Friday, June 28, 2013

New Curriculum Materials and Suggested Resources? Take the Time, Make the Time

I've spent the past week looking through the kindergarten chapters in Common Core Curriculum Maps (Jossey-Bass pub., 2012), and have been putting my visual self to work creating and filling Pinterest boards as I explore each of the six units recommended for my grade. I've included links to samples of the suggested artwork, music, literature, and videos as well as to many teacher-created activities and resources, most of them offered as "freebies" at the time I pinned them.

In the case of unit 3 (Exploring with Friends in the Neighborhood), you'll find I've pinned alternate artwork in addition to the two pieces suggested by the authors.  Appreciating the fact that the unit's activities are "neither prescriptive nor exhaustive," and that teachers "can select from among them, modify them to meet their students' needs, and/or use them as inspiration for creating their own activities," I sought out examples of vibrant neighborhood/community art that would engage my students and get them talking about the friends, family, neighbors, animals, activities and professions that they encounter daily.  But why did I feel the need to seek out alternatives in the first place?

Units 1 and 2 suggested works by Picasso, Matisse, Whistler and others:

As I look at each piece, I can hear in my mind the comments and questions that my Super Stars might pose and share as they examine color and make inferences.  I can imagine their journal entries and interpretations of the artwork that they'll create at the painting easel, creative construction zone or art class.  Families might even decide that a trip to a museum or art gallery should be moved higher up on the to-do list this year.

I can also imagine the dialogue borne of not only inquiry and intrigue but of confusion and possibly fear if my students were to reflect upon all of Pieter Bruegel's Netherlandish Proverbs, 1559, one of the two pieces of artwork suggested for unit 3:

According to Wikipedia, the painting depicts Dutch proverbs of the day and includes representations of "the absurdity, wickedness and foolishness of humans."  A fascinating piece, I can imagine junior high, high school, college students and adults studying it and engaging in colorful discussions and debates over the imagery, style, humanity, complexity, economy and iconography depicted.  But four, five and six year old children?

Ew, I can see their butts!

What is she doing to that devil?

My mom/dad says that the devil can sneak into your heart and...


Teachers can interject themselves into the conversations of their students when they feel it's necessary, but in my opinion, Netherlandish Proverbs risks requiring excessive amounts of maneuvering and redirection as students explore, reflect upon and compare their own neighborhood to the one depicted by Bruegel.  This maneuvering can further be affected by a teacher's own interpretation of and feelings about the painting, or beliefs about religion, modesty and morality, topics about which parents and families feel very strongly.  As you imagine yourself viewing Netherlandish Proverbs through your kindergartners' eyes, do you think they'll examine the painting as a depiction of collected scenes in a neighborhood/community, or do you feel their attention will constantly be divided between the separate images that for whatever reason, catch their eye? 


What kind of community artwork do I think is appropriate for young children?  Todd Berman has created collaborative neighborhood art full of colorful characters found here:

Angela De La Torre depicts colorful architecture in Buffalo the Beautiful:

Faith Ringgold's Tar Beach art quilt and story (link to

Reading the foreword and introduction in Common Core Curriculum Maps, I was unable to find a statement contributed by an early childhood/kindergarten teacher, though the Maps were "written by teachers for teachers" in the public school arena.  Hoping to find an explanation about the consideration and final selection of Netherlandish Proverbs, and provide my two cents regarding suggestions for future fine-tuning of the Maps, I checked online and found that commentary and suggestions can be shared only if an educator becomes a member ($25 fee) of the Maps site.  As I've already purchased the book and am comfortable tracking down resources and activities to supplement each theme, I won't be spending the extra money, though I'd love to hear from any of you who have decided to access the Maps and the additional bells and whistles online. 

Teacher Tip: Whether you're an experienced teacher or one new to the profession, always take the time to look over curriculum materials suggested to you or utilized by your district.  If you're swamped, make the time, as no one knows your students like you do, and your professional judgement must be utilized for their benefit.  


Links to artwork suggested by the Maps can be found in a PDF Art Guide available here.


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