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Child Centric Classroom Vs Skill Centric Classroom
Research in child development over decades as well as modern neuroscience clearly shows that young children learn best when they are active. That means they get to put their hands on things, interact with other kids and adults, move a lot, create, play. But in the current school reform era, that’s not what is happening in too many classrooms. The emphasis is on “rigorous instruction,” and young children are forced to sit at their desks doing academic work — sometimes with little or no recess and/or sufficient physical education.
Our education system has been dominated by standards and tests, by the gathering of endless amounts of data collected to prove that teachers are doing their job and kids are learning.  But these hyper requirements have oppressed teachers and drained the creativity and joy from learning for students. Unfortunately, this misguided approach to education has now reached down to our youngest children.
In kindergartens and pre-K classrooms around the country, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in play.  There are fewer activity centers in classrooms and much less child choice, as well as fewer arts and music.  At the same time, teacher-directed instruction has greatly increased, along with a more scripted curriculum and paper and pencil tasks.
This unfortunate change in early childhood education can be described as a shift away from child-centered classrooms to skills-centered ones.
Here in India, there is an enduring misconception about the nature of play.  Play is typically not seen as valuable or essential to learning.  It’s more commonly viewed as an activity separate from learning rather than as one in which students learn.
Children all over the world play.  They all know how to play, and no one has to teach them how.  Any time we see a human activity that is wired into the brain and accomplished by all children worldwide, we know it is critical to human development.
So much is learned through play in the early years that play has been called the engine of development.  Children learn concepts through play; they learn to cope and make sense of life experiences; and, they develop critical human capacities such as problem solving, imagination, self-regulation, and original thinking.
When we watch children building in blocks, for example, we can see that they are naturally working on many math and science concepts (classification, seriation, 1:1 correspondence, symmetry, etc.)  Teachers encourage this kind of play-based learning and build onto it with new concepts and skills that relate to what children are doing.
In India today, skills are often separated from children’s play and active experiences.  Many teachers, under pressure to meet mandates, teach isolated skills and facts directly to groups of children. They also have the pressure to prepare children for formal school entrances. However, the NEP 2020, specifies a 3 months bridge course in Grade 1, and I guess now educators and parents do not need to pressurize the child to perform academically and concentrate on the development of their basic skills and concepts.

Whole Language Vs Phonics
Whether to concentrate on phonics or whole language approaches is a point of concern for early years educators. A per whole language approach, to learn any new language we need to focus on the 4 essential skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing in the same sequence. Whole language proponents inspire children through tools like storytelling which enables the educators to bring ideas alive by illustrations and inspiring children to weave stories of their own and tell them to others. This richness of total engagement with language at the spoken, read and written levels is considered critical for acquiring literacy and love for books and competence in the language.
On the other hand, proponents of the phonics method focus on the importance of decoding initial, medial and final sounds and to couple sounds with letters recognition skills in order to acquire literacy.
Well, research has shown that children need a wide variety of tools to attract printed words. They need many motivating words to increase their fondness for language and reading mastery. Therefore, both sides need to understand each other’s viewpoints. Although mastery of phonetics is crucial for learning to read, however reading for meaning and having wonderful experiences with books is also fundamental to support young children develop mastery in literacy.
Also, much stress is given to writing by educators in the early years which results in over stressing the child- before 4 years of age/ even before the fine motor is developed or pincer grip strengthened to hold writing equipment.
Space Vs Time
In an early year classroom, most educators follow a lesson plan with academic, extracurricular etc. mapped out for the day, the week and the month ahead. There is a kind of target which is set up to complete the mapped-out syllabus or the projected curriculum with specific learning outcomes on time. On the other hand, children need individual attention due to their specific learning styles and so forth. This issue is sometimes phrased as a “Space Vs Time” issue. Should the early childhood classroom be time dominated in the way formal school periods will be? Or should the classroom be organized in such a way that the children are free to choose an activity of their liking? This is an ‘Open Education Classroom’ in which children spend varying amounts of time on an activity depending on their own understanding and learning.
Again, it needs to be noted that neither total educator domination nor a child-dominated classroom works in the best interest of the child. Judicious awareness of children’s different learning styles, space, areas of interest, ability must be combined with interesting engaging classroom arrangements and flexibility for maximum learning to happen in the early years.
Right Brain/Left Brain Vs the Whole Brain
The world is subjective and ever-changing. As humans, we are constantly taking in new information and learning as we experience new situations. We problem-solve, we analyse situations from multiple angles, we think creatively and we interpret situations in context.
