What’s Wrong With This Picture?

by Patricia S. Lemer, M.Ed. NCC

Today I observed Steven, 61/2, in a class of 12 students. identified as "unready" for first and second grade. A lovely teacher directs the children, while an aide admonishes, "Sit still," "Take your fingers out of your mouth," "We‘re not on that box," and "If you can‘t keep up, you‘ll miss recess."

One child lies with his head on the desk. Another taps her pencil. The room is quiet.

The teacher says, "We‘re going to play "Find the Intruder." On each desk is a xeroxed sheet with four Items, one of which does not belong to the set. On the blackboard, the teacher demonstrates the classification task by sketchIng an apple, watermelon, banana, and carrot.

One student identifies the teacher‘s clumsily-drawn carrot as an "ice cream cone" and says it doesn‘t belong. He can‘t explain why. Another child mistakes the teacher‘s ambiguous "cookie" for a "rock."

"Nope!" says the teacher.

Children are then instructed to take out a pencil; some have stubs, others, whole pencils. It takes 45 minutes for everyone to complete the lesson. Steven "gets it," and he beams. Nobody else does, but the teacher stamps a star on each paper, anyway.

What‘s Wrong With This Picture? Superficially, this looks like a well-run class with a developmentally appropriate, pre-academic lesson. Unfortunately, it is not. How could the teacher and aide enhance learning? Instead of the negative term, "intruder," they could use "families and visitors." They could help the children use the basic senses, such as touch and movement, to facilitate listening and looking. Comprehension of the lesson will improve markedly. They could also. . .

Use Manipulatives:

Encourage Oral Stimulation

Encourage Large Movements to Make Small Ones Easier

Encourage Touch

Encourage Whole Body Control

Encourage Positive Feelings

Movement and basic sensory processing should be the core of the curriculum for "unready" children. Weave in language, cognitive, and fine motor components. Keep learning fun!

[Initially published in New Developments: Volume 3, Number 2 - Fall, 1997]

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