How can educators stimulate the conceptual development of children? Lili-Ann Kriegler responds



Children need concepts to help them understand and navigate the world around them. In their simplest form, concepts help children understand ideas such as direction, location, position, number, quantity, sequence, attributes, dimension, size, similarities, and differences.

Without understanding the concepts, children will have difficulty understanding and being precise, and may have difficulty following instructions and fitting into larger groups … but how do children develop concepts and what role do they play? educators play to help them discover them?

For the answer, The area worked with Lili-Ann Kriegler, educational consultant and author of Edu-Chameleon. In the article below, Ms. Kriegler explores the vital role of educators in the development of concepts in children.

Children’s thinking is fascinating, she begins, urging you to “Listen to Harry and Nicholas, four, discussing the weather.” “

“This time is when the weather changes. This changes at di ff erent times of the year ”, Harry said, relating the weather to the concepts of seasons and time.

Nicolas responds with “We are at the first sign of what he said. It is not yet the cold season, because the cold season is after the hot season and it is next quarter or next year. It can change. It’s like rain, or a storm or thick snow… but I haven’t seen that here. But I saw it on TV when Mole was inside and the snow was outside and sometimes it’s dark and sometimes it’s clear… ”

In this short capture, taken by the educator they worked with, Nicholas mentally negotiates several contexts and conceptual ideas. It explains the sequence of seasons, school periods and the light or darkness of the days that pass. It distinguishes between types of weather conditions and geographic locations indicating that it has not experienced extreme weather conditions in Australia as it has in the UK, its home country. We hear about his TV-watching hobby and his literary knowledge of Kenneth Grahame, Mole de Wind in the willows.

“Knowing a concept is knowing each idea in isolation,” says Kriegler.

“Conceptual understanding is about seeing how different ideas relate and interact. Harry and Nicholas both display conceptual understanding. The ability of children to develop their conceptual understanding depends on how well the information is organized in the first place.

Educators, she continued, are “in an ideal position” to help children develop five specific types of thinking, which will allow this conceptual understanding to grow and expand.

  1. Abstract thinking

The simplest conceptual learning is to acquire labels. In early language learning, children label what is observable here and now. The role of the educator in this space is to make sure they know the names of things. But complex learning requires decontextualized thinking.

In the example above, Nicholas achieved this decontextualized reflection and visualizes the snow from where he had lived before.

“When we encourage children to visualize experiences and engage with mental ideas, we are supporting their conceptual understanding,” Ms. Kriegler explained.

  1. Organized thinking

“The words ‘snow’, ‘rain’ and ‘storm’ are lower order concepts,” she continued.

“Nicholas brings them together naturally because he knows they belong to the higher category, or to the umbrella concept, the notion of ‘weather’. Effective concept teaching prompts children to link “like” things into categories to order and organize their thinking.

  1. Relational thinking

From Harry’s comments, we can see that he understands that the weather changes throughout the year. Using this basis, educators can explore the reasons for this situation in more depth.

Children, Kriegler explained, benefit when educators are able to help them make connections between what they already know and how it might relate to new information, or connect with information they may already know.

For example, kids might have a concept for ladybugs and a concept for eggs, but do they know how these two concepts relate to each other?

In an outdoor environment, an educator can build this “bridge” between concepts by showing children that the ladybugs they see on the leaves have hatched from eggs.

“The children probably already know the facts, so this is not the subject of our contribution,” she continued.

“What is important to emphasize is how the egg and the insect are part of a transformation process that is evident in many different creatures.”

This concept of metamorphosis has universal applications – children are able to take this learning “ladybug” and apply it to other situations.

This learning can also be done through history, exploring implicit meanings using familiar stories and characters, helping implicit relationships to be made visible.

“How do you think Big Ted is feeling?” ” How do you know? Ah, so you think his high eyebrows tell you he’s surprised?

Conceptual understanding, concluded Ms. Kriegler, relies on projecting relationships and providing logical evidence.

  1. Representational thinking

Not all communications are verbal. Every day, as we move around the world, we rely on a variety of representations to compact information. Road signs, mathematical symbols, speech bubbles… all are visual representations of a message.

As children progress through school, they will need to understand the concepts behind these representations. Educators can encourage this type of thinking in the early years by helping children move from the concrete to the abstract.

“Kids love to measure,” says Kriegler. “When they build a long column of wooden blocks, encourage them to measure it with a pop stick, then draw or write how many long (sic) pop sticks it was.”

This hands-on graphing and measuring activity helps children make the connection between the concrete activity (making a column of blocks) and the representation of the activity, which in turn helps them prepare for the world of school.

  1. Metaphorical thinking

Being able to compare two things and think in metaphors is an important final step in children’s conceptual development.

Metaphors help children imagine something while thinking of something else. For example, when someone “cries so much it’s like a river of tears,” children need to have a concept of a river and a concept of being really, really sad for the sentence to make sense.

When children are able to understand both metaphors and comparisons (a comparison compares one thing to another – hot as the sun, as brave as a bear), they can “compact” information.

“Comparison is the key to this kind of thinking,” Kriegler said.

“Young children have an interest in these associations being discussed in detail. To understand the concept, have them move around like a bear themselves or think of times when they have felt the heat of the sun on a very hot day. These physical experiences explain how the conceptual qualities of things can be used to add meaning to something else. “

“Students develop effective conceptual understanding when we support their mastery of abstract, organized, relational, representational and metaphorical thinking as they engage with content every day,” she said in closing, “ especially if it’s fun! “

“I wish you well as you work with young children and scaffold their concept learning. There is no greater reward.

Ms. Kriegler’s primary specializations (B. A Hons, H. Dip. Ed, M. Ed.) Are in early childhood education (birth – nine years), leadership and the optimization of thinking and thinking. human cognition. Her current part-time role is that of an educational consultant at Independent Schools Victoria and she runs her own consulting firm, Kriegler-Education.


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