Introducing the School Year Curriculum: a student-centered approach

Although the teacher’s are on strike, many parents are trying to get their children into the school routine. After helping two young boys today, I realized that the way that I introduced the ideas they would cover in the school year was a really fun new twist on the ol’ KWL chart.

First I looked at the curriculum and created a visual document that had pictures to represent various aspects of grade 4 and 5 curriculum. In social studies 4, for example, I placed a picture of a map of Canada, an image of a man gold panning and so forth for math, science and language arts.

Once I had these documents I printed them. I handed out the document to each student and told them to look it over and come up with some ideas about what they thought the pictures represented.

Next I asked one brother to explain to his brother what he thought he would be learning this year. They were so excited. They both got a turn reading a page before the other person was able to chime in and suggest their own ideas about what the pictures meant.

What was really telling about the whole interaction is that I gave very little prompting and that they were helping each other reach really deep conclusions. For example, instead of saying “that’s a picture of a chart and money,” one boy said, “this is probably about currency and stats and maybe even about making profits in a business.” If I had given them a word document that said Mathematics: data analysis (which is what the picture represented in my adult mind), we would not have come up with such interesting connections!

Another great connection was the picture of Captain Cook. The boys said, “That’s Abraham Lincoln” and the other said, “No, cause he is American and you have a picture of Canada, so it is a Canadian guy…”

I learned two things: firstly, a picture tells a thousand words, while words are finite in their meaning. Secondly, when you place the conversation in children’s hands they come up with more than you could have planned for or anticipated.

The boys wrote down their ideas and then we discussed them and they added more detail. In the end they had a self-created syllabus that gave an overview of the school year, as well as accessing information that they already knew. What a confidence booster!

Feel free to check out the document I put together for these student, and to add your own ideas about introducing a unit in a student-centered way:

CURRICULUM document with visuals

PLO’s   with Curriculum targets