Sloth Sky Preschool: Curriculum Context

Sloth Sky Preschool offers center-based care for preschool/kindergarten children as a part of a school. Based on the location, the school is near Penguin Ocean Primary School. There are no indigenous children in Sloth Sky School, but 6% of learners have a language background other than English. The national context involves the inclusion of the Australian context in the curriculum, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait histories and cultures, the Asian engagement curriculum, and others (Australian Curriculum, Assessment, and Reporting Authority, 2018).

The state context requires that state curricula should reflect the needs and interests of students within different parts of Australia. The school meets the National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) expectations of students’ skills and knowledge in major dimensions. Specifically, the progress in reading, writing, and numeracy skills of learners in Year 3 to Year 5 in 2017-2019 is very close to the skills of students with a starting score and similar background. Such factors as parental occupation and education, indigeneity, and geographic location have proven to have an impact on NAPLAN results. However, when compared to all Australian students, the schools’ Year 3 learners have demonstrated an above-the-average result in reading, grammar, and numeracy, whereas writing and spelling indicators were close to average. Compared to all Australian Year 5 students, the school’s indicators are high above average in writing, grammar, and reading, whereas spelling and numeracy are on average.

In the local community context, the school belongs to the Shire of Nillumbik. The community strives to pay due attention to the development of children’s physical health, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, and communication skills, and general knowledge (Australian Early Development Census, 2019). The school context incorporates attendance rate (91%) and ICSEA value (1119 compared to the average of 1000). The temporal context presupposes the use of digital technology by teachers and their preparation of children for globalization.

The school provides the Mathletics program, a phonic-based approach, the Reading Egg program, the reading intervention program, and the Write to Read program. These options have a highly positive effect on children’s literacy and numeracy skills. The suggested sequence of lessons is focused on literacy skills in Sloth Sky School to help Year 4 children, especially those from other cultural backgrounds, build up a solid foundation so that they will be able to enhance their learning skills in the future.

Sequence of Lessons Table

Lesson Student Outcomes Classroom Activities
1
  • Identify different names of vegetables
  • Recall the names of vegetables from the song
The teacher suggests learning a new song called “A Vegetable Song” from the Singing Walrus series. With the help of this song, the teacher pursues two goals. Firstly, she can make an interesting introduction to the topic. Secondly, she can help children to gain knowledge about different names of vegetables.
Children repeat the song and the dance movements of the cartoon characters. Then, they practice new vocabulary: the teacher shows pictures of vegetables, and children name them in pairs or one by one.
Having made sure that children learnt the song, the teacher may ask them questions about their favourite vegetables and fruit (e.g. “What colour is your favourite vegetable? Where does it grow? Can you eat it raw, or do you have to cook it first?”).
2
  • Answer questions about fruit and vegetables based on the inquiry-based learning approach
  • Recall the stages of plants’ growing or get to know them
The teacher asks the children to bring some fruit and vegetables from home. In the class, the children share what vegetables and fruit they and their family members like most of all and why.
After that, the teacher initiates an inquiry problem for children. She prompts learners to answer the following questions:
– Do you all know where these fruit and vegetables come from?
– Do you know how farmers grow them?
– Can all of these be grown on farms, or are some of your favourite vegetables and fruit imported from other countries?
– What do plants look like when they grow up?
Then, the teacher asks children what they can cook from fruit and vegetables (e.g. marmalade, ice-cream, juice, jam; soup, fries, salads). Also, the teacher asks students what their favourite candy flavour is. They can compare the responses and choose “the most favourite candy” of the class.
3
  • Build up the knowledge of planting
  • Develop literacy skills
  • Promote positive thinking and kind treatment of others
The teacher reads the story “If You Plant a Seed” to the children. During the activity, the teacher makes pauses to let students guess what happens next.
Also, the teacher helps the children to recall the vocabulary from two previous lessons, such as names of vegetables.
The story also allows the teacher to inculcate the concepts of kindness and charity in young learners. She asks the children why it is important to share and not to be mean.
Finally, the teacher explains to the pupils that some people do not have enough food and asks them what they should do in case they have some extra food and notice someone hungry.
The children answer questions and give their suggestions on how they can grow some small plants at home.
4
  • Investigate how plants grow
  • Differentiate between the parts of a plant
  • Name the parts of different plants
  • Plant their own vegetable and fruit seeds
This activity involves children’s participation in an experiment of planting a seed in the garden. They are not told what seed each of them has got, so they will have to be careful and recollect the material from previous lessons to identify what plant they are about to grow. Someone will plant a carrot seed, someone – a tomato, a strawberry, or a cabbage seed.
The children are divided into small groups of two and work in pairs. Each pair is given some seed, a pot, and s name tag to stick on their pot. By utilising the material from lesson 3, children will recollect how to put soil in the pot and how to put the seed in the soil. The children will water the plant and remember to keep in it the sunshine.
A teacher initiates a discussion about a life cycle of a plant (e.g. sprouts).
Children take photographs of their pots and arrange to repeat this activity regularly to see how the plant develops.
5
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the plant experiment
  • Practice literacy skills
The teacher asks children to present what they have learnt during the experiment. Pupils demonstrate their answers via drawing since they cannot write yet, and drawing is the best way of reflecting their thoughts.
Each child uses colour pencils to draw what they learnt during lesson 4.
When the pictures are ready, pupils present them to classmates and say what they know about planting seeds and the process of plants’ growing.

