i‑Learner Education Centre

Steps to Success » Engaging Early Learners

Early Learning Through Discovery

Like all parents, mine have always wanted the best for me. When I was young, they gave me stimulating toys to play with. If I got upset looking for a certain Lego brick, they found it for me. As a tutor, I can see how natural it is to want to help children, but this can remove an important aspect of the learning journey. Recently, a student gave me a great reminder of this.

In my classes, we often do crafts that are linked to the books we read. Doing crafts stimulates many different parts of a young learner’s body and mind, so it’s a great activity. However, as anyone who’s done crafts with a little one knows, it can be very slow work. I don’t want my students to spend all lesson cutting things out or struggling with glue, so I make sure to prepare things in advance and to help my students with the slower parts of the process.

In a recent lesson, we were going to make a boat. I made the craft easy for my student, getting a paper plate, elastic bands and markers ready for him. He seemed to struggle quite a bit, so I showed him what to do step by step. I was so pleased when we worked together and finished the boat correctly. However, at the end of the lesson, my student wasn’t as happy. He didn’t want to take the boat home to show his family. When I asked him why, he said that I had made the boat, not him. Really, I knew that he’d done a lot of the work to make tit, but his independent spirit didn’t see it that way.

In our next lesson, he finished his work quickly, so I decided to try the boat craft again. This time, I let him choose the materials. He surprised me by asking to put a few things in water to see how they floated. We went to the sink, and he tested lollipop sticks, water bottles and a paper plate. I showed him different parts of a sailboat online, and we talked about the sail, hull, mast, keel and rudder, so he could decide which parts to include in his craft.

His boat looked nothing like the one I’d planned, but he practised a wide range of important skills, including questioning, observation, experimentation and handling different materials. He learned lots of new vocabulary and was eager to practise it as he told classmates in another lesson all about his boat. The student had progressed along his learning journey, and I had taken his hand rather than asking him to follow in my footsteps. He gave me a great reminder that searching for answers is part of the process of learning.