Teach the children the framework within which they can "own" the classroom. My kindergarten children run our entire morning and afternoon meetings by the beginning of November. They know their jobs and they know the routine. I sit back and watch, enjoying the new ways they learn by working with each other and not depending on me to guide every detail, answer every question or solve every problem. Independence, critical thinking, coooperation and collaboration, excitement! LEARNING!!! My morning students asked me this week for the keys to the building and offered for me to sleep in while they run the class! I'm considering it. LOL - JK
Along the same empowering lines of thinking, let them "own" the work. Teach the concept, not the details. Demonstrate and explain when it is absolutely necessary to stay within the lines, but let them "color outside the lines" or "think out of the box" on their own, putting their own spin on the work, based on their own prior knowledge or curiosity. It's never wrong if they are learning something...even when it's not what we expected them to be learning. The thinking is what really matters! Provoke the inquisitive nature and the desire to create that children are blessed with! They naturally come equipped to learn...let them go for it. Don't get hung up on "doing it right" and stop giving them the answers! Let them read their writing to you, let them explain their process to you...allow them to share what is going on in their minds as they explore, and allow them to change it to fit how they perceive it should be - you may learn something new! It's their process and their outcome...Let Them Feel It!
Be A Responsible Educator: Know the Difference and Choose the One that is In The Best Interest of Your Students, Long-Term
Traffic Light Charts?
It's Time To Throw Them in the Trash! (IF you are serious about supporting positive changes for your students.)
What is an Extrinsic Motivator?
If Jimmy gets a good report card, Dad gives Jimmy $20.
When Kevin has a great week at school, as indicated by more than three stickers on his good behavior chart, Mom takes him out for ice cream.
Anyone who stays on green every day this week gets a ticket to go to the teacher's prize box on Friday.
Yes, Even the Grade is an Extrinsic Motivator!
Suzie is working hard to get an A+ on her book report.
What does all of this mean? Well, we have been using extrinsic motivators in the classroom (and at work and at home) for many, many years...ever since behavior theories in education were based on animal behaviors in the lab - without the more current knowledge of human behavior and neurological functions. This is the motivation that we are used to and have been comfortable with..."dangle the carrot;" "offer a reward;" "give a bonus;" "incent them"...
This is also the behavior that creates the response, "What will you give me if I get an A on my report card?"
It starts at a very young age, when, like a puppy in the house-training stage, we incentivize our children with a reward for all of those kind person/good citizen behaviors we expect them to strive for. "Sit puppy! Good girl, have a dog biscuit!" Similar to: "Your teacher told me that you are so polite in school and that your behavior clip never moves down. Let's go out for pizza and celebrate!"
What is an Intrinsic Motivator?
Jenny can't wait to practice riding without her training wheels.
Shawn reads the pictures in the giraffe book with great enthusiasm.
Leslie was beaming with pride after shopping with Mom and using the shopping list she wrote all by herself.
Intrinsic Motivation is the simple one! What is it?
Intrinsic Motivation is the motivator that comes from within.It's the "feel good about myself" motivator. Remember the song, "It's the Climb"? Intrinsic motivation involves enjoying the process, the experience, and not waiting for an outcome in order to be happy about what we are doing. This is performing acts of kindness, this is doing a job or a school assignment because you are interested in it and excited to be participating in it; this is finding something that captures you about a content area you aren't generally interested in and embracing the work for the enjoyment of pursuing that interest.
The Rub: Extrinsic Motivators Extinguish Intrinsic Motivation
Like using a Fire Extinguisher to Put It Out or Being Squished by an Elephant!
Providing external motivators stops the internal motivation. The sticker given to a child for a kind act teaches the child to use the positive behavior as a means to get a reward. The good feeling the child experiences comes from someone else recognizing the act and providing proof of such with a prize. The child is not aware of feeling good inside for being a good friend or a good citizen... or for learning!
Doing the work for the purpose of getting the A takes all of the excitement out of the learning it takes to get to the A and creates a mindset of pushing through the work to get to the desired outcome. It's about the A, not about the learning that could be happening. I wonder how many different ways students may find to get to the A if they are not embracing the learning process? ...food for thought.
The positive emotions that we experience, which build self-esteem and confidence, are not recognized with extrinsic motivators. A pat on the back and a comment such as, "Wow! You must feel so good about yourself having done something so nice for a friend! I'll bet you are really proud of yourself," is the best choice for encouraging positive behaviors and building a solid foundation of confidence. This encourages the child to recognize the intrinsic motivator; the response directs them to recognize the feeling within and eventually eliminates the need to find the reward on the outside. Self-Regulation in the Works.
And if you are reluctant to give up the reward system, couple the sticker or prize with a comment such as the Wow statement above. Provide the child with guidance to find and recognize the internal feelings while recognizing the child with a reward. This is not optimal, but full resistance to the concept is more harmful.
