An exert from The 100 Languages
 - Loris Malaguzzi
" The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there."

Hello! Welcome to my blog, my name is Lydia. I should first introduce myself as a mother of three (as this is the most important role I play), a wife, an educarer (combining both an educator and caregiver since I work in the field of birth to five), an administrator, and a student. I am no stranger to the immense work load a working mom, student, and career woman have but I enjoy challenging myself and educating myself on things I love like the passion I feel for quality education and care. I have been in the field of early education for 8 years and throughout my career, I have faced many challenges that test my philosophy of early education. "These tests" help me to reflect on what I do as an educarer, why I do it and who it affects. Working with infants/toddlers, and preschool aged children, I am being challenged frequently on the capability of the young children. Many times I defend children's capabilities and their investment in research and problem solving abilities Child care is unfortunately portrayed as a place of play with no learning happening. According to some, elementary school is where teachers teach and students learn. One of the main reasons people feel this way is due to this misconception that during preschool (and younger years), all they do is play with no real emphasis on academics or learning. Learning is misconceptualized as a top down approach where teachers share their knowledge and feed children education, very much a top down leadership; I as the teacher tell you what to do, how and why and the student then learns the material by hearing about the material once. Fortunately research has come a long way in, highlighting the importance of play in a young child's development and foundation to their learning. Not only is play a foundation but when incorporated correctly, the child is able to create their own learning through the experiences and reflection offered in their play. 

I will take this time to briefly explain my understanding of two common curriculums used in a preschool or infant/toddler setting. The first is a thematic approach. The concept theme is defined as "a subject or topic of discoursewhich can be translated to teachers in many ways. Themes carried out in the classroom are typically teacher directed, meaning subjects that teachers feel are important in studying in the classroom. Most themes follow a yearly pattern starting at the beginning of the year, studying friends/relationships/oneself and moving to the direction of seasons and holidays. Other topics may be discussed but as I said, many themes used are related to  the norms of society.Themes tend to last for a week depending on the subject. When researching what type of activities teachers put out when engaging in a thematic approach, I found that many use kits that can either be purchased on-line or  provided direct instructions on how to create activities oneself. An example of such a website is provided. Kits used can often contain activities that highlight specific content area goals such as matching colors, working with patterns, or identifying numbers or letters. Children can typically be found sitting at desks to work on these activities which usually take on  the form of worksheets, dittos, or brighlty colored cut-outs. This is not to say that all curriculum following a thematic approach uses worksheets, dittos, or brightly colored cut-outs, but the many websites I explored suggested the use of these items to zoom in on children's learning on the designated goals set out for them. Themes consistently rotate as I pointed out before and the interesting thing about themes is when used, all areas in the classroom surround this one theme. For example, if the theme for the week is Spring, the room tends to be transformed into a Spring season. Teachers decorate the classroom with Spring apparrel: cut outs of flowers are placed on the bulletin board, dittos or color by number pictures of flowers, baby lambs, or baby chicks are set out and flower feet surround the windows. All of these activities have nothing to do with the weather changing or the Earth's position relative to the sun which really defines what makes spring spring. Instead, teachers tend to set out "cute", baby animal pictures or pastel colors when working with arts and crafts ideas to capture the idea of spring. Children are left with no room to be investigative as thematic teaching tells children what they need to know. Themes are successful in many schools as they provide teachers with a day to day, week to week, and sometimes month to month lesson plan that teachers can tweek from year to year but have a good expectation and layout of how the year will go and what goals they are looking for. But are the children benefitting from this type of curriculum? Are children able to experience deep thinking, inquiry, or initiation skills?

