The pendulum swings in the education every twenty years or so they say. They, the POLICY MAKERS, tell us, the EDUCATORS, what is the best thing for our students and we comply. Yes, sometimes dragging our heels, spitting nails, or just complain to our colleagues about the changes.
I don't always love change, but I understand it is necessary. I am more than happy to listen and try something new IF I believe it will benefit my students. However, I won't throw out what I know works! Just like the old saying goes, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water!" I believe you need to balance the two extremes for optimal results with your students.
LET'S TAKE A LOOK...
Teachers have debated teaching "letter of the week" for years! One side argues that it is ineffective to teach letters this way as children learn letters that are meaningful to them such as the letters in their names and they won't retain letters taught in a week by week basis. The other side of the pendulum believes in this systematic approach as they are sure to cover all the letters through thematic teaching incorporating the letter through the majority of activities during the week.
Truth be told, I am somewhere in the middle! I introduce a new letter each week based on the scope and sequence that my county puts out for our Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program. I introduce the letter and the sound through Interactive Alphabet Activities. We practice writing it and we even make an alphabet flip book that my pre-kinders read and then take home to practice. However, every book we read does not begin with that particular letter and I do not make a craft to go along with each letter. Does this make sense?
Teachers are so passionate about this topic. Process art gives children the freedom to create and express themselves through a variety or art mediums. The materials are available as children use their imaginations to design their art. Product art consists of teacher led projects where children follow a set of directions or patterns to make a similar product.
So I am here to ask, what is wrong with a little of both? I give children ample opportunities at the art center daily to create. Some days it is process driven projects where children need to cut and glue pieces to make a something in particular like a snowman and other days I put out a variety of materials and my pre-kinders are free to create what ever their little hearts desire! Just as children have different learning styles, some children love the process where they can express their creativity while others want direction and want it to look like a particular object when completed. Its a win-win as children are able to practice lots of fine motor activities such as cutting, tearing, drawing and gluing all while engaging in the art process.
I have been reading the book, Play: The Foundation that Supports the House of Higher Learning by Lisa Murphy and agree with a LOT of what Lisa has to say. I agree that children in preschool, pre-kindergarten and even kindergarten need ample time to play as they build social skills, language and have time to manipulate their environment. That being said, I am intentional about the skills and standards I need to teach. The blending of play and skills needs to be done with hands on, engaging manipulatives, games and activities to create optimal engagement with these little people! In my classroom, we accomplish this through small group activities as well as during center time.
There are many different ways to structure our programs, but we as the educators need to know what the current research says, meet the children where they are and then incorporate the social and academic skills that will prepare these children for life as well as school! So please, won't you meet me Somewhere in the Middle?