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Children Actively Construct Their Own Learning


Children selectively attend to aspects of their environment: searching, seeing, remembering, correcting, checking, problem-solving: cognitive strategies which are in place long before school but which continue on into the tasks of school.


The role of teachers is not to pour information into children's minds, nor is it to leave children to independently discover everything for themselves, but to actively find ways of supporting the learning which is going on all of the time.


For the child who is slow to adjust to learning in school, who doesn't know what to say when the teacher asks, and who does not find the tasks of school familiar, the teacher will need to establish a good working relationship.


What simple tasks can this child do? How can the early reading behaviour of linking the meaning of a picture with the possible text meaning be established? What letters in the child's name does he know and can copy legibly? Which numbers does he know and can associate with simple objects in the room? What are the special things this child likes and can talk about... to the teacher, to another child, or even to a simple hand puppet in the classroom? Can this child sing? Play games? Can you find an older child who knows less than his peers, to spend some time to help the slower, younger child? In this way both children will learn new skills.


An important Russian psychologist: Lev Vygotsky said that, what children can do today in the company of someone else who can do a task well, tomorrow they can do by themselves.


The teacher is the mentor, the support, the one who explains, in terms and with demonstrations, what she has figured out the child needs to know. This calls for careful listening and observation on behalf of the teacher.


Interpersonal skills for learning


You can walk into any classroom in the world and know its spirit immediately, know whether the children in it are free to explore skills and knowledge, know whether they support each other and work together, or undermine each other's learning.


Underlying lessons in mathematics and reading, and in other subjects, are four foundation activities that must be practised by teachers and learners.


Building group spirit leads to the success of the whole class.


Competitions, divisions, and favouritism interfere with the learning of all students. As a teacher, you can help the children think of themselves that they are a learning team, in which the success of one is the success of all. And in which no student can be "left behind."


Effective communication involves listening, speaking, and taking turns.


A good teacher manages communication to be sure that a few children don't answer all the questions or dominate the discussion. Active listening, in which students take responsibility for hearing and understanding what each other says, is a vital part of the learning environment. Assertive speaking is equally important, clearly stating thoughts and feelings without interfering with the rights of others.


Cooperation enables learners to work together, sharing responsibilities, materials, roles and learning.


Small groups of children can divide roles and share responsibilities. In a science activity, one child might weigh different materials, while another might record results. Halfway through the activity, the children might swap roles. Cooperation must be practised if groups of children are to work independently.


Problem solving and negotiation help learners resolve conflicts and make decisions.


To learn how to think, children need to be encouraged to agree upon goals, weigh alternatives, make decisions and support them, and follow through to learn the outcomes of their choices. All of these processes depend on group-spirit, communication, and cooperation.


And, when conflicts arise, the same skills will help you and your students resolve them through negotiation. Compromise may be necessary, but giving in without being heard should never be.

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