Jean Piaget was a Swiss developmental psychologist who created the concept of "ages and stages," which outlines which educational components children generally understand at various developmental stages. Piaget's theory operates on the premise that teachers should provide children with only the activities and information that fit their specific cognitive growth stage. Classroom activities using Piaget's theory are designed to create interactive educational experiences, wherein children can effectively teach themselves.
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Sensory Motor Stage
Piaget's theory states that between birth and age two, children are in their sensory motor stage. During this developmental period, the child is absorbing all sensory input in his environment. In addition, she is learning to perform motor skills with her body. In the day care classroom, all activities should be geared around stimulating the young child via her senses. Play with brightly coloured toys, appropriate music and sensory objects like stuffed animals all make for fun and developmentally appropriate activities at this age.
Children ages two to seven are in the pre-operational period, which is marked by expanding language abilities, imagination and a comprehension of symbolic meanings. Activities should be highly visual and interactive in nature or focused on imaginative play. For example, have students dress up in authentic cultural dress from different nations in order to teach the value of diversity. Play sight reading word games, such as word bingo, to teach students to recognise and read various words.
During the concrete operational stage of development, ages seven to 12, children need physical objects to learn conceptual principles. For instance, spread out two rows of five quarters spanning the same distance and ask the children if there are the same number of quarters in both rows; they are likely to say yes. Next, spread out one row of five quarters so that it is longer than the other. Children in this stage of cognitive growth are likely to believe the longer row has more quarters, even though it does not.
From the ages of 12 and up, children are working with a formal operational mode of cognitive processing. They no longer need concrete objects to learn conceptual ideas. However, they do need activities that help them develop their problem-solving and logical reasoning skills. Classroom activities such as debates and group brainstorming over solutions to current environmental problems are great aids to learning in this growth stage.
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