Building Readiness Through Formal and Informal Patterns of Instruction

Building Readiness Through Formal and Informal Patterns of Instruction

Jessica A. Manzone, Sandra N. Kaplan
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8649-5.ch011
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


There is a misnomer that early childhood experiences are defined as either formal and teacher-directed or informal and play-based. Early childhood centers, curriculum developers, and classroom teachers often acknowledge they are involved in a forced-choice scenario where one instructional approach excludes the other. Learning experiences that build school readiness do not need to exist as distinctly formal or informal. Learning experiences can intersect and intermingle formal and informal instructional pedagogies. This chapter hopes to accomplish three major goals: (1) to define formal and informal instruction, (2) to demonstrate the relationship that exists between formal and informal instruction, and (3) to provide alternative pathways for educators to choose appropriately between formal and informal instruction. This chapter proposes four patterns that highlight the many and varied intersections between formal and informal instruction within the same learning experience. A series of examples and questions for consideration aligned to each pattern of instruction are also provided.
Chapter Preview


Early school readiness has emerged as a major issue of policy and practice in districts across the country (Romano, Babchishin, Pagani, et al., 2010). School readiness is typically associated with the degree to which young learners perform in the areas of literacy and mathematics (Gullo & Miller, 2018; Romano, Babchishin, Pagani et al., 2010). The National Center for Children in Poverty (2008), defines school readiness as the “foundational skills, content knowledge, and concepts that children need when they enter school in order to achieve academic success” (p. 6). But readiness and success are relative and subjective terms. Researchers have found that developing school readiness is nuanced, and includes knowledge, skills, and dispositions outside academic achievement. Physical, cognitive, language, and behavioral aspects all affect current and future child growth and development (Kagan, Moore, & Bredekamp, 1995). A sample of these aspects include self-regulation, executive functioning, and social awareness (Gullo & Miller, 2018; Watts, Gandhi, Ibrahim, et al., 2018). Developing all aspects of school readiness depends on the degree to which teachers align the needs and funds of knowledge of the child with the conditions for learning in the classroom (Gullo & Miller, 2018; Hair, Halle, Terry-Humen, et al., 2006). The question then becomes: How can early childhood educators use various patterns of instruction to create the conditions in the classroom that build readiness in young learners?

Central to building readiness in young learners is the belief that experiences matter. High-quality experiences have the potential to lay the foundation for advanced thinking, learning, and development later in a child's life (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006; Keys, Farkas, Burchinal, et al., 2013). Over the last two decades, the national thrust for academic school readiness has caused a shift in what constitutes a high-quality learning experience. Miller and Almon (2009) highlight a declining trend in the use of informal, exploratory curriculum in early childhood classrooms. The implementation of teacher-directed pedagogies now takes the place of more child-centered, informal, and/or play-based models of instruction. This trend has been exemplified in the increased prevalence of preschool curricula and testing materials “oriented solely” towards formal, content-focused models of instruction (Selmi, Gallagher, & Mora-Flores, 2015). High-quality learning experiences contain a range of instructional models. However, formal and informal instructional pedagogies are often perceived as dichotomous or separate entities. This chapter proposes a hybrid model that examines the integration of formal and informal patterns of instruction within a learning experience. The goal of the chapter is to highlight how the juxtaposition of formal and informal patterns of instruction help build school readiness across academic, social, and affective areas.

Typically, early childhood education describes students in preschool through Transition Kindergarten (TK) (California Department of Education, 2020). This chapter is written for early childhood educators, directors of early childhood centers, and professors of higher education working in teacher preparation programs. Organized into three parts, the chapter (a) defines formal and informal patterns of instruction, (b) juxtaposes the use of formal and informal instructional patterns to create comprehensive units of study, and (c) provides a concrete template and tangible resources for purposefully integrating formal and informal patterns of instruction into an early childhood classroom to build school readiness. The authors hope this chapter stimulates teachers' creativity and confidence in using various instructional patterns as a pedagogical framework for building opportunities and readiness in young learners. The remainder of the chapter provides a conceptual orientation and practical approach to integrating formal and informal patterns of instruction into early childhood curriculum to build school readiness.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Formal Instruction: The planned and implemented traditional didactic and inquiry pedagogical practices.

School Readiness: Redefining readiness relative to the young individual learner rather than solely to traditional age/grade developmental norms.

Informal Instruction: The emergent and individualized pedagogical practices responsive to the task, time, and talents of each learner.

Integration Models: The pedagogical patterns that facilitate intra-and-interdisciplinary connections to meet individual differences relevant to specific learning objectives.

Patterns of Instruction: The many and varied approaches that teachers use to construct learning experiences for young children.

Curriculum Orientations: The philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of a curriculum.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: