In their recent Exchange article, "The Power of Intention: Reconsidering Early Childhood Practices," authors Lisa Porter Kuh and Iris Chin Ponte explain: "As a field, we have polarized ourselves. On one hand, we want to promote play-based experiences and open-ended, creative opportunities with multiple entry points...On the other hand, teachers are under increasing pressure to build skills to bridge the achievement gap. Teachers feel caught in this divide, fostering an either/or mentality that is counterproductive to children's growth and development...
"We believe there is another approach – a way for teachers and children to have it all...This approach blends best practices from some specific philosophies that are the foundation of early education, but have become less prominent over time. The Blended Approach is rooted in the theories of John Dewey, the Montessori method and socially constructed learning experience inspired by Vygotsky's work. It is also inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach, and what is often known as emergent curriculum..."
The authors outline four critical beliefs that are foundational to the Blended Approach:
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While I think this piece has value. I do not agree with the premise: we have NOT polarized ourselves; its has been done to us! And we cannot provide the kinds of rich, meaningful, and valuable experiences to all our children that they deserve without first rejecting the overly academic and narrow curriculum. We cannot do both!. And lets be clear, we did not create the achievement gap, and are not responsible to close it..
So interesting for discussion! The article offers support for intentionally setting up an active environment that reflects children's interests. There were wonderful examples of some high-level adult language samples under 'Interactive Modeling:' metacognitive, extensions for depth of play and developing habits of mind. While it is critical for teaching teams supporting all preschool classrooms to have intentional and responsive (rather than laissez-faire) approaches to supporting child development, the big 'miss' in this article is that authors tend to fall back on having adults initiate and direct more of the daily experience. In the article, verbs associated with adults are 'show,' 'demonstrate' and 'offer step-by-step instruction.' We know that there are specific areas where learning is not so 'intuitive' and more adult support is essential. However, first we can consider a more natural approach. For example, if a child is new to watercolors, adults can use this opportunity to refer children to one another (who is the painter in the class?!) and then offer support as children solve problems with materials-- the best kind of scaffolding! Likewise, if a child is dumping materials in the house area, the adult can observe and listen before entering children's play, follow the child's cues about the content and direction of play, stay within the play theme, look for opportunities to encourage children to interact with each other (perhaps another child is preparing food!), and weave in suggestions for extending play.