Using a Preschool Child’s Interests to Create Learning Opportunities

Children show unmatched enthusiasm when participating in an activity that is of great interest to them.  Becoming a careful observer is the first step to fully engaging a child in learning.  Listening to a child’s questions, such as, “Why do things go down?” can spark a lesson on gravity.  A child who is drawing jellyfish and searching through picture books for images of the creature is ready for a lesson on the sea.  Look for clues in play, in books he is drawn to and in questions he asks.
Spend time playing with the child.  Allow the child to take the lead and take notice of the kinds of play that keep him engaged.  A child may be interested in one type of toy, such as drums or in one kind of play, such as dropping objects through holes or down ramps.   Listen to the questions he asks as well as the vocabulary he uses during play.  Also observe him during other activities, such as mealtimes or outdoor times, taking care to remember questions and comments he makes.  After listening to and observing the child, you will have an idea of what subjects and activities might engage him in learning.
The next step is to use the subject matter the child has supplied to plan activities and experiments that will allow him to fully experience it. To improve skills in all areas or to learn as much as possible about the subject, you can create learning opportunities in many areas, such as science, reading, writing, art and environmental education all using the same original topic.
Examine the subject.  Does it lend itself to music education, such as an interest in drums?  Using drum sticks as a measuring tool could allow math practice without leaving the subject which first interested the child, the drums.  Discussing the sounds a drum makes could lead to a scientific investigation of sound waves.  A book about drums from around the world could lead to a discussion about many different cultures and customs.  Matching names of different types of drums to pictures would serve as a meaningful reading activity.  A child could use his creativity to make a drum out of house hold items, which could lend itself to a discussion about recycling.  With each subject, there are numerous possibilities for learning using many learning styles and skills.
If the child has not supplied you with a specific subject, but seems interested in one type of activity, use that activity to teach about a subject.  Dropping objects through holes or down ramps can easily lead to a lesson on gravity or motion.  Having the child count the objects he is dropping or having him drop a variety of objects can hone his math and comparison skills.  Dropping objects whose names all begin with the same letter can be a fun language arts activity.  Rolling paint covered objects down a paper covered ramp could be an engaging art activity.  Follow the child’s lead, but vary the activity to achieve the desired learning objectives.
The inspiration for creative teaching comes from the child.  Once you have mastered the art of meaningfully observing the child, you will find that you can create countless learning opportunities.  If you feel you have run out of ideas, sit down and play for a few minutes and you will be presented with your next lesson plan.

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