In the following report, I am going to briefly discuss the term ‘curriculum’ in relation to Te Whāriki and the NZ Curriculum framework. Furthermore, the content knowledge and some of the strategies a teacher can use to promote the learning of young children in the learning areas of Language, Literacy, and the Arts using the above curriculum frameworks as an underlying concept will also be discussed.
All the experiences, activities and happenings (including decisions) that takes place in a learning environment impacting the learning of ‘community of learners’ directly and indirectly can be described as (day-to-day) curriculum (Ministry of Education [MOE], 2017). This day-to-day curriculum is planned and guided by set of principles, strands and goals that are weaved together and is collectively called a curriculum framework, e.g, Te Whāriki and NZ Curriculum. Beliefs, values and attitudes of teachers, children, parents/whānau and of others involved in learning process plays a significant role in shaping curriculum, so teachers need to be reflective, adaptable to accommodate everyone’s contribution and hence will produce a flexible curriculum, acknowledging the cultural identity and home knowledge of learners (Lim & Genishi, 2010). An example of flexible curriculum is ‘Emergent Curriculum’ where teachers observe children’s interest, consider sociocultural context of learning community (people, places, things including peers, whānau) to plan curriculum accordingly (Gordon & Browne, 2014). Such curriculum empowers children as ‘competent and confident learners (MOE, 2017) and connects their learning with their wider lives by acknowledging community engagement in the curriculum (Ministry of Education [MOE], 2007). Children’s and whānau interests are the deciding factors of what shape a curriculum will take and how.
Language & literacy is defined as a system of symbols used to communicate experiences, ideas, knowledge with others (MOE, 2007). Every child has an innate urge to learn language(Chomsky,2000) which stimulates through sociocultural interactions (Vygotsky,1987), so teachers should provide children language rich environment which provide children many opportunities to engage themselves in ‘responsive and reciprocal’ interactions with their peers, teachers and environment (MOE, 2017).
Language/Literacy is all about making meaning (Listening, reading, and viewing) and creating meaning (Speaking, Writing, and Presenting) (MOE,2007). Children interact with their environment through oral (speaking), audio (listening) and visual language before they move forward to communicate through other mediums such as reading, writing i.e. literacy. Literacy helps children in other learning areas of curriculum (e.g, talking (oral/visual literacy) about different lines/patterns in a child painting helps teacher build on mathematics concepts along with adding to child’s vocabulary. Education Review Office (2017) accentuates on Oral language “as a precursor and extension of wider learning” (p.7), therefore, it is important for children to have access to various literacy practices throughout the day which allows them to play with literacy, code/decode texts, use it meaningfully in various contexts and critiquing it (Ministry of Education, 2009c) in order to “participate fully in the social, cultural, political and economic life of NZ” (MoE, 2007, p.18). Teachers need to be ‘active listeners’ (MacNaughton & Williams, 2009) throughout the day to respond to spontaneous and planned literacy practices. E.g, teacher can build on children language baking in a sand-pit using related vocabulary - baking powder, vinegar, flour, oven, fry pan etc.
Play number of games e.g. alliteration book or mystery bag to make children familiar with phonemic awareness which is important for writing and reading (Connor & Topfer, 2015). Te Whāriki states children should experience the stories of their own culture and of others (MOE, 2017), so storytelling should be encouraged. Storytelling is a group activity where children listens to the story, interprets meaning, understands emotions and context of the story further making connections to their experiences and hence developing holistically. Cultural and familiar plots need to be used to help children understand how stories can be interpreted in different languages (Gayleg, 2017) which will further help children develop advanced language skills such as comparing and contrasting different languages and cultures (MOE, 2007). Use of language/symbols as semiotic tool (Vygotsky, 1962) is important to initiate and mediate social interactions and to help children develop mental thinking skills particularly for bilingual children (Guo & Mackenzie, 2015). Teachers should emphasize on non-verbal gestures E.g, using New Zealand sign language or wave at child when saying bye will help child understand that bye can be said through verbal and non-verbal gestures. Open-ended questioning can be used to maintain a sustained conversation along with using sophisticated vocabulary and complex structures with young children (Collins, 2012). E.g, throw open ended questions around various ways of cooking to children cooking/baking in sandpit. Follow children’s interest to help develop literacy. E.g, if children interested in bugs/insects, a teacher can introduce ‘Casey Caterpillar’ to help children develop in writing. Meaningful literacy experiences in various contexts (Cigman, 2014) need to be encouraged to help children understand that meaning can be conveyed through many media. A teacher should recognize these meaningful interactions through spontaneous play (MoE, 2017). E.g, children interested in dramatic play of ice-cream shop selling ice-cream, a teacher can promote literacy by carefully planting literacy materials (Cigman, 2014) in that context such as pencil, papers to take orders, make menu, make open/close sign for a shop or create their own money (helping children become aware of other learning areas such as mathematics). Learning stories/portfolios is an important artifact which teachers can use as a literacy ‘developmental tool’ as children can self-assess and evaluate their own literacy learning (Craw, 2015). E.g, assessing their literacy journey from being able to spot their name to trace their name using loose parts to actually writing name with writing tools. Children learn and develop best when they can make connections across the home and centre experiences (MOE, 2017), so teachers can send home the same books to read they have read at centre to engage whānau in literacy journey. Children name identity can be a beneficial resource for teachers to begin literacy journey as children are always curious to learn about their name. E.g, developing name plates for children to trace or write on.
