There are two major changes I want to see happen in my school this year. One is the curriculum and the other is behavior management. Before we even consider going through accreditation, I want these teachers to understand developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) and emergent learning. DAP entails teaching to the individual child not the whole group. It means that what we do is aligned with who the children really are, not who we “expect” them to be.
For example, 4 year olds are not going to learn the letter A by bingo dotting red paint and then placing apple seeds onto a coloring sheet of an apple. To expect them to learn from that experience is inappropriate. This school currently uses the worksheet method of teaching. The teachers will show an apple to the group, say ‘this is an apple, everyone say apple. Apple starts with A. Everyone say A. Now let’s glue 4 apple seeds onto our paper.
This is really boring! The children are better than that. They deserve to be treated with the same respect that we offer each other. They have natural curiosity and want to learn as much as they can about things that are interesting to them. Children are always looking for connections. How is that apple relevant in my life? Does it smell familiar? Have I had this before? Why is this one green? Do green ones taste the same? I love how they taste, I wonder what else I can do with this.
What the teachers need to learn to do is plan for children who are investigators. The classroom needs real apples laid out on a table for them to “discover”, then let the children taste, touch, open, sniff, and explore that apple. Add plastic knives to the mix. They can find the seeds inside. Help the make applesauce or do apple stamping. (Do you know that there is a paint that is edible? ) These hands of experiences help make connections for the child. If the teacher is smart, she will have journals for the children to then write/draw about the apples if they want. When the child draws in his journal and the teacher asks him to label the apple, the child will now say, “How do you spell apple.” BINGO! Relevant opportunity to introduce the letter A.
The problem with this scenario, or so it seems, is that the teachers are worried about the child who doesn’t want to write/draw in his journal. If he doesn’t write, how will he ever learn the letter A? That’s where I have get involved. My job is to help them understand that language and literacy skills happen all day long in every part of the classroom. They just need to look for the opportunities that are interesting and relevant, and use those times to teach. It’s a new way of thinking.
The other piece to DAP is how it pertains to behavior management. What is it with teachers and time out? Busy children are happy children. If we expect them to sit while we count out 4 seeds, one child at a time, there will be problems. Someone is going to get bored and start flinging the seeds. At that point the teacher is going to have to “teach” the seed flinger that he needs to be polite. Which means the others have to wait and watch as one child gets reprimanded. And as if that wasn’t awkward enough, someone else is probably going to act out and put a seed up her nose, which is now going to force the other seed counters to wait while the teacher panics and tries to get the lodged seed out of said child’s nose. It’s a vicious cycle, I tell you!
Once the teacher understands that waiting for every child to count seeds is both unnecessary and boring, she will change her plan, (maybe add a egg carton with numbers in the spots and challenge the children to a seed counting game they can play during center time) and then children will be busy, and then no one flings seeds, although I can’t guarantee that no one will try to shove a seed up her nose. Noses are like magnets for tiny round things.
I guess you can see how that this is going to be a busy year for me. It’s okay, I love the challenge and know that the results are worth the effort. I’ll keep you posted.