Expert Answer:Advocating For Child-centered Curriculum And Play

  

Solved by verified expert:For your Application Assignment this week, review the Geist and Baum (2005) article located in your Learning Resources. Imagine for a moment that the issues reflected in the article are similar to many that exist within your own community, where letters to the editor advocating for increased academic programming and decreased play opportunities for young children regularly appear in the paper .For this Application Assignment:Write a letter to the editor designed to educate members of your community about the critical role of child-centered curriculum and play in children’s development and learning. Cite specific references and give examples that illustrate your thinking.Make sure that your letter also responds to those who endorse increased academics and decreased opportunities for play not only for children as young as preschool but also those children of primary ages.Assignment length: approximately 1-2 pages
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YEAH, BUT’s That Keep Teachers from
Embracing an Active Curriculum: Overcoming
the Resistance
Geist, Eugene; Baum, Angela C . YC Young Children ; Washington Vol. 60, Iss. 4, (Jul 2005): 28-34,36.
ProQuest document link
ABSTRACT
Geist and Baum describe some of the barriers to implementing developmentally appropriate practice that teachers
of young children have shared with them. They suggest practical approaches to overcoming the challenges and
doing what is best for children.
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Early childhood educators know that curricula for young children should be based on what is known from research
about child development and how young children learn (Bredekamp &Copple 1997). This approach, called
developmentally appropriate practice, offers children engaging classroom experiences that are relevant to their
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lives and based on clear objectives or standards.
Several terms are commonly associated with developmentally appropriate practice, including hands-on activities,
in-depth exploration, cooperative learning, individualized instruction, and project-based curriculum. Regardless of
the chosen strategies, a developmentally appropriate curriculum for young children is child centered, embraces
children’s individual differences, encourages active learning, and promotes deep understanding.
When you walk into this type of classroom, the first thing you notice is the activity of the children. Perhaps they are
working on a project such as learning about the grocery store. Children are talking with each other and discussing
and making decisions about their learning. Some may be planning a class trip to a grocery store, while others are
building a check-out stand for the store they plan to develop in the classroom. Other children may be researching
products and pricing for the classroom store.
The teacher facilitates this active and interactive learning-assisting each of the groups, questioning the children,
and guiding their ideas to help them come to fruition. Another of the teacher’s roles in this classroom is to set up
an environment where children can learn. This shift away from a teaching-centered philosophy toward a learningcentered philosophy is a good way to incorporate the ideals of developmentally appropriate practice into all early
childhood classrooms.
Challenges teachers face
Many teachers strive to implement developmentally appropriate practices in their classrooms because these
strategies support children’s learning. Sometimes teachers find it difficult, however, to incorporate teaching
methods that allow children to actively engage in investigations (Helm &Katz 2001), construct knowledge and
make it meaningful (Kamii &Ewing 1996), and participate in experiences that are interactive, mentally challenging,
child centered, and constructive for children (Bredekamp &Copple 1997). These goals often seem unattainable
today in the face of new demands, requirements, and realities of teaching young children, particularly in the
primary grades. There is also much concern about and research on the impact of the age of accountability on the
role of teachers and how their choices and flexibility are diminishing because of the influence of testing and No
Child Left Behind (McDaniel et al. 2005). Many teachers of young children feel new pressures associated with
standardized testing and a need to make their teaching time cover the breadth of information that children need to
know for these tests. To ensure uniformity of the educational experience, some schools or school districts are
adopting a standard curriculum, with the hopes that teachers will help children gain the knowledge necessary to
achieve satisfactory test scores. This teaching-to-the-test phenomenon, combined with other challenges inherent
in early childhood classrooms, often makes it difficult for teachers to implement even some of the essential
components of developmentally appropriate practice.
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Strengthening teachers’ commitment
This article offers suggestions to help teachers overcome some of today’s teaching challenges. Stumbling blocks
often identified by teachers are characterized here in a series of “Yeah, but’s.” We chose this phrase based on our
many conversations with teachers about best practices in teaching young children, during which teachers
responded with answers such as “Yeah, but I don’t have enough time in my day to implement these strategies” and
“Yeah, but proficiency tests are coming up, and I have to make sure the students will perform well.” While most
early childhood educators strive to implement appropriate teaching methods, balancing the challenges of daily
work with young children and their families can create frustrations that turn into resistance-the “Yeah, but’s.”
Can we as teachers overcome our own resistance and help others invested in the education of young childrenadministrators, policy makers, colleagues, and families-to do so also? The feat is halfway achieved, because early
childhood educators already recognize what’s best for young children, and organizations like NAEYC have
advocated and documented the benefits of developmentally appropriate education for many years. Now, to
support teachers and bolster their continuing efforts to foster developmentally appropriate curricula, we address
eight of the most frequently expressed challenges.
YEAH I think a developmentally appropriate curriculum is best,
BUT the teacher in the next grade is not going to teach that way, and I don’t want to confuse the children.
