Monday, September 27, 2010

A Reflection

Teaching is a highly reflective process. 

As I spent the weekend writing and preparing my presentation for the NAEYC conference in November and trying to best explain my way of teaching to others, I learned a great deal about myself and about curriculum misconceptions.

Emergent curriculum is a widely used and misused term.  It reminds me very much of the way Whole Language was used and abused many years ago back when I taught Kindergarten.  People wrongly thought that if you used Whole Language than you didn’t teach phonics.  If you don’t incorporate phonics into reading instruction, than you cannot teach a child to read as it is one of the strategies.  However, HOW you integrate that phonics instruction can look very different in a Whole Language classroom and a phonics based classroom. 

To some people Emergent Curriculum means letting the children take the lead and run with the learning, leading the entire journey, with very little teacher involvement.  The purists may say that one cannot even plan as you need to be continuously spontaneous and only supporting of the discoveries the children make on their own.  With this thinking, I began to doubt if I was truly a teacher of Emergent Curriculum and decided I was perhaps, more of an Intentional Teacher. 

I observe my students and watch their interests.  I foster these interests and take their lead.  However, I am then intentional with my actions.  I will then plan the environments that will help them answer their questions that they have raised, seek experts in their field, find books on the subject.  At the same time, I am watching the development of the set of standards for which my state is holding me accountable.  I am creating learning opportunities for children to practice or develop or strengthen in areas where they are lacking. 

Are my students self motivated?  Yes!

Do they have a say in their learning process?  Everyday

Are we a team in our learning together?  Yes!

How is this Intentional Teaching done; this planning while remaining spontaneous, this teacher directed while following their leads accomplished?

Join me in at the NAEYC Conference in CA in November and I will walk you through a year in my classroom. How did each investigation start?  Where did it lead?  What is the research behind why this type of teaching is so critical to our young learners?

Catch me Friday, November 5, 10am  Become a Polar Explorer, Feather a Nest and Make it Rain Inside: Emergent Curriculum, It’s not only Possible in Preschool, it’s Incredible

And if you can’t make it, keep reading.  The journey continues and it is shared here. 

Keep PlayingJ


  1. Dana I am so pleased you not only state you follow an emergent curriculum but also point out that to do this successfully you do involve intentional teaching. Sherry and I teach exactly the same way... it is not "free for all Friday" as one parent 'feared' play based learning to be. It can be difficult to get the message across to parents and other educators sometimes about what play based learning and following an emergent curriculum actually means. What a shame you are in the U.S and we are in Australia. I think your talk would be very interesting ... good luck with it!
    Donna :) :)

  2. Hi Dana; as someone who collaborates with teachers in their emergent curriculum practices, and who writes about emergent curriculum, I have to whole-heartedly agree that it is sometimes a misused term. One of the words that I use a lot when explaining the approach to parents or to newcomers to this type of practice, is 'intentional.' 'Emergent curriculum', when it is skillfully used, and 'intentionality', can work together. Since I work with 4 and 5 year olds with ideas and agendas of their own, I do many presentations about how the child's voice and the teacher's voice are both included -- emergent curriculum is a collaboration. One of my upcoming workshops here in Nova Scotia is 'Planning for Emergent Curriculum'. I agreed to do this workshop in several areas of the province, to try and dispel some myths, and it is also why I wrote my first book, Emergent Curriculum in Early Childhood Settings. I am heartened to hear that some people are using it for staff development purposes.
    Keep up the good work! Susan Stacey