Early Childhood Curriculum

Assignment 08

E03 Curriculum Development

Directions: Be sure to make an electronic copy of your answer before submitting it to Ashworth College for grading. Unless otherwise stated, answer in complete sentences, and be sure to use correct English, spelling and grammar. Sources must be cited in APA format. Your response should be four (4) pages in length; refer to the “Assignment Format” page for specific format requirements.

1. Using the guidelines in Chapter 16 of your textbook, choose a thematic topic for a group of 3-year-old children. In a two-page response, explain why you selected the topic, and discuss how it is age-appropriate, individually appropriate, and socioculturally appropriate for these children. Give specifics.

2. Using the guidelines in Chapter 16 of your textbook, choose a thematic topic for a group of 8-year-old children. In a two-page response, explain why you selected the topic, and discuss how it is age-appropriate, individually appropriate, and socioculturally appropriate for these children. Give specifics.

Content and Process Learning Through Thematic Teaching

Focusing on Content

Content learning encompasses all the factual information relevant to the theme. Learning content requires such mental abilities as attending, listening, observing, remembering, and recounting (Hendrick & Weissman, 2013). Thus, a group of first graders studying wild birds might engage in a variety of experiences to learn the following facts:

· Birds live in a variety of places: in the woods, meadows, plains, and deserts; near ponds, lakes, and oceans; and in cities.

· Each species of bird builds a nest characteristic of the species.

· Birds build nests to protect their eggs, which contain baby birds.

· Birds build nests of varying complexities.

· Different bird species build their nests in different places: on the ground, above the ground, in the open, or hidden.

As you already know, simple exposure to factual content such as this does not teach in and of itself. Only when children become physically involved in, talk about, and reflect on their experiences do they learn from them. This type of thematic teaching provides hands-on discovery that is highly motivating to children (Henniger, 2013; Bently, 2013 ). Children might learn factual knowledge about wild birds through firsthand activities such as going outdoors to watch birds fly, observing a nesting bird, recording the numbers and kinds of birds they see, or examining several different abandoned bird nests. Teachers might also give children make-believe wings and straw to use to act like birds caring for their young, or teachers could work with children to construct a replica of a bird’s nest. Throughout these activities, teachers and children would discuss which type of bird might build which type of nest, furthering children’s content learning. In addition, because the most appropriate themes and projects are based on children’s interests and experiences, children are intrinsically motivated to learn content to answer their own questions and satisfy their own curiosity. As teachers observe carefully, they are able to see children demonstrate in numerous ways what content they have learned.

Focusing on Process

All the aesthetic, affective, cognitive, language, social, and physical operations and skills that form the basis for children’s experiences within the early childhood curriculum constitute process learning. Because they encompass the “whole” child, such processes range from imagining, creating, and performing to grouping, differentiating, inferring, and concluding to pretending, representing, and constructing. Just as with content learning, children gain proficiency in process learning through hands-on activities. In fact, the same bird activities cited in the preceding section could provide the means for children to increase their competence and understanding in any domain.

Integrating Content and Process

Content and process come together in the integrated activities of thematic teaching. These activities form the basis for instruction and offer children an applied means for experiencing the curriculum. Thus, two children acting out the roles of wild birds not only gain factual insight into bird life, but also have opportunities to practice social and cognitive processes such as offering ideas (“You be the baby bird. I’ll be the mommy”), reaching compromises (“Okay, I’m the mommy bird first, and then you.”), and drawing conclusions (“If we have two mommy birds, we’ll need two nests”). In fact, during the early childhood period, often the content included in each activity is simply the medium through which children explore other, more process-oriented operations and skills (Hendrick & Weissman, 2013). Sometimes children may be much more involved in the process learning represented within that experience. In this case, the children may eventually ignore the bird theme to concentrate on the dynamics of their social relationship. Even so, they are continuing to learn and benefit from the activity.

Even though children frequently stray from the goal originally identified by the teacher to explore aspects of the activity related to other domains, it does not mean teachers should simply provide generic activities with no meaningful content-learning or process-learning goals in mind. Teachers must be purposeful in their planning in order to provide a coherent, comprehensive set of activities that support local and state standards. In doing so they assist children in exploring facts and processes they might not otherwise experience. The integrative nature of such activities is well suited to the holistic manner in which children learn.

Principles of Effective Thematic Teaching

There are several things to keep in mind when planning a good thematic unit. Thematic teaching is most likely to be effective when activities and experiences have the following characteristics ( Katz et al., 2014 ):

· Directly relate to children’s real-life experiences, building on what children know and what is readily observable in their immediate environments

· Are age-appropriate and culturally sensitive

· Represent a concept for children to investigate

· Are supported by a body of factual knowledge that has been adequately researched by the teacher(s), including primary and secondary sources of information

· Involve firsthand, direct investigation

· Address all six curricular domains and promote their integration

· Address thematic content and processes more than once and in different kinds of activities (exploratory play, guided discovery, problem solving, discussions, demonstrations, direct instruction, small-group and whole-group activities)

· Integrate content learning with process learning

· Give children a chance to practice and apply basic skills appropriate for their age and ability

· Expand into projects that are child initiated and child directed

· Encourage children to document and reflect on what they are learning

· Involve children’s families in some way

How to Create Thematic Units

Sources of Ideas

Cats, gardens, art and artists, storytelling, people in our neighborhood, insects, measuring—all these topics are potential themes or subjects of study. As an early childhood educator, you will have to decide which topics are best suited to the particular children in your group. Ideas are available from many sources: the children, special events, program-mandated content, and teachers and parents.

Children’s ideas and interests are often excellent sources of themes.

The best sources for thematic ideas are the children themselves and what they are experiencing day to day. Observe the children carefully to see what things they frequently enact, discuss, or wonder about. Listen carefully to their questions to determine what they are trying to figure out. This will provide a relevant basis for selecting and implementing themes in your program. Keen observations and vigilant listening will provide you with insight into what the children already know, what misconceptions they may have, and what theories guide their actions and beliefs. Challenge yourself to think deeply about questions the children ask or comments they make.

Information from parents regarding upcoming events in children’s lives or events at home provide additional clues about concepts that will be important to children in your class throughout the year. For instance, the birth of new siblings to one or more families in the class might prompt an inquiry related to babies or families. Events like these are important to young children, which is why they provide such a strong foundation for planning and implementing themes in the classroom. No matter what age group you are teaching, child-initiated topics are a valuable source for themes and should be the basis for many of the topics you teach.

