Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the HighScope Curriculum?
HighScope’s educational approach emphasizes “active participatory learning.” 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 the curriculum and 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. Through scaffolding, adults help children gain knowledge and develop creative problem-solving skills.
HighScope uses the term scaffolding to describe the process whereby adults support and gently extend children’s thinking and reasoning. Scaffolding is a term introduced by developmental psychologist Jerome Bruner and is based on the work of psychologist Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky referred to the zone of proximal development as the area between what children can accomplish on their own and what they can do with the help of an adult or another child who is more developmentally advanced. Teachers at Country Village carefully observe children so they know when and how to enter this zone. Children must be secure and confident in what they already know before they are ready to move to the next level. When we say that adults support and extend children’s learning, it means that the adults first validate, or support, what children already know, and then, when the time is right, gently encourage them to extend their thinking to the next level.
2. How does the HighScope approach differ from other early childhood programs?
The HighScope educational approach is consistent with the best practices recommended by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Head Start Program Performance Standards, and other guidelines for developmentally based programs.
Within this broad framework, however, HighScope has unique features that differentiate it from other early childhood curricula. 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.
A second unique feature is HighScope’s curriculum content: the social, intellectual, and physical building blocks that are essential to young children’s optimal growth. HighScope organizes content into eight main categories that correspond to state and national learning standards:
- Approaches to Learning
- Social and Emotional Development
- Physical Development and Health
- Language, Literacy, and Communication
- Creative Arts
- Science and Technology
- Social Studies.
Within these preschool content areas are 58 key developmental indicators (KDIs). The KDIs are statements of observable behaviors that define the important learning areas for young children. Our teachers keep these indicators in mind when they set up the environment and plan activities to encourage learning and social interaction. These KDIs also form the basis of our school’s child assessment tool, called COR Advantage.
3. What are Country Village Preschool’s goals for its students?
Country Village Preschool follows a comprehensive educational approach that strives to help children develop in all areas. Our goals for young children are:
- 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; and
- To gain knowledge and skills in important academic, social, and physical areas.
Teachers at Country Village provide children with carefully planned experiences in reading, mathematics, and science, for example, that are consistent with the latest findings from research and practice. In addition, HighScope’s key developmental indicators and our COR Advantage assessment tool are aligned with the most current early childhood standards across the nation.
4. What is the evidence that the curriculum works?
More than 40 years of research shows that HighScope 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 HighScope programs score higher on measures of development than similar children enrolled in other preschool and child care programs.
5. Will the curriculum meet my family’s needs?
The HighScope approach serves the full range of children and families from all social, financial, and ethnic backgrounds. The approach is used in public and private agencies, half- and full-day preschools, Head Start programs, public school prekindergarten programs, child care centers, home-based child care programs, and programs for children with special needs. HighScope teaching practices are also used in K-5 schools around the country. In addition to programs throughout the United States using HighScope, HighScope Institutes or Teacher Education Centers are located in Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Ireland, Korea, Mexico, The Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, and the UK.
6. What do the teachers do that makes Country Village Preschool so special?
At Country Village, 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. Teachers participate as partners in students’ activities rather than as supervisors or managers. They respect children and their choices, and encourage initiative, independence, and creativity. Because our teachers are well-trained in child development, they provide materials and plan experiences that children need to grow and learn.
7. What does a typical classroom look like?
The lessons and materials in our classrooms are carefully chosen and arranged to promote active learning. Whichever classroom you enter, whether for an infant or a preschooler, the learning environment will have the following characteristics:
- Is welcoming to children
- Provides enough materials for all the children
- Allows children to find, use, and return materials independently
- Encourages different types of play and learning
- Allows the children to see and easily move through all the areas of the classroom or center
- Is flexible so children can extend their play by bringing materials from one area to another
