What Children Need
Threes and Fours
Fives and Sixes
|Freedom – Three year olds want to know what there is to do, and what there is to do it with. Manipulatives, props, art materials, blocks, sand and water are their raw materials for play. Well-defined spaces to explore independently are keys to their learning.||Places to Be With Friends – Kindergartners seek out well-defined spaces where they can play in groups, such as dramatic-play and block areas. Large areas for meetings, stories, and music and movement answer their interest in large-group activities.|
From the Environment
|A Place to Relax – Three and four year olds also need a place to “get away from it all.” Private areas with pillows, toys, and a few books meet this need.||Room to Create – For fives and sixes, a “self-service” art center, science/discovery center, writing area, and workbench are essential.|
|Independence – is developing rapidly in threes and fours. They often prefer to play near or with other children rather than with an adult, yet they still need their teachers’ approval. Threes and fours also look to adults to help them solve the social conflicts that commonly arise as they learn to play together. They need teachers to be good listeners, mediators, and play partners.||Fives and sixes – are beginning to resolve their own conflicts, but social issues are still a major part of their relationships with teachers as they interact not just in one-to-one or small-group situations, but in large-group discussions and activities as well. In these interactions, children look to teachers to facilitate social issues, and also to ask for their opinions and challenge their thinking.|
The National Association of Education of Young Children provides research-based information about effective practices for young children and how they learn. In their NAEYC position statement about early childhood education, they explain: “During the early years of life, children move from sensory or behavioral responses to symbolic or representational knowledge. For example, children are able to navigate their homes and other familiar settings long before they can understand the words left and right or read a map of the house. A major change happens at around age 2, when children begin to represent and reconstruct their experiences and knowledge. For example, children may use one object to stand for another in play, such as a block for a phone or a spoon for a guitar. Their ability to use various modes and media to convey their meaning increases in range and scope. Over the preschool year, these modes may include oral language, gestures and body movement, visual arts (drawing, painting, sculpting), construction, dramatic play, and writing. Further, their effort to represent their ideas and concepts in any of these models enhance the knowledge itself.”
Important concepts reinforced by the NAEYC are:
- “Play is an important vehicle for developing serf-regulation as well as promoting language, cognition, and social competence.
- Development and learning advance when children are challenged to achieve at a level just beyond their current mastery, and also when they have many opportunities to practice newly acquired skills.”
For more information about the position statement of NAEYC regarding early childhood education, click here.
Brain-Based learning is a comprehensive approach to instruction based on how current research in neuroscience suggests our brain learns naturally. This theory is based on what we currently know about the actual structure and function of the human brain at varying stages of development. This type of education provides a biologically driven framework for teaching and learning, and helps explain recurring learning behaviors. It is a meta-concept that includes an eclectic mix of techniques. Currently, these techniques stress allowing teachers to connect learning to students’ real life experiences.
In her research on the brain, Marcia D’Archangelo recommends the following characteristics for classrooms building on her knowledge of the brain and learning:
- “Rich, stimulating environments using student created materials and products are evident on bulletin boards and display areas
- Places for group learning like tables and desks grouped together, to stimulate social skills and cooperative work groups. Have comfortable furniture and couches available for casual discussion areas. Carpeted and areas with large pillows who prefer not the work at a desk or table.
- Link indoor and outdoor spaces so students can move about using their motor cortex for more brain oxygenation.
- Variety of places that provide different lighting, and nooks and crannies. Many elementary children prefer the floor and under tables to work with a partner.
- Change displays in the classroom regularly to provide a stimulating situations for brain development.
- Have multiple resources available. Provide educational, physical and a variety of setting within the classroom so that learning activities can be integrated easily. Computers areas, wet areas, experimental science areas should be in close proximity to one another.
- Flexibility: This common principle of the past is relevant. The teachable moment must be recognized and capitalized upon. Dimensions of flexibility are evident in other principles.
- Active and passive places: Students need quiet areas for reflection and retreat from others to use intrapersonal intelligences.
- Personal space: Students need a home base, a desk, a locker area. All this allows learners to express their unique identity.
- Enrichment: The brain can grow new connections at any age. Challenging, complex experiences with appropriate feedback are best. Cognitive skills develop better with music and motor skills.” (D’Arcangelo)
Play in Learning
In a special supplement to the Children’s Advocate, based on a policy brief from the Bay Area Early Childhood Funders, the authors address the importance of play in learning for preschoolers. “… preschoolers learn differently than school-age children: play is essential to early learning. Play is the main way children learn and develop ideas about the world. It helps them build the skills necessary for critical thinking and leadership. It’s how they learn to solve problems and to feel good about their ability to learn. Children learn the most from play when they have skilled teachers who are well-trained in understanding how play contributes to learning.”
The author explains how play promotes school success in many ways by stating that when children play:
- “They test their developing ideas with objects, people, and situations – the key ability for academic learning.
- They develop many kinds of skills together – physical, social, emotional, thinking, and language.
- They are doing things they are interested in, so they have a natural motivation to learn.
- They develop concepts and skills together.
- They learn from other children and develop social skills by playing together.”
For more information about the concept of play in learning, click here.
In Learning Through Music: The Support of Brain Research, the authors discuss the connections between music and academic learning.
“Music educators have known for years that quality music experiences enhance listening; invite intuitive and steady bean responses; and aid learning of vocabulary, sound, and pitch discrimination, emotional responses, creative responses, memory and many hours of fun for our wee ones. What powerful links to learning might we use within the aspects of music? It appears that the first three years of a child’s life are critical for optimal brain development, for music and for learning through music. Now brain research is becoming available to support these perceptions. Let’s consider some of music’s important gifts, supported by research, for the children entrusted into our care.
- Music develops listening skills.
- Music invites intuitive responses.
- Music strengthens aural discriminations.
- Music helps children (and adults) remember.
- Music helps children speak clearly and pay attention.
- Music makes transitions in the classroom go smoothly.
- Music helps children cooperate, think, and problem-solve.”
For more information about the concept of play in learning, click here.