Occasionally, special events such as a field trip to the farm, an assembly featuring guide dogs for the blind, or the celebration of Arbor Day also serve as a spark for theme development. Occasions like these, which teachers know about in advance, may be integrated into or serve as the cornerstone for related units of study such as “farm products,” “working dogs,” or “trees.” Sometimes unanticipated events stimulate children’s thinking in new directions. This was the case for second graders intrigued by the habits of a grackle whose nest was in the rain gutter above their classroom window. The teacher responded to their curiosity by introducing a unit on wild birds, using the grackle as a firsthand example.

Many school districts require particular subject matter to be addressed at given grade levels. Some programs also require certain topics such as dental care or fire safety be included in the curriculum. Such program mandated content can also serve as a basis for thematic teaching. Social studies, science, health, math, or language arts concepts can be used as the core around which a variety of theme-related activities are created and integrated throughout the day. As teachers plan theme-related activities, they can identify which required content will be addressed by which activity and what evidence will be gathered to document children’s learning. This approach has the advantage of ensuring that all important subjects receive adequate attention. Moreover, teachers gain the satisfaction of covering prescribed material in ways that are meaningful to children.

Theme ideas may also have their source in concepts that teachers and family members find exciting or valuable. A teacher enthralled by gardening may share his or her enthusiasm through a unit on plants. The teacher’s desire to teach children constructive ways of working together could be the motivation behind the theme “cooperation.”

Essential Theme Criteria

With so many options, the number of potential topics usually exceeds the amount of time available to teach them. Certain additional criteria will narrow your choices and help you pick the most appropriate themes. When finalizing an idea for a theme, consider the following five factors:

1. Relevance

2. Hands-on activities

3. Diversity and balance across the curriculum

4. Availability of primary and secondary resources and materials

5. Potential for projects

The most important criterion to consider when selecting a topic is relevance. Themes are relevant when the concepts they represent are directly tied to children’s real-life experiences and build on what children know. If relevance has been properly considered, themes are age appropriate, individually appropriate, and socioculturally appropriate. Relevant themes highlight concepts with which children have initial familiarity and provide new insights into their daily experiences. Themes such as “self,” “home,” “family,” and “plants” are pertinent to young children because they help the children understand their lives and the world around them. In contrast, some themes are inappropriate for this age group. “Life in ancient Rome” and “penguins” are too far removed from most children’s day-to-day living to be relevant.

Themes are most meaningful when they match the needs and interests of particular groups of children. For instance, “plants” has relevance for most children no matter where they live. However, children growing up near a marsh would naturally focus on cattails, marsh grass, and milkweed as examples of plant life, whereas children living in an arid region would find studying cacti, sagebrush, and yucca plants more relevant. Moreover, entire topics that are relevant to one group of young children may be irrelevant to others. For example, studying tidal pools could be a significant learning experience for children living in Kennebunk, Maine (which is near the ocean), but not so for those in Lincoln, Nebraska (which is landlocked). Having never seen a tidal pool, the Nebraska group would benefit from studying a more familiar water habitat, such as a pond or a river.

Another criterion for selecting a theme is how well the content lends itself to the creation of related hands-on activities. Only topics whose content children can experience through the direct manipulation of objects are suitable for children 3 to 8 years old. This hands-on instruction must include firsthand experiences, but may also involve some simulations. Both forms of hands-on instruction could be offered through exploratory activities, guided discovery, problem solving, discussions, cooperative learning, demonstrations, and direct-instruction activities. However, the emphasis must be on exploratory play and inquiry if children are to truly expand their concepts with time.

Firsthand experiences are those in which children become directly involved with the actual objects or phenomena under study. These experiences are real, not analogous or imaginary. For instance, youngsters engaged in the theme “pets” would gain firsthand insights into the life and activities of pets by observing and caring for pets in the classroom. A visit to a pet shop to see the variety of pets available and a trip to a veterinarian to see how pet health is maintained are other examples of real-life experiences. These primary sources give children opportunities to derive relevant bits of information from the original source of the concept. Simply looking at pictures or hearing about these things could not replicate the richness or stimulation provided by firsthand involvement. When teachers know that children have had no direct experience with the theme and that related firsthand activities cannot be provided in the program, they should consider the theme inappropriate for their group.

Watch a teacher provide firsthand experience with tadpoles to a group of young children in the video A Scientific Investigation in Preschool: From Tadpole to Frog. Describe the benefits of this type of experience as compared to only seeing pictures or photographs of tadpoles in a book.

Simulations are another hands-on activity type. They approximate but do not exactly duplicate firsthand experiences. Providing make-believe ears and tails so that children can enact life as a pet and working with children to construct a replica of a veterinarian’s office using toy animals are examples of simulations. In each case, children act directly on objects or carry out activities that resemble the real thing. However, for such activities to be meaningful for children they will need to have some firsthand experience with the topic prior to the simulation.

Teachers can contribute to children’s understanding of a topic through productive uses of technology ( Daniels & Clarkson, 2010 ). Technology offers opportunities to see and hear things not in the immediate environment; however, learning is best enhanced when technology use it connected to what children already know and in conjunction with firsthand experiences. For example, when the children in Mrs. Rosenthal’s kindergarten classroom became interested in the sparrow nest outside the classroom window, she extended their opportunity to observe birds by using the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. The children were able to watch a live feed of a Dunrovin Osprey bird nest, an opportunity that was not available any other way. Mrs. Rosenthal projected the streaming video onto a blank wall in the classroom, enabling many children to watch the birds at the same time. Although she provided many firsthand experiences for children learn about birds, the use of the website and projector allowed children to carefully observe an event beyond what was readily accessible. See the Technology Tool Kit for other ideas for using technology to extend children’s learning.

Technology Toolkit: Using Technology to Support Children’s Involvement in Themes and Projects

Puerling (2012) suggests several ideas for using technology in early childhood classrooms that can support children’s involvement in themes and projects:

· Use projectors when investigating artists and their work. Increase children’s attention to detail by projecting photographs or artwork. This provides children the opportunity to carefully observe the piece and discuss it with others.

· Invite experts to “visit” the classroom through videoconferencing and webcams.

· Use smart phones and tablets to capture children’s work and language during classroom activities and field trips.

· Revisit these recordings with children to encourage them to reflect on what they have learned.

· Utilize the recordings to complete formative and summative assessment.

· Create video books highlighting a theme or project undertaken by the children.

· Share video clips or video books of classroom activities with family members to encourage their participation in projects.

· Provide virtual experiences only in conjunction with firsthand experiences. Technology should be used to enhance hands-on opportunities, not replace them.

