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Contextual Factors For Instructional Decision Making For Grades K-3

BY: Timothy G. Weih | Category: Education | Submitted: 2015-09-15 06:47:04
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Article Summary: "Research has suggested that the best teaching takes into consideration the key factors related to children's physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development..."

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Contextual Factors for Instructional Decision Making for Grades K-3
Timothy G. Weih, Ph.D.
University of Northern Iowa, USA
September 2015


Every child's development is unique. Although children develop through a generally predictable sequence of milestones, we cannot say exactly when a child will reach each and every stage. Every child has his or her own timetable. Research has suggested that the best teaching takes into consideration children's general developmental, cognitive, and social characteristics. In addition, developing effective curriculum and instruction takes into account children's likes, dislikes, culture, family, and the community in which they live. Learning these contextual factors will aid teachers in developing instructional decisions that will best serve the needs of their classroom children. The following sections cover the some key factors related to children's physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development in grades K-3.

The Five-Year-Old (Beginning Kindergarten)

Physical Development

• Requires 10-11 hours of sleep each night
• Dresses self independently
• Throws and catches balls
• Rides a tricycle skillfully and may show interest in riding a bicycle with training wheels
• Uses a fork and knife well
• Left or right hand dominance is established
• Walks down stairs alternating feet without using a handrail
• Interested in performing tricks, e.g., standing on head and performing dance steps
• Capable of learning complex body coordination skills, e.g., swimming, ice skating, or roller skating
• Runs, skips, hops, and gallops
• Learns to tie shoelaces
• Copies shapes and cuts with scissors

Social and Emotional Development

• Can take turns and share
• Understands and respects rules
• Tries new things and takes risks
• Likes to make own decisions
• Begins understanding of right and wrong
• Carries on conversation with other children and adults
• Still confuses fantasy with reality sometimes
• Often fears loud noises, the dark, animals, and some people
• Expresses anger and jealously physically
• Likes to test muscular strength and motor skills, but is not emotionally ready for competition
• Sometimes can be very bossy
• Notices when another child is angry or sad and generally more sensitive to the feelings of others

Intellectual Development

• Likes to reason and uses word the word "because"
• Enjoys riddles and jokes
• Understands that stories have a beginning, middle, and end
• Able to remember stories and repeat them
• Understands the terms "more," "less," and "same"
• Recognizes categories, e.g., animals, toys, or food
• Interested in cause and effect
• Can understand time concepts, e.g., yesterday, today, and tomorrow
• Learns address, phone number, and birthday
• Memorizes and repeats rhymes and stories
• Draws pictures that represent objects
• Sorts and compares objects
• Identifies and writes letters and numbers
• Counts and identifies sets to ten
• Develops good attention span
• Likes to feel grown up and boasts about self to younger children
• Sometimes needs to get away and be alone
• Has a developing sense of humor, enjoys jokes, and sharing jokes with family and friends

The Six-Seven-Year-Old (First graders)

Physical Development

• Perpetual motion, e.g., squirming while sitting, running, and jumping
• Gains control of fine motor activities
• Tests muscle strength and skills
• Develops a good sense of balance
• Catches balls, ties shoelaces, manages buttons, and zippers
• Develops the ability to copy designs and shapes
• Learns to distinguish left from right

Social and Emotional Development

• Wants to make friends
• Can be very competitive
• Is sensitive to criticism, but thrives on encouragement
• Is enthusiastic and has great capacity for enjoyment
• Has a strong desire to perform well and want to please people
• Can be helpful with small chores
• Has a strong need for love and attention from parents and teachers

Intellectual Development

• Has increased problem-solving ability
• Loves to ask questions
• Has an attention span that is relatively short
• Learns best through active involvement
• Is interested in real life tasks and activities
• Can begin to understand time and days of week
• Views events and behavior as right or wrong with very little middle ground

The Seven-Eight-Year-Old (Second Graders)

Physical Development

• Drives self until exhausted
• May frequently pout
• Now has well-established hand-eye coordination and is likely to be more interested in drawing and printing
• May have minor physical injuries
• Has fewer illnesses but may have colds of long duration
• Decreased appetite
• May develop nervous habits or assume awkward positions, e.g., sitting upside down on the couch, constant foot tapping, and fidgeting

Social and Emotional Development

• May avoid and withdraw from adults, has strong emotional responses to the teacher, and may complain that teacher is unfair or mean
• Likes more responsibility and independence and is often concerned about performing well
• Participates in loosely organized group play
• Concerned with self and others' reactions
• May fear being late, may have trouble on the playground and claim that other kids are cheating, unfair, and that the teacher is picking on him
• May use aggression as a means to solve problems
• Starts division of sexes, i.e., boys only play with other boys
• May complain a lot, e.g., saying nobody likes me, or I am going to run away
• May not respond promptly or hear directions, i.e., may be forgetful or easily distracted
• May withdraw or not interact with others in an attempt to build a sense of individuality
• May experience guilt and shame

Intellectual Development

• Is eager for learning, uses reflective, serious thinking, to solve more complex problems, and attention span is increasing
• Enjoys hobbies and likes to collect things and talk about personal projects, writings, and drawings
• Likes to be challenged, to work hard, and to take time in completing a task

The Eight-Nine-Year-Old (Third graders)

Physical Development

• Is busy and active which can cause more frequent physical injuries
• Makes faces, wiggles, and clowns around
• May frequently urinate as a result of anxiety
• Has good appetite, wolfs down food, belches spontaneously, and may accept new foods
• Has improved health with a few short illnesses

Social and Emotional Development

• Demands love and understanding from parents
• Makes new friends easily, works at establishing good two-way relationships, and develops close friends of own gender
• Considers clubs and groups important, enjoys school, doesn't like to be absent, and tends to talk more about school
• Is not interested in family table conversations and wants to finish the meal in order to get to other personal activities
• Has more secrets
• May be excessive in self-criticism, tends to dramatize everything, and is very sensitive
• Has fewer and more reasonable fears
• May argue and resist requests and instructions, but will obey eventually
• Likes immediate rewards for good behavior
• Is usually affectionate, helpful, cheerful, outgoing, and curious; but can also be rude, selfish, bossy, and demanding
• Can be silly and giggly
• May experience guilt and shame

Intellectual Development

• Wants to know the reasons for things
• Often overestimates own ability and over generalizes instances of failure by saying that he never gets anything right
• Wants more information about pregnancy and birth


Competent teachers take the time to get to know their classroom children's developmental characteristics, in addition: their likes, dislikes, special interests, and families. Moreover, capable teachers take time to get to know the school building, school district, and community in which they teach. With this knowledge base of contextual factors, effective teachers are able to make instructional decisions that best suit the needs of their classroom children.

About Author / Additional Info:
Timothy G. Weih is an associate professor of education at the University of Northern Iowa, USA, and teaches elementary teaching methods courses.

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