Reporter: Yiyue “Kathy” Jiang
Date: April 8, 2014
Blatt-Gross, C. (2014, March 30). Why do we make students sit still in class?. CNN Living. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/30/living/no-sitting-still-movement-schools/index.html?iref=allsearch
This source is a news article from CNN Living, specifically under the “Head of the Class” section, which focuses on schools and thoughts about education. Standing at the educator and parent’s viewpoint, the author explained her initiation and exploration of the issue on whether children should be required maintaining physical stillness while learning. By questioning the traditional classroom settings and its expectation of students’ physical management, the author visited private school, charter school and public school and found out that, despite their different curriculum, educators in separate school systems agreed on the fact that learning is accompanied with physical movements and that restricted physical stillness may cause behavioral problems and shifting focus of learning. This article is intended for educators and parents. The author encouraged educators to challenge some aspects of traditional school systems, and she also gave positive advices to parents whose children may experience struggles with maintaining physical stillness in traditional classroom settings. Some limits of this article may include the fact that the author has the background of being a mother whose two children are highly physical active and having troubles remaining still during class. The article is limited with the perspective from her background and didn’t carry out other perspectives, such as parents whose children are having trouble concentrating because of the distractions that caused by children who cannot maintain physical stillness in class.
As a child development major, I agree that physical movements is a reflection of sensory-motor learning stage that is a part of learning process according to behavioral theorists. I understand the author’s concerns on physical restrictions taking students’ energy on concentrating on learning; however, I have to take in consideration that some students might have trouble of concentration because of the distraction of other students’ physical movements. Personally, I am one of the people who can only concentrate with quiet environment. For example, some physical movements, such as tabbing on desk, may cause me high irritation. I admit that these concerns from both perspectives originated in traditional class settings where students are expected to sit in individual desks during majority time in school, and that if schools can develop curriculums that comprehend learning and physical movements, the perspectives would alter accordingly.
It’s almost the end of the semester and my lab experience for this course has almost came to an end. I’ve learned a lot during the course and the lab experience, and here’s what I want to share with the future students who are going to enroll in this class.
The most important thing I have learned during this class is that we as teachers need to respect for individualities in children. Every child is different: they learn in various of ways and their developmental levels varies as well. When planing out small group activities, teachers need to take in consideration of each child’s characteristics, interests, and learning process to plan an activity that engage everyone in the group as well as scaffold them for development. Children behaves differently in the lab, and there might be many reasons behind their behaviors. Pre-assumptions of any child and their behavior is not a good start when working with children. Sometimes children misbehave, and that usually contain deeper meaning than we, as student teachers that only spend four hours in the lab with these children every week, can understand. We need to always see things with open minds and accept the fact that there are many things about children that we do not know.
Class lectures tie with lab experience very closely. The discussion that we have in the class meetings will do tremendous help and provide guidance and strategies for us to use during our lab practices. Team work is another important thing for this course. We constantly work in teams both in lab day teams and small group activity groups. It is important for us to remain awareness of all the children and lab team members doing during lab practice. Sometimes situation occurs when we need help from the other side of the room or in need to take a break, and that’s when good team coordination comes in handy. During small group activity plans, we can talk to each others and make a week-long activities that are consistant on children’s learning experience.
It is highly impossible to avoid working in teams as educators, this course provides us the opportunity to practice what are necessary for our professional practice later on in life. I’ve been taught that college is a practice for professional performance throughout my college experience. For example, attending class shows accountability and team project shows reliability, task management and many other important skills and disciplines. In that case, this course also requires us to practice and refine certain professional performance when working in the lab, such as calling in the lab and finding substitutes when we cannot make it to the lab, as well as dressing up professionally and talking to children and adults with objectivity.
I believe that this is a very nice course for people to experience, whether or not if you want to become educators. It is within my belief that parents need to contain the knowledge that educators do for the children to reach their highest potentials. Parents are children’s first teachers, therefore I think this course will bring people with appropriate techniques and strategies of helping children to development, both academically and intellectually.
