In an emergent curriculum, teachers use ideas and interests from the children to create themes and areas of study. By doing so, teachers are giving children opportunities to explore their interests and find joy in learning.  Child-initiated curriculum themes allow children to feel ownership over their learning.

A great example of an emergent theme that developed in one of our Early Learning Foundations (ELF) preschool classrooms this year was a puppet show! This emergent theme incorporated literacy, colors, language skills, social skills and fine motor skills.

Ms. Alice and I noticed the children interested in putting on puppet shows, but they did not understand that to put on a show they needed to put words to their actions. Ms. Alice and I modeled how to put on a puppet show and the children LOVED it!

Not long after, we noticed the children trying to put on puppet shows of their own. They were making up stories and imitating the class show that we put on. We asked the children “what are some things that we may need to put on a puppet show?” Their response was a stage and puppets. As a class, we thought about ways to make a stage out of a piece of cardboard. The children mentioned decorations, a window to put the puppets through and they even mentioned curtains to put on the window.

With more interest growing in puppetry, our teaching team thought it would be great to make puppets for the letter ‘P.’ The children were so proud to create their very own! They worked with felt, glue and markers, and especially enjoyed gluing “googly” eyes on their creations.

To continue with the theme, we put on a class puppet show while acting out Esphyr Slobodkina’s classic children’s book, Caps For Sale. The children were interested in this book and have asked to read it for story time several times. We read it once to familiarize ourselves with the story (many of them have read it before), and the next school day the children made stick puppets of the monkeys and caps in the book. They each made one blue cap, one red cap, one brown cap and one gray cap. I made a stick puppet of the peddler and his caps.

At story time, everyone grabbed their puppets and waited for the monkey’s part in the story. While I read, Ms. Lisa used our puppet stage for the peddler character. The children were very excited. When the peddler told the monkeys to give him back his caps, all of our monkeys in our class raised their sticks and said, “tsk, tsk, tsk!”

By: Jessica Volkers, Teacher at Early Learning Foundations Preschool
Through her work as an early childhood educator, Jessica encourages children to explore their world and become intrinsic, self-motivated learners. She holds a B.S. in Early Childhood Education from SUNY New Paltz and a master’s degree in Literacy Education form Hunter College CUNY. Jessica also enjoys taking pictures, baking and decorating cakes. She has a cat named Snowball and a dog named Ryu.