Art of Teaching Courses

Sarah Lawrence College's Art of Teaching graduate program leads to a Master of Science in Education degree and teacher certification in Early Childhood and Childhood (Elementary) Education.

We believe that teaching is indeed an art, uniquely satisfying, always made and remade. The Art of Teaching is child centered and culturally sensitive, with observation at its core. Extensive observation and classroom teaching combine with academic discussions and course readings connecting theory with practice. Small seminar classes create an intimate environment that encourages the sharing of experiences and ideas. Our Childhood and Early Childhood certification program is committed to public education, particularly in urban areas, and graduates find teaching positions in a range of public and private schools. Course work may be considered in three categories: courses connecting content and pedagogy; pedagogical courses; and practicums.

2017-2018 Courses

Art of Teaching

Teaching for Diversity

Graduate Seminar—Year

This course will provide instruction in the methodologies of teaching diverse communities of learners, with an emphasis on meeting the needs of at-risk students. The course will address racial and economic inequality, multilingual education, and the educational needs of diverse families, including single-parent, multiracial, foster, adoptive, blended, LGBTQ, and immigrant families. It will bring forward new research-based practice, such as sheltered instruction operational protocol (SIOP), STEAM learning, and the project model. Engaging families and encouraging them to become collaborators in their child’s schooling will be addressed. All students will attend a biweekly, discussion-based seminar and participate in campus initiatives that address key course themes, including the Art of Teaching’s Film Series and the Undoing Racism Workshop. Students will integrate their experiential learning with theory, research, policy, and practice. Students in this course will be able to: identify the complex social factors of race, ethnicity, social class, gender, and ability that influence the teaching and learning process; examine their own cultural experience of race, ethnicity, social class, gender, and ability; incorporate developmentally appropriate, evidence-based practice into their classrooms; develop strategies for culturally responsive teaching and assessment; and create a learning environment that respects the dignity of all students.


Advisement Seminar


The theme of the Advisement Seminar is to explore the connections among early childhood education, childhood education, and the ongoing education of teachers in the content disciplines. The seminar begins with observations of the very youngest children to help us begin to frame continuities and differences. Faculty from the Early Childhood Center and the undergraduate liberal-arts faculty help us to think about learning as an ongoing process across ages and stages of development, leading sessions devoted to curriculum and its evolution both for children in classrooms and for us as teachers. We consider intercultural perspectives and themes related to teaching in a diverse society; view videos and films of children in classrooms engaged in drawing, writing, reading, imaginative play, and social-studies explorations; read source material in the content disciplines; and engage in hands-on explorations.


Children With Special Needs


All children in early childhood settings and the elementary grades have strengths and weaknesses. All children have areas in which they excel and areas in which they feel insecure. All children have times when academic learning is difficult for them while, at the same time, all children have the capacity to learn. Understanding the individual differences of an entire class of students is a challenge; and in order to meet the needs of our students, we must observe their differences and individual patterns of behavior.

This course will explore the concepts of inclusion, special needs diagnostic categories, designing curriculum that is responsive to children, differentiating curriculum to support skill development, keeping in mind that each child is unique. The goals of the course are to integrate our perspectives of children’s individual needs while planning classroom inquiry; to explore ways of working with parents of children who require special support; to understand how to access support and feedback for children that require additional assistance; to consider implications for teaching in an inclusive classroom and school.


Emergent Curriculum I and II: The Child as Meaning Maker


Emergent Curriculum is a yearlong course in which children’s interests and approaches to learning are at the forefront. Central to the course is understanding how to create a curriculum that is driven by ideas—striving for wholeness, integration, coherence, meaning—and focused on assisting children in applying knowledge and thinking to real-life problems. Classroom design and organization, media and materials, and approaches to teaching and learning across disciplines will be discussed, with an emphasis on the arts, sciences, and humanities. We will learn how to develop curricula with multiple entry points. We will reflect on ways of knowing in our own learning and that of the children and explore teaching strategies that expand children’s knowledge and modes of thinking and learning. We will discuss curriculum and teaching strategies for individual subject areas, with an emphasis on the connections among disciplines, building toward an interdisciplinary approach to curriculum and instruction. The roles of the teacher as observer, provisioner, collaborator, and facilitator will be discussed. During the year, we will engage in hands-on inquiry in workshop settings and take multiple local field trips to environmental centers, historical sites, and arts museums—reflecting on our own learning in order to draw implications for classroom practice. We will discuss how children’s interests and questions connect to the large ideas and questions at the core of the subject matter disciplines. Value will be placed on enabling in-depth inquiry, experimentation, and discovery and on establishing classroom communities based on collaborative learning and rooted in social justice. National and state standards, including the New York State Standards for the Arts, Social Studies, and Sciences, will be critiqued and integrated into our work. By the end of the year, students will create their own multidisciplinary curriculum plan, which will become a resource for colleagues and Art of Teaching alumni.


