Cheri M. Gioe, Martin, Leah R., Merrill, Thomas A., Riche', Cassandra | 4/19/2005 10:28:35 PM
Curriculum includes the environments, themes, projects and activities that direct a child’s learning, and the early childhood curriculum constantly changes because children are constantly changing.
"The interests, developmental levels and cultural experiences of children are constantly changing," says LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe. "That means the curriculum offered to them also must change."
But Gioe points out there are basically two types of curriculum for early childhood education. One is a curriculum with prescribed activities, and the other is a curriculum with a specific-teaching approach.
"Prescribed-activity curricula offer many ideas and activities for your classroom, while teaching-approach curricula offer a philosophy or way of teaching for your classroom," she explains.
"The ideas and activities for teaching-approach curricula come from the children’s interests, needs and culture," Gioe says, pointing out, "The ideas and activities from prescribed-activity curricula can be incorporated into a teaching-approach curriculum by picking and choosing which activities are most meaningful to your children."
Four teaching-approach curricula commonly used are known as project work, high/scope, emergent curriculum and creative curriculum, according to Gioe, who explains them this way:
–Project work focuses on one specific topic that is meaningful to the children for a long period of time. For example, a class or a small group of children may be interested in dogs. The children would learn about dogs and many things related to dogs. A project may be to construct a doghouse. As the children learn more about caring for dogs, they may add items to their doghouse. Other ideas might be cars or a school bus, depending on the children’s interests.
–High/scope curriculum is based on children having experiences that will teach them academic skills. A heavy emphasis is based on setting up the classroom environment and planning. Children are given freedom to choose their own activities. Children are encouraged to plan what to do, act upon their plan and then reflect on what they have done by showing the teacher and other children their accomplishments. The teacher is a guide for learning but usually does not give direct instruction.
–Emergent curriculum is focused on the children’s interests and environment. The teacher must be flexible and in tune with the children’s interests and concerns. The focus of the learning could change frequently or last a long period of time. For example, the children may study fire engines after a fire drill at the school. Other ideas may be current topics in the community such as recycling or a new park being built. The curriculum emerges from whatever is meaningful to the children.
–The creative curriculum is another curriculum that focuses on the children’s environment. It divides the classroom into separate learning centers such as art, writing, reading, blocks or table toys. The teacher interacts with the children while they choose their own activities. The creative curriculum gives ideas for creating centers, encouraging play and learning and setting limits. Activities are suggested for this curriculum but are not prescribed.
The LSU AgCenter expert also says some prescribed-activity curricula can be used for ideas in cooperation with a teaching-approach curriculum.
Among the common prescribed-activity curricula she cites are The Crayola Creative Program, Crossties, PEEK: Peabody Early Experiences Kit, The Portage Classroom Curriculum and Small Wonder.
–The Crayola Creative Program gives ideas for learning centers, themes and specific skills for the preschool classroom. Themes include colors, shapes, animals, number, letters and so forth.
–Crossties is a theme-based curriculum with learning centers and books based on events for each month.
–PEEK provides 1,000 activities for 3 year olds and 4 year olds including lessons and many materials.
–The Portage Classroom Curriculum arranges activities in meaningful themes such as school, friends and family.
–Small Wonder is an infant-toddler curriculum with activities for different levels.
"The classroom environment also is a part of your curriculum," Gioe points out, stressing, "Create a comfortable and useable space for learning.
"Adapt the environment to the children’s needs. Provide spaces for independent play and group play. Have materials that are easily accessible. Arrange areas for gross motor activities and fine motor activities. Create a balance of quiet/loud and hard/soft areas. And provide opportunities for exploration, experimentation and creative expression."
Selecting a curriculum for your class may be different for each teacher and each group of children, according to Gioe.
"You want to choose a curriculum that will be meaningful and interesting to your children – which provides for the development of the whole child," she explains. "Knowing your children’s interests, concerns, developmental level and cultural background will help you choose a curriculum that is developmentally appropriate.
"Of course, because children change frequently, you must be prepared to change your theme or learning focus frequently."
Gioe says it is important for child-care and preschool providers to consider the ages of the children in the program.
"A more flexible curriculum will be needed for a group of children with a wide range of ages," she points out.
She also says it’s important to be alert to children’s needs. "Individual children develop differently, so some children may be ready for a certain experience while others are not," Gioe says.
"It’s also important to understand each family and their goals for their child," the LSU AgCenter expert says. "Communicate and provide opportunities for families to contribute to the curriculum – such as providing cultural items for the dramatic play center."
Another consideration in curriculum is to allow children to guide teachers and their own learning, while teachers encourage them to extend their play and learning.
"Follow the children’s lead," Gioe says. "As children’s knowledge increases, add new information, ideas or materials to your curriculum."
The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.