Innovative Practice: 5 Strategies for the Early Learning Classroom
When a stone slides down a ramp, children scream with delight when it hits the target they have practiced hitting countless times. During a community of inquiry session following a small-group reading of the story of Frog and Toad, children debate what it means to be both terrified and brave all at the same time. Two children are finishing up the creation of their treasure boxes in a neighboring area, as well. They begin by sorting rocks into categories such as gems or geodes and then placing them in the compartments of their wooden constructions. In the science center, a child preserves flowers by wrapping them in waxed paper and stacking them on heavy books.
In a project- and play-based early learning classroom, where children are investigating the notions of living and non-living objects, these are the kinds of activities that are taking place. These and other early learning experiences that encourage curiosity and creativity have major long-term ramifications for children. As with the acts of a visual artist honing his or her skill, thinking can be considered an art form in itself. We must concentrate on developing creative learning dispositions early on, while the brain is still in the midst of its most active era of synaptic formation.
Children’s long-term success with demanding learning standards can be supported by using five tactics in early learning classrooms and beyond, as suggested by the author. The tactics differ in terms of their intricacy and level of cultural commitment. I, therefore, advocate starting small and cultivating a culture of student-centered learning and flexibility before attempting a large-scale rollout of the strategy.
1. Practice PBL and STEM Within Community Partnerships
Inquiry-based education is the focus of PBL (project-based learning), which assists teachers in building realistic learning experiences for their students. When it comes to content, I advocate defining adaptable project guidelines that have been evaluated through learning standards in the STEM courses (science, technology, engineering, and math). In the typical community volunteers project, for example, the focus might be broadened to include vocations such as marine biologist, astronaut, civil engineer, and architect, in addition to a police officer, firefighter, and grocery store clerk. Once this is done, match the project guidelines with appropriate community partners and ask them to offer you actual challenges to fix. To ensure the development of age-appropriate questions that have a focus on community impact, you can lead or support professional project partners. Each project should be aligned with a bigger good by empowering young students to act as change agents in their communities. Whatever the activity, whether it is planting milkweed to benefit an endangered butterfly species or giving excess vegetables from your edible schoolyard to a local food bank, there are several opportunities for children to make a concrete difference.
2. Engage in Purposeful Play
Elizabeth Garcia is credited with taking the photograph.
During The Ninja Project, an investigation of the senses, a kindergarten student rolls sushi in the dramatic play center with his or her classmates.
When it comes to early learning environments, purposeful play should be the focal point of the learning experience. It’s a natural approach to learning that encourages imagination and creativity in the learner. An ideal learning center would have a library, manipulatives for science, theatrical play, engineering/blocks, and art/maker space areas, among other things. Make these learning centers available to you to assist your project work and learning objectives. The incorporation of intentional teaching opportunities can be accomplished through open-ended literacy and mathematics games, science experiments, and the development of fine motor skills, to name a few examples of activities. Combined with oral language and Bloom’s Taxonomy poster prompts posted in each center for rapid reference, you have a powerful combination. As you, coach and model their activity, use the prompts to intentionally scaffold the children’s thinking.
3. Provide Opportunities for Student-Centered Constructionism
Because it is stocked with DIY materials, you may transform your art center into a mini-maker space. Engage students in the design process by having them create a visual poster that outlines the phases involved in the design process. Include the following phases in your plan:
Consider it, imagine it, and plan it.
Make it public and share it.
What was the poster’s title? Innovate! Make use of age-appropriate DIY items such as felt and plastic needles, wood for sanding, wood glue, and simple electronics to encourage creativity and ingenuity in your children. A recycling push involving families can result in an abundance of high-quality materials, which is frequently the most cost-effective way to obtain them. You will be astounded by the fantastical animals that have been designed and built. The creation of a recyclable-eating robot by a fourth-grader at my school as part of a self-directed project to promote environmental awareness was a highlight of the year.
4. “Bloom” Your Books
Due to the complexity of Bloom’s Taxonomy, rather than tackling the topic in its entirety, select age-appropriate question prompts and use them to drive your read-aloud conversations. The ability to plan ahead of time and be deliberate is essential. The library pockets that are often used for checking out books and index cards can be repurposed to include intentionally leveled comprehension questions in your weekly picture book selections. If the tactile prompt is not used immediately, it can be left in the back of the book for future use, allowing you to accumulate a collection of “bloomed” volumes. Support your children’s deeper comprehension of the picture book’s goal through small group conversations, increasing the amount of inquiry you ask them each day as they progress through the picture book.
5. Partake in Picture-Book Philosophy
Picture books are full of philosophical oddities that are worth exploring. Construct an inquiry community as a social-emotional strategy to establish a polite discussion community. Instruct children to pay attention to and respect the opinions of others. Allow them to revise their minds if and when new information becomes available. After some time and continued debate, you will be able to observe your pupils’ thinking changing. Teaching Children Philosophy is a fantastic resource for free book selections and supporting resources, which can be found at Teaching Children Philosophy.
Building a robust house requires the usage of a solid foundation. We must cultivate children’s minds during their early learning years through play, wonder, imagination, and exploration to assure their success as they progress through their educational careers and into adulthood. You can make a difference in your school or classroom environment. I encourage you to take the first step toward your goal!