Studying Schema: What This Means As We Plan Ahead

This week has had me thinking more about schema. Background knowledge impacts on how children use materials and the vocabulary that they choose when interacting with others.

On Thursday, many kids decided to make ice cream outside. We looked at a recipe for ice cream beforehand, and spoke about the ingredients needed and the process involved. Children also observed the consistency of the ice cream. Listen to the conversations as students create their mud/water ice cream and problem solve when it’s not thick enough. When some younger children in the daycare saw a student’s creation, it was interesting to hear what they thought about it. Did their experiences with muffin tins impact on the questions that they asked him? Was this then an opportunity for this child to develop the other children’s schema and teach them about different uses for the same materials?

Fast forward to the next day, when children reflected on their learning about ice cream the day before. Now a group of students is happier with their ice cream consistency because they varied their water amount based on what they learned from another group of children on Thursday. The discussion about Unicorn Toots ice cream — which, by the way, is an actual flavour — and the Christmas edition of Neapolitan Ice Cream, tells me that we landed on another topic where children have a lot of schema and can extend each other’s knowledge.

Schema though is not just shown when it comes to baking/cooking. I keep returning to these worm thoughts from Thursday. Dentist, doctor, Emerg … while none of these things might actually hold true when it comes to worms, theorizing happens based on prior knowledge. These three children used their understanding around teeth, worms, the environment, and illnesses to reflect on experiences for these worms.

The same thing happens in the classroom. All week, a group of children have been writing their own versions of Worm Loves Worm and other worm stories. This started on Tuesday, when a couple of children found worms outside. Paula suggested that they leave these worms in their natural habitat, but these students missed these worms “so much.” What did they do? They wrote them stories, wrapped them up, and planned on bringing the books out to read to them the next day.

When all of the puddles disappeared on Wednesday though, these students went looking in other places for their worm Squiggles. Listen as the one child reflects on if the other child’s story could be coming true: is the worm deep underground?

It’s their knowledge of worms that has them problem solving when they can’t find them.

These books though also connect with schema in another way. Children are sharing their understanding around marriage and diversity of choices. A child’s book from Thursday has us thinking about schema again.

We recently sent this email off to parents to let them know about some of our plans for this upcoming week.

We know that books help develop schema, but also, that children make sense of the world around them through dramatic play and storytelling.

  • Will adding some new books to the conversation also change the story writing, storytelling, and discussions in the classroom, outside, and at home?
  • As another school week nears, what are your schema reflections, and how might you build new schema in the week ahead?

We always want to try to follow the interests of the child, but with exposure to different experiences, new interests and thoughts also surface.


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