Many prekindergarten programs tend to focus primarily on literacy and social-emotional development. This common tendency is based on the assumption that skill building across all four domains of early learning (math, science, literacy, and social-emotional development) cannot be easily interwoven and incorporated into daily lessons. However, research conducted by the C4L author team debunks this and other widely held beliefs about pre-k education and suggests an alternative, interdisciplinary approach.
Myths & Facts
Connect4Learning: The Pre-K Curriculum is a research-based, interdisciplinary curriculum that is comprised of six units and 32 weeks of learning centers and lessons.
Sequenced and intentional instruction will have a negative effect on children’s creativity and play.
Math and literacy instruction increase and inspire the quality of young children’s play.
Preschoolers will not benefit from the specific teaching of math, science, and literacy.
High-quality instruction and high-quality free play do not have to compete for time in the classroom. Doing both well makes each one richer.
Instruction in math and science will take away valuable time from literacy.
Math and science proficiency in the United States is low in comparison to other developed countries. Literacy skills are strengthened when taught within the context of math and science.
In order to close the achievement gap, we must focus on literacy instruction.
Early childhood curriculum must address the low level of achievement in both math and science with special attention to at-risk populations.
Play and academics are mutually exclusive.
Children naturally explore and engage with content areas such as mathematics and science during their free play.
Shifting the Focus
Children are ready and eager to learn, but many early childhood educators are not equally prepared to engage them in the rich math and science experiences needed to lay the groundwork for later success in school and career. What's more, this lack of meaningful math and science instruction in the preschool years means that school readiness in these important domains, particularly among underserved populations, is unlikely to improve.
For these reasons and more, the C4L author team recognized the need to shift the focus of prekindergarten learning, without losing ground in other core domains or underestimating the importance of literacy, language, and social-emotional development in early education.
Developing the C4L Approach
Rooted in the latest research on learning and teaching across four domains, C4L begins with math and science research-based learning trajectories and developmental pathways. The curriculum then draws connections between math and science, while simultaneously integrating language and literacy and social-emotional skills as natural components of math and science activities.
- Review of research
- Set goals for children’s learning
- Define guidelines based on empirical findings of what works
- Pilot Programs
Mathematics: Learning Trajectories
The learning-trajectories approach supported by the National Science Foundation emphasizes the math concepts within and extended from children’s natural activity through the use of engaging stories and activities. Curriculum lessons are based on children’s experiences and interests with an emphasis on supporting mathematical thinking and reasoning. Recent studies indicate the power of the learning-trajectories approach for math achievement, with especially promising results not only in mathematics performance but also on oral-language scales.
Science: Connected Learning Experiences
In preschool, science learning experiences are rarely offered, and when they are, they are all too often stand-alone activities that do not foster deep engagement and learning. Developed by preschool educators and developmental psychologists, Preschool Pathways to Science (PrePS) is a science-based curricular planning framework that encourages children to think critically about a particular science concept for an extended period of time.
Language and Literacy: Authentic Literacy
Authentic literacy involves reading and writing texts for the same purposes within school as outside of school. Reading is primarily for the purpose of learning information and to accomplish specific tasks, rather than simply to learn literacy skills such as phonics and vocabulary. Studies show that children who are exposed to more authentic literacy activities achieve at a higher rate in reading and writing informational and procedural texts in science.
Social-Emotional Development: The Pyramid Model
The Pyramid Model for Promoting Social-Emotional Competence provides guidance for early childhood educators on the use of effective, research-based instructional practices and behavior supports for all children, including those with severe behavioral challenges. The Pyramid is a framework of practices rather than a specific curriculum. As such, it can be seamlessly integrated into an interdisciplinary curriculum with an adaptive approach that is uniquely tailored to the characteristics of the context and individual needs of the children within that setting.
As part of the development of the Connect4Learning curriculum, several pilot programs were established to determine the efficacy of the curriculum and its interdisciplinary approach to early education. To date, children in classrooms that have implemented the C4L curriculum have significantly outperformed national norms on measures of math, literacy, and social-emotional learning—including number sense, early geometry skills, vocabulary knowledge, and name writing.
The pilot programs were an opportunity for our research team to closely observe what works and what does not.Carolyn Greene Research Faculty, Rutgers University