Justification for the Sequence of Lessons

The sequence of lessons was prepared with the consideration of multiculturalism in childcare. Although there are no indigenous children in the class, some of them come from different cultural backgrounds, which demands special attention on the part of the teacher (Rivalland & Nuttall, 2010). Another factor that played a crucial part in lesson planning was the coherence of the curriculum (Wood & Hedges, 2016). It is necessary to make sure that the content of each lesson is suitable for children, their age, and skills. Furthermore, each lesson in a sequence should be connected with the previous and the next one in order to help young learners develop an understanding of the topic via critical and creative thinking (Ab Kadir, 2018). Therefore, the lesson sequence incorporates not only the ways of presenting new material but also the approaches to ensuring children’s better comprehension and practice of the notions taught.

The selected theories and curricula include Bloom’s taxonomy theory, the core knowledge curriculum, and the holistic curriculum. With the help of these approaches, it is easier to help students from diverse backgrounds learn together and understand the new material without much difficulty. Bloom’s taxonomy is a tool allowing to typify and describe instructional goals in the curriculum and conduct the assessment of learners’ achievements (Lee et al., 2017). The taxonomy also enables creating an alignment between curriculum and evaluation. Bloom’s taxonomy incorporates four dimensions of knowledge: factual, conceptual, procedural, and metacognitive (Radmehr & Drake, 2017). The taxonomy is comprised of six categories: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation (Radmehr & Drake, 2017). Based on Bloom’s approach, a learner can move to the mastery of a more complicated category if he or she has coped with the previous one successfully.

In Bloom’s taxonomy, each of the hierarchy levels is represented by descriptors, which determine the processes of thinking incorporated in each level. For instance, the degree of knowledge corresponds to such activities as description, recognition, identification, and recording (Pappas et al., 2013). The comprehension level includes the skills of explanation, discussion, and summary. The level of application includes such processes as choosing, changing, evaluating, and applying (Pappas et al., 2013). The degree of analysis promotes such activities as classifying, analysing, researching, and comparing. The synthesis level encompasses the skills of creation, integrity, design, and construction (Pappas et al., 2013). Finally, the level of evaluation includes the processes of assessing, selecting, prioritising, justifying, and predicting.

