The understanding of theory enables educators to consider the ways children are exposed to and interact with language. Educators apply this knowledge to enhance teaching ability and support literacy learning. In the vignette above, Ms. Tori carefully considers a variety of ways to stimulate children’s language development. She uses picture cues, written words, songs, and books to draw on the children’s prior knowledge and introduce new concepts. Ms. Tori considers the age and stage of the children as well as how her practices foster literacy. She considers what the children already know, the concepts they are learning, and the concepts she wishes for them to learn. These practices are based on broader behaviors, skills, and concepts that explain why and how children grow and develop. It is not enough to merely provide experiences for children, we should have a rationale for why we engage them in certain practices. Theory gives us a framework and a logic for our practices. Theories help us to organize the knowledge we have, and they help us to make predictions about what might occur in the future.
Some theories focus on the skills reflected by children as they engage with the world and move through developmental stages (constructivist theories). Other theories focus on the broader context of the child (ecological/contextual theories), and some focus on the child’s construction of knowledge while also focusing on the immediate surroundings (sociocultural/cooperative theories). Using theory as a framework builds our scientific understanding of how children grow and develop. The major developmental theories covered in this chapter have been widely used both to verify and refute ideas and to create road maps for early learning environments and practices. Each section in this chapter discusses a broad theory of cognitive development and then a specific theory focused on literacy development.
Define the theories that focus on the child’s skills and behaviors.
Identify the theories that focus on the child and the immediate environment.
Examine the theories that focus on the wider context.
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