Creating a Climate for Learning
- Grades: PreK–K
Establishing an environment where children feel comfortable exploring and experimenting with a wide variety of learning styles is key to fostering healthy, well-rounded growth. Here are some ways you can help:
Create an emotional environment where children feel safe trying out new approaches and ideas. Share examples from your life: "Guess what, I tried a new recipe for dinner last night. I was a little scared because I had never cooked anything like it before, but it turned out great!" Also, be sure children know that it's okay to make mistakes and that everyone does - including you! "I even forgot one of the ingredients, but it tasted fine anyway!" Celebrate new endeavors together. "Hey, Jimmy, you made that birdhouse even better by adding a special perch. What a great invention!"
Offer activities that reinforce both originality and the ability to work in a structured order. Children need to know that you value a wide range of learning approaches. Activities need to encourage exploring, experimenting, asking questions, sharing information, hypothesizing, using imagination, and finding out and telling about facts.
Remember: Children need ample supplies of fantasy and reality. Gradually children learn to separate fantasy and reality, identify which is which, and travel between them purposely. Rather than trying to force understanding, which is usually in place by the end of kindergarten, encourage children to use language as a tool to ask questions and explore their thinking. You can ask them questions too: "Do you think that could really happen?" "Can you make up something using your imagination?"
Immerse children in a language-rich environment. Children thrive in places where they can be a part of discussions, listen, speak, read, sing, rhyme, invent words, and record their thoughts. Remember, language develops through nurture and practice. With language, exploration and learning are unlimited.
Help children ground themselves in time and space by learning and using the vocabulary of each. Understanding and using words such as now, later, until, after, before, and if help children organize time. Similarly over, under, here, there, nearer, farther, big, bigger, and biggest help them organize their environment and add to positive feelings of competence and control.
Consider these three R's: Receive, Ruminate, Respond. Children need to receive information, ideas, jokes, emotional experiences. They need time and opportunities to ruminate -- thinking about and relating ideas and concepts with their own experiences. And we need to encourage children to respond in a wide variety of ways.