Positive classroom experience can never be a negative. As teachers, we deal with this concern constantly. We may
work to provide relevant and meaningful experiences for children, only to see the child placed in a less
developmentally appropriate classroom the next year. While this is disappointing, disheartening, and sometimes
angering, we don’t want to use this as an excuse for not doing what we know is best for the children.
Children are not confused by different teaching styles. The high-quality, positive experience that you give a child in
your classroom has a lasting effect. Children learn from their experiences in a developmentally appropriate
classroom and use them as a foundation for experiences in their later schooling and throughout life. As children
adapt to other teachers’ methods and styles, they carry with them the learning gained through positive, active, and
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fulfilling educational experience.
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There are, however, some important things early childhood educators can do. We can encourage our colleagues to
initiate changes in their practice/ approach. By becoming advocates for high-quality instruction, we can offer a
model to other teachers and help them introduce more appropriate practices. By being able to address our
colleagues’ “Yeah, but…” comments, we are helping to improve educational settings for children in the future. Our
role is to envision not only what we want to happen in our own classroom but also what can happen throughout
children’s early childhood experience.
Thinking creatively about our concepts of schooling and grade levels is another way to introduce change. Perhaps
your school could initiate a multiage or looping program through which teachers and children share two
consecutive years. Multiage programs have a proven record of benefit in promoting positive educational
experiences for children (Rathbone 1993; Society for Developmental Education 1993; Chase &Doan 1994, 1996;
Bacharach, Hasslen, &Anderson 1995; Grant, Richardson, &Fredenburg 1996; Kasten &Lolli 1998; George
&Lounsbury 2000). Not only does a teacher stay with the children through multiple years, but also the groups of
children remain together for a longer period. In a multiage group a broad ability range is common, allowing for both
peer-to-peer teaching and older or more advanced students helping those who are younger or less advanced.
Developing the idea of family groups within a school is a way to bring together kindergarten through thirdgrade
teachers who all have similar philosophies about early childhood education. Children in kindergarten proceed
through the first, second, and third grades within their family group. The children remain together for four years,
and the teachers collaborate in developing a cohesive program spread across these early, vital years of formal
schooling. In family groups, teachers may implement collaborative projects between the classrooms. For example,
if the project topic is insects, the family group’s teachers work together to develop the topic but create agespecific
activities. Interaction across age groups results in invaluable curriculum additions and makes multiage grouping
definitely qualify as best practice.
YEAH I would like to teach this way,
BUT my school district requires that I teach using a prepared curriculum.
Make your voice heard! Many teachers are required to use a prepared curriculum consisting primarily of direct
instruction, with few other appropriate components. A school directs teachers to use the curriculum usually
because it either needs or wants to improve standardized test scores. Families, administrators, school board
members, and others need to hear from teachers and advocates for children in order to know how and why
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programs that are standardized rather than tailored to meet children’s individual needs are detrimental to
children’s future academic success (Kelly 1999). A list of resources at the end of this article provides help in
educating others about this important issue CMeyer 2005).
If teachers value active learning, as supported by NAEYC and other educational organizations, like National Council
of Teachers of Mathematics, National Science Teachers Association, National Council of Social Studies, and
International Reading Association, they know the importance of getting the message to others whose voices are
central to the decision making about assessment in early childhood programs. Parents’ voices count; they elect
school boards and state representatives. Through this process of education and the efforts of many, our concerns
as teachers will be heard.
Becoming active in your NAEYC Affiliate is a way to develop advocacy skills. By participating with educators
statewide and across the country, you add to your effectiveness in influencing those who make decisions about
curricula in the schools. In the United States we value our system of local control of schools that ensures
responsiveness to local and regional needs. We can provide local input and have an effect.
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YEAH adding depth to the curriculum is great,
BUT I have to get through the entire math book by the end of the year.
Textbooks are not the sole basis for learning any subject at any age but are tools designed to support learning. In
the United States, textbooks are developed to be broad scope, which ensures their potential adoption in as many
states or school districts as possible. Each state and school district develops its own standards, benchmarks, and
requirements, and many textbooks may contain material that is not part of a district’s plan of study. Textbook
companies assume that teachers and administrators will choose to use only the applicable sections of the book.
When school officials treat a textbook as the final word on curriculum development, teachers often feel they must
cover all topics from the front of the book to the back. Unfortunately, this leads to a broad curriculum without
much depth. A lot of topics get covered, but quickly and shallowly (OERl 1996). Children lack the time to gain any
deep understandings.
The textbook does not dictate what should be taught in the classroom. Standards and benchmarks that most
states develop clearly identify what is expected of students at the end of each grade, including preschool.
Teachers use these standards to develop a plan of study for each age group and then design curricula to meet the
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goals. Standards do not dictate how goals must be met, but give teachers and schools the freedom to create the
curriculum and implement it.
As the developers of curriculum in their classrooms, teachers are the persons most familiar with children’s
abilities, needs, and interests. They can best create an appropriate course of study that promotes children’s active
learning and development. A textbook cannot do any of these things; it assumes all children are at the same level
at the same time. Following such an assumption, students who are not at the level of the textbook will fall behind,
and many who are ahead will become bored or restless (Fosnot 1989).
