Children always exhibit loads of enthusiasm to explore, experience and learn new things almost every single day. That’s why it becomes important that both educators and administrators are aware that learning can happen, effectively, only when the teaching approaches for early childhood education address all the developmental needs of children.
The key objective of early childhood education is to provide activities and experiences that integrate all the 3 major domains of development, thereby catering to the needs of each child individually, as well as in groups.
There are four different types of teaching approaches for early childhood education:
- Theme based approach
- Activity based approach
- Projects or Inquiry Based Approach
- Integrated approach
Let us have a look at each of them in detail.
1. Theme Based Approach
Theme based approach is the most common teaching approaches to early years education all over the world. The main aim of this approach is to bring together a variety of knowledge and skills that need to be obtained by children, and organise them into specific and logical themes, such as:
- Festivals, etc.
A planned and intentional spotlight on a specific theme helps young children to acquire more proficient skills that are vital for them to practice at a later point in life.
What is a Theme?
A theme is a particular subject matter which is explored in the early childhood classroom. Theme based approach for early childhood education and development makes a child’s learning focus on a specific area of knowledge that falls within the umbrella (main) topic.
Theme based teaching approach enhances the ability of a child to make connections, transfer knowledge and apply whatever he or she has learned earlier in meaningful ways with the new learning.
Early childhood educators can adopt this approach to engage children actively in the learning process. This can be done by providing children a variety of activities in the form of art and music, dramatics, etc., and surround them with those themes that are connected to the main topic they need to learn.
The theme based teaching-learning approach in early childhood education helps in:
- Creating associations with the real world
- Keeping children engaged through fun ways of learning
- Construct on already existing (previously gained) knowledge
- Spontaneously building a new vocabulary in a natural setting
- Providing them with a choice and select what they want to learn
- Encourage children to exhibit understanding of what they have learned
- Enable early childhood educators to create an effective teaching-learning experience
There are many dozens of activities out there to help children in some or all the seven ways as mentioned above. That’s why we have compiled a collection of 47 different developmentally appropriate activities split across two articles: one for infants up to one year and the other for kids aged 1 year to 3 years.
2. Activity Based Approach
Our day to day life is filled with a plethora of activities, and the same holds good for early childhood education too. That’s why it becomes important to ensure that activities for children are designed in such a way that they derive a lot of experiences that help them learn.
The activity based teaching approach in early years is based on the principle that children leverage real life activities to benefit them across all the 3 major domains of development.
There are 3 different types of activities within the activity based approach:
a) Planned Activities
In this approach, the various activities to be implemented in the learning process are based entirely on the educational goals.
Educators need to procure and provide all the materials required for the activities, and facilitate children to acquire the concepts (knowledge) and skills related to the specific theme being taught.
b) Child Initiated Activities
There can be times when children will be attracted towards certain objects or themes other than those being facilitated, as a consequence of which learning happens spontaneously.
These are opportunities that the early childhood educator can make the most of such situations to teach not only the main concept but also the concepts that are closely related to the main one.
c) Routine Activities
What could seemingly be mundane activities for adults like bathing, eating, grooming, etc., can indeed be easily converted into learning experiences for children. All that is needed is a little bit of creativity and involvement on the part of the educator.
Similarly, not only the routine activities like circle time, story-telling, outdoor play, gardening, etc., but even lunch and snack breaks can offer many learning experiences for children.
Circle time and story-telling are activities that can play a significant role in helping children develop skills that are required to make them better communicators.
3. Projects or Inquiry Based Approach
A project is the examination of a theme (topic) done by a child or a small group of children. In this approach, the educators provide materials and facilitate activities like painting, printing, sand play, clay modelling, etc., and observe the children closely.
Each child will approach the activity in his or her own way and will design or create things according to his or her own imagination. During the activity, children face challenges, seek help, interact within and outside the group, pose a lot of questions, and try to accomplish the desired outcome through trial and error.
The best part about the project based approach, is that it introduces children, in a subtle way, to simulations of real life situations, which helps them deal with situations head on when it actually happens when they grow into their adolescence.
4. Integrated Approach
In this approach, learning occurs in children in an integrated and holistic manner. An integrated approach to teaching is where the 3 major domains of development are not separated and put into compartments. Rather, they are all viewed together as a whole and the child is catered accordingly.
The integrated approach or the integrative teaching approach is an approach where the children bring their prior knowledge of concepts and its related learning experiences to support the new knowledge and experiences that they gain, and derive their learning.
This enables them to apply both their previously acquired and the newly acquired skills on relatively more complex situations, and find solutions or come to conclusions either individually or as a group.
It is important that the educators ensure that the teaching approaches for early childhood education program are executed in a child-centric manner. It is also critical that the teaching approach should be holistic in nature, considering the need for learning of the child within his or her own natural and social environment.