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 - 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.

Evaluating Family Voices Workbook

Click/Tap image to view/download workbookSource: Trust For Learning
The Elevating Family Voices Workbook is a resource designed to support meaningful community participation and robust family engagement in planning for ideal learning environments for young children.

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

Role of the Teacher in Early Years

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

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

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.

PYP Learner Profile Booklist - Early Years

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

Fostering a Feeling of Security for Younge Students

Click/Tap Image to view website - Source: Edutopia
Simple classroom tips for helping preschool and elementary students feel at ease and open to learning.

Create a Calm 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.

A Pedagogy of Listening in the Early Years

Runtime: 57:45 - Dec, 2022 - Source: Toddle
As teachers, how might we invite students to lead the conversation around learning? Join early years expert Angela MeeLee as she explores inquiry as a pedagogy of listening. She will discuss some of the foundations of Reggio Emilia schools and share strategies for planning and responding to provocations.

PYP Early Years ATL Learning Card Example

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Created by Sonya Terborg - View her blog post

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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Early Years Resources

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Early Years Websites/Blogs

(Focus: Early Years, play-based, whole-child early learning)
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The Trust for Learning website, founded in 2011 by a small group of philanthropists who saw the potential to expand developmentally appropriate, play-based, whole-child early learning approaches like Montessori to serve far more children and families, has a wealth of early childhood resources that focus on ideal learning environments for young children.

Website Sections

(Focus: Early Years, Unpacking Pedagogy, Relationships, Agency, Collaboration)
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(Focus: Play, Early Years, PYP, Reggio Emilia)
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This website/blog created by Miki and Josh Barr is a growing treasure trove of resources for educators, parents and all people interested in learning more about early childhood education.

Their guiding principles are:

  • Play is the purest and deepest form of learning.

  • Play and learning are deeply connected.

  • Children should be supported in following their interests

  • Children deserve to have a childhood full of play.

Sample Pages

(Focus: Early Years, Reggio Emilia Inspired, Literacy, Play, Science)
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Fairy Dust Teaching is a business that is built on the passion for the wonder and magic of early childhood. The six owners that believe young children have the right to play, to be collaborators in learning, and to dream. Their Blog has many beneficial Early Years posts. Well worth a read.

Blog Sections

(Focus: Early Years, Reggio Emilia Inspired, Preparing Materials, Play, Inspiring Inventiveness)
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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.

Website Sections

The Art of Awareness: How Observation Can Transform Your Teaching, Third Edition

By: Deb Curtis, Margie Carter

How do we see children? How do we observe what they are doing? The art of observing children is more than merely the act of watching them—it is also using what you see and hear to craft new opportunities in your classroom. The book provides a wealth of inspiration and practice and will help early childhood educators learn to observe in new ways, witness children's remarkable competencies as they experience childhood, and find new joy in their work with children

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Amazon.com: ISBN-13 :‎978-1605547305 / Redleaf Press; 3rd edition (June 14, 2022) / 304 pages

"When we neglect to see who children really are, we deprive ourselves of deeper sources of delight. We miss the opportunity to witness the profound process of human development that is unfolding before our eyes. Becoming a careful observer of young children reminds us that what might seem ordinary at a superficial glance is actually quite extraordinary" Deb Curtis and Maggie Carter

The third edition updates include:

    • New information on schema theory including a list of the definitions of schemas

    • Updated stories that reflect schema explorations and focus on observing children’s ability to get along

    • Added information on identity development and the anti-bias goals

    • New chapter on observing children using their bodies

    • New QR codes to videos to continue learning

    • Updates on technology and approaches to keeping observations at the center of required assessments

I'm the Kind of Kid Who . . .: Invitations That Support Learner Identity and Agency

By: Debbie Miller and Emily Callahan

"I'm the Kind of Kid Who . . .: Invitations That Support Learner Identity and Agency" is a professional development book for educators written by Debbie Miller and Emily Callahan. The book provides guidance and strategies for helping students develop their identities and agency as learners.

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Amazon.com: ISBN-13 :‎978-0325132389 / Heinemann (April 25, 2022) / 168 pages

As a professional development resource, "I'm the Kind of Kid Who . . .: Invitations That Support Learner Identity and Agency" could be used in an inquiry-based instructional setting to support the professional growth of educators and help them develop strategies for promoting student agency and identity in their classrooms.

Here are a few ways that the book could be used in an inquiry-based lesson:

As a starting point for a discussion about student identity and agency: After reading the book, you could ask educators to reflect on their own practices and consider how they can create an environment that supports student identity and agency.

As a source of ideas and strategies: Educators could use the book as a resource for finding new ideas and strategies for promoting student identity and agency in their classrooms.

As a basis for an inquiry-based project: Educators could use the book as a starting point for an inquiry-based project focused on student identity and agency. This could involve researching best practices and developing a plan for implementing these strategies in their classrooms.

Debbie Miller and Emily Callahan believe that it all begins with choice. In "I'm the Kind of Kid Who . . .: Invitations That Support Learner Identity and Agency" they provide a framework for introducing choice making in small, medium, and large ways through "invitations" that ask children to consider:

  • What if you could choose where you want to work?

  • What if you could choose your own materials?

  • What if you could choose to learn more about yourself as a reader?

  • What if you could choose to do what readers do in the world?

  • What if you could choose what you want to explore, investigate and study?

  • What if you could choose how to share your thinking and learning?

Debbie and Emily use a predictable structure to describe each invitation from beginning to end, offering practical suggestions for how to fit invitations within the day and across the year.

"There are no magical programs to call upon to develop learner identity and agency" write Debbie and Emily, "because the truth is, children and their teachers don't need them! What kids really need are invitations from their teachers to discover themselves for themselves, invitations that encourage them to find out even more about who they are, how they learn and what they need to thrive."

Overall, "I'm the Kind of Kid Who . . .: Invitations That Support Learner Identity and Agency" is a valuable resource for educators looking to support the development of student identity and agency in their classrooms.

Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life

by Peter Gray

A leading expert in childhood development makes the case for why self-directed learning -- "unschooling" -- is the best way to get kids to learn. In Free to Learn, developmental psychologist Peter Gray argues that in order to foster children who will thrive in today's constantly changing world, we must entrust them to steer their own learning and development.

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Amazon.com: ISBN-13: 978-0465084999 / Basic Books; 1st edition (February 10, 2015) / 289pp

Drawing on evidence from anthropology, psychology, and history, he demonstrates that free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their lives, solve problems, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient. A brave, counterintuitive proposal for freeing our children from the shackles of the curiosity-killing institution we call school, Free to Learn suggests that it's time to stop asking what's wrong with our children, and start asking what's wrong with the system. It shows how we can act—both as parents and as members of society—to improve children's lives and to promote their happiness and learning.

Recommended

Early Years Videos

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

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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