The society highly values children. Childcare is currently a shared responsibility. Parents, teachers and all other stakeholders have a role to play in ensuring that a child grows up in an environment that is conducive for its growth. As Hansen (2007, p. 76) states, a child requires a lot of attention, especially at early stages of life because it is at this stage that a child starts to comprehend the immediate environment.
At an age of six to seven, a child would be learning a lot from the immediate environment and from the people he constantly interacts with. As Aristotle (1998, p. 89) notes, a child would try to practice what it sees the adult doing, or what it watches on movies. A parent therefore has a responsibility to regulate what a child consumes at this age.
The issue of childcare requires a collaboration of the parent, the teacher and the teaching assistant on a very close basis. The parent is always with the child in the evening, on weekends and other holidays. During this days, Nussbaum (2002, p. 56) observes that a parent has the best opportunity to monitor the behavior of the child and understand it better.
For this reason, he is in the best position to inform the teacher and the teaching assistant some peculiar behavior of the child or some important information that would help the teacher and the teaching assistant manage the child to the expectation of all the stakeholders. Zipes (1997, p. 67) says that the teacher and the teaching assistant has the opportunity of being with the child for the better part of the day.
They have the opportunity of monitoring the child closely, especially without its awareness. From this, they are able to detect the general behavior of the child that would be of concern. Leedy and Ormrod (2005, p. 89) say that this message should be communicated to the parent so that the parent knows his or her child better and therefore be in a better position to handle it when at home.
Learning at this stage is at its very basic level. The teaching assistant has the role of ensuring that these children learn the basics in various subjects like Science, Mathematics and Languages. According to Cogan and Webb (2002, p. 54), children at this age may not be able to learn things that require deep reasoning, for example irony.
They can only learn basic facts that can be observed within the immediate environment and be understood under such normal context (Ward 1999, p. 130). They may not comprehend why some natural things occur (for example death), or their importance. But they can understand basic logics like simple Mathematical calculation or language. As Bolman and Deal (1997, p. 31) state, learning at this stage can greatly be improved when teaching aids are used.
Teaching aids are items that can be used to show the learner the practical example of a learning experience. The researcher was involved in a practical session with students in a classroom set up and other outdoor learning activities. Various learning materials were used to help in this session. The session incorporated the teacher, the parent and the researcher, as the adults and knowledge imparters, and children as the knowledge receivers.
In this paper, the researcher reports on how he would have improved the learning process stated above.
The Childcare Center Activities
As stated above, the teaching assistant was involved in a practical session with students in order to help in improving their learning. In this process, the teaching assistant, in junction with the teacher organized a forum where the learners were introduced to various teaching aids to help enhance various subjects.
Three subjects were involved in this research. In Mathematics, several aspects were put to test using various plastic materials (McCarthy & Carter 1994, p. 129). The intent was to help the student learn basic additions, multiplications and subtractions. In Science, the learning sessions involved use of the school garden.
This was to help the learners understand the immediate environment. As Gardner (2006, p. 76) says, at this stage, learning can be enhanced by incorporating it as part of their play. Children of this age enjoy playing. The easiest way of ensuring that children learn some of the basic knowledge in to involve play in learning process.
Leithwood and Steinbach (1999, p. 78) agree with this point. This scholar says that from very early stage, learning has always been viewed as a form of punishment, or an oppressive procedure that one has to undergo in order to achieve benefits that at that stage may not be comprehendible.
By involving plays in the learning process, Austin (2007, p. 57) says that a child may not realize that he is subjected to a learning process. Literature was learnt through the use of Chinese New Year dragon story, while language was enhanced through the telephone call.
Effectiveness of the Process and the Role of the Teaching Assistant
The process used in this process was very effective in imparting knowledge on the children.
In the first activity that involved the use of timer and bottles, the effect of the experiment on the children was appropriately felt by the learners as was evidenced by their response to the various questions that followed the process (Hakim 2000, p. 69). The teaching assistant main role was to help the learners by issuing various instructions on how to use the timer and how to hold the bottles.
The teaching assistant had to ensure that learners understand the basic concepts that the lesson had planned to achieve. He would keep in touch with the concerned teacher in ensuring that the learners achieved the most out of this process (Bailey, Doherty, & Jago 2005, p. 60). The assistant would intervene in case a certain group of student found difficulty in using any of the timers or the bottles. The teaching assistant also ensured that learners were safe in the entire process
In the second case that was meant to help the learners understand how to measure liquids and how volumes differ. This would help them appreciate some basic applications like the amount of water an individual would need to take in a day (Baum, Viens, & Slatin 2005, p. 120).
In this learning process, the researcher worked hand in hand with the learners in ensuring that the bottles they had were of the expected size and with the right number of holes. Because the students were too young to be left to use the scissors and other sharp objects required to create holes, the teaching assistant and the class teacher worked hand in hand to help the learners create the holes and cut the plastic bottles to be of the right size. It was important to involve the learners because it would enhance their skills in artistry (Blank 2004, p. 93).
