There is an increasing of body of evidence from classroom teachers and educational researchers that early childhood learning is not a linear experience, but instead highly interrelated. While there’s a general acceptance that for pre-school age children non-academic skills are fundamental to their ability to grasp early numeracy and literacy skills, what new research reported on by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education confirms is that every facet of an early learner’s environment has an impact on early childhood learning and future success.
Developmental Psychologists Stephanie Jones and Nonie Lesaux identified two of the most important new insights on the interrelated nature of early childhood learning. The first is that “the development of a child’s skills in one domain (cognitive, social-emotional, interpersonal) can profoundly inform the development of her skills in other domains” and, subsequently that “a child’s learning environment can have a deep, lasting impact on her core non-academic skills.”
Jones and Lesaux shared five features of a learning environment that’s designed to support early childhood learning. Here are our top 3:
- Teach social skills, emotional management explicitly. Just as teachers explain “what a word means or what a shape looks like,” early childhood educators need to teach pre-school students what emotions look – and feel – like.
- See books as multifaceted platforms. While a book read at circle time might be about frogs, or space, or an outing to the zoo, the text can be put to work to teach and discuss about character’s feelings as much as it can to teach about the central themes. Text is an ideal platform for “promoting emotional language development, self-reflection, and empathy.”
- Build consistent routines and language to support emotional learning. By building routines and using consistent language teachers are able to “create common social norms” for their classroom that “reduce chaos [and] minimize anxiety” for students. A safe and secure environment is one of the most effective learning aids.
Want to find out what the other two tips are from Jones and Lesaux? You can find them here…
By focusing on the whole child – including their learning environment – during the earliest phases of a child’s education, teachers can ensure that they develop the soft skills that are vital to their future. From emotional regulation and strong executive function to familiarity with routines and a vocabulary that enables the expression of emotions, these are the skills that will equip early childhood learners with the tools for academic success.