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Q.  What is the High/Scope educational approach?

A.  High/Scope is an active learning educational approach. Active learning means students have direct, hands-on experiences with people, objects, events, and ideas. Children’s interests and choices are at the heart of High/Scope programs. They construct their own knowledge through interactions with the world and the people around them. Children take the first step in the learning process by making choices and following through on their plans and decisions. Teachers, caregivers, and parents offer physical, emotional, and intellectual support. In active learning settings, adults expand children’s thinking with diverse materials and nurturing interactions.

Q.  How does the High/Scope approach differ from other early childhood programs?

A.  The High/Scope educational approach is consistent with the best practices recommended by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Head Start Performance Standards, and other guidelines for developmentally based programs. Within this broad framework, however, High/Scope has unique features that differentiate it from other early childhood programs. One is the daily plan-do-review sequence.

Research shows that planning and reviewing are the two components of the program day most positively and significantly associated with children’s scores on measures of developmental progress. The second feature is the 58 High/Scope preschool key experiences which define the content areas of the preschool curriculum. These are the social, intellectual, and physical experiences that are essential to young children’s optimal growth. The key experiences are organized into ten content areas that comprise social development (initiative and social relations), visual and performing arts (creative representation, movement, and music), reading (language and literacy), and math and science (number, classification, seriation, space, and time). High/Scope teachers keep these key experiences in mind when they set up the environment and plan activities to encourage learning and social interaction. They also form the basis of High/Scope’s child assessment tool the High/Scope Preschool Child Observation Record (COR).

Q.  What are High/Scope’s goals for young children?

A.  High/Scope is a comprehensive educational approach that strives to help children develop in all areas. Our goals for young children:

  • To learn through active involvement with people, materials, events, and ideas;
  • To become independent, responsible, and confident ready for school and ready for life;
  • To learn to plan many of their own activities, carry them out, and talk with others about what they have done and what they have learned;
  • To gain knowledge and skills in important academic, social, and physical areas

High/Scope provides children with carefully planned experiences in reading, mathematics, and science. For example, the High/Scope Early Childhood Reading Institute insures that early learning and staff development in the area of literacy are compatible with the latest findings from research and practice. Our key experiences in mathematics are aligned with the early childhood standards of the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics. Studies continually demonstrate that children in High/Scope classrooms show high levels of initiative. Teachers further support social development by helping children learn how to resolve interpersonal conflicts. The National Institute for Child Health and Human Development stresses that all these areas of academic and socio-emotional growth are essential for school readiness.

Q.  Does the High/Scope approach work?

A.  Almost 40 years of research shows that High/Scope programs advance the development of children and improve their chance of living a better life through adulthood. National research with children from different backgrounds has shown that those who attend High/Scope programs score higher on measures of development than similar children enrolled in other preschool and child care programs.

Q.  What do teachers and other adults do in a High/Scope program?

A.  In High/Scope programs, adults are as active in the learning process as children. A mutual give-and-take relationship exists in which both groups participate as leaders and followers, speakers and listeners. Adults interact with children by sharing control with them, focusing on their strengths, forming genuine relationships with them, supporting their play ideas, and helping them resolve conflicts. Adults participate as partners in children’s activities rather than as supervisors or managers. They respect children and their choices, and encourage initiative, independence, and creativity. Because adults are well trained in child development, they provide materials and plan experiences that children need to grow and learn.

Q.  What happens each day in a High/Scope classroom?

A.  High/Scope classrooms follow a predictable sequence of events known as the daily routine. This provides a structure within which children can make choices and follow their interests. While each High/Scope program decides on the routine that works best for its setting, schedule, and population, the following segments are always included during the program day.

  • Plan-do-review time. This three-part sequence is unique to the High/Scope approach. It includes a 5–10-minute small-group time during which children plan what they want to do during work time (the area to visit, materials to use, and friends to play with); a 45–60-minute work time for carrying out their plans; and another 5–10-minute small-group time for reviewing and recalling with an adult and other children what they’ve done and learned. In between “do” and “review,” children clean up by putting away their materials or storing unfinished projects. Generally, the older the children, the longer and more detailed their planning and review times become. Children are very active and purposeful during “do” time because they are pursuing activities that interest them. They may follow their initial plans, but often, as they become engaged, their plans shift or may even change completely.
  • Small-group time. During small-group time, 5–10 children meet with an adult to experiment with materials and solve problems. Although adults choose a small-group activity to emphasize one or more particular key experiences, children are free to use the materials in any way they want during this time. The length of small group varies with the age, interests, and attention span of the children. At the end of the period, children help with cleanup.
  • Large-group time. Large-group time builds a sense of community. Children and adults come together for movement and music activities, storytelling, and other shared experiences. Children have many opportunities to make choices and play the role of leader.
  • Outside time. Children and adults spend at least 30 minutes outside every day, enjoying vigorous and often noisy play in the fresh air. Without the constraints of four walls, they feel freer to make large movements and experiment with the full range of their voices. Children run, climb, swing, roll, jump, yell, and sing with energy. They experience the wonders of nature, including collecting, gardening, and examining wildlife. During extreme weather or other unsafe conditions, teachers find an alternative indoor location for large-motor activity.
  • Transition times. Transitions are the minutes between other blocks of the day, as well as arrival and departure times. Our goal is to make transitions pass smoothly since they set the stage for the next segment in the day’s schedule. They also provide meaningful learning opportunities themselves. Whenever possible, we give children choices about how to make the transition. For example, they may choose how to move across the floor on their way to small-group time. With a consistent daily routine children know what is going to take place next, and it is not unusual for them to announce the next activity and initiate the transition.
  • Snack time. Snack time allow children to enjoy eating healthy food in a supportive social setting.

Q.  How does High/Scope help children learn how to resolve conflicts?

A.  Conflict is inevitable during the course of children’s play, whenever they become frustrated or angry. This does not mean children are bad, selfish, or mean. They simply have not yet learned how to interpret social cues, understand other viewpoints, or match their behavior to the situation. To help children learn how to work out their disagreements together, High/Scope teachers are trained to use a six-step process to solve problems and resolve conflicts:

  1. Approach calmly, stopping any hurtful actions or language. A calm manner reassures children that things are under control and can be worked out to everyone’s satisfaction.
  2. Acknowledge feelings. Children need to express their feelings before they can let go of them and think about possible solutions to the problem.
  3. Gather information. Adults are careful not to make assumptions or takes sides. We ask open-ended questions to help children describe what happened in their own words.
  4. Restate the problem. Using the information provided by the children, the adult restates the problem, using clear and simple terms and, if necessary, rephrasing hurtful words.
  5. Ask for ideas for solutions and choose one together. Adults encourage children to suggest solutions, helping to put them in practical and concrete terms. We accept their ideas, rather than impose our own, thus giving children the satisfaction of having solved the problem.
  6. Give follow-up support as needed. Adults help children begin to carry out their solution, making sure that no one remains upset. If necessary, we repeat one or more steps until all the children return to their play.

Adapted from All About High/Scope, Ann S. Epstein, Ph.D., Director, Early Childhood Programs, High/Scope Educational Research Foundation. Copyright © 2005

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