Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Emergent Curriculum with Expectations in Mind!

Everyday that I teach Kindergarten my passion for teaching truly grows. This year our school has 6 sections of Kindergarten, which means we have 15 Kindergarten staff members! With such a large staff we have many rich and deep conversations about our practice.

Recently, I have had some incredible conversations with colleagues, as well as our Student Work Study teacher, regarding the notion of emergent curriculum. The Full Day Kindergarten Document suggests that it is a "child-centred, developmentally appropriate, integrated program of learning for four and five year old children". I am drawn to the notion of it being child-centred.

My struggle always do you cover all of those expectations? As teachers we put an immense pressure on ourselves to excel and to be "perfect" (which would include all children achieving all expectations). Not only is that not realistic, but that is not developmentally appropriate. All children have different needs and all children are in different places in their learning.

So....How do you honour a child-centred program that draws from student interest...but ensure that by the end of their experience in Kindergarten, they have been exposed to as much of the curriculum as possible?

My goal this year is to prove that there is a way to honour this and that it is possible to address the curriculum effectively while still following through with the children's interests.

Instead of starting the year with a preplanned concept in math, we waited in our room to see where a good place to start would be. In the past, I began the year with patterning. In small groups I would introduce patterning, we would read books about patterns, provide materials for children to pattern with.

It was play based, it was differentiated, it was successful....but was it?

This year, I have slowed down SO much.

While observing children at building, one child said to me "Ms Pickard...I am 10 big". He started at his feet and moved his hands up to his head counting to 10. "See I am 10 big!".

Intrigued, I asked "I wonder how else we could measure our height?". Another child building nearby suggested that we use blocks to see how big we are. One at a time children layed down on the carpet and their peers measured to see how "big" they were.

I overhead the children playing nearby comparing their height with peers.
A: How tall are you?
L: I am 8 blocks!
M: I am so short, I am only 6 blocks.
A: I am the biggest, I am 9 blocks.

With some support the children continued to use blocks to measure those peers who were interested. We used the iPad to take photos of our measurement discoveries.

I noticed some children standing face to face, trying to measure who was taller. I love when children do this, but it often results in them both thinking they are the tallest. I suggested that they stand back to back to see who was taller.

Of course, they couldn't "see" who was taller when they were standing back to back. One of the children asked if I could take a picture so that they could see who really was taller. We took lots of different comparison photos.

During our focused learning with the whole group, we shared some of the pictures. We had a rich conversation using a lot of excellent measurement vocabulary. During the following learning centres, the children returned to building to measure new peers who were interested after seeing the learning.

I was so proud that I didn't begin my year with patterning. I listened to the children, I slowed down...and an amazing, authentic experience arose out of play.

To me, this is a perfect example of how an emergent curriculum can meet the kindergarten curriculum expectations.

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