Early Years

The Learner in the Early Years (3–6 years old)

Early Years: Summary

In the Early Years:

  • Children are capable to construct their own learning.

  • Play is the primary driver for inquiry is valued by all stakeholders.

  • Children are collaborators and learn through interaction within their communities

  • Children are natural communicators and should be encouraged to express themselves however they feel they can.

  • The classroom environment acts as the third teacher

  • Teachers are partners, nurturers, and guides who help facilitate the exploration of children’s interests as they work on short and long-term projects.

  • Documentation is a critical component of communication.

  • Parents are partners in education.

Play involves choice, promotes agency and provides opportunities to inquire into important concepts and personal interests.

The early years should include as a minimum: play, relationships, learning spaces, symbolic exploration and expression which are central to learning.

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Principles of Ideal Learning Environments

  • Decision-making reflects a commitment to equity

  • Children construct knowledge from diverse experiences to make meaning of the world

  • Play is an essential element of young children’s learning

  • Instruction is personalized to acknowledge each child’s development and abilities

  • The teacher is a guide, nurturing presence, and co-constructor of knowledge

  • Young children and adults learn through relationships

  • The environment is intentionally designed to facilitate children’s exploration, independence, and interaction

  • The time of childhood is valued

  • Continuous learning environments support adult development


Source: ibo.org | The Compass School | Trust For Learning


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Nine Principles of Ideal Learning - Early Years

This brief summarizes scientific research aligned with the principles of ideal learning environments. The brief is a unifying framework of nine principles underlying equitable, developmental, relational models of early childhood education, but can/should be applied to all learning environments. Rather than prescribing a uniform vision of “quality,” these nine principles allow educators to adopt a comprehensive early learning approach that serves their children and communities.

Drawing from the strength of world-renowned early childhood approaches including Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Friends Center for Children, Tools of the Mind, Bank Street College of Education, and Waldorf, these nine principles outline core concepts that create ideal learning environments for young children across settings. They allow for multiple approaches, models, and traditions, and take into account the varied contexts within which early educators and care providers work.

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Several essential beliefs weave throughout, including a commitment to play, relationship-based interactions, an ecologically-focused, child-centered perspective; equity; and a strength-based and inquiry-based approach with children, adults and families. Together, they balance principles of attachment and independence that are meaningful for young children’s development.

Children Are Born Learning, Exploring and Growing

How children develop depends on us. We know that during the first few years of life, more than 1 million neural connections are formed every second. Young children develop through rich, daily interactions with nurturing caregivers and educators, building brains and shaping physical, socioemotional and cognitive development for life. These early years represent a unique, flexible period of human development and a finite window for high-impact investment.

Early learning environments shape children’s present and future through mechanisms scientists continue to discover — from statistical learning to nervous system attunement to epigenetics. Because children are born learning, any environment can become an ideal learning environment — whether at home, in family- or center-based child care, or at school. While every child should have access to ideal learning environments from birth, far too many do not. With growing public investment, we now have the opportunity to create equitable ideal learning environments serving children, families and educators in any setting.

Additional Resources


Source: Trust For Learning and Trust For learning Resources

Early Years: Key Features

Click/Tap image to view/download PosterSource: Sheeza Ali Facebook

Early Years: Key Domains

Click/Tap image to view/download PosterSource: Sheeza Ali Facebook

Principles of Ideal Early Learning Environments

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Source: Trust for Learning(this website has a lot of early learning documents and articles)
Drawing from the strength of world-renowned early childhood approaches including Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Friends Center for Children, Tools of the Mind, Bank Street College of Education, and Waldorf, these principles outline core concepts that create ideal learning environments for young children across settings. They allow for multiple approaches, models, and traditions, and take into account the varied contexts within which early educators and care providers work. Several essential beliefs weave throughout, including a commitment to play, relationship-based interactions, an ecologically-focused, child-centered perspective; equity; and a strength-based and inquiry-based approach with children, adults and families. Together, they balance principles of attachment and independence that are meaningful for young children’s development.

Measuring Quality - Early Learning Environments

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Source: Trust for Learning(this website has a lot of early learning documents and articles)
Measuring the Quality of Early Learning Environments envisions a new, equity-driven approach for assessing the quality of programs and demonstrates how the Principles of Ideal Learning framework can be used to guide decision-making.

