7 ways to build more engagement in early childhood education

We know that children are very curious, especially younger ones. In school environment, we have the impression that it would be very easy to create early childhood engagement. However, that is not the reality.
With the ability to focus for only 3 to 30 minutes in a row, increasing with age, it is challenging to keep small students alert all the time, not distracted by anything and connecting with the contents taught.
In the article 7 Ways to Spark Engagement, Edutopia (owned by the George Lucas Educational Foundation) former teacher and educational consultant Cheryl Abla talks about how teachers can drive students’ interest in classes by adopting simple measures. See in this article the 7 ways Abla teaches that can make your classes more engaging for little ones.

Engagement in early childhood education

According to the educational consultant, the key to create more engagement in early childhood education as well as other levels of education is to establish a strategy that involves a coordinated set of simple actions that will intentionally promote student curiosity – actions that every teacher already use to some extent.
Curiosity will make students strengthen their connection to classes, interact more with each other, and be more willing to commit to the learning objectives of the class.
Check out the seven tips suggested by Abla.

1. Use the power of mystery

According to the author, humans have a compulsive need to figure out what will happen next, and love to solve puzzles and find sequences and patterns. Then teachers can use mysteries to stimulate engagement in early childhood education.
Ask broad questions for groups of three or four students, for example, “what would happen if…?”. Then let them discuss and present their hypotheses to the class, justifying their thinking. As a result, students also learn that conjecture is a good starting point for learning.

2. Make a pause after a question and an answer

Asking questions and answers quickly is not a good strategy. This is because each person processes information differently, and especially in the case of very young children, they may drop the line of thought or even try to think of an answer by receiving the solution right away, even if it comes from a colleague, of the same age.
So take a purposeful pause right after each question and again after each answer. The second break will give students time to reconsider the question and reflect on the first answer they heard.
A good resource for this moment, already used by preschool teachers, is to ask for all the answers at the same time. This decreases the risk that students are not actively involved with the content.

3. Make less – and more profound – questions

In Abla’s assessment, one or two well-designed questions may lead to further discussion, such as those that begin with “what if…” or “how can you ….”. It is best to ask questions that do have an answer worth discussing or criticizing (yes or no) and not entirely based on fact recovery. Don’t be afraid to promote a small collaborative discussion with the little ones, in an accessible language to them and which theme is suitable for the age range.

4. Encourage debates

Getting students to discuss a topic is a good way to build engagement. You might ask questions such as “why do you think the character responded this way?” Or “what do you think happened to the guy when that circumstance occurred?”. This allows students to present ideas and points of view.

5. Make them recognize what they know and don’t know about a subject

Ask students what knowledge they have about a topic, and then ask what they “think they don’t know.” This will give them the opportunity to examine their knowledge and their ability to learn even more about subjects they may have previously contacted. This is a way to increase their curiosity and willingness to make the extra effort to learn. The author calls this action “filling the student gap”.

6. Show students why they need to know a particular subject

For Abla, every time a student asks why he needs to know this or that, he is pointing to a promising education strategy. It is critical that students understand from an early age how content is important to them so that they engage in learning.

7. Encourage dynamic collaboration

Collaborative work drives students to develop social skills as they learn. Introduce small group work into early childhood education, teaching them to help each other create stories, drawings, and collages.

Engagement in early childhood education can come from simple, well-thought-out measures to stimulate curiosity, a very childlike aspect. Also check out our post about the experience of a Bahia school with a project that encourages autonomy in early childhood education, for which the responsible teacher was the winner of the 2018 Teachers of Brazil Award.

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