Lack of resources may prevent some themes from being enacted well. Although a topic may appear appropriate for a theme and even seem to have the potential to lead to a long-term project, it is necessary that you have adequate resources available before you begin. Topics for which there are no primary sources of information do not make good themes in early childhood. When teachers choose topics where no firsthand experiences exist for children to investigate their questions and discover new information, true thematic teaching cannot occur. Firsthand experiences could include visiting field sites to learn about the topic, speaking with local experts, or manipulating and investigating real-life objects. Secondary sources such as books can certainly be used to supplement the primary sources, but are not solely adequate for discovery learning.

Diversity and balance across the curriculum is another criterion for consideration. For example, some themes are primarily scientific (seasons, machines, leaves, insects, and fish); others reflect a social studies emphasis (families, friends, occupations, and the neighborhood); and still others highlight language arts content (storytelling, poetry, and writers). Furthermore, many topics can be adapted to fit several foci depending on what intrigues the children and what the teacher chooses to emphasize. For example, a unit on stores could stress the mathematical content of money and counting, the more social aspects of employees’ working together toward a common goal, or the health-related focus of safety in the store. Teachers can deal with these ideas separately, sequentially, or in combination.

When selecting themes, teachers should choose a cross section of topics in which all content areas are eventually addressed. With time, children will then have opportunities to expand their concepts and skills across a wide range of subjects, with no single area predominating.

The availability of support materials is another factor to consider when determining what themes to select ( Katz et al., 2014 ). Because children need objects to act on, teachers should choose themes for which several real items are obtainable. Children need access to real-life materials for activities to be meaningful and interesting. Potential themes for which no real objects are available for children to use should be dropped from consideration. This is also true for themes that depend on one spectacular prop, such as a hang glider or a spinning wheel, which, if suddenly unavailable, would deny children their only access to direct firsthand investigation of the topic. Better topics are those for which a variety of real materials are easily accessible. In addition, consider opportunities for field site visits or local experts, which can serve as resources for the children. For example, trips to visit a nearby pond or opportunities to ask questions of a waterfowl specialist would be valuable experiences for children’s understanding of ducks.

The best thematic topics are those that have project potential. As mentioned earlier in this chapter, projects are open-ended activities in which youngsters undertake, during a period of days, weeks, or even months, the in-depth study of some facet of the theme. Ideas for projects emerge as children gain experience with a concept and become curious about particular aspects of it ( Helm & Katz, 2011 ). Effective teachers help children focus their ideas and identify questions that can be investigated. As children’s interests evolve, individual or small groups of children, in consultation with the teacher, plan and then carry out a relevant project. These projects are primarily child initiated and child directed. For example, children involved in a pet theme might wonder about pets owned by classmates and adults in the group. In response, the children could decide to conduct interviews and create a book of all the different pets represented in the class. They might use the information they gather to create charts, stories, and displays related to their investigation. Later, the children could share what they have learned with family members in a celebration at the conclusion of the unit. Project work requires sustained effort and involves learning processes such as exploring, investigating, hypothesizing, reading, recording, discussing, representing, and evaluating. Consequently, projects give children many chances to plan, select manageable tasks for themselves, apply skills, represent what they have learned, and monitor their personal progress. More structured than spontaneous play and more self-determined than teacher-planned instruction, projects provide a bridge between the two. They offer children strategies for exploring topics in ways that are individualized and therefore more personally meaningful.

Although projects could be carried out independent of a theme, we suggest that they serve as an extension of theme planning. In this model, projects evolve after children have had exposure to a thematic concept in the ways described so far. As a result of participating in teacher-planned activities and group discussions, children begin to suggest related topics they would like to further examine. These investigations become their projects. While children carry out projects, the teacher promotes their learning by using teaching strategies such as reflections, scaffolding, questions, and silence. Teachers also help children document their work and prompt them to reflect on what they have discovered. Although not every theme will lead to a project, the best themes are those that would allow projects to develop in accord with children’s inquiries.

Because projects are such a valuable learning tool, we have included a brief description of how projects can be implemented in early childhood classrooms based on the work of Sylvia Chard, a noted expert on the project approach.

The Project Approach

A project is an in-depth study of a real-world topic, object, or experience that stems from the expressed interests of children. Adults plan activities and teaching strategies associated with the project to help children develop a fuller understanding of the world around them. As children participate in collaborative projects, investigating topics in depth, they learn many ways to represent new information and these representations are often shared with family members or other interested audiences. Throughout the project, teachers document what children have done and learned. This all transpires in a three-phase process.

Three Phases in the Life of a Project

Projects generally develop through an introductory phase, a research phase, and a review phase. This three-phase structure helps the teacher organize and guide the study in ways that match the children’s interests and personal involvement.

Phase 1

In the first phase of a project, possible topics emerge. The teacher selects a topic based on the children’s interests, curricular goals, and the availability of resources. The teacher brainstorms his or her experience, knowledge, and ideas, representing them in a topic web . Successful projects build upon the things children care about and that intrigue them. The subject of a project needs to be a topic worth learning about. It should provide rich opportunities to deepen children’s understanding and support curriculum standards that are in place. Ideas for projects may come directly from the children or be sparked by the teacher. During the initial phase of the project the teacher determines what prior experience and knowledge the children possess by reading about the topic. The teacher helps the children ask questions about what they would like to investigate. It is often at this stage that family members are invited to offer special expertise to the project.

Phase 2

During phase 2, children do fieldwork and speak to experts to expand their knowledge on the topic. Resources are provided to help children with their investigations: real objects, books, and other research materials. The teacher provides opportunities for children to carry out a variety of investigations. Children demonstrate what they learn by participating in learning centers at their own developmental levels in terms of basic skills, drawing, music, construction, and dramatic play. Children share their work with classmates in class meetings at the beginning and end of project work sessions. The teacher facilitates group discussions and creates displays of children’s work to help all children be aware of all the different work being done by their peers. The topic web developed earlier is used as one means of documenting the progress of the project.

Phase 3

Once the project seems to be nearing its end, the teacher arranges for the children to share what they have learned. Children may share highlights of the project with another class, the principal, or family members. In preparing such an event, the teacher helps the children purposefully review and evaluate the whole project. Throughout the project the teacher documents what the children have learned and uses this as a form of assessment. Finally, the teacher uses children’s ideas and interests to make a meaningful transition between the project being concluded and the topic of study for the next theme or project.

Distinctive Features

Projects involve in-depth investigation. Teachers encourage children to develop interests and work on their strengths. Projects are energized by questions the teacher has helped the children to formulate. Activities are chosen for their representational contribution to the evidence that the whole class group has collaboratively achieved a significant depth of understanding. The project approach offers teachers a powerful way to address many aspects of the early childhood curriculum.

