Teaching Twosday: Developmentally Appropriate Practice


I don’t know who is responsible for coming up with this quote, but I love it.

I once attended a training in which the instructor asked us to close our eyes and pretend to be one of our students. He then asked the question – what is it like, from a child’s point of view, to spend a day in your classroom?

I really took this question to heart.

One of the things that is really important when working with children is being able to understand what is called “Developmentally Appropriate Practice,” or “DAP.” I find many times that teachers in preschool classrooms do not have a good understanding of what to expect from their students, and so they find themselves unnecessarily frustrated when their students do not (rather, cannot) comply with their instructions. Understanding DAP is so critical to making sure that your students have a good experience in your classroom.

I worked with a woman, recently, who tried to get all of her one year olds in a line before taking them outside. She wanted them to stand in one straight line, perfectly quiet and still, and she wanted them to walk – in absolute silence – from her classroom, down the hall, around the corner, outside, and up the sidewalk until they got to their playground. Once they were on the playground, she didn’t want them to climb, play in the dirt or the grass, or even scream! She would become so frustrated with them for not being able to meet her expectations, and sometimes the children wouldn’t get to go outside at all as punishment. Her students learned, from this experience, that they were not to be inquisitive, curious explorers, and instead had to walk on eggshells around her lest she take away their outside time. And she spent most of the day frustrated and angry – yelling at her kids for being unable to complete tasks for which they were not yet developmentally ready. She was eventually fired for losing her temper with a child.

When you are planning your lessons and trying to manage behavior in your classroom, it’s a good idea to have a realistic understanding of what to expect from your students.

By knowing what behaviors are within the range of typical development, you maximize the learning process and you have much better success managing your classroom. You no longer have to fight for control over your students. They will naturally do what they are wired to do, and the better you are at adjusting to their rhythms, the easier your day will be and the more they will learn.



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