Glossary of Educational Terms
Child-centered: A learning environment that has the child at its heart. Children participate fully in and take responsibility for their own learning. For example, activites are geared toward children's exploration and interest or from ideas generated by children.
Constructivist: An approach to learning that expects kids to take charge of their own learning; a view of learning based on the belief that knowledge isn't a thing that can simply be given by the teacher at the front of the room to kids in desks. Learning depends on what we already know and the learner is actively involved. The teacher is the facilitator of the learning.
Curriculum: A written plan that drives instruction. It delineates skills and concepts.
Developmentally appropriate: The environment and the curriculum meet the needs of each child in the classroom. Children do not learn to walk at exactly the same age, nor do they learn or understand specific concepts at exactly the same age. Good books on this subject are The Hurried Child by David Elkind and Yardsticks by Chip Wood.
Hands-on learning: Learning by doing, getting involved with a problem rather than hearing someone talk about it. It is engaging and emphasizes the process of learning. Children are active participants, and many things are made available to enhance the process.
Integrated curriculum: Subject areas are linked together around a topic or theme.
Multi-age classroom: A self-contained classroom with a range of chronological ages as well as a wide range of social, emotional, physical, and educational abilities.
Open classroom: The open classroom is flexible and informal, and makes use of learning centers, interactive approaches to learning, and projects rather than textbooks. It promotes a cooperative community of empowered learners, movement within the classroom, and individualized learning. Children are allowed to find their own space for working and interacting with others.
Progressive education: Education that provides real-life experiences that center around the real lives of children. Individual instruction is emphasized, and there is informality in the classroom. The curriculum is broad, integrated, relevant, and meaningful.
Thematic instruction: The organization of the curriculum around themes, with the teaching of cognitive skills connected to real-life experiences. The theme crosses all areas of the curriculum.
Thematic unit: A unit of study that integrates all parts of the curriculum