Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Just Right" Challenge

Our Class Tree
Last week I was leading a workshop with a group of preschool teachers at a local church. We were talking about choosing activities that allow kids to be successful and how such activities encourage kids to continue exploring and discovering.

And then I heard my new favorite term: "just right" challenge. One teacher, also a physical therapist, said that this is the term they use at work. An activity that presents a challenge (isn't too easy) and but allows the child to accomplish it (isn't too difficult). I've talked about these types of activities...and tried to provide them for my kids. But I didn't have that great catchy term. "Just right" challenge.

In a classroom this becomes more, well, challenging. We must choose activities that challenge kids with a spectrum of abilities. What is challenging to some children may be too easy or difficult for others. So, activities must allow for many different kids to have a "just right" experience. I saw this in action this past week. 

We made decorations for a class tree and decorated it. (This post tells about what we did.) Some kids were challenged by using the stapler and making strips into rings. Some were challenged by bending and twisting the chenille stems to be the right shape (and hold that shape). Some challenged themselves to use the strips to make fish and other shapes. A couple accepted the challenge to create chains with the paper and chenille stems. (And a few were challenged to get their creations to stay on the tree.)

I love the "just right" challenge. When I see lots of kids trying an activity, I know I've hit it. When I see kids doing lots of different things with the same materials, I know I've reached that target.

And I've learned that each group of kids presents a "just right" challenge to me as a teacher. Can I reach that "just right" place where kids are learning, exploring, and discovering--when teaching is observing and getting out of the way so they can learn. I love it when it's "just right."


  1. Yep - I am going to have to borrow that term too in my next training session! Thank you for the idea!

  2. The concept of 'just right' challenge came from Dr. Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist who developed the Sensory Integration theory. In therapy, activities are adjusted as needed to provide the child the just right challenge which promotes growth, learning and a sense of accomplishment.

  3. Love it, Scott! I think it's going to be a favorite phrase of mine now, too! :)