Taking Advantage of Teachable Moments

The idea of preschool in California has changed a lot over the past five years, particularly due to the introduction of new education standards known as the California Preschool Learning Foundations. These standards fully embrace the idea of intentional teaching, which describes a style of instruction that takes advantage of “teachable moments” by integrating situational learning into regular lessons. For example, an intentional teacher can turn a walk to the lunchroom into a conversation about different plants and animals or an exploration of architecture and the shapes that make up school buildings.

Intentional teachers are constantly assessing student interactions and stepping in whenever an opportunity to enhance a child’s learning arises. Although these interventions often seem like accidents, it requires a great deal of training and expertise to be able to step in at key, often fleeting, moments. So where do teachers get this kind of training, and how can they develop the expertise?

Display boards line the walls at the fifth annual Intentional Teacher Fair.One answer to these questions can be found in events like San Mateo County’s Intentional Teacher Fair, which took place in early May at the San Mateo County Office of Education. Now in its fifth year, the Fair has become a consistent presence in the lives of early learning teachers in the county. Preschool teachers from across the county submit documentation panel displays that highlight their work in the classroom and reflect on their students’ development over the academic year, and others in the early education sphere get the chance to walk through and see the great practices their colleagues are putting in place.

These teachers focused on nature and science education.Maryanne Patterson, the manager of the California State Preschool Program here at the County Office and the mastermind behind this event, talked a little about why it was so important for early learning teachers to have a forum for collaboration: “It really highlights the craft of planning a curriculum,” she said. “Teachers love to come, talk to each other, and look at the boards.”

She’s especially looking forward to seeing how this event grows over time. In the past, they’ve hosted the event at local libraries so the community can celebrate their teachers. However, as far as she knows, this is the only event of its kind in the state. She hopes it will eventually expand to other counties and help even more teachers work collaboratively for the benefit of California’s youngest learners.

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