Emergent Curriculum… In Action

Emergent curriculum takes some ‘bravery’ from both teachers and children.  A teacher must have the foresight to scrap all those lesson plans when a genuine, worthwhile teachable moment presents itself.  A child must have the confidence and enthusiasm about the activity at hand to want more.  One week in the Aqua Room, emergent curriculum was in action.  It happened like this:

It was Morning Meeting.  We had just finished singing the days of the week.  The Helper of the Day had counted the calendar numbers and placed the correct number of the day and the weather icon onto the calendar.  We were putting a Handwriting Without Tears song into the CD player, preparing to do a singing and movement activity.

It was only thirty seconds from calendar to singing.  In that short time, Jem began singing a song we enjoy, “Building a Better World”.  The song incorporates sign language.  As Jem sang, the other children were silent, watching and listening.  He was serious.  This was different.

Jennie: “Jem, that was wonderful.  Would you like to sit in the big rocking chair and sing for all of us?”

Jem: “Yes.”

He quietly and confidently stood up, went to the chair to sit down, and sang the song.  Now, Jem is the quiet one in the class.  And singing?  I just don’t recall a time that he was a singer, much less an enthusiastic one.

Jennie: “Let’s clap for Jem.  Would anyone else like to sing a song?”

William nearly jumped out of his skin!  He went to the big rocking chair and decided to stand instead of sit down, throwing back his shoulders and puffing out his chest.  In a big voice he sang, “Five New Engines in the Shed”.  He sang that song two more times, with the same confidence and gusto.  William is typically not a singer.

The teachers all looked at each other in unison, realizing that this was IT, one of those unpredicted moments that must be preserved and nurtured.  Obviously we had to go forward and skip the planned Morning Meeting activity.  This was the ‘really good stuff”, the moment when children seem to burst forth.

After William sang, the floodgates opened!  Meera sang “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, Halle sang “Jingle Bells”, Luke sang “Blackbird” by the Beatles and our “Halloween Song”, Sydney sang the “ABC Song”, Isabelle sang “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, and Shivani sang “A Garden Song”.  Each child stood proud and tall when they sang, and commanded the respect of their classmates.

When young children are given the opportunity to express themselves, and then find success, it is an important step.  Each time this happens, over and over again, the seeds of self-esteem begin to grow and multiply.  As teachers we really don’t know when these moments will present themselves.  We do know how critical it is to ‘let it happen’, so we seize these moments.  You see, self-esteem cannot be taught; it must… happen.  And it did in my classroom.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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