The Wonder Center’s
Early Childhood Education Curriculum Framework
Projects vs. Units
A Unit is a preplanned lesson on a particular topic, one considered sufficiently important to ensure that the content covered is not left to chance or to the interests, ideas, or questions that a given group of children might generate.
The desired outcomes are predetermined independently. An example of a weekly unit would be learning about the sound, structure, written execution, and appearance of the letter M. The desired outcome would be that the child can recognize the letter, make a confident attempt towards writing it and can describe how different currencies are used in different countries. Units are used in both Math and Language Arts.
Unlike themes and units, a project is a piece of research about a topic in which the children’s ideas, questions, theories, predictions and interests are major determinants of the experiences provided and the work accomplished.
Close examination of the anatomy of a project would see the children:
- deciding something
- arguing a point
- explaining their ideas to classmates
- predicting findings and hypothesizing the bases for predictions
- checking facts and details
- interviewing persons that might be sources of needed information
- initiating new directions in the line of inquiry
- drawing from observation as well as from imagination and experiences
- accepting and carrying responsibility for what is accomplished.
The Anatomy of a Project
A Project may begin in several ways. A child may introduce to his/her classmates an area of subject of interest, which quickly becomes the interest of a larger group. This can be a hospital visit, a small shell or a puddle for jumping in.
Sometimes, the subject is introduced by the teacher because she feels that it is a pertinent area of study. However, just because a group of children express interest in a subject doesn’t mean that it is worth pursuing. The sudden interest in pirate play, for example, may derive from a recent film and some time with dramatic play would suffice. An indepth exploration/investigation of pirates may not be in the children’s best intellectual, developmental and even moral interest.
Project topic selection should be consistent with the commitment that we make as educators in taking children’s intellectual capabilities seriously. We treat them matter of factly and seriously as young investigators of natural phenomena around them. A distinction exists between giving students room to explore through play subjects of interest and in creating a project based on appropriate material.
In good project work at The Wonder Center, children are given the opportunity to take initiative. We want to strengthen their imagination, and facilitate their ability to draw observations of the world around them through a serious study.
A Project will be undertaken if we can see the children:
* involved in direct firsthand observation
* involved in representation of their ideas through a variety of media: books, roleplay, construction, graphics etc.
* learning in culturally appropriate ways
The Teachers will then notify the parents of a potential project in the making. Ideas can be discussed, shared and contributed at this point.
Teachers make a basic plan of all of the areas of interest that the children may want to pursue. At the outset of a project, it may be impossible to know what the children may want to “zoom” into as an area of greater exploration. For a study on hospitals, it maybe examining the inside of an ambulance, for example.
The students contribute ideas that they may have and questions that they would like answered.
The behavior of children is carefully monitored during the course of a Project. Teachers specifically look for:
*Feelings of self-efficacy
*Degree of interest based on prior knowledge or experience
*Opportunities for Dramatic Play
*Opportunities for Field Work (What can be directly observed and recorded?)
Culmination of a Project
At the end of a project, students are given the opportunity to display their knowledge, to review it, and to share it with their families. These often take the form of Display Boards, but may also be collected into books, posters and photographs.
Time is also given to evaluate the learning processes which occurred. Reflection is an integral part of Project work.
Curriculum Strand 1:
Personal Growth and Social Interaction
The capacity to relate emotionally, morally and intellectually to the world outside of oneself.
In China, this strand takes on particular significance as the children are frequently provoked to think about the differences, and similarities between themselves and the China’s diverse citizens.
The child with a strong foundation in social relationships and with dispositions of curiosity, creativity and confidence is the child who is eager to learn and successful at learning. Through interactions, conversations, and negotiations among peers and adults, children learn to express their own ideas and feelings as well as to consider the perspectives of others.
Personal Growth and Social Interaction Learning Outcomes
Dispositions for Learning:
- Shows initiative, seeks and accepts adults help when needed.
- Is curious and eager to learn new things
- Displays confidence and conviction
- Exhibits creativity and originality
- Demonstrates perseverance and stays focused on work
- Is interested and engaged in activities
- Demonstrates individual decision-making
- Uses social language within appropriate context as in turn taking, using indoor/outdoor voice, and staying on or close to topic during group conversations.
