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The following is from Santrock Child Development (2014) 

Tools of the Mind

"Tools of the Mind is an early childhood education curriculum that empha- sizes children’s development of self-regulation and the cognitive foundations of literacy (Diamond, 2013; Hyson, Copple, & Jones, 2006). The curriculum was created by Elena Bodrova and Deborah Leong (2007) and has been im- plemented in more than 200 classrooms. Most of the children in the Tools of the Mind programs are at risk because of their living circumstances, which in many instances involve poverty and other difficult conditions such as being homeless and having parents with drug problems.

Tools of the Mind is grounded in Vygotsky’s (1962) theory, with special attention given to cultural tools and developing self-regulation, the zone of proximal development, scaffolding, private speech, shared activity, and play as important activity. In a Tools of the Mind classroom, dramatic play has a central role. Teachers guide children in creating themes that are based on the children’s interests, such as treasure hunt, store, hospital, and restaurant. Teachers also incorporate field trips, visi- tor presentations, videos, and books in the development of children’s play. They help children develop a play plan, which increases the maturity of their play. Play plans describe what the children expect to do during the play period, including the imaginary context, roles, and props to be used. The play plans increase the quality of their play and self-regulation.

Scaffolding writing is another important theme in the Tools of the Mind classroom. Teachers guide children in planning their own message by drawing a line to stand for each word the child says. Children then repeat the message, pointing to each line as they say the word. Next, the child writes on the lines, trying to represent each word with some letters or symbols. Figure 6.12 shows how the scaffolding writing process improved a 5-year-old child’s writing over the course of two months.

Research assessments of children’s writing in Tools of the Mind classrooms revealed that they have more advanced writing skills than children in other early childhood programs (Bodrova & Leong, 2007) (see Figure 6.12). For example, they write more complex messages, use more words, spell more accurately, show better letter recognition, and have a better understanding of the concept of a sentence.

One study assessed the effects of the Tools of the Mind curriculum on at-risk preschool children (Diamond & others, 2007). The results indi- cated that the Tools of the Mind curriculum improved the self-regulatory and cognitive control skills (such as resisting distractions and tempta- tions) of the at-risk children. Other research on the Tools of the Mind curriculum also has found that it improves young children’s cognitive skills (Barnett & others, 2006; Saifer, 2007)."

(Santrock, 2014)

Helping Children Learn Strategies

“In Michael Pressley’s view (Pressley, 2003, 2007; Pressley & Hilden, 2006), the key to education is helping students learn a rich repertoire of strategies for solving problems. Pressley argues that when children are given instruction about effective strategies, they often can apply strategies that they had not used on their own. Pressley emphasizes that children benefit when the teacher (1) models the appropriate strategy, (2) verbalizes the steps in the strategy, and (3) guides the children to practice the strategy and supports their practice with feed- back. “Practice” means that children use the strategy over and over until they perform it automatically. To execute strategies effectively, they need to have the strategies in long-term memory, and extensive practice makes this possible.

Just having children learn a new strategy is usually not enough for them to continue to use it and to transfer the strategy to new situations. Children need to be motivated to learn and to use the strategies. For effective maintenance and transfer, children should be encouraged to monitor the effectiveness of the new strategy by comparing their performance on tests and other assessments.

Let’s examine an example of effective strategy instruction. Good readers extract the main ideas from text and summarize them. In contrast, novice readers (for example, most children) usually don’t store the main ideas of what they read. One intervention based on what is known about the summarizing strategies of good readers consisted of instructing children to (1) skim over trivial information, (2) ignore redundant information, (3) replace less inclusive terms with more inclusive ones, (4) use a more inclusive action term to combine a series of events, (5) choose a topic sentence, and (6) create a topic sentence if none is given (Brown & Day, 1983). Instructing elementary school students to use these summarizing strategies improves their reading performance (Rinehart, Stahl, & Erickson, 1986).

Pressley and his colleagues (Pressley & Harris, 2006; Pressley & Hilden, 2006; Pressley & others, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007) have spent considerable time in recent years observing the use of strategy instruction by teachers and strategy use by students in elementary and secondary school classrooms. They conclude that teachers’ use of strategy instruction is far less complete and intense than what is needed for students to learn how to use strategies effectively. They argue that education needs to be restructured so that students are provided with more opportunities to become competent strategic learners.”

(Santrock, 2014)

The Montessori Approach

"Montessori schools are patterned after the educational philosophy of Maria Montessori (1870–1952), an Italian physician-turned-educator who crafted a revolutionary approach to young children’s education at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Montessori approach is a philosophy of education in which children are given considerable freedom and spontaneity in choosing activities. They are allowed to move from one activity to another as they desire. The teacher acts as a facilitator rather than a director. The teacher shows the child how to perform intellectual activities, demonstrates interesting ways to explore curriculum materials, and offers help when the child requests it (Drake, 2008; Isaacs, 2012; Lillard, 2008). “By encouraging children to make decisions from an early age, Montessori programs seek to develop self- regulated problem solvers who can make choices and manage their time effectively” (Hyson, Copple, & Jones, 2006, p. 14). The number of Montessori schools in the United States has expanded dramatically in recent years, from one school in 1959 to 355 schools in 1970 to more than 4,000 today.

Some developmentalists favor the Montessori approach, but others conclude that it neglects children’s socioemotional development. For example, although Montessori fosters independence and the development of cognitive skills, it deemphasizes verbal interaction between the teacher and child and between the children themselves. Montessori’s critics also argue that it restricts imaginative play and that its heavy reliance on self-corrective materials may not adequately allow for creativity or accommodate a variety of learning styles.

Many educators and psychologists conclude that preschool and young elementary school children learn best through active, hands-on teaching methods such as games and dramatic play. They know that children develop at varying rates and that schools need to allow for these individual differences. They also argue that schools should focus on facilitating children’s socioemotional development as well as their cognitive development. Educators refer to this type of schooling as developmentally appropriate practice (DAP), which is based on knowledge of the typical development of children within an age span (age-appropriateness), as well as the uniqueness of the child (individual-appropriateness) (Bredekamp, 2011; Squires & others, 2013). In contrast, develop- mentally inappropriate practice for young children relies on abstract paper-and-pencil activities presented to large groups. Desired outcomes for DAP include thinking critically, working cooperatively, solving problems, developing self-regulatory skills, and enjoying learning. The emphasis in DAP is on the process of learning rather than its content (Ritchie, Maxwell, & Bredekamp, 2009). Figure provides recommendations from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) for developmentally appropriate education in a number of areas (NAEYC, 2009).

Many but not all studies show significant positive benefits for developmentally appropriate education (Hyson, 2007). Among the reasons it is difficult to generalize about research on developmentally appropriate education is that individual programs often vary, and develop- mentally appropriate education is an evolving concept. Recent changes in the concept have focused more attention on sociocultural factors, the teacher’s active involvement and implementation of systematic intentions, as well as the degree to which academic skills should be emphasized and how they should be taught."

(Santrock, 2014)

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Source: Adapted from NAEYC (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8.

(Santrock, 2014)

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