Should children be included in their learning?

“It is not what you do for children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.” (Ann Landers)

I wholeheartedly agree with Ann’s quote and feel it is essential for a child’s future success to understand what is happening to them and why. We do them a disservice when we fail to recognise how significant this is to their understanding, cooperation and need to question.

We all strive for children to become fully fledged members of whichever societal experience we expose them to, but often fail to factor the differing levels of comprehension and skill that is required of them to manage with any level of adeptness.

Where’s it happening?
Our Early Years nursery and school Reception Class environments are perfect examples of this.
It is here that many children discover, for the first time, what it means to be a part of something bigger than their family unit. That’s a big deal!
Let’s consider that the decision to send them to you. When and how often they attend. What time and how they get there. What will happen before, during and after. Plus many other nuances in between, have been decided by the child’s adult. As they should be, and it’s a great starting point when considering how little autonomy young children receive.
Add the activities, routines and procedures that happen at school/nursery. You have more instruction, demands and expectations placed upon a little, learning brain.
Do you see what I’m getting at?
Think about it, the child has very little choice about what they can do and when they can do it. Would you agree?

The whats and the whys.
What should you/could you do? For me, the answer is simple. Be aware of how you include them in the process. How you let them know the whats and the whys? Before they’re born, children are hearing our words, we are telling them what will happen when they arrive, who will love them and care for them. It’s beautiful and this should continue. What happens though, is that we get caught up in the ‘busyness’ and more & more our words tend to become more about the ‘do’ and it affects our tone, urgency and mood.
It’s important that the words we use convey meaning to real life occurrences. We cannot be expected to narrate like a children’s author at every possible moment – nor should we wish to. What I mean is considering the impact of our words on them.

Do you ever get the NO! or the uncooperative behaviour?
How often are your children reticent about joining in, following instruction and being involved? Could it simply be one thing too many? Often, they’ve little or no understanding as to why they’re needed to do the thing being asked at that time or what’s in it for them?
How do you feel being instructed all day long?
It’s very natural (even if often frustrating) for young children to want to exert their desire for independence. It’s how they’re beginning to identify themselves as individual and separate from caregivers. It very often correlates with big emotions too.
At some point we need to allow children to do more for themselves; to make an informed decision about their action/idea/play/next thing.

How & when do we do it?
The beauty of childhood is that it always presents us with the right time to do something – if we’re paying attention.
We can introduce simply in the language and narrative we use from the beginning; from nappy time, to bedtime and develop with the child. Following their lead and offer explanations they’ll understand.
In nursery & school we have an amazing opportunity to include them in the learning that’s taking place. Sharing discussions about what is happening, why you’re introducing something and what it means for them and their learning. This is powerful stuff. When children understand what something means to them, you are promoting self-discovery. This is when the discover what they can do, what they can’t and what they can do about it.

Autonomy at it’s best!

Children will if they can (Ross Green)

Fostering a teaching approach that truly values and respects the role the child plays in what you’re doing, and seeks to include them in the planning and/or execution of it introduces and builds upon skills that enable children to thrive.

From understanding learning concepts of PE, storytime, and even, perhaps, especially, behaviour, including children in the process, the happenings within themselves gives them valuable tools for life.

With behavioural & learning challenges becoming evermore present in our early learning settings, we need to figure out a solution. Including children in the process means they’re more likely to respond, understand and take action, but your approach has to be relevant, developmentally appropriate and genuine for them to attempt to try.

It starts with you – how will you include children in your learning practices & how will you share they why you’re doing so?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *