think out loud. During preschool and kindergarten, teachers need
to intentionally support mature sociodramatic play to promote self-regulation, a topic we
will return to later in this chapter.

Major contributions of Vygotsky’s theory were his emphasis on (1) the role of adults
in children’s development, and (2) the transmission of cultural understandings as a part
of children’s development. We’ll next consider a model that expands theory to a systems
level, in which children develop in the context of many environments and interactions
over time.

Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems
Theory of Development
One of the most useful theories for understanding the interactive influence of social and
cultural contexts on human development is the ecological systems model proposed by
psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917–2005). Figure 4.2 illustrates Bronfenbrenner’s
ecological systems theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, 2004), which describes the diverse,
interactive contexts that influence children’s development over time.

ecological systems theory
Bronfenbrenner’s theory that
describes the diverse, interac-
tive contexts that influence
children’s development over
time.

Classroom Connection
Observe these two instances of
sociodramatic play in a preschool
classroom. What are some things
you notice about the children’s
play? How might the different
theorists view the learning and
development supported in the
context of the children’s dramatic
and block play?

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 123

At the center of the model is the individual whose development is influenced by their
own biological factors, social interaction, and experiences in a variety of contexts. The
environments, or systems, surrounding an individual from birth and beyond plays signifi-
cant interactive roles in a child’s development. The systems in which the child directly
participates on a regular basis are known as microsystems, and include the family, child
care, school, and faith-based settings. The child’s daily interactions, which Bronfen-
brenner called proximal processes (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006) have the most im-
pact on a child’s development, due to their frequent, ongoing nature, often over extended
periods of time. Thought of as “drivers” of development, proximal processes include the
physical care children receive, daily conversations with parents and teachers, and play-
ground interactions with peers.

The next level of system that impacts a child’s life is the mesosystem, which refers to
the interaction of different microsystems in a child’s life. Parent-teacher interactions, in-
cluding conferences, phone calls, home visits, and back-to-school nights are examples of
a mesosystem—where the child’s microsystems of home and school come together—and
interact and influence each other. Bronfenbrenner believed that the strength of these me-
sosystems—the degree to which the systems worked together—is important for support-
ing the child’s positive development.

The exosystem consists of systems that affect the child’s microsystems, but in which
the child doesn’t directly participate. This includes parents’ employment, child care

microsystem System in which
the child directly participates
on a regular basis and include
the family, child care, school
and faith-based settings.

proximal processes Interac-
tions in the context of daily liv-
ing that have the most impact
on a child’s development,
due to their frequent, ongoing
nature, often over extended
periods of time.

mesosystem Interaction of
different microsystems in a
child’s life.

FIGURE 4.2 Model of Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory
Source: McDevitt, Teresa M., Ormrod, Jeanne Ellis, Child Development and Education, 5th Ed., © 2013.
Reprinted and electronically reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ

Biology
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Cultural context

Government policies

Beliefs and values

(Mesos
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exosystem Systems that affect
the child’s microsystems, but
that the child doesn’t di-
rectly participate in, including
economic, media, eduation,
health, legal and political
entities that directly affect a
person or circumstance in the
child’s microsystem.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach124

regulations, religious traditions, and school board decisions. When a teacher experiences
stress in her home life, she may carry that stress into the classroom, impacting the quality
of her relationships with students and the impact of her teaching. On the other hand, a
teacher whose school board institutes policies that support good working conditions may
be more likely to interact positively with children and provide effective instruction. An
exosystem can include economic, media, education, health, legal, and political entities
that directly effect a person or circumstance in the child’s microsystem.

The outermost level of Bronfenbrenner’s model is the macrosystem, which refers to
the overarching cultural context of the values, beliefs, laws, and policies of a society.
American society, for example, is strongly influenced not only by values of freedom and
individual rights and responsibilities, but also by the value of collective responsibility for
its neediest members. As a result, our institutions and social policies reflect these values,
such as laws regarding provision of public assistance for families living in poverty. While
it may not seem that macrosystems effect a child’s daily life, they can exert a powerful
influence over time. Bronfenbrenner uses the term chronosystem to refer to effects of
circumstances over time. According to Bronfenbrenner, children who experience home-
lessness for a short period of time will likely suffer fewer negative outcomes than a child
who is homeless for their entire childhood.

Bronfenbrenner’s theory has helped educators and child development researchers re-
alize the importance of considering the multiple, complex systems that impact children’s
development. Bronfenbrenner believed that society needs to attend carefully to support-
ing children by supporting all of the systems needed for a child to develop. Especially
committed to supporting children and families who live in poverty, Bronfenbrenner was
one of the key conceptual founders of the Head Start program. The comprehensive ser-
vices (education, health, and family engagement) that are the hallmark of Head Start can
be attributed, in part, to the influence of Bronfenbrenner’s thinking.

In the previous sections we described the developmental theories of Erikson, Maslow,
Piaget, Vygotsky and Bronfenbrenner. Erikson’s work, as well as that of Maslow, pro-
vides insights into children’s social and personality development and their motivation.
The theories of Piaget and Vygotsky cast considerable light on the processes of cogni-
tive development and have much to teach teachers. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems
theory attempts to connect children’s social and cognitive development with the many
influential systems that are involved in children’s development. In the next section, we
turn to descriptions of the most influential theories of learning.

✓ Check Your Understanding 4.3: Child Development Theories

Learning Theories
In contrast to developmental theories, which are linked to age-related changes in chil-
dren, learning theories are assumed to apply in the same way regardless of the age of the
learner. In the following sections, we describe the work of two major learning theorists:
B. F. Skinner and Albert Bandura. (Another learning theory is Howard Gardner’s multiple
intelligences theory, which we discuss in the chapter on individual differences.)

B. F. Skinner and Behaviorism
One of the most influential learning theories of the last half century is behaviorism or
behavioral learning. According to this theory, learning is reflected in changes in behav-
ior that are controlled by the consequences, either positive or negative, that follow the
behavior. Using pleasant or unpleasant consequences to control behavior is called operant
conditioning.

Psychologist B. F. Skinner (1904–1980) developed the theory of operant condi-
tioning through systematic experiments. Skinner discovered that he could train rats to
press a lever by rewarding them with food. From experiments with animals and people,

macrosystem System that in-
cludes the overarching cultural
context of the values, beliefs,
laws, and policies of a society

chronosystem System that
refers to effects of circum-
stances over time.

behaviorism or behavioral
learning Theory that learning
is a change in behavior that is
controlled by the consequenc-
es, either positive or negative,
that follow the behavior.

operant conditioning The
process of using pleasant or
unpleasant consequences to
control behavior.

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 125

Skinner developed the core principles of operant conditioning, an example of which
follows:

During center time in her prekindergarten, teacher Nessa Stokes observes as Jemma
struggles to print her name next to her artwork. As Jemma tires and looks as though
she will give up, Nessa says, “You’ve almost got it, Jemma, J-E-M—two more letters
and you will have written your name!” Jemma smiles proudly and continues her task.
Nessa is reassured that her encouraging praise will keep Jemma working on a task
that is difficult.

Nessa also understands how technology can provide reinforcement to keep chil-
dren motivated on difficult learning tasks. In the Tech Center, three children gather
around a math game on the computer that has the boys distinguishing “more” and
“less” in groups of dinosaurs. “More!” shouts Jessica, and Brian presses the button
that indicates there are more dinosaurs in the new array than the previous. With the
correct answer button pressed, the dinosaurs break out into a dance on the screen, leav-
ing the children laughing. “Let’s try the next one—a harder one” says Azim. “They get
even funnier with harder ones.” Nessa smiles, as in this activity she witnesses children
cooperating, learning important math concepts, and getting positively reinforced for
practicing their skills and also doing progressively more difficult math problems.

Although Nessa’s actions in this brief scenario may seem relatively simple, she is in fact
implementing several key principles of operant conditioning.

Operant Conditioning The most important principle of operant conditioning is
that behavior changes as a result of its immediate consequences. Positive consequences
strengthen the frequency of specific behaviors; unpleasant consequences decrease the
frequency. Reinforcers are consequences that increase or strengthen behaviors. There are
two kinds of reinforcers: positive and negative.

Positive reinforcement is a reward or pleasant consequence that follows a behav-
ior, causing that behavior to be repeated. In the previous example, Nessa reinforced or
rewarded Jemma’s writing efforts with a smile and positive words of encouragement.
As a result, Jemma kept working at a difficult task. While Jessica, Brian, and Azim were
sufficiently reinforced by the dancing dinosaur math game, she knows to monitor their
engagement in the activity to keep the learning and interactions positive and productive.

Negative reinforcement also increases the frequency of a desired behavior, but in a
different way. A negative reinforcer is an unpleasant consequence that is avoided if the
person performs a behavior more frequently. For example, an annoying bell or buzzer—a
negative reinforcer—signals when the seat belt is still unfastened after a car is started.
To avoid the sound, most people fasten the seat belt as soon as they can. If Nessa had
observed the children arguing over the computer game, she may have pointed out that
they would lose computer time if they did not find a way to cooperate. Azim may have
responded, “Let’s take turns pressing the button, Brian.” In this circumstance, negative
reinforcement would have changed the children’s behavior in positive ways.

Negative reinforcement is sometimes confused with, but is not the same thing as,
punishment. Punishment is an unpleasant consequence that stops or decreases the
frequency of a behavior. Many people, teachers as well as parents, think punishments are
effective in changing behavior and use them often. However, the problem with punish-
ment is that it may temporarily stop an undesirable behavior, but it does not teach the
child what to do instead. As a result, repeated punishment soon becomes ineffective in
changing behavior. For example, in Tiffany’s first-grade classroom, when children misbe-
have they get a red card and their name goes on the board, while those who behave well
get a green card. But day after day, the same children get the red card. Receiving the
card—a punishment—does not improve their behavior.

Teachers need to understand that punishment only decreases an undesirable behavior
temporarily. To increase a desired behavior, reinforcement is needed. In fact, in some
cases, punishment actually serves as a negative reinforcer and increases the behavior.
Consider the situation where a first-grade teacher decides to punish a disruptive child by

punishment An unpleasant
consequence that stops or
decreases the frequency of a
behavior.

consequences Principle of
operant conditioning that
behavior changes as a result
of what occurs immediately
afterward.

reinforcer Consequence—
either positive or negative—
that increases or strengthens a
behavior.

positive reinforcement
A reward or pleasant
consequence that follows a
behavior, causing that behavior
to be repeated.

negative reinforcement An
unpleasant consequence that is
avoided if the person per-
forms a desired behavior more
frequently.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach126

making him miss recess. If the child wants to avoid recess because he doesn’t get chosen
for a team or is bullied, then removing him from recess is not a punishment but a reward
and, thus, will have the opposite effect from the one the teacher intended. When reinforc-
ers are removed, the conditioned behavior diminishes and eventually disappears, a pro-
cess called extinction.

What to Reinforce: Shaping Behavior Most human behavior is complex,
much more so than that of the hungry rats Skinner studied. Children learn to take turns,
follow classroom rules, or ride a bike over time and after many tries, some successful and
others not. It would be impossible to wait to reinforce a highly complex behavior until a
child performed it well. What if a kindergarten teacher only reinforced a child’s writing
when the letters were formed perfectly on the line? Many children would give up. Instead,
an effective teacher recognizes the child’s attempts, each step on the way to mastering
writing the letters correctly. Teaching a new skill or behavior by rewarding each step to-
ward the goal is called shaping.

Shaping requires the teacher to carefully observe the successive approximations—
not the actual desired behaviors, but each approximate behavior that is closer to the
goal. For example, when 3-year-old Lola’s scribbles begin to look like (approximate) a
circle or straight line, her family child care provider Titia says, “Oh, look, Lola, you
made an O like in your name.” Lola didn’t intend to draw an O, but it is likely that Ti-
tia’s praise will result in Lola producing pages of O’s to get more of Titia’s positive
attention.

Implications of Behaviorism for Practice Research supports the effective-
ness of principles of behaviorism, especially for children with special needs (Division
for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children, 2014). Some disabilities,
such as cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, affect children’s ability to perform functional
behaviors (e.g., eating or dressing) that typically developing children learn relatively easily
through imitation and repetition. Children with autism benefit from behavioral techniques
to support learning social communication skills (Wong et al., 2014). In these situations,
using behavioral learning techniques can be effective, as Yvonne learned in the opening
vignette of this chapter. For another example of the application of behavioral principles,

extinction The process
whereby a conditioned behavior
diminishes and eventually
disappears when reinforcers
are removed.

shaping Teaching a new skill
or behavior by rewarding each
step or successive approxima-
tion toward the goal.

successive approximations
Behaviors that are reinforced
(shaped) that are not the actual
desired behaviors, but each
approximate behavior that is
closer to the goal.

When teachers use positive reinforcement such as smiling or commenting on what a child is doing well,
children are more likely to continue to stay engaged in learning.

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 127

read the feature Including All Children: Teaching Self-Help and Social Skills to Children
with Disabilities.

Behaviorism is a learning theory, not a theory of development. Therefore, the prin-
ciples apply regardless of the age of the learner. However, as the name implies, the ef-
fectiveness of behaviorism is limited to teaching or changing observable behaviors. Even
with this limitation, the important thing to remember is that behaviorism can be highly
effective. At times, the wrong behaviors get reinforced, such as when an aggressive child
gets what he wants by bullying.

Behaviorism, as epitomized by Skinner’s work, is often pitted against developmental
theories and teaching approaches. This is usually because behaviorism is connected to spe-
cific instructional practices, such as when teachers tell children facts and reward their correct
answers. Another strong criticism of behaviorism is that overreliance on external rewards un-
dermines children’s internal motivation (Kohn, 2014; Reineke, Sonsteng, & Gartrell, 2008).

Including All Children
Teaching Self-Help and Social Skills to Children
with Disabilities
Children with disabilities may have difficulty making
friends and being accepted by other children in the
group. Peer rejection is harmful for every child, but es-
pecially painful for children with disabilities, who face
multiple developmental challenges. And many parents
of children with disabilities want most of all for their
children to have friends and be treated like their typi-
cally developing peers. To achieve these goals, chil-
dren with special needs often need adults—teachers
and parents—to intervene, as the following example
illustrates.

Tommy is a 5-year-old child with Down syndrome.
He has attended preschool for the past 2 years and
is now in kindergarten. Tommy’s social relation-
ships with the other children have been generally
positive, especially with several children from his
preschool. Recently, however, both Tommy’s par-
ents and teachers have noticed that other class-
mates have begun to tease him, and former play-
mates are less interested in including him in their
play unless he takes on the role of the baby. In fact,
one playmate says, “Tommy still wets his pants, so
he has to be the baby.”

Tommy’s teacher, Ms. Wasky, was trained in
early childhood education and has little experi-
ence in or knowledge about special education. She
strives to provide interesting learning experiences
that keep children engaged. She believes strongly
in activating children’s intrinsic motivation to learn
rather than using external reinforcements like
stickers or happy faces. She talks with the children
and encourages them to include Tommy. Under
Ms. Wasky’s supervision, a few children grudgingly
let Tommy join them, but then they ignore him. She
is concerned that Tommy’s social development is
regressing.

Ms. Wasky and Tommy’s parents discuss ways
to help him become more accepted by his peers.

The parents and teacher believe that Tommy is
physically capable of self-toileting and, in fact, the
pediatrician agrees. All adults involved want to al-
low Tommy to achieve this important developmen-
tal task on his own terms rather than rely too heav-
ily on external reinforcement.

The dilemma they confront is weighing the
risk of waiting longer while Tommy continues to
be rejected by his peers against the risk of Tommy
possibly becoming dependent on extrinsic rein-
forcement. Their growing concern about the social
costs of peer rejection or infantilization of Tommy
leads them to decide on a behavioral intervention.
Tommy’s teacher and parents, in consultation with
the special education team members, decide to
initiate a behavioral intervention that uses operant
conditioning. They begin with concrete reinforc-
ers for appropriate toileting behavior (in this case,
stickers that Tommy selected). Eventually the rein-
forcement shifts to tokens that Tommy can trade
for extra time on the computer or other experiences
he especially likes.

As a result of this intervention, Tommy becomes more
aware of and gradually learns to anticipate and re-
spond appropriately to his toileting needs. As a result
of this explicit teaching strategy, Tommy not only ex-
periences the intrinsic satisfaction of controlling his
own toileting practices, but this functional achieve-
ment also significantly contributes to an improvement
in his social status in the classroom. No longer is he
relegated to the role of the baby on every occasion.

Source: Adapted from “Developmentally Appropriate
Practice: The Early Childhood Teacher as Decision-Maker,” by
S. Bredekamp, 1997, p. 48, in Developmentally Appropriate
Practice in Early Childhood Programs, revised edition, edited
by S. Bredekamp and C. Copple, Washington, DC: NAEYC.
Reprinted with permission from the National Association for
the Education of Young Children.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach128

For example, paying children to read books may make them less motivated to read on their
own when the payment isn’t available.

But effective teaching is not an either/or choice between constructivism and behav-
iorism. These theories each apply best to different phenomena. Behaviorism may work to
change observable behaviors, but it does not explain, nor is it effective in influencing the
less visible but essential processes of thinking, concept development, and problem solving.
To explain this kind of learning, we must look to the theories of Piaget or Vygotsky, as de-
scribed earlier. Building on the work of behaviorists and bridging the gap between behav-
iorism and cognitive theory is the work of Albert Bandura, described in the next section.

Albert Bandura and Social Cognitive Theory
Developed by psychologist Albert Bandura (born in 1925), social cognitive theory (also
called social learning theory) is both a behavioral and cognitive theory and therefore
serves as a bridge between those two views of learning. Whereas Skinner’s work
emphasized that a person’s behavior needs to be directly reinforced to change, Bandura
demonstrated that people can learn more efficiently from observing the consequences of
another person’s behavior. This theory has important implications for classroom teaching.

Bandura theorized that observational learning depends on learners having an image
in their mind of the behavior they observed and its consequences—a memory of an event
captured in pictures and/or words. This theory explains an important way that children
learn—they observe and then model the behaviors they observe. Bandura’s emphasis on
the importance of a mental image adds a cognitive dimension to the learning theory and
separates it from Skinnerian behaviorism.

To test his hypothesis that children would model observed behaviors, Bandura (1973)
conducted hundreds of studies. In now famous research, he filmed situations in which
an adult or another child were complimented or rewarded for beating up a plastic in-
flated clown “Bobo.” Then, given the opportunity, kindergarten children who watched
the demonstration not only beat up Bobo but also used the exact motions and expressions,
“Sockeroo!”

Modeling and Observational Learning The basic principles of social cogni-
tive theory are (1) children learn by modeling—that is, imitating the behavior of

social cognitive theory
Bandura’s theory that people
can learn efficiently from
observing the consequences of
another person’s behavior.

modeling Teacher showing
children a skill or desirable way
of behaving or speaking; also
children imitating the behavior
of others.

According to Bandura, children learn from watching what other children do and the consequences that
follow. What do you think the teacher should do if one of the children is hurting other people?

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 129

others—and (2) they can learn vicariously. Vicarious learning is based on observing the
effects of other people’s behavior rather than experiencing the rewards or punishments
directly. Consider the following example of modeling:

Mr. Evans’s group of 3-year-olds is getting louder and louder as they boisterously
encourage each other to jump up and down and scream at the top of their lungs.
Wanting to scream himself, Mr. Evans chooses instead to tiptoe around the group,
take Bettina by the hand, and whisper softly to follow him. One by one, the children
stop their jumping and begin imitating Mr. Evans’s toe walking. Gradually, their
voices quiet, in hopes of getting a turn to be the teacher’s partner.

The children in Mr. Evans’s group observed his behavior and saw that Bettina gained
his favor by following his lead. According to Bandura (1986), observational learning has
four phases:

1. Attention. The first step in observational learning is paying attention. Children pay
attention to role models who are interesting, novel, or seemingly powerful. This is
why action figures on television garner a lot of children’s attention. Teachers use
many fun and interesting ways to get and hold children’s attention, such as talk-
ing through a puppet, having them guess what is hidden in a bag, or simply being
excited themselves. Mr. Evans surprised the children with the novel behavior of
walking on his tiptoes.

2. Retention. During this phase of the process, the teacher models the behavior and
gives children a chance to practice it. Mr. Evans’s goal was to get the children to
lower their voices, so he modeled whispering and got the children talking softly.

3. Reproduction. The next step is for children to try to reproduce the behavior on
their own. Mr. Evans and Bettina step aside from the group and observe as the
other children take their turns whispering and tiptoeing.

4. Motivation. Observational learning works because children find that they will be
rewarded in some way for imitating the desired behaviors. Such motivation can be
based on something that happened in the past or is promised in the future. Or, as in
Mr. Evans’s class, the potential reward can be vicarious. Seeing Bettina rewarded
with the teacher’s positive attention encouraged the others to follow her lead.

Self-Regulated Learning Bandura’s theory goes even further as a cognitive the-
ory in his concept of self-regulated learning. Bandura (1997) postulated that people
learn not only by modeling the behavior of others, but also by observing and evaluating
their own. Self-regulated learning requires that individuals have internalized standards
and that they have the ability to reflect on their own performances and to reward or punish
themselves. Bandura’s emphasis on self-regulation is similar to Vygotsky’s. Both theories
view self-regulation as essential for cognitive and social-emotional development.

These high-level cognitive abilities are developing in preschoolers but are further
along in most primary-grade children. Teachers can promote self-regulated learning by
engaging children in setting goals, evaluating their own performances, and celebrating
their successes. For example, Ms. Ross’s first-graders do a lot of writing. Periodically she
sits down with one child to discuss various pieces of work. The child chooses a few to
scan into the computer and preserve in a portfolio. When parents come for a conference,
the children talk about why they chose this special piece of work.

Children in the primary grades become capable of setting standards for their own
behavior and comparing their performance to that of others. Eight-year-old Melissa is
unhappy with herself because she watched TV last night instead of studying, and today
she got a failing grade in science.

We have now described the major theories that explain how children develop and
learn. Table 4.3 summarizes the theories and their implications for effective teaching.
In the following section, we discuss how play contributes to all areas of children’s lives.

✓ Check Your Understanding 4.4: Learning Theories

vicarious learning Learning by
observing the effects of other
people’s behavior, rather than
experiencing rewards or punish-
ments directly.

self-regulated learning
Bandura’s theory that people
not only learn by modeling the
behavior of others, but by ob-
serving and evaluating their own.

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Theorist and Theory Summation of Theory Implications for Practice

Erik Erikson: Stages
of Personal and Social
Development

Through a hypothesis of four stages of psychologi-
cal and social development in the lives of children,
Erikson identifies how children might typically
negotiate personal challenges and resolve them
dependent on their age and stage of development.

Erikson’s theory emphasizes the role of the socio-
cultural context on children’s personal and social
lives. Erikson provides useful observations of devel-
opmental patterns so teachers can anticipate and
respond to children’s needs appropriately.

Abraham Maslow: Self-
Actualization Theory

Maslow identified a hierarchy of needs that mo-
tivate people’s behavior and their ability to reach
a hierarchy of personal goals. Maslow pointed out
that if basic needs are not met, it is not possible for
people to actualize personal satisfaction and suc-
ceed at a higher level of growth and learning.

The foundations for self-actualization of goals are
laid early in life. Teachers may need to ensure
that basic needs—food, water, shelter, safety, and
security—are met to assist in helping children to
develop a sense of community and belonging, self-
esteem, and respect for others.

Jean Piaget: Cognitive
Theory

According to Piaget, children learn by constructing
their own understanding based on their direct expe-
riences with people and objects. Piaget identified
four age-related stages of cognitive development
that describe how cognitive abilities change as
children get older.

From birth, children are viewed as competent actors
in constructing their own understanding. Teach-
ers need to provide an enriching environment and
hands-on materials for children to explore and
investigate. Teachers facilitate children’s engage-
ment in projects.

Lev Vygotsky: Socio-
cultural Theory

Vygotsky described learning as the result of social
interaction within a cultural context. He identi-
fied the zone of proximal development (ZPD)—the
distance between the actual developmental level a
child has achieved (their independent level of prob-
lem solving) and the level of potential development
they could achieve with adult guidance or through
collaboration with other children. The support
teachers provide children is called scaffolding.

What children learn is determined by the needs of
the culture in which they live. Children learn by
solving problems collaboratively with the teacher’s
support or by working with peers, which is called
co-construction or social construction of knowledge.
Teachers use many strategies to scaffold learning—
gradually providing less assistance as children
become more capable of performing on their own.
Play is essential for children’s development of self-
regulation.

Urie Bronfenbrenner:
Ecological Model

Bronfenbrenner proposed that the child develops
in interaction with many environmental systems—
some in which the child doesn’t even participate.
Family life, parents’ employment, state laws, and
national culture all influence how each child de-
velops. The most important influences on develop-
ment, though, are the proximal processes, or daily
routines, that children experience in their microsys-
tems of family, school, and community.

Children do best when connections in the mesosys-
tem are strong—when family, child care, and school
communicate and work collaboratively to support
children’s development. The quality of children’s
daily experiences, though, is most important for
development. Teachers emphasize building strong
relationships with children and family members—
strengthening the child’s daily experiences in
childcare and school, as well as collaborating with
the family to help the child develop and learn.

B. F. Skinner:
Behaviorism

Skinner developed the theory of operant condition-
ing that defines learning as a change in behavior
that is controlled by the consequences that follow
the behavior. Positive consequences strengthen
the frequency of specific behaviors; unpleasant
consequences decrease the frequency. Punishment
temporarily stops a behavior but does not teach a
new one.

Teachers use reinforcement to increase children’s
positive behavior and decrease their challeng-
ing behavior. They use shaping to teach a new,
complex skill or behavior by rewarding each
step— successive approximation—toward the
desired goal.

Albert Bandura: Social
Cognitive Theory

Bridging behaviorism and cognitive theory, Bandura
demonstrated that people can learn more efficiently
from observing the consequences of another per-
son’s behavior rather than having to directly experi-
ence them. Children learn by modeling the behavior
of others. They also learn vicariously, whether the
behavior of other people is rewarded or punished.

Teachers model and demonstrate the kinds of
behaviors they want children to perform. They draw
children’s attention to other children’s behavior and
its positive consequences. Children are motivated
to perform behavior that they see rewarded in other
people.

TAble 4.3 Comparing Theories of Child Development

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 131

The Role of Play in Development
and Learning
Psychologists and educators have studied children’s play for a very long time. Despite the
large body of research supporting its benefits, however, child-initiated play is becoming
less valued and is disappearing from children’s lives today (Alliance for Childhood, 2010;
Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff, Berk, & Singer, 2009; Zigler & Bishop-Josef, 2004). Many fac-
tors conspire against play: television and digital media, lack of safe playgrounds, overem-
phasis on direct teaching of literacy and mathematics, and highly structured activities or
lessons such as sports or ballet (Elkind, 2008; Hirsh-Pasek et al., 2009).

Early childhood educators deeply value play. But to use play effectively in teaching
children, and to advocate for its value, it is important to be clear about what types of play
matter and why it is worth defending. In the sections that follow, we describe what play
is, how it develops, and how it benefits children.

Types of Play
Play is complex and difficult to define because there are different kinds of play: play with
toys, movement play, rough-and-tumble play, make-believe play, and play with games
and computers. Most often, play is defined as activity that is freely chosen, initiated and
controlled by children, and enjoyable. Despite the lack of definitional clarity, most people
would say, “You know it when you see it.” And more important, children know when they
are playing.

Different types of play have different benefits for children. Definitions for different
types of play follow:

• Functional play. Children play with and manipulate objects, such as when a baby
shakes a rattle or a toddler bangs a drum.

• Constructive play. Children use toys or objects to create something new, such as
making a puppet from a sock, a design on a computer screen, or a castle out of
Legos.

• Symbolic play. Children use one thing to represent or stand for another. Pretend
play is a form of symbolic play. A stick becomes a magic wand. A piece of cloth
becomes a veil or a cape.

• Games with rules. Children follow prescribed rules for playing together toward a
common goal. Games include simple ones such as Candyland or Chutes and Lad-
ders, as well as complex ones such as chess or baseball.

Piaget related types of play to stages of development (Johnson, Christie, & Wardle,
2005). He theorized that functional play dominates the sensorimotor stage (birth to
2 years) and that the preoperational stage (2 to 7 years) is characterized by symbolic and
constructive play. Children in the concrete operational stage (7 to 11 years) tend to play
games with rules. Children’s pretend play becomes more complex over time, especially if
people play with them and provide props. The following sections describe this sequence.

Functional Play Babies and toddlers engage in functional play, focusing on objects
and then on the people who use the objects with them. Toddlers enjoy repetition and prac-
tice as they play—for example, when they bang a toy hammer over and over.

If parents or teachers pretend with young children during functional play, toddlers
will begin to pretend, too. Ms. Morgan sits next to 2-year-old Hester, picks up a cup, and
pretends to drink. “This is delicious tea,” she says. Soon Hester takes a cup and says,
“Yum.” This type of pretense is the foundation for later symbolic play.

Constructive Play Constructive play begins as functional play and becomes more
symbolic as children use objects to create new ones. For example, children act out pretend

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach132

roles during block building. Constructive play aids logico-mathematical learning and can
be as basic as a 2-year-old stacking three blocks or as complex as a second grader build-
ing a model airplane.

Symbolic Play Play helps build symbolic representation—using one thing to mean
something else—such as when letters are used to represent sounds or number symbols
represent quantities. At first, toddlers use real objects or toys in their pretend play, such as
picking up the cup and pretending to drink. If adults encourage this type of play, children
use other objects in their play. They might pretend that a block is a cup. Finally, children
who have lots of experience with pretend play no longer need an object to pretend, using
their hands to represent drinking from a cup or stomping their feet and saying, “I’m an
elephant.” This type of play helps children move from thought that is linked to physical
actions to the ability to use words and other symbols to represent concepts (Piaget, 1962;
Vygotsky, 1962).

By the time most children turn 4 years old, they begin to develop more complex play
with roles and symbolic uses of props. Many preschool- and even kindergarten-age chil-
dren, however, still play at the toddler level. Bodrova and Leong (2012b) define this kind
of repetitive, unimaginative play as “immature play” to distinguish it from the “mature
play” that is expected of 4- and 5-year-olds. Mature play promotes self-regulation, execu-
tive function, and other skills (Diamond & Lee, 2011).

Games with Rules As children move into primary grades, they spend less time
in pretend play and more time playing games with rules (e.g., sports and board or
computer games). Games, including well-designed digital games, can build turn- taking
skill, delay of gratification, problem-solving, strategizing, and motivation to learn
(Lieberman, 2006).

Games require children to follow the established rules; they rarely get a chance to
discuss, negotiate, or change the rules—which would contribute to the development of
social competence and self-regulation (Bodrova & Leong, 2012a). When pretend play is
replaced by sports or other organized activities during the preschool years, these impor-
tant foundational skills might not develop fully (Bodrova & Leong, 2012a).

symbolic representation The
process of mentally using one
thing to stand for something
else.

Vygotsky saw play as the leading activity of the preschool years. Socio-dramatic play—when children dress
up and play parts in a scenario—builds many skills such as language and self-regulation.

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 133

The Benefits of Play
Research demonstrates that play contributes to language development, self-
regulation, attention, creativity, problem solving, and social and emotional
skills (Berk, Mann, & Ogan, 2006; Bodrova & Leong, 2012b; Diamond &
Lee, 2011). Play has been found to help prepare children for school (Frost,
Wortham, & Reifel, 2012). Research also links play to children’s literacy and
mathematics skills (Ginsburg, 2006; Zigler, Singer, & Bishop-Josef, 2004).

Children’s play can be enhanced through adult intervention, as in the Tools
of the Mind curriculum described previously. Sara Smilansky (1968), an Israeli
psychologist, conducted seminal studies of play among children living in poverty.
She found that they did not engage in the same kind of mature sociodramatic
play favored by their middle-class peers and were behind in other areas as well. Smilansky
trained children to play in more complex ways—using modeling and other techniques—
which significantly improved their language and social and cognitive development, findings
that have been replicated with other populations (Smilansky & Shefatya, 1990).

Play and Motivation
Although it is very important for children’s development, play is not the only way that
children learn, as we have seen from examining several different theories. If so, why is
it so important for teachers to defend and use play as a major context for teaching and
learning? One reason is that preschool children themselves are intrinsically motivated to
play. Play is so enjoyable for children that teachers don’t need to coerce or cajole them to
participate (Bredekamp, 2004).

In one study (Wiltz & Klein, 2001), preschoolers were asked what they like to do at
school. Ninety-eight percent of the children said play was their favorite activity. When
asked what they did not like about school, nearly a third of the children said meanness by
teachers or peers, and others did not like naptime and time-out. But many also disliked
circle time, especially in poorer-quality programs where it lasted 30 to 40 minutes and in-
volved repetition of calendar, letters, and numbers. Even in high-quality classrooms where
circle time was more interesting and engaging, many children reported disliking it primarily
because it takes too long. As one little boy, Don, said, “Well, I don’t really like . . . you
know, like sit in circle and listen . . . I don’t like that part [because] I think it’s too long
for me. I’d rather be playing” (Wiltz & Klein, 2001, p. 225).

✓ Check Your Understanding 4.5: The Role of Play in Development and Learning

Connecting Theory and Practice
Too often, teachers think that theories of child development and learning have little
relevance to their daily work with children, but the opposite is true. Theory and practice
are, or should be, integrally connected. We conclude the chapter with an overview of
the research-based and theory-derived principles that are the basis for developmentally
appropriate practice.

Looking across theories and research, teachers can become confused. As we have
seen, theories explain different aspects of children’s learning or development, and at times
they may seem contradictory. How can teachers make sense of diverse theories? To ad-
dress these questions, we provide a framework for thinking holistically about develop-
ment and learning.

NAEYC (2009) summarizes the research and theory undergirding developmentally
appropriate practice in a list of principles. Although these principles do not cover every-
thing teachers need to know about development and learning, they highlight some of the
key concepts that have implications for practice. In Table 4.4 the principles are listed and
illustrated with a few examples.

Classroom Connection
Children love to play and so do
animals. Learn more in this video
about how play is hard-wired into
our brains and why it is important
for development.

https://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=4Z_hMYGAQ6k

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach134

Principle of Development
and Learning Implications for Practice Example
Principle 1: Domains of children’s de-
velopment—physical, social, emotional,
and cognitive—are closely related.
Development in one domain influences
and is influenced by development in
other domains.

Curriculum should be comprehensive, ad-
dressing development and learning of the
whole child.

During a project on animals, 4-year-olds
learn science concepts about animals’
natural environments, use language and
literacy to tell and illustrate stories about
their favorite animals, and act out those
animals’ movements.

Principle 2: Many aspects of children’s
learning and development follow well-
documented sequences, with later abili-
ties, skills, and knowledge building on
those already acquired.

Teachers need to know the predictable, but
not rigid, sequences of development and
learning so they can assess children ac-
curately and plan for children’s continued
progress.

Ms. Rodriguez is familiar with the scope
and sequence in the first-grade reading
curriculum, so she adjusts her expectations
and work with children individually and in
small groups at their various levels of read-
ing ability.

Principle 3: Development and learning
proceed at varying rates from child to
child, as well as at uneven rates across
different areas of a child’s individual
functioning.

Teachers need to get to know each child
well, regularly observing and assessing
each child’s abilities, skills, knowledge,
and dispositions.

Josh is 3 years old and very verbal, while
Jon, also 3, seldom speaks. Jon has excel-
lent fine motor skills that Josh lacks. Their
teacher pairs them to play with interlocking
blocks, where they practice and improve
their language and motor skills.

Principle 4: Development and learning
result from a dynamic and continuous
interaction of biological maturation and
experience.

Teachers recognize that although there are
inborn individual differences and limits on
children’s learning based on maturation,
experience plays a large role in children’s
development. Teachers know the benefits
of early intervention for preventing later
problems.

Kindergarten teachers explain to parents
that the “gift of time”—holding children
out of school until they are older—is not a
good policy because children will ben-
efit more from the experience of attend-
ing school rather than simply waiting to
mature.

Principle 5: Early experiences have
both cumulative and delayed effects
on individual children’s development.
Optimal periods exist for certain types of
development and learning.

Teachers need to know research on the
short- and long-term effects of early
experience.

In her family childcare home, Mrs. Pickett
rarely uses TV because too much exposure
can harm children’s long-term attention
spans and doesn’t build language the way
real conversation does.

Principle 6: Development proceeds
toward greater complexity, self-regula-
tion, and symbolic or representational
capacities.

Teachers add greater complexity to learning
experiences over time. Teachers engage
children in conversations about thinking
and problem solving.

Because young children often “think out
loud,” preschool teachers don’t expect
silent classrooms. They organize activities
for children that encourage conversation.

Principle 7: Children develop best when
they have secure, consistent relation-
ships with responsive adults and
opportunities for positive relationships
with peers.

Teachers develop a warm, positive, trust-
ing relationship with each child. Teachers
protect the physical health and safety of
each child.

At the beginning of the school year, Ms.
Vargas conducts a home visit or meets with
parents to get to know each child and fam-
ily. She takes time to talk with each child
every day.

Principle 8: Development and learning
occur in and are influenced by social
and cultural contexts.

Teachers recognize that children’s compe-
tence acquired in their home culture may not
be apparent in the school culture, and know
that what is meaningful to children varies,
depending on their culture and language.

Concerned about Marta’s language devel-
opment, Ms. Kamp works with a Spanish
bilingual teacher, Ms. Gonzales, to obtain
an accurate assessment of Marta’s vocabu-
lary and grammar in her home language.

Principle 9: Always mentally active in
seeking to understand the world around
them, children learn in a variety of ways;
a wide range of teaching strategies and
interactions are effective in supporting
all of these kinds of learning.

Teachers use a variety of teaching strate-
gies—both teacher-guided and child-
guided—to meet the needs of individual
children. Teachers use a variety of learning
contexts—large group, small group, and in-
dividual, carefully considering each child’s
unique learning needs.

Ms. Hayes demonstrates and instructs the
children in how to move the images on the
computer screen for a new math program.
The children take turns experimenting with
the program, with Ms. Hayes close by to
provide assistance as needed.

(Continued)

TAble 4.4 Principles of Development and Learning to Guide Practice

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 135

In promulgating this list of principles, NAEYC (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009,
pp. 10–11) offers several caveats. First, while the list is comprehensive, it is not exhaus-
tive; other principles could be added. In addition, just as all domains of development
and learning are interconnected, so too are the principles. For instance, cultural and
individual variations are addressed in separate principles, and yet they play a role in
all of the other principles. In other words, decisions about applying any given principle
should consider children as individuals and as members of cultural groups. Despite
these limitations, the principles ref lect a solid base of research to guide teachers’
decision making.

✓ Check Your Understanding 4.6: Connecting Theory and Practice

Principle of Development
and Learning Implications for Practice Example
Principle 10: Play is an important
vehicle for developing self-regulation as
well as promoting language, cognition,
and social competence.

Teachers purposefully plan time and mate-
rials for children’s educationally valuable
play. Teachers observe children at play and
interact constructively with them.

Ms. Phillips models customer behavior
in the grocery store center in her kinder-
garten, while children engage in counting
money, reading labels, making lists, and
using vocabulary as they play.

Principle 11: Development and learning
advance when children are challenged
to achieve at a level just beyond their
current mastery, and also when they
have many opportunities to practice
newly acquired skills.

Teachers provide children with experiences
at which they can be successful as well
as providing them with some experiences
that are at the “just achievable” level of
challenge to stretch their learning and
development.

Mr. Durkin observes that many children are
interested in writing only their own names.
He suggests that friends write each other’s
names and provides name cards as models.

Principle 12: Children’s experiences
shape their motivation and approaches
to learning, such as persistence,
initiative, and flexibility; in turn, these
dispositions and behaviors affect their
learning and development.

Teachers draw on and cultivate children’s
interests to get their attention and keep
them engaged in learning. Teachers
encourage positive approaches to learning
such as curiosity and creativity.

Ms. Elias’s kindergartners show little
interest in the required reading workbooks.
She encourages the children act out the
stories, make up songs, and write their
own stories—experiences that encourage
engagement with the literature.

Source: Based on Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8, revised edition,
edited by C. Copple & S. Bredekamp, 2009, Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

TAble 4.4 Principles of Development and Learning to Guide Practice (Continued)

. . . Ms. Donati’s Classroom

We began this chapter by visiting Yvonne Donati’s classroom. Having examined various theories of

learning and their applications, we can see her practices in a clearer light. Yvonne operates from a

constructivist perspective. She sees children as active learners and structures her classroom and plans

curriculum accordingly. Yvonne also implements sociocultural theory as she scaffolds children’s learn-

ing in the zone of proximal development through appropriately timed prompts, questions, and assis-

tance. She applies brain research, building positive relationships, and research on play.

Although Yvonne’s teaching practices primarily reflect cognitive theories, she also applies prin-

ciples of operant conditioning—reinforcements to increase positive behaviors. Yvonne discovers that

Revisiting the Case Study

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach136

behavioral principles can be particularly effective under certain circumstances, such as when she ap-

plies them for a limited period of time in working with Maya’s special need.

Finally, Yvonne does some theory building of her own by testing her hypotheses about children’s

play with an informal research study. Theories are born, grow, or die from research that often begins in

informal observations of children such as Yvonne’s. ■

• Development is age-related change that occurs as the
result of an interaction between biological matura-
tion and physical and/or social experience. Learning
is a change in knowledge or skill that results from
experience or instruction.

• A theory is an explanation of how information and
observations are organized and relate to one another.
Theories are important because they affect how people
think and behave. In education, theories of learning
and development affect how teachers treat children,
how they structure environments, and how they teach.

• Early experiences change and organize the physical
structure of the brain. Neglect, abuse, and stress pose
serious threats to healthy brain development. High-
quality, developmentally appropriate early childhood
education can contribute to healthy brain development.

• The most inf luential theories of social-emotional
development are Erikson’s psychosocial theory and

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The most prominent
theories of cognitive development are Piaget’s theory
of constructivism and Vygotsky’s sociocultural
theory. A theory for understanding the interactive
inf luence of social and cultural contexts on human
development is Bronfenbrenner’s ecological sys-
tems model.

• The most prominent learning theories are B. F. Skin-
ner’s theory of behaviorism and Albert Bandura’s
social cognitive theory.

• Research demonstrates that play contributes to lan-
guage development, self-regulation, attention, creativ-
ity, problem solving, social and emotional skills, and
literacy and mathematics skills.

• Effective early childhood education is based on knowl-
edge of child development and learning. NAEYC sum-
marizes the key concepts of that knowledge base in 12
principles that can be used to guide practice.

Chapter Summary4

Key Terms
■■ accommodation
■■ adaptation
■■ assimilation
■■ behaviorism or
behavioral learning

■■ chronosystem
■■ cognitive development
■■ co-construction
■■ consequences
■■ conservation
■■ constructivism
■■ development
■■ domains of development
■■ domain-general
processes

■■ disequilibrium
■■ ecological systems theory

■■ egocentrism
■■ equilibration
■■ emotional development
■■ executive function
■■ exosystem
■■ extinction
■■ 5- to 7-year shift
■■ hypothesis
■■ learning
■■ logico-mathematical
knowledge

■■ macrosystem
■■ maturationist
■■ mesosystem
■■ microsystem
■■ modeling
■■ negative reinforcement

■■ neurons
■■ object permanence
■■ operant conditioning
■■ physical development
■■ physical knowledge
■■ plasticity
■■ positive reinforcement
■■ private speech
■■ proximal processes
■■ pruning
■■ punishment
■■ reinforcer
■■ scaffolding
■■ scheme or schema
■■ self-actualization theory
■■ self-regulated learning
■■ self-regulation

■■ shaping
■■ social cognitive theory
■■ social-conventional
knowledge

■■ social development
■■ sociocultural theory
■■ successive
approximations

■■ symbolic representation
■■ synapses
■■ theory
■■ toxic stress
■■ vicarious learning
■■ windows of opportunity
■■ zone of proximal devel-
opment (ZPD)

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Chapter 4 Applying What We Know about Children’s Learning and Development 137

Demonstrate Your Learning
Click here to assess how well you’ve learned the content in this chapter.

Copple, C. (Ed.). (2012). Growing minds: Build-
ing strong cognitive foundations in early childhood.
Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Mooney, C. G. (2013). Theories of childhood: An
introduction to Dewey, Montessori, Erikson, Piaget, and
Vygotsky (2nd ed.). St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

Nell, M. L., Drew, W. F., & Bush, D. E. (2013). From
play to practice: Connecting teachers’ play to children’s
learning. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Mind in the Making website
Ellen Galinsky’s book, Mind in the making: The seven
essential life skills every child needs, and website of the
same name, provide a useful description for families and
teachers of how to support children developing life skills
that are essential for healthy development and learn-
ing and success in life, including executive function and
self-regulation.

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
This website has rich resources about brain development
and explains how early relationships and experiences

shape the brain and behavior of the child. There are sev-
eral videos and powerpoints to use for teaching adults
about the importance of healthy brain development, as
well as activities to use with children and families.

ZERO to THREE
Explore this website for information on the development
of infants and toddlers. You’ll also find information for
supporting brain development and young children’s men-
tal health, and resources for teachers and families.

National Association for the Education of Young
Children (NAEYC)
The NAEYC website has a section dedicated to Play
and Learning including research, books and teach-
ing resources. Information on gender in play, how to
choose toys, and how to support play at different ages is
included.

Readings and Websites

M04_BRED6702_03_SE_C04.indd 137 10/7/15 1:28 PM

5
After studying this chapter, you should be able to:

5.1 Identify the kinds and sources of individual differences among children.

5.2 Describe what teachers need to know about variation among children, and
identify ways to accommodate individual differences.

5.3 Restate Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, and discuss its implica-
tions for teaching practices.

5.4 Compare ways of differentiating instruction to adapt for individual differences
in ability, interest, and personality among children.

5.5 Explain practices that are required by law for children with disabilities and
special needs.

5.6 Apply your knowledge of effective practices for teaching children with special
needs to teaching all children.

Adapting for Individual
Differences

Learning Outcomes

© Kali9/E+/Getty Images

M05_BRED6702_03_SE_C05.indd 138 10/7/15 1:39 PM

139

Lindsay Creighton is ready for open house night. When Shira arrives with her mom in tow, she greets Lindsay with an exuberant hug and turns to see Rohan coming down the hall. “Rohan! It’s the open house!” Rohan
clings to his father’s leg. He is painfully shy and seems unnerved by Shira’s enthusiastic greeting. His father says,

“Go play with Shira.” But Rohan retreats and shakes his head “no.”

The next to arrive are Cal and his grandmother. “Cal!” screams Shira, and the two embrace. Cal runs by his

grandmother on his way to play, and she speaks sternly to him in Chinese. He stops running. Slowly he moves to

the block corner with Shira. When she hands him a pink car, Cal sighs, “This is for girls. I need a boy car.”

Carter and his parents arrive. Shira says hello to Carter, but then speaks to his parents, “Carter can play if he

wants.” Carter flaps his arms and repeats a favorite phrase from a children’s movie. He moves closer to Shira and

grabs her cheeks. His parents intervene and say, “Too close, Carter.” Behind Carter and his parents are the twins,

Alice and Alexandra. Shira’s mom, Beth, greets them, “Hello, Alice. Hello, Alex.” Alice rolls her eyes and says,

“You got us mixed up again!” Beth apologizes, but the twins’ mom says, “Even I get them mixed up sometimes,

until they are in a place like this. Just watch. Alice will try to take over, and Alex will stay in a quiet corner until the

open house is over.” Ruby is the last to arrive. Her father immediately asks Lindsay if any of the food has nuts.

When Lindsay says, “No, I made sure,” he still asks to see the ingredient labels due to Ruby’s severe allergy.

Later, Lindsay reflects on the evening. Although the children are all about the same age, they are so different.

She marvels at the fact that even the identical twins have such different personalities. She wonders if Rohan’s

shyness is exacerbated by his father’s insistence on participation. And what about Shira—how did she get to be

such a social butterfly? Is it in her genes, or did her parents cultivate that, too?

Lindsay’s thoughts turn to Carter, who has autism. She considers how well his parents coordinate with his

teacher and other specialists to reinforce what he’s learning in school. Lindsay also

thinks of 5-year-old Cal, living with his grandmother after his mother’s parental rights

were revoked as a result of neglect. How is it that he is such a positive and vivacious

boy given all he has had to deal with in his young life? Lindsay smiles

when she thinks about Cal wanting a “boy car.” How and when do these

gender stereotypes crystallize?

Finally, her thoughts turn to the challenges she faces. How

will she be able to meet the needs of these children? How will

she provide experiences that challenge Shira and Cal but don’t

overwhelm Carter? How will she make Rohan

and Alex feel at ease in social situations? And

how will she create a strong sense of belonging

and friendship among these children? ■

Case Study

I
ndividual differences abound in every group of young children. As is evident from
the open house vignette, even children of the same chronological age differ from one
another in many ways. The purpose of this chapter is to examine what is known about

the range of individual differences among children and how teachers can effectively adapt
the curriculum and teaching strategies to help all children participate, develop, and learn
to their fullest potential. Understanding individual differences is a critical dimension of
developmentally appropriate practice.

We begin with a discussion of the range of individual variation that exists among all chil-
dren and some of the origins of these differences. Next we describe Howard Gardner’s theory
of multiple intelligences, which is a useful framework for thinking about individual children’s
strengths, needs, interests, and abilities. Then we discuss differentiating instruction and present

M05_BRED6702_03_SE_C05.indd 139 10/7/15 1:39 PM

Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach140

a framework for responding to the diverse learning needs of all children. We conclude with a
discussion of effective practices for teaching children with disabilities and special needs.

The Importance of Individual
Differences
Anyone who has been a parent or a teacher is aware of the fact that every child is unique. Even
people who do not have parenting or teaching experience have been children themselves and
know that we are all different. Try to remember your earliest school experience and picture
the children in your class. Were all the boys or girls alike? Did everyone enjoy and excel at
the same activities? Did all of your classmates learn at the same pace and in the same way?
Was anyone exactly like you? Of course, the answer to all of these questions is “No.”

Acknowledging the uniqueness of each child is only the beginning. Effective early child-
hood teachers understand typical and atypical child development; they also understand the
importance of knowing each child as an individual. They use this knowledge to plan and
adapt curriculum and to help each child meet important learning goals (NAEYC, 2009).

Why Pay Attention to Individual Differences?
One of the most well-known facts about child development is that there is a wide range of
individual variation (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). But what does “wide range” mean and what
are the implications for teachers? The concept of a range of variation is based on an average;
for example, we might say that, on average, men are 5 10 tall. This average was calculated
based on the heights of a huge number of men. When we consider their heights individually,
however, they may range from 4 8 to 7 1. Now, consider a range of variation in relation
to children’s development. On virtually every characteristic we could measure—saying first
words, balancing on one foot, knowing the alphabet—the pace and timing of children’s per-
formance vary. The average age at which most children master a skill, for example, doesn’t
tell us much without knowing the range, which gives us a far clearer picture of reality.

In general, teachers need to be cautious about focusing too much on averages. Many
aspects of schooling, including the graded structure and power of standardized tests, tend
to reflect the assumption that all children will achieve certain skills and knowledge at the
same time. As a result, the tendency is for schools to ignore the range of variation and to
try to teach all children the same way.

But if we want every child to achieve the same goals, we must treat them and teach
them as individuals. Acknowledging that individual differences exist does not mean low-
ering expectations for some children. In fact, high expectations for children’s learning are
necessary if they are to succeed. In the sections that follow, we describe some important
aspects of variation among children. But first we discuss theories about the origin of indi-
vidual differences—the question of nature versus nurture.

Where Do Individual Differences Come From?
One of the most enduring debates in psychology is the degree to which development is the
product of biology (nature) or environment (nurture). The question is often framed as whether
nature or nurture is more influential in determining who we become as individuals. Although
we know that physical characteristics are inherited, the genetic markers are less clear when it
comes to an individual’s behavior, intelligence, and personality. Consider the twins in Lind-
say Creighton’s classroom at the beginning of this chapter. Is Alice more outgoing and Alex
more cautious because these personality traits are not part of the genetic pattern they share?
Or does this difference result because their parents encouraged the girls in different ways?

The Influence of Biology on Development In the past, some psycholo-
gists (Jensen, 1980) proposed that people behave as they do because of inborn char-
acteristics. This belief emphasizes the inf luence of nature, the hereditary or genetic

nature The hereditary or
genetic contributions to human
development.

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Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences 141

contributions to human development. Whether we
are male or female, have freckles, black hair, or a
certain type of personality can be inf luenced by
genetic factors.

Nature also refers to the biological and neu-
rological drivers of development. For example,
physical growth and advances in motor skills for
most humans develop in a predictable sequence.
Newborn reflexes soon give rise to voluntary move-
ments and the development of abilities such as roll-
ing over, crawling, walking, and running. Similarly,
language development has a biological component.
The fact that most infants, regardless of culture, be-
gin to coo and babble at approximately the same
ages provides strong evidence that nature indeed
affects development.

Whereas some aspects of nature influence a similar course of development for most
children, genetics also affects individual differences. For example, most children take
their first steps by about 1 year of age, but there is a wide range of variation among in-
dividuals. David took his first steps at 7 months; his brother Jeffrey wasn’t mobile until
18 months.

The Role of the Environment Although biology influences individual differ-
ences, some scientists (Skinner, 1953, 1968) believe that people behave in certain ways
more as a result of their experiences in the environment or because they are taught to do
so. This belief stresses the influence of nurture on human behavior.

Heredity may play a role in inf luencing personality traits, but according to the
nurture perspective, environmental factors ultimately determine who we become. Par-
ents’ discipline methods, for example, might have more inf luence on their children’s
behavior than the parents’ genetic contributions. Other dimensions of the environment
also inf luence children’s development, such as the family’s economic resources, the
quality of their child care setting, the number of siblings in the home, and the safety of
the community.

The Transactional Relationship between Nature and Nurture Although
the nature versus nurture debate continues, the current thinking is that “nature and nur-
ture are partners in how developing people interact with the surrounding environment”
(Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000, p. 39). The transactional theory of development (Sameroff,
2009) explains that development is the result of both biology and experience and the ways
in which they influence each other.

To illustrate how nature and nurture interact, consider the following
examples. Myra, a highly verbal and inquisitive 6-year-old, seems to in-
spire her teacher to engage her in intellectually stimulating projects, such as
finding out what causes earthquakes, which in turn further Myra’s already
accelerated development and learning. By contrast, Alyssa, who is deaf, is
withdrawn and rarely joins in activities even though her teacher uses sign
language. Alyssa’s lack of responsiveness may provoke her teacher to initiate
communication with her less often.

Both biology and experience play critical, interrelated roles in children’s
development. Therefore, the kinds of experiences children have become
vitally important. As the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard Uni-
versity (2010) reports, “Experiences children have early in life—and the
environments in which they have them—shape their developing brain archi-
tecture and strongly affect whether they grow up to be healthy, productive
members of society” (p. 1).

nurture Environmental factors
and experiences that influ-
ence human development and
behavior.

transactional theory of
development Theory that de-
velopment is the result of both
biology and experience and how
they influence each other.

Classroom Connection
Understand more about how biol-
ogy and environment interact to
influence how individuals develop
in different ways in this video
“What is Nature vs. Nurture?”
What does the presenter say
about the importance of environ-
ments for how young children
develop? What can teachers do to
provide positive environments?

https://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=P-D33oWiOEg

Every class of young children is
made up of unique individuals.
Intentional teachers must find
ways to meet the needs of every
child while also challenging
each one to make continued
learning progress.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach142

How Experience Affects Outcomes
for Children: Risk or Resilience
According to the transactional theory of development, children’s experiences impact their
overall development. Accumulation of certain kinds of experiences can place children at
risk for negative outcomes. Similarly, if children have repeated positive experiences, their
development is likely to be enhanced.

Understanding Risk Factors Risk factors are inherited or experiential condi-
tions that potentially contribute to negative outcomes for children (Huffman et al., 2001).
Among the most frequently identified risk factors are living in poverty, living with a
single parent, low education level of parents, disability, and child abuse (Moore, 2006).
The concept of risk factors has led to the use of the term children at risk of school failure.

