Posts tagged curriculum
Posts tagged curriculum
Tonight, we link. #curriculum #storybookextensions #ece #literacy
An article addressing lesson planning in child-centered, play-based classrooms. By Lisa Murphy, Ooey Gooey Inc. I think this will morph into a longer document at some point. But for now……
working title: so whattya think about themes?
I am often asked about lesson planning and what I think about “theme” based teaching. Many of you have heard my stock answer to this question. Which quite truthfully is not an answer so much as a series of questions in response to your question!
1. First off, a statement: Theme based teaching is not inherently evil! That being said, here come the questions:
2. What are the themes?
3. Are they real, relevant and meaningful to the children?
4. Who chose them?
5. Can they be explored for as long as necessary or are they “over and done” on Friday come hell or high-water?
6. Can we change or modify them mid-stream them if they aren’t “working”?
As many of you know, a time-crunched conference setting doesn’t permit a lengthy discourse, so I have opted to gather my thoughts and present them here for your enjoyment. I am working from the assumption that the group or program or school that might adopt such methodology is free from the limitations of such non-DAP expectations as scripted curriculum or pre-determined mandates that might be issued from a corporate office that is thousands of miles away from the children who are subjected to such disconnected decisions.
If it was up to me, and lesson plans were required in the program, this is the methodology I would suggest. And although the writing style presented here might sound a bit formal, almost in an “employee handbook” sort of way, please know that I am always thinking ahead to our eventual Ooey Gooey® University and would never want to reinvent the wheel! So here you go. And, as always, feedback is welcomed.
Lesson Planning for TODDLERS and PRESCHOOLERS
SCRIPTED PRE-PREPARED LESSON PLANS …………………… EMERGENT CURRICULUM
To produce effective, long-term change we encourage a starting spot in or near the middle of this continuum. Ideally, admin/owners would assess where each teacher is (individually) on this continuum at the time of employment and would then assist them in moving forward from that spot towards a full understanding and implementation of EMERGENT lesson planning.
SOME BASIC TOUGHTS:
So, what does this middle ground look like? There are a couple of possible “starting spots” whether teachers are beginning or advanced in regard to actual classroom experience:
MIDDLE GROUND STARTING SPOT
OPTION 1: SOMEWHAT “THEME” BASED
MIDDLE GROUND STARTING SPOT
OPTION 2: MORE “BONES” BASED
AND THEN THE PROCESS OF BECOMING MORE EMERGENT BEGINS
With time, many teachers start to notice that they don’t “need” a theme any more. They still plan strong program, but it is not guided by a set theme per se. Instead, they begin to be directed by their observations of the children in their care. This means that the “bones” are always planned for, (we have an art projects, circle time, sensory tub, etc.) but teacher is planning based on the children in front of him/her. Not the week’s random theme. Various in-depth projects of exploration might emerge out of this style of EMERGENT planning. An outside observer will see various themes or areas of investigation being explored in an EMERGENT classroom, but the teacher has culled these topics from expressed and observed authentic areas of interest of the children; not from a list that was passed out in August of “the things we want to talk about this year.”
Why do we assume children want to learn something they have shown no interest in? And, why do we assume they won’t show interest (eventually) in reading and writing and numbers?
So within the program/school/childcare center there might be a couple teachers still planning from the list of themes and some who are starting to move out of the middle and towards EMERGENT. And, there might be a few teachers who appear to have no rhyme or reason to their planning.
They might need direct assistance that sounds like this:
“I am noticing that your children are playing with lots of trucks outside in the sandbox. It seems like they just race to get out there for those materials! It really is something they are interested in! I am wondering what might happen if you spent more time exploring that interest. What do you think that might look like in your room? Where could that go?”
“Well, we might investigate different kinds of trucks.”
“And what might that look like in your lesson planning?”
“Well, we might get different kinds of trucks for playing with, maybe read some books about trucks, see if someone has a family member that drives a big truck we could explore in the parking lot, we might do truck painting, maybe have small trucks to use in flour or sand in the sensory tub…”
And from this we capture her ideas in her lesson plan for the upcoming weeks. And, we make room for one idea to springboard into the exploration of another idea that might or might not be related. Meaning, let’s say that Uncle Dave has a huge big black shiny truck we get to climb on. Then someone announces that their uncle drives an ambulance, and maybe we make a call and they come out with the ambulance for the children to explore for an hour and then maybe while sitting inside the ambulance we hear the siren, which leads to conversation about sirens and alarms which leads to discussion of the fire drill which leads to someone wanting to see what the inside of a fire truck looks like…..
(and when you give a mouse a cookie….)
And bingo. We have modeled how to start thinking in an emergent way within a STRUCTURED FRAMEWORK that will allow the teacher to experience some measure of success with his lesson planning.
It is important to point out here that the person who assisted the teacher has offered scaffolding in an EMERGENT style. So even though to the naked eye it might look like we are moving away from our goal of being EMERGENT, the scaffolding being offered has been in an emergent style. The coach is modeling how to be EMERGENT even if the teacher himself does not see it yet. And in the end, we brainstorm an overarching theme and some specific ways for that teacher to provide meaningful activity around that main topic for a couple weeks of lesson planning. I will repeat, to an outsider looking in, this might appear to be a step backwards; a regression that is going the opposite of where we are headed! But, much like a child who falls back 2 paces and then hurls himself up 4, it is a similar parallel.
