Currently most of my time and energy is put into being a student and all of the benefits and aspects that are involved with being enrolled as a full time student in Seneca College’s Bachelor of Child Developments program, in Ontario, Canada. Presently I am in the fifth semester out of an eight semester program that I am learning new things in every class.
Recently one of the concepts that I learned about was the idea of a Constructivist Curriculum. What is a constructivist curriculum you may ask? Well to literally break down the word in order to understand its meaning, the word ‘construct’ refers to the meaning ‘to build’. Furthermore, this curriculum means to ‘build ones learning through the curriculum’. Christine Chaille, in her book Constructivism across the Curriculum in Early Childhood Classrooms: Big Ideas as Inspiration, states that “constructivism is a theory of learning that posits that children construct knowledge through interaction between their own ideas and experiences in the social and physical world. Children as they engage in interactions and experiment with their ideas, they develop new theories and ideas” to understand the world around them (Chaille, 2008).
To fully and reliably follow a true constructivist curriculum one must understand and involve BIG IDEAS in their curriculum. First there are “three underlying concepts are important for understand big ideas: inspiration, connection, and observation” (Chaille, 2008). “Inspiration is what leads us to come up with new ideas and to open to what is already in front of us” (Chaille, 2008). The last remaining concept that underlies a big idea is observation. “Learning takes place when we see the relationships between the many different things that we experience and learn. This focus on connection means that, as teachers we need to think about the broader context of children’s experiences and the connections among and between what they do and what they learn” (Chaille, 2008). This is known as the second concept of connection. “Observation involves participation and reflection, and puts the spotlight on your role in the process of creating the constructivist curriculum” (Chaille, 2008).
Recently well exploring children’s activities on Pinterest I came across Darla Myers’ (http://www.pinterest.com/pin/ 420875527648761196/) pin, which was about super-sized marble painting. From there her pin led me to a great blog published by Pre K and K Sharing (http://prekandksharing. blogspot.ca/2012/08/supersizedlearning.html?showComment=1346338471587).
My goal is to provide you with an example of a constructivist curriculum that was inspired by Pre K and K Sharing’s blog. In this case we are going to say that the children were exploring and investigating the big idea of movement. As well as their classroom’s experience connected to learning expectations from the Full Day Kindergarten Document (FDKD) and the Best Start Expert Panel on Early Learning (ELECT), related learning areas and big ideas, and additional experiences and activities that could be done to sustain and extend their play.
Like discussed above, in order for this experience to become a true constructivist curriculum we need an inspiration. Now, you must know that there are a few different ways of an inspiration. First there is the ‘inspiration’, and this could come from the children and something that they inspire to explore after seeing, hear or experiencing something. In Pre K and K Sharing’s classroom this could have come from the children after they had made a smaller scale of marble painting, maybe they saw the product that a sibling made, or saw it in a book that you read to them about movement. The second is a ‘provocation’. The children’s learning experience could have sparked through a provocation such as the teacher or educator being in a marble painting that their child made or they made themselves. This provocation or sharing could be an inspiration for children to construct their own marble painting but on a larger scale, in order to increase the observations and experiments with movement. The third is an ‘invitation’, where the educator or teacher invites the children to see what materials and items they have brought in, and allow the children to direct their learning (play) from there.
As we have learned and spoken about above the next step to having a true constructivist classroom, that involves big ideas, such as movement like Pre K and K Sharing did, is the ‘connection’. Allowing the children to explore, experiment and investigate the materials and their environment around them provides a better opportunity for children to build new knowledge, well building off of their already mastered skills and knowledge from previous experiences. This constructivist curriculum also gives the children more freedom to explore the present experience, with others, within all learning areas, which ultimately sets the foundation for a better overall learning experience. In Pre K and K Sharing’s case, while the children were using the large scale ball painting materials to investigate the big idea of movement the children were also unknowingly well within all learning areas that are outlined in the FDKD and ELECT. Social because the children had to work together to complete the task, emotional because they had to regulate their emotions in order to explore freely, physically because of the large materials and movements, language because the children had to communicate to be able to achieve the same goal, cognitively within mathematics, science and technology, and the arts. Not so sure…check out the visual mind map that I have created at http://prezi.com/cpc83ubnon7d/movement-mind-map/, which demonstrates the connections between learning areas, big ideas, other possible learning opportunities, and more.
The last step and concept to include in this constructivist learning experience is the ‘observation’. To achieve the observation concept of a big idea within a constructivist curriculum, it needs to involve reflections from both the children and teachers on the experience. What went well? What did the children learn within the FDKD and ELECT? What did I learn? Where to go next? What to tell the parents/caregivers. These are all things that should be included in those reflections. After reflections are completed, discussed, and recorded, documentation then needs to be completed. Documentation is a display that one helps the children and yourself to recall, remember and reflect on what took place during those moments. It also helps parents/caregivers, other children, colleagues etc to experience what happened without being actually present. A very important aspect of documentation that cannot be missed is making the learning visible. Connecting the children’s learnt knowledge to learning expectations found in the FDKD and ELECT demonstrates to the children, parents/caregivers, and yourself, as well as others, what the child(ren) learned during the particular experience. Once the documentation is completed the question of ‘where to go next?’ may still need to be answered. Before you decide how to sustain and extend the children learning past this experience, consider what the children’s interests, strengths, and needs are. If you consider these three factors the direction that you guide the children next will be a strong result.
For more information and examples of how this concept of ‘observation’ could be done, please visit my visual movement mind map at http://prezi.com/cpc83ubnon7d/movement-mind-map/.
Overall using these different educational methods, concepts, and experiences a true constructivist curriculum and classroom will be achieved, and knowledge can then begin to be built together in any classroom.
Keep Changing the World One Child at a Time,
Best Start Expert Panel on Early Learning. (2007). A framework for Ontario early childhood settings. Toronto, ON: Ministry of Children and Youth Services
Chaille, C. (2008). Constructivism across the Curriculum in Early Childhood Classrooms: Big Ideas as Inspiration. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, INC.
Ministry of Education. (2010). The full-day early learning: Kindergarten Program. Toronto, ON: Queens Printer for Ontario.