Art is one of many ‘literacy modes’ (Craw, 2015) that today’s 21st century generation use to communicate and express themselves and hence, is an important skill to develop for our future generation. Art stimulates children senses, encourage them to think, use imagination, express themselves and learn different perspectives as they work independently and collaboratively to make meaning of the world around them (MOE, 2007). The above idea is further supported by neuroscience research who claims that Art helps in children development holistically through forming and strengthening neural pathways as they engage in natural art activities (Sousa, 2006). Furthermore, art encourages children to appreciate their own and others culture (MOE, 2017) enabling them to feel belonged with the land and culture they live in. Art is generally divided into Visual art and Performing art (music, drama, dance).
The very first approach young children adopt to explore their visual environment is through visual art by looking followed by smelling, touching. So, an ECE children teacher should build on child’s very first communication skill. Language/literacy can also be promoted through visual art as Coleman (n.d.) states “reading as the product of sustained observation and attention to detail”. The above skills can be developed through visual art. E.g, observational painting of a pine cone will help children develop the above skills as they notice fine details (line, form, color, texture, form). Teachers should encourage visual art not only inside the classroom but also in our everyday life (Plows, 2017), e.g, visit art galleries, or find different patterns on clothes, walls or different textures of trees, branches etc.
Children should experience a wide variety of art materials such as clay, paint brushes, rollers etc (MOE,2017) to experiment with materials, to discover different elements, purposes and visual ideas (MOE, 2007), so various art materials should be made available at all times. E.g, providing various painting materials such as paint brushes, pipettes, sponges, bubble wrap will help children develop their skills around how to use each one. In MacNaughton & Williams (2009) view, teachers should use descriptive language with children engaging in visual art. E.g, children using clay, teacher can talk about different consistencies clay undergoes (hard, soft, pliable) and the impact of these consistencies on their clay product. Teachers should ask productive questions “to take a student forward in his/her thinking” (Martens, 1999,p.25) as cited in Isbell & Yoshizawa (2016). Teachers should incorporate visual art and processes meaningfully in day-to-day curriculum. E.g, incorporating ‘paper mache’ to create beautiful visual art structures along with contributing in sustainability.
Children engage in performing arts naturally on a daily basis - clapping, making sounds with hands/mouth, walking in a rhythmic way, stretching hands/legs, it’s all about performing. It also plays an important role in strengthening children’s cultural identity as they engage in music, dance, drama of different cultures (MOE,2017). It’s divided in 3 elements:
Children encounter music everyday e.g. sounds from nature, acoustic or digital environment. Children enjoy, interpret and play with these sounds and make music independently or collaboratively through singing, listening songs, playing instruments. Through music engagements, they explore different elements of music - tone, pitch, rhythm, dynamics (MOE, 2007), which helps them to make and play with music.
Throughout the day, children engage themselves in dance or movements such as clapping their hands, stomping their feet, doing silly moves or dancing to a song. As Connell & McCarthy (2014) states that dance/movement helps children’s vestibular system to mature which further controls balance, posture and other cognitive skills - stay focused, problem solving. All these are pr-requisite for reading/writing (literacy skills). Furthermore, through dance, children observe and imitate each others moves (social skills). Movement also helps them to self-regulate in response to a stimuli (MOE, 2007) e.g, doing yoga or meditation at time of stress (physical & emotional well-being). Therefore, dance activities encourages holistic development of children.
Children role play different people based on their real experiences or imaginations, connecting various learning spaces together -home, centre or community. This role-playing boosts up their development (Vygotsky, 1978) as they understand different perspectives and experience how it feels like to be in place of mummy, daddy, baby, teacher etc. Drama helps children developing literacy skills as they effectively conveys their message and emotions through body movements, language, space along with developing social and cognitive skills as they negotiate their ideas, become aware of how different elements of drama (role, action, tension) and work together to convey meaning (MOE, 2007).
Teaching strategies: Sansom (2009) view, teachers should adopt “listening pedagogy” to observe, listen to spontaneous dance moments, flexible enough to adapt and respond promptly to build on children’s dance repertoire. Co-player and teacher-in-role are strategies teachers can adopt to build on children’s performing art through asking open-ended questions or enacting one of the play character. During this, they should be mindful of their interactions and not to disturb the originality of art along with re-imaging and adding elements that are new to them (Dunn & Stinson, 2012). E.g, in an ice-cream shop, teacher can introduce monetary, or menu elements by becoming a paying customer asking for food options. Teachers should encourage rhythmic movements throughout the day, encouraging children to match their body movements to the beat or through games require body percussion (Williams, 2016) such as dancing with hula hoops, gunny bags or keeping balloons in the air while dancing to the music. Teacher should also engage family and Community to share cultural dances & songs to strengthen children’s ‘sense of belonging’ with the centre environment (MOE,2017).
In this report, we talked about how young children make and interpret meaning in different ways using ‘hundreds of languages’ (Loris Malaguzzi) so teachers should be reflective, adaptable, aware of relevant curriculum and pedagogical knowledge and able to weave all learning areas together to support children’s multi- literacies in rhizomatic way.
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