The learning objective was achieved to a fair level as majority of the learners were able to correctly respond to the questions that were asked at the end of the session. However, there were those who could not give the right response to some of the questions (Strauss & Corbin 1990, p. 73).
This could be attributed to the fact that the learners were involved in more than one learning activity hence they failed to comprehend the aim of the session. The teaching assistant noted that many of the children got exhausted with the process of cutting the plastic bottles that they were unable to comprehend the knowledge that was expected of them. The teaching assistant was keen to ensure that these children do not spill water on their clothes as a way of ensuring that they remained worm and tidy throughout the learning process.
In the next activity that involved bowling, the aim was to enhance learners’ ability to add, subtract or do simple division. This activity was very effective because it took Mathematics to the playing ground. When a pin was knocked down by the soft ball which was thrown at the array of pins, the learners would subtract the number of pins that fell from the original number to get the number of pins that remained.
The process also enhanced the children’s accuracy and sportsmanship. By aiming at the pins and knocking some down successfully, such a learner would be enhancing its ability in sports and other activities that required such accuracy. This was an outdoor activity and as would be expected, children were actively involved in running around (Reynolds 2011, p. 25). Because the activity was carried out on the floor, which is a hard surface, the teaching assistant was keen to ensure that children were safe through the entire process.
The next learning activity was home based and was to be supervised by the parents. This learning process was expected to make the learners understand the objects in the immediate environment. The learners were to be helped by their parent to understand the importance of the immediate objects in the environment, both within the house and in outdoor places.
Parents were given the instruction by the teaching assistant of how to help the learner in this process. Of interest were the kitchenwares or other gadgets in the house that posed danger to the children especially when they were left alone in the house.
The rationale behind this was to ensure that these young children would know the dangers of some of the home appliances and avoid them, unless with an adult (Bottery 2001, p. 79). Success of this learning activity was tested the following day by a question answer session.
It was noted with concern that not all the learners were able to respond the questions correctly. Although this could be attributed to the fact that some of the learners are slow learners, also evident was the fact that some parents either failed to follow the instruction given by the teaching assistant, or others never made the attempt in the first place.
In the Chinese New Year dragon, was done within the school. The main aim of this process was to improve the learners’ imaginative ability. The session involved singing, dancing and storytelling. The session called for a heavy participation of the teaching assistant (Nardi 2001, p. 79).
Children were shown a drawing of a dragon and then told a specific story about the Chinese Dragon. A cardboard, a plastic and paints were used in designing the dragon. The teaching assistant, in close collaboration with the teacher, ensured that children were safe from the paints, and that they did not soil their clothes.
The intended knowledge was passed in three fold. First, it involved through listening to the story told about the dragon. Then they were to read about the dragon by themselves. Finally, with the help of the teaching assistant, but through their own creativity, they were to make the dragon using the available materials. This process was a big success.
Although some of them were not able to come up with the right drawing due to their tender age, it was evident that they could create an image of this creature in their mind. Most of the learners found this session very enjoyable and they actively participated on the entire process, either by asking questions during the initial story telling session, or by coming up with a creature that would resemble the one in the story.
In the next activity that involved the math scavenger, learners were to be tested of speed. Again it was to sharpen their Mathematical abilities. This activity was designed to appear to be more of a game than a learning process. By introducing the competitive aspect to it, the teacher and the teaching assistant intended to make the students do their best in achieving the desired result. This activity required heavy intervention by the teaching assistant (Bush 2003, p. 89).
These children would be running from one location to another, trying to be the best in beating the deadline. It would involve fighting for the bottles, bumping into each other or even real fight, in case one of them feels cheated by the other. Such occurrences are dangerous as it may result in harm to the learner (Cheminais 2006, p. 78).
The teaching assistant had to ensure that he as constantly in motion among the students, averting any possible collusion and ensuring that there was fairness in picking the bottles.
This was important because the process had to be made as competitive as possible. The teaching assistant had to work closely with the teacher, who recorded the results of the students once they completed each stage. This activity was important as it made the children know that life is about struggle and in the struggle, only the best emerge as successful and this would require some form of struggle.
The telephone activity was a rich source of developing listening and writing skills of the learners. Learners would shift roles as a telephone operator or an information seeker. As an information seeker, the learner would be tested of the ability to take notes and their level of precision (Morrison 2008, p. 167).
The teacher and the teaching assistant would be in a position to as to determine the ability of the learner to listen and internalize a piece of spoken information, and then put it down for future references. When a child took the role of telephone operator, the skill to be tested and improved would be expression skills. The teaching assistant would issue instruction to the learners. Because the activity did not involve use of harmful tools and equipments, safety was not a big issue.
Teaching assistant therefore concentrated on ensuring that each learner understood the instruction to be followed in this activity. The rationale behind this activity, besides enhancing the learners listening and writing skills, was to ensure that the learner would be in a position to respond to telephone calls back at home when such a need would arise. The teaching assistant clearly explained to them how to behave, should such occasion arise at home and there is no adult in the house.
