Professional teachers and staff recognize the importance of organization in planning daily activities and curriculum development. Curriculum is the manner in which a teacher accomplishes goals and objectives. In doing so, a relevant program meets the child’s needs based on their abilities—for the present, as well as the future.
Why? What? How? Of the Curriculum
Claudia Eliason, author of A Practical Guide to Early Childhood Curriculum writes that goals and objectives make up the “why” of the curriculum. Providing the reasoning of the program, they provide the purpose of teaching.
The “what” makes up the activities and materials necessary to carry out the goals and objectives. In other words, what will be done?
“How” explains the way the program will be presented to meet the goals and objectives. This includes the gathering materials for teaching and organizing the procedure for each activity.
Planning for the curriculum covers the entire day and week—often the month and year. Lesson plans encourage direction toward themes and goals. As you choose themes, gather materials and prepare for each lesson. After each lesson, evaluate for adjustment and redirection in planning.
Being a teacher of young children means more than curriculum development. Teachers who provide a secure, warm, and safe environment provide an atmosphere conducive to learning.
Selecting a unit or theme
There is no limit to the possibilities for themes or units. The following suggestions are ones often used by teachers of young children.
- Animals (farm, pets, zoo and work animals)
- Animal houses
- Community Helpers (Policeman, fireman, postal carrier, grocer, medical
- Houses (single-family, apartments, trailers)
- People (body parts, families, friends, other ethnic groups)
Preparing a Weekly Calendar
Using a large monthly calendar, write in Monday through Friday. Decide on a theme or unit for the week. Include blocks for literature, math, science, music and art. Note holidays and special occasions. List accommodations for children with special needs. Realize that a schedule needs structure, yet flexible enough for those unplanned events, such as a helicopter flying low over your center, a concrete truck making a new drive nearby or a student’s birthday celebration.
The enclosed unit, Gilberto and the Wind explains how you can use each part of the curriculum and still focus on the same story throughout the week. The key is planning ahead and having all your materials ready for each lesson. And never leave on Friday without having Monday’s lesson plan on your desk. Who knows—this may be the week you need a substitute?
Sidebar/Preparing for a Substitute
Emergencies happen. Illness can strike you or a family member without warning. Therefore, professional teachers and staff realize the importance of planning for substitutes. A rule of thumb: Before leaving your child care center each day, place on your desk a folder for the next day and week’s activities and curriculum plans. Include the following:
- List of children in your class, telephone and address for emergency contact. (If in a large child care center, the director will have this information and will make the contact.)
- Procedures for classroom management.
- Name of another teacher near your room to contact if questions arise.
- Location of key material to implement the day’s activities.
- Bus number and driver for children transported.
- Daily schedule.
Literature Based Unit
As you choose books for units, include a brief background of the author’s life and a brief summary of the story. Children retain more information when they know more about the person.
Gilberto and the Wind (New York: Viking, 1963) is a classic story written and illustrated by one of America’s beloved authors. Marie Hall Ets started drawing as a first-grade student and studied arts with a group of adults. Her childhood years were spent in the north woods of Wisconsin. Here she learned firsthand about the wildlife near her home. These growing years influenced her later work as a writer and illustrator. She was the recipient of the Caldecott Medal and received a Caldecott Honor Book award.
In the story, a little Mexican boy finds the wind to be a changeable playmate. Sometimes the wind can fly kites, capture balloons, scatter leaves, and run races. Other times the wind is a quiet companion. Pencil sketches add to the book’s charm.
Use Gilberto and the Wind as part of a season unit on weather and wind. Plus, the book’s Hispanic focus helps teachers and children understand another culture.
Read the story Gilberto and the Wind. Use these questions to increase comprehension and thinking skills in young children.
- Can you really see the wind? Why or why not?
- Who are the two main characters of the story?
- What object did Gilberto use first to play with the wind? Last?
- Describe a funny part of the story. Why did it seem funny to you?
- Name something broken by the wind? Has this ever happened to you?
- The wind and Gilberto did many things together. Can you name an activity not mentioned in the story that you have experienced with the wind?
- Does the wind ever do things you do not like? (Mention how high winds cause damage, as in a tornado or windstorm.)
Make a chart about the wind. List these questions at the top of three columns.
- What do we know about the wind?
- What do we want to know?
- What have we learned?
Make learning about wind fun for young children by using the following activities in science.
Blow bubbles on a windy day.
