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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 20 Chapter One wonder why preschool teachers weren’t implementing a more academic program as well. Public assumptions defined academic as less time devoted to play and socialization and more time in teacher-led activities related to learning the alphabet letters, letter sounds, and math concepts through formal, didactic instruction. Developmentally Appropriate Practices and Academics In its signature document defining the best practices for young children, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) cautions against inappropriate expectations for young children (Copple and Bredekamp 2009). Are academics an inappropriate expectation? The critical answer to this question involves how those academics are presented to children. All developmentally appropriate programs should include stimulating learning opportunities for children in a variety of content areas. Teachers should be accountable for the skills and concepts young children gain in their classrooms. Children should not, however, be relegated to passive learning, with teachers acting as instructors, impart- ing knowledge to “empty vessels.” Instead, children should actively learn academics with teachers acting as facilitators and guides more often than as instructors. Quality preschool and kindergarten programs that include play and exploration are academic programs. They include carefully planned op- portunities for children to learn more about the world around them, to develop skills and competencies, to understand concepts, and to gain knowledge. The academics of these programs are carefully embedded in active learning and play throughout the daily schedule. Situations are planned so children can figure things out for themselves. They are exposed to new materials and possibilities. They are supported and challenged by teachers who know the best ways to match learning activities to the traits of preschool and kindergarten children. Teachers in programs with young children with special needs adapt the learning goals to the developmental level at which the child is performing. For these children, age-appropriate learning goals may not be acceptable, but individualized learning goals are still incorporated into the curriculum for each child. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL