14 Chapter One
words, and they often use their bodies to communicate; their verbal com-
munication skills and vocabulary cannot yet keep pace with the intense
emotions they experience over short periods of time.
Preschool and kindergarten children need a number of outlets to
express their physical energy, to manipulate objects for learning, and to try
things out for themselves. The classroom environment needs to provide
opportunities for movement, exploration, and hands-on manipulation of
objects. Teachers must carefully evaluate the daily schedule to make sure
sitting and listening times are briefer than times for hands-on activities.
And they must provide daily outdoor time to meet children’s need to run,
jump, and climb. Preschool and kindergarten teachers must do all of this
in the name of curriculum.
Kathy: “Curriculum is so
much more than a book or a
Laura: “I think it’s very
helpful to say curriculum
is in everything. I have
seen teachers say they
understand this natural
process, but it is not always
being put into practice.
Perhaps they don’t trust it
enough.” Defining curriculum in preschool and kindergarten classrooms is difficult.
It entails so many more things than a literacy lesson or a science activity.
Publishers have produced curriculum kits, curriculum books, curriculum
materials, as well as curricular frameworks and approaches. I propose that
none of these completely captures what happens between a skilled early
childhood practitioner and her children—whether in a two and one-half
hour program or in a full-day one. Curriculum is everything that goes on in
a program, from the moment a child arrives until she leaves. Her experi-
ence throughout the time she is there impacts her learning and success.
Curriculum cannot be limited to a box, a book, or a set of materials.
It’s a dynamic process of implementing plans and observing what happens.
A teacher plans engaging activities and experiences for children—that’s
where the box, book, or materials may contribute. As she implements
those plans, she observes to determine the success and involvement of
each individual child as well as the success and involvement of the whole
group. Based on what she observes, she makes adjustments—sometimes
immediately, right in the moment, and sometimes after time has passed
and she’s reflected on what occurred. Skilled teachers are reflective more
than reactive. They are thoughtful and intentional. They are observant
and flexible. And the curriculum they implement is an evolving process of
integrated teacher actions that take place in an ongoing cycle. The follow-
ing graphic identifies five important steps in the curriculum process.