Emotion is something that drives the early childhood classroom. Unlike other grades, pre-kindergarten is a time when young children are just learning about the world about them, their own feelings/ beliefs, and values. Emotions drive young children in everything that they do. A young child is consumed in their own world. During this time a child has little understanding of others around them. For this reason, teachers in the pre-k classroom must create a curriculum that is driven through the child’s interest.
A child’s emotion directly effects how children learn in the sense that depending on a child’s emotion at that moment in time can determine their interest level, and motivation for an activity. Emotions can really impact how a young child reacts to a situation. A young child can react completely differently in the same exact situation.
The role that emotion plays on a young child’s motivation is different from child to child. According to Demetriou and Wilson, “From early on our emotional development is inextricably intertwined with our acquisition of knowledge” (Demetriou & Wilson, 2008. P. 938). Meaning that what a child learns and retains is directly correlated to the emotions they were experiencing at that time.
There are so many emotions that individuals experience at any given time, (happy, sad, mad, angry, frustrated, irritated, sleepy, excited, etc…). Each one of these emotions effect learning differently in the sense of how a child processes information and retains it. If a child is happy or excited, they are more likely to participate in learning and create an understanding of the concept or idea. However, if a child is mad or frustrated, their attention is limited causing them to be less likely to retain and understand new information. Learning cannot be forced on anyone. Rather learning is a process in which an individual must apply themselves and make an effort.
Emotion effects everything we do, despite what age we are. It is through emotion that we go through the motions of life. Our emotions are what guide us to the decisions we make. Unfortunately, emotions can affect our learning and decision making unconsciously. This is something that can be troublesome for some individuals. There are times in life when you just can’t put aside your emotions, thus having an effect on all aspects of your life. This issue is even more severe for a young child. For a child they are just trying to understand the world they live in and themselves. They are often unable to set aside their own emotions at any given time. Through a child driven curriculum children are encouraged to participate in learning due to the high interest of the activity. However, nothing can change a child’s feelings or emotions.
In my classroom emotions fill the classroom. Many of my children wear their emotions on their sleeves (which is how I always was!). Having a class of 16 it can be difficult to spend quality time with every single child daily. However, as the teacher I make it my job to make sure I visit a few particular students daily. These students are the ones whose emotions change daily. Often my lessons are altered due to one of the student’s emotions or behaviors. For my students that are having a difficult day (sad, mad, angry, frustrated…) I develop quite activities where they can have space while being in engaged in an activity of high interest. Working with three and four year olds I have some ability to help the child to gain enjoyment and want to participate in new activities. A huge part of my philosophy as an early childhood teacher is that you must always be willing to change or adjust learning activities and curriculum at any given time, due to the child’s interest and needs.
For me I personally am a learner that wants to know how such skills will apply to my field. I can remember as an undergraduate in general courses feeling frustrated because I could not understand how such knowledge will apply to my field. I would often say to my dad, I want to teach young kids, how algebra, or biology, or even history will help me with this. This frustration followed me through my entire associates degree since most of my classes seemed to be on anything but the early childhood field. Once I began my bachelor’s degree I began to feel like my classes held a higher meaning. The majority of the classes needed applied to the early childhood field in one way or another. I can speak from experience though that I spent a lot more time and effort on the classes that directly related to my field of study. I found myself actually excited about the learning and wanting to apply it to the classroom.
I truly believe that learning is driven by emotion, desires, wants, and needs. When learning is forced upon you, you are less likely to take it seriously or apply yourself to the same extend. This is an issue with many students in grammar, middle, and high school. Learning is forced upon the students, allowing the students to have little control of their own learning experiences. Once learning gains a negative connotation for a student, it is very difficult to alter. This is why it is so critical during pre-k to create the most inviting and exciting learning experience possible to help encourage young children to love learning, and exploring new concepts. If a love for learning can be developed during the early years, it can have a direct impact on a students learning throughout graduate school.
The “hard parts” is a difficult part of the brain function during learning. It can be one of the most dreaded parts of the learning process for many. Creating an environment and curriculum that enriches the importance of understanding of individual “hard parts”. It is known that the “hard parts” will most likely always be a bit more challenging. However if the teacher prepares and is conscious of the areas in which individual students may need extra support, leaning such information for the learners will become smoother.
Perkins (2009) insists that it is essential to deconstruct them first to make sure they are correct before participating in deliberate practice. When reconstructing any issue areas, it’s important that attention is paid to details and students know the real world application of the hard parts (Perkins, 2009)
In order to develop the knowledge and skills needed to learn the “hard parts”, teachers of all age children and adults should promote active learning within their curriculum and typical activities within the classroom and homework assignments. If counselors are a resource available within the school or institution they can be responsible for guiding by example and allowing students to participate in learning opportunities rather than just having students listen to lecture and have no hands on experience (Active learning, 2012). Through this particular teaching method, students are able to discover their own unique problem areas on their own. For a teacher to follow through in this learning style appropriately, teaching must occur in several different ways to help each type of learner blossom and learn.
