I preschool and also a Learning Support Educator,

I believe that each child is
an individual and all children regardless of atypical or typical , they should
not be segregated in society. Hence I believe strongly in ‘Inclusion’ where
children with special needs are integrated into the mainstream schools with
children without special needs.

 

Besides working with children
with special needs in the classroom, we as educators must also not forget that
different children have different learning styles. Hence, we need to set up the environment and facilitate the diverse learning styles
and needs in the classroom. Embracing diversity is essential to creating a warm and welcoming
learning environment in today’s classroom. In the inclusive classroom, a
teacher will differentiate instruction and
activities as much as possible, which will benefit both the children with and
without disabilities. A well designed differentiated lesson will include some of
the following: A strong visual component, collaborative activities, peer
coaching, a multi-sensory approach to presenting information and differentiated
assessment based on strengths.

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As a teacher working with the children in the
preschool and also a Learning Support Educator, I have experienced many years
working in the early years settings. This includes working with the classroom
teachers and parents. I have to admit that when I was working as a Learning
Support Educator in preschools, it is indeed challenging working with some
classroom teachers and principals. I have also experienced working as a
classroom teacher in the Nursery class with 5 children with special needs
including one child with cerebral palsy in the mainstream setting. Personally,
it was great learning experience for me as a trained Educational Therapist and
a teacher trained in early years. 

 

However, I believe that although Singapore is
still far behind from some countries, we are getting there as the government is
placing a strong emphasis on inclusive preschools.

 

Today’s learners are faced with an environment that is different
from that experienced by previous generations. 

 

‘Educating the mind without educating the
heart is no education at all’ Aristotle, 3rd Century BC

 

Although
the quote is centuries back, the quote above reflect a common sentiment for
this century especially from this decade where many young children are
self-centred and how do we as educators lead children towards becoming more
caring and empathetic.

 

Children’s
social and emotional development is very important part of child development.

It provides a compelling rationale to examine what factors are associated with
the development of empathy in childhood, i.e. empathy is important for social
interactions and relationships and has been found to play a central role in
forming positive behaviours and attitudes and quality friendships.

 

Our teaching philosophy has
reflected some ways where children are able to cultivate empathy and prosocial
behaviours in the classroom, family and community settings. We as educators
will continue to provide the relevant support through observing and
understanding each child’s behaviour better and work on translating empathy
into the classroom.

 

 

 

 

Authentic learning is about children learning through applying what they
know in hands on experiences and situations. 
Through the Project based learning approach, children will learn through
problem solving, thinking and questioning.

 

    

 

 

 

I am glad that the
Singapore’s curriculum framework has included authentic learning as one of the
learning approaches.  This includes
emphasizing the importance of the physical setup of the classroom. One of the
main focus in our classrooms are the learning centres. Although, it is ideal
for a classroom to have sufficient space for all the learning centres and they
should be located according to noisy and quiet areas including uninterrupted
space for children’s movement between centres, many of the classrooms in the
local child care centres are still faced with limited space in an open concept
setting where different classrooms are. As a classroom teacher in one of the
centres located at the void decks, it is indeed a challenge in setting up an
ideal classroom. First, the noise level is quite high, secondly, there are
insufficient space in the classroom to set up sufficient activities in each
learning centres.  Depending on the
number of children in the class, tables and chairs also take up space in the
room too. 

 

Nevertheless, despite the
space constraints, we as teachers are still facilitators for the children’s
learning and our main aim is for the children to be engaged as active learners
and have quality learning experience through play and interactions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This curriculum recognizes
that each child has his or her own interests. Through the children’s interests
and curiosity in exploring the world, our role is to support and extend their
learning. This approach encourages children to ask questions and be active
learners.  Most importantly, we allow
each child to learn at their own pace. 

   

 

This is the learning process
I am glad it is happening in the classrooms in Singapore as children are
becoming active learners as they are involved in variety of projects and hands
on activities. This helps the children in a variety of ways especially for children
who are passive learners. This process will help children build up their self
esteem as well as in the areas of cognitive, physical, language, numeracy, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As there are diverse
learning styles and needs in the classroom, embracing
diversity is essential to creating a warm and welcoming learning environment in
today’s classroom. In the inclusive classroom, a teacher will have differentiated
instructions and
activities for diverse groups of children. A well designed differentiated lesson will include some of
the following: A strong visual component, collaborative activities, peer
coaching, a multi-sensory approach to presenting information and differentiated
assessment based on strengths.

 

I thoroughly believed that differentiated learning for children is
important in the classroom as each child learns in diverse ways.  Materials can be adapted to meet the learning
needs of the children. This includes children with autism where many of them
responds well to visual schedule and some visual cues for self -regulation.

This also includes visual step by step schedule for some activities.  Depending on the learning needs of the
children, teachers have to prepare adapted materials to suit their learning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The
iTeach principles begin with an integrated approach to learning which is
facilitated by      the teacher using
purposeful play and quality interactions to enable children to construct
knowledge and move towards holistic development. The principles seek to encourage
greater participation of children in the process of constructing knowledge and
acquiring skills in the six learning areas.

 

 

?    
We as teachers need to play the role of facilitators
to extend children’s thinking and learning. The iTeach principles will help me
in my planning and learning the different experiences the children have.  It is also important to work together with
parents and families to promote children’s learning.

?    
Create
interest and generate curiosity through providing opportunities for children to
have direct contact with real objects, people, places and events.

 

?    
Use
different teaching strategies

?    
Ask
questions

?     transferring their learning to a
different context

 

 

?              
Provide
resources and organise learning spaces to encourage exploration and
investigation.

?              
Ask
open ended questions.

 

After learning about the Backward design, I think it will be useful when
planning a curriculum for a diverse group of children. As we will be doing the
initial assessment at the beginning, we will be able to know clearly what each
child’s interest and understanding is. 
This will enable us to be on track by planning effectively for each
child to achieve the outcome.

 

 

As I will be following the curriculum plan
closely and checking back and forth. I will constantly observe and keep track
on each child’s progress. If the curriculum goals are not on par with the
child’s learning development, I will make some modifications to suit the
child’s learning.  As there will be
children with diverse needs in the class, I will take note of each child’s
progress and differentiate the instructions and materials accordingly.

 

 

Final
reflection on curriculum planning and design

 

The changing role for the curriculum

The curriculum in Singapore has indeed changed drastically compared to
many years ago. In the past, the curriculum is very rigid and traditional.  Now, the curriculum is more diverse and
influenced by the different theoretical models and gearing towards children’s
overall development.  As we switched gear
towards focusing on the early year’s development more now, there are also more
emphasis placed on planning the curriculum framework to be geared towards
integration. 

 

However, as many of us who are working in organizations who runs a chain
of childcare centres, we do not have much autonomy over how the curriculum work
and there are guidelines in how adjustments or changes can be made in the
lesson plans itself.   As much as we
would like to implement or carry out what we have learnt about the different
theoretical approaches, there are certainly some constraints as we need to be
mindful of the timeline of the curriculum and fixed themes. Hence, in order for
us to gear away from the traditional way of teaching, a more play based
approach is being integrated into the classroom.  One of which are the implementation of the Learning
Centres, where each child has an opportunity to work alone or work with some of
their peers. Teachers will take this opportunity to observe and plan according
to different learning needs.  

 

In 2019, when it is compulsory for children with special needs to be integrated
into the mainstream schools, I hope to see more flexibility in the curriculum
where teachers can plan according to the learning needs of the children.  As there are increasingly more children with
diverse needs in the classroom, teachers should have a part to play in planning
the curriculum where differentiated learning can be planned for diverse groups
of children.