- Respects environment. Engages in composting, gardening, and caring for animals and demonstrates deep respect for the living and natural world around them.
- Respects friends. Using appropriate language with friends, tone of voice and temper. Can stand up for self in times of conflict (“I message”) and can strongly demonstrate empathy.
- Understands that in times of conflict, the child must use their own language to describe the source of their anger or frustration. When their attempts have failed, they may contact an adult for assistance.
- Is aware of other’s similarities and differences in characteristics, preferences, and perspectives
- Forms relationships of mutual trust and respect with adults and other children
- Contributes to cooperative efforts, group decision making, and conflict resolution
- Understands self in relationship to broader community.
- Can say “Are you feeling sad?” to demonstrate understanding of feelings.
- Shows a willingness to be responsible for self, demonstrating healthy and safe living practices such as taking care of personal belongings, sets and picks up own dishes at meal times, general play materials cleaning-up, practicing personal hygiene (hand washing), participating in daily physical activity, and following safety precautions.
- Shows understanding of and communicates about one’s self
- Personal knowledge (name, gender, age, family characteristics, home country and language)
- Emotional awareness (communicates one’s needs and feelings to classmates and to adults)
- Reflects upon the characteristics and merits of one’s own work and makes connections to the works of others.
- Will self-select items for their portfolio and explain why the artifact has been collected.
- Shows an understanding of the relationship of the past, present, and future and the process of change.
Core Teaching Practices to Support Children’s Personal Growth and Social Interaction:
To support initiative:
- Give children opportunities to make choices throughout the day, from the food that they eat to when they decide to do their “jobs”.
- Allow children opportunities to role play out social encounters in front of their peers. All attempts are praised.
- Encourage children to participate in group (large and small) activities
- Seek children’s suggestions for solving problems and trying them out
- Hold class meetings where children can propose solutions for solving problems and or resolving conflicts
To support curiosity and eagerness to learn new things:
- Provide a learning environment (both indoors and outdoors) with a wide variety of materials for children to explore and manipulate
- Ask children open-ended questions about what they are doing, observing, or thinking about
- Guide them in their exploration of ideas
- Model wonderment and ways to investigate questions
- Accept children’s theories and encourage them to test them out
To support confidence and conviction:
- Support children’s attempts to solve problems and resolve conflicts
- Validate the feelings of each student “I can tell that you are feeling mad”
- Discuss issues with children at their eye level
- Hold meeting times daily and encourage children to express their ideas and opinions
- Acknowledge children’s accomplishments and creations without excessive or rote praise. Display work at their eye level for them to admire and appreciate.
To support creativity and originality:
- Supply open-ended materials for children to explore and express themselves. We do not provide coloring pages, engage in “crafts” where a teacher made model is provided, or expect similar results from each child.
- Create learning environments that supply a rich array of materials that are easily accessible to children: natural earth clay, school made playdough, shells, sticks, paints, different textures/colors/sizes of paper etc.
- Emphasize the process of making art, not the end product
- Encourage the children to direct their own pretend play through a variety of play centers (kitchen, doctor’s office, stage, sitting room) and a variety of play props (costumes, authentic kitchen items, large blocks for construction, fabric, etc.)
- Respond to children’s humor. Share humor with them.
To support perseverance and staying focused on task:
- Encourage children to pursue their own interests and design the curriculum with children’s interests in mind. Support an “emergent curriculum” when opportunity arises.
- Scaffold children’s learning in their acquisition of new skills.
- Organize group work so that children have large blocks of time to engage and revisit explorations and projects.
Curriculum Strand 2:
Symbolic Representation and Communication
The growing capacity to form images, or ideas of something seen or known, or of something imagined.
The child with a strong foundation in symbolic representation can represent and communicate ideas and feelings in a variety of ways. This enables them to think about their experiences and to expand their understanding of these experiences. The growing ability to share a convention system of signs and symbols, verbal and written language, visual art forms, or any other system of representation enables children to share their ideas and feelings with others, thus increasing their ability to communicate.
Symbolic Representation and Communication Learning Outcomes
Child becomes aware of, explores, investigates, and uses various media and tools, demonstrating preferences for one or more.
