Young Children as Thinkers (page 2)
It is tempting to think of young children’s minds as fresh pages to be written on, or clay to be molded by skillful, caring teachers. It is so tempting, in fact, that many inexperienced teachers and parents equate “telling” with teaching. Unfortunately, much writing about education characterizes teaching as “delivery of instruction,” as if children’s minds were loading docks upon which teachers can deposit boxes of information and skills.
A more realistic view of how children’s minds work comes from an ever-widening stream of cognitive psychology research. This view is reinforced by the once-again-appreciated observations of parents and teachers who work daily with children. Both sources see children’s minds constantly engaging in sense-making. Consider this story a mother reported to her son’s teacher:
Three-year-old Christopher was baking gingerbread with his mother when he asked, “Where is the cinnamon-god?” His surprised mother probed gently to puzzle out the meaning of his question. She learned that the rabbi from a neighboring synagogue had recently visited the children at Christopher’s preschool. God, synagogue, cinnamon, cinnamon-god: Christopher had put all the pieces together. He had constructed his own knowledge.
Most likely, Christopher had used previous experiences with cinnamon—something he could touch, smell, taste, and see—as a base of understanding on which to hook the new information. His mother then helped him refashion the connection to conform to more commonly held definitions and pronunciations of cinnamon and synagogue. Because his mother offered more information, Christopher could form new, more sophisticated knowledge. He could do this without being aware of how marvelously his mind was working. Because at his age he is learning effortlessly about nine new words a day, every experience Christopher has is a source of developing knowledge for him.
© ______ 2008, 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.
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