I am thrilled to be using a generative curriculum model for the upcoming school year. Although I have encouraged student choice in the past, this type of curriculum is really going to allow me to take student choice and student centered curriculum to the next level. I am really looking forward to connecting with others who use this technique.
So what is generative curriculum? I really had no idea and googling the term doesn't net a lot of results. Basically, it is allowing the students to direct their learning. Students are still required to meet the same standards as other students in the district and (sigh) take the same standardized tests, but they learn content and skills as they develop a need for them. A teacher at the school told me about one such experience she had this past year.
This teacher has a mixed-age class with third, fourth, and fifth graders. She had been noticing that a few classroom jobs would be helpful. She jotted these on the board and asked the students what they thought about these jobs. They loved the idea and then brainstormed a list of additional jobs that they felt would be beneficial. The teacher then discussed with students how jobs should be assigned. The students decided that some sort of an application process should occur. That night the teacher went home, created a job application, and worked with students to complete the application the next day. They also learned how to create resumes and answer interview questions. A panel of three adults eventually held interviews for the classroom positions.
After the positions were given, the teacher pretty much thought that would be the end of the learning experience. However, after a while the students decided that they should probably be getting paid for their work. A classroom currency was created and the teacher began stocking a little store with trinkets. She discussed with the kids how adults do not get to keep their entire paycheck. Taxes and rent are required every month. I don't recall what the taxes go to pay for, but a lot of great spin-offs could happen with this. Once again, the teacher thought this was the end of the learning experience.
Then a student wanted her mom to teach her how to sew. One weekend mom bought fabric and the student started making pajama pants and a few other items. She asked the teacher if she could bring them in to 'sell'. These items were a big hit and other students began creating items they too could sell in their classroom. Some students have integrated projects, performances, and other hobbies into the classroom economy. Once again, the teacher thought this was the end of the learning experience.
You may remember that a lot of craziness happened in Wisconsin in January. Around this time, students started asking questions about health insurance. The teacher did a mini lesson on how insurance works and integrated it into the classroom economy as one more 'bill' for students to think about each month. They had a choice to go without health insurance, to have a high deductible plan, or a low deductible plan. Plans were used to see the school nurse. (Regularly needed meds and emergencies were free). Not only did this teach elementary school kids (!) about copays, deductibles, and budgeting, but it also helped one student who was constantly requesting to go to the nurse for bandaids to rethink the frequency of her visits.
I can see a lot of additional directions to go with this amazing experience. Additional financial literacy lessons would dovetail with this experience. Historical economic lessons could have been covered (new deal legislation, the national bank, etc.). Basic economic concepts could be covered with the students who are creating their own cottage industries. Speaking and listening skills were covered during the interview portion of the learning experience. Additional literacy and writing skills could also be covered with finding an appropriate novel for the kids to read on similar topics. (I am pretty sure the teacher did this, but I am not sure how closely it tied into the classroom economy)
I think as I work through this generative curriculum process I will rely on current events for inspiration. The students will also be working on individual projects that could provide opportunities for whole-class learning. I should mention that we will only be covering writing, reading, science, social studies, technology, and the arts with the generative curriculum – math will be separate.
So that is my understanding of how life is going to work. I think it's all about recognizing and capitalizing on teachable moments – and finally having the freedom to follow them down the rabbit hole as far as they will take us!
Does anyone have thoughts or tips? Could this work in a more traditional singular discipline classroom?