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Role of Teacher & Child Development

Role of the Teacher

Children’s Development in Fourth Grade

According to Lucy Sprague Mitchell, Bank Street’s founder and the author of Young Geographers (1971), children at different ages experience different stages of development as geographers. Specifically, children in the fourth grade are in the “seventh stage,” and have the following attributes: “They have a great impulse towards the distant and long ago. They are interested in techniques in full force, in adventure and in incalculable elements. Children also have an ability to think geographic abstractions; e.g. projection, sphere and equator. And finally, they are also able to use symbols expressed in abstract forms with actual image recall” (p. 43).

Children are beginning to realize that they are members of a society; their own peer groups become particularly important. Teachers will notice students interested in each other’s ideas and in feeding information to help each other. During whole group meetings, students are able to have longer dialogues and consider multiple points of views. They are beginning to understand their own academic strengths and to compare themselves to their classmates. They are exploring new ideas of self and practicing being a leader, follower, and independent thinker.

This is a perfect time for teachers to model paying mindful attention to each other, to providing supportive, positive feedback, and to listening wholeheartedly. In general, this a ripe time to model successful collaborative learning skills.

During this stage of artistic development, children are also preoccupied with visual realism and can be self-conscious about their artwork. Children are interested in telling stories and capturing an accurate representation of the world. Children also are beginning to show more interest in details in the human and animal figures. While building, they are challenged and engaged in problem solving, and they begin to feel confident in their ideas as artists.

While reading descriptions, having discussions, going on relevant fields trips and looking at videos and images, children are able to retain these visual concepts and combine them to create and imagine. During this learning process, 9/10s are able to learn through their challenges and share with others the new possibilities. Since they are able to expand their knowledge from themselves to the world around them they are excited to learn, and their visual images expand and become more complex. In this process, they acquire long-term memories.

Teachers’ Observations and the Role of Teachers in the Study

“It takes unrushed time to attend to the full development of the student; to cultivate  providing democratic living; to experience firsthand; to model a way of learning and teaching; to move beyond our comfortable world and expand our perspectives; to learn with and from others; to explore a topic through different academic disciplines; and to express synthesize, transform experiences into art”
   —Vascellaro, S. Out of the Classroom and
      Into the World, p. 212

What we have learned over the years continues to amaze us!

Each class that studies biomes develops different connections to the subject taught. And each child contributes a set of questions and observations that provide us teachers with a deeper understanding not only of fourth grade students in general, but also of their individual interests. Since we are a progressive school, the curriculum continues to evolve each year with the children’s curiosity and interest. We see every year we teach it as an exciting opportunity to adapt and facilitate better ways to meet the children we are currently teaching.

Over the years we have personally learned so much about the subject, but more importantly, we have learned to LISTEN, OBSERVE and RECORD students’ curiosity, process and learnings. We meet often to reflect on these observations and shape the next phase of the study. It is evident that assessment is done all throughout this unit in formal and informal ways, and this allows us to move forward in the planning and growth of the curriculum each week and each year.

We build an environment where children are engaged in conversations with each other. They are excited to share and to experiment. We seek for all students to take risks and inspire one another. We find this is a true learning laboratory; finding time to share learning is an important role in this process. It is important to acknowledge that the teacher also provides and encourages children time to processes and at the same time, supports each child’s solution to give form to a personal vision.

We also notice the natural role of play in this study. Often we find children fantasizing about their place and how people interact in the environment. We notice children playing with the animals and making families for their habitat. They engage in multiple ways to role play and learn more about the relationship between living things. It is evident they are making sense of the world through these activities, and in the process, learning more about themselves.

Role of the Visual Arts Teacher

“Art that is based on personal experiences enable children to become deeply involved in their curriculum studies. When teachers act as guides in childrens active investigations, children become more confident to take risks and challenge themselves. At the same time, their ideas grow and change as they share and learn from each others’ experiences in and out of the classroom.”
   —Visualizing Experience by Edith Gwathmey
      and Ann-Marie Mott pg.24

The art teacher’s role is to help children visualize, distill, and relate the salient aspects of their experiences to their knowledge of materials. Teachers select materials that best support the learning objective and present them in a clear and organized way to help students make considered choices.

Classes start with a group discussion or “motivation” to help children identify subject matter and think through the process of handling materials and tools. In these meetings, children are encouraged to share their personal associations and ideas, and learn from one another. Whenever possible, we draw on children’s knowledge to demonstrate the use of tools and materials. We believe that an essential part of teaching is supporting children in inspiring and learning from one another.

The art teacher supports students in reflecting upon their own ideas, approach to working, and finished pieces. The teacher provides feedback particularly when children are beginning and finishing their work. They listen to students’ comments regarding the piece of work while noticing their process.

We believe it is best to make concrete observations when responding to the child such as “look at how...” and “ I notice that...” rather than evaluative statements. While your students are working on the model, find time to engage them in conversation. These conversations will help children enhance, expand and seek out ways to acquire more knowledge. For example, if you notice a child building their shelter, you might ask them, “I can see you are making a curvy roof. How is this connected to the climate of your biome?” You can also use descriptive comments about elements of shape, line, color and arrangement to help draw children’s awareness to their decision making process. For example, if you notice that your student has explored with texture while building their shelter, you might say: “I notice you have different two different textures in your shelter. This one is rough and this part is smooth. Can you show me how you did that?” Overall, the art teacher should make concrete observations and respond to the choices children are making in their model so that there is a connection between the learning and making.