Experiences and Education, Involving Others
Interacting with the physical environment is not the only prerequisite for learning. Children must also interact with their peers, teachers, and other adults if they are to have true experiences. Both adults and peers are sources of information for children and serve as sounding boards against which children can test the accuracy of their thinking and knowledge (NRC, 2000). Therefore, all of the experiences in this article involve children in play, in group work and projects, and in interactions with teachers and other adults.
Children are given the time and opportunity to play, especially in sociodramatic play that requires other children. Props relevant to the content are placed in the dramatic play areas and in the play yard to encourage children to reflect on and re-create their experiences. Both Vygotsky (1978) and Piaget (Piaget & Inhelder, 1969) believed this type of play led to symbolic thought. When children play “as if” they were the mother, baby, father, or teacher and “as if” a block were a scissors, they are thinking abstractly. Not only are they using objects to symbolize something not present, but they are convincing each other that the block is a scissors (Bodrova & Leong, 2003).
Other types of play—play with board games, organized circle games, building with blocks, outdoor play, play with puzzles and other materials—are also a part of the curriculum (Cooper & Dever, 2001; Levin, 2000). Each of these types of play gives children practice in observing, sorting, ordering, discriminating, classifying, and predicting.
Rough-and-tumble physical play is just as critical to concept development and learning (Perry, 2003). Research points out that children only learn concepts of in and out, up and down, and other directions by experiencing themselves climbing in and out, running up and down, or being high or low on the jungle gym (Piaget & Inhelder, 1969).
Group Work and Projects
Children are assigned to a small group to carry out a specific project. For example, teachers may ask two or three children to go to the school office to find all the machines that are used to communicate, or to be responsible for the plants or pets in the classroom.
Other kinds of small group work are arranged. Children may form some of these groups themselves, selecting one or two friends to join them in creating a mural or in doing some other task. Other groups may include children from another class or children of differing ages.
From time to time the entire group of children will meet together. Listening to stories, singing songs, making decisions about their classroom, sharing news, or listening to a visitor involves the entire community of children. These thoughtfully planned group meetings are valuable even for the youngest of children. First, they give children practice in following a common idea, arguing a point, listening to others’ viewpoints, and forming their own opinions. More importantly, however, they build a sense of community (Box & Little, 2003; Dewey, 1944). By singing together; by listening to stories, poems, and rhymes together; and by sharing news and information, children feel a oneness with others that is critical to becoming a member of a democratic society.
The informal give-and-take that happens as children play with others, work in small groups, or meet together as a total group is important for several reasons. These naturally occurring interchanges challenge children to adjust their egocentric thought to assimilate and accommodate differing points of view. Doing so, they develop new ways of understanding the world in which they live. Then, if children are to get along at all when playing and working together as a group, they must consider the ideas, thinking, and wishes of others (Piaget & Inhelder, 1969). As children argue about where the blocks should be stacked, or how to represent the fire truck they saw on a walking field trip, they are gaining the skills involved in taking the perspective of others. Considering that others have views that may differ from one’s own is critical for the perpetuation of democracy. The ability to take the perspective of others is necessary if children are to learn to give up some of their own individuality for the good of the group.
© ______ 2006, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Social Cognitive Theory
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- The Homework Debate
- Problems With Standardized Testing