This post is brought to you by one of our First Look writers, Autumn Ward. Autumn has been involved with First Look since the beginning and is incredibly passionate about preschoolers and teaching them about a God who loves them.
When I read the Orange Leaders article by Cara Martens entitled, “Brain Questions to ask about Curriculum” (btw, fantastic article), it was only natural that I began to self-examine what we write at First Look. I mean, if these are the questions people are asking about curriculum, I want us to pass. No! I want us to get an A+! I took a deep breath, crossed my fingers and took the test on behalf of my First Look team. Read the questions and statements followed by my responses below. Tell me, how do YOU think we scored?
Q: Does First Look emphasize a lot of facts, with more knowledge as the goal, or does it lean toward transferring of information or application?
A: We try really hard to provide ways for preschoolers to experience what we are teaching, which is very different than just emphasizing facts. Our “Bottom Line” activities and “Make It Real” time are written specifically for application.
Q: What would happen if we wrote one without the other? (information and application)
A: Bored preschoolers (information only) or busy preschoolers doing pointless activities (application only). Either way, the kids lose out.
Q: Think about something you know a lot about it. How did you learn it? In more of a classroom setting or while doing it in the real world?
A: I know a lot about raising kids. No book could teach me what I have “done” in the real world for the past 15 years. Hands-on activities, experiential learning and relating to a preschooler’s world are all very important to the First Look team.
Statement: Repetition is very important, because most learning doesn’t happen instantly but over time, even years!
Response: And that is why we repeat the same Bottom Line and memory verse throughout an entire month—over and over and over and over. . . .
Statement: Strategically cycle through key information, coming back to it over the years.
Response: Whew! Passed another one. We cycle through our Bottom Lines and Bible stories every two years using new creative ways to teach them. There are some basic truths we just have to make sure these little guys and gals get before they leave us!
Q: What things are repeated or emphasized each week in this curriculum?
A: We make it a point to repeat the same basic truth and Bottom Line every week throughout an entire month. We have just three basic truths that we repeat every week, month, year—throughout the entire curriculum!
Q: Is there a page or place where I can see this at a glance.
A: Yep! “Scope and Cycle,” at your service. You can look at it right now at www.ThinkOrange.com. Click on preschool, scroll down and voila!
Q: Is the learning focused on one main thing or thread? Can it be summed up in less than a minute?
A: Each month can be summed up in one Bottom Line. For example: “Jesus is God’s Son” is the Bottom Line for December 2012. Everything we write goes back to that Bottom Line. The whole curriculum can be summed up into three basic truths: God made me; God loves me; Jesus wants to be my friend forever. I think we just broke the record for summing up in less than a minute!
Q: When people leave, if you asked them what they just learned, would they be able to tell you? What about a few hours later or even a few days?
A: I don’t know about a few hours or even days, but I do know that from serving in my church preschool environment that they have that Bottom Line down after an entire month of repeating it!
Q: Knowing that people don’t come every week and that we hear things differently the second time or at different stages of life, does this curriculum ever repeat itself and some of its core content?
A: Sorry for repeating myself (not really) but yes, yes and yes. We repeat and repeat and then repeat again.
Q: Does the curriculum help you think through how to create the best learning environment—using more than one of your senses?
A: We really try to help preschoolers see, hear and touch what we are teaching. We sometimes even get to taste and smell it! Movement and interactive storytelling are a must!
Q: Are the presentations multimedia—not just relying on someone to talk, but also using visuals and even tangible objects to get their point across?
A: Um, does using a raft, spray bottles filled with water and sand to tell a story qualify? Yes! We LOVE using visuals and tangible objects during storytelling and the activities. Way more fun!
Q: Are there any suggestions on how to regularly change things up to grab their attention—from creating sets or decorations or using relevant music or videos and practical ideas for volunteers to make them more successful?
A: We give themed suggestions each month for the Large Group storytelling set. This includes detailed instructions for props, costumes and set design. We also provide the option of using the creative and very entertaining First Look videos for the Host and storytelling part of the curriculum. We provide an original song every month that goes right along with the Bottom Line. And did I mention we also provide the very words that volunteers can say to convey the message?
Q: Does this curriculum not only focus on one big idea, but does it unpack it and make it easy for me to use all the pieces during different times of the week?
A: There are so many choices offered in one week’s worth of curriculum that a church could easily use several pieces during different times of the week. The Parent CUE card is my favorite piece because it is a take-home card that invites the parents to join in on the journey!
Q: If we use this, how will it help our people connect and open up?
A: The “Make It Real” section provides the Small Group Leader and children with the opportunity to connect and open up. The Parent CUE card provides the parent with the opportunity to connect and open up with their child and the church.
Q: Is there a set aside time of discussion or open-ended questions each week in this curriculum for people to get to know each other better?
A: Yep. “Make It Real” and Parent CUE—both are so key! There’s also dialogue throughout each activity for the children to respond and discuss what they are thinking.
Q: Is there variety in the kinds of activities to keep kids engaged even though they are motivated to learn in different ways?
A: Absolutely! Gross motor, fine motor, arts and crafts, role play, games, movement, investigation—we try and hit them all!
There you have it! According to Autumn, First Look passed with flying colors! What do you think?