Where Readers Can Find Out More

A comprehensive website about the project approach is www.project-approach.com . In addition, the project approach is described in more detail in Katz, Chard and Kogan (2014) .

Creating an Information Base

The core of every theme is the factual information on which it is founded and that is embodied in a comprehensive list of terms , facts , and principles (TFPs) relevant to the theme. When teachers fail to adequately research the theme they are planning they may omit critical aspects of the topic or present erroneous information to children as fact. Therefore, it is critical that teachers thoroughly research the TFPs related to the topic. These TFPs are introduced to children through hands-on activities where discovery learning takes place. Such activities help children derive factual information, learn applicable terminology, and engage in relevant conversations with peers and adults. Through such experiences, children gain meaningful insights that enlarge and refine their concepts.

Selecting Terms, Facts, and Principles

Use the following steps to select TFPs for your thematic unit.

· Select a topic of study. Consider relevance to children, hands-on activities, diversity and balance across the curriculum, the availability of resources, and project potential. Think about subtopics for the theme. For instance, a unit on cats might include the subtopics depicted in Figure 16.6 , which could be relevant to children in preschool through second grade.

· Use reference books, field guides, textbooks, children’s books, or other people as resources to help you thoroughly research the topic. To be useful, TFPs must be accurate and thorough.

· Generate a list of TFPs to support the topic. Begin by writing down every item that seems relevant to the theme.

On the basis of the children’s interests and abilities, decide whether a general overview or a more in-depth study of one of the subtopics is best suited to your class. Choose TFPs to best fit your focus. Plan to address each TFP several times. Use the others simply as background information or as a guide for responding to children’s questions regarding the topic.

FIGURE 16.6 Initial Topic Web for Cats Theme

View A Theme Is Hatched to see how some teachers facilitated children’s learning about birds. Identify terms and facts children might learn from this theme.

Developing Activity Ideas

The steps for developing appropriate theme-related activities are straightforward and not nearly as time-consuming as those required to create TFPs.

· Go through the selected TFPs, generating at least two or three activities for each. For instance, you might want children to learn that “people who own cats are responsible for providing them with food, shelter, attention, and medical care.” Activities to support this information could include (a) having children take care of a visiting cat for a day or a week, (b) reading books about cat care, (c) visiting a veterinarian’s office to witness cat care, and (d) creating collages that represent the different things people do to care for their cats.

· Include at least one activity per curricular domain per week. Strive for balance among domains though you may have a different number of theme-related activities in each domain. One activity may be used to address more than one domain. A collage designed to help children represent different ways cat owners care for their cats takes on a social focus if children are asked to cooperate as a group to create one large collage. In contrast, giving each child his or her own collage to work on, along with several cutting tools, emphasizes the fine-motor aspects of the activity, making it more physical.

· Include varying types of activities (i.e., exploratory play, guided discovery, problem solving, discussions, demonstrations, and direct instruction). If watching or listening dominates the activities, redesign them to include more hands-on involvement.

Making a Plan

Once the TFPs and activities are identified, assemble them into a cohesive plan. The following steps outline the planning process:

· Commit your ideas to paper, incorporating several theme-related activities into your lesson plans. Consider what time of the day certain activities will take place and whether each will be presented once or on several days. Consider whether certain activities should be presented early to provide a foundation for other activities. Design additional non-theme-related activities to round out the rest of the instructional time. Remember, having fewer well-developed theme-related activities is better than contriving to make activities fit.

· Check your plan to ensure theme-related activities are included every day and that by week’s end all the domains have been included.

· Consider issues such as availability of materials, numbers of adults available to help, the time and resources needed, and special events. Adjust your plan as necessary. For instance, you may not wish to schedule several messy activities when there are not adequate adults present to facilitate such activities.

· Include theme-related activities in your whole-group plans. Such whole-group activities allow children to become aware of certain concept-related information simultaneously, providing a common foundation for exploration. Carried out at the beginning of class time, circle activities serve as an introduction to the day’s experiences. Conducted at the end, they give children a chance to review and summarize their current understanding of the theme.

· Make a final check of your written plan, focusing on how well you have addressed the TFPs. Verify that each TFP receives attention at least three or four times during the week and within different domains across the plan. If some TFPs have been left out or are underrepresented, either add a few related activities or extend the theme another week, focusing on these TFPs as well as some additional TFPs, to give the children more time to explore the concept.

· Enrich the classroom atmosphere by including theme-related materials throughout the classroom. Gather or create any materials you will need. To minimize preparation time, use some props for more than one activity. Post theme-associated pictures at children’s eye level. Choose digital recordings, books, finger plays, or songs related to the topic.

Implementing the Theme

· Once you have a sound plan, use the following steps to implement the theme. Carry out your plan and take advantage of spontaneous events to further children’s understanding of the concept they are exploring.

· Assess and document children’s understanding of and interest in the theme through observations, interviews, group discussions, work samples, and constructions. Make note of times when children talk about the theme, when they exhibit theme-related behaviors and knowledge, and when family members mention incidents illustrating children’s awareness of and reactions to the topic. Use a participation chart to keep track of the activities children choose and the amount of time they spend there. Record evidence of covering any required content and examples of children’s learning that may be mandated by local or state standards.

· Invite children to reflect on their understanding of thematic content and processes through drawings, graphs, murals, maps, constructions, journal entries, paintings, charts, dramatizations, and reports to represent their learning. Document children’s work using photographs, video recordings, and work samples.

· Extend the thematic unit if children’s interest remains high. As children demonstrate understanding of and curiosity about the subject, introduce additional TFPs in subsequent weeks or move into the project phase of investigation. An example of a project carried out by a preschool teacher in Lincoln, Nebraska, is presented in Figure 16.7 . It grew out of an interest in tractors and took several months to complete.

· Establish two-way communication with families about the theme. Provide theme- and project-related information to them through newsletters. Invite family members to contribute materials or talents to the classroom. Suggest ways for family members to support the theme or project at home. Create opportunities for family members to share the children’s discoveries.

· Evaluate the theme by using the theme-teaching checklist presented in Figure 16.8 . Write down the changes you made and how you might alter your plan if you decide to repeat it later.

“Apples in the Schoolyard”: An Apple Theme

All the steps involved in theme planning are illustrated in the following example of an apple theme. As you read through this approach, consider how you might adapt the theme for the children in your class.