The rationale behind using Bloom’s taxonomy when creating the lesson plans is that this approach enables predicting the development of children’s skills and thinking processes throughout the sequence of lessons. Although the taxonomy has undergone much criticism, it is still a highly potential approach as a teaching theory (Lee et al., 2017). The cognitive process dimensions included in the taxonomy are remembering, understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating, and creating (Radmehr & Drake, 2017). In the suggested lesson sequence, these dimensions are reflected in each of the five lessons. In the first lesson, remembering the names of vegetables from the song and understanding new vocabulary are involved. In the second lesson, applying the knowledge and remembering the stages of plants’ growing are expected. In the third lesson, children analyse previous knowledge, create possible ways of continuing the story, and evaluate the types of behaviour. Lesson four includes the analysis and evaluation of the process of growing, the application of literacy skills, and the creation of children’s projects (planting seeds). Finally, lesson five incorporates understanding, remembering, and creating (drawing objects from the previous lesson).

The core knowledge curriculum constitutes a combination of specific skills and content that are taught in various subjects. According to the core knowledge sequence, children are expected to receive a coherent foundation of learning a universal set of skills while simultaneously permitting flexibility for each school to meet local needs (Core Knowledge Foundation, 2013). The core knowledge curriculum presupposes not only teaching young children literacy but also explaining the basics of science to them (See et al., 2017). Additionally, this approach involves the treatment of children’s interests as a basis of early-years curricula (Hedges et al., 2011). Finally, the core knowledge curriculum represents a combination of teaching, learning, and play in early childhood education (Hedges & Cooper, 2018). Therefore, the approach is justified in the given sequence of lessons.

Firstly, and most importantly, each lesson was designed with the consideration of children’s interests and abilities. Learning about plants can be arranged both by means of explaining and playing, which allows the teacher to make children highly interested in the topic. Furthermore, the set of five lessons is related to science and, at the same time, the level of presenting and analysing new material is suitable for young learners. The introduction of the topic by means of a song (lesson 1) is both engaging and not complicated. Additionally, music promotes language development, and rhythm helps in remembering new vocabulary (Harris, 2011). The use of the core knowledge curriculum also makes it possible to help children from different backgrounds understand the topic better. For instance, the use of a story with multiple images in lesson three enables each child to understand the new concepts via communicating and playing with others.

The third approach utilised in lesson planning is a holistic curriculum. This theory presupposes a close collaboration between the district and school planning groups (Stewart, 1993). By following this method, each school performs the introduction and assessment of topics within the range of concepts predetermined by the district. At the same time, however, the interests of children in each particular school and class are taken into consideration (Hedges & Cooper, 2014). The holistic curriculum planning allows for setting clear learning outcomes and gaining them easily (Shapiro, 2003). This approach helps to build a connection between each lesson within the sequence, as well as between the sequence and the whole curriculum.

Each consecutive lesson enhances the acquired skills by encouraging children to recollect the material and promoting inquiry-based learning. Asking questions also helps teachers of young learners to evaluate progress and notice gaps in development. The selected approaches and theories are rather helpful in explaining new concepts and assessing children’s knowledge and skills. With the use of Bloom’s taxonomy, core knowledge curriculum, and holistic curriculum, young learners are able to learn new things, develop their critical and creative thinking, and boost their literacy.

References

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Australian Early Development Census. (2019). Community Profile 2018: Nillumbic, VIC [PDF document]. Web.

Australian Government Department of Education and Training. (n.d.). Belonging, being & becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Web.

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Rivalland, C. M. P., & Nuttall, J. (2010). Sameness-as-fairness: Early childhood professionals negotiating multiculturalism in childcare. Early Childhood Folio, 14(1), 28-32.

See, B. H., Gorard, S., & Siddieui, N. (2017). Can explicit teaching of knowledge improve reading attainment? An evaluation of the Core Knowledge curriculum. British Educational Research Journal, 43(2), 372-393. Web.

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Wood, E., & Hedges, H. (2016). Curriculum in early childhood education: Critical questions about content, coherence, and control. The Curriculum Journal, 27(3), 387-405. Web.

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