Introduction

Early childhood is a significant period in human development. Independence, decision making, creativity, the ability to learn, the ability to relate to others, and feelings of self-worth all have their beginnings in early childhood.

Giraffe provides a curriculum that is integrated and supports a play-based, developmentally appropriate approach.

The Child, The Lifelong Learner

Each child is unique with his or her own interests, strengths, and learning styles. The following outlines some common developmental characteristics of the kindergarten child. These in turn can support the educator in the planning of an integrated, child-centred learning environment.

Creative Development

To enhance creative development using an integrated kindergarten curriculum, the educator • invites children to create and communicate with a variety of materials.

  •  Provides a variety of drawing, painting, and construction supplies and invites children to express themselves creatively.
  • Displays children’s creations along with other works of art, photographs, and paintings.
  • Provides opportunities for creative movement, dance, and other responses to music and rhythm.
  • Provides opportunities for children to dramatize their favourite books, poems, or songs, as well as to create their own role-plays.

Physical Development

To enhance physical development using an integrated kindergarten curriculum, the educator • provides a variety of developmentally appropriate activities, materials, and equipment that support large muscle development such as obstacle courses, hula-hoops, climbing equipment, balls, parachutes, etc.

  • Provides activities to develop small muscles at a variety of learning centres, using developmentally appropriate materials or equipment such as puzzles, string beads, tools (pencils, paint brushes, crayons, scissors, etc.) play dough, small blocks, cars, etc.
  • Allows time and opportunities for children to develop self-help skills, such as dressing, zippering, snapping, tying, etc.

Social/Emotional Development

To enhance social/emotional development using an integrated kindergarten curriculum, the educator

  • Provides opportunities for children to choose from a variety of individual and small group activities.
  • Guides and encourages children to take risks such as joining groups, trying something new, participating in group discussions, etc., and supports their efforts.
  • Observes and acknowledges children’s behaviour and language as they develop their ability to interact with others in various situations.
  • Encourages development of independence by providing opportunities to make choices, decisions, and use problem-solving skills while learning to be a part of a group.

Intellectual Development

In order to enhance intellectual development using an integrated kindergarten curriculum, the educator

  • Provides hands-on activities and materials to help children apply and test their understanding.
  • Engages children in many opportunities to act out and build on previous experiences.
  • Plans activities building on the individual needs and interests of the children.
  • Observes, accepts, comments on, and values children’s efforts.
  • Provides opportunities for children to experiment, explore, and investigate using all their senses.

Language and Literacy Development

In order to enhance language and literacy development using an integrated kindergarten curriculum, the educator

  • Provides many opportunities for purposeful talk as children work together in pairs, small, or larger groups.
  • Prolongs and expands children’s conversations by joining in, asking open-ended questions, and challenging them to extend their conversation.
  • Interacts frequently with each child on a personal and informal basis.
  • Provides a variety of media such as audio recordings, educational films, artwork, informative books, posters, poems, etc.
  • Provides daily opportunities for children to develop phonological awareness through music and movement, singing, reading, rhyming, playing with language, etc.
  • Provides daily opportunities for children to learn about and engage in reading and writing activities (daily message, read-a-louds, big books, guided reading, shared writing, guided writing, etc.)
  • Engages children in conversations about their learning.

Numeracy Development

In order to enhance numeracy development using an integrated kindergarten curriculum, the educator

  • Plans learning activities that help children understand that there can exist more than one solution to any given problem that can be discovered through teamwork and/or cooperation.
  • Encourages mathematical thinking and reasoning by asking open-ended questions.
  • Provides children with opportunities to share their knowledge, experiences, and problem-solving strategies with others.
  • Observes, supports, and challenges children in their problem-solving process.
  • Integrates mathematical vocabulary and processes in daily learning centre activities.
  • Observes children as they choose and use materials and adjusts teaching strategies in order to meet children’s needs.

Play

“Children play in order to understand the world around them, to express themselves, and to practice new skills. Play contributes to children’s physical and social knowledge, logical understanding, and sense of self-worth.”

It is through play that much of children’s early learning is achieved. The physical, social/emotional, and intellectual development of children is dependent upon activity. Therefore, opportunity for play is a key aspect of the kindergarten program. Through touching, manipulating, exploring, and investigating, children find out about the world around them. Through indoor and outdoor play, they develop their imagination, creativity, learn how to solve problems, and work cooperatively.

