The Ball's In Your Court!

Creating a Unit of Study for Your Preschool Class

Investigating Balls


Develop a Plan - Web

Begin at the End - PK Guidelines

Create a Culture of Inquiry

Decide on Unit Vocabulary

Small Group Activities

Center Materials

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The Center for Early Childhood Education & Family Development Resource Center: Connecticut State University
Investigating Balls

TWC Directors Created Studies

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Developing a Culture of Inquiry

Young children love to ask questions! It’s one of the ways they learn about their world. Asking questions is a powerful tool that teachers can use to encourage children’s thinking and learning. Children gain a sense of control as they learn how to solve their problems. When children are allowed to ask questions and investigate the answers, they feel empowered and in charge of their own learning. The children's questions should drive the classroom activities. They can be a topic for circle time, center investigations, or small group lessons.

Inquiry-based learning provides the spirit of investigation. It makes a child's learning interesting, engaging and meaningful. Using children’s interests and their questions is the starting point for authentic learning.


  • Teachers work, learn, and play alongside children to act as a role model.
  • The classroom has both materials and room that will encourage children to wonder and investigate.
  • The daily schedule has large blocks of uninterrupted time so children can explore, investigate and think.
  • Children are encouraged to collaborate with others to solve problems of their own interest.
  • Teachers and children are comfortable asking questions.


There are an endless number of questions that can be used as a starting point for discussions and wonderings. Teachers must know their children and the children's interests. Questioning is fluid, but purposeful planning is vital! The following are a few examples of questions that could be the beginning of many discussions and explorations.
  • What do we know about balls and what do we want to know about balls?
  • What is your favorite ball?
  • Is your ball bigger than mine?
  • Does your ball roll? Do all balls roll?
  • Is a bubble a ball?
  • Where do we find balls?
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The Role of Vocabulary Development

  • Give new words meaning. Integrate new words into play and everyday experiences. Use them in conversations you have with the children.
  • Read aloud everyday and repeat the children's favorite books often.
  • Model language through self talk. Consistently think aloud, describe what you are doing and talk about the actions of the children.
  • Repeat and extend the children's responses and dialogue.
  • Use a variety of words and a descriptive vocabulary
  • When using unfamiliar words, help children make connections to familiar words and ideas.
  • Provide a print rich classroom.
  • Provide a variety of fiction and nonfiction books.
Scaffolding Language Development

Vocabulary Words

What words will you teach?
  • Choose new words that are unfamiliar to children.
  • Choose words that are useful to understanding a story.
  • Find the words that help children understand routines and procedures.
  • Differentiate vocabulary words and instruction for the children in your classroom.

Teach new words explicitly:

  • Use simple definitions
  • Find child friendly examples
  • Embed the new words in daily conversations
  • Make sure that center activities provide opportunities to use new language.
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The Importance of Small Group Activities

Small group time can offer the most benefit to a child's learning. The teacher can spend focused instructional time with small numbers of children and differentiate instruction when it is needed.

The Nature of Teacher Talk During Small Groups

CLICK on the following link to dowlnoad and read the article.

"Teachers can improve the quality of early childhood education by focusing on their language as well as the conditions likely to produce effective interactions (Kontos & Wilcox-Herzog 1997). During child-centered small group activities, early childhood teachers can carefully attend to language, including its purpose, its power, and how it promotes children's thinking."

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Center Materials for Independent Exploration

Criteria for Developing Center Activities

  • What is the purpose of the activity? What do you want the children to learn?
  • Which PK Guidelines are you targeting?
  • Is there an authentic purpose for the activity?
  • Is the activity open-ended?
  • What makes the activity fun and engaging?
  • How does this activity provide opportunities for several children to collaborate?
  • How do your observations provide you with information that will guide your instruction?
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Allow parents to participate in their child's learning.

  • Inform them of upcoming units
  • Allow them to participate by bringing materials for classroom use
  • Ask parent to help in the classroom
  • Allow parents to volunteering as an "expert" in any unit of study

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