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Approaches to Learning in Junior Kindergarten
By: Junior Kindergarten Teachers Christie Castagno, Mary Schwartz and Diane Vujnich
Junior Kindergarten is a fun place to learn and grow. Foundations are established for a successful eight years at Rossman School. “Approaches to learning” are behaviors, tendencies or typical patterns that children use in learning situations. They include curiosity, persistence and flexibility in solving problems.
In her book “Enthusiastic and Engaged Learners: Approaches to Learning in the Early Childhood Classroom,” Marilou Hyson tells us about two valuable teaching tools:
- connections — personal warmth, sensitivity and involvement with individual children
- community — a classroom and school where all children are accepted and appreciated
Hyson goes on to describe how these close relationships impact a child’s learning at school and in life, and how they affect the child’s chances for success. Research shows that positive approaches to learning improve both social emotional and academic outcomes. Positive approaches to learning are enthusiasm (interest, joy and motivation to learn) and engagement (attention, persistence, flexibility, self-regulation). “Curiosity, persistence and joy are key ingredients that pave the way for a lifetime of learning,” Hyson says.
Children in Junior Kindergarten are greeted every day at the door. We strive to make them feel welcome and to make a personal connection with them. We listen to stories they tell us of home, and we too share our personal stories with them. We recognize the significance of their activities and interests and use that information when creating learning connections. Taking time to get down at their level and make connections with the children increases our ability to connect at learning times as well.
According to Hyson, “When teachers establish emotionally secure relationships with children, these relationships contribute to children’s engagement in school.” She also emphasizes the following: “Adults have the responsibility to ensure that childhood is joyful, wondrous and rewarding in itself, not just as preparation for a successful future. Parents and teachers can create conditions that allow all children to experience these moments often and to develop interests that will be a rich, lasting source of enjoyment. It is simply a good thing for children to feel enthusiastic about learning, to be interested, curious and happy as they learn, and to be deeply involved in new and challenging experiences.”
In Junior Kindergarten, positive approaches to learning are incorporated into our report card. We record growth in the following areas: “shows interest in learning and new experiences; persists at tasks, even when difficult; sustains attention to a task or activity; and demonstrates self-direction during activities, routines and play.” We feel that it is important to acknowledge these approaches at this level of learning. We appreciate and enjoy the fact that positive approaches to learning are evident in all of the classrooms at Rossman School.