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Making Room for Different Learners

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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I was watching a couple of children working wooden puzzles the other day. Sometimes just watching kids work is great way to think about and understand more about children and development.

These two kids were working puzzles. Well, one was working a puzzle and the other was watching. (Her preferred method of learning is watching.) But occasionally the watcher would help with pieces and the worker was fine with that.

But as I watched, I noticed that there were two different techniques at play. One child would hold a piece and try it in several different places or in several different ways in a space. She would keep working until she found the right place or abandoned that piece for a new one. The other child would just look at the puzzle and look at the pieces lying around the table. Suddenly she would swoop in, grab and piece, and insert it in the right place.

Two different ways to solve puzzles - exploring and experimenting by physically trying different things; looking, observing, taking in the overall look and then seeing the "right answer" to the problem.

Both of these are valid puzzle solving strategies...and problem solving strategies. It was interesting to see these two children working on the same puzzle in completely different ways...and not even really communicating to one another as they worked.

Watching these children work reminded me of a few things that I need to keep in mind as I encounter a new group of children in my church kindergarten class.

---In most things there are many different ways to approach an issue or a problem. I need to be open to different ways to do things. Open to the children's different approaches and open to other teachers' or adults' approaches. I have my favorite ways to do things. But that doesn't mean it's the "right" way.

---All children are different and the classroom should allow for those differences and encourage those differences in learning.

---I need to watch more and discover what's happening in the classroom. Often things happen that I completely miss. So this year I want to watch more and listen more and step back more.

Many of our classrooms and philosophies are too focused on specific ways to do things or "right" answers. I think that too often we try to make children fit into a specific mold or do things in a specific way. No room for exploration or trial and error or figuring things out. The classroom should be a laboratory for learning, encouraging experimentation and exploration. Especially in the early childhood classroom.

I'm asking this question now on a regular basis: How can I make the classroom open to all kinds of learners and all kinds of learning?

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Scott has been an early childhood educator for 30 years. He has been a preschool center director and preschool ministry leader in a church. He has taught elementary school. He developed and edited curriculum for a religious publisher for 15 years. Currently, Scott is a freelance curriculum writer and editor, a workshop leader, and a school volunteer. In addition to his blog, Brick by Brick, he writes for the collaborative blog Pre-K and K Sharing (http://prekandksharing.blogspot.com) and works as editor for Pre-K Pages (pre-kpages.com).

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Guest Monday, 17 June 2019