Play should be seen as an essential experience that extends, enhances, and enriches a child’s learning. Play and active involvement are fundamental to a good kindergarten program. Through the process of play, children learn to represent their real and imagined worlds using listening, speaking, reading, writing, role playing, painting, drawing, building, measuring, estimating, and exploring. The kindergarten educator uses play as an essential learning experience that supports, sustains, facilitates, extends, enhances, and enriches the child’s learning. Many researchers have identified stages of social play. Understanding these stages of play will guide educators in planning developmentally appropriate play-based activities.

  • Unoccupied behaviour involves a child moving around the room, going from one area to another, observing, but not getting involved.
  • In Onlooker play, children watch other children playing, ask questions, and make suggestions but do not enter into the play.
  • In Solitary play, children play alone and independently following their own interests without reference to others.
  • In Parallel play, children play beside each other with similar materials.
  • Associative play occurs when children play with each other, sharing similar materials and activities in an unorganized way.
  • Cooperative play is the social form of play and involves children playing together in a shared activity.
  • In Symbolic play, children use one thing to represent another.

Integrated Curriculum

Giraffe follows a curriculum which is integrated and child-centric in its approach where the child is happy to participate in learning.

For the kindergarten child, the experiences of living and learning are inseparable. Learning is part of the total experience of living. Separating learning experiences into subjects taught in isolation is contrary to what is known about how children learn.

Integration is the drawing together of the natural connections among various curriculum areas to assist children in making sense of their world. It assists learners in acquiring the skills, attitudes, and knowledge that will allow them to grow and learn in a holisitc manner.

Integration provides educators with opportunities to organize and choose teaching strategies. This integrates learning experiences, which builds on the child’s level of development and strengthens and extends their base for future learning. It is important to determine what children already know, what they need to know, and what they want to know.

When an integrated child-centred curriculum is planned by the children and the educator in a collaborative manner, themes and activities are more likely to meet the needs of the children and be more developmentally appropriate.
The educator who invites children to be an integral part of the planning for integration becomes a partner and guide in the learning process. Such instructional planning ensures a balance between child-initiated and teacher-directed experiences, individual and group activities, and among the various content areas.

Integration can be facilitated in many ways. These strategies include but are not limited to literacy-based integration, project approach, emergent curriculum, mind mapping, K-W-L charts, six-step planning model, and multiple intelligences.

Literature-based integration captures children’s interest and imagination. The characters and settings provide a natural way to introduce a variety of concepts in literacy, numeracy, social studies, science, health and physical development, and creative development.

Project Approach refers to a set of teaching strategies that enable teachers to guide children through in-depth studies of real world topics. The key feature of a topic is that it is an investigation – a piece of research that involves children in seeking answers to questions that they have formulated by themselves or in cooperation with their teacher and that arise as the investigation proceeds.

Emergent curriculum is an approach to teacher planning that begins with listening. Teachers collaborate to watch for children’s interests, worries, desires, understandings, and misunderstandings, and use these as beginning points for curriculum. It is developmentally appropriate and builds on well-developed observation skills of early childhood teachers.

Once teachers select a focus, they plan provocations or interesting events that stimulate children’s thinking and activity. Teachers document children’s responses and think carefully about the next step. The intent of emergent curriculum is to slow down and deepen positive relationships among children, teachers, families, and their environment.

Mind Mapping is brainstorming what children know about a given topic. This method allows the educator to determine at a glance the interests of the children. By following the lead of children, educators plan integrated activities that support children’s needs and meet curriculum outcomes. “Curriculum integration provides a practical means for teachers to connect outcomes in a meaningful way.”

K-W-L Chart

The K-W-L chart is another way to find out what children already know about a given topic and then what they want to know. K-Know, W-what I Want to know, L-what I have Learned. This method gives educators a starting point for planning integrated units.

Six-Step Planning Model takes educators through the following six steps:

  1. Choose a unifying idea.
  2. Brainstorm meaningful connections.
  3. Identify curriculum outcomes.
  4. Formulate essential questions.
  5. Choose and/or design learning experiences.
  6. Decide on assessment strategies.

Eight Multiple Intelligences

We can find different intelligence in children, musical, logical/ mathematical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, bodily/kinesthetic, spatial, naturalist, and verbal/linguistic. By understanding the characteristics of each of the intelligences, educators can provide a variety of learning experiences that will support all children’s learning styles.