Approaches to Pedagogy and Curriculum in the Early Years.
I own and manage a Montessori preschool in a Rural area. I run a morning and an afternoon class and can accommodate up to 22 children in each class. I employ two staff in my preschool. We use the innovative Montessori teaching method – a unique mix of hands on learning technique and have an environment rich in sensory experiences. Children are introduced to the fundamental practical life skills, sensorial skills, language skills (reading & writing), basic mathematical and culture (geography/science) in a fun and motivating way. We also incorporate the Aistear Curriculum. Throughout this podcast I will talk about approaches to Pedagogy and Curriculum in the Early Years.
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A definition of pedagogy is given by Mortimore (1999: 3). He states that pedagogy is ‘any conscious activity by one person designed to enhance learning in another’. Taking this view, pedagogy can be thought of as the inter-face between the child, educator and curriculum. This inter-face is informed by learning theories and the early years’ tradition of a country or region.
While observing the children in our morning class over the last few months some of the children want to take out shelf work after 5 minutes of circle time. At our staff meeting we decided it would be one of the areas to improve on, so for this podcast I am going to discuss how we can make a change in the way we do Circle time in the classroom which we start every morning after we call the roll we then discuss our themes of the week for about 20 minutes and longer if the children are really interested. The National Children’s Strategy (2000- 2010) states that “an Ireland where children are respected as young citizens with a valued contribution to make and a voice of their own” (p. 7). Circle time is described as getting a group of children to talk about their views and each child will take their turn and this will be assisted and encouraged by the teacher.
From observing the classroom, we have decided to change the circle time and split up the class into two groups. The first group take out their work and go with their key worker and the other keyworker will work with the children in the circle time group. We divided the group up into mixed ages as we have found that the 4-year olds are mixing very well with the three-year olds. This way the older children are bringing in ideas that the younger children will learn. Maria Montessori would have worked with a small group in her teaching. There is a lot of talk about circle time not benefiting the child but from working with children for the past 17years I have seen that if the conversation is going well and the children are interaction with it, they children will gain great knowledge from it. It varies from week to week and we get to know who enjoys the circle time and who doesn’t. Froebel was a student of Pestalozzi and he is recognised for starting the first kindergarten in Germany. “He believed that play contributes to young children’s development and that bringing children together in a circle (circle time) contributed to group cohesion”. (Pinar et al, 1995; Henniger 1999) cited in Naughton (2003).
In Edwards (1998) report she states that throughout Europe there are three of the best-known methodologies with early education these are Waldorf, Montessori, and Reggio Emilia. All three approaches highlight the importance of the prepared learning environment. Each approach highlights the need for parental participation. Steiner wished to build a way of learning that would integrate both spiritual and scientific ways of thinking. Montessori developed a specific method of teaching through her informative equipment. Reggio created an approach to teaching and learning based on negotiation of emergent processes rather than what is to be taught in a curriculum document like the EYFS.
In Ireland years ago, teaching was more about the teacher leading the conversation and the children just sitting down and listening. During my school years in the 70’s in primary school if we didn’t sit quietly in class the teacher would get her pen out and hit it across our knuckles. If a child didn’t know the times tables or spellings the same thing would happen the pen across the knuckles or other children would get slapped across the head. When we look back, this took place in a lot of schools in Ireland. Children are given a voice now and the classroom is more child centred. In our Montessori classroom the children learn at their own pace and keyworker will work with whatever stage the child is at.
As I work in a preschool environment it is my role as a Practitioner to ensure that our service is in line with the preschool regulations. We must have all our Policies and Procedures up to date. “According to Montessori, knowing how to arrange an interesting, beautiful environment for children is as much a part of teaching as knowing how to select fine children’s books for the library.” (Mooney, 2013, p.40). Children are given a voice now and the classroom is more child centred. In our Montessori classroom the children learn at their own pace and keyworker will work with whatever stage the child is at.
It is very important to provide a comfortable environment with plenty of choice for play. We run a Montessori class and use all the Montessori materials plus we incorporate Aistear which is the Curriculum Framework in Ireland for all children from birth to six years. We make a huge emphasis on outdoor play. We bring circle time outdoors and the children love to talk about what they discovered.
Practitioner’s should promote and encourage the overall development of each child with planning. Pedagogy is clear when we as practitioners can understand how children develop and can evaluate the child’s learning and development. In our classroom the children get to put in their work every week in a folder this includes their art, drawings, and photos. They children enjoy looking back at what they achieved.
There are lots of ways where we as practitioners can have the classroom environment presented to the children to give them plenty of opportunities to gain personal, social and emotional development. The children can work on their own or the can work in small groups. A teacher should be close by if they children needs help. The children can have to chance to work as a team in the different learning areas if they choose to. Children learn appropriate social behaviours mostly through observational learning, which is why it is always important that teachers model positive social skills with the children as well as the adults you interact with.
Reflective practice in much of the literature concerning professional practice in ECCE, reference is made to the value of reflective practice and continuing professional development which is an important course of action to guarantee that high standards of quality provision are maintained (Dahlberg et al., 1999; UNESCO, 2004).
We must have the understanding and knowledge to give children the opportunity to achieve a positive awareness of themselves and others. Observe the children playing with the equipment and how the interact with the environment. Learn from these observations and make changes where necessary. When working in a preschool environment it is our role as a Practitioner to ensure that our service is in line with the preschool regulations. We must have all our Policies and Procedures up to date. “According to Montessori, knowing how to arrange an interesting, beautiful environment for children is as much a part of teaching as knowing how to select fine children’s books for the library.” (Mooney, 2013, p.40). Children who feel valued and supported are more likely to be optimistic and learn well.
We have decided to continue to split the class up as this has worked well, we have found that one or two of the children will ask to come back to the circle time and that is fine. We can suggest to the children if they would like their parents to come in to the classroom and read a story or talk about their career. We must have the understanding and knowledge to give children the opportunity to achieve a positive awareness of themselves and others. We will continually evaluate and update our skills and teaching methods, and we as educators ensure that we are providing a balanced curriculum that meets the needs of all students.
- Collins, B. 2011. “Empowering Children through Circle Time: An Illumination of Practice.” PhD diss., National University of Ireland, Maynooth. http://eprints.nuim.ie/3728/.
- Edwards, Carolyn. (1998). ‘Partner, nurturer, and guide: The role of the educator’, in Carolyn Edwards, Lella Gandini, & George Forman (Eds.), The hundred languages of children: The Reggio Emilia approach—Advanced reflections, Greenwich, CT: Ablex
- .MacNaughton, G. (2003) Shaping Early Childhood: learners, curriculum and contexts, Maidenhead: Open University Press
- Hayes, N., Bradley, S (2009).: Right by Children: Children’s Rights and Rights Based Approaches to Policy Making in Early Childhood Education and Care: The Case of Ireland. Irish Research Council Humanities and the Social Sciences.
- The National Children’s Strategy (2000)http://www.dcya.gov.ie/documents/Aboutus/stratfullenglishversion.pdf
- Janet Soler & Linda Miller (2003) The Struggle for Early Childhood Curricula: A comparison of the English Foundation Stage Curriculum, Te Wha¨riki and Reggio Emilia, International Journal of Early Years Education, 11:1, 57-68, DOI: 10.1080/0966976032000066091
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