Early Childhood Curriculum and Teaching Methods

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All children develop their skills on their own time table, therefore, in a room of three to five year old children not all of them will be at the same developmental level. Teachers must be able to create a curriculum that encompasses the entire classroom. This means that they need to allow room for flexibility and creativity and must figure out a way to modify certain programs so that all children, even those that do not learn as rapidly, can experience success.

Students are highly influenced by their teacher and their surroundings, therefore, educators must make sure that they are influencing the students in a positive way. The things that we say and do are easily absorbed by little ears that we do not think here us. Guiding the children/ students through educational work is one aspect of being a teacher, however, the other half is helping them to build their character and understand good morals and values. We must cherish our children/ students for each of their own individual abilities and talents, recognizing that everyone has something different to offer. Not only are the teachers able to teach the students, the children/ students can also teach us something new every day. These young, fragile minds are so ready to learn, so we should take advantage of it while we have the chance.

One significant aspect in creating a developmentally appropriate curriculum for a young child is being able to put out the right amount and type of supplies in the children's learning areas. For instance, putting out paper, glue and scissors for an art project that only requires cutting and pasting would be more productive than bombarding the child with unnecessary supplies such as paint, brushes, string and glitter. Overwhelming them with too many options only confuses the student which in turn, blocks their creativity. It is all about knowing the young students, teachers should be able to teach them and provide the appropriate things they will need for that point in their lives. It will also benefit all teachers to familiarize themselves with the many developmental theories.

Jean Piaget came up with the theory of cognitive development, which is basically the way that a child learns and thinks. (Spodek, & Saracho, 2003) quoted one of Piaget's articles that stated a child's system of thought develops through a series of stages, common to all children of all cultures. Piaget's theory is broken down into four stages; Sensorimotor stage, Preoperational stage, Concrete Operational stage and Formal Operations stage. Educators need to take these theories/stages and learn from them. Not one theory is right or wrong, therefore, teachers need to intertwine them and learn from each one. Gathering all of this knowledge will only help them fulfill the children's needs.

There are also six areas of development that teachers must encompass and make all six areas the foundation of a young child's curriculum. According to Kagan and Kogan (1970) Teachers can help a child in cognitive development by exposing them to multiply opportunities. For example, literature, music, science, creativity and math all play a role in simulating a child's brain function. It is imperative that teachers be supportive and encouraging to their students as they embark upon this journey and must provide an atmosphere for a child to practice his or her physical development, paying attention to the large and fine motor skills. Running, jumping, marching and setting up obstacle courses all help to develop the large motor skills. It is also important that early education teachers help their students in the process of developing social skills. Students must learn how to create relationships with people that are outside of their family in order to gain enough self confidence and allow them to feel more secure. Placing a child into a group gives him/her the opportunity to develop person to person relationships. This will teach the child communication skills and experience the feelings of his/her peers as well as his/her own personal feelings. Through this process a child will learn to share and negotiate, it will also help the child to have empathy for others. For all of this to be achieved, a child must have interaction with others on a regular basis.

Children have a million emotions, and the smallest thing will easily set them off. These emotions can range from tears, to fears and also to full blown tantrums. It is common to find a child that will show a large amount of aggression towards his or her peers. It is the teacher's responsibility to help their children in understanding the way they are feeling and offer them positive ways to deal with the emotion. Teaching them how to use their words correctly can help them to overcome many obstacles.

The last of the six areas deals with creativity, which can most easily be expressed through art. It has been said that art is a way of communicating our feelings without the use of words. Offering students a wide range of art supplies will allow them to create whatever comes to their mind. A teacher must never judge or criticize a child's work, but rather simply admire it as an extension of them. Exposing our children to their own art as well as art created by others will only help to enrich a child's life. Teachers must also honor all of their students as individuals. It does not matter how they look, where they come from, how well behaved or not behaved a child might be.

Children come from various backgrounds and having children that come from different backgrounds really provides a door of opportunity for all. Creating a curriculum that revolves around families, encourages students to share their families history. By showing enthusiasm, it will help the child feel proud and value where they come from. It will also help the child to understand how much the teachers value them for their own individuality. This will broaden the views of everyone in the class, creating an anti-bias classroom environment.

Today one can read a curriculum the way he or she reads the day's newspaper, for in it one can see the fractures in our society. Often, the curriculum becomes a battle ground for competing political and cultural ideas (Sadker & Zittleman, 2009, pg. 353.  The problem with the curriculum is that many groups can influence it; groups such as publishers, teachers, students, parents, administrators, the federal, state, and local governments, national tests, education commissions and committees, professional organizations, and special interest groups. The move toward subject matter standards and statewide testing has also added another powerful force influencing what is taught in schools. I believe the formal curriculum should not be a fixed course of study but should change to reflect the values of the time and the need of the students. Students with special needs can soar in classrooms designed to meet their needs, but flounder when they are inappropriately placed in regular classes. Teachers can interpret and adapt whatever official text or curriculum guide has been assigned, stressing certain points in a text while giving limited attention to others. But I also do support the idea of having standards-based education only for math and science that specifies precisely what students should learn, focuses the curriculum and instruction on meeting these standards, and provides continual testing to see if the standards are achieved. The curriculum must include objectives and activities that teach students how to preserve the past, but not be limited by it. Students must learn to function effectively in the present, and prepare for the future, and the curriculum should be responsive to these changes. (Sadker, 2005) .

To succeed as an eduactor, one needs to know when to step back and let the environment become the third teacher. He or she must learn to be a facilitator and understand how to set up an environment for a young child. This area must be safe, for instance no glass or chemicals that a child can get a hold of, and also supplied with proper materials. Teachers need to stand back and observe; only offering words of encouragement. This is where children act out their fears, tell stories, and learn to cope with everyday life. Donovan and Burns (2002) demonstrate that children come into the world eager to learn… there is no question that the environment in which a child grows up has a powerful impact on how the child develops and what the child learns. Children are very sensitive, and this enables them to be aware of everything that is going on around them. We need to provide them with an atmosphere that is strong and stable, allowing them to spread their wings and fly.

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