The other type of curriculum I see more and more is emergent curriculum. Like the thematic approach there are many interpretations as to what it means to be emergent so I have used many of the defintions to create my own understanding. Emergent curriculum is based on the interests of children gained by observations, dialogue and ancedotal notes that capture children's curiosity. When curriculum highlights an interest of children, they become more invested in the activities making the meaning of what they learn more concrete and meaningful. I can compare this to us as adults who tend to be more engaged when classes are directly related to our major or field of study  rather than a general class that is taken to meet requirements. An emergent curriculum is not set in stone rather a fluid exchange of what children are curious in which then leads teachers to develop a curriculum that investigate children's questions further. An educators job in this style of teaching is designing the curriculum around open ended experiences to enhance the child's knowledge while tying in goals and standards. Emergent curriculum is not developed weeks in advance, rather it is a topic that comes about in a natrual way lasting anywhere from one week to months, again depending on the interests of the children. It may start with a child's question, an observation of a child working with a particular material for several days, or a happening that has affected a child's life in a positive or negative way. Regardless, emergent curriculum starts with the child at the center of the curriculum and branches out to encompass standards and goals. 

According to research developed in the past few years, children learn best through hands on, open ended experiences that are of interest to them. I have worked with both types of curriculum and I find that emergent curriculum is more flexible and professionaly stimulating. This means that I do not prepare my curriculum weeks in advance aiding in my accountabililty to the interests of the children.  I really have to pay attention to what children are playing with, how they are playing with the materials, and what they want to know more about. I myself become a researcher, aiding in the development of my professional skills. This spur of the moment type planning may not be enticing to all as some teachers are very organized and like to plan, but it also develops your flexibility and creativeness as a teacher. I do not want to create an impression tht this style of teaching cannot be accomplished if you are a planner. If children have an interest in the work of ambulance drivers then I know I can plan for a visit from the EMS, a visit to the hospital, a letter to an EMS driver and dramatic play gear that represent EMS drivers. A week can be planned ahead of time keeping in mind that the curriculum is a working document that can be changed and adjusted. With this being said, I leave open activities on purpose to encompass questions that may arise when we discuss at large group time the jobs and EMS driver would have to be involved in.  The
video I have attached is a great way to explore how teachers utilize emergent curriculum and the importance for children's development.
One thing to keep in mind when I disucss emergent curriculum; the curriculum can study more than one interest at a time which can develop into projects. A project is a topic that is being broken apart into easily investigated parts. So for example if a few children were interested in insects the teacher might bring in a few insects she found at her home, they may go on an insect hunt around the school, bring them into their classroom and look through magnifying glasses to explore them further. Questions may be generated about what kind of insect it is, which then easily transitions into the differences between insects which then may naturally transition into the body parts of an insect. The difference between emergent curriculum and theme based curriculum is that if the children are not interested in the body parts but the food they eat, then an emergent curriculum would follow the topics the children want to explore. The theme based might briefly touch on the foods but would quickly jump back on track to the activities based around the insect body parts. I alway want to clarify that the emergent curriculum in no way states that because one child may be interested in insects, the whole classroom will have to learn about insects. Rather small groups may be formed based on similar interests. Eventually the whole classroom may become interested in insects but it is not forced upon every child. Instead, activities may be presented throughout the classroom in different areas of the room so that children can or don't have to engage with it. Several interests can go on at one time, creating a varied curriculum that provides depth to learning. To describe further, a copy of a curriculum I once used is available below.
There are pros and cons to both types of curriculum and I am in no way telling teachers which curriculum they must use but according to how we know children ages birth to five years of age learn best, I have to ask myself if using a teacher inspired curriculum is really the best approach to children's development. We have to think about our end goals, and if our end goals are to have children reproduce what we as teachers tell them then we can continue utilizing the thematic approach. If we want our end goals to be children who are competent in their abilities to be creators of their own learning, investigate, dissect materials, use inquiry based questions and logic then we may think of using a curriculum that emerges from the thoughts of children and situations that directly affect them. Their questions and wonders should guide the learning, teaching them how to be reflective and analytical.

Thanks for reading my thoughts regarding theme based curriculum and emergent curriculum.

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    Lydia Saldivar -Grad student at Michigan State University 


    April 2013