When risk factors multiply in children’s lives, they produce a growing number of poor
developmental outcomes (Burchinal & Willoughby, 2013). That is, the more risk factors chil-
dren have, the more likely they are to experience developmental delays and social or health
problems. These conditions, in turn, can lead to a host of poor outcomes such as peer rejec-
tion, academic failure, dropping out of school, mental health disorders, or criminal behavior.

Promoting Resilience Research on children with multiple risk factors demon-
strates that exposure to risk and adversity does not necessarily result in negative outcomes
for some children (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 2010). Positive,
supportive experiences can mediate risk and help children become resilient (Masten &
Powell, 2003). Resilience refers to a child’s ability to overcome, adapt to, or minimize the
damaging effects of adversity (Werner & Smith, 2001).

Mechanisms—called protective factors—exist that may minimize the potentially
negative effects for children living in identified high-risk situations. Like risk factors, pro-
tective factors are both inherited (nature) and experiential (nurture). A continuous, posi-
tive parent-child relationship has been found to be one of the most important contributors
to the development of resilience (Thompson & Goodman, 2009). Other protective factors
include a variety of external social supports such as extended family, membership in a
church or spiritual group, and close friends and neighbors.

Children’s inherent characteristics also contribute to resilience. For example, resilient
children often possess temperaments in infancy that elicit positive responses from their care-
givers (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). For example, Stefano is a happy, easily soothed baby who
draws positive attention from everyone. Timothy, on the other hand, cries all night and doesn’t
nurse readily. His mother begins to feel inadequate and has difficulty attaching to him.

In short, risk and resilience are not the result of either biology or environment alone.
Rather, the interactions between children’s biological makeup and their experiences
contribute to the wide variation among children and families (Gest & Davidson, 2011).
Teachers must remember that a child’s genetic inheritance or environmental circumstanc-
es should never limit their expectations of children. In fact, one of the most important
sources of resilience in children is positive relationships with teachers (Hamre & Pianta,
2010; Howes & Ritchie, 2002; Sabol & Pianta, 2013).

✓ Check Your Understanding 5.1: The Importance of Individual Differences

What We Know About
Individual Differences
Children whose development is well within the typical range differ from one another in
many ways. Gender is a key area where biology and environment interact to influence
development, as described in the next section.

risk factors Inherited or
experiential conditions that
potentially contribute to poor
developmental outcomes for
children, such as peer rejection,
academic failure, juvenile delin-
quency, and school expulsion.

resilience A child’s ability to
overcome, adapt to, or mini-
mize the damaging effects of
adversity.

protective factors Mechanisms,
both inherited and experien-
tial, that may minimize the
potentially negative effects for
children living in identified
high-risk situations.

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Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences 143

Gender Differences
“Is it a boy or a girl?” seems to be the first question asked about a new baby. From the
first moments of life, and even prenatally, powerful assumptions are made about children
on the basis of their sex. These assumptions are soon influenced by experience. When
3-year-old Lucienne receives a soccer ball and goal, she insists that she cannot play with
them because “It’s for boys.” Her belief was reinforced by the fact that the packaging
showed two boys playing soccer. Indeed, stereotypes about girls and boys are durable
and pervasive, which raises questions about what the actual differences are, if any, in the
development and characteristics of boys and girls.

Physical Development There is little evidence of gender differences in most
domains of development and learning. In some domains, however, the characteristics
of females and males have been found to differ. Physically, for example, females are
typically more mature at birth, and males are more likely to be miscarried, die in in-
fancy, or develop hereditary diseases (Jacklin, 1989). On average, females also reach
developmental milestones, such as talking earlier, than do males (Bukatko & Daehler,
2003). Current research is beginning to reveal some sex differences in brain structure,
but much remains to be learned before definite conclusions can be drawn (Woolfolk &
Perry, 2015).

Cognitive Skills Although there are no significant gender-based differences in
overall intelligence, tests of cognitive abilities find some specific differences between
girls and boys. Notably, boys demonstrate a slight but consistent advantage in the do-
main of visual-spatial rotation (Woolfolk & Perry, 2015), the ability to visualize and
mentally transform or rotate figures or objects. While this ability is related to success
in other mathematics areas, evidence suggests that early experience and attitudes to-
ward mathematics may play a more important role in mathematical learning (Krinzinger,
Wood, & Willmes, 2012).

Some evidence suggests, however, that gender differences in visual-spatial ability
are to some extent a product of children’s experience (Clements & Sarama, 2008). For
example, during the preschool years, boys tend to spend more time than girls do involved
in the kinds of activities that build visual-spatial skills: building with blocks, playing
with Legos, and putting puzzles together. When girls engage in such play and teachers
make the experience meaningful, such as talking with them about what they are doing or
reading a story about shapes, girls perform as well as boys on these visual-spatial tasks
(Casey, Erkut, Ceder, & Young, 2008).

Social Behavior Popular culture suggests that vast differences exist in social be-
havior between females and males; however, scientific research suggests that few broad
gender differences exist in the area of social behaviors (Eliot, 2009). There are, however,
subtle differences. Girls engage in more imaginary play than boys do, while boys tend
to play in slightly larger groups and their play generally takes up more space (Woolfolk
& Perry, 2015). Girls tend to form more intimate play and friendships (Dolgin & Kim,
1994), whereas boys’ friendships are more geared toward a mutual interest in activities
(Erwin, 1998). And even as early as 2 years of age, girls talk more about emotion than
boys do (Cervantes & Callanan, 1998).

Perhaps the most notable gender difference is that boys are more overtly aggres-
sive than girls beginning in the preschool years. Possibly as a result of male hormones,
boys are also more physically active and more likely to engage in rough-and-tumble
play (Woolfolk & Perry, 2015). They display more physical aggression, try to dominate
peers, and subsequently display more antisocial behaviors than females (Woolfolk &
Perry, 2015).

Although it is tempting to think these gender differences are innate, the reality
is more complicated. Current thinking is that sex differences in social behaviors are

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach144

heavily inf luenced by the situation (Zakriski, Wright, & Underwood, 2005). Because
boys and girls are often observed playing with their same-sex peers, differences be-
tween the sexes can appear to be greater than they really are and similarities less obvi-
ous (Maccoby, 2002). For example, preschooler Leo gets into frequent fights with his
peers and appears to be more aggressive than Johanna. But this difference might have
more to do with Leo’s rough-and-tumble play than any innate tendency to aggressive
behavior.

In addition, gender differences in aggression are largely a function of where the be-
havior occurs and how aggression is defined. The largest gender differences are found in
less structured, natural environments such as on the playground. However, when aggres-
sion consists of attempts to hurt another person through manipulation, gossip, or exclu-
sion from a social group, it is called relational aggression. When we consider relational
aggression, girls are more aggressive than boys starting in the preschool years (Burr,
Ostrov, Jansen, Cullerton-Sen, & Crick, 2005; Crick, Casas, & Mosher, 1997). If Johanna
were to be picked on as often as Leo is, she might be perceived as being aggressive, too.
There is also the possibility that Johanna would react differently from Leo. Rather than
using physical aggression, she would probably resort to relational aggression, such as
name-calling or saying, “I won’t be your friend.”

Gender-Related Expectations Although gender is a biological trait, much gen-
der-related behavior is learned. From very early ages, children receive messages about
what is expected of girls and boys that influence their behavior. By preschool age, chil-
dren are beginning to firmly establish their gender identity, although they may still think
that changing their clothes or activity can affect it. Sex-role stereotyping can play a pow-
erful role in the classroom.

Among the individual differences that have the greatest significance for teachers
are variations in cognitive development and abilities, social and emotional development
(including temperament), approaches to learning, physical development, and interests.
These topics are discussed briefly in the sections that follow.

Cognitive Development and Abilities
A major contributor to individual differences is variation in language development. Con-
sider the fact that although, on average, babies say their first word at 11 months, the range
is from 8 to 14 months (Hart & Risley, 1999). In addition, although the average age at
which half of what children say is understandable is 19 months, the range is from 15 to
30 months (Hart & Risley, 1999), making teaching toddlers a challenging task indeed.

As children get older, variation only increases. Observations of 2-year-olds demon-
strate that, on average, children produce 134 different words per hour, but the range is
from 18 to 286 words (Hart & Risley, 1999). Such wide variation makes it challenging for
teachers and parents to determine whether a child’s development is just at the slow end of
the range or is actually delayed.

By the time children reach kindergarten, their language, literacy, and mathematics
abilities vary widely, and the achievement gap is already apparent (Hart & Risley, 2003;
West, Denton, & Germino-Hausken, 2000). However, it is important to remember our
earlier caution about averages when thinking about a large group of individuals such as
children from low-income families. A wide range of variation exists within this group as
well; although many children will be far behind, others will not. A large national study
found that although Head Start children on average score below national norms, especial-
ly in vocabulary, the top one-quarter of the children scored at national averages on letter
recognition and writing skills (Tarullo, Aikens, Moiduddin, & West, 2010).

Emotional and Social Development
Social skills and emotional self-regulation are among the most important skills for success
in school and life. Positive social skills include the ability to make friends, join in play,

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Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences 145

and comfort other children in distress (Bowman, Donovan, & Burns, 2001). Children
who have poor social skills are more likely to be angry and to argue and fight or withdraw
from others.

Individual differences in social and emotional development are often related
to temperament, and can often be observed when children are infants and toddlers.
Temperament refers to individual differences in reactivity and self-regulation as shown
in children’s emotions, activity level, and attention (Rothbart, 2011). While tempera-
ment has genetic and biological roots, research has shown that warm relationships with
family members and teachers help all children develop positive social skills, regardless
of their temperament type (Bates, 2012; Stright, Gallagher, & Kelley, 2008). One impor-
tant aspect of temperament is how children react to new situations and people. Recall
the twins, Alexandra and Alice, in the chapter-opening vignette. Alice confidently joins
in and becomes the life of the party, whereas Alex is fearful and inhibited in the new
situation.

Some studies have shown that children with certain temperament characteristics
struggle in school (Gartstein, Putnam, & Rothbart, 2012); however, warm and respon-
sive relationships with caregivers help children to be successful in academics and so-
cial relationships (Bates, 2012; Rudasill, Gallagher & White, 2010). Teachers who learn
about and understand their children’s different temperaments will learn how to adapt the
learning setting to meet children’s individual needs (Bates, 2012). Instead of assuming
that a shy child has poor social skills or that an outgoing, energetic child is too aggres-
sive or out of control, teachers should adapt to each child’s needs. Alex’s teacher will
need to help her feel comfortable in new surroundings and teach her skills for making
new friends (Gallagher, 2013). Alice’s teacher may need provide gentle guidance for
following structured routines, redirecting her energy, and paying attention when needed.
Temperament is one dimension of a larger topic, approaches to learning, which is dis-
cussed next.

Approaches to Learning
Early childhood educators are becoming increasingly aware that children’s approaches to
learning are critically important determinants of their success in school (Fantuzzo, Perry, &
McDermott, 2004; Hyson, 2008). Approaches to learning are “behaviors, tendencies
or typical patterns that children use in learning situations” (Hyson, 2008, p. 10). These
include both how children feel about learning—their level of enthusiasm, interest, and
motivation—and how children engage with learning. Do they pay attention? Do they per-
sist when tasks are challenging or frustrating? If one solution doesn’t work out, are they
flexible and creative in trying something new?

As with all other aspects of learning and development, there are individual differ-
ences in children’s approaches to learning, which vary depending on the situation. For
example, 7-year-old Wes enjoys taking things apart and putting them together; he will
persist for hours working on his simple machines
project for science. But during reading class, Wes
loses interest and his attention wanders; his reading
progress suffers. In response, his teacher brings in
several books on machines and Wes’s enthusiasm for
reading improves.

Even a brief visit to a classroom during choice time
reveals the diversity of children’s approaches to learn-
ing. Dontrelle can play with Legos for an hour. Ivy loves
music, especially songs with movements, but wanders
from one area to another, never alighting on one activity.
Becca prefers painting but is perfectly happy if it is not
available. The challenge for teachers is to foster chil-
dren’s positive approaches to learning and build on their
strengths to help them acquire new abilities.

temperament The pattern of
arousal and emotionality that is
characteristic of an individual.

approaches to learning
Behaviors, tendencies, or
typical patterns that children
use in learning situations that
include both how they feel
about learning—their level
of enthusiasm, interest, and
motivation—and how they
engage with learning.

There are individual differences
in children’s approaches to
learning. As you can see, this
child hesitates to join in play,
while others may be enthusi-
astic and engaged right from
the start.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach146

Physical Development
Children of the same chronological age vary considerably in height and weight. Teach-
ers sometimes inaccurately judge children’s maturity based on their physical character-
istics. For example, boys who are small for their age may be thought to be less mature
than taller boys and inaccurately judged as not ready for kindergarten. At the same time,
taller children, girls as well as boys, are often assumed to be older and more capable
than they are.

Physical development is largely determined by biology; however, experience also
plays a role in how physical skills and abilities develop, as when childhood malnu-
trition or chronic illness stunts growth. On average, girls develop fine motor skills
earlier than boys do, but cultural expectations for girls’ behavior may contribute to
these differences (Woolfolk & Perry, 2015). Girls, for instance, may be given dolls to
dress with miniature clothes and shoes that require fine motor skills, and they may be
encouraged by teachers or parents to play in a more restricted way than boys. Simi-
larly, because boys may be less adept with pencils or unable to sit still for group time,
teachers might think they are less competent. Just as teachers must understand each
child’s temperament, they must also come to understand each child’s physical skills
and capabilities in order to provide a wide range of learning opportunities to find the
best match.

Seeing Each Child as an Individual
There is a scene in the movie Mary Poppins when Ms. Poppins meets her charges, Jane
and Michael, for the first time. The star nanny pulls out her “magical measuring tape.”
The special tape measurer allows her to instantaneously surmise important and unique in-
formation about the children that helps her to plan how she will best care for them. While
this type of measuring tape does not exist in reality, it illustrates a necessary first step in
working with children: getting to know them.

For teachers to build positive relationships and teach effectively, they need to under-
stand children’s preferences, interests, background, and culture. For children, this infor-
mation is most often accessed by carefully and purposefully observing what they do, and
by speaking with parents and other caregivers. The task of knowing children involves
observing and assessing on a regular basis.

Some teachers find it helpful for parents to complete surveys about their child.
Items on these surveys include family members; pets; fears; favorite foods, toys, or

activities; how to tell when their child is upset; or what
other special needs a child may have. With this informa-
tion, teachers can help ensure that children are motivated to
get involved, that the content of conversations and level of
instruction are relevant, and that they communicate respect
for children’s families and cultural background.

As we have seen in previous sections, individual differ-
ences result from both heredity and experience. A key deter-
minant of children’s experience is their culture. For example,
cultural groups differ in their views about appropriate behav-
ior for males and females. Cultural differences and individual
differences are not the same thing, but they are connected.
The Culture Lens feature will help you understand the re-
lationship between individual and cultural differences, and
respond effectively.

The connection between interests and abilities is the
foundation of an important theory relevant to individual
differences in human beings. This theory of multiple intel-
ligences is described in the section that follows.

This All About Me interview
helps the teacher get to know
each child in her class.

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Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences 147

✓ Check Your Understanding 5.2: What We Know about Individual Differences

Multiple Intelligences: A Theory
of Individual Differences
A useful framework for thinking about individual differences among children is the theory
of multiple intelligences developed by Howard Gardner (2004). Rather than thinking
about intelligence as one score that can be measured by an intelligence test, Gardner
identified eight different intelligences, which are listed and described in Table 5.1. Gard-
ner believes that people have different profiles of strengths and weaknesses among these
intelligences. His theory challenges teachers to think of the many different ways children
are intelligent and can demonstrate their competence.

Gardner (2004) points out that traditional schooling typically focuses on only two of the
intelligences: logical/mathematical and linguistic. Consider the fact that college entrance

theory of multiple intelligences
Theory developed by Howard
Gardner that identifies eight
different intelligences as op-
posed to a single score on an
intelligence test; this theory
is useful for thinking about
variation among children and
teaching to their strengths.

Culture Lens
Responding to Cultural and Individual Differences

Early childhood teachers must respond to both individual
differences in children and to cultural differences. Why
both? When teachers respond to the individual child,
aren’t they also responding to the cultural child? The an-
swer is yes and no.

Every child is unique and develops an individual personal-
ity as a result of her or his personal history. At the same
time, everyone develops some behaviors that are shared
with members of his or her cultural group. Because culture
is a group characteristic, the rules of a culture are shared
by group members and are not unique to individuals. When
teachers think of children only as individuals, they risk
missing important information about what children have
learned about group expectations. Consider this example:

Edwin comes in from outdoor play crying; he is soaked
and covered with sand and mud. His teacher, Ms.
Amos, starts to undress him to help him get cleaned
up and he cries harder. When she tries to help him
remove his shoes, he forcefully pulls away. Ms. Amos
knows him to be stubborn and tries to coax him into
letting her help and consoles him while attempting to
undress him, but to no avail. What his teacher doesn’t
know is that in Edwin’s cultural group, you don’t get
your school clothes dirty, boys don’t cry, and boys
dress and undress themselves in private.

Had this teacher known more about Edwin’s cultural
group, she could have responded in a more appropriate
way. She might have offered him a change of clothes and
let him go to a private place to change himself. On the
other hand, what teachers know about group differences
when blindly applied to all individuals in a cultural group
may be equally inappropriate because individuals within
groups differ from one another.

After the incident with Edwin, Ms. Amos decides to
learn more about his background. She talks to col-
leagues and becomes a more careful observer of Edwin
and his family, as well as of other children from his
cultural group. One day Edwin’s cousin Sammy comes
in soaked and covered with mud. Ms. Amos decides
not to help him clean up, but offers him a change of
clothes. When he takes the clean clothes, returns to
the playground, and throws them in the sandbox, his
teacher is stunned because she expected him to go
in the bathroom and change. Sammy, however, was
not at all upset by the wet clothes and enjoyed acting
contrary to expectations.

So why did the two boys—both from the same cultural
group—behave so differently? Because culture is learned;
it can be well learned by some people in the group and
less well learned by others. Some families are tradition
oriented, others less so. Further, even though families
and individuals learn the cultural rules, some people con-
form to what they have learned, while others don’t.

Thus, members of a cultural group will behave differently
depending on how deeply embedded they are within the
core of a culture. Thinking about differences in behavior
in this way helps teachers understand why, for instance,
all Japanese people don’t always “act Japanese.” And it
helps teachers avoid stereotyping groups and applying
untested assumptions about individuals.

An important thing to remember is that knowing who
children are as members of cultural groups provides
more information than simply knowing them as individu-
als. But the most important point is that children are
both individuals and cultural beings at the same time
and in the same place.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach148

exams result in scores for math and verbal ability. When educators test only children’s ver-
bal and math abilities, as is often the case, they miss children’s strengths in other important
areas such as sociability or psychomotor skills. Gardner also believes that attention to the
full range of children’s capabilities could help more children succeed in school, thus nar-
rowing the achievement gap for children from low-income families and children of color.

What are the implications of Gardner’s theory for teachers? Consider the following
example of teaching with multiple intelligences in mind. Hanita Blume teaches a mixed-
age group of 4- and 5-year-olds. One of the primary goals of the math curriculum is to
develop children’s concept of number, which includes counting and beginning operations
such as adding and subtracting. The range of ages and experiences among children within
her group affects their levels of math ability. She takes these differences into account as
well as the fact that each of these children has different capabilities and interests.

Hanita does not try to evaluate individual children’s “intelligences.” Instead, she
plans a variety of learning opportunities to draw on children’s strengths and interests to
help them all achieve the math goals. Following are some of the learning experiences she
provides relevant to each of the multiple intelligences:

• Logical/mathematical. Hanita engages children in solving real-world problems
with numbers, such as “We have nine children and only five chairs. How many
more chairs do we need?”

• Linguistic. Hanita reads a counting book in small groups and engages children in
counting the objects on each page.

• Musical. In large and small groups, Hanita sings counting songs and does fingerplays
such as Five Little Monkeys to engage children in counting forward and backward.

• Naturalist. During outdoor play time, Hanita works with children to make col-
lections of natural objects such as leaves or stones. Children place the objects in
categories (large or small, according to color), count the number in each category,
and determine which has more or fewer.

• Spatial. Hanita provides many different kinds of blocks and small manipulative
toys for children to count and categorize, and talks with them, supplying the count-
ing words for those who need the help.

• Bodily/kinesthetic. Hanita engages children in using their bodies to learn the count-
ing sequence and concept of number. Children stomp their feet or clap their hands
three times, four times, and so on.

• Interpersonal. Hanita organizes small cooperative groups of children to work on
math games such as Chutes and Ladders; children roll the die, read the number of
dots, and count the number of spaces. There is no competition.

Intelligence Definition
Children’s Possible Interests in School
and Later Life

Logical/mathematical Ability to reason, analyze, solve logical problems Earth, space, and physical sciences; mathematics;
computers

Linguistic Ability to communicate; sensitivity to words and
functions of language

Reading, writing, teaching, public speaking

Musical Ability to produce and appreciate music Singing, playing instruments, composing,
listening to music

Naturalist Sensitivity to the natural world, plants, animals Outdoor play, nature, biology, environmental science,
gardening

Spatial Ability to perceive the visual-spatial world Visual arts, photography, architecture, graphic design

Bodily/kinesthetic Ability to control body movements and objects Dancing, physical education, sports, movement exploration

Interpersonal Sensitivity to the feelings and desires of others Making friends, collaborative learning, social studies

Intrapersonal Awareness of own feelings and strengths Keeping a diary, reading, writing poetry, meditation

Sources: Based on Gardner (2004, 2006).

Table 5.1 Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences

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Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences 149

• Intrapersonal. Hanita works one-on-one with some children in tasks such as calcu-
lating attendance, and then asks them to reflect on what they know about counting.

As we can conclude from the example of Hanita’s classroom, seeing children as
individuals with multiple intelligences does not mean that every child must be taught
differently. Instead, individual variation among children requires using various teaching
practices to be responsive to the abilities of all learners, including children whose devel-
opment is well above the typical range, as discussed next.

Gifted and Talented Children
A small percentage of children may display highly specialized talents at a young age.
Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences is helpful in adapting instruction for these chil-
dren. What is giftedness? The National Association for Gifted Children (2010) defines it
as: “Individuals who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude or competence in one or
more domains.” However, there is no universally accepted definition; giftedness, intel-
ligence, and talent may look different in different contexts and cultures (Heward, 2014).
Traditionally, giftedness was determined by a high IQ score, but today broader concep-
tions are used to identify a child as gifted and talented. A child may be gifted in music,
drama, or sports, for instance.

One way to identify young gifted children is to focus on a range of behaviors and char-
acteristics that occur in daily activities as well as in school (Heward, 2014). Some common
abilities of gifted young children include (National Association for Gifted Children, 2008):

• Curiosity and thoughtful questions about many things
• Solving problems in unique ways and using prior knowledge in new contexts
• Sustained attention span, willingness to persist on challenging tasks, and good

memory
• Especially original imagination, wit, and humor
• Keen observation skills and rapid mastery of new learning
• Desire to work independently and take initiative
• Talent in making up stories and reading

However determined, for their talents to flourish, gifted children need challeng-
ing educational experiences and individualized instruction (Coleman & Johnsen, 2011;
National Association for Gifted Children, 2010). When interesting, engaging experiences
are provided for all children, the needs of gifted children are more likely to be met in a
regular classroom.

For example, Melvin’s second-grade teacher, Ms. Dell, thinks he is “very preco-
cious.” He reads well above grade level and has a large vocabulary. One day he announces
to her that his brother is funny. She asks, “How so?” and he answers, “You know, strange,
odd, peculiar.” Melvin exhibits an intense curiosity, asking high-level questions such as,
“Where does gasoline come from?” Ms. Dell modifies the curriculum to challenge him.
She sets up a time for Melvin to read to preschoolers. She orders National Geographic to
satisfy his voracious curiosity about geography. She is also patient with Melvin’s persis-
tent questioning that would bother most other adults.

Ms. Dell understands the importance of recognizing early signs of giftedness in
young children—particularly in children like Melvin from low-income families who are
more often considered at risk than gifted—and nurturing the gift so that it may flour-
ish. She also understands that gifted children’s development can be uneven, in that they
may have great strengths in many areas but still be at age level or below in others. For
example, cognitively gifted children may be very good at articulating school rules and
the reasons behind them but at the same time be less able to follow rules in action. A
gifted child may also stand out from peers as different and may struggle to make friends.

✓ Check Your Understanding 5.3: Multiple Intelligences: A Theory of
Individual Differences

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach150

Responsive Education
for All Learners
In this section, we first describe how intentional teachers adapt their teaching practices in
response to individual variation among all children. Then we describe a specific frame-
work for systematically addressing the needs of all learners—Response to Intervention.

Differentiating Instruction
In every classroom, teachers need to differentiate instruction so that they support the
engagement, interest, full participation, and success of every child (Tomlinson, 2014).

Differentiated instruction refers to creating multiple paths so that children
of different abilities, interests, and learning needs experience equally appro-
priate ways to achieve important learning goals. Equally appropriate does
not mean the same or uniform. Nor does differentiated instruction mean that
children receive their own assignments or that they receive a private, one-
on-one lesson. Rather, it means that teachers provide interrelated learning
opportunities that help facilitate children’s mastery of new skills and content
knowledge.

Differentiated instruction is a cyclical process that is illustrated in
Figure 5.1. First, teachers must get to know each child in the classroom. They
must also know the curriculum. Both of these components influence how
teachers plan and differentiate instruction. Planning must take into account
the learning environment and materials, the content, the teaching strategies,
and the products that demonstrate what children have learned (Tomlinson,
2014), each of which is described next.

differentiated instruction
The creation of multiple paths
so that children of different
abilities, interests, and learn-
ing needs experience equally
appropriate ways to achieve
important learning goals.

FIGURE 5.1 Model of Differentiated Instruction As illustrated here, differentiated instruction is a
cyclical process that enables teachers to meet the needs and support the learning of each individual child.

Classroom Connection
In this video, the teacher imple-
ments a math lesson that takes
the form of a game with dominos.
How is this game an example of
differentiated instruction?

Plan
curriculum

using learning
standards

and children’s
interests

Prepare
learning

environment

Meet children
where they

are: abilities,
interests, prior

knowledge

Assess
products that
demonstrate

children’s
learning

Adapt
learning

environment,
what to teach,

and how to
teach

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Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences 151

Plan the Environment The environment refers to the overall look and feel of the
classroom. A differentiated environment provides various spaces throughout the class-
room for learning to occur. For example, soft, cozy spaces allow some children to work
alone. Other spaces are designed for intrapersonal learners to work together in small
groups. A differentiated environment also provides a variety of materials. For example, a
reading center includes books at different levels on various topics for children. A writing
center might have sandpaper letters or plastic magnetic letters for tactile learners. Chil-
dren who learn best while moving may have places to stand and work at tables.

Differentiate Content Differentiating the content involves meeting children where
they are and focusing instruction on what they need to learn next. For example, a child
who knows letters can begin to map letter sounds to the alphabet and is also ready to re-
ceive instruction on blending letters to make sounds. A child who is skilled at decoding
words can focus on fluency and comprehension.

Adapt Teaching Strategies Strategies are the ways teachers provide specific
content instruction. The intentional teacher considers the child’s abilities and interests
when planning content instruction. For example, when teaching science, the teacher pro-
vides hands-on tools for children to observe, measure, and record their observations. A
computer program or mobile app is motivating for many children. Other examples in-
clude providing information books for linguistic learners and cooperative learning activi-
ties for the intrapersonal learners.

Assess Learning Products The product that results from differentiated instruction
is the demonstration of learning. When content and processes are differentiated for children,
the products they produce will be different, too. Consider Josh Peters, a kindergarten teach-
er in an inclusive classroom. As he is reading a story, he stops occasionally to ask questions.
The purpose of asking questions is so the children can demonstrate what they have learned
(the product). He asks some children to recall the events of the story and others to predict
what will happen next. One child may even be asked to simply point to an illustration of a
character in the story. Josh takes each child’s level of literacy into account and targets their
engagement to successful participation and extending learning.

