Sunday, June 5, 2016

Children can...Children want to....Children need.....

For many teachers the school year is winding down.  Others are gearing up for summer programming and still other teachers in childcare continue to support their children's growth all summer long. Whatever your context, it is always an insightful exercise to think about what our children can and want to do and link that to what children need.   Early childhood educators in Somerville, in preparation for conversations about curriculum and assessment, recently took some time to think about just this.   The teachers engaged in a Chalk Talk after doing some thinking about what children can and want to do.  It was a reminder for teachers about their deep-seated values related to teaching and learning.

Children can....Children want to...
  • Talk about their home life and family
  • Feel like they are part of a group
  • Touch, explore, create, discover
  • Be independent
  • Think 
  • Be challenged
  • Be taken seriously
  • Feel successful 
  • Make connections
  • Be seen and known
  • Play

It is a powerful list. Imagine classrooms where this happens all the time.  How might our teaching support this image of the child"?  Loris Malaguzzi, the education pioneer behind the Reggio Emilia approach spoke often of the importance of building strong images of children:

What we have to do now is draw out the image of the child, draw the child out of the desperate situations that many children find themselves in. If we redeem the child from these difficult situations, we redeem ourselves. Children have a right to a good school — a good building, good teachers, right time, good activities. This is the right of ALL children.

At the same time that teachers generated their ideas about what children can and want to do, they also made connections to what children need in order to learn - beyond of course the basic needs of food, shelter, etc.

Children need....
  • To feel loved by their community
  • To use their imagination
  • Language(s)
  • Interesting materials & motivated by interesting experiences
  • To repeat activities
  • Time
  • Choice
  • Confidence
  • To feel safe
  • Respect
  • To have leadership opportunities
This equally powerful list speaks to children's need to feel their power as learners. This is cultivated by compelling and interesting provocations and the list begins to address some practices that support children's learning experiences and their evolution as learners.  

Teachers in Somerville will be thinking about this as they work on curriculum and assessment development in the coming year with generous support from The Taly Foundation, an organization committed to making sure every child has access to high quality preschool education.

Whether you are winding up your year and thinking ahead to the fall, or continuing to teach this summer, consider what you think children can and want to do, and what they need to do it.  Do you provide the space for the things you believe in?  Why or why not?  What would need to change for you to have your teaching experiences reflect these lists?  

We will continue to blog this summer share ideas and practices - what would you add to these lists? How would your colleagues or staff respond?   Might you wind up or kick off your school year with this exercise?  We would love to hear about your images of children!