William Doyle, a visiting education scholar at the University of Eastern Finland stated in an article for USA Today that “Finland has achieved global acclaim for its highly efficient educational system which is well organized, supported by society, and its history of world topping test scores. The curriculum encourages children to learn by playing, express their opinions, be open to new solutions, learn to handle confliction information, seek new information and review the way they think.”
He went on to say, “Teachers are directed to give students daily feedback and measure them against their starting points, not against other students. In lower grades, schools now have the option of dropping numerical grades in favor of verbal assessments. Formal academic training in Finland, like reading, starts at age seven. That corresponds with findings that any advantage gained by earlier instruction soon washes out.”
Doyle said, “Preschool and kindergarten students will continue to learn through songs, games and conversation, not the military style drilling increasingly common in the United States. A number of studies have shown the positive effect of play based early childhood education, including for low-income children.” The following are some activities from my “Teaching with Heart” book which you will find appropriate.
Infants: Songs: Baa Baa Black Sheep/Twinkle Twinkle Little Star: Both these song have the same tune so as the infants hears them they be become quickly familiar. It’s a good idea to sing songs every day at the same time. A good time would be naptime when infants are going to sleep; it will send a message that it’s time to close your eyes and sleep.
Toddlers: Game: Mary Had a Little Lamb/This Little Pig: Studies have shown that children who miss the crawling stage have more learning disabilities, the act of crawling is so important to the development of both hemispheres of the brain. Toddlers should be encouraged to get down on the ground and mimic the movements and sounds of lambs and pigs.
Preschoolers: Conflict Resolution: Queen of Hearts: Designate a peacekeeper (King or Queen) to oversee the rules. Their job is to help the children solve their problems. The goal of this exercise is to encourage children to articulate their concerns and to solve their own problems with the help of peers.
Finland continues to take an approach to early childhood education that is the opposite of the USA and it seems to be working. We should go back to play based education which encourages social/emotional development.
It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.