Response to Intervention
As we have seen, every early childhood classroom is composed of diverse
learners—children of widely varying abilities and interests. Although every
classroom teacher is responsible for differentiating instruction for the chil-
dren in her class, in recent years, greater emphasis has been placed on
preventing learning problems and intervening earlier for all children,
rather than waiting until a child falls too far behind or is labeled as
having a learning disability. To accomplish this goal, one frequently
used approach is Response to Intervention (RTI), a three-tiered,
comprehensive framework for bridging assessment and instruc-
tion that is intended to prevent school failure, especially in the
areas of reading and mathematics (Allington, 2009; National
Center on Response to Intervention, 2010; National Profes-
sional Development Center on Inclusion [NPDCI], 2012).
Figure 5.2 depicts the three-tiered RTI framework for
early childhood.

Response to Intervention is not a special educa-
tion framework or approach; when well implement-
ed, it yields effective results for children with and
without disabilities as well as dual language learners.
Compared to differentiated instruction, RTI is a more
systemic approach that is implemented by a program

Some Children

Targeted small group interventions/
supports

A Few
Children

Intensive
individualized

interventions/supports

Core curriculum and intentional teaching

All Children

Response to Intervention (RTI)
A three-tiered framework
intended to prevent learning
delays in primary grades from
becoming learning disabilities.

FIGURE 5.2 Response to Intervention (RTI) in Early Childhood
Source: National Professional Development Center on Inclusion, 2012,
Response to intervention (RTI) in early childhood: Building consensus on defin-
ing features, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, FPG Child Develop-
ment Institute, Author. Reprinted with permission.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach152

or school system. It requires collaborative participation by teachers, administrators, spe-
cialists, and families.

The three tiers of the RTI framework are:

1. Research-based curriculum, differentiated instruction, and ongoing assessment for
all children (typically meets the needs of 80% of the children).

Tier 1 of the framework provides a foundation of high-quality education for
all children, including a comprehensive, evidence-based curriculum and inten-
tional teaching. Tier 1 involves universal screening, assessment, and monitoring
of children’s progress to obtain information about each child and to determine
whether a child would benefit from additional support.

2. Screening for learning difficulties, focused instruction, and ongoing progress
monitoring for those who are not making expected learning progress (approxi-
mately 15% of children).

Tier 2 provides developmentally appropriate, large- and small-group in-
terventions for children who need more focused learning experiences. For ex-
ample, some children may need regularly scheduled small-group reading to
improve vocabulary and other literacy skills. To complement the more explicit
activities and build on children’s strengths and interests, teachers also embed
learning opportunities in daily activities and routines. With these children,
teachers monitor their learning progress more frequently and use the informa-
tion to guide instruction.

3. Intensive instructional intervention for those children who need it (approximately 5%).
Tier 3 focuses on the approximately 5% of children who do not make expected

progress via the Tier 1 and Tier 2 interventions. At Tier 3, children receive in-
tensive, individualized interventions. These include effective strategies to scaf-
fold children’s learning such as prompting and modeling (described later in this
chapter). Progress monitoring and collaborative problem solving continue to guide
decisions about the child.

Although it is a general-education model, RTI can bridge the gap between general
and special education by ensuring that children with special needs fully access and par-
ticipate in the regular curriculum. This framework looks at all students with the goal of
preventing learning delays from becoming learning disabilities (Coleman, Roth, & West,
2009). It is important to note that children with already identified disabilities are expected
to be found at all three tiers of the model. For children who show signs of struggling, this
framework provides additional supports such as more focused time, content, scaffolding,
and/or one-on-one attention.

Benefits of RTI RTI is a framework that applies to all children. It is very important
that RTI tiers are not misinterpreted or misused to categorize or label children. In reality,
the tiers are flexible, and individual children move between them based on ongoing as-
sessment of their progress.

Successful implementation of RTI depends on accurate, ongoing assessment of
children, which can be challenging for teachers of dual language learners. An Eng-
lish language learner or a child who speaks a variation of English may have a well-
developed vocabulary and understand many concepts, but may not be well understood
at school (Espinosa, 2010a). In such a situation, it can be difficult to accurately assess
either the child’s competence or his or her needs, as illustrated in the Language Lens
feature.

The value of such prevention/intervention models is becoming more widely recog-
nized. A growing body of research demonstrates the effectiveness of RTI in preventing
and addressing learning disabilities (Coleman et al., 2009). As of 2004, the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) permits schools to use special education funds for
RTI, which may reduce the number of children who are identified for special education.
Nevertheless, there will always be a small percentage of children with identified disabili-
ties and special needs, a topic we discuss next.

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Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences 153

✓ Check Your Understanding 5.4: Responsive Education for All Learners

Individual Differences in Ability
For several reasons, all teachers must be prepared to work with children who have spe-
cial needs. First, federal laws require that children with special needs be included in
classrooms and programs where their typically developing peers are found, and that their
learning progress be reported for accountability purposes. Second, effective practices ex-
ist that can positively alter the course of children’s development and their success in
life. Third, many of the strategies proven effective for children with special needs can
be equally effective in addressing the individual variation among typically developing
children. In short, early childhood educators who are familiar with the expertise of early
childhood special education can be more effective teachers of all children.

To understand how to work with children with special needs, we next address the
language of special education. In the sections following, we introduce principles that
teachers should know about children with disabilities, describe the laws regulating special
education, and the benefits of serving children with disabilities in settings with their typi-
cally developing peers.

Language Lens
Accurate Assessment of Linguistically Diverse Children

Accurately assessing the abilities of children who speak a
home language other than English or whose cultural back-
ground varies from the majority of children and teachers
can be a challenging task. Cultural and linguistic diversity
are not learning delays or disabilities. However, cultural
and linguistic diversity can have a significant impact on
identification and diagnosis of children’s special needs,
as the following example illustrates:

The student body of Rosa Parks Elementary School is
about 30% Latino, 30% European American, and 40%
African American. Scott James is an African American
first-grade teacher. The school’s speech therapist, Tess
Brooks, is a white, European American. Scott meets
with Tess because he is concerned about two students,
Reynoldo and Patrizia, who are behind in reading. Both
children speak Spanish at home but speak both Eng-
lish and Spanish at school. Reynoldo is quite verbal;
Patrizia hardly speaks at all. Scott thinks that Reyn-
oldo’s reading problem is related to a language delay
but, because Scott doesn’t speak Spanish, he can’t be
sure. However, the other children, even the Spanish-
speaking children, don’t seem to understand Reynoldo,
either. As for Patrizia, Scott thinks she may have an
undiagnosed hearing loss.

Scott’s bigger concern is that the screening tools aren’t
very accurate for assessing language delays in Spanish,
and Tess shares his concern. She thinks the best strat-
egy is to get more information from Reynoldo’s family
about his communication at home. Using an interpret-
er, Tess and Scott meet with Reynoldo’s mother. She
is clearly alarmed. She tells the translator that these
teachers think Reynoldo is stupid because he doesn’t

speak English, but she knows that there is nothing
wrong with her son.

Scott privately meets with Patrizia’s grandmother,
again using a translator. Her reaction is different from
Reynoldo’s mother’s reaction: “I’ve been worried, too,
because she hardly talks at home either. But I under-
stand her when she talks, and so does her brother.”

In these situations, Scott and Tess must walk a fine line.
They can easily make a mistake. In this case, Reynoldo’s
speech problems were real and not a product of learning
a second language. Without an accurate assessment of
the problem, Reynoldo did not receive therapy and his
language delay worsened. Patrizia, on the other hand, did
not have a hearing loss. What her grandmother and Scott
thought was a language delay was actually shyness.

When assessment tools aren’t sensitive to language differ-
ences, or when professionals do not understand a child’s
language, they can inaccurately diagnose a delay. In this
case, a child may be mislabeled as “delayed,” which can
negatively affect teachers’ and parents’ expectations for
him. On the other hand, if professionals assume that a
language difference is the only cause, they can miss a
real problem. The latter error has lasting consequences
because the child may not receive needed intervention
services.

Source: Based on Cross-Cultural Considerations in Early
Childhood Special Education (Technical Report #14), by T.
Bennett et al., 2001, Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of
Illinois, Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services
(CLAS), retrieved December 15, 2011, from. http://clas.uiuc.
edu/techreport/tech14.html#4b.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach154

The Language of Early Childhood
Special Education
One of the challenges for generalist early childhood educators is learning special educa-
tion terminology. Because each field tends to have its own vocabulary, communicating
effectively across these related fields requires a common vocabulary.

Defining Terms Children with special needs is a broad term used to describe chil-
dren who may have multiple risk factors, specialized health care needs (such as asthma),
mental or emotional health concerns, severe allergies, or physical and/or cognitive dis-
abilities. The more specific term children with disabilities refers to children who have
been identified as having a specific category of disability, such as autism or cerebral palsy.
However, the terms children with special needs and children with disabilities are often
used interchangeably.

Another all-encompassing, though less frequently used, term is exceptional children.
This term is used to communicate inclusion of gifted and talented children as well as chil-
dren whose development is below the expected range. In fact, the professional associa-
tion for special education professionals is called the Council for Exceptional Children
(CEC). Early childhood special education professionals are members of the Division for
Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children. Table 5.2 lists and
defines some of the most common categories of exceptionality.

Using Person-First Language A standard for professionals who work with
individuals with special needs is that they use what is called person-first language.
Person-first language recognizes that a child is a child first, whether or not he or she has a
disability. Consider the difference between describing 4-year-old Zain as “a special needs
child” and describing him as “a child with special needs.” The former phrase emphasizes

person-first language
Language that recognizes that
a child is a child first, whether
or not he or she has a disability
(e.g., saying “child with special
needs” as opposed to “special
needs child”).

Category Definition

Attention deficit/hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD)

Diagnosis describing children who display a pattern of severe inattentive, hyperactive, and/or impul-
sive behavior that interferes with the child’s learning.

Autism spectrum
disorder (ASD)

Condition in which child has impairments in social communication and interactions, and demon-
strates restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.

Down syndrome (DS) Condition in which extra genetic material causes the child to exhibit developmental delays and/or
intellectual disability. Children with DS tend to share physical features such as a flat facial profile,
an upward slant to the eyes, small ears, a single crease across the center of the palms, and an
enlarged tongue.

Cerebral palsy (CP) A neurological disorder that appears in infancy or early childhood and permanently affects the
child’s body movement, motor development, and muscle coordination.

Deafness and hearing
impairment

A condition in which hearing is impaired, either permanently or temporarily, and negatively impacts
a child’s academic performance. Deafness is a severe hearing impairment that prevents a child from
hearing and processing language and other sounds.

Visually impaired or blind Condition describing loss or partial loss of vision.

Intellectual disability Disability in which the child has limitations both in cognitive functioning and in social and adaptive
behavior.

Developmental delay Diagnosis describing a child whose development is behind expectations for his or her age group as
measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures. Occurs in one or more areas of
development: physical, cognitive, communication, social, emotional, or adaptive.

Gifted Term applied to children with outstanding talent who perform or show potential for performing at
remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with others of their age, experience, or
environment.

exceptional children An
all-encompassing term used to
communicate inclusion of gifted
and talented children as well as
children whose development is
below the expected range.

Council for Exceptional
Children (CEC) The national
professional association for
special educators.

Division for Early Childhood
(DEC) Subdivision of the Coun-
cil for Exceptional Children
that is the national professional
organization for early childhood
special educators and early
intervention specialists.

children with disabilities
Children who have been
identified as having a specific
category of disability, such as
autism or cerebral palsy.

children with special needs
A broad term used to describe
children who may have multiple
risk factors, specialized health
care needs, mental or emo-
tional health concerns, severe
allergies, or physical and/or
cognitive disabilities.

Table 5.2 Some Types of Exceptionality

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Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences 155

the disability, whereas the latter communicates that Zain is first and foremost a child,
whose special needs are only part of his identity.

By contrast, placing the adjective first modifies the entire noun to which it is refer-
ring; this can place undue emphasis on inability. For example, if you hear a traffic reporter
describe a “disabled car,” you think of a car that cannot be driven at all. Compare this to
what you may think when you hear “a car with a flat tire.” For similar reasons, we refer
to a “child with Down syndrome” or “a child with autism,” instead of saying a “Down’s
child” or “an autistic.” A fundamental tenet of inclusion is that children are children re-
gardless of disability status, and the use of person-first language reflects this principle.

Admittedly, using person-first language can sometimes feel cumbersome. But lan-
guage matters. How we describe people and conditions communicates our attitudes about
them. Currently, person-first terms begin with the word individuals, thus emphasizing the
uniqueness of each person regardless of an identified disability.

What Teachers Should Know
about Children with Disabilities
Children with disabilities display a variation in skills beyond what is considered typical; as a
result, in many instances, these children qualify for special education services. These services
are provided by professionals and therapists who have specialized knowledge about childhood
disabilities and disorders. Therefore, it is neither necessary nor reasonable for early childhood
educators to know everything about every disorder that might affect a child. Yet, they do need
to understand several key principles about children’s disabilities (Wolery & Wilbers, 1994):

1. Children with disabilities are diverse and distinct from one another. All children have
unique skills, interests, dislikes, and talents. Therefore, it is essential that teachers
recognize each child as a distinctive individual. Children with disabilities share simi-
larities with other children, but they may need more specialized and/or individualized
instruction and care than children without special needs. However, it is vitally impor-
tant for teachers to remember that no child is defined by their disability; children are
diverse in countless ways including culturally, linguistically, and socioeconomically.

2. Some children may have more than one disability. For example, a child with a
hearing impairment may also have low vision or a seizure disorder. Moreover,
children may develop additional disabilities as a result of their primary disability.
For example, a child with a visual impairment may not be able to explore his
environment and may develop motor or cognitive delays. Early identification and
effective intervention can sometimes prevent secondary disabilities.

3. A diagnosis rarely leads to specific educational interventions. Educational prac-
tices and therapies, such as speech and language therapy, are not selected by the
diagnosis. The selected interventions need to align with the child’s current skills
and abilities, family concerns, needs and resources, and what works best for the
child. Teachers should not assume that a particular diagnosis will automatically
respond to a specific intervention (Wolery & Wilbers, 1994).

Seeing Children with Disabilities
as Individuals: The Case of Autism
Even with the same diagnosis, a great deal of individual variability exists, as in the case
of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), one of the fastest-growing serious developmental
disabilities in the United States today. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(2014a) estimates that 1 out of every 68 children has been identified with ASD, and boys
are five times as likely as girls to receive the diagnosis. Thus, early childhood teachers
will likely encounter a child with autism at some point in their careers.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), also known as autism, is a diagnosis associated with
impairments in social interaction and communication and restricted, repetitive behaviors

autism spectrum disorder
(ASD) complex developmental
disabilities that impact the
normal development of the
brain processes related to so-
cial interaction and communi-
cation skills.

The Language of Early Childhood
Special Education
One of the challenges for generalist early childhood educators is learning special educa-
tion terminology. Because each field tends to have its own vocabulary, communicating
effectively across these related fields requires a common vocabulary.

Defining Terms Children with special needs is a broad term used to describe chil-
dren who may have multiple risk factors, specialized health care needs (such as asthma),
mental or emotional health concerns, severe allergies, or physical and/or cognitive dis-
abilities. The more specific term children with disabilities refers to children who have
been identified as having a specific category of disability, such as autism or cerebral palsy.
However, the terms children with special needs and children with disabilities are often
used interchangeably.

Another all-encompassing, though less frequently used, term is exceptional children.
This term is used to communicate inclusion of gifted and talented children as well as chil-
dren whose development is below the expected range. In fact, the professional associa-
tion for special education professionals is called the Council for Exceptional Children
(CEC). Early childhood special education professionals are members of the Division for
Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children. Table 5.2 lists and
defines some of the most common categories of exceptionality.

Using Person-First Language A standard for professionals who work with
individuals with special needs is that they use what is called person-first language.
Person-first language recognizes that a child is a child first, whether or not he or she has a
disability. Consider the difference between describing 4-year-old Zain as “a special needs
child” and describing him as “a child with special needs.” The former phrase emphasizes

person-first language
Language that recognizes that
a child is a child first, whether
or not he or she has a disability
(e.g., saying “child with special
needs” as opposed to “special
needs child”).

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach156

(American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The first signs of autism often appear between 2
and 3 years of age. Young children with autism often have delays in language and communica-
tion, including nonverbal communication such as pointing and gesturing. They may display
repetitive motor behaviors, and are often inflexible in their routines and play. For example, a
child with autism may have a severe emotional reaction to a change in schedule or inability to
find a favorite toy. The thinking and learning abilities of children with autism can vary—from
gifted to a more significant intellectual disability. Consider the following examples:

Jeffrey is two and a half years old with a head of curly brown hair. He does not talk
yet, but if he wants something he will pull an adult by the hand to what he wants.
Sometimes it is easy for his teacher to guess what he wants, but lately he has started
crying, screaming, and falling on the ground if she is not able to get him what he
wants right away. He spends most of his time wandering around the classroom hold-
ing his favorite toy. When another child or teacher tries to play near him, he will
quickly leave the area. He will often cry when changing from one activity to another,
and once he starts crying it is very difficult to calm him down. Other children and
teachers are starting to avoid interacting with him, afraid it may trigger his crying.

Nathan is 3 years old and can climb higher and faster than most other 3-year-
olds. He has known his letters and numbers since age 2 and can read a variety of
words and phrases. He cannot, however, consistently answer simple questions from
adults, interact with children his own age, or tolerate changes to his routine. His
parents are extremely concerned because they have been asked to stop bringing him
to music lessons at the local community center. They were also told to find a “more
appropriate” placement than the local co-op preschool. His grandparents wonder if
there is anything “really wrong” with him or if his parents are simply overindulgent.

Cherish is 30 months old and has beautiful blue eyes. Her parents report that she
used to walk around the house, point to objects, label them, and laugh. She does not
do that anymore. In fact, these days she rarely speaks except to request certain apps
or preferred foods. She rarely looks at people or things, unless she can find something
that is spinning, and then she is mesmerized by it. Her parents cannot remember the
last time that they heard her laugh.

These children are some of the characteristics of ASD. Each child is a reminder that
ASD is a spectrum disorder, which means that children who receive this diagnosis differ

Inclusion means that every teacher must be prepared to work with children with disabilities and special
needs in the regular classroom. The first step is for teachers to remember that children with disabilities
are children first and, like every child, they are unique.

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Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences 157

dramatically in their abilities, preferences, needs, and areas of delay. As Jeffery, Nathan,
and Cherish remind us, there is no “typical” child with ASD. Every child and family
brings a unique set of strengths and challenges that must be considered when planning
an educational program. Early identification and intervention for children with ASD can
dramatically improve educational outcomes (Dawson et al., 2010).

Often, the first adults to notice some of the early signs of autism are teachers and
caregivers. It can sometimes be difficult for caregivers to articulate developmental con-
cerns when autism is the question, because many of the behaviors associated with ASD
can seemingly be explained by other factors such as “He just needs to be disciplined,” “He
is just like his father,” or “It is a phase he or she is going through.” As a result, teachers
are often the first to recognize that a child’s behavior may be a red flag for a more serious
developmental delay and may need to recommend to the family to take action by seeking
out a trained professional in this area who can help. Red flags for autism in early child-
hood (http://www.autismspeaks.org) include:

• No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by 6 months or thereafter
• No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by

9 months or thereafter
• No babbling by 12 months
• No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving, by

12 months
• No words by 16 months
• No two-word meaningful phrases by 24 months
• Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age

The foundation of any program for a child with autism should be the practices that are
important for all children, including supportive, caring adults, activities that promote high
levels of active engagement, and meaningful interactions with peers. While a common
goal is for all children to have opportunities to interact successfully with children and
adults, children with autism may require special supports and strategies to be successful in
social interactions. Fortunately, researchers have identified many practices that work well
for supporting learning and social development for children with autism; some of these
practices are described later in this chapter (Wong et al., 2014). One of the most valuable
of these strategies is using pretend play to engage children with autism, as described in
the feature, Promoting Play: Supporting Pretend Play for Children with Disabilities.

In addition to understanding how to work effectively with children with special
needs, all teachers must be familiar with special education laws. These laws are discussed
in the next section.

What Teachers Should Know about Legal
Requirements for Children with Disabilities
Federal laws govern how special education services are delivered in the United States.
First, we describe the legislation generally. Then we discuss in more detail the require-
ments for individualized planning for children with special needs.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Many children with dis-
abilities are eligible for early intervention and early childhood special education services.
Both early intervention (EI) and early childhood special education (ECSE) are regulated
under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), formerly the Education of
the Handicapped Act. IDEA was designed to provide protections for children to ensure
their right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The principle of the law is
that children with disabilities should not be denied the same opportunities offered to ev-
eryone else. To receive specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the
unique needs of a child with a disability, children must meet eligibility guidelines accord-
ing to IDEA. These guidelines are determined on a state-by-state basis.

free appropriate public
education (FAPE) Education
for children with disabilities
that is required by IDEA, so that
children with disabilities are not
denied the same opportunities
offered to everyone else.

eligibility guidelines Guide-
lines established on a state-
by-state basis according to
IDEA that determine whether
children may receive special
education services.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach158

Part B of IDEA is a federal program that provides funds to states and local school
districts to support education for children with disabilities from ages 3 to 21. The most
relevant part of the law for early childhood teachers is Section 619 of Part B (also known
as Early Childhood Special Education), which applies specifically to preschoolers with
disabilities. To meet all children’s individual needs, the law requires that a team of educa-
tors and family members create an individualized education plan for each student.

Part C (Early Intervention) provides funds for states to provide services for infants
and toddlers who have disabilities or developmental delays. Some states provide early
intervention services for infants and toddlers who are at risk of developmental delay and
their families. Early Intervention services are discussed in more detail later in the chapter.

Individualized Education Programs When a child meets the disability re-
quirements of the law and is identified as needing special education and related services,
school districts are obligated to prepare and implement an individualized education
program (IEP), which is designed to meet the unique needs of the child. The IEP is a
written plan for services that is developed, reviewed, and revised by an IEP team. Click
here to see a sample IEP. An IEP must contain the following information:

1. A statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional
performance

individualized education
program (IEP) A written
plan designed to meet the
unique needs of a child with
a disability or special need; it
is developed, reviewed, and
revised by an IEP team during
meetings for each child who is
eligible for special education
services.

Supporting Pretend Play for Children with Disabilities
Play is an important learning activity for all chil-
dren, and an important context for teachers to ob-
serve what and how children are learning. Pretend
play skills are associated with later language and
social skills, self-regulation, and even reading skills.
Children with disabilities, and especially children
with autism, often have difficulty engaging in social
and pretend play. Since pretend play is an impor-
tant context for learning and development, teachers
should carefully plan and support play activities and
opportunities for children with disabilities.

Pretend play skills are excellent functional goals for
children with disabilities: children learn to play with
peers in a natural setting, and can learn important
cognitive and motor skills embedded in the context
of play. Furthermore, teachers can learn about chil-
dren’s skill strengths and challenges by watching
children play.

Teachers can support growth in children’s pretend
play by modeling (showing how) and prompting
children to engage in more sophisticated levels
of pretend play. At the most basic level, children
engage in functional play with some pretense, in

which a child might pretend to pour milk into a
cup and drink it. At the next level, substitution,
the child uses an object in some symbolic man-
ner, such as using a block as a pretend cell phone.
Teachers can support children in using sequences
of pretend play and add vocalization. As an ex-
ample, Adele enjoys playing with dolls, and her
teacher, Alec, has noticed that she uses the toy
spoon to feed the doll. Alec takes the opportunity to
encourage a higher level of pretend play, and uses
a small block as a bottle to “feed the baby” (substi-
tution). He then encourages Adele to feed the baby,
offering the block “bottle,” saying, “It’s your turn
to feed the baby.” As Adele’s play becomes more
sophisticated, Alec can continue to add more play
sequences with the baby doll and include Adele’s
peers in the pretend play.

Sources: “Teaching Pretend Play to Children with
Disabilities: A Review of the Literature,” by E. E. Barton
and M. Wolery, 2008, Topics in Early Childhood Special
Education, 28, 109–125; and “Children’s Play: Where
We Have Been and Where We Could Go,” by K. Lifter,
E. J. Mason, and E. E. Barton, 2011, Journal of Early
Intervention, 33, 281–297.

Promoting Play

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Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences 159

2. A statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals
designed to:
• Meet the child’s needs that result from the child’s disability to enable the child

to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum
• Meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s

disability
3. A description of benchmarks or short-term objectives
4. A description of:

• How the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured
• When periodic reports on the progress the child is making toward meeting the

annual goals (such as through the use of quarterly or other periodic reports,
concurrent with the issuance of report cards) will be provided

5. A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids
and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be pro-
vided to the child, or on behalf of the child

6. A statement of any individually appropriate accommodations that are necessary
to measure the academic achievement and functional performance of the child on
state- and district-wide assessments

The IEP Team The IEP is developed by a team that consists of educators, therapists
and medical professionals, and family. By law, the team members must include:

• The child’s parent(s) or guardian(s)
• The child’s early childhood teacher
• The child’s early childhood special education teacher
• A representative of the community program who has certain specific knowledge

and qualifications
• An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results

(this may be one of the other listed members, such as an occupational therapist or
speech language pathologist)

• Other individuals, who are chosen at the discretion of the parent or the agency, who
have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services per-
sonnel such as the speech language pathologist or physical therapist, as appropriate

A universal design element, such as this automatic sink, eliminates a barrier for children who might have
difficulty operating the handles while also achieving the goal of teaching proper hand washing to all children.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach160

Early Intervention for Infants and Toddlers Children from birth to 3 years
old who have a developmental delay, a diagnosed condition, or, in some states, who are
identified as at risk for developing a developmental delay may qualify for early inter-
vention (EI) services. These children will have an individualized family service plan
(IFSP). An IFSP documents and guides the early intervention process for children with
disabilities and their families. The IFSP contains information about the services neces-
sary to support a child’s development and enhance the family’s capacity to facilitate the
child’s development. Some parents learn that their child has a disability before or imme-
diately after birth, and the hospital may initiate EI soon after. For other children, delays
or disabilities emerge later. In these cases, a parent, other family member, pediatrician,
teacher, child care provider, or family friend initially may raise concerns about the child’s
development.

Children with developmental delays enter EI services following diagnostic testing
or developmental evaluation administered in partnership with the family by a team of
specialists. Through the IFSP process, family members and service providers work as a
team to plan, implement, and evaluate services tailored to the family’s unique concerns,
priorities, and resources.

According to IDEA, the IFSP, like the IEP, is a written plan that must contain specific
information, including:

1. The child’s present levels of physical, cognitive, communication, social or emo-
tional, and adaptive development

2. The family’s resources, priorities, and concerns relating to enhancing the develop-
ment of the child with a disability

3. The major outcomes to be achieved for the child and the family; the criteria, pro-
cedures, and timelines used to determine progress; and whether modifications or
revisions of the outcomes or services are necessary

4. Specific early intervention services necessary to meet the unique needs of the child
and the family, including the frequency, intensity, and the method of delivery

5. The environments in which services will be provided, including justification of the
extent, if any, to which the services will not be provided in a natural environment.
The natural environment refers to settings that are natural or normal for the child’s
same-age peers without disabilities

6. The projected dates for initiation of services and their anticipated duration
7. The name of the service provider who will be responsible for implementing the

plan and coordinating with other agencies and persons
8. Steps to support the child’s transition to preschool or other appropriate services

Differences between IFSPs and IEPs Unlike the IEP, the IFSP
(Bruder, 2001):

• Revolves around the family, because the family is the constant in a
child’s life

• Includes outcomes for the family, as opposed to focusing only on the child
• Includes activities involving multiple agencies to integrate all services

into one plan
• Names a service coordinator to help the family during the develop-

ment, implementation, and evaluation of the IFSP
• Involves the notion of natural environments, which create opportu-

nities for learning interventions in everyday routines and activities,
rather than only in formal, contrived environments

The laws that dictate services for children with disabilities and special needs
reflect research demonstrating the benefits of such services for children with
special needs and the larger society. The laws also reflect underlying values
about what life should be like for all children. However, laws and procedures
related to services can be confusing for families. Community organizations,

individualized family service
plan (IFSP) Documents and
guides the early interven-
tion process for children with
disabilities from birth to age 3
and their families; contains
information about the services
necessary to facilitate a child’s
development and enhance the
family’s capacity to facilitate
the child’s development.

Classroom Connection
In this video, a parent describes
her experience with early inter-
vention and early childhood spe-
cial education services. In what
ways have these services helped
her daughter and supported her
family?