Perkins mentions in his book about the fact that each individual student has multiple “hard parts” to be conscious of and work with. An issue for many students is that they may avoid the “hard parts” due to lack of interest, empowerment, understanding, frustration, or fear. Teacher’s role within the classroom branches out further then just creating a curriculum and implementing it during the school day. Rather the teacher can hold the enthusiasm and encouragement for students to become motivated learns, becoming interested on “working on the “hard parts” and enriching their understanding and learning experience. As a teacher it is critical to provide the students with the whole picture of the learning concept. Through first being introduced to the whole picture and developing an understanding for its importance, a student is able to gain meaning and drive to develop a deeper understanding of the smaller pieces (Perkins, 2009). When the whole picture is first introduced to the student, it becomes easier for the teacher to then tie the hard parts” to the interests of each individual student.
Being in the early childhood field and a pre-kindergarten teacher brings the importance of helping the children gain a further understanding of their learning and concurring the further learning of the “hard parts”. In the classroom hands on experiences are enriched in every activity developed. Open-ended experience creates an opportunity for children to explore their learning understanding and further develop the concepts of the “hard parts”.
In the pre-k classroom I am so incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with each child, and further develop an understanding of their individual learning style. Daily each child participates in a small group activity. During this time children are given the opportunity to explore a learning concept with the support of the teacher. This means that it is a perfect opportunity to help a child develop a further understanding of the “hard parts”. Something that I hope to become stronger in is my small group time. The High Scope approach is all new to me. Prior to this school year I had never been introduced to this learning experience. Today I still feel a little unsure of this learning activity of our day. My goal is to enrich this experience through helping each student individually to further encourage and provide excitement of exploring and furthering the knowledge of concepts.
Demetriou, H., & Wilson, E. (2008). A return to the use of emotion and reflection. Psychologist, 21(11), 938-940.
Perkins, D. N. (2009). Making learning whole, how seven principles of teaching can transform education. Jossey-Bass.
Thagard, P. (2005). Mind, introduction to cognitive science. (2nd ed.). The MIT Press.
Thoms, K.J. (2001). They’re not just big kids: Motivating adult learners. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED463720.pdf
Other Resources to Learn More About Emotions and the “Hard Parts” of Learning:
Affect- Emotions and Motivation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8SKrjZSlXY
How Can Learning Affect a Child’s Emotions? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwIlNyYmeMU
Changing Brains: Emotions and Learning http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8OziK-6IQI
Role of Social and Emotional Learning in the Early Childhood Classroom http://www.aboutourkids.org/articles/social_emotional_learning_what_it_how_can_we_use_it_help_our_children
The Effects of Brain Development for the Young Child and Their Learning
Brain development in early childhood is extremely critical. All young children are individuals meaning that they are all in different stages of development. Although there are typical skills and knowledge learned at particular ages, it does not apply to every child. This means that a teacher in a classroom must scaffold a curriculum that meets the needs of all the children individually. Social skills are so incredibly important and often most challenging for young children. Cognitive skills come with time, however if social and emotional skills are not taught at a young age then the child may never develop these skills. In the article “Hearts and Minds” it is mentioned that developing a positive relationship with a teacher or peer can lead to great things. With a strong bond a young child feels safe to explore and try new things. This means that the teacher must put in extra effort with each child to develop a unique bond. The skill of understanding your own feelings as well as others take time and support. Teachers have the responsibility of helping young children develop the language to express their feelings and emotions with others around them (Lehrer, 2007).
Feelings and emotions have the ability to overtake a young child and cause them to be unable to rationalize what is happening around them. The idea of having to separate feelings in some situations is extremely difficult.
The early childhood field is one that can be difficult. Young children barelyt know themselves, never mind a teacher trying to understand just who they are. As an early childcare teacher I am always researching and asking questions about ways to help young children learn about social/ emotional skills. Personally in my classroom I implement the STEPS program (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting). This particular program aids children in sharing their feelings with others, and taking ownership of conflict. STEPS asks for children and adults to use the phrase, “when you…I feel…because…” The other benefit of the STEPS program is that the teacher or adult can introduce children to new vocabulary for describing their feelings (angry, frustrated, annoyed…).