What about the Publicly Shared Behavior Chart?
How damaging to a child's self-esteem do you think it could be to have her name clipped to this public announcement that she engaged in a behavior at school that warrants a discussion with her parents to remedy?
Would you want your name clipped to a sign in the Faculty Room that indicates you will need additional training for an expectation that you are struggling to meet? Hmmm...
How Do We Make The Change to Motivate Appropriately?
Check in periodically for evidence-based Keys to Motivation! Comments on this posting are encouraged in the interim. :)
If you answered, "no" or "I'm not sure"...there's a problem!
STEM and STEAM have been brought into the education realm, and subsequently the early childhood education sector, to bring about the workforce that is needed for this country's future. We are not competitive enough in these areas, and the programs, courses, and degrees that have emerged have come about as a means of developing a workforce that is prepared for the needs of tomorrow.
When we combine these individual branches of knowledge into one comprehensive body of knowledge, the tasks involved require a whole new way of thinking. The STEAM exploration allows for making connections across knowledge areas, it enables us to see the math that is embedded in the science, the science that is behind the engineering and development, the compliment that the Arts bring to the technology we use, etc. The process fosters higher level thinking skills such as making connections, synthesizing information and ultimately, creating something new.
So how is it that our young children are supported to think in these ways? We need to pique their curiosity; enable them to explore, discover, and hypothesize on their own; allow them to question and experiment; and encourage the mistakes and retakes along the way as a wonderful learning experience rather than a failure.
A colleague of mine had 4-year old children examine a paper Chinese lamp made as a Halloween decoration today. She then encouraged them to work in teams and figure out how to make one. With minimal support, they worked in partners and then shared whole group with each step that they figured out. Not only did they make the lamps, but they had a situation that was a life lesson for all! One friend in the group cut the paper in the wrong direction, noticed it before even opening it up, exclaimed, "Ooops! This won't work!" and asked for another paper to cut in the other direction. This insightful teacher's response was, "Oops! is good! That's how we learn and figure things out." The whole class was all smiles about this project! They were beaming with pride. They didn't sit down and get step-by-step directions on how to fold and how to cut and where to tape, etc. They worked as a team, they figured it out and they created something that was all theirs! It was so exciting!!!! This is serious learning.
The students in that class explored the sample lamp to gain some background knowledge, they discussed their questions and ideas together and then tried them out. They changed their path if it wasn't working and tried a new idea, and they eventually found success. This is a very basic example of what STEAM thinking should look like. This particular teacher is easing this group into STEAM, and hats off to her for beginning with encouraging the critical thinking and confidence-building that the team will need to delve into more complicated projects. Oh, did I mention that the lamps light up? VERY COOL!
Think about how you are conducting your STEM and STEAM activities.
Are they student-centered rather than teacher-directed, with students leading the learning?
Are the students questioning and hypothesizing as they go through the process?
Are they making mistakes and finding it comfortable to "go back to the drawing board"?
Are they "owning" the project?
Are they demonstrating the excitement of new discoveries?
Are they connecting the work they are doing with the world outside, past experiences, other work they've done or plan to do, or the adult world around them?
If you answer "YES!" to these questions, then you are creating the foundation for the work these children will do beyond your classroom and into adulthood. Nice job!
If you answered "NO :(" to any of these questions, then you'll need to "go back to the drawing board" yourself, and in doing so, demonstrate to your students how even adults have to reflect and revise their original plans to find true success! :)
While enjoying a little free time this morning, I pulled out an issue of NAEYC's Teaching Young Children/Preschool that I had set aside to reference later for some great activities. There are always many wonderful articles in this publication, but I'd like to quote the authors of this particular article, because I'm sure that many others will find it to be incredibly significant. The article is about science exploration with children, but the concept crosses all curriculum and teaching in general. These two paragraphs speak loudly...
Engaging questions stimulate children's inquiry and investigation rather than suggest "correct" answers. These include questions that help children to describe observations, explain procedures, and make predictions. Following their investigations, teachers can ask children questions that encourage them to reflect on what they learned.
Asking "Why do you think so?" also supports planning. Sometimes it leads to surprises. When one teacher asked a child why he thought a golf ball would sink, he said "Because it's round." She had assumed that he was basing his prediction on the ball's weight. She decided to facilitate a follow-up investigation of round things rather than heavy things.
What do you think?
Hoisington, C., Chalufour, I., Winokur, J., & Clark-Chiarelli, N. (2014). Science learning through water. Teaching Young Children/Preschool, 8(1), 30-31.
Children Researched and Created: Hard and Soft Coral, including Brain Coral, Staghorn Coral, Finger Coral, Tube Coral, Fan Coral and Flower Coral, as well as Sea Animals including the Octopus, Parrot Fish, Clown Fish, Crab, Eel, Sting Ray, Whale Shark, Dolphin, and more. Why is the sand white?