Foundations of Education: An Exploration of Meaningful Learning and Teaching From Plato to the Present

Graduate Seminar—Summer

This course will explore multiple lenses through which we view the concept of Education, including theoretical, historical, political, sociological and cultural perspectives.  We will begin by considering the historical roots of contemporary education, with particular emphasis on the history of public education in the United States.  Drawing on a variety of readings, films and in-class projects, we will examine constructs of diversity including race, class, culture, language, ability, gender, and sexual identity and discover ways to create an inclusive learning environment for students and their families. The work of John Dewey and other Progressive educators will provide a basis for looking at democratic ideals and “pendulum swings” in American education, including current debates concerning standards, testing practices, and political agendas.  Throughout the course, students will be asked to reflect on their own school experiences and field work observations in order to make connections between history and current educational practices.


Language and Literacy I and II

Graduate Seminar—Year

This two-semester course focuses on the making of meaning and knowledge through listening, speaking, reading, and writing in early childhood and childhood. All children—English speakers and English language learners—are recognized as capable of learning and of becoming competent English language and literacy users. Emphasis is on teaching that takes into account each child’s approaches to learning and pace in learning, valuing the complexity in developing instruction that builds upon what the child already knows and can do.

  • Learning is a process by which each person actively constructs meaning from experience, including encounters with print and nonprint texts.
  • Language and literacy are social acts.
  • Language and literacy develop in the pursuit of real-life enterprise.
  • Reading and writing, as with spoken language, are best learned in rich, interactive environments where they serve real purposes.
  • Reading and writing do not develop in predefined stages; rather, literacy understanding is complex and unique to the individual.
  • Language and literacy cannot be separated from the total expressiveness of the person.
  • Literacy is power, and children must have every opportunity to know its power.
  • Literacy teaching and learning must be re-envisioned to accommodate a multimodal, multilingual, multimedia world.

We will build our knowledge of language and literacy learning upon these assumptions by reflecting on ourselves as readers, writers, and language users. We will explore how children learn to read and write by observing them as they use language and literacy for real purposes. We will consider new media and technologies as modes of communication and expression and consider how they are reshaping the future of literacy. Our observations of children and our own literacy stories will help us understand the range and complexity of meanings and approaches among any group of learners. Our observations and recollections also will provide an entry point for discussions regarding differences in race, class, ethnicity, gender, and learning style. The challenge for schools to be inclusive of the diversity—to enable each child to differ, yet belong to the community of learners—lies at the core of our work. We will, through our Child Studies, our recollections, and the readings, begin to develop a picture of inclusive classrooms and schools in which children have the “space to dance with others” and the “room to differ” (Patricia F. Carini). The course paper will be an in-depth inquiry focused on language and literacy teaching and learning and on classroom practice and work with children, examined through the lens of your own philosophy, thought, values, and standards.


Mathematics and Technology for Teachers I and II

Graduate Seminar—Year

This course will place strong emphasis on students’ own understanding of mathematics as directly related to the mathematics that they will be teaching in early-childhood and elementary-school classrooms. The course will focus on core concepts of mathematics teaching and learning: the science of patterns and number relationships. Patterns and functions will serve as the lenses through which students will examine connections and applications of the topics to the early childhood and childhood school curricula. Students will develop understandings of the content, concepts, computation, and teaching and learning strategies of mathematics in schools. Emphasis will be placed on constructivist teaching and learning; inquiry-based learning; problem solving; and mathematical reasoning, connections, and communication. Students will be exposed to techniques in differentiating instruction that addresses learning differences and the special needs of English-language learners, as well as ways to identify tasks that challenge and augment mathematical understandings. The use of technology as an integral support for the understanding and application of mathematics will also be a focus of the course. Each class session will provide students with opportunities to engage in authentic mathematical activities, followed by sharing these experiences and ways to implement similar, engaging mathematical tasks in classrooms. As part of their conference work, students will create a concept teaching game and a presentation of the solutions to complex problems.


