I have been teaching in the Early Childhood sector for over 30 years, and I have seen so many teaching trends come and go in this time. But I have to say the current trend of programming around children’s interests has really stuck with me and to be honest makes so much sense.
As an adult reading this blog you will know if you are interested in something, you will give it 100% of your attention, you will allow yourself to indulge in the enjoyment, tell your friends about it and do it again and again. Why, because it was joyous, made you feel good and it held your interest.
If you have no interest, you will either do it half heartedly or to be honest avoid it at all costs, am I right? I know I am.
Well children are exactly the same, if they love, love, love, love something they are there in the moment enjoying every aspect of the experience.
Think of a toddler finger painting, they are literally covered head to toe in paint and getting it everywhere, with no fear of getting it wrong, no final outcome and no agenda and a massive smile on their face as they get their creativity on and ultimately they are learning through the play experience.
So, when I’m planning my week and doing my programming I will be reflecting on what are my children really interested in at the moment and go from there.
I know that if I capture their interest they are going to engage, learn, extend their skills and be in control of their own learning.
For example, if transport is of interest I will provide ideas around cars, trucks and boats, this could be as simple as setting up masking tape on the mat to create a car track and then initiating conversation with the children while we are playing. I'll ask about some of the things they might see on the street outside and the ideas and interest will often emerge. We might talk about traffic lights or houses or even people walking dogs, which could then lead to making street signs or houses out of boxes and loose parts and adding people and some animals to the play scenario.
Can you see where I’m going?
If the interest continues, I could add cars and paint to a table so the children experience large body movement, possibly crossing their mid line, whooshing the cars back and forth with a friend and making it a shared experience or we could draw car tracks on long paper and clip onto the easel and add scissors to practice cutting along straight and curved lines.
Did you know that working on a vertical surface can help children to further develop the essential fine, visual, and gross motor skills. These activities allow a child to explore and develop proprioceptive, tactile, and visual processing skills, all why we are following an interest and the children are having fun and mastering new skills or practicing skills they have already mastered.
When extending children’s learning I always make sure I am covering identity, wellbeing and how the child is contributing to be the learner, am I extending their leadership skills, negotiation skills, are they able to work with others, am I encompassing the whole child.
Remember the quality of a child’s learning is determined by us as educators recognising the children’s interests, meeting them where they are at and giving them the opportunity to extend their learning.
So please stop, think and reflect on, are you truly following the children’s interests and not following themes are calendar events to decide what you are going to plan for the week ahead?