- Media include: clay, paint, wire, collage, pastels, free choice
- Tools include: scissors, markers, pencils, adhesives, free choice etc
Represents feelings and ideas through various forms of communication. Expands and refines the form and organization of representations:
* Initial scribbles and drawings * Representational Drawings
* Scribbling/mock symbols * Letters/numerals
(curves, angles, dots, etc.) * Converses/listens
* Self Talk
* Inventive Spelling
Uses various forms of communication to construct and share meaning, and to create connections with the past, present, and future:
* Storytelling and retelling * Shared reading
* Dramatic Play * Interactive writing
* Messages * Reading symbols and names
* Self-reflection * Reading environmental print
* Conversations * Journals
* Portfolios * Mail Center
Understands concepts of printed materials:
- Shows interest in reading and looking at books; alone or accompanied
- Exhibits understanding of tracking print from left to right across the page.
- Exhibits book handling skills, and puts book back in an appropriate manner.
- Identifies some to all alphabet letters and displays letter concepts
- Ability to hear and speak separate sounds in words (phonemic awareness)
- Recognizes that print represents spoken words
- Can make a realistic prediction of the outcome of a story
- Develops a sense of story with characters, setting, and plot.
- Pretends to read easy or predictable books or tries to read along during his or her favorite part of the story.
- Can choral read with the class favorite parts of the story.
Develops an appreciation for beauty, aesthetics, and the power of representation and communication:
- Responds to others (peers, authors, artists)
- Can describe what they love and value in the world around them.
Core Teaching Practices to Support Children’s Symbolic representation and communication
Shared Reading of Big Books:
- Select highly predictable books with strong illustrations and appealing storylines
- Introduce and highlight title, author and illustrator before reading. Introduce and highlight front cover, spine, back cover and dedication page.
- Read the whole text, pointing word by word right above the first letter of each word (using finger, pointer, flash light, etc.)
- Ask for predictions about the story from the children after looking at cover, or reading half of the story.
- Invite children to read along (choral reading, echo reading)
- Provide children with a summary of the book, and encourage their own summaries.
- Revisit favorite or familiar text.
- Provide students with “Stop and Think” notes to place in their books so that they can independently practice prediction making.
- Demonstrate how reading partners sit knee to knee and have “book talks” on a variety of literary subjects.
- Demonstrate how reading partners listen and respond to each other.
- Model the language “turn and talk” so that children understand what to do, when it is time to do it.
- Encourage the expression of own ideas, and to respect the ideas of others.
Knowledge of Print and Books:
* Shows interest in reading books and can independently select books of interest.
* Can discriminate between fiction and non-fiction books and the sides of the library that they belong to.
* Checks out a book every day to read at home, and returns it to the appropriate basket.
* Can identify oneself as “being a reader” and describe to classmate or adult what types of books they are interested in.
Journal Writing, Meaningful Words and The Writing Workshop
- Each child has his or her own journal for unguided expression.
- Each child has a Writing Folder. Children who have learned how to read and write their alphabet letters (with help from Handwriting Without Tears) will immediately begin The Writing Workshop.
- The Writing Workshop encourages children to write using invented spelling, and to describe meaningful episodes “small moments” in their lives.
- Each child will be assisted in writing through ‘writing conferences” which directly support their writing and through “meaningful words” a list of words special to them that they can keep in their writing folders.
The Mail Center
- Children will have the opportunity to write, decorate and illustrate letters for one another, and also for their families living outside of Shanghai
- Letters will be placed in an envelope, sealed and addressed (assisted).
- Letters will be placed in the mailbox and shared at afternoon meeting, with the child’s permission.
Curriculum Strand 3:
Logical Mathematical and Physical Knowledge Learning Outcomes
Demonstrates curiosity, respect and interest by interacting with and observing objects, substances, materials, living things and the outside world. Children will begin to understand that all living organisms have a role in our ecosystem and therefore should be valued and maintained.
Begins to learn to take responsibility for the environment, while developing a strong sense of community to ensure the continuation of our society.
- Works at tending vegetables, identifies compostable items
- Works weekly in the school garden
- Can take turns at jobs in the community
Develops an awareness of ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle including proper nutrition and physical activity.
- Is involved in the preparing of healthy food items at school.
- Makes balanced choices at snack and lunch times
- Has 2-3 outdoor sessions a day (sometimes in the rain) where the child can participate in physical activity
- Climbs trees, rides bikes, runs around school yard, plays/throws balls,
Observes, explores, and investigates physical properties of objects, materials, living things and the natural world.