Observation and Documentation

Graduate Seminar—Fall

In the Art of Teaching program, we place the observation and documentation of children and their learning at the center of teaching. The emphasis is on seeing every child as capable, unique, and knowable and on children as active makers of their own meaning and knowledge. Observing is focused on what the child can do and is interested in and on how each child thinks and learns. We assume that teachers create their knowledge of teaching and learning through longitudinal observation and documentation of each child as a thinker and learner. This knowledge is the foundation for curriculum development and instructional planning that accommodate individual interests and approaches to learning. The ideas and processes developed at Prospect Archive and Center for Education and Research, by Patricia Carini and others, will be the foundation of the work throughout the course. The Prospect Descriptive Processes and, in particular, the Descriptive Review of the Child will give students a formal and systematic framework for drawing together their observations of children over time. In addition, the review processes developed at Prospect Center will be discussed as avenues for collaborative inquiry and meaning-making among educators and parents. Students will participate in a Descriptive Review and will review longitudinal collections of children’s work. They will also learn about descriptive inquiry processes for reviewing curricula and teaching practice. Students will share observations of children in both early childhood and childhood education settings and develop a language of description. We will discuss the importance of creating classrooms where each child is visible through strength. Students will develop a child study that includes: a description of the child using the headings of the Descriptive Review, a collection of the child’s work, and reflections on the implications that the longitudinal documentation of the child holds for teaching.


Practicum Seminar

Graduate Seminar—Year

The Practicum Seminar is a yearlong course that supports early childhood and childhood student-teaching experiences and provides opportunities to draw together the ideas, processes, and approaches in early childhood and childhood teaching practice, curriculum development, and instructional planning across content disciplines in prekindergarten through grade two settings and in grades one-through-six classrooms. Issues and questions that arise in student teaching and continue to be present in classrooms and schools will be explored. These include the role of observation and documentation as they inform assessments of children’s learning and of teaching itself; the creation of learning environments for children from birth through grade two and in grades one through six, inclusive of all children across racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and learning differences; the development of approaches that enable continuity for children between home and school and in their school lives; the development of classrooms as communities of learners; and the exploration of the teacher’s role and approaches to classroom organization and structure that relate to very young and elementary-age children. Other topics of importance in the course are the creation of opportunities and processes for collaboration among teachers, parents, and administrators and the development of strategies to reflect on, renew, and revise teaching with an emphasis on the importance of professional development. The Practicum Seminar also supports students in their continued efforts to understand the political nature of teaching, placing emphasis on educating for a democratic society. The roles of the family, school, and community in educating children are explored, as well as current philosophies and climate regarding home, school, and community relationships. Practicum Seminar students will keep a reflective journal of their field placement and student-teaching experiences, including observation and documentation of children, classrooms, activities, curriculum planning and facilitation, materials, and media. Students will also begin to develop, refine, and share their thinking regarding their master’s project topics.


Theories of Development

Graduate Seminar—Spring

The field of developmental psychology has been shaped by several different, and often conflicting, visions of childhood experience. These visions have, in turn, influenced early childhood and childhood education practice. In this course, we will study the classical theories—behaviorist, psychoanalytic, and cognitive-developmental—as they were originally formulated and in light of subsequent critiques and revisions. We will focus on the kinds of questions that each theory asks and the “image of the child” that each puts forth. Recent challenges within the field have highlighted specific conceptual problems, which we will address. Are patterns of development universal or culture- specific? Can childhood experiences be thought of as proceeding in a series of stages? How do we construct methods for studying children that will recognize and validate the significance of differing social and cultural experiences? How can we forge a multicultural view of development such that development is understood in terms of how it is experienced within a given cultural context? The goal of the course is to prepare students to integrate theory and practice into their work with children. Required papers will reflect this integration.