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Bridging Theories of Development to Practice

Introduction
Over the years educators have started to better understand how children grow and develop in order to become healthy, happy, functional members of society. Although, children develop in their own unique way, various theories of development explain the similar patterns of development common amongst all children. Furthermore, these theories have come to influence a great deal of the educational practices in the classroom. In this paper, I have provided three vignettes from a first grade classroom observation. In order to gain a better understanding of how these theories play out in practice, each vignette is followed by an analysis of which development theories are visible in these examples.

Vignette - The Classroom Setup
Ms. A’s first grade classroom, is a dual language/bi-lingual classroom located in an upper west side neighborhood in New York City. The classroom in situated on the first floor with all other first grade classes. The hallways were decorated with children’s creations, including works of art and written pieces; currently the walls display classroom room A B C’s books in both English and Spanish from the first ELA unit of the year. When you walk into the classroom, there is a large rug right up front where children sit for the Morning Meeting, read aloud and other all group activities. The second half of the room, Ms. A’s classroom has individual desks for each child; they are arranged in six groups of four. The room also had a table that the teacher also uses as her desk, situated directly in middle of the room in between the large area rug and the student desks.

Different areas of the room were designated as “centers.” These included a computer center with a table two computers and two chairs; a math, puzzle, and game center with shelves of games, blocks, counting blocks; a reading center with a two bookshelves of English and Spanish books; and a writing center on the back wall with markers, crayons, scissors, scrap paper, and pencils. Each day Ms. A has choice time for children to be able to choose which center they want to work in. Everything around the classroom is labeled in both English and Spanish in large block letters so it is easy to read. The walls of the classroom include a bulletin board with the caption “Look at our wonderful work” where samples of student work are stapled. There is also a “word wall” with high-frequency words; an ABC chart; maps of the United States and the continents; number charts in 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10; a weather chart, a monthly calendar with student birthdates and school holidays. The classroom rules posters are which were made by the kids during the first week of schools hang from the ceiling in the center of the classroom.

Analysis
As I look back and analyze how the classroom was set up, it is quite evident that the teacher believes in constructing knowledge through action, a principle of the Socio-Cultural Theory. Furthermore, the “centers” allow Ms. A to scaffold instruction, work in small teams which all facilitates interaction and verbalization and allows the kids to construct knowledge of the world. Children have plenty of opportunities to get involved using methods of their own choosing. Socio-Cultural Theorist believe that complex thinking were developed through a child's explorations and the “centers” help accomplish this goal. For example, if the students are learning about “Fall”, during choice time they can either read a book about fall, write about the fall colors or even play one of the many educational simulations on the computer that related to the particular subject. Another way, the socio-cultural theory is visible in setup on the classroom is in the way the desk all grouped and face each other.

The students are encouraged to work together cooperatively with their group mates, which facilitates collaborative learning and joint problem solving. Furthermore, Vygotsky a...
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