- Uses a variety of tools and materials to support scientific learning and investigation (magnifying glass, microscope, scale, tools)
- Observes and discusses life cycles (eggs to birds, seeds to plants, caterpillars to butterflies, babies to adults)
- Uses one or more senses to observe surroundings and the changes within them.
Actively participates in predicting, questioning, and hypothesizing as part of the inquiry and problem solving process.
- Uses the format, “I think…because”
Demonstrates an understanding of objects and events in spatial and temporal terms:
- Flow of the Day
- Holidays and Birthdays
Math Strands and Sequence Pre-School/Pre-Kindergarden Year:
Major Units of Study
Unit: Exploration of NUMBERS and who they are to each other.
Students understand the relationship between numbers and quantities (i.e. that a set of objects has the same number of objects in different situations regardless of its position or arrangement)
The children will explore the value of numbers 1-10 by studying their value, identifying their form, practice writing them, putting them in their order and creating a book based on the numbers 1-10. This unit typically takes one month to ensure lots and lots of practice. It is a unit that is revisited throughout the year.
We also spend a lot of time on Calendar Math
Group Meetings: Calendar
- Recognizing the sequences of days, weeks and months.
- Counts days to upcoming events or past events.
- Counting children in attendance at school
- How many children are here or missing?
- How many boys? How many girls? How many grown ups?
- Guiding through children through principles of more or less
- Guiding children through what number comes before or after
Benchmark Skill A-PreS
Student can compare two or more sets of objects (up to 10 objects in each group) and identify which set is equal to, more than, or less than the other.
Benchmark Skill A – PreK
Students can compare and contrast two or more sets of objects (primarily ones and tens sticks) and identify which set is equal to, more than, or less than the other. Students will use place value mat and create their own number chart of numbers 1-100.
Benchmark Skill B-PreS
Student can count, recognize, represent, name and order a number up to 10 objects at least.
Benchmark Skill B – PreK
Students can count recognize, represent, name and order numbers of up to 100 objects in groups of tens by value and by sight.
Benchmark Skill C-PreS
Students know that larger numbers describe sets with more objects in them than the smaller numbers have. Students can place numbers in order given their quantity: i.e. 6 after 5, 8 before 9.
Unit: Shapes all around
The children will learn their basic shapes: circle, square, triangle, rectangle, star, oval and diamond. This will include a shape hunt, and many examples of geometric art where the children can explore how shapes go together.
Benchmark Skill A-PreS
Student can identify the shapes which have no corners and the ones that do.
Benchmark Skill B-PreS
Student can describe, recognize and sort the basic shapes studied.
Benchmark Skill B-PreK
Student can identify shapes with 5 sides, 6 sides and 8 sides.
Benchmark Skill C-PreS
Students can make authentic connections to shapes in the world around them.
Benchmark Skill Skill C-PreK
Students will learn about Tessellations and how shapes can continue on.
Unit: Patterns and how they are governed by a single rule
The children will learn simple patterns that will grow in complexity as the student masters each skill set. Patterns are taught using as many different intelligences as possible: with hand claps and drum beats, with language plays: “cat, dog, mouse, cat dog, mouse”, with visual spatial objects and with manipulatives.
Benchmark Skill A-PreS&PreK
Student can extend patterns AB, ABC, ABBC, AABBCC
Benchmark Skill B-PreS & PreK
Student can extend patterns above transferring understanding of the rule to other areas. i.e. Girl Boy Girl Boy: Apple, Orange, Apple, Orange or Tree, Rock, Rock, Moss: Dad, Mom, Mom, Baby
Unit: Classifying/Sorting and Sequencing
This unit will last the whole year as all ages of children are encouraged to explore how to sort and classify objects, pictures and themes.
Benchmark Skill A-PreS
Student can sort through objects based on a single rule “Objects by color”. This grows in complexity to include two rules: “Objects smooth and small”
Benchmark Skill A-PreK
Student can classify objects in the natural world based on a rule: flying animals, swimming animals etc. The same group of objects can be reclassified: mammals, oviparious etc.
Benchmark Skill B-PreS
Student can create their own rules based on a group of objects. This can be described and shared with classmates. “I grouped my objects based on whether or not they had wheels”.
