Helping Focused Kids Who Need Individual Learning Space and Time

Cordelia was a preschool student with a bright, inquisitive mind and sunny disposition.

She retained early learning concepts easily and enjoyed the process of mining for more information. She asked questions, drew conclusions and liked preschool. Mostly.

Cordelia did elaborate artwork, oftentimes beyond the ‘allotted time’ for art class. She also built intricate Lego designs, frequently interrupted by her peers trying to interact with her. Cordelia did not express her frustration by yelling or even using her words. She didn’t throw a fit. She quietly and patiently would stop doing her art work or move on to play with a different toy.

How can early childhood educators balance the needs of the meticulous, focused student who may need more time and individual learning space, with what we know the expectation will be in kindergarten?

1. Provide Extra Time When Possible

While structure in the classroom is important, it is equally important that our diligent learners have a little extra time. In the adult world, we can appreciate someone who completes their work efficiently and timely. It is an important skill to develop. I wonder what is lost when we force creative and expressive children into our fast food approach to education.

2. Set Up Quiet Individual Learning Spaces

Every classroom should have areas that are arranged for individual time. It is unnatural for any humans to be corralled into a huge group together for eight to ten hours. People need time on their own for reflection and the ability to pursue what they wish. Quiet individual learning spaces can also be helpful for students with behavioral challenges, as acting out can be a result of over stimulation. A loft, a comfy cubby or even just a corner with a small table can fit this need.

How can early childhood educators balance the needs of the meticulous, focused student who may need more time and individual learning space?

3. Balance the Student’s Day

In every student’s day there should be time of school schedule and time of choice. Perhaps the child who ran out of time during art will choose to use free play later on to finish up their project. Yanking half-finished art work out of a child’s hand and telling them they “need to be done and put it in their cubby” devalues school and devalues them as a student. Students must still have defined sections of their day to operate in the school environment.

4. Empower Children to Express Themselves

A missing component in Cordelia’s story is that she must be taught to use her words with other people. As educators, we often focus on the child who hits, helping them with their language to express frustration. We mustn’t overlook the quiet ones who just ‘take it.’ We must constantly observe all of our students. This will ensure that everyone is learning to express their thoughts and feelings with both the adults and children around them.

Our passionate students must be taught balance

I have heard complaints from elementary school teachers about children who aren’t completing their work on time. These students know the material and aren’t distracted, they just aren’t completing assignments during scheduled times. Our elementary school teachers are taxed more than ever. Their students are subjected to standardized testing at an alarming rate and they are in a deficit for class time. Our passionate students must be taught balance, but must also be provided with a little extra time and individual learning space to succeed in school.


Feature image courtesy of Flickr,  JD Hancock.

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