Here’s a guest post by one of my student teachers, Wynta Tiller. She explains why developing student responsibility by offering choices is so important in early childhood:
Learning independence in first grade is very important. In my class, the majority of the students do not even know how to tie their shoes. This week, we taught them how to choose their own centers. They took the first step into making their own decisions about their academic careers and they all did a good job on it. The first day was difficult but they overcame the obstacles once they were sure they would be able to do all of the activities before the end of the week. Although the children have not had previous practice with making their own choices, they did well during this first week of exposure. All of the things I predicted were going to happen did not and it was a smooth transition from having us choose the center for the students.
- DAY ONE: The first day proved to be hard when the students first had the choice of what center to chose. Since I have twenty seven students, they need to know that only a certain amount of students can go to one center at a time. Although they have to complete all of the centers during the week, they felt good about having the choice of which center they went to first. To my surprise, most of the students wanted to go to the art center and only a few wanted to do guided reading. I had to explain that they would all get the chance to do all of the centers but some students had to make a choice to go to a different center. The first day of transition was chaos and it wasted about ten minutes of the center time.
- DAY TWO: The next day was easier because the students knew what they had to do. It was also easier because there were fewer children fighting for the spot in the art center. Since those spots were chosen, they were forced to choose another center. I aided in helping the students choose since it was only their second day and I explained that they could not go to the same center twice. The time for the second day was reduced to about three minutes instead of ten and the transition was a lot smoother.
- DAY THREE: On the third day, the students transitioned with almost with no guidance at all. There were a few students who were unsure of what to do but other than that, it went well. It was also the same for the fourth and fifth day. The teacher and I got the chance to do guided reading with all of the students and provided extra help for the students who needed it.
Much thanks to Wynta for sharing her story. I challenge all of you to think about how much choice children have in your classroom. It has always struck me as odd that preschoolers get plenty of choices and as the children get older, there are fewer and fewer, yet we need children to learn how to make responsible choices. Please share in the comments the ways that you’ve helped children make choices in your own classroom!
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