Young Children Development and Learning

Introduction

Two year old Sydney is a living proof that humans develop fastest in their toddler years. An only child raised by her parents and extended family members, she is one to be doted upon by everyone and her developmental milestones are big news in the household. She epitomizes a typical two year old individual’s development in all areas, and maybe a little more, since she has shown that she is a smart and independent little girl.

Her language skill development has been remarkable and she learns words pretty fast and uses these in her simple sentences. From two to three word sentences, she has graduated to using longer sentences inserting new words she has recently heard and learned the meaning of. She surprises everyone when she utters seemingly adult words and expressions that they were not aware she understood.

Her mother and aunt usually speak adult talk in front of her, using modern expressions like “Whatever!” or “Duh!!!” and would be amused when Sydney would suddenly roll her eyes, throw her hands in the air and likewise say “Whatever!!!” when her mother would ask her to do something she does not like. Once, she was asked by her father if she would like some chocolate ice cream, which was her favorite, and knowing that her father also knew that fact, she shot back at him, “Duh!”

These observations are a far cry from the one-word sentences she uttered in the observations for the previous assignment (See Appendix). These current observations were reported by her mother. Perhaps, these manifestations of her language development are more pronounced at home because she is in the company of family whereas in school, she is with people who are not part of her inner circle. Although, time has elapsed, and it is but expected that her language skills will grow.

Vygotsky came up with the concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD). He defined the ZPD as the distance between a child’s independent problem-solving level and that obtained under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers (Wertsch, 1985). Wells (1997) cautioned us, however, that a ZPD is formed not just within an individual learner, but in the interaction between the learner, coparticipants, and available tools during involvement in a common activity. ZPDs, therefore, depend on the quality of the total interactive context as well as individual learner capabilities. (Bonk & Cunningham, 1998). In Sydney’s case, her language development is facilitated by the language she hears all around her, as she is surrounded by adults. Although her toddler understanding of words may be limited, her zone of proximal development is made wider with the help of adult communication all around her.

“Such cognitive apprenticeships are, of course, inherently reliant on a mentor or guide who effectively uses “scaffolded instruction.” (Bonk & Cunningham, 1998 p.40). As the term implies, scaffolds are temporary supports in the process of learning which are gradually taken away when the student is already capable of learning without them. The task would not have been completed without the help of scaffolds

Planning

  • Name of Learning Event: Learning to Read One’s Name
  • Rationale: Knowing one’s name and recognizing it in print is all part of a child’s self-awareness. This is very important to develop especially in the early childhood years, as children will need such skill their whole lives through. Sydney, for one, even if she is just a toddler will benefit from learning to read her name as she also learns order when her own things are labeled in school. She will learn which things are hers and which are not and be able to set boundaries for privacy and ownership. Apart from this, one’s name is a good pre-reading skill, as it helps a child to visually discriminate between her name from others’ names, much like discriminating one word from another in print.
  • Peer Scaffolder: Lauren, Sydney’s slightly older classmate at 3 years and 3 months is chosen to help out Sydney in learning how to read her name. Lauren knows her alphabet adequately and usually points out to Sydney that her name begins with the letter S.
  • Learning Aim: This learning activity was designed to help Sydney learn to read her name on her own using scaffolding techniques.
  • Location of the Event: Classroom

Relevant Child Learning Experiences

  1. Child gets to paste a picture of herself brought from home on her nametag.
  2. Child feels the initial letter of her name with her fingertips. This is made out of sandpaper or felt paper or any textured material to distinguish hit from plain paper.
  3. Child puts her nametag on the attendance chart each day as she comes to school.

Materials

White cardboard sheets cut-out to 3” x 5”.

Letters of child’s name, except for initial letter, written on the sheets with

bold, black permanent pen in small-case letters.

2” x 2” I.D. picture of child

Initial capital letter of child’s name cut out of sandpaper or felt paper Documentation: Observations of children’s learning will be written in journal logs each day.

Doing

Implementing the Plan

Scaffolding “relates to the various forms of support or assistance provided to a learner by an expert or more capable peer that enables the learner to complete a task or solve a problem that would not have been possible without such support (Bonk & Cunningham, 1998, p.36). Examples of learning support are models, prompts, guidelines, acronyms, color coded instruction, etc. These scaffolds are meant to help the learner, and are gradually decreased until the learner can manage without them.

The learning activity involves teaching young children to read their names. At first, they are provided with a nametag with their picture on it alongside their name, with the first letter written in capital letter, and of a different color from the rest of the name and made out of a different textured paper. A more experienced peer helps out a less experienced child. In this case, Lauren is tasked to assist Sydney in choosing her nametag by looking for her picture.

Sydney

As children gain exposure to the nametag and associate themselves with it, they also associate their pictures with the printed word. Constant exposure to it makes them familiar with the letters of the word, as guided by its colored, capital letter. Later on, the picture may be removed until they can recognize their name without the picture cue. Here, Lauren just asks Sydney to look for the nametag with the first letter being S.

Sydney

Still later, the color of the capital letter is changed to match the color of the rest of the name, the way the name should be read. The learners get to read their names on their own, plainly printed on a card, or written on the board.

Sydney

Documenting the Experience

Lauren was very efficient in assisting Sydney in choosing her nametag, albeit overly enthusiastic. Sydney, being an independent child sometimes shuns Lauren away especially when she feels confident enough in choosing her own nametag. She tries to assert herself when Lauren attempts to pick out her nametag for her by saying “I do it” or “Sydney only.” This proves that apart from meeting the objective of teaching her to read her own name, she has also shown the development of her confidence and independence.