Creating an Information Base

The 4- and 5-year-olds in Hannah Solomon’s preschool class noticed that two apple trees in the play yard were heavy with fruit. Eager to pick the apples, the children watched each day as the fruit grew riper. Based on her observation of the children’s interest, Ms. Solomon decided that a theme about apples would be appropriate and promote the children’s observation skills and problem-solving abilities. Because the children lived in a community known for its apple orchards, she also thought that such a theme would provide a good chance for the children to become more aware of resources in their environment.

She prepared for the apple theme by looking up information about apples and making a list of TFPs related to the concept, and in doing so discovered some facts about apples she had not known previously. As the list grew to around 25 items, she divided it into the following subsections: varieties of apples, physical characteristics, apples as food, apples’ development from blossom to fruit, and apples’ journey from orchard to home. Next, she narrowed the list to 12 TFPs that would provide a general overview for the children to explore for at least 2 weeks. Following are 5 of the 12 she chose:

1. There are many kinds of apples.

2. Apples vary in size, shape, color, texture, smell, and taste.

3. People eat apples in many forms.

4. Apples grow on trees.

5. Apples are the fruit of the apple tree.

Next, let’s see how Erin Hamel carried out a project in her preschool classroom.


The outdoor area of the school is located next to the University tractor-testing field. (This is a university department which conducts research on tractors). Children enjoyed watching the tractors on the field and began asking many questions related to the tractors. Many children watched the tractors carefully each day and then continued to show interest in the topic as they built “tractors” in the block area, pretended to drive tractors during outdoor play and drew pictures of different types of tractors they imagined. Jayden told the children that his grandfather used a “really big” tractor to cut down all the hay in his field. This idea captured the imagination of many of the children and it was obvious the children wanted to know more.

Phase 1

It was clear that the children were interested in the topic of tractors and with the close proximity of the tractor testing site, Mrs. Hamel believed there would be opportunities for first-hand experiences to learn more about tractors. Mrs. Hamel began by helping the children create a list of what they already knew about tractors, what they wanted to learn and ideas about how they might find the answers to their questions. Figure 16.11 lists some of the ideas children shared during this initial discussion with Mrs. Hamel.

What we know about tractors

Questions we have about tractors

How we might be able to find the answer

Tractors are different  colors and sizes.

Tractors are really slow. Some tractors pull things.

Tractors can cut grass and  some tractors cut hay.

Somebody needs to drive  the tractor.

“Why are there different kinds of tractors?”

“How come some tractors pull things?”

“Can all tractors pull things?”

“How do you learn to drive a tractor?”

“Can tractors go faster? Can you drive  them on the road?”

“What are the parts of a tractor?” “Who makes the tractors?”

Go to the tractor field and look at the tractors.  Ask the workers about the tractors.

Look in a tractor book.

Look up tractors on the computer.

Ask Jerome (the school groundskeeper).

Ask Jayden’s grandfather.

Go to a tractor store and look at real  tractors.

Mrs. Hamel examined the children’s questions and concluded that there was potential to include the topic of tractors in all areas of the curriculum. She created a preliminary planning web based her discussions with the children. She identified the concepts she thought could be addressed through an investigation of tractors and brainstormed activities that could be used to support children in gaining these concepts. She then reviewed the Nebraska Early Learning Guidelines to add to her planning web. She matched the Guidelines that were likely to occur through the project to those concepts and planned activities listed on her web. See Figure 16.12 for examples of Early Learning Guidelines Mrs. Hamel planned to address.

Approaches to Learning

· Uses communication to ask questions and seek answers

· Help children create a list of questions and possible sources to answer questions

· Reflects on experiences and information and draws conclusions from information

· Have children write thank you cards to the tractor museum telling what they learned from the visit


· Uses new vocabulary that has been introduced

· Introduce a word wall with tractors terms

· Shows interest in early writing—uses writing to represent thoughts and ideas

· Have children bring clipboards to the tractor museum to sketch what they see

· Add “tractor words” to writing area for children to copy

· Encourage children to make tractor books

Social and Emotional

· Interact empathetically and cooperatively with adults and peers

· Encourage children to work together to build tractors in block area

· Have children work in small groups to create a list of interview questions for tractor testing personnel


· Develop increased ability to observe and discuss things that are common and things that are different

· Help children generate lists of attributes of different tractors based on their observations. Use these lists to create Venn diagrams of different tractors.


· Develops knowledge of geometric principles-learns about shapes

· Create tractor pictures from simple geometric shapes. Provide photographs of tractors for children to use as references.

· Recognizes different types of measurement can be made (height, length, width).

· Bring tape measures to the museum. Assign specific children to record measurements.

· Use measurements to draw a scale tractor in the parking lot.

Reference: Nebraska Department of Education (2005) . Nebraska Early Learning Guidelines 3 to 5 year olds. Lincoln, NE: Author.

Phase 2

Mrs. Hamel planned a visit to a tractor museum located on the campus of the local university. She visited the museum prior to taking the children to determine what the children could investigate up close and discussed her goals for the trip with museum personnel. The museum staff was more than willing to listen to the children’s questions and provide thoughtful answers. Based upon her initial visit to the museum Mrs. Hamel concluded it was a good choice for a field site and would provide many learning opportunities for the children. In fact, because of the close proximity to the school it was possible to make several museum visits allowing the children to focus on one or two things each time. Prior to each visit Mrs. Hamel assisted the children in identifying what they wanted to learn as a result of the trip. Children worked together to decide who would investigate what questions and how they would share what they learned with others when they returned to the classroom. Some children decided to tally the different types of tractors at the museum, others wanted to measure the tractors, and several decided to do an observational sketch of certain parts of the tractor. Over the course of the tractor project children worked on various tasks including creating books about tractors, dictating stories in which tractors were featured, and representing different tractors using various building and art materials.

Some children decided that they wanted to create a large tractor using cardboard boxes and other recyclable material. As they began to fashion a tractor from the materials others offered suggestions or critiques about how to better make the tractor. Soon, most all of the children in the class were involved in one way or another in building the tractor. The children took great pride in re-creating a realistic tractor, paying great attention to the details of their work. When they disagreed about how to complete certain aspects of the tractor they used photographs of real tractors and the sketches they had completed during their filed site visits as reference material. Additional visits to the museum provided opportunities for children to concentrate on aspects of the tractors they had previously overlooked. Throughout the process Mrs. Hamel documented what the children were doing and noted what they had learned, displaying different work samples and photographs for the children to view in the classroom.

