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Activity-Based Curriculum - A Planning Approach 1

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Dr. Susan H. Turben, Ph.D.

John Carroll University

An Example of Child-Centered Activity Planning for Integrated Language and Literacy Learning

Purposeful activity is at the heart of experiences which develop children’s abilities to speak and listen, write and read. Consequently, to guide our teaching and safeguard children’s learning of language and literacy, the activities we plan for developing these languages processes need to cohere and make sense. What’s more, they need to make children think – which is to say that the activities need  some element of challenge.

These qualities of coherence, meaningfulness and challenge are evident in the planning described blow. As we lead you through its steps, we provide you with specific examples drawn from practice, namely a topic study developed by Beth, the prekindergarten teacher we mentioned earlier. We then gather the separate examples tighter into an illustration of integrative and child-centered activity planning which promotes children’s language and literacy learning as a result of their using these tools to make sense of experience.

To begin…

Decide on an organizer (a theme or topic) for children’s exploration.

This is enjoyable to do. Use what you know about children’s development and their interests. Read what others have done. And most importantly, watch what children like to do.

For example, through her careful attention to children’s words and deeds. Vivian Paley (1986) observed three recurring themes in her children’s classroom lay: friendship, fantasy and fear. She used these as organizers for children’s exploration of their own play-stories as well as her language and literacy teaching goals.

Following is a more detailed example of how one teacher selected an organizer that had meaning for young children.

Beth teaches at a preschool class in a public school system located in a small community in the southern part of the United States. There are 15 children in her class, nine boys and six girls. It is springtime, and all around the community people are busy planting. Many of the children in her class are involved in this activity with their parents. So, naturally, they have much to say about it and many questions as well. Beth decides to capitalize on the children’s immediate interest and to organize a study to capitalize on the children’s immediate interest and to organize a study of seeds and how they grow. She realizes that the children can bring existing experiences to the topic and that she can use their current knowledge to generate new understandings about plants as living things and their ecological importance beyond the community. She also recognizes that important language and literacy processes can be developed through an exploration of seeds and how they grow, for example, recording observations of plant growth using picture and print, following oral and and written directions, reading environmental print, and exploring related literature – stories, informational books, poems and songs.

Note here that a potential organizer for activity came from the culture, immediate environments, and families of the children themselves. In listening to what they were talking about, Beth made connections between their interests and the broader curriculum for which she is responsible. Furthermore, their interests provide a built-in motivation for the teaching she knows she must do. Because the children are interested, it is easy to guide them along pathways that result in learning.

Ask Dr. Susan