Research shows that young children learn best through hands-on experiences that have been planned by knowledgeable teachers. To parents, this may look like “just play,” but it is actually active learning. When young children explore things directly with their senses and practice new skills through play, they are learning in ways that are meaningful to them at their stage of development.
The Florida VPK Education Standards were not developed to be “one size fits all.” Children learn at different rates and have different experiences, abilities, and interests. When adults understand and embrace these differences, trust develops, relationships grow, and healthy learning follows. Teachers are aware of the individual differences and respond to them in ways that will meet each child’s needs.
Physical health and learning go hand-in-hand. Physical health impacts every aspect of development. With their increased coordination, balance, and strength, four-year-old children are great explorers of their environments. They are able to accept learning challenges that were out of their reach just a few short months ago. When children are physically active and healthy, their social well-being is enhanced. By using their bodies to move, act, and react, children gain self-confidence. Their vision and hearing skills are refined in ways that facilitate language learning. They are also developing skills that enable them to be active partners in managing their health, safety, and physical fitness.
There are two main components of Physical Health in the Florida VPK Education Standards:
• Physical Health (e.g., dental care, nutritional choices)
• Knowledge of Wellness (e.g., following basic health and safety rules and habits).
Approaches to Learning
Approaches to Learning is not about specific knowledge content or skills. It is about how the child learns new skills. Some four-year-olds seem to be bursting with the desire to explore and accept new challenges, while others need more structure and encouragement when trying new things. The role of teachers, parents, and other adults should be to provide opportunities for success. All children, regardless of learning style or special needs, can learn and be successful.
There are four main components of Approaches to Learning in the Florida VPK Education Standards:
• Eagerness and Curiosity (e.g., showing interest in stories, asking questions about how things work)
• Persistence (e.g., trying again and again to button a shirt)
• Creativity and Inventiveness (e.g., trying different ways of carrying a cup to keep it from spilling)
• Planning and Reflection (e.g., talking about plans to build a fort).
Social and Emotional Development
Social and emotional readiness is critical to a child’s successful transition to kindergarten. Young children who are able to understand and express their own feelings, understand the viewpoint and feelings of others, cooperate with peers and adults, and resolve conflicts, are more likely to be successful in school. Positive relationships with adults lead to positive relationships with peers.
Four-year-old children are developing important skills related to joining in conversations, asking questions, and listening to other people. They learn how to interact with a variety of people and in different situations.
There are five main components of Social and Emotional Development in the Florida VPK Education Standards:
• Self-Concept (e.g., being able to identify one’s own characteristics and preferences)
• Self-Control (e.g., waiting patiently for a turn at the water fountain)
• Relationships with Adults (e.g., responding appropriately when an adult says “Good morning,” or going to an adult for help when a friend falls and gets hurt)
• Relationships with Peers (e.g., talking with a friend to plan their play on the playground)
• Social Problem-Solving (e.g., asking an adult for help when another child keeps taking his or her toy).
Language and Communication
When placed in environments that are rich in language, new experiences, and conversation, children develop skills in understanding what others say to them and in using spoken language to express their own ideas and experiences.
There are five main components of Language and Communication in the Florida VPK Education Standards:
• Listening—receptive language (e.g., listening to a story and showing that he or she understands it by pointing to a picture, answering a question, acting out the story)
• Speaking—expressive language (e.g., talking clearly enough for a visitor to understand)
• Vocabulary (e.g., knowing the names for objects, colors, foods, tools, body parts; using action words: skip,” “roll,” “throw”; using descriptive words: “small,” “huge,” “slow”)
• Sentences and Structure (e.g., being able to ask questions and give answers using complete sentences)
• Conversation (e.g., introducing oneself to a new neighbor; looking at the person one is talking to; asking questions and then listening to the answers).
Learning to read and learning to write are among children’s most important achievements. These skills open the door to a world of learning, discovery, and creativity. Children who have early experiences with books and other forms of print (e.g., recipes and road signs) are more likely to come to school excited about learning to read and write.
There are two main components of Emergent Literacy in the Florida VPK Education Standards:
• Emergent Reading (e.g., the child enjoys being read to, understands that words are made up of different sounds, knows the names and sounds of letters)
• Emergent Writing (e.g., the child tries to write by scribbling, drawing, putting his or her name on pictures, trying to copy letters or numbers).
