During this semester, we were required to make an observation on the adult-child interaction. This review essay will explain briefly about the interaction occurred, feedback from both parties and the significant of theory in child language development. Therefore, on 4th November 2013, I had an observation at an early childhood center, SMART LITTLE BEE in Putrajaya. Smart Little Bee is not just an ordinary childhood center, the founder Miss Nor Julia bt Mohammad Nor tried to implant new exposure in educating the child using the Montessori Theory which had been used in several countries such as Australia, United Kingdom and United States.
Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. The Montessori approach is designed to support the natural development of children in a well-prepared environment (Early childhood education today, 2011). The children educate themselves through self-directed learning by sensory materials invite to promote learning. Children are grouped in multi-age environments and learn by manipulating materials and working with others.
In Malaysia, the efforts were spreading in the country where the numbers of childhood center using Montessori approach were increasing especially in urban areas. In Smart Little Bee, the capacity intake of children is limited due to the law restricted for an early childhood center or we called “Taman Asuhan Kanak-kanak (TASKA)” in Malaysia that built in home-based environment. Even though, the requests from parents are quite high as they can see the differences in orderliness, independent children, self-directed learning in their child. There were total of 13 children at age range 2 – 6 years old registered.
There was neither classroom nor syllabus structured by ministry of education. There was one big living room that has been renovate for well-prepared environment for the children to play, do activities and learned by them. Moreover, there are five basic principles fairly and accurately represent how Montessori educators implement the Montessori Method in their programs and Miss Julia was a well-trained Montessori educator when she was living in Australia for several years. The first one is respect for the child, it is the cornerstone on which all other Montessori principles rest.
Miss Julia said, “Teachers should show respect for children when they guide and scaffold their learning, enable them do things and learned for themselves”. Next, the absorbent mind is one of the ideas that the minds of young children are receptive to and capable of learning. The child learns unconsciously by taking in information from the environment. This ideology is proved by the child learns to speak his native tongue through the environment. Furthermore, Montessori believed there are sensitive period when children are more susceptible to certain behaviors and can learn specific skills more easily.
In my opinion, there are intersections in theories that model programs for child language development. As we learned through several of theories, majority of them believed children have their sensitive period which stated in Affective transformation by Greenp & Shanker(2007), Jean Piaget’s stages of cognitive development and sensory-motor stage and much more. Next, prepared environment, a place in which children can do things for themselves. In Smart Little Bee, the living room that has been renovated and design suitable for children to learn while playing, the facilities are comfortable, well-organized with books, toys and table.
The children have their own freedom to explore materials of their own choosing. The materials and activities provided for three basic areas of child involvement which are practical life or motor education, sensory materials for training the senses and academic materials. During my observation, the theme for that week is BALL, Miss Julia explained particularly through a ball we can teach the children in physical, emotional and cognitive thinking aspects. There were different themes for each week, as an example is an apple, shoes and many more.
The activities done help children to improve their skills related to everyday living such as toilet training and tied the shoes lace. Lastly, concept of auto-education in children those are capable of educating themselves through appropriate materials and activities. It is facilitative language input and behavior where educators avoid using directiveness which contain less facilitative features. Early in the morning when their parents deliver their children, Miss Julia will let the children to play whatever they want to play.
After having their breakfast, the activity began at 10 o’clock. During the session, Miss Julia asked them to pick up all the toys by saying “okay kids, it is time to do activity pick up the toys and make a circle” in a rhythmic way like a song. The kids pick up their toys to where it was belong while singing along with Miss Julia the “pick-up” song. This routine had implanted in their memory motor to reflect whenever Miss Julia sing the song and how anyone would imagine that picking up the toys could be this fun?
After they done, Miss Julia sit on a small chair with the kids in a circle, using low tone voice like whispering Miss Julia asked the children to sing together all the songs they learned and the kids were hopping and ready to sing but Miss Julia stopped and asked them back “which one of the songs that they want to sing first?” I can hear thousands of requests, however Miss Julia with a calm voice asked them again “which one of the songs? ” and they look to each other and with one voice they choose the spider’s web song. So, Miss Julia was counting down the number from three to one and they started to sing happily with the moves.
Miss Julia also singing along with them as one part where Miss Julia will pause to let them finish the lyrics, technique used in this response is called cloze procedures. It is good to provide redundancy, increase the saliency of the input in order to allow more cognitive response for learning (Girolametto, 2006). While they were singing happily the children use immature or incorrect lyrics, Miss Julia will response by reformulating the additional semantics in the lyrics and generally corrects the child’s error which term used is conversational recasting (Camarata & Nelson, 2006).
After they sang all the songs, the activity continues with “ball painting”. The children were so excited, they were asked to hold one rectangle box together with a painted golf ball in it. The task was they need to shake the box for the ball to roll up and leaves the paint on the paper inside. They started to shake the ball carefully first, but when they see the traces left by the paint they began to excite and wonder the colours, design thus they shook vigorously the box. This showed how the confident built in and the cognitive thinking was developing inside them. As the time flow, they finished the activity and had their lunch.
As a Muslim, their routines in daily life were performing the prayer. When they finished their lunch, they were preparing to do the prayer together under Miss Julia guidance. Following the schedule, once they finished performing the prayer at 2 o’clock they need to sleep. Everyone was exhausted, they need to recharge. Miss Julia did mention “the children need to have enough sleep not just because for their growth but it is also for their health, physically and mentally” the end for the session. As a last point, I can see how Montessori approach affects the child not only in language but also the maturity and independence of the child.
The theory itself guides the caregivers to be in the child’s world instead of trying to bring them into our world. The approach might not be acceptable in certain cultures; cultural differences may result in variations the way children being exposed as the first impression. When there are collectivist societies or individualistic society both wanted the best for their children but in different method approaches. In a nutshell, I firmly believed that children were born with the ability and desire to learn and explore the world when we initiate it with the environment around them.
Language is a system of arbitrary codes used as a communication medium and that is shared by a community for parents-child interaction or teacher-student interaction. The language and environment input was crucial in developing the child’s language. I hope that caregivers could apply the theories in some of the way to teach their son or daughter became more quality than yesterday. I found that the importance in child development not only the language but also the environment, attitudes and behaviors.
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