Sunday, May 17, 2009

Four Musts for Effective Teaching

Green path

In teaching preschoolers and kindergartners, you can find lots of philosophies and theories. You will find leaders who use all kinds of tools and approaches. You can find different technologies (or none), toys (or not), and techniques (for every personality). But I think any teaching/learning situation with preschoolers and kindergartners should include four characteristics. The four "pillars" I look for are:

1. Accurate Content. Whatever you are teaching must be truthful and accurate. For a church setting, that means biblically accurate. Many resources engage in fun ways to tell Bible content. However, many times the Bible accuracy is suspect. Children get confused when a video or drama includes information that contradicts what a teacher has told them. I have had children tell me that David took pizza to his brothers and that Joseph lives in the Old West. When I tell facts of those stories, they become confused or begin to doubt if the Bible is real after all. If you are teaching something other than Bible content, make sure it is truthful and accurate. Or make sure the children know that you are telling something that is pretend and not real. (However, always use the true facts about the Bible.)

2. Hands-on Experiences. To learn, children must be involved. Any resource, idea, or technique should encourage the children to do something...to participate and be directly involved. Information does not become real or usable to children if they just hear it. They must explore ideas by doing something with it. Involve as many senses as possible to make the learning as real as possible.

3. Choices. As much as possible, preschoolers and kindergartners must choose. Allow boys and girls to choose which activity to do. Or allow them to choose how to complete the activity. (And sometimes allow them to choose not to do the activity - to just sit and watch.) I know that sometimes there is no choice. In my class, for example, all children must come to group time. Well...actually they can sit by the wall quietly out of the group - so I guess even then a choice is available. Choices create opportunities for a child to feel competent and in control. And the learning will be that much greater if the child has some control over what he is doing.

4. Relationships. Whatever happens in the classroom must foster relationships - relationships among the children and relationships between the children and the teachers. Building relationships with children helps me (the teacher) know what learning is occurring and how to target future teaching sessions. Relationships with children help me know what is happening in the children's lives, and creates a better atmosphere in the classroom. Relationships among the children help build problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills in addition to friendships.

While I do have other criteria in evaluating ideas and resources, these four pillars support everything else. If one of these is missing, I look elsewhere for ideas or resources. What pillars do you look for when evaluating resources, ideas, and techniques for teaching preschoolers and kindergartners?

Photo from www.stockvault.net.
Photographer: Didi Supardi

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