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Preschool Desired Results (including information specific to literacy educators)

While the State of California has yet to develop content standards for pre-kindergarten curriculum, the Department of Education does have a collection of Desired Results standards used to "document the progress made by children and families in achieving desired results and by which they can retrieve information to help practitioners improve child care and development services." A complete description of the Desired Results system can be found here, and clicking on the link at the bottom of the page will bring you to materials and forms related to the program, where you can find the Desired Results Developmental Profile: Preschool Instrument*, among many other useful sources. While the form the California Department of Education provides is an evaluation rather than a prescription, I think it's really very helpful to early childhood educators for several reasons:

1. A LOT of examples are provided, so you don't have to figure out on your own how the abstract skills apply to your kids. You can just read the examples and decide which one seems more appropriate.

2. You'll notice that a very large proportion of the evaluation is focused on personal and social competence. This reflects the recognition that these types of skills are at the forefront of preschool education - if you feel sometimes like you're focusing on these skills it's not necessarily because you're doing something wrong, it's because preschool students are primed to learn them. Delays in social development will inhibit students' learning when they get to kindergarten.

3. Pages 34 to 38 contain the evaluation for preschoolers' effectiveness in literacy learning. You can look at the examples to get ideas for supportive teaching. I really recommend that, if nothing else, you take a look at this. It can also help you figure out how to most appropriately engage students in "rich language."

4. You'll notice that the evaluation presents skills as a progression: For example, a child exploring language "produces phrases and simple sentences that communicate basic ideas and needs," and a child integrating language skills "uses more complex language or vocabulary to describe events that are imaginary, to explain, or to predict." If a child you are working with is only using language in an exploratory way, they may be frustrated if you insist on prompting them to use more complex language. Skills are acquired incrementally, and frustrated students connect that frustrated feeling to school (or, g-d forbid, reading).

I hope that seeing things like this can give you some guidance for what your students are capable of so that you can feel more comfortable with how you teach. When you have an understanding of the developmental levels of students it is much easier to teach in a way that will help them to learn best.

*Clicking on this link will reroute you to File DEN, a website I have been using for about two and a half years to host files. I can attest to the safety of their site: I have never experienced any problems with them, and definitely recommend their service. They allow hotlinking for all allowed file extensions, including videos and music files; and provide 1GB of personal storage space, a 50mb maximum file size limit, and 5GB of monthly bandwidth. All this is part of their free account - they offer additional services for those who are willing to pay for the service.

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