Mathematical and Scientific Thinking
Mathematical and Scientific Thinking involves the skills and strategies that children use to explore and learn about their world. Children begin to count, sort and manipulate sets of objects. Children also begin to identify and compare two- and three-dimensional shapes and to explore symmetry as they work with blocks and other concrete objects. The natural world and physical events are fascinating to four-year-old children. When adults respond to children’s questions, inquisitiveness and scientific thinking are fostered.
There are two main components of Mathematical and Scientific Thinking in the Florida VPK Education Standards:
• Mathematical Thinking (e.g., figuring out how may plates are needed to set the table, sorting buttons by color or size)
• Scientific Thinking (e.g., taking apart a flashlight to see what is inside, using a whisk to whip up bubbles in a bowl, describing how things are the same or different).
The following are areas, more precise in organizing the types of skills to be learned, within Mathematical and Scientific Thinking.
• Number Sense – children use one-to-one correspondence, count and construct sets of objects, and understand whether two sets are equal or one set has more or less.
• Number and Operations – children begin manipulating sets of numbers (e.g., combining sets of concrete objects and taking objects away from a set).
• Patterns and Seriation – children recognize and create patterns, as well as order objects in a series (seriation).
• Geometry – children begin to recognize, manipulate, and compare two- and three-dimensional shapes that are common in their world, using a variety of concrete objects. Children also explore symmetry as they work with blocks and other concrete objects.
• Spatial Relations – children begin to understand and describe their world as they become more proficient in relating to others.
• Measurement – children begin to understand and make sense of their world as they compare quantities using length, weight, and height and represent and analyze data.
• Inquiry – children ask questions, use simple tools, and make comparisons.
Social Studies and The Arts
Prekindergarten children demonstrate knowledge of social studies by identifying attributes of familiar people and understanding family roles and relationships. They are developing new ways of examining and noticing places and the environment. Group rules are becoming easier to understand and follow, and four-year-old children have a beginning understanding of leadership.
The arts provide children with opportunities to express ideas and feelings, use words, manipulate tools and media, and solve problems. Through the arts, children learn to express what they know, pursue their own interests and abilities, and appreciate the contributions of others. They begin to understand that others can be creative in different ways and show appreciation for these differences by asking questions and commenting.
There are two main components of Social Studies and The Arts in the Florida VPK Education Standards:
• Social Studies (e.g., pretending to be workers: fire fighters, cooks, truck drivers, teachers; talking about the ways family members are related; and noticing similarities and differences between people in how they look or speak)
• The Arts (e.g., experimenting with play dough by rolling it, cutting it, or forming it into an object; singing along with the radio or making up songs; dancing or moving to music; using different voices to tell a story).
The following are areas, more precise in organizing the types of skills to be learned, within Social Studies and The Arts.
• People, Past and Present – children identify attributes of familiar people and understand family roles and relationships.
• Human Interdependence – children develop new ways of examining and noticing places and the environment, including understanding family needs, roles and relationships; people’s jobs and what is required to perform them; and being aware of technology and how it affects life.
• Citizenship and Government – children have a beginning understanding of leadership and group rules are becoming easier to understand and follow.
• People and Where They Live – children begin to show awareness of their environment.
• Expression and Representation – children begin to understand that others can be creative in different ways, use a variety of art materials for creative expression, participates in creative movement, dance and drama, and show appreciation for these differences by asking questions and commenting.
• Understanding and Appreciation – children learn to express what they know, pursue their own interests and abilities, and appreciate the contributions of others.
Four-year-old children love to move, and their increasing coordination and motor skills open up new opportunities for active exploration of their environment. Research and experience confirm that free play alone is not sufficient for the development of physical skills; planned movement activities are needed. Exposure to many different types of movements should be the goal, rather than high performance in particular skills.
There are two main components of Motor Development in the Florida VPK Education Standards:
• Gross Motor (e.g., balance, control, coordination of movements by the body’s large muscles)
• Fine Motor (e.g., strength and control; eye-hand coordination; control of writing, drawing, and art tools).
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