Last week I read Helm and Beneke’s book, The Power of Project, and found the book very practical for teachers who choose project approach curriculum as teaching model. There are teaching strategies that I found extremely useful, such as it mentioned the fact that, when planning project themes, not all topic are interested to al children: “For those who might be more interested in different topic, the teacher can acknowledge the feeling by saying something like ‘I understand that you are not especially interested in the Bike Shop Project. I hope the next project we do will be more interesting for you. In the mean time, do what you can to help the others in your group.’ In this way, the teacher expresses genuine understanding and respect for the child and makes clear the importance of working and helping others” (p.15). The book included tremendous amount of projects that students worked on in different schools, based on separate learning goals as well as special focus for ESL (English for second language) students and the ones with special needs. There is a specific chapter that the book spent to talk about ESL, which I found personal related because I learned English as a second language in school. “Being bilingual has definite economic advantages and increases career opportunities” (p. 64). While more and more students in US are bilingual, teachers are mostly only speak one language. “Children with ESL are more likely to have discipline problems and to drop out of school before their education is completed because English is the only language used for instruction” (p. 65). It is important for teachers to realize that children with different language often experience cultural conflicts due to different expression such as expression of emotions and attention. Teaching English to an ESL children are more challenging for teacher as well as for students to learn English as a second language. The book listed teaching second-language strategies, including: using demonstrations, modeling and engaging role-plays, repeating words and sentence patterns, etc. “Children vary greatly in their motivation to learn a new language” (p.65), and I believe that it is important for educators to make any language learning experience meaningful for children. To achieve academic learning goals as well as help develop children’s internal emotions, “the warmth of the classroom and how comfortable a child feels with the teacher also influence language acquisition” (p. 65).
The other member from my discussion group also read the same book, and we both found it interesting that the book mentions, “the use of the project approach in the U.S. has been stimulated by information about projects developed in the preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy” (p.7). I thought that project approach model is developed from Piaget’s Developmental Theory because there are big amount of the guidelines of project approach model is similar to Piagetian’s philosophy, such as autonomy and engagements. At the same time, it is understandable due to the close relationship between project approach and Reggio Emilia approach: they both focus on children-directed learning experience through sensory and relationship building.
In the Introduction of The Power of Project, there are several records of the conference of NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), and one of them was talking about curiosity, “If children aren’t challenged to think, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If children don’t get a chance to be curious and find answers to their questions, they don’t see themselves as successful learners, or they don’t view school as a place where they can learn interesting, relevant thing. Eventually, their intellectual curiosity dies” (p.1). I shared this with discussion group and we both found this really powerful and influential for our personal teaching philosophy.
For this reading response, I finished the Katz & Chard’s Engaging Children’s Mind. There are two people in my discussion group who read Power of Project and another person read about infant education curriculum.
While reading Engaging Children’s Mind, I noticed a few quotes that I thought are interesting. “The teacher must make every effort to help any child experiencing difficulties acquiring academic skills” (p. 15). I think this statement is very powerful. As educators, we are not just teaching children things to pass standardized tests. It is important for us to know each children’s Zone of Proximate Development to make appropriate scaffoldings. Since ZDP differs for each person, it is teacher’s duty to recognize individualities and diversity in the class and plan lessons that can meet every child’s developmental needs and goals. The book stated that there are four categories of learning goals for children: knowledge, skills, dispositions, and feelings. While knowledge, skills and dispositions can be achieved through different methods, I think that the project approach model especially fits with the development of children’s emotions by engaging them in group activities. “We generally want children to feel accepted, comfortable, and competent, that they belong to the class group and can contribute to shared experience. Such feelings can be learned while interacting with significant others in the group” (p. 39). This is another reason why I believe that project approach model can be integrated in education for children that are older than early childhood. Adolescents and pre-adults also crave for sense of belonging and friendships just as much as early and middle childhood children. Projects can build relationships and connections between people and continue emotional development through our life. The rest of the book contains huge amount of practical informations about strategies of teaching for educators, such as criteria for selecting and focusing particular project topics (p.93) and procedures while giving instructions (p. 80).
From the group discussion, I learned that The Power of Projects contains practical examples of different projects that meets various particular learning goals. We talked about the curriculum structure of project approach model and how it focus on both individuality and group works, while still meeting standards and maintain children’s curiosity and interests. We also discussed this video we all watch before in other child development courses. It’s a documentary of a vacation/airport boarding series of projects in an elementary school. We shared the view how it’s important for every child to have a place in group projects and feel important in the community.
