Approaches to Learning: Tools of the Mind® consistently supports children's skills in the domain of Approaches to Learning. The curriculum is built on the Vygotskian idea that the goal of early childhood education is to foster children's self-regulation as they gain content knowledge. In addition to establishing predictable routines and activities throughout the year, the curriculum provides a variety of activities intentionally designed to promote self-regulation skills. For example, daily Opening Group activities such as "Fingerplays," "Chants," "Do What I Do," and "Physical Self-Regulation Games" develop children's working memory and self-regulation skills. Other activities, such as "Classroom Rules" (a plan created by a small group of children) or "Pretend Transitions," provide additional opportunities to practice physical self-regulation and develop executive function skills. Daily activities (e.g., Free Choice, Mystery Games, Make-Believe Play Practice) provide children with ample opportunities to initiate play and engage in open-ended exploration, which research shows support children's creativity.
Social and Emotional Development: The curriculum consistently promotes research-based teaching practices to support children's social and emotional development. Tools of the Mind® includes guidance on how to establish a strong classroom community among children and adults (e.g., Community Building Games). With a focus on learning through social interactions, the daily large and small group activities, such as Make-Believe Play, Buddy Reading, and Share the News, provide social contexts for children to practice social interaction and relationship skills. In addition, these activities offer opportunities for teachers to scaffold children's learning as they develop emotional regulation skills, social problem-solving, perspective-taking, and emotional understanding. For example, during Make-Believe Play, teachers introduce and reinforce the use of specific language for expressing ideas, thoughts, and feelings to others.
Language and Communication: Tools of the Mind® consistently promotes research-based teaching practices to support children's language and communication skills. The curriculum provides ongoing opportunities for rich oral language experiences based on topics interesting and relevant to young children (e.g., family, pets, grocery store). It offers multiple possibilities for dialogue and engagement. Teachers are guided to use, model, and scaffold children's language. For example, during Make-Believe Play, children choose and play characters based on the theme, and teachers elaborate on children's actions and interactions, adding complexity to children's oral language. Other activities, such as interactive read-alouds (Story Labs), Buddy Reading, and Opening Group activities (e.g., songs, chants, and games), support vocabulary development and provide ongoing opportunities to use and understand complex language. For example, in Story Lab activities such as "Active Listening" and "Connection," children listen to the story and then turn to a peer and discuss the book.
Literacy: The curriculum consistently supports the development of literacy skills through varied authentic opportunities for children to discuss, use, and make print materials. Each day's Opening Group time incorporates print in the form of illustrated poems, songs, charts, and chants that increase in complexity over the year. Make-Believe Play involves making print-based props (e.g., grocery lists, restaurant menus) for play scenarios that children plan. Story Lab activities use engaging children's books and magazines to support children's development of critical literacy skills, such as listening comprehension strategies, making predictions and inferences, building vocabulary, and conversing with peers about stories. The curriculum emphasizes the importance of written language (even if the mark is a scribble) to help children remember and express their inner thinking. Scaffolded writing is used in many activities (e.g., Message of the Day, Play Planning), encouraging children to draw and write any letter or word parts for authentic purposes.
Mathematics Development: Tools of the Mind® consistently promotes research-based teaching practices to support children's mathematics development. Intentionally designed math activities and games, with suggestions for how to increase complexity as the year progresses, provide children with ample opportunities to develop mathematical skills and concepts. Math is introduced as a "tool for thinking" and is used to record data (e.g., Weather Graphing) and solve problems (Mystery Math games), and as part of science activities and Make-Believe Play. Activities with materials such as puzzles, manipulatives, calendars, and blocks are used to promote conceptual understanding and introduce children to math vocabulary. For example, the "Remember and Replicate" activity uses playdough as a mode for producing shapes and arranging them in different ways, using vocabulary words to describe position, size, and shape (e.g., first, round, long, behind).
Scientific Reasoning: Tools of the Mind® promotes research-based teaching practices to support children's scientific reasoning. Science Eyes, the main science activity in the curriculum, engages children in focused observations, communication, and documentation once or twice a week. Working with a partner, children describe and discuss observations in detail and then document them in their science journals using drawing and writing. Teachers are guided to ask questions that encourage in-depth observations using different senses (e.g., "Now observe something different. What else do you notice?") and to scaffold the use of science vocabulary. As the year progresses, children participate in simple science experiments, exploring topics such as actions and reactions, force, and motion. However, limited weekly time is allocated for science learning, and there is no guidance on how to integrate science into other domains of the curriculum.
Perceptual, Motor, and Physical Development: Tools of the Mind® promotes a few research-based teaching practices in this domain, such as providing opportunities for daily physical activity, practice of new physical skills, and the development of fine motor skills. However, physical skills are addressed indirectly through participation in activities that focus on self-regulation skills. Movement games, such as "Freeze Game," "Do What I Do," and "Pattern Movement," are incorporated into every day's Opening Time. Guidance for these games includes learning trajectories for gross motor development and some instructions about how to support children to participate successfully. There are also highly targeted learning activities for fine motor development (e.g., Graphics Practice). However, the curriculum lacks direction on how to create a safe outdoor environment that encourages active physical exploration, as well as intentional guidance to support the development of self-care skills, handwashing, personal safety, and nutrition.