Twenty Five years ago when I was new in early childhood the thought of the day as to present teacher decided activities for children. We would plan an entire years' themes by month or week and decide in September what we would be learning in April, for example. We would create schedules with much thought and care as to how many minutes we would devote to each activity and how we would transition from one activity to another. This was the world we offered our children.
Currently I am making the transition from teacher decided activities to child led planning. One may call it emergent curriculum; but in Alberta we call it FLIGHT.
FLIGHT is "a curriculum framework for early childhood educators working in centre based child care and family day homes in Alberta." (FLIGHT vii) The guide book says, "Flight is written for early childhood educators, as a guide for critical and reflective thinking, and an interpretive tool for imagining possibilities."
Flight includes curriculum meaning making with goals and dispositions. The goals are: Well-being, play and playfulness, communication and literacies, diversity and social responsibility. The dispositions to learn are: Playing and playful, seeking, participating, persisting and caring. This is the framework for creating an individual child-led curriculum in each individual centre. Each centre and, indeed, each educator may interpret Flight's goals and dispositions differently; but I believe the goal is to create a program that reflects your children, your educators and your centre.
So, with this very lofty goal in mind, where do you start? I started in three places: Responsive environments (time, space, materials, and participation), Seeking and participating dispositions (our Mighty Learners) and the Practice of Relationships (the role of the educator).
Responsive environments, to me, means that there are less educator directed decisions in the day than child led ones. Of course we need an outline for the day. We need to know when we eat, sleep and go outside. But in a responsive environment not only do the children influence what happens the other times they also influence how our "must do" activities happen on a daily basis. The first thing I did in an effort to create a more responsive environment is to change our linear visual schedule to a round "Now and Then" schedule. The goal was to encourage those conversations about what the children wanted to do next while giving the teachers a chance to put in the "must do" activities too.
This was our linear visual schedule. Similar to this found in a lot of Early Childhood Playrooms. We would move the arrow down as we transitioned each activity and mark the passing of time with telling the children what was coming next.
The problem with this was there was no room for flexibility. No room for getting the children's input as to what they wanted to do and what they didn't want to do.
In an effort to be more responsive to the children I decided to try a circular schedule modelled after a clock.
The idea is to be fluid and help the children understand the concepts of now and next. Now we may be having a time to eat but next we will gather for a story. This could change on a daily basis. This looks different every day depending upon what the needs of the group are. As a teacher I still have the option to say what either the now or the next is; so that if it is outside time next I can choose that and show the children but if I am in a flexible position I can also ask the question, "what do you want to do next?"
The second thing I did was begin to incorporate more open-ended child led activities. I had always done these but also with a good helping of teacher directed crafts and projects. Now the idea is to plan more open ended projects as anything else. Ones where the children can really take ownership of the activity and I am presenting more of a provocation than of a directed stpe-by-step activity. Projects where they can be the Mighty Learners that they naturally are.
Open ended nature art for preschoolers.
The third this I did was look at my role as an educator. I have always thought that it was my job to help the children grow. When learning more about flight I now think that also it is my job to help the children discover for themselves the ways that they can grow. To help them feel safe, secure and confident in trying new things. My role as a educator goes from "teaching children" to being a co-loearner and co-reasrcher and learning and discovering along side of them. "What can we discover today?". This is a more fulfilling way to program plan and teach than trying to plan an entire years' activities in September and tell the children what they want to learn about today. Being a co-learner gives the educator and opportunity to create a starting point and respond to the children in the room where hey want to take that. We may be painting on windows that leads to the washing of windows that leads to the making of a car wash because we were interested in the bubbles. Knowing that my role was to learn alongside of the children I would not need to have props and charts prepared to explore a car wash - I can develop in the moment based upon where the children are interested. I am a "responsive teacher".
Transitioning to flight is, as the name implies, a journey. It is not the buying of a new curriculum book and following the to do steps. It is rethinking how you are with children, how you see children and how you support children's learning. If you are interested in learning more about FLIGHT visit www.flightframework.ca
Reference: Makovichuk, L., Hewes, J., Lirette, P., & Thomas, N. (2014). Flight: Alberta's early learning and care framework. Reterived from flight framework.ca
Note: This is an opinion piece on my journey with Flight and not intended to be an official Flight reference.