Monday, February 27, 2012

Knowing children's developmental stages helps teachers plan for the year

Understanding children’s developmental stages is critical to effective teaching and classroom planning.
While each child is unique, with multiple factors affecting their development, there are predictable stages of development that children go through and each stage has its own characteristics. For example, children who are developmentally six tend to be sloppy and in a hurry but developmental sevens generally produce neat, tidy work. Developmental nines tend to be anxious and preoccupied with fairness. At ten, they seem calmer and learn that fairness issues can be solved.

Developmental age doesn’t always match chronological age

While it’s important to learn about developmental stages, it’s also important to recognize every child’s individuality. Each has their own internal developmental clock. Culture, environment, health, and personality all affect every child at every age, so not every child will pass through developmental stages at exactly the same rate.

The birthday cluster exercise

As teachers, when you receive your class roster and begin to make plans for the new year, a good question to ask is: "What are the general developmental traits of the children I’ll be teaching and how will these traits change in the course of the year?" Any given classroom will contain a wide range of chronological and developmental ages, and this span doubles or triples in a multi-age classroom. But knowing the dominant chronological age of the children in your class lets you make savvy predictions about their developmental needs throughout the year. In the first few weeks of school, you can test these predictions by observing children’s behavior, and as you get to know children individually, you can make adjustments as needed.

To get information about the dominant chronological age, begin by rearranging your class roster by birth date:
  • Children’s behavior and needs don’t suddenly change on their birthdays. It can take several months for children to consistently exhibit the behavior of a new age.
  • As stated above, developmental age does not always match chronological age. The birthday cluster exercise allows you to make predictions based on group trends but not every child will fit the predictions.
  • Individual development is uneven. A child might mature quickly in one area, such as social competence, but mature more slowly in another area, such as cognitive or physical ability.

How to use the information

Once you’ve determined the dominant age in your classroom—and the range of ages above and below the dominant age—it’s time to turn to a reference on child development. Knowledge of developmental traits can help you plan many aspects of classroom life, from arranging space to presenting academic lessons to preparing children for testing.

For a good article on developmental issues and testing, Chip Wood recommends "Education Reform and Limits to Student Achievement," by Donald Orlich, Phi Delta Kappan, February 2002, pages 468–472.

Source from: Responsive Classroom Newsletter:

No comments:

Post a Comment