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Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences 161

schools, and teachers are responsible for understanding and communicating to families how
educational systems work for children with special needs.

Embracing Natural Learning Environments
and Inclusion
One of the primary goals of federal laws governing services for children with disabilities
is to make sure that these children lead lives that are as similar as possible to those of chil-
dren who do not have disabilities. To achieve this goal, professionals need to understand
the rationale and embrace the values that led to the law being passed in the first place.

Benefits of Natural Learning Environments Part C requires that EI ser-
vices be embedded in everyday routines and activities, and occur in the children’s natural
learning environments. Settings where infants, toddlers, and their families would be
spending time if the child did not have a disability, natural learning environments can be
child care centers, parks, a neighbor’s house, or the zoo. Natural learning environments
are important because for young children, learning occurs most effectively in the contexts
where children will need to use the new skill (Dunst, 2011; Dunst, Hamby, Trivette, Raab,
& Bruder, 2000).

So, what is not a natural environment? Places children go because they have a
disability, such as hospitals, clinics, and therapy offices, are not optimal places for
children to learn new skills. Young children, especially those under age 3, do not easily
learn a skill in one setting and transfer it to another. Furthermore, just because a setting
is natural does not insure that a child with a disability will be able to access and ben-
efit from what the environment offers. Teachers can use principles of universal design
to plan for curriculum, assessment, and environmental adaptations to accommodate
the individual needs of all learners (http:// ectacenter.org/ topics/atech/udl.asp). Learn
more about how early childhood teachers can use materials and technology to accom-
modate the individual needs of all learners in the feature What Works: Principles of
Universal Design.

Benefits of Inclusion Inclusion is based on the same principle as natural learning
environments—that children with disabilities need to be with their peers without dis-
abilities. Although most images of inclusion involve school settings such as preschool or
public schools, inclusion is also important in home and community environments such as
parks, recreation, and faith settings.

Inclusion requires more than just access to set-
tings; children need to participate as fully as possi-
ble and receive the supports they and their teachers
need to ensure they make progress toward impor-
tant learning goals (Division for Early Childhood
[DEC] & National Association for the Education
of Young Children [NAEYC], 2009). Successful
inclusion means that all children in the classroom
participate, learn, and thrive. Many, but not all,
children with special needs will need individual-
ized instruction to achieve positive learning and
developmental outcomes in inclusive programs.
But it is also important to cultivate a culture of
inclusion that provides children with and without
disabilities a sense of belonging and membership
in the peer group (DEC & NAEYC, 2009).

It is important for teachers to understand that
inclusion benefits all of society, in addition to the
children with disabilities. Children with disabilities

natural learning environments
Settings that are natural or
normal for the child’s same-age
peers without disabilities such
as child care centers, parks, a
neighbor’s house, or the zoo, as
opposed to hospitals, clinics,
and therapy offices.

Intentional teachers foster
friendships between children
with special needs and their
typically developing peers.
What are some ways teachers
can build positive relationships
among children in inclusive
classrooms?

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach162

develop opportunities to share in the daily life of their community, and they do as well or
better than children in specialized programs, particularly with respect to social develop-
ment (NPDCI, 2007). Children without disabilities benefit by developing positive attitudes
toward individuals with diverse abilities. Families of children with and without disabilities
benefit from developing strong, supportive relationships that enhance the quality of life.
In the sections that follow, we describe what teachers need to do for children with special
needs if inclusion is to be effective.

✓ Check Your Understanding 5.5: Individual Differences in Ability

Effective Practices for
Children with Diverse Abilities
The purpose of inclusion is to ensure that the individual needs of all children are be-
ing met in shared settings. However, identifying what practices are best for children
of varying abilities may be challenging for an early childhood teacher. The Division
for Early Childhood (2014) has established a set of recommended practices designed
to improve outcomes for children with disabilities, birth to 5 years of age. They in-
clude practices associated with assessment, environment, family, instruction, inter-
action, teaming and collaboration, and transitions. All professionals who work with

What Works
Principles of Universal Design
Universal design is the creation of products and environments that
are accessible to all people—individuals with and without disabili-
ties. Obvious examples of universal design are sidewalk curb cuts
and ramps that are essential for people in wheelchairs. However,
ramps also benefit travelers with roller-bag luggage, parents with
strollers, elderly people, and even toddlers who haven’t mastered
steps. Examples abound in today’s world, including Velcro, auto-
matic doors, nonslip surfaces, closed captioning, and signs with
universally recognizable symbols.

Planning environments based on principles of universal de-
sign from the beginning prevents the need to modify at a later
time. Successful inclusion in early childhood programs requires
three major components: access to the learning environment and
curriculum, participation in activities and routines, and adequate
support for teachers—all of which are facilitated by attention to
universal design. Intentional planning and implementation of uni-
versal design enables teachers to promote development and dif-
ferentiate instruction for every child. Following are examples of
practices based on universal design principles:

• Provide toys and learning materials that have a variety of tex-
tures, scents, and sounds, as well as visual stimuli. For example,
an assortment of balls of different colors, sizes, and textures
(squishy, soft, or rubbery) facilitate engagement for children
with sensory impairments. Some balls make noise or light up as
they roll or bounce, providing extra cues for children with special

universal design The creation
of products and environments
that are accessible to all
people—individuals with and
without disabilities.

needs and also making the toys more inter-
esting for all children.

• Blocks are an excellent example of universal de-
sign because there is no right or wrong way to play
with them. Wooden unit blocks come in various shapes and
sizes, enabling children to engage with them in multiple ways.
Blocks that have textured sides and make noise add additional
sensory clues as well as challenges for children.

• Colorful, magnetic plastic blocks or table toys can be stacked
and rearranged easily without frustrating children who have
physical or sensory disabilities. Originally invented by Maria
Montessori, puzzle pieces with knobs enable children with vi-
sual impairments to use their sense of touch to successfully
play with others.

• Books with easy-to-turn pages, and various sizes of pictures
and text, facilitate children’s independent literacy learning.
Those with textures, cutouts, and sound effects engage chil-
dren’s interests. Sturdy board books make page-turning easier.
Books on iPad or audiotape help children with hearing disabili-
ties participate in the language and literacy curriculum.

Sources: Based on “Learning Materials for Children of All Abilities: Begin
with Universal Design,” by K. Haugen, 2005, Exchange, 161 (January/
February), 45–47; and About UDL: What Is Universal Design for Learning,
National Center on Universal Design for Learning, retrieved September 22,
2012, from http://www.cast.org/udl.

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Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences 163

children with disabilities should be familiar with and adhere to this set of recom-
mended practices.

Children with disabilities often require environments that are “organized and ad-
justed to minimize the effects of their disabilities and to promote learning of a broad
range of skills” (Wolery, Strain, & Bailey, 1992, p. 95). They also may need special-
ized instruction, as with Tier 3 interventions in RTI (NPDCI, 2009). Such specialized
instruction involves teachers matching an individual child’s goals and objectives with
appropriate teaching methods and materials. In addition, teachers need to decide what
amount of assistance each child with special needs requires, provide the assistance, and
then determine whether the instruction was effective. Most often, a team of specialists
is available to help the early childhood teacher achieve these goals. Three types of prac-
tices that early childhood teachers can employ to support children with special needs
are described below: team collaboration, assessment, and planning and implementing
individualized strategies.

Work on a Team
Working collaboratively with a team is critical to the success of including young children
with special needs in the classroom. Each member of the team has different expertise in
areas such as early childhood, special education, motor development, and communication
development. Additionally, all members possess specific knowledge about the particular
child. The child’s family plays an important role in the collaborative team. They (1) pro-
vide information about their child’s strengths and needs, (2) help assess functional skills
and develop the IFSP or IEP with the team, (3) implement intervention strategies at home
and in the community, and (4) provide critical information about the effectiveness of
interventions.

At the IEP or IFSP team meeting, professionals and family members collaborate to
(1) identify and prioritize individualized goals, (2) determine if modifications to the en-
vironment or curriculum are needed, (3) design specialized instructional strategies, and
(4) monitor the child’s progress toward the goals. Teamwork and collaboration goes be-
yond team meetings. Many people, including family members, teacher assistants, and
community partners, work to facilitate children’s learning beyond the classroom, into
home and community settings.

Assess Young Children of Diverse Abilities
The effectiveness of individualized instruction for children with disabilities depends in
large part on accurately assessing their needs and progress. Throughout this book we ad-
dress the topic of assessment as related to all children. In this section, we discuss types
of assessment that are used in order to best accommodate children with special needs.
Screening, diagnostic, and eligibility assessments, are used by specialists to determine
whether the child has a developmental delay or disability and is eligible for services.
Curriculum-based assessment and routines-based assessment are the most appropriate
and useful to early childhood teachers for planning what children with special needs
should be learning.

Curriculum-Based Assessments Curriculum-based assessments trace a child’s
progress along a continuum of functional skills within a developmentally sequenced
curriculum organized by developmental domain. Functional skills are those that are
useful and meaningful to children in their everyday lives. For example, it is generally
useful for children to learn to use the toilet, feed themselves, communicate and play
with peers, and count objects. A developmental domain is an area of development such
as fine and gross motor skills, cognitive abilities, self-help capabilities, and social and
communication skills. Curriculum-based assessments serve to link assessment, interven-
tion, and evaluation, as the following example illustrates:

specialized instruction
Involves teachers matching an
individual child’s goals and
objectives with appropriate
teaching methods and materi-
als, deciding what amount
of assistance each child
with special needs requires,
providing the assistance, and
then determining whether the
instruction was effective.

functional skills Skills that
are useful to children in their
everyday lives.

developmental domain An
area of development such as
fine and gross motor skills,
cognitive abilities, self-help
capabilities, and social and
communication skills.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach164

Corwin (age 3½) has experienced an eligibility evaluation for special education
based on a recommendation from his pediatrician. According to the multidisciplinary
team, he qualifies for early childhood special education because he has a moderate
communication and social skills delay. Consequently, Corwin’s parents are referred
to the local preschool special education program near their house. After his parents
observe the inclusive program, they enroll Corwin. During his first week at school,
Corwin’s teachers use a published curriculum-based measure to identify his needs
and develop functional goals and objectives for his IEP. Test items list functional
skills in predictable developmental sequence. The assessment is conducted within the
context of the preschool routines and activities.

When Taiya Stoner, Corwin’s teacher, observes him independently perform
items that are on the test, these tasks are noted as “mastered” and listed as his cur-
rent levels of performance on his IEP. For example, Corwin mastered one goal—uses
simple problem-solving strategies—because he said “NO!” when a child took his
crayon. Behaviors he had difficulty displaying or did not display over the course of
a few observations, such as initiating play activities with another child, were consid-
ered targets for intervention and added as goals for his IEP. After his teachers and
therapists provide instruction to Corwin on the identified goals, they administer the
assessment again to determine whether their guidance was effective and to establish
new goals for Corwin.

In this example, all of the steps of the linked system are in place. First, the teachers
use the assessment to determine what the child needs to learn and then they teach the
skills identified. Finally, the team reassesses, using the same tool to determine whether
Corwin is making progress.

Routines-Based Assessment Another approach for determining goals for a
child is called routines-based assessment, which is used to determine which functional
skills a child should be taught. In a routines-based assessment, those who know the child
well (e.g., family members, teachers) describe how their child participates in the typical
routines of daily living (McWilliam, 2010). For example, Gwynneth’s kindergarten teach-
er, Tamara Calhoun, is asked by the special education teacher to complete a routines-
based assessment of Gwynneth’s performance throughout the day in order to identify
some functional learning goals for her. Tamara lists classroom activities in chronological
order, such as arrival, circle time, centers, clean up, snack, and so on. She then observes
Gwynneth’s behavior during these routines and sets goals to work on with her, such as
“Gwynneth will get off bus; walk to the classroom with group; put coat and backpack in
cubby.” Using routines-based assessment at home, her parents’ list includes typical daily
routines such as wake up, eat breakfast, and get dressed.

To ensure accurate information as well as follow-through, parents of children with
special needs must participate in the assessment process. After the team gathers informa-
tion to determine the child’s functional goals, the next step is to plan for individualized
instruction.

Plan Individualized Instructional Strategies
Every early childhood teacher needs a repertoire of teaching strategies to be effective with
all children. Sometimes, however, in order to learn new skills, children with special needs
require more explicit teaching than do typically developing children. In these instanc-
es, teachers use strategies that are carefully planned and implemented more frequently
throughout the day. Individualizing instruction involves identifying specific goals, creat-
ing learning opportunities, providing teacher support, reinforcing children’s learning, and
monitoring their progress.

Identify Goals for Children Either of the assessment approaches described
previously can be used to determine learning goals. The ECSE teacher on the team

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Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences 165

can help write objectives that are functional and generative. Generative skills are
those that can be used across settings, people, events, and objects. For example, one
of the skills identified for Damon is “uses two fingers to pick up objects.” To be gen-
erative, Damon needs to learn to use the skill across settings such as during mealtime
to pick up Cheerios, or in the bath to pick up the soap. He also needs to use the skill
across objects, such as crayons or beads, and under various conditions, such as when
the items are mushy or hard. If an identified skill is too limited, such as “uses a finger
and thumb grasp to put beads into a bottle,” it is difficult to create enough learning
opportunities to be effective and the skill is less likely to be useful in different
situations.

Create Learning Opportunities Effective teachers create learning opportuni-
ties in daily routines and activities that provide the child with multiple tools for learning
a new skill (McWilliam, 2010). These opportunities may be more focused but are not
essentially different from those provided for every child. One strategy is to introduce
unexpected events, as when the teacher says or does something that the child does not
anticipate. These events may be funny or interesting things the adult says. For example,
when teaching 6-year-old Miguel to use prepositions, his teacher walks over to where
he is sitting and sits backwards next to him. Then she asks, “Miguel, where are you?”
Miguel, giggling, says, “Right here.” His teacher says “Right where? Are you behind me
or in front of me?”

Use Helping Strategies To help children learn skills, teachers use helping strate-
gies called prompts. These are gestural, model, physical, pictorial, or verbal supports
that help children use a specific skill (Neitzel & Wolery, 2009; Sandall & Schwartz,
2008):

• Gestural prompts. Movements that teachers use to let children know what behavior
is expected. For example, when the teacher wants Julia to ask for more raisins, she
waits and looks expectantly at Julia until Julia says, “I want more raisins.”

• Model prompts. Involves the teacher saying or doing the behavior he wants the
child to do. The teacher says “please” and “thank you” when he passes food during
lunchtime.

generative skills Skills that
can be used across settings,
people, events, and objects.

prompts Gestural, model,
physical, pictorial, or verbal
clues that elicit responses from
children to assist them in using
a specific skill.

All children have different abilities and interests that teachers can use to help them meet learning goals.
With minor adaptations, this teacher provides support for every child to learn early literacy skills.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach166

• Physical prompts. Gentle touching and guiding of children by the teacher to
help the children accomplish a skill. When teaching Larisha to wash her hands,
the teacher places her hands over Larisha’s hands and helps her to turn on the
faucet, get soap, rub her hands together, dry her hands, and turn off the faucet
with the towel.

• Pictorial prompts. Visual cues that help children accomplish a skill. To help Owen
play independently at center time, his teacher places pictures of each center on a
piece of construction paper, and Owen refers to a picture when he moves to another
activity area.

• Verbal prompts. Teacher language strategies that help children accomplish a skill.
When it is time for Dushawn to come to the group for story time, his teacher
gives him a verbal prompt: “Dushawn, please come sit on your carpet square next
to me.” This may be enough for Dushawn to learn that he is expected to join the
group.

Reinforce Children’s Learning When children receive positive reinforcement
following performance of a new skill, they are more likely to try the new skill again. In
educational settings, positive reinforcement can be very simple and natural. Naturally
occurring reinforcers are consequences that are likely to occur whenever the child per-
forms the skill and are therefore highly effective. For example, when Raven puts on her
coat independently, the teacher says, “Raven, you zipped up your coat all by yourself.
Now you can go outside to play.” Some examples of naturally occurring reinforcers
include the child using the paint after making a request to do so; playing with friends
after asking to join the group; and being acknowledged by a teacher for trying hard at a
difficult task.

Monitor Progress The effectiveness of instruction depends on the team monitoring
the child’s progress to determine if the child has met a goal and is ready to move on to
learning a new skill, or if the IEP needs modification. Information about children’s prog-
ress can be collected in many ways. One data collection system used by many teachers is
to observe and document the child’s learning using a checklist of skills or a rating scale
of the child’s performance. A rating scale allows the teacher to indicate the level of a
child’s skill along a continuum. For example, the lowest level might be “child refuses to
perform the skill” and the highest “child performs the skill independently,” with several
steps in between.

States must also monitor Early Childhood Outcomes (ECO) for children who receive
services for special needs, whether through Part C (Early Intervention) or Part B (Pre-
school). They must report the percentage of infants and toddlers with Individualized Fam-
ily Service Plans (IFSPs) or preschool children with Individualized Education Programs
(IEPs) who demonstrate improved:

a. Positive social-emotional skills (including social relationships)
b. Acquisition and use of knowledge and skills (including early language/

communication [and early literacy for preschoolers])
c. Use of appropriate behavior to meet needs

Because these outcomes apply to all children, they can help professionals and families
communicate effectively regarding children’s goal progress and needs (http://ectacenter.
org/eco/pages/faqs.asp).

All early childhood teachers need to learn how to teach children with special needs
in inclusive settings. In addition, when general early childhood educators learn some of
the important skills of early childhood special education, they can apply these skills to
teaching all children. Read the Becoming an Intentional Teacher: Individualizing Group
Time feature for an example of applying this special education knowledge with typically
developing children.

naturally occurring reinforcers
Consequences that are likely
to occur whenever the child
performs the skill and are,
therefore, highly effective.

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Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences 167

Having explored the topic of individual differences among typically developing
children as well as children with special needs, we now see that teachers can draw on a
large body of effective practices to achieve their goals for all children. Successful inclu-
sion of children with disabilities and special needs involves much more than the children’s
presence in the classroom. Teachers need to get to know all of the children and continu-
ally assess their learning and development. They must plan and implement individual-
ized instructional strategies. Most important, teachers must create a classroom climate in
which every child is valued and fully included.

✓ Check Your Understanding 5.6: Effective Practices for Children
with Diverse Abilities

Becoming an Intentional Teacher
Individualizing Group Time
Here’s What Happened Halfway through the kinder-
garten year, there was a child in my class, Tasha, who con-
tinued to have difficulty with large-group instruction times.
She would touch the other children, sometimes even lean-
ing her whole body against them and touching their hair or
faces. She was easily distracted and stood up to look out
the windows several times during story time. She also would
leave circle time before it finished and wander around.

So, here is what I did. I gave each child a carpet square to
use during circle time, placing Tasha farthest away from
the window but closest to me. I started circle time with an
active movement song. When the children sat down, I gave
Tasha a card to hold that had pictures of the expected be-
haviors when sitting in a large group (keep feet and hands
to self; look and listen to the action; raise a quiet hand to
ask a question). Tasha and I had made the card together.
She drew the pictures and I wrote the words for each re-
minder. I also used Tasha’s favorite puppet, Whiskers, to
greet and excuse children at circle time.

Here’s What I Was Thinking Tasha has difficulty
attending in large groups and is easily distracted. Young
children in general can have difficulty remembering ex-
pected behaviors and directions. I also realized that Tasha
wasn’t as motivated as other children were to listen and
participate at circle time. At first, I thought that perhaps
I should let Tasha wander when she didn’t want to be at
circle time. But she is already 6 years old and, although
she has some difficulties with attention, her parents and I

believe that she can be success-
ful at circle time. Starting with
an active song helps get some
energy out before sitting. The
carpet squares help Tasha, and other children, remember
where to keep their bodies during circle time. Placing Ta-
sha’s seat away from the windows minimizes distractions,
and seating her close to me allows for some gentle remind-
ers to pay attention.

I wasn’t completely sure that I should single Tasha out by
giving her a “reminder card,” but then I figured Tasha was
already being singled out by her peers as the one who al-
ways disrupted their story. I could explain to the children
that everyone in the class has their individual needs met—
for example, children with allergies, special diets, adap-
tive pencils, and so on. The reminder card is helping Tasha
remember what we all are supposed to be doing at group
time. The card also keeps Tasha’s hands busy, making it
less likely that she will touch her peers. Beginning and end-
ing circle time with Whiskers, the cat puppet, motivates
Tasha to come to circle right away and stay through the end.
These easy-to-implement modifications help Tasha to learn
more and spend more time with her peers.

Reflection Even though all children are not alike, teach-
ing in whole group can be an efficient and effective strat-
egy at times. Do you think it’s fair that some children are
treated differently during group times? What other strate-
gies could the teacher use to engage all the children fully?

. . . Ms. Creighton’s Classroom

At the beginning of this chapter, we met some of the children in Lindsay Creighton’s preschool class and

wondered how she could possibly meet the needs of these diverse children. Now that we have explored the

topic of adapting for individual differences, we can see how Lindsay successfully teaches all of the children.

Revisiting the Case Study

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach168

Lindsay’s study of child development helps her to understand that children’s personalities and

behaviors are the result of an interaction between their genetic makeup and their experiences in the

environment. Therefore, she is aware of how important her work is in helping them achieve their full

potential. Lindsay has high goals for each child’s learning. But she realizes that because children are

unique, she needs to use differentiated instruction to help them achieve the goals.

For Cal, whose grandmother does not speak English, Lindsay works with a translator as well

as a team that includes a social worker. Lindsay recognizes that Rohan and Ruby, who both seem

painfully shy, are also very different. They each have different interests and abilities. Because

Rohan likes quiet activities and playing with one other child, Lindsay encourages him in that direc-

tion and he gradually becomes more confident. Ruby is hesitant until she is assured that Lindsay

will protect her from an allergic reaction. The other children soon become comfortable with that

fact as they say, “Ruby’s body was born not liking peanuts.” They all embrace the need to protect

Ruby’s health.

Although at first Lindsay and the other children mix up the twins, Alex and Alice, they soon

become aware that each is an individual. Lindsay focuses on working with each girl separately and

engaging them in different activities so their uniqueness becomes evident to all. Carter’s needs

are more severe and specific. Working as a member of his IEP team and supported by his parents,

Lindsay becomes more confident in her ability to teach Carter and to help him achieve his indi-

vidualized goals.

After several months of working with this class, Lindsay decides that adapting for individual varia-

tion is the most interesting part of her work. At first, she was concerned when confronted with such

diversity. But now, she finds that children’s individuality is what makes her days most interesting and

unpredictable. As she expands her repertoire of skills for working with diverse children, she finds that

seeing individual children’s progress is richly rewarding. ■

• Children differ from one another in many ways,
including rate and timing of cognitive and language
development, social skills and temperament, and inter-
ests. The transactional theory of development explains
that development is influenced by both biology and
experience, and how they interact with each other.

• Effective early childhood teachers understand the
importance of knowing each child as an individual.
One of the most useful frameworks for thinking about
the variation among children is Gardner’s theory of
multiple intelligences.

• Differentiating instruction means to create multiple
paths so that children of different abilities, interests, or
learning needs experience equally appropriate ways to
achieve important learning goals.

• All teachers need to be prepared to work with children
who have special learning and developmental needs
because federal law requires it, effective practices exist
to alter the course of children’s learning, and many of
these practices can be used with typically developing
children.

• Specialized instruction involves teachers matching
an individual child’s goals with appropriate teaching
methods and materials, deciding what amount of assis-
tance is needed by the child, providing the assistance,
and determining whether the instruction was effective.
Of equal importance to specialized instruction is culti-
vating a culture of inclusion, which provides children
with disabilities with a sense of belonging and mem-
bership in the peer group.

Chapter Summary5

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Chapter 5 Adapting for Individual Differences 169

Key Terms
■■ approaches to learning
■■ autism spectrum
disorder (ASD)

■■ children with disabilities
■■ children with special
needs

■■ Council for Exceptional
Children (CEC)

■■ developmental domain
■■ differentiated instruction
■■ Division for Early
Childhood (DEC)

■■ eligibility guidelines
■■ exceptional children
■■ free appropriate public
education (FAPE)

■■ functional skills
■■ generative skills
■■ individualized education
program (IEP)

■■ individualized family
service plan (IFSP)

■■ natural learning
environments

■■ naturally occurring
reinforcers

■■ nature
■■ nurture
■■ person-first language
■■ prompts
■■ protective factors
■■ resilience
■■ Response to Intervention
(RTI)

■■ risk factors

■■ specialized instruction
■■ temperament
■■ theory of multiple
intelligences

■■ transactional theory of
development

■■ universal deign

Demonstrate Your Learning
Click here to assess how well you’ve learned the content in this chapter.

Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Excep-
tional Children. (2014). DEC Recommended practices
in early intervention/early childhood special education.
Available on DEC website.

Gadzikowski, A. (2013). Challenging exceptionally
bright children in early childhood classrooms. St. Paul,
MN: Redleaf Press.

Sandall, S., & Schwartz, I. (2008). Building blocks for
successful early childhood programs: Strategies for
including all children (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Paul H.
Brookes.

Center for Response to Intervention in Early Children
Visit this website for more information and resources on
differentiating instruction for young learners.

Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council
for Exceptional Children
On the DEC website, you can find numerous resources,
and can also download and read DEC Recommended

practices in early intervention/early childhood special
education.

Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA)
This website at FPG Child Development Institute offers
resources about early childhood outcomes, universal
design, Response to Intervention, early intervention,
Preschool 619 services, and a variety of other topics.

National Professional Development Center on
Inclusion
At this website at FPG Child Development Institute, you
will find research and resources for supporting the inclu-
sion of children with disabilities in settings with peers.

Project Zero
View the Project Zero website at Harvard University to
learn more about application and research studies related
to multiple intelligences and learning.

Readings and Websites

M05_BRED6702_03_SE_C05.indd 169 10/7/15 1:39 PM

6
Learning Outcomes
After studying this chapter, you should be able to:

6.1 Define culture and explain how cultural contexts influence children’s learning
and development.

6.2 Describe how the rules for behavior differ among various cultural groups and
how they are similar.

6.3 Describe how your own cultural background influences your thinking and
behavior.

6.4 Analyze why teachers need to understand and be sensitive to children’s
linguistic and cultural diversity.

6.5 Discuss effective cross-cultural communication strategies.

6.6 Apply principles of culturally responsive, developmentally appropriate
practices.

Embracing a Culturally and
Linguistically Diverse World

© Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Getty Images

M06_BRED6702_03_SE_C06.indd 170 10/7/15 1:42 PM

171

W
ith her newly achieved associate’s degree in early childhood

education, Stacey Griffin is excited about her first job as a teacher

of 18- to 30-month-old children in a child care center. Even though

the center is located in a neighborhood close to where Stacey grew up, the population of the area has changed

considerably in recent years. An influx of immigrants from Latin America is apparent in the number of families

with young children who have displaced the elderly, white, European American, long-term residents, as well as in

the goods available and language spoken in local markets. Despite these changes, Stacey feels confident that she

knows enough about child development and early childhood practice to be a good teacher.

By the end of the first month, however, Stacey is feeling frustrated and less sure of herself. In the mornings,

most of the families arrive late. They continue to carry their children into the classroom even though Stacey has

informed them (gently, she thinks) that the children are capable of walking on their own and need to practice their

developing motor skills. Similarly, she disapproves of the parents’ continuing to spoon-feed the children rather

than giving them finger food that they can manage on their own.

Mrs. Arguenta is unhappy that Stacey isn’t cooperating in toilet training 18-month-old Ilsia. Stacey thinks Ilsia is

too young because she can’t verbalize her need to use the potty. Mrs. Arguenta says that Ilsia is already using the

potty at home and wants Ilsia to be dry. To make matters worse, Mrs. Arguenta sends

Ilsia to child care wearing her best clothes and buckle shoes. Stacey thinks toddlers

need to move about in comfort and should go barefoot to help them with their walking.

Besides, the floor is carpeted.

Stacey tries to build a relationship with Mrs. Arguenta. She asks

Mrs. Arguenta to call her Stacey instead of Miss Griffin, but Mrs. Arguenta

ignores this friendly overture. Every time Stacey tries to meet

with her to discuss Ilsia, Mrs. Arguenta is late or doesn’t come.

One day, Mrs. Arguenta sends Ilsia’s 10-year-old sister to pick

her up, which is a violation of center policies.

