Learning While Playing
We emphasize learning while playing at Sproutlings. One example of this may be in the Dramatic Play area where a teacher notices a child playing with a purse and says, “I see you have a blue purse!” The child may simply nod happily, but the information is given that the object is blue. The teacher may do the same thing in the block corner, with colors or with another concept, “What a tall tower you built! How many blocks did you stack?” The child takes time to count and responds that there are six blocks and the teacher will reinforce this: “Wow! Six blocks! That’s so many!” If the child cannot count independently, the teacher will help the child to count his or her tower.
While engaging with children in their choice of activity the teacher seeks out opportunities to teach. Since the child is actively interested in the activity and enjoying the experience, he or she is excited to engage with the teacher, to learn new things, or demonstrate his or her knowledge.
Finding Teachable Moments
A significant portion of each day at Sproutlings is spent in Choice Time (sometimes called “Center Time”). During this time, children engage in activities set up by the teacher in the learning centers, but the children choose what they will play with and how they will play with it. There are also many academic concepts, such as colors, numbers, cooperation, and vocabulary building, that are emphasized throughout centers and activities, during what are called “teachable moments.” These are opportunities for the staff to teach without removing the child from the activity that he or she is engaged in within the classroom. The teachers remain close by, taking advantage of teachable moments as they appear.
Teachers in each Sproutlings class rotate and update materials in the Learning Centers during the year. The teachers add study-specific items to many of the centers so that the physical classroom encourages the children to become immersed in the topic of study. As the year progresses, children are ready for more challenging materials. Teachers watch the children’s response to materials and make decisions about the physical environment based on the needs of the current students in each group.