Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Learning Together

I've had a child in my class this year that puzzled me for a little while. He is often the first one to arrive. Now, I'm a stickler about being prepared so when a child arrives, things are ready to go. I arrange materials in ways that I hope are attractive and inviting. (But I'm still learning from Sherry and Donna ways to make things irresistible!)

But this boy comes into the room and browses around. He looks and touches. He asks about items or what to do. But, ultimately, he usually stands and looks. We will talk about what's been going on. He will tell me about his family. Sometimes he will want to do something, but wants me to do it with him. Many times he waits for his best friend to arrive so they can work together.

I thought he was always waiting for his friend...until I really began to notice what was happening. He would not do anything until someone did it with him. He learned best when experiencing things with others - relationships were key to his learning. He was a relational, cooperative learner.

This type of learner enjoys the shared experience. Often he talks...a lot. He explains what he is thinking and feeling. He loves to interact with others, jumping off their ideas, to share the experience. Sometimes he will play alone - but needs to share whatever he's done with someone else when finished. He is usually in the middle of whatever a group is doing. He may be good at negotiation and solving problems that arise among kids. He is caring and concerned with others' feelings. He is often the direct opposite for the quiet, reflective learner.

Much of what we do in the classroom is geared to this type of learner. Create a great environment for building relationships:

  • Plan activities that encourage children to interact with one another and with adults. 
  • Ask questions that encourage children to talk about their ideas and their thinking.
  • Offer activities like dramatic play and blocks that encourage groups to work together to create play situations and to solve conflicts that arise through differing ideas. You may want to provide items that suggest a particular play direction (cooking and setting the table) but allow the play to progress as kids contribute their own ideas (travel in an RV).
  • Encourage helping others, through real-life situations in the classroom and through play opportunities and suggestions.
  • Ask open-ended questions to allow kids to talk about different ideas and feeling.
  • Narrate what you see happening; talk about what the children are doing. Even if children do not respond verbally, you are building relationships and thinking skills. (Teacher Tom describes this well.)
  • Let kids talk to each other. Sometimes in circle times or group learning times, teachers do a lot of the talking. Allow kids to express their thoughts or move the dialogue along in unexpected ways.
  • Sit and build with a child; sit and talk about what he is drawing; sit and watch his puzzle-solving skills. Sometimes spending a little time building the relationship is the best teaching you can do.
Celebrate those kids who are the "life of the party." They can be the glue that holds your classroom together. They can be the spark that keeps learning fun and interesting. They can be the heart that cares for others. 

What do you do to encourage kids to learn together?

1 comment:

  1. I like how you took the time to figure this guy out. I think, too often, we just assume they're adult focused and just play with them. Every class has a few kids like this, and yes, they're often the one in the middle of the group activities if we give them the space to find their way there.