Critical Thinking, Creativity and Collaboration Important for Preschool Students

Jill VanWey an Early Childhood Educator at St. Mary's Elementary in Pittsburg, Kansas is a part of the LEGO Education Advisory Panel (LEAP). LEGO Education asked Jill to provide her thoughts on literacy and math preschool learning.


LEAP members work with LEGO Education to develop classroom solutions and curriculum that elevate science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts and 21st-century learning skills. LEAP members have an opportunity to be very influential on product development and design. These select teachers offer insight and years of classroom knowledge that will help LEGO Education create better classroom solutions.



Q: What are the most important aspects of teaching literacy to preschoolers?

A: Association of the letter sound with the letter name. In my classroom we do not focus on the letter name first, rather the sounds. When this is mastered, we then teach the letter name. Carryover from isolated sounds to small words is also important in the Pre-K class.


Q: What are some of the challenges you face when teaching literacy to preschoolers?

A: Students enter into preschool in various stages of learning. Depending on how much exposure they have had, also determines what knowledge base they have had to literacy. My biggest challenge is to teach literacy at different levels. Some other challenges are: keeping a hands-on approach to learning and the time it takes to teach concepts.


Q: Describe how hands-on learning can help support literacy.

A: Preschoolers learn by using multiple intelligences. The most significant way preschoolers learn is by using a hands-on approach. Early childhood teaching should be about concrete thinking and keeping the activity “play-like”.


Q: Describe how you have used LEGO DUPLO in literacy lessons.

A: I use a program called Secret Codes. With this program, one of my small group sessions calls to use LEGO DUPLO to recreate the letters.


Q: Do you have ideas for how LEGO DUPLO bricks could support teaching language and literacy?

A: For literacy, matching pictures that correspond to letters. For language, I teach spatial concepts, body parts, emotions, and grouping (categorization). I feel there is a big need for language development using a hands-on approach.



Q: What are the best ways to help children gain a strong foundation in math?

A: Foundations should start with the developmental sequence. First one-one correspondence, then counting objects and then rote counting. Numerals should be taught in several ways in the environment and incorporated into every part of the curriculum.


Q: What challenges do children face in learning early math concepts?

A: Preschoolers tend to have trouble with the numerals 11-19, both reciting them and recognition. Sequencing is also a problem area.


Q: How do you plan your math or numeracy lessons? Are there specific standards or guidelines that you use?

A: I do not use a set of specific standards or guidelines. I like for my Pre-k students to recognize numerals 1-20 and rote count to 50 by the end of the school year. I take into account that they have mastered one-one correspondence by the end of their first year in preschool. I also would like my Pre-kers to identify shapes-circle, triangle, square, rectangle, oval (ellipse), and diamond. I plan my math lessons by incorporating them into my everyday curriculum. We count the days of preschool to 50 and then have a “50’s” party. During the party we have several games that are math related. On an everyday standpoint, I have a math center where the students can play-fishing for numerals, use a cash register, stringing numerals, etc.


Q: Is it beneficial to have math lessons that also include 21st century skills development?

A: I believe that critical thinking, creativity and collaboration should be introduced even at the preschool level. Preschool development may not be as advanced as upper level grades, but I believe that students should be introduced to these concepts. The more familiar they are to this, the more it will come naturally to them later.



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