Provocations and Emergent Curriculum

101_5351 Provocations are not lessons in which as a Teacher I expect students to immediately engage in.  Provocations are intended to catch a child’s eye, to spark an interest.  That being said, provocations are still concepts I want to teach children.  These concepts are presented in a way that is open and not closed.  Children have room to wonder, question, manipulate, incorporate and eventually construct meaning from either alone or with a fellow classmate.  I do not expect every child to know exactly how to read a provocation.  Sometimes I put out a provocation that I can think of multiple ways of using, yet a child may simply have no interest at that time.  I leave out provocations for the simple fact that on Monday there may be no apparent interest, yet on Tuesday there may be a lot of interest.  Sometimes, as with our own adult minds, children need time to mull over any ideas forming in their sub consciences. 

101_1219 Water color pencils were set out one day with paper yet this child had other ideas.  The pencils became part of a sensory exploration experiment.  I had not intended for this to happen, but I did not stop it from unfolding.  Why? Because there is no harm in a child exploring materials as long as no harm is coming to them, their friends or the environment.  These water color pencils are long cylinder shapes and they roll easily.  As a young child is exploring the concepts of shapes being able to roll materials and feel the different textures and motion from the objects is the very act of constructing knowledge.  I can scaffold this concept by adding more of the same shapes of objects or different shapes to see how this child interprets the knew data.  From watching, listening and paying attention to children’s needs for learning I am able to form curriculum from their emerging interests and needs.  Did I intend for this child to simply roll the water colored pencils?  No, I had the idea of this child drawing.  So this was a pleasant surprise that showed me where this child’s desire for knowledge was coming from.

101_2779 Comparing the size and shape of the mirror with the cork shapes was not something I had originally thought of.  However, this child had a need to test her hypothesis and so she gathered the materials and went through with measuring. and comparing the size of both objects.  Constructing knowledge based on internal interest is more valuable than forcing concepts onto children.  When we take the time to respect young children and set up environments that promote learning, we are allowing children to learn naturally.  The concepts forced onto children through harsh academic environments do not respect children’s intelligence and desire to learn.  I’ve said this many times before, but learning is life.  Children naturally are insatiable learners.  When I listen to the needs of children I can be a support to their desire to learn.  Learning is for understanding and understanding comes with challenges that are attainable at each age and developmental level.  

101_3098 I’ve set up alphabet puzzles as provocations before and no interest was taken.  Then one day interest is strong with these puzzles.  So I can choose to add more tactile letters, picture cards, books, poems or songs to extend the child’s interest.  Emergent curriculum comes directly from what children are doing.  My job is to make sure I really listen, watch and open communication with each child in order for me to support, extend and challenge when appropriate.  This doesn’t mean that children won’t possibly loose interest at some point, but the fact that I value each child’s desire to understand is one of the reasons I love being an Early Childhood Teacher.  I respect and value young minds and want to ensure they have a happy, healthy and developmentally appropriate early start to their long academic careers.

101_1976 If you implement an emergent style of curriculum please share your ideas and experiences.  I would love to learn from you too! 🙂

Heidi Scott, BA & MIT

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