Stacey can’t understand why Mrs. Arguenta and

the other families are being so difficult when she

works so hard to communicate with them. ■

Case Study

S
ome readers may think that Stacey’s struggles as a new teacher are caused by the
fact that she is working with difficult or uninterested parents. Others may think that
Stacey is too inflexible to respond to legitimate concerns of families. In fact, Stacey

and Mrs. Arguenta are operating from two different, albeit equally legitimate, cultural
perspectives on appropriate child rearing. In the example above, we see the conflicts
entirely from Stacey’s perspective. But if the story were told from Mrs. Arguenta’s view
or that of other families, we might question Stacey’s skills as a teacher; we might also
question her sensitivity to the families’ perspectives. In this situation, whatever appears to
be happening on the surface, the underlying reality is an encounter between individuals
from different cultural contexts.

The United States is becoming an increasingly diverse country. In the last decade,
the number of white students in public schools decreased from 60% to 52%, and the His-
panic population of students increased from 17% to 24% (National Center for Education
Statistics, 2014c). Most early childhood programs serve children from diverse linguistic
and cultural groups or will do so in the future. Therefore, it is essential for teachers to
understand and embrace the realities of a culturally and linguistically diverse world.

But culture and its influences are subtle. Moreover, the majority cultural group of the
United States—predominantly individuals of Anglo-European descent—tends to define

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach172

culture and linguistic diversity as issues or challenges to be dealt with or solved. In fact,
the word diverse means different, which raises the question, “Different from what?” The
implication is that people whose cultural identity is not white European American or who
are not native speakers of English are different from the norm.

In this book, we talk about the realities of culture and language because these forces
influence the learning and development of all children. At the same time, we use the verb
embrace when discussing culture and language to create a classroom climate that is cul-
turally and linguistically supportive and responsive for all children. We believe that such
a perspective is a precursor to helping all children achieve their full potentials.

In this chapter, we define the term culture and identify the basic principles of the role
of culture in development and learning. We also describe a framework for thinking about
contrasting cultural beliefs, values, and practices. We discuss effective teaching and learn-
ing strategies for working with all children, beginning with awareness of one’s own cultural
perspective.

Understanding Cultural Diversity
The United States has always been a nation of immigrants, its diversity being a hallmark
of American society. Recent waves of immigration and higher birth rates among certain
groups have made the nation even more diverse. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by
2020, approximately 51% of the children in the United States will be Latino, Asian, or
African American/African (Child Trends, 2014), and 26% of children will be Hispanic. In
many parts of the country, the majority of children are members of a so-called “ minority”
group. In the future, the concepts of majority and minority status are likely to become
confusing if not meaningless.

Given the diversity of children and families served in programs, as well as changing
demographics, every teacher will work with diverse groups of children and families. Even
if differences are not outwardly apparent, individuals differ from one another in many
ways: religion, national heritage, language, traditions, and many more. Therefore, all
teachers must be committed to making it part of their ongoing education to learn about
the diverse populations of their classrooms.

What Is Culture?
Culture refers to explicit and implicit values, beliefs, and patterns of behavior that are
passed on from generation to generation (National Association for the Education of
Young Children [NAEYC], 2009). Culture encompasses customs, rituals, ways of inter-
acting and communicating, and expectations for behaviors, roles, and relationships that
are shared by members of a group (Olsen, Bhattacharya, & Scharf, 2007).

To understand the concept of culture, it is crucial to understand that culture is a charac-
teristic of groups, not an aspect of individual variation. Children learn the values, beliefs,

and expectations for behavior from their cultural group.
In Chapter 4, we learned how young children are similar
to other children of the same age. In Chapter 5, we dis-
cussed how each child is unique and different from every
other child. In this chapter, we describe how children share
similar characteristics with other children of their cultural
group. Although each of these three chapters focuses on a
distinct principle of development, it is important to recog-
nize that these principles are interrelated. All three of the
following statements are equally true:

•  Every child is like all other children in some ways.
•   Every child is like some other children in some ways 

(those who are members of the same cultural group).
•  Every child is like no other child.

culture Explicit and implicit
values, beliefs, and patterns
of behavior that are passed on
from generation to generation;
customs, rituals, ways of in-
teracting and communicating,
and expectations for behaviors,
roles, and relationships that are
shared by members of a group.

The population of young
children in the United States
is becoming ever more diverse.
Effective teachers embrace the
realities of cultural and linguis-
tic diversity to help all children
reach their full potentials.

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Chapter 6 Embracing a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World 173

Sometimes discussions of culture are limited, focusing on superficial characteristics
such as those that can be observed. For example, we judge cultural origin based on the
clothing that people wear, the holidays they celebrate, the accents with which they speak,
or the music they enjoy. Although these external cues reveal something about children
and their families, they neglect or ignore the deeper structures of culture—the values
and rules—that truly influence behavior and decisions. Figure 6.1 illustrates the reality
of culture, in which the surface characteristics are only the “tip of the iceberg” while the
fundamental elements tend to be invisible.

The Role of Culture in Development
Why is culture so relevant for early childhood educators? The simplest answer to this
question is that culture shapes and influences every child’s development and learning
(Bronfenbrenner, 1979, 2004; Trawick-Smith, 2013). In fact, all aspects of human life are
touched and affected by people’s cultural contexts. This includes how people communicate,
think, behave, solve problems, and organize communities and governments (Lynch, 2011).

Although the biological factors that influence maturation are similar for all human
beings, culture has a huge influence on how children experience their growth and

Visible
Surface
Aspects

Invisible
Deep

Structure

Norms

Assumptions

Beliefs

Expectations for Behavior

Values

Rules and Roles

History

Language Foods

Clothing

Material Artifacts

Celebrations

Music

FIGURE 6.1 Model of Culture The complexity of culture is like an iceberg—the visible elements are
only a small part while the deeper structures truly influence behavior and decisions.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach174

development—on how they are nurtured (Trawick-Smith, 2013). In general, cultural rules
influence how children behave and how they make sense of their experiences.

Culture Influences Behavior Acculturation is the process whereby children
learn expected rules of behavior. From their cultural group, children learn such critical
lessons as how to show respect and how to properly greet an older or younger person, a
friend, or a stranger (Rogoff, 2003).

Consider the range of child-rearing practices among various cultural groups. Are
babies carried on mother’s backs or pushed in strollers? Does the family remain silent
during meals or talk openly? Do parents feel comfortable playing with their children or
find this behavior embarrassing? Are mothers primarily responsible for a baby’s care or is
that care shared among different members of the extended family? These are only a few
examples of the many ways cultural practices begin to shape children’s development from
the earliest moments of life.

Some cultural rules are explicitly taught, such as “hold the fork in your right hand and
the knife in your left,” or vice versa. In most countries, mixing up these rules would be
of little consequence. By contrast, in Middle Eastern cultures, people eat with their right
hand and use their left hand for toileting. Therefore, offering your left hand to someone
is interpreted as a grave insult.

Children learn many cultural rules from adults or other children through modeling.
From observation, children learn when to smile or look someone in the eye (Gonzalez-Mena,
2008). They also learn when to speak up and when to listen (Ramsey, 2004). They learn
whether people shake hands or bow in greeting. In fact, what is considered appropriate
behavior, thinking, or problem solving in a given situation is always culturally determined
(Lynch, 2011). Consider how different cultural perspectives on appropriate child rearing
come into play in the following situation:

Patty Briggs is so excited because she has finally been approved to adopt a child from
Costa Rica. She is prepared to stay there for several weeks to get to know her little boy,
who is 12 months old, and for his foster family to get to know her. Even though Patty
has studied child development and taken care of many young children, after a few days
in Costa Rica, she starts to feel uncertain. Whenever she puts the baby down to crawl on
the floor, the foster mother frowns and immediately picks him up. Patty is concerned
because the baby is always so warmly dressed in a tropical climate. She finds that he has
diaper rash and wants to remove some of his warm clothing to help him heal. However,
it’s clear that the foster mother thinks he will get cold and become ill. During the time that
Patty is in Costa Rica, she respects the foster mother’s mode of caring for the baby, but
also treats his diaper rash. After the adoption, she sends photos of him to his foster fam-
ily to reassure them that he is well cared for. (P. Briggs, personal communication, 1990)

Culture Creates Meaning Cultural rules determine the meaning attached to par-
ticular behaviors. Therefore, teachers need to be aware of how different experiences can
carry different meanings for children. Consider the example of physical touch. Touch is
an important aspect of human behavior, but different cultural groups attach different inter-
pretations to the same kinds of touch (Lynch, 2011). In the United States, it is not unusual
for opposite-sex couples to hold hands or lock arms as outward signs of affection. In other
parts of the world, these behaviors between men and women might not be tolerated. Simi-
larly, in some countries, members of the same sex walk arm in arm as a sign of friendship,
but in the United States, same-sex public displays of affection are interpreted as a sign of
sexual orientation. Accordingly, we see that the same behavior—holding hands or taking
someone’s arm—means something different, depending on the cultural context.

How does this concept affect teachers and children? When the same behaviors mean
different things or different behaviors mean the same thing, mixed messages can result, as
occurred in Stacey’s classroom at the beginning of this chapter. Stacey thinks that using
one’s first name signals a positive relationship, whereas Mrs. Arguenta interprets it as a
sign of disrespect.

acculturation The process
whereby children learn
expected rules of behavior.

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Chapter 6 Embracing a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World 175

How Culture Functions: Principles
to Keep in Mind
As you continue your professional journey, you will probably find that the more you learn
about culture, the more you need to know. This is not a comfortable position for most
educators. While you may think that you should know all the answers, this is not realistic;
the most effective stance is to acknowledge what you don’t know and remain open to new
learning. This will serve you well throughout your teaching career and in all areas of your
professional journey.

In the meantime, it is useful to understand several key principles about how culture
affects human development. These principles are listed and briefly described here (Day,
2006; Hanson, 2011):

1. Everyone is rooted in one or more cultural groups. This first principle is the founda-
tion of all understanding about culture (Head Start, 2010b). Accepting this principle
requires going beyond respecting diversity to deeper understanding; it requires that
European American teachers reject the tendency to see white, European American
children as exhibiting ordinary behaviors, while thinking about children of other
ethnic ancestries as exhibiting cultural behaviors (Day, 2006; Head Start, 2010b).
Members of the majority cultural group in any country tend to have more difficulty
recognizing that their cultural background influences their thinking and behavior.

2. Cultures are dynamic. Culture is not a fixed, static entity. Because it is born of
traditions and historical experiences, intervening events can affect and change cul-
tural rules. When groups immigrate, they take aspects of their culture with them;
however, as they interact with members of other cultural groups, they may change.
Similarly, the cultural traditions in the country of origin may diverge as a result of
differing circumstances.

New information and changing political situations may also challenge cul-
tural assumptions, such as appropriate roles for men and women. In the 1960s,
for instance, the women’s movement and other political events led to rapid shifts
in expectations for women and men in America. Similarly, female candidates for
president and vice president of the United States altered perceptions about women
as leaders, especially for young girls.

Because culture is dynamic, teachers need to be careful not to make assump-
tions about students’ and families’ behaviors based on outdated information or
even prior experience with members of a particular group. A teacher might as-
sume, for example, that European American parents reject gender stereotyping,
but change that assumption when several families send in princess costumes for
their daughters to play with.

3. Culture, language, ethnicity, and race are aspects of experience that influence
people’s beliefs and values. Culture is only one determinant, albeit a strong one, of
people’s values, beliefs, and behaviors. Ethnicity refers to the shared characteristics
and experiences of a group of people, such as nationality, race, history, religion, and
language. Ethnicity is usually connected to the geographic origin of a group, as with
Greek or Chinese people. Additional factors, including socioeconomic status, educa-
tion, occupation, ability/disability, sexual orientation, personality, and events in the
larger society influence how people behave and how groups function (Lynch, 2011).

All of these factors interact to influence the values and behavior of various
groups and of individuals within groups. History in particular plays a key role. For
example, the history of slavery, racism, and discrimination in the United States
and other countries has had a significant, differential effect on people’s lives and
opportunities and continues to do so. Racism persists as new groups become its
target, including Arabic people and immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries.
In addition, gay and lesbian people have been and continue to be discriminated
against. Although considerable progress has been made toward equality of all
groups of Americans, the struggle continues.

ethnicity The shared charac-
teristics and experiences of a
group of people, such as na-
tionality, race, history, religion,
and language.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach176

4. Differences within a cultural group may be
as great as, or greater than, differences be-
tween cultural groups. Assuming that chil-
dren who share the same culture or language
are all alike is like assuming that all 3-year-
olds are alike. Although there are some sim-
ilarities, there are many differences in their
skills, abilities, and behaviors. Likewise,
children from the same cultural group share
some attitudes, beliefs, and values, but there
are many that they do not share. Children
from one cultural group are both alike and
different from children of another. African
American children growing up in low-in-
come, urban areas will share some but not

all of the culturally determined behaviors of African American children whose fam-
ilies have been middle-class professionals for generations. Therefore, it is vitally
important not to stereotype individuals who are members of particular groups even
while learning some of the common practices, values, or beliefs of those groups.

5. Culture is defined in terms of differences among groups and is complicated by is-
sues of power and status. Think for a minute about words like mainstream, domi-
nant, majority, and minority. In the United States, each of these words is used to
describe group differences in relationship to white European Americans. But to
members of other cultural groups such as Latinos, Native Americans, or African
Americans, European Americans are the diverse group. When one group, such as
European Americans, becomes the reference point against which other groups are
compared, that group is the one with the most power and privilege in the society
(Delpit, 2006; Lynch & Hanson, 2011).

The practices of the cultural group that has the greatest power and sta-
tus become the standard or norm against which other behaviors are judged
(Lynch & Hanson, 2011). Cultural groups that have less status and power
are perceived as deficient in some way (Delpit, 2006). Understanding how
issues of power and privilege affect relationships and communication among
cultural groups is critically important.

The election of President Barack Obama was hailed as a significant indi-
cator of the nation’s progress toward racial equality. Although that historical
event did not negate the continued reality of racism and discrimination in
many people’s lives, it did challenge implicit assumptions about power and
status in the society—not only for African Americans and other people of
color, but for European Americans as well. There can be no question that, to
some extent, the face of power was changed.

Relationship of Race and Culture An overview of the principles just dis-
cussed reveals that there is a complex relationship between race, ethnicity, and culture
that knowledgeable teachers need to understand. Because race is a sensitive topic in the
United States, the words culture and race are sometimes inaccurately used synonymous-
ly, but they are not the same thing (Wardle, 2008b).

Scientists argue that a person’s race cannot be determined by examining her or his
biological makeup (Wardle, 2008a, 2008b). Nevertheless, race is associated with a per-
son’s biology and is determined by who their parents are, whereas culture is learned. As
evidenced by how census data are collected, racial classifications are complex and, for
the most part, politically determined (Banks, 2012). For example, the same person might
be considered racially black in the United States, colored in South Africa, and brown in
Brazil. Moreover, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, almost 5% of children are multira-
cial, mostly likely an underestimate.

Classroom Connection
This video describes how experts
currently define culture. What are
some of the ways that defining
culture is a complex task?

Individual children within the
same cultural group can be as
different from each other as
they are from those in other
groups. In what ways might
these children be similar
to each other? How might
they differ?

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Chapter 6 Embracing a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World 177

Teachers need to understand that although a very limited number of racial catego-
ries, such as Asian or Caucasian, are identified based on skin color and other physi-
cal characteristics, hundreds of cultural/ethnic groups exist. Asian peoples include
Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Hmong, and many others, some of which
have been historical enemies (Wardle, 2008a). Similarly, Hispanic is not an actual
racial, cultural, or even linguistic group, despite its designation as such by census tak-
ers. The term Latino/a is currently used to refer to people of Mexican, Cuban, Puerto
Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin (Derman-Sparks
& Edwards, 2010). Given these complex realities, the increasing diversity of immi-
grants, and the growing number of biracial and multiracial children, it is essential that
teachers not make assumptions about children and families’ racial and cultural identi-
ties (Wardle, 2008a).

The most useful strategy is for responsive teachers to create a classroom climate in
which it is safe to talk about and notice racial and cultural differences (Derman-Sparks &
Edwards, 2010). Reading books such as Colors around Me (Church, 1997) or Shades of
People (Rotner & Kelly, 2010) can start a conversation about how people with different
shades of black skin are a part of the same race because their ancestors originally came
from Africa.

In the previous sections, we described principles for understanding culture and how
they interrelate. In the next section, we discuss similarities and differences among diverse
cultures and how they govern various cultural groups’ thinking and behavior.

✓ Check Your Understanding 6.1: Understanding Cultural Diversity

A Framework for Thinking
About Culture
To help you understand the role of culture in the lives of children and families, and your
own life, we examine a framework for thinking about values, beliefs, and practices among
various cultural groups. In using this framework, it is important that you develop an
awareness of similarities and differences among groups (Lynch, 2011).

Different cultural groups have different sets of values and beliefs, but beyond that,
they have different ways of connecting with each other and functioning as a group. In
some cultural groups, individual members put their needs first before those of the group;
other cultures are group-oriented, putting the group’s needs before their own individual
needs. This framework classifies cultural groups in terms of two general orientations:
(1) individualistic and (2) interdependent (Gonzalez-Mena, 2008).

Individualistic Cultural Orientation
The values of individualistic cultural groups include focusing on the needs of the indi-
vidual, independence, self-expression, and personal property and choice. In individual-
istic cultures, the primary goal is individual achievement and fulfillment. These cultures
emphasize the rights of the individual over the rights of the group. With its history of
individual rights and focus on personal achievement, this is the dominant cultural orienta-
tion in the United States.

Picture an individualistic-oriented classroom. All of the children have their own cub-
bies marked with their names in which to store their belongings. Developing indepen-
dence in children is an important goal. The children’s individual work is displayed and
carefully identified. Children are praised for their achievements and graded in comparison
to one another. When parents visit, they look carefully to find their child’s contribution.
The focus on individual children and their accomplishments is evident.

individualistic cultural groups
Cultural groups that focus on the
needs of the individual, inde-
pendence, self-expression, and
personal property and choice.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach178

Interdependent Cultural Orientation
By contrast, interdependent cultural groups focus on the needs of the group rather
than on those of the individual. These cultural groups, also called collectivist, value
interdependence, cooperation and mutual assistance, shared property, and social respon-
sibility. Interdependent cultures stress respect for tradition and authority over the rights
of the individual. Among cultural groups that exhibit an interdependent orientation are
Latinos, Asians, and people in West African and Middle Eastern countries. Because the
United States is a nation of immigrants, many cultural groups within this country, as well
as Native Americans and African Americans, are oriented more toward interdependence
than individualism (Hanson, 2011).

In an interdependent-oriented classroom, individual children do not draw attention
to themselves. Children readily share their possessions with each other. Group work is
displayed. A colorful mural representing the contributions of scores of children adorns
the entrance to the school. These two classrooms are described in overly simplistic terms.
Most classrooms would evidence both cultural orientations because, in reality, they are
not polar opposites but rather points on a continuum.

Continuum of Common Cultural Values
Instead of classifying cultural groups as either individualistic or interdependent, a more
useful strategy is to think of values that are common across all cultural groups as varying
along a continuum. Such a continuum is depicted in Figure 6.2.

Individuals within cultural groups vary all along the continuum; families are more
or less inclusive, just as they are more or less traditional rather than either traditional
or not. In addition, the ends of the continuum can be seen from a both/and perspec-
tive. For example, in the United States, schools and society emphasize both individual
achievement and cooperation, working together to solve problems, and taking care of
those in need.

Consider how misunderstandings can occur when teachers and family members oper-
ate from different points on the interdependent and individualist continuum,
as in the following example:

Mr. Wu is late for a team meeting to discuss his son’s IEP. The disabilities
coordinator, Ms. Armstrong, impatiently taps her foot, repeatedly looks at her
watch, and gets more and more irritated as minutes tick by. Ms. Garcia, the
classroom teacher, seems less concerned. When Mr. Wu arrives, he doesn’t
apologize for being late, but he does tell Ms. Garcia that his mother is taking
care of his son and she has questions to ask about her grandson. Ms. Garcia
understands that Mr. Wu’s respect for his mother took precedence over arriving
at the meeting on time.

When the meeting ends, Ms. Garcia reviews her notes with Ms. Armstrong.
She politely states, “I could see that you were concerned about the meeting
running overtime. I know that you are very busy, but I believe that Mr. Wu did
not intend to inconvenience us by being late. His greatest priority was to show
respect for his mother, and I’m glad he consulted her because with her input
we can do a better job of helping her grandson.” In this way, Ms. Garcia did
not tell Ms. Armstrong that her cultural views are wrong; instead, she clarified
her own cultural views and those of Mr. Wu.

Applying the Continuum in Practice
Conceptualizing variations in cultural values along a continuum helps teachers in several
ways: (1) It reduces the tendency to stereotype groups; (2) it reduces the likelihood that
differences will be categorized as right or wrong, that is, an us versus them mentality; and
(3) it has the potential to increase understanding and communication among teachers and
families who may differ in their perspectives (Lynch, 2011).

interdependent cultural groups
Cultural groups that focus on
the needs of the group rather
than those of the individual,
also called collectivist.

Classroom Connection
This video provides some specific
examples of the continuum of
cultural values and its impact on
children’s behavior. How could
teachers use this information to
teach more effectively?

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Chapter 6 Embracing a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World 179

Ultimately, cultures may tend toward one end of the continuum or the other, but
the values of most people fall somewhere in between. All cultures value families, for
instance, but they define family membership differently. Similarly, rigidly categorizing
groups is likely to lead to inaccurate assumptions. For example, Japanese cultural values
are typically viewed as traditional (on the interdependent end of the continuum) and yet
Japan readily embraces new technologies.

Following is an example of what might happen during an encounter between mem-
bers of individualist and interdependent cultural groups:

To help children feel comfortable in their new surroundings, kindergarten teacher
Alisha Watson created a bulletin board to display photos of children’s families so
that there would be something familiar to the children in the room. She asked for
children to bring in pictures of themselves with their siblings and parents, and
couldn’t understand why some of the families never responded to her request.
She thought perhaps families didn’t have cameras or didn’t want to participate in
school activities. In frustration, she finally gave up the idea of the family bulletin

Families value the welfare of the group—the extended
family—over the achievements of individual members.

Contributions to the community are valued.

Respect for elders, traditions, and the past is a strong focus.

Respect for adult authority is expected; teacher-child
relationships are formal.

Time is flexible; people are more important than time.

Extended families—grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings—
care for and help raise children.

Calling attention to oneself—standing out from the group—
may be seen as selfish and rejection of family. Cooperation is valued.

Children are expected to contribute to the family functioning.

Children are encouraged to help each other, older ones help younger.

Activity focuses on relationships, not objects; babies are carried and
children engage in daily routines with family members.

Ownership is shared.

Children share family and community spaces, activities, and events.

Gender and age determine rights and roles.

Interdependent Orientation Individualistic Orientation

Families value the welfare of the nuclear family
and its individual members.

Individual accomplishments are valued.

The future, youth, and technological advances are
valued.

Relationships with adults are relatively informal;
children are encouraged to engage in conversation
with teachers.

Time is valuable; schedules are important. Being
late or wasting time is considered disrespectful.

The nuclear family is primarily responsible for
childrearing and may live far away from relatives.

Children’s individual achievement and self-esteem
are highly valued. Competition is encouraged.

Children are expected to achieve on their own.

Children are encouraged to do things for
themselves such as toileting, feeding, dressing at
an early age.

Activities often focus on objects; children play on
floor and with own toys and materials.

Individual ownership is valued.

Children have their own separate spaces (for
example, their own rooms) and child-centered
activities.

Individual freedom and rights are highly valued.

FIGURE 6.2 Continuum of Cultural Values
Source: Based on “Perspectives in Childrearing Values,” by J. Bromer, K. Modigliani, and C. Callahan, no date,
The Family Child Care Accreditation Project, Boston, MA: Wheelock College; and “Developing Cross-Cultural
Competence,” by E. W. Lynch, 2011, in Developing Cross-Cultural Competence: A Guide for Working with
Children and Their Families, 4th edition, edited by E. W. Lynch and M. J. Hanson, Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach180

board. Alisha never imagined that some parents weren’t comfortable limiting the
photo to just the immediate family. To many of them the extended family, which
includes neighbors and friends, is what matters. One mother was upset that grand-
parents would not be included, but didn’t want to alienate the new teacher.

As we can see, Alisha’s concept of “family” represents a more individualistic orienta-
tion than that of many families in her classroom. Alisha could have avoided the problem
by respecting the families’ own definitions of their members.

The continuum of cultural values (Lynch, 2011) is intended to help you concentrate
on common values—how cultural groups are similar as well as different. At the same
time, effectively working across cultural groups requires looking inward and analyzing
your own cultural perspective, as we describe next.

✓ Check Your Understanding 6.2: A Framework for Thinking about Culture

Understanding Your Own
Cultural Perspective
As you read about interdependent and individualistic cultural values, how did you feel?
Did you identify with one end of the continuum or the other? Did you find yourself judg-
ing people whose values and practices reflect the other extreme?

Teachers, like all human beings, view the world through their own cultural lenses. To
be effective, you will need to overcome any potential biases about children’s behavior in
order to establish positive relationships, build on their prior knowledge and current levels
of ability, and to help children make sense of their experiences. The first step in accom-
plishing this goal is to examine your own cultural perspective. Figure 6.3 will help you
focus your reflections.

Become Aware of Your Own Cultural Experiences
Begin by reflecting on the origins of your family. Here are some questions to stimulate
these reflections (Lynch, 2011):

•   What stories have you heard about your an-
cestors or relatives living in other parts of the
world?

•   How  do  you  identify  yourself  culturally? 
Do you feel a connection to your cultural
background?

•   Do  you  or  does  anyone  in  your  family 
speak a language other than English? What
language(s) do you speak?

•   Are  there  rituals,  traditions,  or  holidays  that 
reflect your family’s heritage?

•   How  does  your  family  express  affection  or 
disapproval?

•   How do your family members communicate? 
Are they more likely to listen and think before
speaking, or do they jump into conversation
eagerly, even talking over one another?

•   Can you think of advice or sayings that guided 
behavior in your family?

Questions like these help you become aware of
how your own values, beliefs, and practices affect
your behavior. Now think about how your cultural

Interactions
and

Communication

Ideas
and

Thinking

Culture

Goals

Beliefs
and Values

Child Care
Practices

Materials

FIGURE 6.3 Reflecting
on Your Own Cultural
Experiences
Source: Based on Revisiting and
updating the multicultural prin-
ciples for Head Start programs
serving children ages birth to
five, Office of Head Start, 2010,
Washington, DC, retrieved from
http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/
tta-system/cultural-linguistic.

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Chapter 6 Embracing a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World 181

perspective affects your views of appropriate child-rearing practices. Ask yourself the
following questions and compare your answers with those of colleagues:

•  What are your thoughts regarding infant feeding practices? Should the goal be for
children to learn as toddlers how to independently feed themselves? Or do you
believe that adults should feed babies as long as possible?

•  What do you think are appropriate discipline techniques? Should children be given
time-outs, spanked, or lose privileges when they misbehave? Should parents ex-
plain their reasoning to children?

•  Should young children be directed by adults and their movements controlled? Or
should they be allowed to explore and make choices?

•  What behaviors are acceptable for girls? For boys?
•  How should children behave around adults?

Finally, examine how your cultural beliefs and biases affect your behavior and emotions.
Reflect on these questions:

•  Have you ever felt uncomfortable or surprised in another part of the United States
or in another country? What was the situation? Perhaps you felt that people invaded
your personal space? Or weren’t respectful of your possessions?

•  Have you ever felt awkward or embarrassed by something you said or did when
you were traveling or among another cultural group? Did you think about why you
might have felt that way?

•  Have you ever done or said something that was culturally inappropriate? For
example, did you fail to offer an appropriate greeting? Did your behavior embarrass
or offend other people?

Finding yourself in another group and experiencing what it feels like not to be cer-
tain of the rules is an excellent way to gain deeper understanding of your cultural views
and those of other groups. I (the author) have had many such experiences when speaking
about early childhood education throughout the United States and in other countries.
I remember specifically telling a story about the struggles I encountered during my early
days of teaching. I often said, “I knew that I was smart, but I also knew that I didn’t know
enough about teaching young children and I had a lot to learn.” Much to my surprise (and
subsequent embarrassment), I later learned that some audiences were so stunned to hear
me call myself smart that they couldn’t hear anything else I said! Pointing out individual
achievement even with self-deprecating humor is simply not considered appropriate be-
havior in many groups.