A young child is unsure of the world. They only know what is given to them to experience. In much of a way they are sheltered from much of the real world. It is through their experiences that they will grow and create their own understanding of the world. A child bases their logic on prior experiences. If a young child wants to be the line leader and they know if they push their friend out of the way, then they can be the line leader. To them it is perfectly logical. They wanted to be in front, the friend was in the way, so get them out of the way and they can then be in front. Children even age often don’t think before they do. They are quick to make decision and are focused on themselves.
During my eduction for my undergraduate I took many psychology classes. It was my favorite type of class. I loved trying to understand the brain, especially of the young child. During my classes there was many opportunities to learn about philosophers who spent the majority of their time researching the young child. Piaget was one of these philosophers. Piaget believed that the metal process and mentality was very different of that of an adult. My students throughout a traditional school year very from age three to age five. With this said their cognitive skills are growing rapidly due to the fact that their brains are much like a “sponge” in the sense that they just absorb new knowledge and information. During this age Piaget concluded that a young child is extremely caught up in themselves and their own world. He referred to this as the stage of “egocentrism” which means they are extremely egotistic and wrapped up in themselves (McLeod).
Rules affect children greatly also. For a young child rules are also developed due to past experiences. Many times the rules created are self-focused. Rules have to be logical. For a young child rules are typically simple; if I clean my toys then I will get to do my next activity or if I eat my veggies then I can have desert. Young children will give into rules they don’t like because the outcome is worth it. As children grow their rules become more complex and hold deeper meaning. It has only been about a week that my school has begun and my students are already begging to process rules for our classroom. Today a little boy (of which has sever behavioral problems as well as sensory difficulties) went up to a friend and told him he must get his center name and put it on the center so that Miss Kunz doesn’t have to help him. I was so excited that he had realized that if he did not complete the task on his own then I would have to help. The same little boy concluded that if he is angry and does not want to follow directions then he should go in the cozy corner till he is ready to be a part of the group. These rules are simple, but logical. They are created through past experiences that the child has personally experienced or has experienced through another’s actions.
As I mentioned before a young child is much wrapped up in their world. In many ways the environment in which they grow up in is often catering to their needs and wants. With this said problem-solving is often processed through meaning to their own life. A young child will neglect to think of others feeling, wants, or needs. Adults due to experience and understanding of others tend to look at not only their own feelings, wants, and desires, but also the others around them. With this said a lot more time and thought is involved in an adults thought process.
Every child is so different and unique in their own special way. I am lucky enough to only have sixteen children enrolled in my class of which half are boys and half are girls. In addition, half are three years of age and the other half are four. Even though my classroom has such a great balance of children, it can still be such a struggle to figure out each child’s corks and just what makes them tick. This last week I find myself up to all hours of the night try to piece together my experiences with my students that day. Understanding why the child makes the choices they do is fascinating to me. Having two children with IEP’s that are on two extremes of the spectrum more of a challenge this year than ever before. Although I have some understanding and experience with sensory disorder, I was never prepared for the situation of which I am currently in. The World Wide Web has helped me to be able to explore the actions and thoughts he may be undertaking. Also having the opportunity to read about other teacher’s experiences and methods for the classroom helps to reassure me that this can and will get better as the year progresses. The internet has greatly aid in helping me to find resources and suggestions of how to guide young children to develop rules and logic that can be applied both in the classroom as well as in the real world.
In the past decade, preschool classrooms, which enroll children age three to five, have implemented technology such as CD players, computers, overhead projectors and light tables. For many students technology creates an enjoyable activity that results in an accelerated and more enriched learning experience. Couse’s survey on the use of technology in the early childhood classroom, found that 7 out of 8 teachers were incorporating at least one form of technology daily within their curriculum and experienced positive results encouraging them to continue to make use of the technology employed (Couse. 81).
In my classroom I personally use the Smart Board to engage my kids. They think that the big scene is absolutely amazing. With it I create interactive activities to reinforce many different types of learning concept (patterns, shares, sorting, letters, sight words, etc.…). Smart Boards create an experience that once could not exist in the classroom and offers benefits to new teaching styles. Jill Keppeler (2013) stated “Technology is just the reality today. This exposure to it at a young age is necessary. We use it for different purposes … kids who are at a lower level, kids who are at a higher level, kids who don’t speak a lot. It’s not just squares and letters and numbers any more (p. 1).” With the use of a tablet, children are having fun while learning. According to Keppeler (2013) “They’re learning skills they need to know … but they think they’re playing (p. 1).”
