I have two grandchildren ages 7 and 9. They are so curious about life. They often ask questions about how things work or about the meaning of something. I just love being with them! I watch how they interact with each other while attempting various tasks, such as playing board games, making up beds, or taking care of their new puppy, Inzo.
This Christmas, I got the pleasure of spending five days with my grandchildren and my niece and nephew, who are also 7 and 9. As I reflect on the five days, these four beautiful children helped me develop an awareness about children that is important for every educator to know. Here is what I learned about children over the Christmas vacation.
The children we see right now are not the same children we will see at the end of the day. Every second of every day children are engaging with life. The life experiences help children understand how the world works. As their understanding of the world changes, the ways in which children interact with the world (their thinking and behaviors) change to match their newly discovered understanding. They learn how to solve problems when they play games. They develop rules to help them play games they create. They learn how to depend on others and support each other when working on a common task. They learn that they each have unique skills that they can share to make the work easier. They seek knowledge to deepen their understanding by asking questions of each other and the adults around them. They learn new words and explore the use of the words by using them as they speak and using the words to capture their experiences in writing. They create images to support their writing.
Over the five days we were together, they were learning and changing. At the conclusion of our vacation I was left wondering how teachers might use what I learned to support children’s academic achievement of grade level standards. Isn’t this the question all educators ask?
Let’s think about the roles and responsibilities of the children and the adults during this vacation. The children and the adults had vital roles during our vacation. Everyone took on the responsibility of having fun and create lasting memories. The adults and the children were responsible for teaching and learning. The adults intentionally planned experiences that took us outside to explore and experiences that keep us inside to explore. The children selected specific activities during our explorations. The adults followed the children’s lead and facilitated experiences and provided support and information to the children when requested (the children asked questions). The facilitation encouraged the children to wake up every morning more curious then they were the day before. Each morning the children asked questions about the previous day’s experiences and often wanted to revisit the experience (use other tools to make another clay ornament, mix paint colors to create new colors, try to swing the golf club in different ways to see how far the golf ball would go and if using different techniques would help them reach the next level in the video game, etc.). We all would test the ideas the children had and decided together if we were happy with the results or if we needed to make changes to the idea to get closer to the results we wanted. We were all learners. This experience leads me to I hypothesize that intentional planning of experiences where student and teachers are jointly responsible for exploring, questioning, generating ideas, testing and revising ideas as needed might strengthen academic achievement of grade level standards.
When our vacation was over and we prepared to return to our homes, we talked about all that we learned over the vacation. It was apparent that the children and the adults were returning home having experienced many things that changed the way they understood the world and life. My grandchildren and niece and nephew will return to school different children because of new learning. I wonder if their teachers are ready for the different individuals they have become? Will their teachers consider how experiences over winter break changed my grandchildren, my niece and nephew, and the other children in their classroom? Knowing that all children have different yet similar experiences that change the ways in which they understand the world, what will you do differently to teach them? Think about my hypothesis. What questions does this generate for you? Be curious and explore one of your questions or my hypothesis and see what changes happen in your classroom!