In order to really understand the full range of what EMERGENT curriculum is all about teachers must have a starting spot. It is only after teachers start to see that there is a formula (albeit not fully EMERGENT at this stage) of creating plans and start to see how they can be flexible within this formula and in their implementation of their plans and witness that it doesn’t result in chaos will teachers trust the process of implementing an EMERGENT curriculum. Teachers learn to feel confident and successful as well as organized and prepared. They learn to be preventative and to start anticipating events before they occur. Then within the flow of this structure relaxation occurs. They are able to say, “I have a handle on the day, I know what we are doing, I am prepared AND I am flexible.” The children get into a routine. The children also feel confident that there is structure and predictability to the day. Behavior problems decrease. Children are engaged. Out of this comes a sense of FLOW and the teacher is able to start NOTICING and OBSERVING what is happening in the classroom. Thus setting the stage for her to start seeing the opportunities for investigation that an EMERGENT curriculum style provides.
When a teacher’s classroom experience has been limited to nothing other than meager attempts at controlling the chaos that reigns in classrooms containing bored and restless children (which is an outgrowth of no plan or program being in place) she will NOT be able to fully embrace the potential of EMERGENT curriculum. She needs a starting spot. By identifying the starting spot and allowing for her to gain confidence here we observe an organic, self-initiated shift towards adopting an EMERGENT style. Teachers are not able to understand the importance of being able to be flexible and will not really know (or learn) how to effectively deviate from the plan if there has never been a plan in place.
I am a die-hard fan and advocate of emergent lesson planning. I myself use this style and do not use “themes.” I instead plan for the ”bones” of the day using our developed framework of making time every day to create, move, sing, discuss, observe, read and play. This is the structure that directs my planning within an EMERGENT style. This has developed after spending 20 or so years working in classrooms and with children in other various environments.
And although finding oneself in an environment that encourages and supports EMERGENT curriculum lesson plans can be very liberating for those who have been required to follow scripted, meaningless, non-DAP pre-planned lessons; being expected to engage in EMERGENT curriculum planning (in it’s purest, truest form) can be confusing and amazingly overwhelming to teachers whose experience, training and education has been limited or, truthfully, is non-existent.
Thus our emphasis on meetings teachers where they are, identifying a mid-range “middle ground” and moving, together, towards EMERGENT where the “bones” are being planned for in a flexible style based on authentic and careful observation of the children’s ages, stages and organic interests.
A very small smattering of resources:
Emergent Curriculum by Elizabeth Jones
Emergent Curriculum in Early Childhood Settings by Susan Stacey
The Art of Awareness: how observation can transform your teaching by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter
“PLANNING” FOR INFANTS
First, a definition: for the sake of consistency in this document, “infant” means a child who is not yet 18 mos. Also, I use the word “planning” only because it is the word that many who read this document are familiar with. I think an expectation of formal lesson “planning” (in the sense that most use the word) is ridiculous for an infant room. Babies need to fall in love with a primary caregiver and must learn that someone is absolutely crazy about each and every one of them; when a caregiver is too preoccupied with wondering, “how are we meeting a math standard?” we lose sight of what babies really need from us. That being said, any formal plan or program implemented in an infant room needs to be specific to babies. Not watered down toddler plans that the new infant (former preschool) teacher is recycling from last year. Infant programming needs to be grounded in the work and theories of many infant development experts including Magda Gerber, T. Barry Brazelton, Alice Honig, Abraham Maslow and Emmi Pikler. The overarching goal in an infant room is creating an environment that ensures a secure attachment. And while one cannot “plan” per se for this, we can make sure that we are setting the stage for it to occur. This happens when we set up the room with intention, and when the infant room is stocked not only with materials appropriate to baby’s age and interest, but when admin and owners take the time to hire staff who possess the unique characteristics and disposition that an infant room demands.
Assuming that has happened, we frame lesson planning in the infant room in the context of the “seven things” as mentioned above: creating, moving, singing, discussing, observing, reading and of course, playing. While implementation of the “seven things” might direct the creation of lesson plans in the toddler and preschool rooms, formal lesson planning is not expected within the infant room. There is a more casual approach where teachers use the frame of the seven things to create a space that ultimately leads to bonding and secure attachments. There is time for babies to fall in love with their caregivers and with each other. There is time for holding, singing, reading, cuddling, crawling, reaching and grasping. And there is time for conversations and eye contact; which is no less important than playdough, puzzles and legos!
A very small smattering of resources:
Your Child at Play: Birth to One Year by Marilyn Segal
The Encyclopedia of Infant & Toddler Activities Eds: Kathy Charner & Charlie Clark
More Infant and Toddler Experiences by Fran Hast and Ann Hollyfield
Theories of Attachment: An introduction to Bowlby, Ainsworth, Gerber, Brazelton, Kennell and Klaus by Carol Garhart Mooney
Babies in the Rain by Jeff Johnson
Essential Touch by Frances Carlson
Secure Relationships, by Alice Sterling Honig
www.rie.org for more about Magda Gerber’s RIE approach
www.touchpoints.org for more about T. Berry Brazelton
© Lisa Murphy, Ooey Gooey Inc. January 17, 2011