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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 28 Chapter One nities are adult led or adult chosen. A careful balance with flexibility for individual differences is all-important. As children play, teachers are watchful. They pay attention to what children are doing in the different areas and provide assistance. Perhaps different materials are needed. Perhaps a disagreement needs to be medi- ated. Perhaps higher-level play needs to be stimulated with a new idea or suggestion. Perhaps a child is attempting to do something that is just be- yond her present capabilities. She needs the teacher to serve as a “scaffold,” to provide just the right amount of assistance so that she can be successful. As children play, teachers do not act as instructors. Instead, they interact with children as facilitators, guides, resource providers, and sup- porters. All of these are teaching roles that further curricular goals and enhance children’s learning through play. Throughout these interactions, teachers observe children closely to determine each child’s capabilities. In this way, teachers are ensuring that children’s play experiences benefit the children. In high-level play, children are learning new skills and concepts and applying and adapting ones that are already established. The playtimes in preschool and kindergarten classrooms are not “free-for-alls.” Rather, they are times when children can become deeply engaged, work alone or together, and interact with adults who provide new vocabulary, help them determine problem-solving strategies, and provoke their thinking. In chapter 4 the focus will be on teaching strategies that lead to and sustain high-level play experiences for children. More Child-Initiated Activities Than Adult-Led Ones As teachers facilitate play experiences, they may be following the child’s lead in the activity. The child initiates the activity and directs her actions, and the teacher helps in whichever ways are beneficial. Teachers also plan and lead activities and experiences for the children. They may plan for daily large-group meetings and focused small-group activities. The balance between child-initiated and teacher-led activities is important. For young children, this balance should lean more heavily toward child direction than for older children. Early childhood educators continually decide in which instances they will follow the child’s lead and in which moments they will be in a more directive role. Effective preschool and kindergarten teachers make sure they have planned for every part of the day. The classroom organization and use of time are structured. Within this structure, however, teachers enable the COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL