Classroom Activities That Relate to Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

Written by lisa mooney
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Classroom Activities That Relate to Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development
The ability to sort objects by their characteristics is a sign of the concrete operational stage in Piaget's theory. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Jean Piaget, the psychologist and philosopher said, "The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done." Piaget developed a theory of cognitive development that corresponds to his hope for the educational process. The four segments of development include sensorimotor in which children 2 and under learn using their senses and primitive understanding. The second stage is preoperational in which children from 2 to 7 understand abstract symbols and language. The third level is concrete, where children 7 to 11 reverse operations, order items, and maturely understand cause and effect processes. The final stage of development is formal operations in which children 12 and up think abstractly. Use Piaget's theory to design your classroom activities.

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Operating a Store

Children can learn how the various operations of small business by setting up a store in the classroom. Inventory can be items such as school supplies which can be sold to by students to other students. Class members can rotate on who operates the store on particular days. Teachers can assign students to monitor inventory, order supplies, balance funds collected against inventory sold and various other aspects central to managing a small enterprise. Children will need to be working within Piaget's third level of concrete operations to succeed at this project.

Writing a Newspaper

Students need to use concrete operations again especially in terms of language when writing and publishing a newspaper. The teacher can assign editors, writers, graphics artists and printing specialists to cover the aspects of producing a newspaper. Students will need to exhibit journalistic techniques in covering stories, writing and editing copy and layout design. Taking responsibility for these tasks helps students learn real world skills.

Building a Village

A construction activity such as building a village using interlocking blocks is a class project that utilises the cognitive design abilities of students. Put students into teams each responsible for a segment of the village to be built. Assign the groups to draw a design of what their segment will look like, calculate the types and numbers of blocks that will be needed and, finally, give them the job of assembling their structures. Educational Psychology Interactive states that Piaget-styled classrooms rely on the students learning by discovery and by focusing education on children's developing interests. This building activity will allow students the chance to embrace discovery and might spark interest in design and construction.

Gravity Experiment

Give your students a chance to use scientific principles by giving them a simple physical experiment to perform and write about in a report. Students must develop a principle based on experimentation and compare their results to that of scientists who have come before them. One simple idea is to have students drop objects of different masses at the same time from the same height to determine which objects fall faster. Ask students to form a hypothesis, a guess, as to what will happen prior to the actual experiment, have them perform a series of tests, require students to record their findings and finally to write a lab report that includes their hypothesis, their process of experimentation, results and conclusions based on these results.

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