Mix one part mild dishwashing liquid with one part water. Dip bubble blowers into the mixture and blow. Caution children not to blow into another child’s eyes.
Plan a “Kite Day” for your class.
In a weekly newsletter, ask parents to send kites that are ready for flying. Or, ask parent volunteers to help assemble kites before the activity. If possible, find an open area near your school--away from trees and power lines. If no area exists, plan a field trip to an open site. Again, call on volunteers.
Make a wind chime and hang near your window.
Using nylon fishing line, attach short lengths of lightweight metal pipes to a clothes hanger. As the wind blows, the chimes make a pleasant sound.
Make a weather chart.
Draw pictures of the weather for one week. List and illustrate the weather conditions that occur each day.
After the children complete a week of weather watching, ask these questions:
1. How many days did the sun shine this week?
2. Did we have rain on any day?
3. How many days was the weather the same?
4. How did the weather affect our outdoor play?
Make streamers to blow in the wind by taping three yards of bright-colored ribbon to a 12-inch wooden dowel. Show children how to make figure eights and loops. Run with the streamers, allowing the wind to make interesting shapes with the ribbons. Capture the excitement with a camera. Display photos on a bulletin board.
Place a tablespoon of thin liquid tempera paint on a sheet of paper. Using a straw, blow the paint in different directions. Talk about how the air in our lungs forces the paint to spread. Compare this to the way wind can move objects. Older children may use several colors to create unusual designs. Allow the pictures to dry and display.
My Wind Booklet
Help children make a wind book by folding one 8 ½” by 11” sheet of paper into four equal parts. In each section, draw pictures of things the wind can do. Attach the word Wind to a short piece of yarn. Tape to the top so the word hangs out of the book. As the children “read” their story, use the yarn as a bookmark.
In the story, Gilberto and the Wind, the boy talks about the wind playing with the wash on the line. Using an 8-½ -inch by 11-inch piece of paper, draw a simple shirt pattern for each student. Color and cut out. Assign each child a number to write on his or her shirt. Use clothespins and hang on a string in your classroom. Place in numerical order or create a color pattern.
Mixing one part mild dishwashing liquid to 2 parts water, make your own bubbles. Make blowers by forming florist wire into a holder with a circle on top. Tape the end for safety. Ask: Who has the largest bubble? Whose bubble goes the highest? How many bubbles did each child blow?
Use a calendar to indicate the type of weather that occurs for each day of a month. Make a graph that shows these conditions. Explain that a graph is another way of combining numbers. Each circle represents one day. Example:
O O O O O
O O O O
O O O O O
Use cooking for math and science—which also focus on listening and comprehension skills. Children enjoy cooking, as well as tasting new foods.
Wind Cookies (Meringue Cookies)
Explain that forcing air into egg whites causes them to change shape and texture. To make these cookies, you will need:
- 3 egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- dash of salt
- 1 cup sugar
Have egg whites at room temperature and place in a clean bowl. Beat first four ingredients together until peaks form. (An electric beater works best. Always have a responsible adult nearby.) Add sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Continue beating. Cover cookie sheets with brown paper. Drop dough from teaspoon into sheets. Bake a 275 degrees until cookies are lightly brown and quickly remove from paper. Let meringue cookies dry on a rack at least one hour before serving. Makes about 3 dozen small cookies. This is an easy recipe children will enjoy making and eating to accompany the story.
Other Resources for Wind
Folktales—Challenge of the Sun and the Wind (Kenyan folktale)
Song—“Itsy Bitsy Spider”
Poem—“Spring Wind” by Nancy Byrd Turner
Poem—“The Moon’s the North Wind’s Cookie” by Vachel Lindsay
Poem—“The Wind” by Robert Louis Stevenson
Poem—“Who Has Seen the Wind” by Christina Rossetti
Carolyn Ross Tomlin has been the director of a preschool program, a kindergarten teacher and assistant professor of elementary education at Union University, Jackson, TN. She contributes to several education publications.
Eliason, Claudia (1977) A Practical Guide to Early Childhood Curriculum, St. Louis, The C.V. Mosby Company.
The following books can be found at www.amazon.com
- Arce, Eve-Maria. Curriculum for Young Children: An Introduction
- Klein, M. Diane. Working With Young Children from Culturally Diverse Backgrounds.
- Rice, Judith Anne. The Kindness Curriculum: Introducing Young Children to Loving Values.