Goals for Development and Learning

Curriculum plays a vital role in achieving Head Start’s goal of enhancing the social competence and school readiness of children.  Children remember their Head Start experiences: how they spend their time; what they do and accomplish; how successful they feel; who notices; and what staff and parents do as part of these experiences called curriculum.

The term “curriculum” might not come to mind when you hear children making joyful sounds or talking about the good food they shared with their friends, the bus ride, the variety of books, the water table, building with blocks, songs, or even hugs-but that’s what it is all about for the child.

While each child is unique, there are some overarching goals for children in Head Start. One such goal is to increase the child’s everyday effectiveness in dealing with both his and her present environment and later responsibilities in school and life. Examples of more specific goals are:

  • Develop positive and nurturing relationships with adults and peers
  • Develop a sense of trust and security
  • Identify and solve problems
  • Express thoughts and feelings
  • Think critically
  • Increase self-confidence
  • Respect the feelings and rights of others
  • Use creativity and imagination
  • Work independently and with others
  • Develop literacy, numeracy, reasoning, problem solving, and decision-making skills that form a foundation for school readiness learning

The most important goal of our early childhood curriculum is to help children become enthusiastic learners. This means encouraging children to be active and creative explorers who are not afraid to try out their ideas and to think their own thoughts. Our goal is to help children become independent, self-confident, inquisitive learners. We’re teaching them how to learn, not just in preschool, but all through their lives. We’re allowing them to learn at their own pace and in the ways that are best for them. We’re giving those good habits and attitudes, particularly a positive sense of themselves, which will make a difference throughout their lives.

Our curriculum identifies goals in all areas of development,

Social: To help children feel comfortable in school, trust their new environment, make friends, and feel they are a part of the group.

Emotional: To help children experience pride and self- confidence, develop independence and self-control, and have a positive attitude toward life.

Cognitive: To help children become confident learners by letting them try out their own ideas and experience success, and by helping them acquire learning skills such as the ability to solve problems, ask questions, and use words to describe their ideas, observations, and feelings.

Physical: To help children increase their large and small muscle skills and feel confident about what their bodies can do.

The activities we plan for children, the way we organize the environment, select toys and materials, plan the daily schedule, and talk with children, are all designed to accomplish the goals of our curriculum and give your child a successful start in school.

Ongoing Assessment

Once we’ve identified the goals and presented an array of learning experiences to support progress toward them, we assess children’s prior knowledge and then track their progress in meeting the goals through ongoing assessment , observation, and recording of the child’s development.

Parents and other adults in the child’s life are encouraged to share with staff things they know about the child. No one knows the child better than his or her immediate family.  With such input, parents and staff can plan a curriculum that reflects the needs and interests of each child in a group, whether the child is an infant, toddler, or preschooler.

All of the information we gather allows us to individualize learning experiences (increasing or modifying the degree of challenge) to make the Early Head Start and Head Start programs relevant and meaningful for every child.

The information on each child’s progress towards achieving the goals is referred to as a “child outcome.” This outcome tells us how the child is different at the end of the program than he or she was at the beginning. Sometimes this is referred to as “value added.” How has the child benefited from his or her time in Early Head Start or Head Start? What documentation or “proof” do we have?

Creative Curriculum

The philosophy behind our curriculum is that young children learn best by doing. Learning isn’t just repeating what someone else says; it requires active thinking and experimenting to find out how things work and to learn firsthand about the world we live in.

In their early years, children explore the world around them by using all their senses (touching, tasting, listening, smelling, and looking).

In using real materials such as blocks and trying out their ideas, children learn about sizes, shapes, and colors, and they notice relationships between things.

In time, they learn to use one object to stand for another. This is the beginning of symbolic thinking. For example, they might pretend a stick is an airplane or a block is a hamburger. These early symbols – the stick and the block – are similar in shape to the objects they represent. Gradually children become more and more able to use abstract symbols like words to describe their thoughts and feelings. They learn to “read” pictures which are symbols of real people, places and things. This exciting development in symbolic thinking takes place during the pre-school years as children play.

Play provides the foundation for academic or “school” learning. It is the preparation children need before they learn highly abstract symbols such as letters (which are symbols for sounds) and numbers (which are symbols for number concepts). Play enables us to achieve the key goals of our early childhood curriculum. Play is the work of young children.

Education

Head Start’s educational program is designed to meet each child’s individual needs. It also aims to meet the need of the community served and its ethnic and cultural characteristics. If programs have a majority of bilingual children, for example, at least on teacher or aide must speak their native language.

Every child receives a variety of learning experiences to foster intellectual, social, and emotional growth. Children participate in indoor and outdoor play and are introduced to the concepts of words and numbers. They are encouraged to express their feelings and to develop self-confidence and the ability to get along with others.

Teaching staff are required to have teaching credentials at an AA in Early Childhood, Bachelor or above a Bachelor’s Degree. Teaching staff are also required to have 15 hours annually of professional training that links directly to classroom work. Teacher Assistants are required to have a CDA credential (Child Development Credential 120 hours).

 

Make Learning Fun

Patience, Patience, Patience

Remember children learn by doing. Give them opportunities to “learn” new things. Plant a garden, go for a walk to find new things in familiar surroundings, let the children use their senses.

Give your child some space. Let them practice what they are learning. Remember nobody ever becomes great at something with only a few tries.

Your child’s confidence will increase as he or she learns new things. Self-esteem will help your child do better in school. Help a child feel good about his/herself by looking for the positive in your child and telling them about it. Set them up for success by encouraging self-help and personal hygiene skills.

Judge your child by his/her own merit, rather than against other children.

Listen to your child. Pay attention to what they say. Communication is a two Way Street…. guaranteed to make a lasting difference in the relationship you have with your child.

Contact Us

If parents or anyone would like more information about what we are doing at UAMS Head Start / Early Head Start, please feel free to contact one of the Early Childhood Program Specialists.

Dee McLemore, Education Program Specialist, 501-526-5151, McLemoreDavetteM@uams.edu

Debbie Kirk, School Readiness Specialist, 501-570-5009, DJKirk@uams.edu

Brenda Hill – Early Head Start Education Specialist /CDA Instructor, 501-661-4001, BHill3@uams.edu