Teaching Our Youngest
A Guide for Preschool Teachers and Child Care and Family Providers
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Building Children's Background Knowledge and Thinking Skills

The more children know about their world, the easier it is for them to read and learn when they get to school. You have an important role to play in helping children learn new information, ideas, and vocabulary and how to use this knowledge to become full participants in their own learning. You can help children to connect new information and ideas to what they already know and understand.

It is important for young children to be able to:

  • Know about what things are and how they work.
  • Learn information about the world around them.
  • Extend their use of language and develop vocabulary.
  • Develop children's abilities to figure things out and to solve problems.

Here are some things that you can do to help children build knowledge:

  • Provide them with opportunities to develop concepts by exploring and working with familiar classroom equipment and materials in a variety of ways. and materials in a variety of ways.

    • Children learn about substances and changes in substances by cooking.
    • Children learn about plants by planting seeds and taking care of the growing plants.
    • Children learn about social situations and interactions through real interactions and dramatic play.
  • Share informational books.

    • Children enjoy learning about their world. They enjoy looking at books about things of interest to them perhaps how plants grow, how baby animals develop, or how vehicles carry people and things. Fortunately, many wonderful informational books are available today books with spectacular photographs or illustrations and descriptions that children can understand easily.
  • Teach the children new words and concepts. Explain new vocabulary in the books that you read with them. Teach them and name all of the things in the classroom. In everyday talk with children, introduce words and concepts that they may not know, for example, beauty or fairness.

Teacher Talk

  • It's silent time now. Silent means that we don't say anything.
  • Look at the seeds we planted. They're sprouting! See how the seedling is pushing through the dirt? See the tiny green leaves?
  • Have children write, draw, build, and engage in dramatic play. These experiences will help the children to incorporate what they are learning with what they already know.

  • Take the children on field trips. Any time children go some place, especially some place new to them, they can learn something. Even if it is just a walk around the block, children can learn something new if you talk with them. Point out things they might not notice. Explain events that are taking place. Answer the questions the children have and praise them for looking and learning. Before you go to a place the children have never been, such as a zoo or a museum, discuss what they will be seeing and learning. After the trip, have the children talk about their experiences.

Teacher Talk

  • See that sign? It says stop. "S-t-o-p."
  • Look! You see the round, brown thing up there in the branches? That's a bird's nest up in the tree. I wonder if there are any baby birds in the nest?
  • See that bulldozer? It's that big machine with a big blade in front of it. It's clearing out a place where they're going to build a new house.
  • Today, we're going to go to a special park. There are some statues in the park. Before we go, let's look at some pictures of statues and talk about them. When we get back, I want you to tell me what statues you saw.
  • Provide a variety of materials for your children to explore. For example, wire, cardboard, water, tubes, tissue paper, and funnels.

  • Invite visitors to your classroom.

    • Classroom visitors can teach your children a great deal. They can bring interesting objects or animals to talk about with the children. Visitors can talk about their jobs or their hobbies or show pictures of faraway places they have seen or tell stories about life long ago.

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Last Modified: 08/31/2007