In Defense if Active Learning: Teaching Children the Way They Learn by Rae Pica

Wow! Rae Pica does it again! She is always able to speak to the most developmentally approrpriate ways that we can teach in an early childhood setting so children truly learn and more importantly, have fun while doing it—which, in fact, increases intrinsic motivation to learn more and establishes a foundational love of learning.

In this article Pica points out the difference between expicilit and implicit learning. In an early childhood setting, explicit learning can sometimes be seen when asking a child to recognize a symbol, or group thereof, by showing a flash card of a circle or the color red or the sight word “can”. The child may retain this information quickly but it may not be deeply integrated, or in other words, truly learned.

Implicit learning provides a child with multiple varied opportunities to fully experience a concept. Obviously, this takes longer and may require more “thinking outside of the box”. How can a child physically experience a circle? Can they trace a textured circle? Can they make a circle with a part of their body? Can they partner with a friend and make a circle together—or with the class as a whole? Maybe a parachute can be integrated. Most definitely songs and books. Where can they find circles in nature? (The sun, the moon, our Earth, etc.) Or in their daily life? (A cup, a bowl, their plate at lunchtime, etc.) Is there an art project that will allow them to experience drawing or painiting circles in various mediums and colors? Kandinsky? Yes! Can they experience 3D circles using bubbles or playing catch with a ball? Can they make circles with play dough or build a snowman with clay?

Perhaps, to some, this may seem repetitious or maybe even like there is too much focus on something so simple. However, during early childhood, these basic concepts can be fully integrated and then utilized when kids enagage in active learning and experience one thing in many different ways. This approach allows children to fully grasp basic concepts and establish a strong foundation to build on. It also enables kids to make connections—they see how one idea or topic can look differently and be applied in so many unique and interesting ways. These connections are the basis for creative, divergent thinking.

The more active and engaging experiences we give to children, the more fully they learn and develop the neural-architecture for bigger, more complex thinking in their future.

Keep it fun, active, engaging, intentional—and laugh. Kids will gain the skills deeply. More importantly, they will gain an appreciation for all that they are capable of and a love of learning, which will set a tone for the rest of their lives.

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