Teaching independence and personal responsibility to young children

Gemma Fagan, Preschool Teacher
During the school day, we often discuss how independent the children can be, whether changing their own water while they paint, clearing the table after lunch, setting up their own art projects, or simply putting on their snow gear. 
Don’t be fooled by their sweet faces and pitiful pleas for help – they are remarkably independent, and if not, they need plenty of chances to practice and experiment so that they can do these things by themselves.
Our goal is always to create a classroom that is a safe place to take risks, try new things, and be (somewhat) responsible for your own growth. While establishing this environment, we make sure that we have identified the many opportunities for independence and created enough time to complete the tasks we assign We have accounted for different learning styles and interests, and built in many opportunities for meaningful praise. This week I’d like to share how independent the children are during much of their learning center time.

After Music, we have a second morning meeting. I have already set three expectations for learning centers during the first morning meeting, explaining the activities, modelling where necessary, and asking for comments or questions to help with clarification. All of the activities are completely independent, can be done at each child’s level of competency, and at their own speed. As the children complete each activity, they cross their name off the list. This helps them see visually what they have done, and what they still need to do. The list gives them a “goal” and solidifies that feeling of accomplishment - when they have completed their tasks and get to cross their name off the list! Who doesn’t love to do that?

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Boulder Country Day School, where academic distinction meets education with character. BCD is a top rated, accredited private school in Boulder, Colorado where every child has the opportunity to discover their own unique excellence. Distinguished by small class sizes, outstanding faculty, engaging academics and a focus on community, our preschool, elementary and IB middle school teachers strive to create a well-rounded educational environment that balances traditional subjects with the arts, world languages, athletics and knowledge based units.