Monday, September 7, 2015

The Curriculum Starts Today!

A few years ago I was working with some new teaching assistants who had little classroom experience.  About 3 weeks into school we were having our weekly team meeting and I could tell they both had something to say.  Finally one of them broke the tension.  "What we want to know is.....when is the curriculum starting?"

They were surprised to find out they had already been "doing curriculum" for weeks, and actually even before the children arrived.

For young children, curriculum means more than reading, writing, and mathematics - core areas we most often associate with curriculum content.  While activities associated with the more commonly known areas can emerge days or weeks into school, certain routines and concepts need to begin right away so that children know how to use materials, routines can be established, community built, and practices experienced and repeated.

Introducing Materials

           Guided Discovery
           Presentation and naming of materials
           How to take something out and use it
           Intentional teaching about a material
           Steps for engaging in a game or activity
           Coming to the rug for Whole Group
           Sitting on the rug for Whole Group – Multiple seating positions
           Leaving the rug and going to a center
           Pushing in chairs, moving chairs, getting in and out of a chair
           Treating the classroom and materials with care.
           Carrying materials
           Cleaning up and putting things away
           Practicing independent work without an adult
           Free exploration of materials
Walking around the building, classroom spaces
Social Emotional  
           Building community
           The classroom belongs to all of us
           What do children do when they want to say something?
           How do you interrupt or ask for help?
           How to share space and materials with others
           Asking reflecting questions – "How did you know that?"
Early Math Content
           Collections and sorting, ordering objects, grading, classifying
           Real Graphing, Morning questions (link)
           Building, blocks (table top and on rugs)
           Connecting things and taking them apart: 
(collage, manipulatives, construction materials)
           Counting – ANYTHING!  ALL THE TIME!

Early Literacy Content
Looking at books
Listening to read-alouds at story time
Free drawing
Writing words on children's pictures
Writing children's stories as they dictate them
Offering a variety of writing materials: 
(various sized paper, little books at choice time)
Lots of fine motor opportunities:
(pegs, beads, eye droppers, tongs, etc.)
Choral reading morning messages
Helping children recognize and write their names
(copying and tracing)

Part of the development of curriculum lies in the relationship between teacher and child, and the transfer of responsibility and ownership from teacher to child. These are elements of good teaching.

I asked the children, “Whose room is this?”  There was the usual consternation as they tried to guess. Finally I said, “I’ll give you a hint. It doesn’t belong to the adults.”
“It belongs to the kids!” they said incredulously, exchanging looks of disbelief.  
This is a special moment in the beginning of each class for me. The children’s faces and tone clearly show that I am presenting them with a new experience in their lives.
“Yes, it is yours, to work in and take care of, and I will show you how to take care of it.”
(Paula Polk Lillard)  

The curriculum for a group of children moving up from one classroom to another in a child care or center-based program, or those beginning the first day of school in a public school, begins on day one. The first smile from the teacher, the first "Good Morning!" is where curriculum in early childhood starts.