Role of the Teacher in Early Years

Click/Tap image to view/download PosterSource: Sheeza Ali Facebook

UN Rights of the Child: Simplified

Click/Tap image to view/download entire PosterSource: https://www.unicef.org/sop/convention-rights-child-child-friendly-version

PYP Learner Profile Booklist - Early Years

Click/Tap Image to view website** Scroll to bottom of the website to view books**Source: Toddle

Engaging Learners By Following Their Interests

Runtime: 4:09 - April 7, 2022 - Source: Edutopia
When students show genuine curiosity about a topic, the emergent curriculum approach lets teachers build upon that excitement to reach learning objectives.

Fostering a Feeling of Security for Younge Students

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Simple classroom tips for helping preschool and elementary students feel at ease and open to learning.

Create a Clam Preschool Learning Environment

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Simple elements like lighting, tone of voice, and routines can help young children feel calm and ready to learn.

Podcast: Play, Assessment and Accountability in the Early Years

Anne_van_Dam_Pt_1-Early_Years_Education.m4a
Created by RACHEL FRENCH FRENCHSource: Professional Learning International - 36.20- Aug 7, 2018

A Podcast by Anne van Dam who is an international educator who has worked in schools in the Netherlands, China, Singapore and Switzerland in a variety of roles; as a teacher, PYP coordinator, assistant principal and school Director.

In the first part of her episode with Angeline Aow, they discuss Early Years education, including the role of play, documentation, assessment and the rise of accountability around the world.

Anne is experienced with the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP), is a workshop leader and developer.

** Follow Anne and Angeline are on Twitter

PYP Early Years ATL Learning Card Example

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Created by Sonya Terborg - View her blog post

Early Years Resources

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Early Years Blogs and Videos

Blog: Constant Conversations

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Constant Conversations: Unpacking Pedagogy. is an early childhood blog co-created by Anne van Dam & Fiona Zinn

Blog: Tales of La Tortugita

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Laura Cox is an international educator who believes that our questions inform our learning journey and is interested in creating learning environments which provide greater differentiation for ALL students to pursue learning that is relevant to them. She created the Blog: Tales of La Tortugita

Blog: Opal School Online

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Opal School began as a seed of an idea inspired by a 1996 study tour of the municipal preprimary schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy attended by a group of 10 educators from Portland, OR. Unfortunately, Opal School and the Center for Learning is now permanently closed, but the website and its resources remain available to educators for now.

How Every Child Can Thrive By Five

Want to be blown away...then watch this TED Talk by Molly Wright, a Grade 2 student from Queensland, Australia, who is a passionate advocate for early childhood development. At just seven years old, she's one of the youngest people ever to give a TED Talk. Here's a young girl who demonstrates agency, self-efficacy, wonderful oracy and bundles of confidence. One has to wonder how this came to be!

Run Time: 7:26 - July 2021

PBL in the Early Elementary Grades

Setting up project-based learning with young students can be a challenge, but it’s worth the work, according to first-grade teachers from across the U.S.

For more information about Problem-Based Learning (PBL) go HERE

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Insight on Inquiry: Starting the Year in Kindergarten

Kindergarten teacher Carol Stephenson brings us inside her classroom to share how she fosters inquiry-based learning at the very beginning of the school year. Carol teaches at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, the lab school at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (University of Toronto).

To see how Carol concluded this inquiry, please watch this video

Run Time: 7:03 - Oct 17, 2016

Learning is a Team Sport: Kindergartners Study the Boston Marathon

Ben Mardell's documentary about teachers' and students' learning while engaging in an MLV-inspired study of the Boston Marathon. This video shares the strategies the teachers employed and what the children learned along the way.

Run Time: 32:58 - Mar 22, 2011

The Best Kindergarten You've Ever Seen

At this school in Tokyo, five-year-olds cause traffic jams and windows are for Santa to climb into. Meet: the world's cutest kindergarten, designed by architect Takaharu Tezuka. In this charming talk, he walks us through a design process that really lets kids be kids.

Run Time: 9:47 - Sept 2014

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