A High-Quality School for Your Child in First, Second, or Third Grade
You are here
In the first, second, and third grades, your child is ready to take on a lot of challenges. She'll learn important skills and knowledge that will be the foundation for all her later learning.
Your child deserves a supportive, exciting classroom experience—a place to learn and thrive. And you're a big part of it. In high-quality classrooms, teachers view families as partners in their children's education. Together, you'll help children develop the skills they need to be successful in school and life.
Some aspects of high-quality teaching are the same as when you were in school, but some may be different from your school experience. Find out how children learn best, how teachers support their learning, and what high-quality primary curriculum includes. Let's get started!
How High-Quality Classrooms Help Children Learn
To help children gain the skills and knowledge they need to become independent learners, teachers use many different strategies, including those below.
Providing lots of active exploration and hands-on activities. Children learn best when they can actively explore materials and ideas. A class might plan an outdoor garden and do everything from ordering and planting seeds to harvesting and selling the vegetables. Besides gaining an understanding of how things grow, learning to plan and take responsibility, and working with others, they're also learning concepts in science, math, social studies, literacy, and art.
Connecting new concepts to something children already know. We all learn best when we can connect new information to what we already know and are interested in. Teachers often try to build on what children are familiar with to make lessons more effective.
Engaging children in projects that connect learning in different subject areas and meet learning goals. Projects are an exciting way for children to work together to study a topic in depth. Projects often include learning and practicing skills from different subject areas. This makes children more likely to remember and use what they've learned—and get excited about learning.
Supporting children's social and emotional development. School isn't just for studying facts—it's also a place where teachers give your child opportunities to learn to work with others and make friends. Forming positive relationships with other children and adults is important for your child's development and school success. Teachers also support children's self-regulation skills, which help children follow directions, focus on tasks, interact with other people, handle frustration, and be independent.
Offering experiences that stretch children's thinking and challenge them, but also let them feel successful. Teachers give children the support they need and emphasize the process of learning, not just the end result. They also help children judge their own efforts instead of only seeking approval from teachers or their peers.
Providing time for children to talk about their ideas, ask questions, and share what they've learned. These strategies give children a deeper understanding of their learning. They can also help and learn from each other. And when teachers listen to these conversations, they're able to better understand children's progress.
What Does “High Quality” Mean?
In addition to providing learning experiences that build on what children already know and can do, effective teachers help them stretch to learn new things. When teachers offer materials and experiences that are challenging but that children can do with a little help, they're using developmentally appropriate practice. It's a big part of high-quality classrooms.
Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) means that teachers consider:
- What most children this age need to learn and focus—like taking a midmorning exercise break to meet their need to be active
- What individual children need—such as working with the teacher and a few peers to solve a problem
- Ways to support each child's family background and culture—like greeting children in their home languages
It also means that when caregivers choose materials, activities, and strategies to use with infants, they think about
- What most infants need—like toys of different shapes, sounds, and textures
- What individual babies need—like a special goodbye routine with Dad at drop-off time
- Ways to support every child's family and culture—like saying a few comforting words in the family's home language
Every state has learning standards that describe what children at each grade level need to know and be able to do. Teachers in high-quality classrooms know how to balance accountability and standards (what children need to learn) with how children learn best. To design lessons and experiences, teachers look at several things: learning standards, results from assessments, discussions with you, and what they know from observing the children.