- Dr. Margaret MacDonald (Simon Fraser University)
But what about the written curriculum requirements? What about the prescribed learning outcomes and benchmarks that need to be taught and assessed each year?
Both of these are common questions from teachers and questions that were also raised this week in an early childhood course I am currently taking through the University of British Columbia.
We know that emergent curriculum emerges from the children, but we must also remember the role that teachers play:
Here are some of the strategies I use to support the development of meaningful emergent curriculum in my own classroom, while keeping the required written curriculum in mind:
- A 'pedagogy of listening': observing & listening for children's theories, ideas, interests, questions. "...a pedagogy of listening means listening to thought -- the ideas and theories, questions, and answers of children and adults; it means treating thought seriously and with respect; it means struggling to make meaning from what is said, without preconceived ideas of what is correct or appropriate." (Rinaldi, 2006)
Here is an anticipatory web I completed just this past week after a student question was expressed which excited all of the children: "Who is the tallest man in the school?" This web reflects possible curriculum connections in relation to the IB Primary Years' Programme framework, as well as my school's Kindergarten 1 learning outcomes and benchmarks for different subject areas. To help myself think of next steps and teacher questions, I've also noted students' theories/ideas so far and the understandings and misconceptions that they demonstrate.
Of course this is still emergent curriculum, meaning that we won't necessarily cover all the things on the web over the course of the investigation. I will also ensure that the investigation continues to be child-led. The connections on the web should rather be viewed as predictions or hypotheses that may or may not come to be. In In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia, Carlina Rinaldi cautions about taking 'anticipations' too seriously: "a hypothesis on how the project might proceed is valid only to the extent that it is seen precisely as a hypothesis and not as a 'must', as one of a thousand hypotheses on the direction that might be taken. " (2006, p. 132-133). By brainstorming possible curriculum connections, however, I am ensuring that I am 'covering the curriculum', so to speak, by having elements of the required programme in mind while still pursuing an 'unplanned' and negotiated approach to learning that responds authentically to the children involved.
For more support on anticipating learning in emergent curriculum:
- Jones, E. (2012). The Emergence of Emergent Curriculum. Young Children (NAEYC). March 2012, pp 66-68.
- Katz, L. & J. H. Helm. (2011). Young Investigators: The Project Approach in the Early Years. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.
- MacDonald, M. (2007). Developmental Theory and Post-modern Thinking in Early Childhood Education. Canadian Children. 32(2), pp 7-10.
- Rinaldi, C. (2006). In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, researching and learning. New York: Routledge.