Phase 3

As a concluding event, the children invited their families to see the work they had done. The highlight of the occasion was showing the large tractor they had built to their family members. The children were particularly proud of the fact that the wheels on the tractor actually turned, and invited staff from the tractor museum to attend the party as special guests. Each child had a role in sharing a part of the project and what they had learned. Mrs. Hamel was also able to share with families how the project had facilitated children’s concept development through the documentation she had completed. Although project work with young children provides rich opportunities for learning, it is unlikely that projects will offer all of the learning experiences that should be included in the curriculum ( Helm & Katz, 2011 ). Not all children will participate in any given project and certain children will be involved in a given project more than others. Some children may participate in one aspect of a project but show little interest in another. Because of this it is necessary to incorporate non-project related activities into each day and learning center. Teachers can include aspects of project work such as observational drawing and documentation into other types of learning experiences ( Helm & Katz, 2011 ). Designing a variety of activities and experiences will actively engage children and support their growing understanding of a concept.

FIGURE 16.8 Theme-Teaching Checklist

Developing Activity Ideas

Ms. Solomon brainstormed activities to go with each TFP.

· There are many kinds of apples. ACTIVITIES: Select different varieties of apples at an orchard or a store, examine apples firsthand, match different apple types to their names, look at paintings that include apples, create apple paintings, and look through seed and fruit catalogs that show various kinds of apples.

· Apples vary in size, shape, color, texture, smell, and taste. ACTIVITIES: Examine different kinds of apples, make a chart graphing apple differences, generate a list of words that describe apple characteristics, create apple books, sort apples, taste apples, weigh apples, and select favorite apples.

· People eat apples in many forms. ACTIVITIES: Examine different apple products (raw apple, applesauce, apple juice), make an apple product such as applesauce, create a lotto game using apple product pictures or labels, and create a grocery store in which children pretend to buy and sell apple products.

· Apples grow on trees. ACTIVITIES: Examine an apple tree, examine apple leaves, do a bark rubbing, trace or paint with apple leaves, read fiction and nonfiction books about how apples grow, create a make-believe orchard in which children pretend to pick apples, go on a field trip to pick apples, read a book about how apple trees appear during the different seasons, construct apple trees out of art materials, and make apple-tree puzzles.

· Apples are the fruit of the apple tree. ACTIVITIES: Examine seeds inside apples, examine dried apple blossoms, read a story about how the blossom becomes fruit, and predict how many seeds will be in the different varieties of apples.

Ms. Solomon could see that she had a wide array of firsthand activities to support children’s learning. Next, she assigned the activities to different domains, referring to the goals for each. For TFP 1 she developed the following list:

· Select different varieties of apples at an orchard or a store—affective (focus on the choosing process).

· Examine the apples firsthand—record the children’s observations—cognitive (focus on observation).

· Match the different apple types to their names—language (focus on language labels).

· Look at paintings that include different kinds of apples—aesthetic (focus on the color and design elements of the art).

· Create paintings that include different kinds of apples—aesthetic (focus on color and design elements while painting).

· Look through seed and fruit catalogs that show various kinds of apples—cognition (focus on the social–conventional knowledge related to the different varieties).

Ms. Solomon repeated this process for each TFP. She looked over the complete list to make sure she had included many exploratory-play, guided-discovery, and problem-solving activities as well as some demonstrations, discussions, and direct-instruction activities. Convinced that she had a good selection of activities, she began to commit her ideas to paper.

Making a Plan

Ms. Solomon created the weekly plan, presented in Figure 16.9 . She made sure she did not have too many activities that required a lot of adult supervision on any one day, and that both theme-related and non-theme-related activities were provided daily. Ms. Solomon gathered relevant materials and prepared the classroom. She asked families to contribute any materials they might have (such as favorite stories or songs) and invited a parent who was a fruit grower to visit the class. She sequenced thematic activities throughout the week, so that certain activities could lead up to or build on others. For instance, in the art area on Tuesday, Ms. Solomon hung three still-life paintings of apples by different artists in different styles for the children to enjoy. During the next few days, she drew the children’s attention to the paintings, especially their color and design. The following week, Ms. Solomon provided a bowl of apples of different varieties along with watercolors and poster paints for the children to make their own still-life arrangements and paintings. In this way, she used the Week 1 responsive art activity to lead to a productive art activity planned for Week 2.

FIGURE 16.9 Sample Weekly Plan: Apple Theme, Week 1, Introduction

Implementing the Theme

Ms. Solomon implemented the theme according to her written plan. However, on Tuesday when a child brought in two pieces of fruit that resembled apples but were actually Korean pears, she encouraged the children to compare the pears to apples, discussing their similarities and differences.

After 2 weeks, Ms. Solomon conducted a circle time in which she and the children talked about what they had learned, what they still wanted to learn, and how they might go about doing so. Several children were interested in finding out more about how apples from Oregon went to stores across the United States. Others were interested in finding out people’s favorite apple recipes. Some children wanted to know if people had apples everywhere in the world. Ms. Solomon and the children carried out investigative projects to answer these questions. These projects took several weeks and included a field trip to a produce distribution center and visits to the class by family members with recipes to share. The group created a time line that went along one whole wall of the classroom showing the various steps in the distribution process. The children also made a cookbook of classroom recipes with apples as an ingredient. Trying some of the recipes in class and documenting the process was also part of the project phase of this theme.

While the children were involved in learning about apples, Ms. Solomon communicated with families through individual notes home and a classroom newsletter. Family members were invited to provide favorite apple recipes for the class and to join the field trips to the orchard and the distribution center. As the thematic unit neared its conclusion, children, teachers, and family members gathered to see and hear what the children had learned. They examined the time line, marveled over the child-authored apple books, and sampled apple butter made by the class.

Ms. Solomon formally evaluated the theme by using the theme-teaching checklist and anecdotal records in some activity areas each day. She also kept a journal to remind herself of points she wanted to remember and reflect on:

September 20: The children enjoyed making apples to put on the trees in the pretend orchard. It was exciting to see them consult the catalogs to determine which variety to make. Having several different catalogs on hand was a good idea. Albert and Johan argued about whether two kinds of apples could grow on the same tree. We added this question to our chart on what we want to know more about. This point will be important to follow up on at the orchard.

October 6: We’re putting a lot of time into Phase 1 of the project portion of this theme. The children had several opportunities at circle time and throughout the week to share their knowledge and stories as well as what they continue to wonder about. It became clear today that learning how apples get from our orchard to stores throughout the country is of keen interest to several children. We’ll begin a topic web at circle time tomorrow to see how this plays out.

As the apple unit drew to a close, Ms. Solomon made a note to herself to periodically take the children out to observe the apple trees in the play yard throughout the late fall, winter, and spring. She believed that ongoing observation would promote their interest in the seasonal cycle of the apple trees and in how the trees provide shelter and food for various animals and insects.