A part of reflecting on your own cultural experience includes comparing your per-
spective with that of other people. Therefore, the next step is to learn about other cultural
groups and how your views and behaviors compare and contrast with theirs.

Learn about the Perspectives of Various
Cultural Groups
To fully understand your own cultural perspectives, it is useful to learn as much as
possible about how various groups think and respond to different situations and events.
This knowledge will help overcome the tendency to impose your values and beliefs on
the children that you teach and their families. To learn more about the values of various
cultural groups:

•  Read widely about children and families of diverse cultures and backgrounds.
•  Seek out and read what has been written about diversity by researchers and theorists

from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds.
•  Identify key informants—family members, community elders, neighborhood

leaders—who are willing to talk openly with you about their beliefs, values, and
practices. To get as much accurate information as possible and to avoid stereotyp-
ing, don’t rely on one person to be your cultural translator.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach182

•  Read books and magazines, watch movies, or search websites produced by mem-
bers of diverse cultural groups.

•  If possible, immerse yourself in another culture and experience the discomfort of
not knowing exactly what to say or how to behave.

•  Most important of all, observe carefully and listen closely to learn how various
cultural groups communicate and nurture their young.

Learning generalities about cultural groups is a useful starting point, but it can easily
lead to stereotyping—making assumptions that all children who appear part of a group
share similar backgrounds. For example, a Cuban American father was dismayed to learn
that his daughter’s teacher kept telling her what she knew about the young girl’s “His-
panic” culture and how the teacher was being responsive to it. None of the teacher’s ac-
commodations were meaningful to the little girl, whose family had lived in Minnesota for
three generations.

Now that we have discussed the complex concept of culture and identified several
key principles that describe how culture functions in children’s development, consider
how this knowledge can be applied to the classroom. How will this knowledge inform
your teaching?

✓ Check Your Understanding 6.3: Understanding Your Own Cultural Perspective

Teaching in a Culturally
and Linguistically Diverse World
Imagine it is the first day of school. Parents who are dropping off their children are using
various dialects and languages that you don’t recognize. Some of the children are crying
and clinging to their parent, while others, it is clear, have been told that crying is not al-
lowed, so they are standing with quivering chins trying to hold it together. You are making
the rounds, introducing yourself to the children, trying to get them excited about the day
and the upcoming year.

You may have been through this before, as a student teacher working in a cultur-
ally diverse classroom, but every year the dynamic and the ethnic mix change. It will
be up to you to find a way to communicate with dual language learners, to be sensitive
to the fact that the English language has many idioms that may be foreign to children
who are mastering English, and to be sensitive to each child’s home life, whether they
live with their parents and siblings, or their extended family, or are from a single-
parent home. The key is to learn as much as you can about each of the children, to get
to know their families, and to always be culturally and linguistically responsive in the
classroom.

Why Does Culture Matter to Teachers?
Children from diverse language and cultural groups and those from low-income families
(who are disproportionately linguistically and culturally diverse) are the very children
who are not being well served in our nation’s schools. In fact, federal education policy
is often designed to hold schools accountable for educating every child and to close the
achievement gap between groups of children.

The underlying causes and remedies for the achievement gap are complex, but part
of the solution must be to recognize and build on the competencies that children bring
from prior experiences (Oertwig, Gillanders, & Ritchie, 2014). To do so requires that
teachers acquire cultural understanding. Without such knowledge, at least three problems
can occur: (1) teachers can misunderstand children, (2) teachers can inaccurately assess
children’s competence, and (3) teachers can plan incorrectly to promote children’s learn-
ing (Barbarin, 2011; Bowman, Donovan, & Burns, 2001).

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Chapter 6 Embracing a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World 183

Misunderstanding Children Failing to understand the influence of children’s
backgrounds on their development can lead to misunderstanding and miscommunication
about children and their families, as the following example illustrates (based on Zepeda,
Rothstein-Fisch, Gonzalez-Mena, & Trumbull, 2006):

In Carey Foster’s Head Start class, she tries to promote children’s self-concepts and
self-esteem by having them make “All About Me” books at the beginning of the year.
The children draw pictures and Carey writes down what they say about themselves.

Four-year-old Antonia Rodriguez dictates, “My brothers are big and strong and
help me and my mother.”

Carey says, “But this book isn’t about your brothers. It’s about you. Let’s say you
have brown eyes and you can write your name.”

Antonia doesn’t respond. She feels unsure because she is proud of how her fam-
ily helps each other, but her teacher doesn’t seem to care about that. During the parent
open house, Carey proudly displays Antonia’s book for her mother, who doesn’t look
impressed. Carey doesn’t realize that Antonia’s mother thinks her daughter is becom-
ing conceited and selfish in this school.

Carey’s classroom activity was at odds with the interdependence valued by Antonia’s
family. Most likely, this situation would have turned out better if Carey had been sensitive
to Antonia’s discomfort initially. Instead of taking over for Antonia, Carey could have
said, “Tell me more about your family.” Listening would have helped Carey better under-
stand the values of Antonia’s family.

One area where cultural groups often differ is how they approach discipline. If
teachers are unaware of these differences, they may be ineffective in guiding chil-
dren’s behavior. Furthermore, their methods may prove to be counterproductive. For
example, time-out—removing children from the group for misbehavior for a period of
time—is a discipline strategy that is widely used by parents and teachers. In general,
the strategy is not effective, because it simply stops the children’s negative behavior
temporarily without teaching children what to do instead. Nevertheless, some teach-
ers continue to use time-out. Let’s consider time-out from a cultural perspective in the
following example:

Mark Temple is a new teacher who is struggling to control his first-grade class for
reading instruction. His school is in a close-in suburb of a major city, and some
people call it the “little United Nations” because it serves so many cultural groups.
Today, Mark is reading a story to the group and Yao cannot keep still. He touches and
sits very close to the other children, who pull away and are distracted by his behavior.
After several warnings, Mark puts Yao in time-out for the duration of the story. Mark
notices that Yao is sitting very quietly with his head bowed and a dejected look on his
face, trying hard not to cry. Mark assumes that Yao is sorry for disrupting story time
and that the time-out was effective.

Mark’s interpretation of Yao’s response to his time-out, however, is uninformed.
Mark’s ignorance of Yao’s Chinese cultural values causes him to misunderstand Yao’s
behavior. Yao loves school and is excited by the opportunity to sit close to the other
children. Being assigned to time-out means being isolated from the group where
he feels most comfortable and happy. Yao feels ashamed and guilty, not because he
didn’t follow the rules, but because he has been separated from the others. Yao is
humiliated because he thinks that the group has rejected him. Mark also fails to rec-
ognize that Yao’s desire to belong is a strength that he can build on to engage Yao
positively in the group.

Inaccurate Assessment of Children Ignorance of children’s culturally deter-
mined behavior can lead teachers to make inaccurate assessments of children’s compe-
tence and ability. Language barriers can also lead to incorrect assessments of children’s
abilities. Cultural and linguistic differences can lead to errors in identifying and serving
children with disabilities.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach184

Assessing the learning of English language learners or children who speak a varia-
tion of English requires special tools and expertise. Too many English language learn-
ers are judged to be language delayed when they are actually demonstrating typical
second language development (Paradis, Genesee, & Crago, 2011). No assumptions
about children’s competence should be based on measures in a language in which
children are not f luent (Barrueco, Lopez, Ong, & Lozano, 2012). An English lan-
guage learner or a child who speaks a variation of English may have a well-developed
vocabulary and understand many concepts, but may not be well understood at school
(Espinosa, 2010a).

One of the biggest mistakes that educators and the general public make is to equate
cultural differences with disabilities. The fact is that children with disabilities cross all
cultural groups. Likewise, cultural and linguistic diversity impact all dimensions of spe-
cial education services.

In a classroom of diverse learners, teachers may have a difficult time identifying
students who have special needs. In addition, diagnosis and intervention planning for
children with disabilities is a challenge when the child is of a different culture or language
group than the professionals (Hanson & Lynch, 2004). Read the Including All Children:
Diversity and Disability feature for an example of these challenges.

Including All Children
Cultural Diversity and Diverse Ability
Effective early intervention practices are supposed to
be family centered, involving families both in decision
making and in implementation. However, cultural dif-
ferences can complicate communication and under-
standing between families and professionals. These
differences can become a challenge in planning inter-
vention strategies for children with disabilities, as the
following example illustrates:

Little Sparrow is a 3-year-old Native American
child who was born with Down syndrome. Her fam-
ily believes that such births are natural and that
Little Sparrow’s contributions to the community
are important, however small. The community’s
goal is to maintain harmony among everyone.
Little Sparrow is enrolled in Head Start on the
reservation. Head Start program standards require
that they provide early intervention services for
children with disabilities. The teachers are mem-
bers of the tribe, but they must work with the dis-
abilities coordinator, who is not. Together, they
help Little Sparrow improve her functional skills
such as feeding and toileting, and she is making
progress at school.

The disabilities coordinator meets with the
family to ensure that they will follow up on the effec-
tive strategies at home. But the family seems nonre-
sponsive. They can’t understand why the school is
so concerned about changing Little Sparrow when
they love her just the way she is. And they don’t
want to single her out for special attention among

the other children, which could upset the harmoni-
ous relationships in their community.

In this example, we see how a family’s cultural per-
spective can be at odds with professional views. The
professionals’ intervention goals may not emphasize
what is valued by the family, or the intervention may
emphasize what they do not value. Such conflicting
goals need to be negotiated if children’s best interests
are to be served.

In the case of Little Sparrow, the teachers worked with
the disabilities coordinator to relinquish control of the
situation and meet with elders in the community. They
described their goals and how they thought that support-
ing Little Sparrow to do more would benefit everyone,
actually bringing more harmony to the group. The elders
decided that help for Little Sparrow would be shared by
many adults and children in the tribe, and that in turn
the little girl would help the others as best she could.

Sources: Based on Understanding Families: Approaches
to Diversity, Disability, and Risk, by M. J. Hanson and
E. W. Lynch, 2004, Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes; and
“Cross-Cultural Conceptions of Child-Rearing: Implications
for Reviewing/Evaluating Intervention Practices,” by J. T.
McCollum, T. Yates, M. Ostrosky, and J. Halle, 2001,
Chap. 4 in Cross-Cultural Considerations in Early Childhood
Special Education (Technical Report #14), by T. Bennett
et al., 2001, Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois,
Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS),
retrieved December 15, 2011, from http://clas.uiuc.edu/
techreport/tech14.html#4b.

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Chapter 6 Embracing a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World 185

Failure to Promote Children’s Achievement Misunderstanding and inac-
curate assessment of children’s competence can lead to ineffective teaching that does
not meet the needs of all students. If children’s competence is acquired in a context
that does not match that of the teacher or school, several potential problems can arise.
Teachers can negatively judge children on the basis of their culturally inf luenced be-
haviors. Without accurate assessment, teachers’ expectations for children’s learning can
be too low.

If teachers do not recognize what students already know—what they have learned
from prior experiences—teachers cannot build on it (Oertwig, Gillanders, & Ritchie,
2014). For example, many early childhood programs encourage and expect children to
speak up and share stories of their own experience or background. Yet this may not be a
task that all students can do. Consider, for instance, that among many Native American
tribes, children are expected to listen to older adults rather than speak themselves ( Paradis,
Genesee, & Crago, 2011).

If teachers do not understand these diverse communication styles, they may have
trouble assessing what children already know. For example, researchers working with
Inuit people in northern Canada (Native Canadians, called First Nations) assumed that
children’s language development was delayed because they spoke little in interactions
with teachers. But in a play situation with interesting objects and toys and other chil-
dren with whom they were comfortable, the children’s vocabulary and grammar were
far more complex than what they used with teachers (Paradis, Genesee, & Crago,
2011).

As we stated earlier, different cultural groups often make different meanings from the
same experience. If new learning is to be meaningful, teachers must help children make
connections between what they know and are able to do at home and in their community
and what is expected in school. Meaningful learning is more likely when teachers focus
on the learning goal rather than on the specific means to the goal. For example, if the
goal of a first-grade science curriculum is for children to understand life cycles, studying
buffalo, which may be familiar to Native American children in the West, is as effective as
learning about cows would be for children in the Midwest.

Misunderstandings, the roots of which are cultural in many cases, can have dire con-
sequences. For example, cultural studies of African American children, boys in particular,
find that on average they tend to be more physically active and emotive than their
European American peers (Woolfolk & Perry, 2012). Teachers may incorrectly judge this
exuberance as aggression. As a result, the very behavior that is rewarded and expected
in their community may be censored by their teachers in school (Barbarin, 2011). When
such negative responses persist, children may become discouraged and, perhaps, more
disruptive (Ritchie & Gutman, 2014). African American boys are disproportionately rep-
resented in special education and more likely to be expelled, even in preschool. The civil
rights division of the U.S. Department of Education (2014) found that African American
children represent 18% of preschool enrollment, but 42% of students had been suspended
once, and 48% of the students were suspended more than once. To better understand this
disturbing phenomenon, read the feature, Promoting Play: African American Children
and Play.

In the previous sections, we saw how teachers’ lack of cultural understanding can
lead to several errors in supporting children’s learning and development. In the next sec-
tion, we focus on the realities of linguistic diversity and its interaction with culture in
children’s development and learning.

Embracing Linguistic Diversity
The primary goal of this chapter is to encourage you to embrace the realities of cultural
and linguistic diversity. Although we have focused much attention on culture, language
and culture are inextricably linked (Hamayan, Genesee, & Cloud, 2013). Language is
the lens through which children make sense of the world, and it is a major vehicle for

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach186

transmitting culture. Dual language learners are learning not only two lan-
guages, but also two cultures. Children must learn how to use each language
in culturally meaningful and appropriate ways (Hamayan, Genesee, & Cloud,
2013).

If a concept does not exist in a culture, there is no need for a word to
represent that concept. Consider a language without a word for privacy. What
would that tell you about the culture’s values? Most likely, the cultural group
places greater value on the needs and rights of the group than on those of the
individual. Also, personal space and private ownership may be less important.

How words are defined and used also reflects cultural differences. For
example, in Italian, the verb discutere can mean “to discuss” but can also
mean “to argue.” Picture a group of Italians or Italian Americans all talking
at once, with raised voices and many gestures. Arguing is just another form
of discussion and is much less threatening than in societies where English is
spoken and where arguing has negative connotations.

African American Children and Play
Early childhood educators consider pretend play to
be an integral part of developmentally appropriate
practice and beneficial for children’s development
and learning. However, there are individual and cul-
tural differences in how children play as well as how
teachers view children’s play that have important
consequences for children, as revealed by recent
research.

This study compared a large group of racially mixed
preschoolers’ pretend play and their adjustment
(self-regulation and cognitive flexibility) as evalu-
ated by outside observers in a laboratory setting
with teachers’ reports of children’s social and
educational adjustment. Teachers rated children’s
school readiness, peer relationships, and amount of
teacher–child conflict.

The main finding of the study was that preschoolers’
race affected how teachers viewed their play and
how they rated their adjustment in the classroom,
even after accounting for differences in individual
children’s age, IQ, family income, and gender.
Moreover, even when the teacher and child were
the same race, and the teacher and child knew
each other for the same length of time, these dif-
ferent evaluations of children based on their race
held true. For Black preschoolers, teachers evalu-
ated their imaginative and expressive pretend play
and rated them as less prepared for school, less

accepted by their peers, and more prone to teacher-
child conflict. On the other hand, comparable
levels of imagination and expression in pretend play
resulted in positive ratings of these same character-
istics for non-Black children.

Children in all racial groups—Hispanic, Black,
White, and bi/multiracial—played similarly in
imaginative and expressive ways. But Black chil-
dren’s pretend play skills were evaluated negatively
by teachers, while non-Black children with similar
play behaviors were evaluated positively. Teachers
also rated Black children who demonstrated more
negative play behaviors as less prepared for school,
less accepted by other children, and involved in
more teacher-child conflict than non-Black children
whose play behaviors were equally negative.

This study raises significant concerns about teacher
bias regarding the play of young African American
children. Black children who are imaginative and
expressive may be judged and treated differently in
early childhood programs. Teachers need to become
self-aware about the way they view children based
on race and how those judgments can have lasting
negative effects for children.

Source: “Through Race-Colored Glasses: Preschoolers’
Pretend Play and Teachers’ Ratings of Preschooler
Adjustment,” by T. M. Yates and A. K. Marcelo, 2014,
Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 29, 1–11.

Promoting Play

Classroom Connection
This video describes the rela-
tionship between language and
culture. Note the important ways
that teachers can help dual lan-
guage learners become bicultural
to be successful in school.

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Chapter 6 Embracing a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World 187

Similarly, some languages may have many words to distinguish subtle variations in
meaning that are important to the group. A large vocabulary for types of snow and ice is
essential in the Arctic, but unnecessary in more temperate climates. What if English only
had one word for blue? How could we communicate clearly without words like turquoise,
navy, or periwinkle? The inextricable link between language and culture means that one
cannot be embraced without also embracing the other. Language is also strongly conne-
cted to emotions. Words can trigger strong emotions in some cultures and not in others.
For example, in Arab cultures the word crusade carries a negative connotation dating
back to the Middle Ages, while in the United States we regularly have positive crusades
to collect money for charity or fight disease.

The United States has always been a country in which many people are bilingual
or multilingual. With increasing numbers of children speaking a language other than
English at home, opportunity exists to help these children become bilingual. To do
so, it is important that teachers support children’s development and maintenance of
their home language while helping them acquire proficiency in English. In short, these
children are dual language learners—learning two languages at once. In fact, many
children are multi-language learners who are learning more than two languages.

All children in our society need to acquire English, but they can become proficient
without giving up their home language (Espinosa, 2010c; Tabors, 2008). The key is for
teachers to support continued development of the home language and to inform parents
that if they encourage their children to speak English both in the home and at school at
a very early age, their children may lose their home language. Home language loss can
harm children’s long-term academic achievement (Espinosa, 2010c; Slavin & Cheung,
2005). In addition, if parents do not speak English well and their children lose the
home language, serious communication and relationship problems between parents and
children are likely to occur (Espinosa, 2010c; Wong Filmore, 1991). Therefore, teachers
should encourage families to speak to children in whatever language the parent is most
proficient, usually their native tongue, to support children’s educational achievement.

In the previous sections, we discussed how educational systems often misunderstand,
inaccurately assess, and fail to serve culturally and linguistically diverse children. One
key to avoiding these pitfalls is for teachers to become more culturally competent, as we
discuss in the next section.

✓ Check Your Understanding 6.4: Teaching in a Culturally and Linguistically
Diverse World

Cultural Competence: The Key
to Effective Teaching
To accommodate diverse learners, teachers must integrate students’ diverse backgrounds
into the curriculum. A particular kind of ability is required to successfully use this type
of effective practice in the classroom: cultural competence. Conflict may arise in situa-
tions where families and teachers do not have an inherent understanding of each other.
Consider the following example:

Decatur Elementary School, which serves a wide range of cultural groups, has a lending
library to encourage primary-grade children to read at home. After a few weeks, the
library is bare because the families don’t return the books. The European American
teachers make insistent pleas for return of the books. The children begin to feel that their
teachers are accusing them of stealing. But the children and their families don’t under-
stand; they assumed the books were meant for all the children in the neighborhood.

To resolve a conflict such as this, teachers must be well versed in effective cross-cultural
communication. To provide the best education for all children, teachers need to become
culturally competent.

dual language learners Chil-
dren who are learning to speak
two languages at the same
time—usually their home lan-
guage and English.

multi-language learners Chil-
dren who are learning more
than two languages.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach188

Cultural competence is the ability to work effectively across cultural groups (Olsen
et al., 2007, p. 2) and to work respectfully with those who are different from oneself.
Cultural competence is not a set of skills but is instead a way of being—an openness
to continual learning (Olsen et al., 2007). Although various characteristics demonstrate
cultural competence, several are particularly applicable to teachers in diverse classrooms
(Lynch, 2011; Lynch & Hanson, 2011). Some characteristics of cultural competence fol-
low, along with the ways they apply to the teachers at Decatur Elementary School and the
lending library situation:

•  An awareness of their own cultural perspectives. Teachers reflect on their own
feelings about losing the books. They are mystified and a little upset. They invested
time and money in the library and can’t understand why it failed.

•  Appreciation and respect for individuals from other cultures. Teachers do not pre-
judge children and families by their standards, realizing that more interdependent
cultural groups view ownership of materials differently than do individualistic ones.

•  A belief that cross-cultural interactions should be viewed as learning opportunities
rather than challenges. Teachers decide to find out what might have caused the
misunderstanding, rather than giving up in frustration.

•  An ability to identify and use cultural resources. Teachers seek the advice of leaders
in the community to help them understand what happened.

•  An appreciation for the integrity and value of all cultures. Teachers realize that
sharing the books more widely is a valuable although different way of achieving
their goal of making reading material available to children.

•  Willingness to continue to try to understand other people’s perspectives. Teachers
decide to talk regularly with older children, family, and community members to
discuss school happenings.

•  Flexibility and a sense of humor. Teachers look back and laugh at how naïve their
expectations were and how rigid their reactions.

•  Comfort with uncertainty. The main lesson the teachers learn is that they aren’t
going to be right all the time; there are no simple answers to complex situations.

This list of competencies is prerequisite for becoming a truly suc-
cessful teacher. Encompassing all of these characteristics and behaviors
is an attitude of cultural humility—the stance that one can “expect to be
surprised, to be wrong, and (the need) to ask for help” (Sparrow, 2011,
p. 14). Cultural humility assumes that one can never fully comprehend the
perspective of another human being and requires the ability to put aside
feelings of superiority and the tendency to judge.

Cross-Cultural Communication
The foundation of cultural competence is the ability to communicate ef-
fectively with members of diverse cultural groups (Lynch, 2011). To fos-
ter good communication, teachers must develop an understanding of how
various cultural groups use verbal and nonverbal means of communicating.
These communication styles are another example of a cultural continuum
such as those described earlier in the chapter. In this case, the continuum
extends from high-context cultures to low-context cultures.

High-Context and Low-Context Cultures Awareness of different communi-
cation styles will help you better appreciate the competence of children whose cultural
background is different from your own and avoid misunderstandings in communicating
with parents.

Communication among those in high-context cultures relies less on words
and more on contextual cues such as facial expressions, gestures, or other physical
clues to convey meaning (Lynch, 2011). Examples of groups that are more attuned

cultural competence The
ability to work effectively across
cultural groups.

high-context culture Culture
in which communication
relies less on words and more
on contextual cues, such as
facial expressions, gestures, or
other physical clues, to convey
meaning.

Classroom Connection
In this video, experts describe
intercultural communication.
Why are such communication
skills important and what strate-
gies can teachers use to foster
cross-cultural communication in
the classroom?

M06_BRED6702_03_SE_C06.indd 188 10/7/15 1:42 PM

Chapter 6 Embracing a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World 189

to nonverbal messages include Asian, American Indian,
African American, Arab, and Latino groups.

In contrast, low-context cultures focus on direct,
logical, precise verbal communication (Lynch, 2011).
Low-context cultural groups include European Ameri-
cans, Germans, and Scandinavians. Members of low-
context cultures often become impatient if the speaker
does not come to the point quickly or the communication
is not direct (Lynch, 2011). Similarly, low-context com-
municators may be confused when they miss the mean-
ing of gestures or unstated emotions.

Effective communication across these styles can be
challenging. Shirley Brice Heath (1983, 1989) was one
of the first to describe the consequences when children of
high-context backgrounds encounter low-context schools. Her research identified situations
such as the typical sharing time (show-and-tell), during which the teacher asks children
what they did over the weekend. A low-context girl might chronologically describe events:
“I went to my brother’s soccer game. Then we went to McDonald’s. Then my grandma
came for dinner.” This recitation meets the teacher’s expectations of a clear, precise account.
On the other hand, a high-context girl uses a more narrative, episodic style, which assumes
that the listener can fill in the context. “My brother sang a funny song. Here’s how it goes.”
When the child begins to sing, the teacher grows impatient, thinks the little girl’s descrip-
tion doesn’t make sense, and asks her to sit down. Think of the conflicting messages these
children receive about the value of their experiences and their communication.

Difficulty communicating between low-context and high-context groups is not lim-
ited to teachers and children. Adults are even more steeped in their culture’s ways of
behaving than children are. Imagine the difficulties that can arise when a high-context
teacher attempts to talk to a low-context parent about a child’s behavior problem. Or think
of involving a high-context parent in creating an IEP for a child with a disability, which
requires very accurate communication.

Verbal and Nonverbal Communication A general description of high- and
low-context communication styles only begins to describe the complexity of cross- cultural
communication. Virtually every aspect of nonverbal communication can be misinterpreted.
Of greater concern is that the failure to understand and respect cultural rules of behavior
can offend and insult the very people with whom you are trying to communicate.

A number of nonverbal cues can lead to misunderstandings between people from dif-
ferent cultures. For example, allowing or not allowing for personal space, when and why
we smile, when we make eye contact or touch, and how we use silence and view time are
all culturally relevant (Gonzalez-Mena, 2008). We have already discussed some of these,
but a few others may be surprising. Consider smiling. Most of us assume that smiling
is a universal, human way of communicating—and it is. But like other behaviors, it can
mean different things to different cultural groups. Russians, for example, smile when they
are happy, not just to be friendly (Gonzalez-Mena, 2008). This could account for why
Russians are often depicted in American movies as unusually dour. Some Asian groups,
on the other hand, smile more often than Americans, even when embarrassed or unhappy
(Gonzalez-Mena, 2008).

Silence can communicate volumes, but it is also interpreted through a cultural lens.
Some Asian groups pause before speaking as a respectful sign that they are really listening
(Gonzalez-Mena, 2008). Some European Americans may interpret such periods of silence
to mean that the other person isn’t listening or doesn’t have anything to say.

A full discussion of the typical ways of communicating among various cultural
groups is beyond the scope of this book. Consult the resources listed at the end of this
chapter to learn more about the practices, beliefs, values, and communication styles of
various groups. As you encounter diverse, changing groups of children, you will need to

low-context culture Culture
that focuses on direct, logical,
precise verbal communication.

Culturally competent
teachers are able to work
effectively across cultural
groups. What knowledge
and skills do teachers
need to be culturally
competent?

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M06_BRED6702_03_SE_C06.indd 189 10/7/15 1:42 PM

Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach190

continually update your knowledge to improve communication and avoid misunderstand-
ings with children and parents. And, most of all, remember not to stereotype individuals
based on such general descriptions of cultural expectations.

In the previous sections, we discussed the importance of becoming culturally com-
petent. In the upcoming sections, we discuss how the curriculum for children should be
culturally responsive. We also look at what kinds of practices are effective for teaching
diverse learners.

✓ Check Your Understanding 6.5: Cultural Competence: The Key to Effective Teaching

Effective Practices for Diverse
Learners
Every group of children is diverse on every conceivable dimension of development and
learning, including their various cultural backgrounds and languages. It is important to
remember that when we speak about teaching diverse learners, we really mean all learn-
ers. In the following sections, we discuss culturally and linguistically responsive teaching
strategies, and anti-bias educational goals.

Culturally Responsive Teaching
Effective practices for working with culturally and linguistically diverse children are
best practices for every child. For example, research on human learning demonstrates the
critical importance of building on prior knowledge, which is naturally one of the most
important principles of culturally responsive teaching (Espinosa, 2010b). The challenge
for teachers is to uncover children’s culturally acquired prior knowledge and then use
effective strategies to build on it. Read the What Works: Making Education Culturally
Compatible feature for a description of such research-based practices.

Linguistically Responsive Teaching
Too often, educational discussions tend to lump children into categories such as “low in-
come” or “children with special needs.” This also happens frequently with dual language

learners, despite the fact that there is great diversity among these children.
Consider these 6-year-olds:

Rosalinda’s father and mother are well educated and speak both English
and Spanish f luently. Her parents have read and spoken to her in both
languages since birth. The family lives in an upper-middle-class com-
munity and they travel to Argentina at least once a year to visit her
grandparents.

