Democracy

When we put big ideas into practice with young children, it can look deceptively simple.  Often, we do things instinctively or following tradition.  But if we pause to unpack the ideas embedded in our action, they can turn out to be profound.

Teacher Tom wrote today about how democracy should be something we live all the time, not just on election day.  An approach that permeates our whole culture. As with other important ideas we wish to live by, we do well to embed democracy into the experience of early education if we want it to permeate the rest of life.

Re-reading the question posed recently on the EYLF* facebook page
‘How do you record children’s voices in curriculum decisions?’
I reflected on how this strand of the framework is about children learning a democratic cast of mind.  When children are involved in making real decisions about their education, they are not only more engaged in their learning, they are also learning about democratic decision-making.

Educators in that conversation reported a number of ways they record children’s voices. One approach was to observe (and record) children’s actions. Through their choices and conversation, we can observe children making decisions.  Our thoughtful observation of these choices is a form of communication – one of the 100 languages of children if you like.  When they choose, one of the things children are doing is telling us what they like or want.  When we build on those choices in our planning, we show that we have heard them.

The cycle of choice, observation, responsive planning becomes a conversation about curriculum.

Other educators reported a more overt approach to involving children in curriculum decisions. They actively ask children what they would like to do.  They involve them in designing and setting up play areas.

Children suggested and helped set-up this 'hairdressing salon'.

Some educators described their routines for overtly involving children in decisions – and also involving the children in documenting those decisions:

“We have a children’s program book. We sit down together and children are chosen to go into the storeroom and talk about what’s in there and what they’d like. The children who are still in the playroom talk about what they’d like (from memory/knowledge of the resources we have) and where they’d like it, and have the opportunity to draw and write their ideas in the book. This is then displayed with their name.”  (Joanne Pitronaci)

“We have a large sheet of paper each day for a brainstorm of what each person would like to do on the day. The heading is “Program’ (all the children call it the’ program’ and know what a program is). I scribe for the children and write down all the things that they suggest with their names next to it. I also draw a little picture depicting each activity. There may be several names next to one activity. By the time the brainstorm is finished it looks like a web. At rest time I glue a few little photos of children doing some of the activities and children can also write their names next to all the activities that they actually did. Children often stand next to the program and point/discuss what everyone has done. It is very much a ‘working document’ and can be added to during the day – children can draw little pictures or write their name next to activities they have done. This is children taking ownership of their own program and learning. They love it. I also add one thing that I would like to do during the day so in this way I can include any extension activities from previous observations. When I have 2 weeks worth of program sheets I make them into a big book and children love looking back at them.” (Janine Vercoe)

I am impressed.

 

(* Australia’s early childhood education framework)

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2 responses to “Democracy”

  1. TheBargainBabe says :

    I love the hairdressing salon! What supplies are in there (I can’t see it all from the pic)?

    • goccediacqua says :

      I am not sure myself. The pic comes from another teacher in an online discussion.
      Most people seem to put some empty product containers, and hair ornaments. This one has brushes and combs, which generated a bit of discussion.
      From the teaching point of view, I think the important thing is that the children decided what should go in. Once the child’s imagination is triggered, there can be a lot of leeway with the actual objects.
      The other important teaching point here are the words posted up. Providing a print-rich environment promotes developing literacy. It is appropriate in this case because the children are in the beginning reader age-range. I would not do that for younger children.

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