When I started teaching for the first time, the thought of no curriculum seemed scary, overwhelming and honestly, ridiculous. How can I teach when I have no idea what to teach? Would it be any different than just babysitting the kids? How will I explain to the parents what we do all day? It was daunting.
Then I started and within couple of months, weeks even – I saw the difference in my approach. I found myself throwing the planned lesson plan away and engaging with whatever the kids planned themselves. My favorite example was storytelling segment we did. We read stories and I planned on introducing different classic fairy tales to the kids. Instead, we got ‘stuck’ on Three Little Pigs, which was the first story we have read. It was amazing. We started talking about the big bad wolf and ended up doing research on wolves. Then we got back to the pigs and kids got really upset at them for building such flimsy houses. ‘I could build much better house myself!’ I heard – so we did. We spent a week building houses out of straw, bricks, paper, toilet paper rolls… using glue guns, stick glue, tape… and then making a huge house out of chairs and a parachute. Kids engaged for the whole time (ALL of them), they cooperated, they solved their problems and were very proud of their accomplishments. They learned so much more than they would have if I have simply planned the lesson myself and never followed their passion.
So, what now?
Right now I am trying yo find the right balance between child-led and teacher-led approach. I try to balance introducing kids to new things and guiding them – and letting them come up with their own projects and following their interests and passions.
Why not only child-led approach?
While I love a lot of things about Reggio philosophy, I believe a little teacher guidance is not a bad thing. I believe the kids need some structure if they are about to graduate and go to a public school (even though our Kindergarten readiness is mostly about the social skills). I wan to make sure all the voices are heard (not only the loud ones) and that kids are exposed to things they do not even know they might be interested in. Is it perfect? Probably not. Does it always work like I plan? No. But most of the time it seems to challenge and engage the kids really well.
So I go to my planning. I plan my literacy and Math – it’s only 10 minutes a day and I make sure it is filled with songs, games and fun activities… but it needs to be done (more on the Kindergarten readiness later, it’s a long topic). I also plan my art curriculum – not for all the days but for most. Art is my passion and I love introducing kids to new artists and techniques. I plan some science experiments and I plan some special events, field trips… all of the other things are evolving as we go on. It is part of the adventure and somehow it does not seem scary, overwhelming or ridiculous anymore.