Adapted from an online Author Q&A with Heather Biggar Tomlinson, contributing author of Developmentally Appropriate Practice: Focus on Preschoolers.
Q: What are some general guidelines we can follow as we think about DAP?
A: There’s not one answer to the question - is something developmentally appropriate or not. It depends on the child’s personality, abilities, culture, and family, as well as the purpose of activities and the context of the class. Keeping in mind the five guidelines for effective teaching the following could be the starting point for a teacher checklist, to be adapted for specific programs and children:
1. Did I know everything I needed to know about each child today? Did I notice each child’s mood, apparent health, and general sense of well-being and engagement?
2. Have I checked in with each child’s family lately, either through drop-off conversations, written notes, or emails, to provide updates and receive updates? Are there any cultural issues I should address with a particular family, such asking about upcoming holidays or activities?
3. Did I feel like I had a good relationship with each child today? Did I show warmth and appreciation for each child’s presence and efforts today? Did I acknowledge their comments and behaviors in positive ways?
4. Is there any child I need to have special time with or help in any unique way tomorrow, based on my observations, other teachers’ observations, child comments, or parent updates?
5. Do I know the objectives for children’s learning for today/this week/this unit?
___ For physical development (fine motor and gross motor)
___ For social and emotional development
___ For approaches to learning, including enthusiasm, attention, persistence, and flexibility
___ For advances in knowledge content and mastery of concepts
6. Do the objectives for today/this week build on what we did previously? Do I need to make any connections for the children?
7. Does the classroom environment match the objectives? Does it look cheerful, tidy, and interesting for the children? Do I need to change any of the materials, centers, or wall displays to keep things fresh?
8. Have I been using a wide range of teaching strategies this week, including:
___ modeling problem solving
___ sharing my thought processes out loud
___ encouraging children and acknowledging good work
___ providing new information such as facts and new vocabulary
___ demonstrating correct ways to do something and giving direct instruction
___ giving specific feedback on areas for improvement
___ giving assistance and asking questions to advance each child’s level
___ adjusting the level of challenge (simplifying or adding complexity) to meet each child’s level
9. Have I been using various learning formats, including:
___ large groups (whole class together)
___ small groups
___ play/learning centers and outdoor time when the child can do what he/she wants
___ daily routines (taking advantage of arrivals and departures, snack times, transitions)
10. Have I thoughtfully considered based on children's level of engagement whether to move on or allow more time on this unit/theme/skill? Am I sure the amount of time allotted is sufficient for every child?
11. Have I taken stock of each child’s progress and mastery related to the objectives?
12. Have I made records of each child’s progress through notes from observations, interviews, and conversation; photos; and/or portfolios?
13. Have I observed the child in different contexts and settings?
14. Have I asked the family for information in relevant areas?
15. Have I checked in with other teachers/aides about each child’s well-being and success toward their goals?
16. Have I considered whether language and/or home culture is influencing children’s performance in each area? Do I need to reassess any child in any area or get help from someone else to accurately understand any child’s performance and well-being?
17. Do I need to adjust the teaching plans based on what I know from the assessments?
18. Is there any aspect of my schedule, environment, plans, materials, or interactions with children, parents, or colleagues that I feel stuck on or unsure about? Is there any child I’m worried about for any reason? Have I asked for help yet (from supervisors, colleagues, family members, specialists, or online communities)?
19. Do I feel like I made a positive difference in someone’s life today? Did I smile, laugh, and enjoy the day?
20. If not, what one step can I take to make things better tomorrow?
What would you add to this list?