Why is the sand white? Is the coral a rock? Does coral eat? How did the coral move and get the sand off of the top of itself in that video? What color should my turtle be if it lives in Australia? What is the weather in Australia? Where is the book I put that book mark in to go back to the puffer fish page? How big can a coral reef grow?
These and so many other inquiries from our students drove the research and learning involved in our Great Barrier Reef project. Preparing for a new project, wondering if we could find anything more fun and exciting than our recent North Pole and Santa's Workshop, we laughed about needing a little beach time with all of these "too cold to play" days. That thought, coupled with a recent obsession with magnets, led our group to a debate over whether we should create a beach or a science laboratory. Let the voting begin!
The beach was the winner, and all of the students whole-heartedly embraced our virtual trip to the Coral Sea. The students' brainstorming eventually led us to exploring the land down under, a beach on Australia's East Coast called Lizard Island, and finally, The Great Barrier Reef. Students were attracted like their magnets (opposite poles, they will tell you) to the incredible world that exists under the sea.
The learning involved the globe and discovery of the land down under being south of the equator, the location of the Reef along the northeastern coast of the country, the name of the country and its not-as-well-known name as a continent, and then it was on to the science with trying to figure out just what a reef actually is and how it forms and grows. We studied a variety of types of coral, and then the sea animals that make their home in and around the coral reef. We hit the books, a few YouTube vids and some great Kindle Books on the iPad.
Researching and Creating Sea Animals of the Coral Sea
As we began working with our art teacher, using techniques with water color, resistance, pastels, etc., math skills became evident in our art work and soon we were pulling out yard sticks and rulers to measure 8-foot streamers for the windows, counting out 8 tentacles for our Octopi...yes, we went from Octopuses to Octopies to Octopi! And, with ensuring that I am spelling this correctly here, I just learned and must share with my class that it is truly supposed to be Octopodes! Octopi developed as the plural out of a mistaken assumption that the word is of Latin origin which would require the "i" plural, whereas it truly is of Greek origin and should be Octopodes! They now say that for American English, Octopuses should be acceptable, as it is the easiest. Everything I need to know a learned from a kindergartener...didn't we just come full circle with that plural? Can you see how the learning just never ends...for all of us? Back to the project...The engineering came in with the planning, designing and building of the reef base, and the reading and writing are ever-present; however, we also created "Sticker Stories" with this project. Children selected ocean-themed stickers and set them in a scene to tell a story. They then used their best Kid Writing to write the story of their illustration. These were edited and the final copies were read to our parents at The Great Barrier Reef!
Mrs. Mantell's 2013-14 Kindergarten Enrichment Class Created an Alaska Ice Fishing Village in the Classroom as published in the Bucks County Herald
Evidence-based best practices in early childhood education consistently point to learning through play, and our S.T.E.A.M.+ concept brings about learning far beyond our plans, and usually beyond our wildest dreams! When a group of young children learn not only to cooperate, but also to collaborate, to make choices and decisions, and to move a project in a direction that makes sense and is intriguing, based on their own design and plan, there is magic and fireworks everywhere!
Over the past two years, our Kindergarten Enrichment classroom has accomplished projects including: The Pizza Parlor, The Airport, The Bakery, The North Pole with Santa's Workshop, and many more. We are currently building The Great Barrier Reef! Within each project, we have defined the work with Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math once the children agreed upon the topic. However, based on choices the students make, we often find the learning leads to subject areas including Commerce, Geography, History, and always Reading and Writing.
In response to a recent increase in requests for professional development on this topic, at the upcoming DVAEYC Conference, I will be presenting a professional development session entitled, Bringing S.T.E.A.M.+ into the Early Childhood Classroom Successfully, where a simple frame work will be provided for creating and conducting the lesson plan to meet goals and standards, along with ideas and suggestions for topics, and the "how-to" on empowering children to take the lead toward the outcome of the project.
S.T.E.A.M.+ Projects are appropriate for preschoolers at both the 3s and 4s levels, as well as kindergarten and elementary school. Additionally, there are very small projects that can be incorporated into a single area of learning on one particular day, such as snack/cooking or during your language arts block.
Wouldn't it be great to watch the classroom come alive with inquiry and theory, talent and motivation, as you facilitate the learning that the children choose to pursue? What is holding them back? Go for it! (We'll be happy to help should you need training or assistance!)
Colleen T. Mantell, M.S., Ed. Founder, President Beyond The Standards Inc. Prof Dev Instructor -PQAS Certified PA & MD Certified Teacher -Early Childhood Edu -Elementary Edu -Family & Consumer Sci -Psychology Published Author -Peer-Reviewed Journal Kindergarten Enrichment Teacher Wife and Mother of Three