Manuel lives with his parents, four siblings, and other extended fam-
ily members. They speak only Spanish at home. His family is very loving
and they tell wonderful long stories but they have few books in their home.
They cannot return to the family’s native country because of the political
situation and also because they do not have the financial resources.

Clearly, Rosalinda’s and Manuel’s language learning experiences are
different in many ways, including the language(s) spoken at home, the
ages when they are introduced to English, the family’s resources, and their
verbal and written proficiency in either or both languages. In addition to
primary and secondary language development, Rosalinda’s and Manuel’s
capacities and interests differ in countless ways. For example, she loves to
sing and paint, and her best subject is mathematics. Manuel loves soccer

and animals, and his teacher soon discovers that he has great aptitude for reading. They
and their families need to be treated as individuals with diverse strengths and needs.

Classroom Connection
In this video clip, two teachers
plan a science lesson of sorting
the different properties of rocks.
Listen as the teachers describe
some effective teaching practices
for linguistically and culturally
diverse learners.

M06_BRED6702_03_SE_C06.indd 190 10/7/15 1:42 PM

Chapter 6 Embracing a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World 191

What Works
Making Education Culturally Compatible
A body of research demonstrates that taking children’s cultural
backgrounds into consideration in curriculum and teaching is re-
lated to positive learning outcomes for students across age groups.
These studies were conducted with elementary school children
across many cultural groups: Puerto Ricans, African Americans,
Native Hawaiians, Native American Indians, Mexican immigrants,
Appalachian urban immigrant whites, Southeast Asian new-
comers, Eskimos or Aleuts, and European American gifted and
talented children. Based on this research, six key principles of
effective practice for culturally diverse learners were gleaned that
are also congruent with several aspects of NAEYC’s position on
developmentally appropriate practices:

1. Teachers and students work together toward a common goal.
Teachers participate with children in activity such as a nature
walk near the school.

2. Teachers incorporate language and literacy learning throughout
the day and in all areas of the curriculum. For example, chil-
dren talk, read, and write about the life cycles of the animals
they observe on their walk.

3. Teachers make learning meaningful by connecting school
learning to children’s lives. The conversation begins with what
children already know about animals.

Following are some effective, research-based practices that help dual language
learners achieve at high levels in English (Alanis, 2013; California Department of
Education Child Development Division, 2008; Magruder, Hayslip, Espinosa, & Matera,
2013):

•  Directly instruct children on English vocabulary and certain aspects of literacy, such as
pointing to objects or pictures as you say the word (“This book is about a bird. See the
bird. Say bird.”). Model the language for children, describing what the child is doing
(“You put on your coat”) or what you’re doing (“I’m getting the red paint for you”).

•  Give lots of opportunities for children to practice the new language, such as during
play and small-group times that require them to speak (rather than just point) to
take a turn.

•  Pair children with English-speaking peers for several activities. For example, ask a
question in whole group and have children turn to a buddy to talk it over (“What do
you plan to do outside today?”).

•  Support continued development in the home language, including teaching in that
language as much as possible (at least learning key words and phrases), using qual-
ified teachers, family members, or volunteers from the community who fluently
speak the home language.

•  Collaborate with families to plan curriculum reflecting children’s cultural back-
grounds and language(s), such as rhymes, song, and books children can identify
with to help them connect what they already know to what is taught at school.

•  Frequently review skills and concepts, do repeated reading.
•  Draw attention to similarities between English words and the word in the home

language, called cognates (mucho/much).

4. Teachers have high expectations for
children, challenging their learning,
and focusing on complex thinking. Teachers
pose problems for children to think about, such as what would
happen if the trees were cut down.

5. Teachers and children engage in instructional conversations,
discussing the content they are learning. Children are grouped
by interest, talk with each other, and meet with the teacher
to discuss and share what they have learned and identify new
questions.

6. Teachers model language and actions, such as carefully
handling a pet, so that children can learn through observation.

7. Teachers provide opportunities for child-initiated learning.
Children generate learning topics or brainstorm solutions to
problems.

Sources: “From High Chair to High School: Research-Based Principles
for Teaching Complex Thinking,” by R. Tharp and S. Entz, 2012, in
C. Copple (Ed.), Growing minds: Building strong cognitive foundations
in early childhood, edited by C. Copple, pp. 131–136, Washington,
DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children; “Research
to Practice. Joint Productive Activity: Collaboration That Builds New
Understandings,” by L. A. Yamauchi and R. H. Kuwahara, 2008, Young
Children, 63(6), 34–38.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach192

Dual language learners are individuals. They need differentiated instruction to devel-
op their English skills, to maintain and further develop their home language, and achieve
in school. Today’s vast array of digital tools make individualizing instruction for multi-
language learners much easier than in the past, as described in the feature Language Lens:
Using Technology to Teach Dual Language Learners.

Awareness and responsiveness to all forms of diversity must be integrated across all
areas of curriculum and teachers’ relationships with children to ensure that all children
succeed in school. But more than that, schools have a responsibility to provide today’s
children with the skills to function in a complex, global society. In short, they benefit from
an anti-bias education, which we describe in the next section.

Anti-Bias Education
The early childhood field has embraced the concept of an anti-bias education. Anti-bias
education includes learning experiences and teaching strategies that are specifically
designed not only to prepare all children for life in a culturally rich society but also
to counter the stereotyping of diverse groups and to guard against expressions of bias
( Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). In this section, we discuss goals of culturally
responsive, anti-bias education and ways of helping children achieve those goals. The
overarching goal of anti-bias education is to help all children reach their full potential.
To do so, anti-bias education focuses on four core goals for children (Derman-Sparks &
Edwards, 2010; Teaching Tolerance, 2012):

1. Identity. Teachers foster and support children’s self-awareness, confidence, and
pride in their family and own identity.

anti-bias education Learning
experiences and teaching
strategies that are specifically
designed not only to prepare all
children for life in a culturally
rich society, but also to counter
the stereotyping of diverse
groups, and to guard against
expressions of bias.

Language Lens
Using Technology to Teach Dual Language Learners

With growing numbers of dual and multi-language learn-
ers in our classrooms, all teachers need to be prepared
to support English language acquisition while also pro-
moting continued home language development. Using
technology exponentially increases teachers’ options to
achieve these goals, as these examples illustrate:

Yao is a Chinese speaker who doesn’t talk at all in
preschool. He is isolated from the other children who
won’t play with him. His teacher knows that without
social interaction, his English skills won’t develop. She
loans his family an iPad and with the help of a trans-
lator shows him a digital storytelling app to create a
story about his family with photos and narration in both
English and Chinese. When he shares the story with the
other children, they realize that Yao has an interesting
life and several of them decide to use the app to create
stories about themselves.

Kara’s kindergarten includes speakers of four different
home languages, some of whom are newly arrived immi-
grants. She relies on technology to create an accessible
environment for all the children as they acquire sufficient
English to navigate the school. Kara posts pictures and
labels in various languages (in some cases with phonetic

spellings) to help children learn routines and safety pre-
cautions. On the Internet she finds images, songs, and
stories that accurately depict children’s homelands, and
uses these to spark conversations among small groups of
children. She teaches all the children to use iTranslate
on classroom tablets to aid communication and support
burgeoning friendships. The class uses Skype to com-
municate with children’s relatives in other parts of the
country or world. Within a few weeks, all the children,
including native English speakers, enjoy helping each
other explore different languages and learn together.

Children all over the world speak multiple languages. The
opportunity to become bilingual or multilingual awaits
every child in America if schools take advantage of young
children’s inborn ability to learn language and the afford-
able, technological resources now available.

Sources: Digital Story Helps Dual Language Learner Connect
with Classmates, by D. Bates, no date, Washington, DC: National
Association for the Education of Young Children, retrieved August
27, 2014, from http://www.naeyc.org/technology/digital-story-
helps-dual-language-learner; “Using Technology as a Teaching
Tool for Dual Language Learners in Preschool through Grade 3,”
by K. N. Nemeth and F. S. Simon, 2013, Young Children, 68(1),
48–52.

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Chapter 6 Embracing a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World 193

2. Diversity. Teachers assist children to experience and value human diversity, and
use accurate language for differences.

3. Justice. Teachers help children recognize unfairness, stereotypes, and biases
(negative expressions toward groups) and their harmful impact on people.

4. Action. Teachers help children to stand up, alone or with others, to counteract
unfairness, prejudice, and/or discrimination against others.

Curriculum and teaching practices to help children achieve these goals need to be de-
velopmentally appropriate; that is, within the range of what is understandable and achiev-
able for children. Let’s look more closely at each of these goals.

Goal 1: Foster Children’s Positive Identity within Their Own Group
One of your goals as a teacher working with young children is to foster a positive sense
of identity and help them develop a sense of self-worth. Identity refers to the character-
istics that individuals recognize as constituting a sense of self and belonging to a group.
Consider how important your own name is—it represents you and is a strong part of
your identity. Teachers need to ensure that children’s names are spelled and, most im-
portant, pronounced correctly. Because membership in a cultural/ethnic group has such
a strong inf luence on identity, it is important for teachers to be aware of and support
children’s connection to their group. Fostering children’s identity may also involve
their bicultural and/or biracial identity; it should not be assumed that these children or
their families identify themselves with any particular ethnic, cultural, or racial group
(Wardle, 2014).

In classrooms with children from multiple cultural or ethnic groups, teachers some-
times try to minimize the differences among students instead of acknowledging them.
In an effort to discourage prejudice in the classroom, they may state proudly, “We don’t
see differences among children. We’re color-blind here.” Such statements deny the re-
ality that children plainly see and experience (Killen, 2012). Teachers may think that
talking about differences draws unnecessary attention to them and leads to prejudices.
But this attitude, although well intentioned, actually has the opposite effect by deny-
ing vitally important aspects of children’s identity (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).
Consider how you would feel if your significant other said, “I don’t notice that you are
a woman (or a man).”

One question European American teachers often ask is, “But what if all the children
in the class are white?” This question itself reveals the confusion that exists between race
and culture in our society because “white” is not a cultural group, and white-skinned
people are members of many different cultural groups. In addition, close examination
of this question reveals the perspective, discussed earlier in this chapter, that the white,
majority group somehow doesn’t have a culture (Derman-
Sparks & Ramsey, 2011). Thus, it is important to help all
children become aware of similarities and differences be-
tween themselves and others. Society sends countless mes-
sages about the superiority of white European Americans.
Therefore, in supporting a positive sense of identity among
these children, teachers must avoid contributing to feelings
of entitlement and superiority to others who are not of the
majority culture.

To foster positive identity, teachers must make an ef-
fort to ensure that the learning environment is welcoming
to every child and reflects the identities and cultures of
every child in the class. They can use photos or drawings
of children with family members and audiotapes and vid-
eos of family member’s voices and activities, as well as
books, music, and other materials that reflect children’s
cultural identity in a positive way.

identity The collection of
characteristics that individuals
recognize as constituting their
sense of self and belonging to
a group.

Culturally responsive curriculum
and teaching promotes
children’s positive sense of
their own identity, valuing of
diversity, and critical thinking
about stereotyping and bias.

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Goal 2: Experience and Value Human Diversity Just as it is important to
have a strong sense of self, it is important to value diversity in others. Related goals are
the ability to respectfully ask about and comfortably adapt to differences ( Derman-Sparks
& Edwards, 2010). The following sections describe how teachers can help children
acquire the knowledge and disposition to learn about the similarities and differences
among people.

Help Children Learn about Differences As our nation’s history demonstrates, just
exposing children to people of different races, cultures, abilities, or backgrounds is not
sufficient to help them learn to value diversity. In fact, simple exposure can actually exac-
erbate negative reactions (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).

Research on inclusion of children with disabilities, for example, finds that teachers
need to work with all of the children to help a child with special needs be accepted and
included in the group (Sandall & Schwartz, 2008). Preschoolers may think that if they
talk to or play with a child in a wheelchair, they won’t be able to walk, either. Teachers
need to actively support positive interactions among children and intervene when negative
reactions occur. Teachers shouldn’t deny differences with statements such as “He’s just
like you.” Instead, an honest explanation is best: “You and Justin both like to move around
the classroom and playground. You walk and run, while Justin uses his wheelchair to get
where he wants to go.”

Similarly, teachers should not admonish children for noticing differences. A teacher
who says “It isn’t nice to ask questions about other people” leaves a child without the cor-
rect information she or he needs. A child might ask, “Why is Derrick’s skin darker than
Deion’s?” A more helpful explanation might be, “Children usually look like their parents,
and Derrick’s parents also have dark skin.”

Likewise, dismissing children’s anxieties or fears about differences may lead to
avoidance or contribute to the development of prejudices. Consider the situation where
5-year-old Ariel says, “I don’t like Mashiko because she don’t speak English.” Her teacher
responds, “Oh, yes, you do. We’re all friends here.” Such a patronizing comment may lead
Ariel to avoid or dislike Mashiko even more. Instead, the teacher might say, “ Mashiko can
speak Japanese and she’s learning English. Maybe you can help her. And she can teach
you some words in her language.”

Avoid Tourist Curriculum In helping children to understand and value diversity, teach-
ers need to avoid the “tourist curriculum.” A tourist curriculum (Derman-Sparks &
Edwards, 2010) is one in which a culture is visited as though it were an exotic destina-
tion where people dress, talk, dance, and eat differently before returning to the “normal”
place where we all live. Here are some signs of a tourist curriculum (Derman-Sparks &
Edwards, 2010):

•  Trivializing by organizing activities around food or holidays
•  Tokenism, such as having only one book about any cultural group
•  Disconnecting diversity from the rest of the curriculum, such as having a

one-week unit on a different culture or only discussing diversity on Martin
Luther King Day

•  Stereotyping groups, such as using Native American images only from the past or
wearing traditional dress

•  Misrepresenting groups such as using only books about Africa to teach about
African Americans

Integrate Diversity into the Curriculum Developing relationships with people from
diverse cultural groups and engaging in authentic experiences is the best way to help
children experience and value diversity. Such opportunities also help children to under-
stand that their perspective on the world is not necessarily the only or the best, but simply
different. It is also important for children to understand that there are many languages
in the world and no language is better than others. Regardless of the composition of

tourist curriculum An
approach in which a culture
is visited as though it were an
exotic destination where people
dress, talk, dance, and eat
differently before returning to
the “normal” place where we
all live.

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Chapter 6 Embracing a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World 195

their class or school, children today are exposed to diver-
sity through the media—for example, seeing an African
American president on television or listening to a Latino
news anchor. Their wider community may also be more
diverse than the immediate neighborhood and serve as a
source of study.

Cultural diversity can also be integrated throughout the
curriculum. One way to help children experience and learn
to value diversity is to teach overriding concepts that cut
across cultural groups—we all need shelter, nourishment,
friends, families, and exercise, but we meet these needs
in various ways. In the primary grades, children begin to
study history and the lives of people in their communities
and beyond. Through oral histories and reading biogra-
phies and autobiographies, children can learn about their
own ethnic group and others.

Building each child’s positive identity and helping them appreciate and value diver-
sity lays the foundation for them to think critically about fair treatment of all people. This
is the third goal of culturally responsive teaching.

Goal 3: Foster Critical Thinking about Justice and Fairness We live
in a society in which great strides toward tolerance, understanding, and acceptance have
been made; yet racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, and other negative expres-
sions of bias and forms of discrimination persist. As a result, children will often experi-
ence these biases and at times express them. Biases are negative feelings and expressions
toward groups or individuals. Understanding bias means recognizing that differences are
not problematic, but negative reactions to differences are.

Countering bias and stereotypes is an area in which teachers must be ever vigilant.
To achieve this goal, teachers must review books, videos, games, toys, and other cur-
riculum materials to ensure that they do not perpetuate negative images of any group of
people. Teachers must also pay attention to toys or materials that children bring from
home.

In addition, teachers need to work with children to establish expectations for behav-
ior that prohibit expressions of bias toward other people to ensure that race, gender, age,
sexual orientation, appearance, and ability are never the subject of teasing or ridicule.
This is an area where teachers must have a zero-tolerance policy. They should intervene
immediately when such behavior occurs, reminding children of the rules for how chil-
dren are treated in the classroom. They also need to offer comfort to the child who is the
target of biased behavior: “Yolanda, it was unfair and unkind for Caleb to say you can’t
play because you have brown skin. Caleb, remember that we treat people fairly in this
school.”

Following are three important considerations when handling discriminatory or biased
behaviors (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010):

1. Don’t ignore. Teachers need to address any signs of bias head on. Ignoring dis-
criminatory behaviors implies that they are acceptable. Consequently, the victim
feels unsafe and the perpetrator feels supported, the opposite of what is desirable.
For example, Ms. Eli is busy helping her first graders with math problems—when
she hears Jasmine tell Hiroke that he has funny eyes. Ms. Eli contemplates saying
nothing. Instead, she quietly says to Jasmine, “Everyone’s looks are unique and
different. Please remember that negative comments about people’s appearance are
hurtful and we don’t allow that here.”

2. Don’t excuse. Sometimes teachers will avoid an uncomfortable situation by saying
things like “He didn’t really mean it.” Excusing expressions of bias teaches one
child that the behavior is okay and the victim of that behavior that he or she will
not be protected. Instead, the teacher could have said, “Calling other people names

bias Negative feelings and
expressions toward groups or
individuals.

Linguistically responsive teach-
ing provides the opportunity for
all children to become bilingual
if schools take advantage of
children’s innate ability to learn
language and the affordable,
technological resources now
available.

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Part 2 Learning and Developing from Birth to Age 8: Who We Teach196

hurts them, but it also makes you look mean and not very smart. If you have bad
feelings about someone’s behavior, we need to learn better ways for you to express
them.”

3. Don’t be afraid to intervene. Fear and ignorance are among the biggest impedi-
ments to confronting and eliminating discrimination in our society. Teachers may
be afraid that they will say the wrong thing to children, or that parents will be upset
if they talk about race, culture, language, or socioeconomic conditions. However,
unless they are part of the solution to addressing bias and discrimination in society,
teachers must accept the responsibility for being part of the problem. For example,
two children in Mr. Pinto’s second-grade class are living in a homeless shelter.
The children are teased for coming to school each day wearing the same clothes.
Mr. Pinto privately arranges for them to receive clothing donations. He also talks
with the teasers about their feelings, and finds out that some of the most verbal
children are actually afraid of losing their homes, too.

Goal 4: Take Action to Address Bias and Discrimination Goal 4 builds
on Goal 3. As children develop, they become more aware of others’ feelings and ever
more sensitive to the concept of fairness. How often have you heard a 4- or 5-year-old
say, “That’s not fair” in defense of their own rights? With teacher modeling and supports
as described in the previous section, children begin to care about others who are treated
unfairly and to do something about it, including telling an adult. This work is essential to
address the epidemic of bullying in schools.

In kindergarten and primary grades, children can problem-solve together ways to
take action to address situations in the school or community. For example, one school
in Washington, D.C., is having a lengthy discussion about the name of the local foot-
ball team, the Redskins. Children’s positions on changing the name tend to represent
their parents’ point of view; some think the name is offensive to Native Americans, while
others think it is a tradition that honors them. The children read books about the his-
tory of Native Americans and current articles about why various people think the name
should be changed. The children even explore what it feels like to be called, “Whiteskin,”
“Blackskin,” “Brownskin,” or “Yellowskin.” After much study, the class takes a vote on
whether the name should be changed, with 15 yes votes and 6 voting no. Those who vote
for changing the name decide to write letters to the team owner and the local newspaper
advocating for a change. They also work together to think of alternative names to suggest.

The goals of anti-bias education do not need to be addressed as separate subject ar-
eas or topics of study. Instead, these goals should be integrated throughout the learning
environment and curriculum and in all aspects of teachers’ interactions with children and
their families.

As we saw in the chapter-opening scenario, contradictions may arise because what
professionals think is good for children and what families believe and value might be
very different. Finding a middle ground that balances what professionals consider de-
velopmentally appropriate practice with what families consider culturally appropriate is
paramount to effective teaching.

Developmentally Appropriate and Culturally Responsive Practices
In this section, we address the sometimes controversial topic of the congruence of
developmentally appropriate and culturally appropriate practices (Bredekamp & Copple,
1997; Mallory & New, 1994; NAEYC, 2009). Just as we are all products of our cultural
upbringings, we are also products of our cultural environments, such as our schools, sum-
mer programs we might have attended, and jobs we have held. Professional organizations,
including schools and child care programs, also have their own cultures.

When the culture—especially the rules for behavior—of the school or child care
center is similar to that of children’s families, their adaptation and ability to make sense
of experiences is greatly eased. These children implicitly know much of what is expected
even though they need to learn specific information such as the classroom routines.

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Chapter 6 Embracing a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World 197

On the other hand, when there are cultural
differences between the rules imposed at
school and those imposed at home, chil-
dren have greater difficulty adjusting. Not
only do they have to learn the curriculum,
but they also have to learn the implicit rules
of discourse, such as “Respond promptly”
or “Even though the teacher knows the an-
swer, he will still expect you to answer the
question.”

For culturally diverse children to be
successful in school, teachers must explic-
itly teach the rules of behavior that children
of the majority culture already know. Lisa
Delpit (2006), an African American educa-
tion professor and recipient of a MacArthur
“genius” award, eloquently describes how
the school culture is the “culture of power,”
and children who have access to its rules are more likely to succeed and gain access to
the power in society. Delpit further describes how constructivist teaching, such as the
developmentally appropriate practices advocated by NAEYC (2009), may leave children
of diverse cultural perspectives at a disadvantage. In her view, constructivism and other
progressive education approaches reflect the dominant European American cultural per-
spective. For children of other cultural backgrounds, success in school may depend on
their ability to become bicultural, that is, to learn the rules of the school culture while
holding on to the rules of the home culture.

Like Delpit, many early childhood educators have questioned the cultural appro-
priateness of developmentally appropriate practice (Dahlberg, Moss, & Pence, 2007;
Gonzalez-Mena, 2008; Graue & Delaney, 2011; Mallory & New, 1994; Sanders, Diehl,
& Kyler, 2007). Let’s think about this question in terms of what we’ve learned so far
about culture.

The Culture of Early Childhood Education: Revisited Previously we
presented a framework contrasting individualistic and interdependent cultures. Even a
cursory examination of NAEYC’s guidelines for developmentally appropriate practice
(NAEYC, 2009) or the association’s accreditation standards (NAEYC, 2007) reveals the
degree to which these documents reflect the individualistic cultural orientation. Goals
such as promoting independence, self-concept and self-esteem, exploration, verbal
communication, and child-initiated activity permeate the standards. Overall, a “child-
centered” philosophy underlies the approach.

A clear example of this orientation is the role of play in early childhood education
(Zepeda et al., 2006). Children are encouraged to play and explore the environment and
materials, and to play with and talk to adults. On the other hand, in interdependent cul-
tural groups, learning is directed by adults and depends more on observation of adults
than on play, discovery, and child-chosen activity (Zepeda et al., 2006). In these cultures,
objects such as toys are less important than social interaction, and play occurs mostly with
siblings and other children. Consider that children from these diverse cultural orientations
might gravitate toward peers in a free-flowing preschool classroom, instead of making
independent choices of materials as expected by the teacher.

Another standard focuses on the importance of warm, nurturing relationships
among teachers and children (NAEYC, 2008a, 2009). But the definition of “nurtur-
ing” behavior is also culturally inf luenced. For example, white European Americans
might think that African American parents and teachers are harsh in the way they talk
to or discipline their children (Hale, 1994). This “harshness” may ref lect the need to
help children of color navigate in a society that is often hostile to them (Killen, 2012).

When there are cultural differ-
ences between what the school
defines as developmentally
appropriate and the expecta-
tions of the family, children are
likely to have greater difficulty
adjusting.

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Consequently, those who observe this dynamic without this shared cultural perspec-
tive may not appreciate the love that is being conveyed. Similarly, African American
teachers and parents may value children learning academics more than playing in pre-
school because they know these skills are essential for their children to succeed in
school (Sanders et al., 2007).

To further illustrate how culturally determined our view of “best practice” is, con-
sider a recent effort by Chinese researchers (Li, Hu, Pan, Qin, & Fan, 2013) to adapt a
widely used American measure of high quality, the Early Childhood Environment Rat-
ing Scale (Harms, Clifford, & Cryer, 2005). The researchers found that the tool did not
adequately ref lect their Asian collectivist culture, especially in terms of their emphasis
on group activities and whole-group instruction. They found it necessary to develop
items measuring the quality of whole-group teaching, which they subsequently found
to be highly related to children’s learning outcomes. Another difference was in the way
quality outdoor play is defined. Such play is far more restricted in their programs, per-
haps due to overprotection by parents because most children are the only child in the
family.

The point of this discussion is to acknowledge that the prevailing standards for good
practice in early childhood education described throughout this book and taught in most
teacher education courses reflect the dominant culture of society. At the same time, these
standards require that programs be responsive to cultural and linguistic diversity. Given
the diversity of children and families served today, teachers must help children to become
bicultural, capable of operating successfully in both their home environment and the
culture of the larger world. Accomplishing this goal requires teachers to resolve some
of the inevitable contradictions that arise between what is considered developmentally
appropriate and what is culturally appropriate.

Resolving Contradictions As you have seen, when you are caring for and edu-
cating other people’s children, you are being relied on to do so in a way that adheres to
other people’s beliefs and values. In the case of infants and toddlers, for example, how
feeding, sleeping, dressing, and toileting are handled is not consistent across cultures.
Likewise, with preschoolers and elementary-grade children, teachers and families may
disagree fundamentally on appropriate discipline as well as how and what children should
be learning. Resolving these differences is an important part of working with children and
families. Read the Becoming an Intentional Teacher: Responding to Cultural Differences
feature for an example of how one teacher finds the balance between her ideas and family
perspectives.

Professionals tend to think they know the right answers to situations that arise in the
classroom. Yet in most situations, no one right answer exists. It is true that some practices,
such as spanking children, are prohibited by law and others by licensing standards. In
these cases, no compromise is possible. But more often, both/and solutions are more use-
ful than either/or choices when such contradictions occur, as illustrated in the following
real-life example (adapted from Bredekamp, 1997a, p. 47):

Antonia Lopez was director of a program for Mexican American children and fami-
lies in California. One of the program’s primary objectives was to promote cultural
congruity. As a relatively interdependent cultural group, Mexican Americans value
cooperation over competition, and this value was encouraged in the program. Another
accepted cultural practice is the giving of gifts to express respect and appreciation.

During the year, an uncomfortable situation arose. Parents began giving teachers
gifts, and over time the gifts became more elaborate. The gift-giving escalated into
a competition to see who could give the best gift, a direct contradiction of the pro-
gram’s goals. To resolve this dilemma, Antonia and her staff established two rules for
dealing with the situation:

Rule 1) You can’t accept the gifts.
Rule 2) You can’t reject the gifts.

bicultural Capable of operat-
ing successfully in both the
home environment and the
dominant culture of the larger
world.

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Chapter 6 Embracing a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse World 199

With these rules in place, the staff had to arrive at an alternative solution. They agreed
that rather than teachers’ accepting gifts for themselves, gifts would be accepted on be-
half of the school. Depending on the gift, it was shared by all the children, or displayed in
a place of honor for everyone to appreciate. Soon families’ gift-giving became less com-
petitive and moved toward the goal of making the program a better place for everyone.

When teachers and families disagree on what is best for children, remembering
Antonia’s rules may be a good strategy. If teachers cannot accept the family’s position for
some reason, but they also cannot reject it, then they will have to work toward an alterna-
tive solution—one that might better serve everyone’s interests.

Although it is true that all children are born ready to learn, it is equally true that their
learning takes place within social and cultural contexts. Just as our cultural backgrounds
influence our own development, behavior, and learning, developing an understanding of
the role of each child’s culture should influence what and how we teach young children.
Although overall learning goals may be more or less the same across cultures, different
teaching strategies may be required to help children achieve those goals.

To build successful relationships with children, you will need to take into account
and learn about each child’s cultural worlds because their experiences and home
language are integral components of their identity. As a teacher, you will need to
demonstrate respect and support for children’s language and culture. You must also help
children make sense of their new experiences in school by making connections to their

Becoming an Intentional Teacher
Responding to Cultural Differences
Here’s What Happened Before the new group of
3-year-olds started in the fall, I let all of the families know
that the children were welcome to bring f