- Provides materials that reflect the diversity of children’s family lives
8. What happens during a typical day at school?
Classrooms at Country Village follow a predictable sequence of events known as our daily routine. This routine provides a structure within which children can make choices, follow their interests, and develop their abilities in each of our content areas. During a typical day, our students will have:
Independent learning time (plan-do-review). This three-part sequence is unique to the HighScope approach. It includes a 10–15-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 10–15-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 this time a small group of ideally 6–8 children meet with a teacher to experiment with materials and solve problems. Our teachers choose small-group activities that support and extend student learning and will often emphasize one or more content areas, such as language or math. 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. Up to 20 children and 2 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. Daily large-group times include an opening circle-time activity in which children and teachers gather around to welcome one another and plan for the events of the day.
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.
Eating and resting times. Meals and snacks allow children to enjoy eating healthy food in a supportive social setting. Rest is for quiet, solitary activities. Since both activities happen at home as well as school, we try to respect family customs at these times as much as possible. Our main goal is to create a shared and secure sense of community within the program.
9. How do teachers help children learn how to resolve conflicts?
Conflict is inevitable during children’s play, especially 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, our teachers are trained to use a six-step process to solve problems and resolve conflicts:
- 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.
- Acknowledge feelings — Children need to express their feelings before they can let go of them and think about possible solutions to the problem.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
10. How is discipline handled at school?
When it comes to shaping and guiding student behavior, the Country Village Preschool believes in methods of discipline that are both respectful and reasonable, and to which parents, teachers, and administrators are included as cooperative agents. At Country Village, discipline’s goal is to work together to teach children to learn from their mistakes rather than to make them suffer for them. It is proactive, emphasizes nurturing and guiding students over punishing them, and is intended as a positive means with which to teach children better self-control, inspire confidence, and foster maturity and growth.
When disciplining a child, a teacher will:
- Focus on – and emphasize – what the child needs to do “right” in the future, and NOT simply focus on what the child has done “wrong” at present;
- Relate the consequences of the child’s actions directly to the conduct at hand, and NOT administer arbitrary penalties or restrictions that have nothing at all to do with the misbehavior;
- Help the child to accept the natural or logical consequences of his/her misbehavior, and NOT be driven by a need to “get the child back” or make the child “pay” for his or her actions; and
- Teach the child to develop self-discipline and learn the value of becoming responsible for his or her conduct, and NOT send the message that being “good” is simply a matter of not getting caught.
11. How do you assess children?
Country Village Preschool uses a two-fold approach to Student Evaluation and Assessment designed to create intentional overlap and redundancy and to help tailor our program to meet each child’s individual and differentiated needs. The two tools in place are the Preschool Observation Checklist and Evaluation Tool (POCET™), to track each child’s growth and development, and COR Advantage, to evaluate how well each child is progressing through our curriculum’s Key Developmental Indicators (KDIs).
POCET™ was created to assist early childhood educators in organizing and maintaining an assessment system to monitor each child’s development and to guide instructional practices. POCET™ is organized to support teachers at the infant, toddler, and preschool level, regardless of the curriculum of choice.
Similarly, teachers track children’s development with comprehensive observations rather than narrow tests using COR Advantage, HighScope’s research-validated child assessment tool that spans from infancy through kindergarten. Observing a broad range of behaviors over several weeks or months gives us a more accurate picture of children’s true capabilities than tests administered in one-time sessions. Using the content areas as a framework, teachers record daily anecdotes describing what children do and say. Two or three times a year, they review these anecdotes and rate each child at the highest level he or she has demonstrated so far on 34 items in eight areas of development — Approaches to Learning; Social and Emotional Development; Physical Development and Health; Language, Literacy, and Communication; Mathematics; Creative Arts; Science and Technology; and Social Studies — plus 2 items for English Language Learning.
Children’s COR Advantage scores help teachers design learning opportunities tailored to their level of development. COR Advantage is also used to explain children’s progress to parents during conferences. Instead of only giving parents abstract scores, teachers share anecdotes illustrating what their children are doing now and how they will continue to grow.