Whenever my preschool curriculum is focused on a country, it always explodes in the best of ways. Children are captivated as soon as we open our Big Book Atlas and view our satellite map. We sing the ‘Days of the Week’ song in the native language. We learn about food, customs, art, animals… it is always an endless list.
January was learning about India, and it was exciting. Here are photos of what happened:
Our hallway display includes making tigers by cutting and gluing stripes, painting elephants and adding jewels, watercoloring the map of India, real peacock feathers, and writing words to label the art.
Our favorite book is a classic,”The Story of Little Babaji” by Helen Bannerman.
The Story of Little Babaji
Helen Bannerman wrote this story in 1899. When I was a child, I loved “Little Black Sambo”, which was an adaptation of this book. That book was banned, and the original, based in India, was reborn. Thank goodness. Not only is it a great story, it is so beloved in my classroom that we hosted a play performance. When a children’s book has a repeating phrase that encourages children to join the reader and say aloud; “Little Babaji, I’m going to eat you up”, it cements their love for the book.
Children love this book! We read it over and over again in January. Our play performance was spontaneous and so much fun. After all, when a book is popular (and good), I need to do more for the children. In teacher language we call that ’emergent curriculum’, which means paying attention to what children love, and turning that into more learning.
And a play performance based on the book was just the thing!
First, we picked parts, writing everything out on the whiteboard. We had two Babaji’s, one Mamaji, one Papaji, and the tigers picked who wanted the blue trousers, green umbrella, etc. Next, we staged Babaji’s house, the bazaar, and the jungle. Excitement was building!
Here’s the thing- I let children take control, which can be scary for some teachers. If I planned everything, then where is the learning and the fun? Where is the opportunity for children to try something new, be brave, and be creative?
Never underestimate children, as they always rise to the occasion when they are given an opportunity. And they did! When I tried to ‘help’ Harry with the words to say, he glared at me and said, “I know!” Of course he did. I knew better than to help, when help wasn’t needed. I owned up and apologized.
For a teacher, stepping back and watching is often surprising. Children who are quiet or are followers can become leaders in a play performance. It happens often. Had I given the quiet child a low key part in the play, their chance to shine and grow would never have happened. Thank goodness I pay attention!