Recently I asked a group of four year olds, “What is one of your strongest skills?” The children answered with confidence – “Dancing”, “Finding things”, “Playing the trumpet”, ”Solving problems.” The children seemed to understand that the reference to “skills” was beyond the idea of rote mastery, and related more to DISPOSITIONS of learning – resourcefulness, creativity, cooperation, inventiveness, curiosity, independence, resilience, and persistence.
Strong teachers guide children’s learning in ways that support this type of development. During an investigation of babies (a hot topic of interest in the Inventors Class), the teachers asked, “What do babies and big kids do differently?” On the roof during a recent snow, the children sprayed colored water on snow mounds and ice creating breathtaking masterpieces. A group of two year olds lined up chairs and together took a “plane ride” to Chicago! Sara offers a variety of open-ended art materials in the studio each day for “messing about”. The Pre-K children peer out the window “looking for clues” about the weather. All of these activities demonstrate how McKendree teachers encourage dispositions to explore, create, make predictions and check outcomes, and develop divergent and imaginative thinking.
When programs focus primarily on facts and figures, these important dispositions often are ignored. Rather, attention to outcomes beyond subject knowledge are shown to sustain the development of young minds. McKendree teachers collect learning stories, paired with reflections that interpret a child’s competencies and dispositions toward learning, to tell each child’s unique story. Documentation lines our hallways and classrooms that make this learning visible. Additionally, teachers create and maintain a digital portfolio for children – a collection of observations, stories, and meaningful moments that illustrate important dispositions to learning.