I received another great email from a teacher who had been at one of my workshops on The Project Approach asking me how I started off the new year. How did I decide which project to jump in to with my students? Do I put many provications around the room? Do I wait a bit? and when I'm waiting what do I do?
These are terrific questions and getting started is often the hardest part with The Project Approach and those following an emergent curriculum approach. I tend to mix the two. I put out interesting objects, books, activities, tools, photographs, materials, etc. for the children to explore. If the topic would make a good study; authentic, relevant, tangible and optimal specific AND if the children seem interested in it, we will begin a study of the questions the children come up with as they begin exploring the material.
So what exactly is going on in my classroom this first week back after break....
Before break my class became very interested in our musical instruments. They are kept in a large basket behind my chair in our meeting area to pull out for music time. They had begun pulling out the basket during their play time/center time each day and having marching bands, or playing and dancing, playing for a wedding, etc. They also showed a big interest in trying to figure out which instruments they could hear in the pieces of music we were listening to at snack time and other parts of our day.
Because of this, I replaced some other toys on a main shelf in the classroom with some of our more interesting instruments; rainstick, various wooden instruments, a couple of drums, some unique xylophones made from gourds, etc. I added books about instruments as well. They had been exploring the instruments for the past couple of days, but today they started looking at the books. I also found a station that had jazz that featured a xylophone, so they were playing them along with the music. So we are watching and interacting and listening to see if this interest continues.
Animals and cars and road signs with extra paper and tape in our block center have led to some zoo making this week.
The dramatic play area has grocery bags, coupons, flyers, a cash register and lots of baskets.
Pom pom mazes, number writing in sand, lego building, bleeding tissue art, writing notes to friends decorated with really cool colorful tape, hunting for our face magnets hidden in the sensory table and foam shape mosaics based on the work of Leo Lionni.
Just good, developmentally appropriate, open ended exploration of materials. My centers are varied and eclectic. We are not focused on a theme. My choices for activities in many areas are focused on the standards that I am focusing on this week- really just three days.
But we are watching...we are talking to the children...my assistant and I are discussing their interests and preferences with each other.
I do not have a new project yet, I'm not sure when exactly I will, but the classroom is alive and humming with creativity and joyful noise.
If you are interested in learning more about emergent curriculum, the project approach, creative open-ended art, literature with young children and other topics, contact me directly to discuss professional development opportunities.