Benchmark Skill B – Pre-K
Student’s can create their own rules and create posters based on their selection of a single rule. This can be described and displayed “I grouped my objects by things that are slow, medium and super fast”
Unit: Simple Addition and Subtraction
Towards the end of the year, the children will learn how to add and subtract very simple numbers using manipulatives and story telling. They are also introduced to a number line to help them to “add up” and “count back”
Benchmark Skill A-PreS
Student can add together and come up with the correct quantity for two separate groups of objects. Using a number line, and using people, and other objects, the student can add and subtract numbers less than 10.
Benchmark Skill A-PreK
Student will explore and understand the number families for the number 10 and the number 5. They will learn their double addition facts (1+1, 2+2 etc.)
Benchmark Skill B-PreS
Student can recognize the + and – symbols in an equation.
Benchmark Skill B-PreK
Student will explore the concept of 0
Curriculum Strand 4: Music, Movement and Dramatic Play
Child reacts to music and can express themselves through movement and dramatic play. As a Music Together Registered Preschool, the child will understand the organic, fluid experience of making music; along with tonal and rhythm patterns.
Child experiments with and creates music using a variety of music instruments
- Will self-select instrument and use instrument appropriately
- Experiments with many different instruments and sound sources and produces a variety of sounds.
- Understands that music does not have to be performance based, but play based, with the focus on the process of the moment.
Uses movement for the purposes of locomotion, manipulation, stability and expression.
Exhibits functional gross motor abilities.
Expresses and represents feelings, ideas, and experiences through dramatic play and performing arts
- Demonstrates an awareness of roles and characters related to real-life and fictional experiences
Core Teaching Practices to Support Children’s Musical Learning and Physical Development
Create settings and environments within which children can make their own music
- Encourage children to freely experiment and explore instruments, making a variety of sounds, without imposing musical conventions.
- Place instruments in at least two different locations for spontaneous musical play
- Provide children with instruments from different parts of the world for exploration
- Use musical cues, instead of just language, to signify times of transition
Provide children with a variety of experiences that further support their development of musical knowledge.
- Demonstrating the gestures of conducting in order to communicate musical instruction.
- Using shared musical vocabulary that provides a framework for understanding basic music concepts such as pitch, tempo, rhythm and pattern.
- Explore the moods of music by listening and responding to the music through a variety of creative means.
- Create musical stories with children
- Entice and provoke the spontaneous creation of music through substitution
Uses gross motor skills with purpose and coordination
- Provide children with opportunities to move from one point to another (walks, runs, jumps, gallops, hops etc.)
- Provide children with opportunities to control body movements (bends, stretches, balances on one foot, changes direction etc.)
- Provide children with opportunities to use large muscle movements to manipulate objects. (throws, kicks, bounces ball, rides a tricycle, climbs trees, uses shovels, uses wheelbarrows)
Responds to sensory input to function in the environment
- Provide children with opportunities to exhibit sensory awareness through the five senses.
- Provide children with opportunities to exhibit body awareness (creates different shapes using the body, and imitates animals with the movement of different body parts
- Provide children with opportunities to exhibit spatial awareness (moves body backward, forward, sideways, up and down)
- Provide children with opportunities to exhibit temporal awareness (moves body to a rhythm and adjusts body movement to the tempo)
Curriculum Strand 5:
Student is given ample opportunity to explore their own creative expression in the art studio.
- Student will not follow by teacher example or “sample” but will learn the techniques of art which they can take full ownership over.
- Student will not be rushed but be allowed to stay at the art table for as long as time permits
- Student will regularly explore: paints, clay, wire, beading, yarnwork, stamping, printing, collaging, paper mache and woodwork.
We have several “signature” art units that we rotate over 2 years.
|“Lines” An exploration on elongated paper of Lines and how they are made.
||“Project ME” A full scale exploration of ourselves, our senses and our self identity done on Chinese scrolls.
|Hands/Feet done with Plaster of Paris
||Me OVER Time. 9 self portrait panels done over the course of the school year.
||Folk Art – Mythical Animals
|Quilts – made by the children’s own patches
||Family Box Diarama
|Mobiles with Math
||Paper Mache Animal
|“Spring” A photo collage
||A Study of Flowers – Still Life
|Paper Mache Self Portraits