The next activity about the garden was to help the learners appreciate nature. Learners were made to understand the effect of plantation on our environment in general. It is a fact that learners at this stage may not be in a position to comprehend the effect of vegetations to our environment in a deeper sense (Darder & Rodolfo 2003, p. 89). However, when limited to the garden level, it would be easier to comprehend because of the limited coverage.
It would be easy to make them know the beauty of the garden and how this beauty brings about pleasure to those who see it. This activity involved using plastic to cover some plants in the garden as a way of making the learners know how to, and appreciate the need to cover plants during winters. Teaching assistant was actively involved in demonstration of how this process is done.
Care had to be taken to ensure that children did not interfere with the plantations (Lindon 2006, p. 145). This was the role of the teaching assistant. The outcome of this learning process was a sign of a big success. Many parents reported that their children were actively participating in tendering the gardens and taking care of other vegetations since the day this activity was carried out.
In the next activity that involved bottle with a hole, the intent was to develop the language skills o the learner. The learners were expected to keenly listen to the instruction given by the teacher and write them down in a note form. Freire (2006, p. 125) notes that note taking is a very important activity in the life of a learner from this early stage to the highest level of learning and to one’s entire life.
The teaching assistant ensured that all the learners were comfortably seated in positions where they could comfortable write and still be in a position to keenly monitor the proceeding of the learning activity. The teaching assistant created desired holes on the plastic containers for security purposes, and then set up the place for the activity (Austin 2007, p. 87).
One child would be taking the notes as the other performs the activity, and then roles would be changed. Planning was important because there was need to ensure that all the requirements for this experiment were made available.
The teaching assistant ensured that each of the learners comprehended the instruction at hand and that they would be able to recall this procedure at a later date.
Because the focus of this study was one note taking rather than the experiment itself, teaching assistant closely monitored the spelling and the structure of the notes the learners were taking to ensure that they were as per the expectation of the session. Emphasis was laid on the use of bullets in making clear and concise information. The outcome of this process was appealing. Most of the students were able to take notes as per the instruction given, and with precision that was expected.
As can be observed, this last category was more of class work than a play session. The teaching assistant took this order of activities with deliberate intention of making the youngsters develop a positive attitude towards learning. They were first made to believe that learning is all fun and laughter.
Then the teaching assistant and the teacher made the learners that as they play and have fun, they can as well take notes and relate to various class work assignments. In this last session, it was now play made formal in the context of a classroom. This gradual procedure was important in ensuring that children develop love for class work and learning in general they are made to appreciate the fact that knowledge is everywhere around us, whether at home, in school, in the garden or even at the playgrounds (Griswold 2004, p. 49).
Possible Changes that Would Improve the Above Outcome
This process was a great success. The teaching assistant realized that children of the age between five and sis learnt in a much better way if teaching prompts were involved in the learning process. However, the teaching assistant strongly believes that this process could be much successful if some adjustments could be done on the entire process.
The choice of plastic bottles was a good one because it can be cut and turned into different objects that would meet different requirements (Hurst 2007, p. 50). The way they were used in this learning process was not bad, but the process would have been a bigger success if a few changes would have been implemented. Some of the adjustments that the researcher feels that could be done on the above process include the following:
In the first part of this learning process, the researcher would have considered making the holes on the bottles with the help of the teacher. The learners would not be not be involved in this process because the aim of this research was not to test their artistry skills, but their ability to use the timer and the already improvised plastic material.
This would save time that is spent in class when they are involved in this process (Kohl 2000, p. 67). This would also avert the possibility of the learners getting injuries from the objects used in making the holes, which are obviously sharp and dangerous if carelessly handled.
In order to improve their artistry skills, which is eliminated at this stage if this strategy is employed, the teaching assistant recommends that there should just be a pure practical lesson for this, where nothing is expected of the child, but the possibility of improving his creativity. This would help in focusing on one task at a time. As a teaching assistant, it would be easier to assess the progress of the child in the two areas which are equally important to the child’s development.
In the third activity which involved home based learning, teaching assistant would have improved the performance by following up the activity by a phone call. The process was not successful because some parent did not do the right activity with their children, while other parents completely failed to do the activity completely.
In order to ensure that this process received better results, teaching assistant would consider making phone calls to the respective parents just to ensure that they were doing the activity expected of them and that they were doing it right. The follow up would make the parent realize that this process was important and the teacher and the teaching assistant consider it part of a lesson for the learner. This would boost the results of this process.
At this stage of learning, children value games so much. The teaching assistant would have considered a little change in the last activity of the session. The last activity registered a success. However, this success would have been enhanced if they were made to believe that this was a game, just like in the previous occasions.
Although these students were able to perform the activities before them, the setting of this last activity was more of a classroom than a classroom-play ground setting. The teaching assistant would have considered creating a more relaxed atmosphere where the learners would feel not coerced to perform activities at hand. However, the entire process was a success and the outcome clearly pointed out the importance of using such teaching aids.
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