Bensley’s Miller-Taylor brings out imagination in students
The imagination runs wild thinking about how a kindergarten class might be to manage, much less teach. You may think it would be like herding cats. But it takes the right teacher, and many kindergarten teachers enjoy working with the clean slate that is the kindergarten mind.
The structure is much different in kindergarten. Just as we saw with some of the other teachers in this series, teachers blend new ideas into the traditional curriculum.
Jen Miller-Taylor keeps her class of five-and-six-year-olds moving from station to station working on projects that can be creatively in an infinite number of ways.
“The kids go kinda where they want to go, 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there. The purpose of the provocations is to spark their interest and deepen their understanding and also allows them to go to that stamina and get engrossed in something to further that,” Miller-Taylor said.
Provocation is a tenet of the Reggio Emilia approach to teaching kindergarten developed by psychologist Loris Malaguzzi, based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children through a self-guided curriculum.
“The thing with Reggio Emilia is that you learn alongside the child and you view them as competent and intelligent,” said Miller-Taylor. “You take them from where they’re at and you ask them questions, play a recording or… and take to the next level the next day.”
In one instance, a small group of three decided to design and build a boat. The design came quick enough, but what to build it from?
“They found a box,” said teacher’s assistant Pamela Okean Wright. “But it was only one box, only enough to make one boat, so they have to work together.”
As Wright joined the group for a moment to help score a corrugated box she pointed out how the kids had already cut some of the pieces out. They seemed to be at a higher level than the age level of those who cut them.
The provocations change according to what the kids are discovering. Unlike a lecture – their attention spans are too short anyway – the kindergartners gather in the morning and talk about whatever comes to mind in addition to what they may expect out of the day and projects that might interest them.
Miller-Taylor said that although she is certified to teacher third grade, she hopes that she can stay teaching at the kindergarten level.