Smart Boards allow for more children to view and use the same piece of technology at the same time. It is an interactive piece of equipment that introduces unlimited possibilities. It is with the Smart Board technology that the entire class can experience together the benefits of the World Wide Web. According to Carrington Academy (2001), Smart Boards create new opportunities, “So now the students can listen to a historic speech, watch a documentary, interact with children from another country, participate in daily lesson plan activities and software programs, or tour an art gallery or museum on the Internet (p.3)
Learning is different for everyone. There is no two people that learn exactly the same. With this said it is critical that I understand the differences in learning strategies for implementation in my classroom. The last thing I would want is for such a young child to get frustrated and hate school. Solomon stated, “everybody is active sometimes and reluctant sometimes”. As I read this quote it made me think about just how big the scale really is for differences among child and adult learners. In the early childhood field we really do favor the active and reflective learner. The goal of the curriculum is to be as hands on as possible. This means having opportunities for the children to work together to explore and learn about the world around them. Young children tend to spend little time alone while in the classroom. In my classroom there is much less activities created for the sensing and intuitive learners. Facts are almost never just given out with the expectation to retain, understand, and implement. During our small group time this type of learning approach is touched upon, but then redirected to active learning.
Thagard (2005) stated: “We should not think of the brain as one big connectionist network, but rather as a highly organized and interconnected system of specialized neural networks” (p. 155). The brain has so many different little parts that can really effect how an individual thinks, processes, and learns. The fact that there are two different sides of the brain that are responsible for different roles is only the begging of the complexity of the brain.
According to Wilmes, Harrington, Kohler-Evans, and Sumpter (2008) write, “Findings suggest that heredity provides 30-60 percent of our brain’s wiring, while 40-70 percent is due to environmental factors” (p. 659). This fact is something that affects me in my job every day. It is the question of nurture vs. nature in a sense. When reading these findings you can better understand the debate in the early childhood field. The average for heredity vs. environmental varies significantly.
Learning styles can directly be impacted due to a child’s brain wiring. Depending on how it is wired you may be more apart to learn better through different learning styles. I truly believe that the environment can impact a child’s learning greatly however. If a young child is raised in a home where academics are reinforced, they are more apart to enjoy learning and school. If the child is an active kid however, they may need more of the hands on kind of learning.
As a teachers I play a huge role in helping to set the young child up for success and enjoyment of school. If a pre-k teacher is able to get to know the individual child and their learning needs, then they can help the young child to develop the skills and knowledge needed for success in further grades.
I was a little surprised by results of the Learning Styles Test results. The test concluded that I am well balanced on the two dimensions. This was a surprise to me because I feel I am a visual learner. I seem to only remember images, pictures, charts… If it is something that can’t have an image then I rely on highlighters and colored sticky notes. Using these sources help me to be able to recall the information by first recalling the color that went with it. I do know however that I am a great group worker and love to spend time with others, however, I am huge on having quiet/ alone time.
Learning is an extremely complex concept and idea of the functioning’s of the brain. As a teacher it is critical that you understand the differences in the make-up of all students. Understanding that all children learn differently is the key to creating a curriculum that is beneficial for all students. Never will one type of teaching style be beneficial for all students. Rather the most successful teacher will create a curriculum that intertwines both learning styles together to ensure that all students are understanding the concepts and ideas being taught.
Other Resources About a Young Child’s Brain Development:
Early Learning Brain Development and Lifelong Outcomes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qb3DXY_7fU
Brain development of young children: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFbnU_O9ZEM
Brain Development in the Play Years: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGb81kIOBdE
Chudler, E. (2001). ODYSSEY magazine, 10:6-7. A Computer in Your Head? Cobblestone Publishing Co.
Felder, R. and Soloman, B. (n.d.) Learning Styles and Strategies.
Lehrer, J. (2007, April 29). Hearts and Minds. Globe Newspaper Company. Retrieved from: http://www.boston.com/ news/education/higher/ articles/2007/04/29/hearts__ minds/
Couse. L. J. & Chen. D. W. (2010). A Tablet Computer for Young Children? Exploring
It’s Viability for Early Childhood. Education. Journal Of Research On Technology In Education, 43(1), 75-98.
Keppeler, J. (2013, 02 01). Tablet technology assisting PreK classrooms. The
Tonawanda. Retrieved from http://tonawanda-news.com/nt/x730437224/Tablet-technology-assisting-preK- classroom
Lehrer, J. (2007, April 29). Hearts and Minds. Globe Newspaper Company. Retrieved from: http://www.boston.com/ news/education/higher/ articles/2007/04/29/hearts__ minds/
McLeod, S.. N.p.. Web. 5 Sep 2013. <http://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html>.
Perry, B. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://teacher.scholastic.com/professional/bruceperry/using_technology.htm
Thagard, Paul, “Cognitive Science”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall, 2012 edition) Retrieved from:http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cognitive-science/#ForLog
Wilmes, B., Harrington, L., Kohler-Evans, P., & Sumpter, D. (2008). Coming to our senses: Incorporating brain research findings into classroom instruction. Education, 128(4), 659-666