Getting Preschool Right


By Ren Cedar Fuller, Educational Consultant

A Bellevue Discovery teacher watched a child tear construction paper into bits to make pretend money.
“It has to be green,” said the child.
“Why does the money have to be green?” asked the teacher.
The child’s hands stopped and she stared into space for a moment, then answered, “Because green is alive things like plants, and money is like it’s alive because you get new things with it.”

American preschools typically use one of the following two approaches to support early learning: free play, which is child-led, or direct instruction, which is teacher-led. Getting Preschool Right by Melinda Wenner Moyer explores research that supports a third approach: teacher-scaffolded play [Scientific American Mind, March/April 2017].

Like free play, scaffolded play is open-ended and primarily child-directed. With scaffolding, though, a teacher joins the play through questions and conversations, challenging children’s thinking and promoting their collaboration. As with direct instruction, a teacher is highly immersed. However, in scaffolded play, a teacher values children’s divergent ideas and work products. Research shows young children display more motivation and creativity, and learn skills and concepts more deeply when they experience scaffolded play.

Bellevue Discovery Preschool values and plans for scaffolded play:
Miss Savita builds blocks alongside students during Discovery Time
Children write their own role plays with Mr. Jerry in Drama Club
Each week, small Project Groups work to solve an open-ended challenge

We marvel at the ways children communicate ideas with one another and their teachers. Our observations match the research; we see scaffolded play expanding our preschoolers’ creativity, engagement, and deep thinking.


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