3B: Balance of Activities
Balance of Activities
Experiences with the self-directed learning centers described above are balanced with teacher-led activities, e.g., circle time, personal sharing, group discussions, project work, music & movement, story time, language arts, math, social/community living, etc. This balance allows children frequent opportunities to work as individuals, partners, small groups, and large groups.
With support and guidance from teachers, children choose those activities which best fit their present developmental levels and allow them to meet their own needs. Teachers are able to spot children’s interests and follow them through, taking children’s ideas one step further — to build on what’s already there. Tremendous opportunities appear in “teachable moments.”
The major compelling focus of young learners is on constructing knowledge of self — personally, socially, emotionally, physically, and extending that to relationship with others — with just one friend, with a small group, with the immediate classroom community, and with the entire school community. Everything from a snail in the garden, to what has been brought for lunch, to a conflict between friends, or even missing mommy or daddy becomes a learning experience. Hence, mastery of academic skills outside personally relevant and purposeful contexts is not a goal that we prescribe for our preschoolers, but rather our goal is to fan the flame within meaningful, personally relevant & purposeful developmentally appropriate pursuits and projects which naturally compel cognitive/intellectual growth and their accompanying academic skills. Once a child’s fire is lit, there’s no stopping them. They are enthusiastic, inner-motivated learners, who LOVE learning. As a child shows personal interest in using skills for reading and writing, we gladly offer experienced support to match their interest and readiness.
Since young learners’ development requires active, direct involvement, we recognize that teacher-led activities typically take on a secondary and perhaps an uninteresting role for our youngest, almost 3s through their mid-late 3s and even some young fours. Therefore, participation in group times is not an expectation for children at this young developmental period but rather an invitation as one of many opportunities offered. Most children are not interested in subjugating their personal needs to the needs of the group until their 4 yr old brain download is complete. That’s when most children in a socio-moral, constructivist environment see benefits to being a member of a group, deferring, listening to others’ contributions and ideas, taking turns, engaging in group collaborative projects, in group problem solving, in implementing peaceful conflict resolution, and democratic principles.