The Effects of Brain Development for the Young Child and Their Learning

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

 

 

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