What Does “Emergent” Mean?

What does “emergent” mean when it comes to teaching and curriculum? Emergent means the ideas for the lesson plans form a little more organically. The ideas come from what you notice the children (or child, depending on how many children you are working with) have been interested in, and you find ways to explore those topics and to tie them into other topics such as strengthening letters, number concepts, shapes, colors, etc.wp-1457211726414.jpg

An example of this is something I implemented in my new class when I took it over. I created a “Choice Jar” to learn more about making choices when it came to class activities, but also to tie in math concepts such as counting, more, and less. This wasn’t for every activity but for some activities, such as going to the playground vs staying inside, or going to a walk to this park vs that park.

Sometimes an idea may take a different direction than you imagined, and you have to be flexible enough to roll with that.

For example, after voting with our Choice Jar a few times the kids had a chat on the playground before I came to school one day. When I came in, they came up to me and one girl, Lea, said: “Teacher Eme, we talked and we’re not going to do that voting thing anymore.”


“Because, when we do it, some friends have to make choices they don’t want, even after we talked about it, so we take people’s choices away. We thought of a new idea, where we talk together and we decide our choices together.”

“That is a great idea we can try. That idea has a name, it’s called ‘consensus'” and we can talk about it at Circle Time today, and start working on it today if you all would like.”
They all talked, and agreed, so now we began the consensus model, and we gained the opportunity to talk about different ways people make choices, which is the first block of understanding the ways our laws work. Also, while it may not afford the same math opportunities as democracy, it still offers some opportunities, and it helps to build social and emotional skills!

So, that is what emergent curriculum is. Being flexible, keeping the long term goals of the foundations the children need to know, such as numerical concepts and literacy skills, but being flexible in the immediate ways to approach teaching those concepts, and basing those methods on what is engaging the kids in the class!



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