Charles’ Story: Encouraging Kids to be “Active Constructors”

This past year Jefferson Technical and Community College Child Care (JCTC) joined the Excellence Academy (EA), a partnership between Metro United Way, Community Coordinated Child Care (4-C) and the Lift a Life Foundation. As part of the EA, JCTC teachers were asked to transition to a Reggio Emilia approach of teaching that encourages teachers to engage children in open-ended play using materials in their environment where the children guide the learning.

Charles, an early childhood teacher of 19 years, works in the preschool room at JCTC and has been part of this transition to the Reggio Emilia approach and it has changed his views of teaching children, curriculum used and even improved his personal job satisfaction.

Before the Excellence Academy he saw children as passive recipients of teacher-directed curriculum; now he sees them as active constructors. Working collaboratively with his partner teacher Julie, they have made changes in their classroom that invite and assess their children’s learning in a different way. They recently presented materials around light, shadows and reflections in an intentional manner to allow children to transform the space through their interactions with the items.

“I resisted the urge to keep materials like an overhead projector away from the children for fear that they’re were going to break it or get something on the glass,” Charles explained.

Through creating invitations to play with objects like the overhead projector, a previously restricted material, Charles and Julie positioned the children as competent and capable of using materials in a respectful and productive manner. Also, to assess their children’s learning, Charles would normally administer a typical letter naming assessment and place it in the child’s portfolio.

“With these type of assessments, they are mostly checked for completion, rather than used for instruction or to understand the child,” said Charles. “But now, there is a documentation board where all their children’s activities are made visible to display student learning and allow opportunities for children to talk to each other about what they see which encourages children to love learning!”

The Excellence Academy strengthens the skills of preschool teachers and help our children arrive at kindergarten ready to learn which is important for future success. In fact, 60% of children who participate in EA are ready for their first day of school compared to 40% of their like peers!

Hear more from Charles himself and see him in action with students in his classroom!

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