The person who read about Rie, an infant education model, and shared some insights. She said that this model take approach to treat babies as other human beings rather than objects. Instead of setting boundaries for infant, children in Rie model is allowed to find their own boundaries and limits in a safe environment. I thought this model is really fascinating, because, just as children of other ages, infants need to be encourage to seek answers and solutions to learn effectively.
For this reading response, the discussion group that I joined mainly focused on project approach and Piaget theory of developmental model.
The two books that our discussion of project approach model based on were Helm’s The Power of Projects: Meeting Contemporary Challenges in Early Childhood Classrooms — Strategies and Solutions (2003) and Engaging Children’s Minds: The Project Approach that was written by Katz and Chard (1985). We found out that in Helm’s book, he referenced the definition of “projects” from Engaging Children’s Minds, which stated that “a project is an in-depth study of a particular topic that one or more children undertake”. Both books talked about how project approach is a period-long learning process that can be built upon individual, groups, or even whole class. One statement in Engaging Children’s Minds that I found particularly interesting was that projects help children gain knowledge that may not be accessed by standardized tests but promote children’s intellectual development by engaging their minds. We talked about the importance of attention in learning process and how children can reach their highest potentials through interests and engagements. Engaging Children’s Minds also mentioned that project approach models are mainly used in early childhood teaching and learning. It stated that, in project approach model, teachers’ role is to encourage children to interact with objects and others, and children’s role is to learn through active participation, which then bring us back to the topic of children’s engagement during learning. I want to question whether project approach model extend its influence after early childhood into life-long learning experience and whether it can be used not only for intellectual knowledge but also academic learnings. Because, through my own experience, I learn faster with deeper understandings on academic subject matters when the teacher choose to include projects with my interests.
For discussion on model based on Piaget’s developmental theory, we discussed that observation was the main expectation of teacher’s role and that logical and mathematical knowledge are the focus of teaching and learning. In Piagetian models, children are provided with the freedom to make sense of learning subject matters on their own so that they can make interrelationships with their prior knowledge. The knowledge we gain is a continuously building on learning process. We also talked about the three main activities in this model which are numerical meaning in daily life, group projects, and discussions. I found it fascinating how Piaget’s model is similar with project approach on children’s attentive learning through everyday objects and activities. Our discussion group member also shared with us that Piagetian models found discussions important to learning because it provides children with the concepts of perspectives other than their own.
While questions raised during this reading response discussion, I hope to find answers and more understanding of both project approach and Piagetian models upon further readings.
For the fall semester this year, I’m currently enrolled in CD 257 (Supervised work with Child I), CD 356 (Curriculum Develop of Early Childhood), CD 446 (Structure and Content of Child’s Thinking), MATH 308B (Math for Elementary School Education), and AIE 330 (History of Indian Education). This is the fifth year for me in Humboldt State University and second year as a child development major. I’ve taken different courses in Cal State San Bernardino and College of Redwoods, in which I highly recommend the children’s literature class in CSUSB and ECE 7 (curriculum with supervised working with children in their laboratory) in CR, if anyone is interested in child development and/or education field. It’s second week into school and I’m already enjoying the fast pace of school work and its being-on-campus-for-twelve-hours schedule. It’s fulfilling and pleasant, giving a sense of motivation and belonging.
So let’s talk about CD 257. As I mentioned already, I took a class in CR. Therefore, what I’m really excited about is to experience the differences between working with children in HSU child development lab and my past experience in CR children’s center. Different settings, daily routines, class curriculum and philosophy can all be considered as factors that can change children’s behavioral and academical outcomes. One thing that’s very different to me is that my job in CR children’s center used to be helping class teachers and plan two group projects with children throughout the semester, and my duty now in CDL is to participating in planning daily small group activities with assigned students. One of my responsibility is to supervising children and make observations throughout my lab hours, but mostly I’m suppose to participating in cooperative play with them. Today is my second day in the lab, and honestly I’m slightly concerned with small group activities. Even though it only lasted for ten minutes, by the end of it I still felt a sense of release ran through me as I told my group of children that it’s time for them to go outside and play. To plan for daily activities that held everyone’s interests and attention (there are four children in my group) and be prepared to act out when one or more of them literally walk away or simply tell you that they don’t want to do what you said can be mentally challenging. I’m already constantly observing how the class teachers handle various situations so that I can use the same strategies to encounter them if I ever face the similar situation. But you know what they say, challenging make learning faster. I will be looking forward to the rest of the semester for more improvements to refine my skills while working with children.