Including everyone

One of the great things about working in Child Development is that we understand development. We take children for who they are today and where they are going. When creating a lesson plan, we look at what will benefit the children in the environment now. That same lesson plan cannot be recreated next year.

You won't find a preschool teacher with a years worth of lesson plans that gets recycled year after year. It's rare to find a preschool teacher who will plan for a month in advanced. I have seen some do so; but even then, they make some last minute changes a week before.

The reason we do things this way is because development in these first 5 years happens rapidly from week to week. Children will go from point A to point B in a matter of hours sometimes. Look at a child learning to walk; in the morning, he is standing, unsteadily teetering forward to propel himself at the desired target. By the evening, he is taking 2-3 confident steps between objects. It happens that quickly!

So, when sitting down to prepare a lesson, a teacher looks at the interests and development of all children in the classroom and creates opportunities from there. Are there some children who have been spending their time building bridges and roads in the block area? Are these same children struggling with patterning? She is going to plan some bridge building activities that include putting the pieces of the road in a colored pattern.

By doing this, it is very easy for a teacher to include children with developmental delays into the classroom. She can look at where the child is developmentally and include activities that work at his level. We preschool teachers are also very good at picking one activity and having it hit many developmental areas.

For example, my activity is exploring in shaving cream. We add some yellow and blue dry tempera to it and we now have a coloring mixing activity for some of the younger children. Then, while they are playing, the teacher starts drawing simple shapes to identify and encourages the children to do the same (another developmental area and level); then the activity changes to verbal instructions on writing letters and changing letters to make other letters (make a c, now add a short line, what do we have "a", now make the line really long what is it "d or q", etc...). This is a more advanced level. See, with one activity, I have been able to hit many area and levels of development.

There is a huge benefit to having children with developmental challenges in the classroom as well. First, the challenged child benefits by having others around to stimulate activities and behaviors that will build on his development. Second, the other children in the classroom learn compassion.

There are times when the children will get frustrated with a child because he keeps grabbing toys. Of course, yelling at the child to GIVE THE TOY BACK or USE YOUR WORDS IT'S MY TRUCK only make things worse on both sides. One is frustrated because, "he's not using his words and you tell us all the time Miss Jenni to use our words and all he does is grab and take things and knocks things over and then runs around the room taking off his clothes"; the other is confused because "all I want is to play with them but I can't get the words out and I have no friends."

When I can approach a child and tell her, "He wants to color with you but he can't tell you. Remember when you were a toddler and you couldn't talk very well? Well, he's still learning to talk like you were. We need to help him and then he won't get so angry," I find that there is a much better response. Eventually, that child will see him come to the table and say, "You want a crayon? Here you go, and here's some paper too."

My favorite response happened a few years ago. I had a child who was PDD (pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise defined; on the autistic spectrum) who started the year not talking, hitting, scratching, knocking things over, stripping, all those things. The children would get very frustrated and, once we began explaining to them and working with them, they became very compassionate. One day a parent was volunteering in the classroom and was sitting reading with her daughter reading a book; the delayed child came over and grabbed the book. You could see the parent was ready to admonish this other child when her daughter turned and looked at her mom, "Mommy, don't get mad. She doesn't have as many words as us and needs our help. She just wants to read with us, let's make space."

She then proceeded to move over and help her classmate get a space next to her on her mom's lap; mom then continued on with the reading.

It melted my heart to see the compassion in this little girl; and I was proud of her, too, for making sure that her mom understood as well.

There are occasions when children with developmental problems just can't be included in a classroom; but every one wins when we they can be acclimated in the room.

1 comment:

Teresa said...

Wow, what a great lesson for all adults. It's always amazing what I can learn from my 2.5 year old daughter. We really need to make sure we listen fully to our children. I hope you continue telling this story to everyone who'll listen...it's a great lesson.
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