As noted above, a textbook is a tool and not the curriculum itself. When a teacher uses it to introduce or explain
basic knowledge, the lesson is just the beginning of children’s in-depth investigation, experimentation, and
construction of knowledge.
YEAH a strategy such as project work seems great,
BUT facilitating it takes too much time and I don’t have time left to teach all the subjects necessary for children in
my class to perform well on proficiency tests.
Projects are just one aspect of an appropriate curriculum, but they can be a great incubator for ideas and skills
that relate directly to information included on many proficiency tests. Projects and other in-depth investigations
allow children to fully explore topics and use skills in math, science, reading, writing, and other curricular areas in
integrated and authentic ways. Such child-initiated explorations provide children opportunities to pursue their own
interests in a self-directed activity. The benefits of child-initiated activities are well documented. Given the
opportunity to thoroughly investigate topics of personal interest, most children grow academically and
socially/emotionally (Helm &Katz 2001).
To advocate for project work in the early childhood classroom is not to say that this is the only type of activity that
should occur. But projects are compatible with other curricular approaches, can complement or expand and
support other classroom activities, and can be effective in helping children make progress toward the curricular
goals and objectives outlined by states and local school boards and assessed in proficiency tests. Children who
experience an active curriculum perform as well if not better on such tests as children taught using a “cookbook”
curriculum (Heiney 1998; Lai et al. 1998; Cain 2002; Worsley, Beneke, &Helm 2003).
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The project approach lends itself to integrating content goals and assessment into classroom activities (Helm
&Katz 2001). Additionally, projects let teachers introduce several curricular areas in an integrated way. In a project
approach the curriculum is child centered, a central tenet of developmentally appropriate practice, rather than
subject centered.
YEAH I think these approaches sound good,
BUT I am afraid my students’ families will be concerned that I am not doing my job, which is to “teach” their
children.
The best way to address parents’ concerns is through ongoing communication. The more often teachers
communicate with families about what children are doing and learning in their classroom, the more likely a family
is to understand the value of a developmentally appropriate approach. As teachers, our work with families is just
as important as our work with children. Most parents want what is best for their child, and the majority of their
questions and concerns can be addressed by providing information, inviting their involvement, and helping to
empower them.
Giving families information is the first step in gaining their acceptance and support for the implementation of
appropriate practices. Parents can become great allies in teachers’ efforts to incorporate best practices into their
classroom. Teachers gain parents’ confidence by explaining how they are meeting state and local standards and
also going beyond by teaching children to engage in independent thinking and academic and social problem
solving. You can give articles (such as this one) to parents to help them understand child development and the
importance of early childhood best practices (see also a useful list of reading materials, p. 34).
Families need to know that implementing developmentally appropriate practices does not mean decreasing the
amount of academie rigor in your classroom or neglecting to teach math, reading, science, and other important
subjects. The better you communicate that this approach to curriculum development is based on research and
knowledge of child development, the more likely families are to support your efforts.
Empower parents to take a hand in their child’s education. Work with families to help them continue at home
children’s investigative work begun at school. Empowering is more than just assigning children homework. Make
sure that parents know and understand what is happening in the classroom and how to extend this learning at
home. Newsletters, e-mails, and even class Web pages are valuable ways to involve families and help them
become partners in their children’s education.
YEAH I believe in an active curriculum approach,
BUT how can I be sure that children are learning?
Assessment is an integral part of an appropriate curriculum. It helps the teacher gauge children’s learning and
determine how to modify the curriculum for each child. This type of assessment is authentic, individualized, and
requires finding out where children are in every aspect of their growth, development, and learning (McAfee, Leong,
&Bodrova 2004). It provides more information about children’s progress than can be learned in formal testing. Too
often assessment is thought of as a test, such as at the end of a chapter, to learn how much information a child
has retained. Tests are not the only form of assessment, however, and often are not the most effective.
Assessment is an ongoing process and needs to occur every day.
Authentic assessment can include maintaining and reviewing portfolios containing children’s work samples and
anecdotal and daily records that the teacher collects. A portfolio can collect relevant examples of what the child
makes, says, or does. Such a method can help parents gain a picture of and understand their child’s development.
Traditional report cards with letter grades or their equivalent are not very descriptive. When a teacher collects
samples of a child’s work over many months, this portfolio can be very informative as parents sit down with their
child and the teacher and review the child’s learning and development.
More formal assessments may be appropriate on occasions, but the challenge for us as teachers is to decide
when testing is necessary versus when it might be more beneficial to use authentic assessment.
YEAH I think a developmental approach is great,
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BUT there are only so many hours in the day, and it seems like a lot of work.
Incorporating appropriate practices into your classroom is a lot of work. It means that the teacher engages in
continuous assessment of students, actively develops curricula, and maintains significant ongoing interactions
with families. Teachers who implement developmentally appropriate approaches may do more work than the
teacher who chooses to teach from a book or premade lesson plan, but the work increases the level of their
fulfillment. What happens is that teachers and children are empowered together to shape the curricula and the
entire educational experience. In classrooms in which textbooks o …
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