That is why Whole Brain Thinking is so important. Whole Brain Thinking acknowledges that different tasks require different mental processes, and different people prefer different kinds of thinking. Whole Brain Thinking gives us the ability to recognize the strengths and limitations of how we think and gives us the tools to adapt our thinking to different situations. It helps us leverage the full spectrum of thinking available to get better results (research has shown that the best solutions come from the combination of all four thinking styles).
Whole-brain teaching is an instructional approach that is gaining momentum through the integration of social-emotional learning into a highly energetic, authentically engaged learning process. There is a basic lesson structure that each learning moment follows, giving students ownership of their learning through mimicry.
The whole brain teaching learning circle focuses on four main areas:
Brain Engager
Direct Instruction
Collaborative Learning
It encourages better decision-making, better problem solving and more creative and innovative solutions because it teaches us how to look at situations from multiple perspectives and adapt our thinking styles to different scenarios.
What is Whole Brain Teaching?
Whole-brain teaching is an instructional approach that is gaining momentum through the integration of social-emotional learning into a highly energetic, authentically engaged learning process. There is a basic lesson structure that each learning moment follows, giving students ownership of their learning through mimicry.
The whole brain teaching learning circle focuses on four main areas:
Brain Engager
Direct Instruction
Collaborative Learning
A teacher cannot teach if a student is not paying attention. In order to gain students’ attention, the teacher begins with “Class-Yes”. The teacher says, “Class” and the students are taught to respond with “Yes”. Yes is more than a word that is spoken, though. The teacher explicitly teaches the expectations that come with a “Yes” response. They freeze what they are doing, turn and track the teacher, and fold their hands in front of them. If a student does not complete all three components, the teacher reviews and allows students to practice what should happen during the attention getter. Now that you have everyone’s attention, it is time to engage students in the learning.
Brain Engager
“Mirror Words,” shouts the teacher, reminding me of Mary Katherine Gallagher doing the “Superstar” skit on Saturday Night Live. Her hands fly up looking like rearview mirrors and the students do the same. Everyone participates because she has already gained their attention. She is having fun teaching and the students are sponges, excited and ready to engage in what the teacher has planned for them today.
Direct Instruction
One-minute lessons are facilitated for direct instruction. Planning for instruction includes gestures that go with each major concept and that word/concept keeps the same gesture throughout the entire lesson. Students then have an association of a word to a gesture and the information that is related to both. For example, when a teacher is teaching a noun, she puts her hands together in front of her indicating it is an object. Every time she says the word “noun”, she makes the same motion with her hands.
In whole brain teaching, the teacher breaks up information into short chunks, using large hand gestures, varying the intonation of her voice by speaking loudly and then softly, quickly then slowly. The greater the variance, the more likely students are to recall and use the information. The teacher leads the students through one chunk and they repeat, doing the same motions and saying the same words. This mimicry allows for students to engage with the information kinesthetically, visually, and auditorily.
At the end of the minute, the teacher states to the class,” Mirrors off!” and the students repeat.
Collaborative Learning
For this segment of the lesson, the teacher proclaims “Teach!” and the students respond with “Okay!” The students then face a partner and paraphrase the learning, which is a skill within its own right. Formative assessment is happening every minute as the teacher combs the room, listening for the paraphrase. When a student is not participating, the teacher whispers, “Bigger gestures, please.”
Increasing rigor and complex thinking can happen in this phase of the learning. Students can collaborate to complete higher-order thinking tasks including comparing, contrasting, synthesizing, analyzing, and evaluating.
Once the cycle is complete, the teacher starts again by getting the students’ attention and providing the next minute of instruction.
What are the Benefits of Whole Brain Teaching?
Neuroscience research shows that learning is not a one-dimensional process. Providing learning experiences that engage multiple areas of the brain allow students to engage in authentic learning where previous knowledge is activated and new information is integrated. Being intentional in the design of the instruction by incorporating the whole brain through hearing, seeing, speaking, moving, and reasoning allows students to create memories that are stored throughout the brain instead of in a single area.
Trauma and negativity affect the brain chemistry and, oftentimes, will block sensory pathways. We know our students do not always come from homes that are meeting all of their basic needs. If a child has experienced trauma before coming to school, engagement can be quite difficult, and nearly impossible, if the teacher does not do something to stimulate positive emotion in the student so learning can occur.
Whole-brain teaching starts with positivity, and when students are not engaged, the teacher assumes the responsibility of providing more time to practice rather than scolding. When students are having fun in their learning, their brain can receive, process, and retain information, serving as a catalyst for learning; a benefit of whole brain teaching.
Source: Internet

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