The next theme undertaken in this class might be a spin-off from the apple theme, such as “trees,” “insects,” or “stores.” In this way, one theme could lead to another, which would provide conceptual links among several topics and a sense of intellectual coherence for children and teachers. Alternatively, the class’s interests may move in an entirely different direction. “Birds,” “pottery,” or “physical fitness” may be topics that intrigue them next. What prompts the development of each new theme will be unique for each group.

Now that a sample thematic unit has been described from start to finish, let us consider the most common questions teachers have about theme and project planning, implementation, and evaluation.

Common Questions About Themes and Projects

Can Any Topic Be Used for a Theme or Project?

Some topics are too narrow or too contrived to make good themes. Examples are weekly plans centered on letters of the alphabet, such as g. As children paint with green tempera at the easel, eat grapes for a snack, and growl like lions, the teacher may believe that youngsters are learning all about the letter g. In reality, the children may be focusing on the subject of their paintings rather than on the color, they may be thinking of grapes as fruit rather than a g word, and they may be more aware of the loudness or mock ferocity of their growling than the consonant sound they are making. Because g is not a concept and does not directly relate to children’s real-life experiences, it is not a worthy theme.

Teachers may assume they are theme teaching effectively when they simply relate several activities to a central prop, such as “pockets.” Children may sing about having a smile in their pocket, hear a story about pockets, eat “pocket bread” for a snack, and decorate paper pockets. Unfortunately, these activities do not challenge children to think, problem solve, expand their literacy skills, or develop their social and physical abilities. Although the activities may keep children busy and entertained, they fail to engage children’s minds and bodies in the excitement of real learning. This type of theme planning is trivial—it addresses neither content learning nor process learning, and does not fit the true definition of thematic teaching. Good theme planning will incorporate meaningful activities and materials that are of high interest to the children and provide real-life opportunities to explore and understand the theme. Any activity planned should be worthy of the children’s time and attention.

How Long Does a Typical Thematic Unit or Project Last?

The answer to this question is best based upon the needs and interests of the individual children in your group. Generally, the less experience children have with a concept, the more time they need to explore it. Some thematic units and projects may last only a week or two; others will last much longer. For instance, spending several days exploring “pumpkins” might cover the topic well. In contrast, 3 or 4 weeks devoted to “seeds” may barely scratch the surface of possible information or children’s curiosity about the topic. Moreover, one class could find 2 weeks devoted to the “kitchen” to be sufficient, whereas another group of children might be so intrigued by the kitchen and what goes on there that they will choose to carry out a variety of projects regarding this important place in their center or school. Exercise judgment in determining the most fitting approach for your class. Some in-depth projects may last several months.

Children need adequate time to truly delve into the topic in which they are interested (Kashin, 2011). Rushing children from topic to topic to meet a predetermined schedule of what theme will be addressed, by what means and when prevents children from learning deeply about the subject matter. In fact, some experts believe a curriculum that is too standardized fails to focus on children’s individual needs or strengths and can result in children falling behind ( Jones, 2012 ). Children need time to truly investigate a topic as well as the opportunity to revisit earlier work that relates to current interests. Some topics are better suited to short-term investigations, while others can capture and hold children’s interests for an extended period of time. Though teachers may have an idea of how long a theme or project will last, it is better to remain open to the children’s ideas and make adjustments to the timeline as necessary. Consider the following situation:

A group of first-graders was deeply engrossed in a theme on folktales when construction began on the empty lot next to their school. The construction stimulated much discussion among the children. What were they building? How are all the different types of heavy equipment used? What types of jobs did the different workers have and what were their responsibilities? Capitalizing on their excitement, the teacher substituted a theme on construction for the plant life unit she had originally planned.

In the preceding example, delaying attention to the construction or ignoring children’s hypotheses would have resulted in missed learning opportunities. The timeliness of the theme in relation to the children’s expressed interest made it relevant to these youngsters.

What Is the Difference Between Planning Themes for 3- and 4-Year-Olds and Planning Themes for 6- to 8-Year-Olds?

The process of planning and implementing themes is the same regardless of children’s ages. Selecting a topic, creating the TFPs, generating activity ideas, planning the unit, and carrying it out are steps required for every theme. However, themes vary—in terms of the TFPs selected and the concepts chosen for study—according to the children’s ages and their prior experience with the theme. To make age-appropriate and individually appropriate differentiations, divide the TFPs into two categories: simple and advanced.

Simple TFPs consist of terms or facts that can be observed or experienced by the children directly through their own activity (although they might not be able to put these terms or facts into words). Existing in the here and now rather than the future or past, simple TFPs do not require teacher explanations. Adult talk may reinforce children’s self-discoveries, but it is never a substitute for direct experience. Principles, because they often involve abstractions, are not identified as simple. For example, the theme “clothing” could be supported by the following simple terms and facts:

· Terms: Specialized names for certain articles of clothing are poncho, helmet, yarmulke, kimono, vest, kilt, turban, kaftan, and so on.

· Facts: Certain articles of clothing go on certain parts of the body.

· Clothes have different fasteners: buckles, buttons, snaps, zippers, ties, and Velcro.

· Clothing comes in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, patterns, and textures.

Children engaged in activities and routines in the classroom could incorporate all these terms and facts into their concept of clothing on the basis of actual experience.

Advanced TFPs are those that children often learn about through secondary sources such as pictures, models, or discussions. Advanced TFPs may refer to past or future events or events that occur outside the classroom and may require children to envision something mentally in order to comprehend them. That cows have four legs is a simple fact because it is readily observable both in real cows and in toy cows in the classroom. The fact that cows have multiple stomachs is advanced because it must be represented by a picture, diagram, or discussion and requires children to envision the internal workings of a cow without experiencing them directly. Advanced TFPs consist of more elaborate or abstract vocabulary and more complicated facts and principles. Children generally need more opportunities and time to grasp advanced TFPs than is usually required for simple TFPs. Advanced TFPs related to the theme “clothing” include:

· Terms: When two pieces of fabric are sewn together, the joining point is called a seam. Natural fibers are made from animals or plants. Synthetic fibers are made from chemicals.

· Facts: People make leather from the skins of various animals. People created synthetic fibers for many reasons: strength, durability, ease of care, and so on.

· Principle: When choosing clothing they like, people may be influenced by advertising or others’ opinions.