Thinking and Monitoring

This activity is usually done in early childhood classes as a way to check the attendance of children. Early in the day, it is a routine to gather the children together and sing.. “Where is Thumbkin..” and replace the word Thumbkin with the names of the children in class. The children look forward to this time because it is when they get to feel singled out as their names are called, stand to pick their name from a pile and put it on the attendance chart.

Sydney, at first watched as her classmates took their turns to be called, and was eager to take her turn. Since there are 7 other children in class, it means that she needs to sort through 8 name cards in the pile. When the teacher asked Lauren to help Sydney out, she used to stand with Sydney in search of her nametag, pointing out Sydney’s picture. The second time around, she still helped Sydney, but the latter seemed to refuse help. After two weeks, the pictures were taken out to see if the children can still recognize their names without the picture cue. Lauren helped Sydney by pointing out the letter S this time. Over the weeks, the teacher re-printed the nametags in just one color, including the capital letter. By then, Sydney was able to still pick out her name.

Vygotsky (1978) believed that children’s intellectual development is influenced more by social context than by individual experiences. His theory places a great deal of emphasis on effective social interaction. Interactions are likely to go through a process called intersubjectivity. This is when two people are engaged in a task and begin from different understandings but with interaction, comes to an agreed, shared understanding.

This is usually manifested when children initially debate opposite arguments but upon more understanding of the concept because of listening to each other’s opinions, will both end up seeing the concept in one direction. This was evident during the first few sessions of scaffolding, as Lauren tries to let Sydney see her perspective and way of thinking in teaching her a technique to visually discriminate her own name from the rest of the nametags.

With regards to shared learning, the whole class benefitted from this activity, as each child learned to read their own names after a few weeks. The scaffolding designed was very effective, as cues were taken out at the appropriate times. The children learned to associate initial letters with their classmates, and even gave them as examples when asked to give a word that begins with a particular letter. For example, they would mention that S is for Sydney and L is for Lauren.

Reflective Compare and Contrast Learning Influences

The children in Sydney’s class were in the age range of 2’s and 3’s. It was a typical Toddler Class, with some children manifesting faster development than the others. The children shared mostly the same profile in terms of Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Model from the mesosystem level outwards. However, they differed in their Microsystems, as some came from bigger families having a sibling or more, and with different family structures, like some came from single parent families, while others in two parent families.

Some of the children are on their second year at school, and on their first year the previous year, they only attended twice or thrice a week. Lauren is one of those children, and she started schooling when she was barely 2 years of age. In terms of development, the class may be considered a heterogeneous class, because the children were in different levels of development, even if their ages are very close.

All of the children enjoyed this particular nametag activity. They proudly stuck their pictures on the card and delighted in touching the textured initial letter. This strategy was adopted from the Montessori way of tactile learning. The activity catered to a variety of learning styles considering most of the children are sensorial learners. The teacher even used the nametag in various activities like sorting the boys from the girls and counting how many children there are present in school for the day.

Gardner (1983) claims that intelligence is not limited to the cognitive domain, as traditionally conceptualized. He views it in a much broader sense to include the individual’s affective, social and creative domains. Hence, he has conceptualized that there are 8 bits of intelligence from which individuals may excel in. The point that Gardner wants to put across is that people possess not one but many bits of intelligence, with one or more dominant in each person. No two people have exactly the same intelligence profile. Some may be proficient in one thing and deficient in another. These bits of intelligence are only as good as how individuals use them to their advantage.

Sydney and her classmates may be much too young to exhibit a specialized intelligence, so the teacher must design activities that somehow tap into all kinds. Research has proven that the quality of exposure of children to rich, hands-on experiences may alter how they think.

References

Bonk, C.J. & Cunningham, D.J. (1998) “Searching for Learner-Centered, Constructivist, and Sociocultural Components of Collaborative Educational Learning Tools in Electronic Collaborators. Web.

Gardner, H.,(1983) Frames of Mind: the theory of multiple intelligences London: Heinemann.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wells, G. (1997). “The zone of proximal development and its implications for learning and teaching.” Web.

Wertsch, J. V. (1985). Vygotsky and the social formation of the mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Appendix

Observations: Language Focus

Activity: Sydney is playing by the kitchen at the Dramatic Play Area during Free Play time in school

Teacher smiled at Sydney as she approached her and greeted her with a warm hello. She squatted, an arms’ length away, and leaned slightly toward her, to have a face-to-face communication. These non-verbal signals make her feel my interest in her work. Teacher always mentioned Sydney’s name while she was talking to her and maintained frequent but not continuous eye-contact to demonstrate interest.

Teacher: What are you busy with, Sydney?

Sydney: Breakfast.(plays with kitchen set, “mixing” imaginary food)

Teacher: Oh, so you’re preparing breakfast! For whom?

Sydney: (simply looks at teacher)

Teacher: Is it for Teacher?

Sydney: (shakes head)

Teacher: Is it for Daddy?

Sydney: No

Teacher: Is it for Mommy?

Sydney: Yes.

Teacher: Wow! I think Mommy will love the breakfast you prepared for her. Good

Job!

Sydney: (smiles and continues “cooking”)

Essences and Meanings Of Observation

Use of Language and
Supporting Stragegies
Observations Interpretation
  1. Directing
  • Directing actions of the self
Sydney was observed to be pretending to “cook” with the kitchen toys. Kitchen toys in the dramatic play area encourages children to play with them as they are supposed to be played.
  1. Reporting on present experience
    • Labelling the components of the scene
Answered “Breakfast” when asked what she was doing. Children her age usually respond to questions with a word or two.
  1. Projecting
    • Projecting into the experience of others
Sydney identified for whom she was cooking the breakfast for – “Mommy” Children her age are not so verbal and it would be easier for them to choose from different options rather coming up with their own answer.
  1. Developing an imaginary situation based on real life
Sydney was “cooking” with kitchen toys. Sydney is imitating a scene she has observed in a real situation.

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