How Planning and Reflection Develop Young Children’s Thingking Skills

How Planning and Reflection Develop Young Children’s Thinking Skills

downloadAnn S. Epstein

Young children ages three to six are capable of making
thoughtful decisions about their behavior and keen observations
about their environment (as the vignettes at left
show). Like Tatiana and Eric, they have insight into their
desires, form mental images of the past and future, and attempt to
explain their behavior and that of others.
Although today’s early childhood educators often focus on enhancing
reading and mathematics skills to meet ever increasing academic
expectations, we must also remain committed to promoting broader
thinking abilities. They are the foundation upon which children learn
to make decisions, regulate their own behavior, meet complex
challenges, and take responsibility for their actions.
Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers, the noted National
Research Council report (2000), reminds us that “key concepts
involved in each domain of preschool learning must go hand in hand
with information and skill acquisition” (p. 8). It cites research showing
that metacognition—higher-level thinking and problem-solving
skills—develops when children are encouraged to reflect, predict,
question, and hypothesize. How can adults help children exercise
these capabilities?There is empirical and practical evidence that we can promote the
development of thinking and reasoning in young children in the early
years by providing two curriculum components—planning and
reflection. Both are thoughtful activities that encourage children to
consider what they are doing and what they are learning. They also
promote a broad range of other academic, social, and artistic competencies.
This article summarizes the research in support of these
claims and offers strategies teachers and caregivers can use to
encourage planning and reflection in their programs.

How Planning and Reflection Develop Young Children’s Thinking Skills

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