This designation of simple and advanced TFPs will help you to identify which category of TFPs to emphasize when you are working with a particular group of children. Simple TFPs should be used with 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds and older children who have little experience with the theme. Advanced TFPs are more appropriate for kindergartners who know the theme well and for children in the early primary grades. This differentiation allows you to choose a subset of TFPs that best corresponds to the needs of your class. Depending on the concept to be addressed, the subset may be composed of TFPs representing either or both levels of difficulty.

The criteria that differentiate simple TFPs from advanced TFPs may also be applied to concepts overall. Concepts that deal with the here and now that youngsters can explore through numerous hands-on experiences are most suitable for young children. Examples are clothing, water, plants, textures, books, and people at school. Children can explore all these topics in the immediate environment of their classroom, play yard, or neighborhood. These topics do not rely on a one-time field trip or visitor as the children’s only real experience with the concept. Concepts dependent on these latter forms of experience are more abstract and would be considered advanced. Examples are the circus (this theme depends on children remembering or envisioning a circus experience), communication (this theme depends on children manipulating actions rather than tangible objects), and the eye (this theme depends on representations such as models and diagrams to illustrate how the eye functions). Advanced concepts are better used with children toward the latter phases of the early childhood period and beyond.

How Do I Use Themes and Projects with So Much Required Content to Cover?

Theme teaching and project work should not be viewed as add-ons to an already-bursting curriculum. Instead, themes and projects are strategies for breaking away from rigid compartmentalization of subject matter and the traditional use of designated time blocks.

Rather than focusing on teaching children a little about many topics, thematic teaching allows children to investigate topics thoroughly in an integrated manner. One way to ensure you cover required content is to map the purpose of the project onto the curricular standards of your program. Project work has been shown to be a successful method of meeting standards ( Benson & Miller, 2008 ; Mardell, Rivard, & Krechevsky, 2012 ).

Thematic teaching can provide a range of opportunities for children to acquire content and demonstrate learning. Teachers can provide evidence of integrating required content and specified educational standards into theme activities and projects. Helm and Katz (2011) suggest incorporating required content and standards into the planning process by identifying what content and standards will be addressed by specific activities. Required content is presented in a meaningful way to children when various content is integrated into a cohesive theme. Because an integrated curriculum such as theme teaching can address multiple standards at one time, teachers may find it much more feasible and enjoyable than trying to address separate standards individually.

Is It Acceptable to Repeat Themes?

Sometimes teachers and family members worry about children’s revisiting certain themes as they move from the 3-year-old room to the 4-year-old class or from kindergarten to first grade. Thinking children may get bored or will not learn anything new, they need to remember that children learn through repetition. Each time children participate in a given theme, they glean new insights and skills from the experience. In addition, the projects and activities that evolve out of a theme will vary from one year to the next as children build on what they know to investigate new aspects of the topic. Consequently, repeating some themes from one year to the next is an effective instructional strategy.

On the other hand, some teachers may use the same themes over and over each year without regard to the individual children in their class. True thematic teaching is rooted in children’s interests and focuses on the abilities of the children in the group. By basing the theme around questions a particular group of children are trying to answer and adapting activities to meet the individual needs of children, the theme will necessarily vary somewhat each time it is explored. The same topic can also be investigated by drawing children’s attention to different facets of the topic and introducing content in new ways. In contrast, simply rehashing the exact same material year after year without thought to the particular children in the group may not provide enough stimulation to hold children’s interest or enhance their concept development. Multiyear themes can be used to help children move from focusing on simple TFPs to more advanced TFPs. Creating a programwide plan that incorporates this developmental progression from simple to complex and from concrete to more abstract supports children’s interest in the theme. It also gives each teacher a chance to offer children opportunities for new insights. The more often teachers within the same program talk to and collaborate with one another regarding theme planning, the more likely it is that they will complement rather than duplicate one another’s efforts.

How Can I Document Children’s Participation in Themes and Projects?

When teachers collect, analyze, and interpret evidence of children’s participation in a project or unit and display evidence of children’s learning, it is considered documentation ( Helm & Katz, 2011 ). Before choosing how to document, review the goals and objectives for the activities planned within the theme or project. Once these goals and objectives have been identified, choose the best method to document children’s achievement. Choose a variety of artifacts to support the documentation, including samples of children’s work, photographs, and transcriptions of conversations. Consider including plans for documentation within your lesson plans right from the start ( Helm, Beneke, & Steinhamer, 2007 ). To help you determine the artifacts needed for an effective documentation display, plan specific times to observe children and choose methods that are best able to capture evidence of children’s knowledge and skills. For example, recording direct quotes of children’s questions, comments, and theories about a topic at the beginning and the end of a project can provide convincing evidence of children’s learning over time. Including photographs and children’s work samples that illustrate the story of a project can enhance the documentation and help to make the children’s learning visible to others. Make sure that evidence of children’s growth and learning in each developmental domain is documented. Set aside time each day to summarize and reflect on the artifacts you have gathered. This will help you better understand children’s thinking and facilitate the next steps for the theme or project. Documentation will also seem more manageable if done regularly versus waiting until the end of the unit or project.

Consider who will be viewing your documentation so you can tailor the display to fit the audience.

Consider who will be viewing the documentation and tailor the display to the audience ( Helm et al., 2007 ). Is the documentation for school administrators, parents, children, or persons outside the program? Adapt the documentation to the unique needs of each of these audiences. Documentation should include evidence of children’s discussing, deciding, predicting, experimenting, and explaining their work and ideas ( Katz et al., 2014 ). Effective displays encourage the viewer to study the documentation instead of just glancing at it ( Helm et al., 2007 ). Although artifacts may be selected to demonstrate an individual child’s learning, when the various pieces are viewed as a whole, it should tell the story of the project. Use a variety of spaces to document children’s learning through themes and projects. These spaces may include bulletin boards, shelves, classroom and hallway walls, and tabletops. Collecting and organizing documentation takes commitment and practice on your part. Although time-consuming, documentation provides a rich context through which child learning and development can be showcased.

How Do I Know that Children Are Developing More Sophisticated, Complex Concepts?

Children show us what they understand in many ways. They reveal their conceptual understandings through play, conversations with peers and adults, questions, errors, methods of investigating objects and events, products, and representations. To find out what children know, observe and talk with them about the concept. Encourage children to describe what they have learned and what they still wonder about. Give children opportunities to talk and interact with their peers, and provide open-ended activities through which they can explore the concept in their own way. Encourage them to represent what they have learned through drawings, charts, writings, dictation, and so forth. Create displays of these items so that children can refer to them as the unit progresses. Make these documentation displays available to family members in an end-of-unit celebration or get-together. Make notes about what you see and hear, using a variety of assessment techniques.

Get a 10 % discount on an order above $ 50
Use the following coupon code :