ERCDC has adopted the Creative Curriculum because it provides a guide to best practices in early childhood special education and is based upon over thirty years of research about how children learn.
Creative Curriculum consists of the following components:
Optimal Learning Environment
At ERCDC, the classroom environment is safe, welcoming, and child centered. Materials and activities are chosen to meet the developmental needs and interests of the children in the class.
Flow of the Day
At ERCDC, young children learn by interacting with materials, teachers and one another. The classroom schedule supports active learning, with the majority of activities allowing for movement and purposeful play.
Social Studies and Science
At ERCDC, teachers collaborate on monthly thematic units of study related to Social Studies and Science.
In Social Studies, children learn about the social world, beginning with All About Me/All About You, and moving into Our Families, Our Classroom Community, and the local community (Community Helpers and Transportation). Non-fiction and stories are used to introduce these ideas. Children create props during Art time, such as a Fire Station and a Fire Truck. These props become part of the dramatic play center.
In Science, children develop scientific thinking through exploration, observation, asking questions, making predictions, testing out ideas, and drawing conclusions. Examples of Science units are My Five Senses, Chick Hatching Project, Planting, the Visiting Farm, Exercise, and the Butterfly Project.
First and foremost, books are presented as a source of enjoyment. The teacher leads a group story time that introduces and expands upon the theme unit. The library is a cozy corner that contains books reflective of the unit, as well as a few familiar favorites that children return to again and again.
Literacy rich environment: language experience charts use photos to document children’s activities through the unit, and are dictated by the children. Children love to see photos of themselves and their friends engaged in activities, and to hear their own and a friend’s words read aloud. Indeed, many children acquire their first sight words from these charts.
Phonological awareness: children play games and learn songs and rhymes that assist them in discerning the sounds in words. This skill is important for decoding, as in sounding out words phonetically. Comprehension: children use illustration cues to support their understanding of story content. They learn to identify characters, feelings, and events. Children learn to sequence a story using picture cards and retell a story using puppets and props created in the art center.
Math learning occurs throughout the day.
Number and operations: At circle time, children practice counting and number recognition. At music and movement, children play number games such as counting claps or jumps.
Geometry and spatial sense: children acquire knowledge of two-dimensional shapes using parquetry games and puzzles. In the Block Center, children extend this to experimenting with three-dimensional shapes. They learn problem solving as they figure out how to balance a tower or create a bridge.
Graphing: Children create topic graphs where they compare and analyze their experiences, such as which color apple they like best, or how they come to school in the morning.
Measurement: children use measurement in ways that are directly meaningful to them. They may measure their height, the length of their hands, or how far a paper airplane can fly.
Art is a daily part of the classroom schedule.
Group art activities, such as painting a giant box to be a fire truck, are chosen to reflect and extend content from the unit of study. These become props for the children to use in the Dramatic Play center.
The Art Center is available for children to experiment with color, shape, collage, and to express their feelings and ideas. For the child with language delays, art can be an important medium of expression.
Music and Movement
Music and movement is a daily part of the classroom schedule. Most young children love music, and love to move and dance. Songs and movement activities are chosen intentionally to reflect and reinforce the concepts of the unit study. Children also work on gross motor coordination.
In The Dramatic Play Center children practice social skills and extend their cognitive learning.
In Dramatic Play, children play out familiar experiences from home, less familiar experiences, experiences from children’s literature, and, finally, their own original ideas. Children learn empathy by taking on the role of another person, communicating their ideas with friends, interacting, sharing, and taking turns. Children extend their learning of the thematic content by playing out the concepts in the theme. For instance, During Community Helpers, the Dramatic Play Center might be turned into a pediatrician’s office, with children bringing baby dolls for check-ups. The children discuss what they will need in the center and create those props at group art. The more children are involved in every step of the process, the more interested they will be, and the more that they will learn.
At ERCDC, teachers observe children throughout the month, charting their progress toward mastering their IEP goals. This data informs the child’s Quarterly and Annual Progress Reports.
Additional Classroom Programs:
Learning without Tears
Learning without Tears, developed by an Occupational Therapist, teaches academic skills within a highly motivating, multi-sensory format that supports children with the range of learning styles. The Readiness Component targets basic concepts, colors, shapes, counting, alphabet knowledge, drawing, and early handwriting. The Language and Literacy Component targets language comprehension, listening skills, following directions, concepts about print, building vocabulary, story comprehension, oral language, retelling a story, and phonology. The Math Component targets counting, number recognition, number value, measurement, sequencing, graphing, and patterning.
Sounds in Motion
Children with language and processing difficulties may not perceive the sounds of letters and words the way that most children do. This can interfere with comprehension, spoken language, and reading fluency. Sounds in Motion is a multi-sensory program, developed by Speech Pathologist Frances Santori, which teaches children to discern letter and word sounds. The program uses a “whole body” approach; children see the letter, sing the sound, and do a motion that they learn to associate with the sound. The program is enjoyable, highly motivating, and has demonstrated success in a range of preschool settings.