Educators understand that play is integral to a child's learning, but if they only ever free play, opportunities to support their conceptual understanding of the world around them may be missed. A new book aims to change that.
In the new release, Edu-Chameleon, educator and consultant Lili-Ann Kriegler draws upon decades of experience working across early education to provide a practical guide on how to engage young minds in the present, whilst paving the way for future learning. Kriegler says concept formation is vital to be developed from an early age and outlines seven distinctive learning zones that operate in early education to help enhance their conceptual understanding.
Written for early childhood educators, Kriegler shows how to refine your professional knowledge about concept formation to augment the value, purpose and precision of everything you already plan, say and do each day. From totally free play, along a continuum to direct teaching, different curriculum intentions and methodologies are outlined in the 7 zones:
• Free play
• Mediated play
• Embedded concepts
• Concept clarity
• Closed-ended mobilsation
• Open-ended mobilsation
• Auto-generative creativity
Accessibly written and filled with examples, Edu-Chameleon is a must-read for educators looking to provide evidence-based, creative opportunities to enhance children's development.
About the author
Kriegler-Education founder Lili-Ann Kriegler is a renowned education consultant and author. She has taught at all levels from toddlers to adults and specialises in early childhood education for children 3-9 years of age. Lil-Ann's Master in Education and Leadership crystallised her belief that learning is constructed in dialogue with others, that it is a social enterprise with many players. Her consultancy, Kriegler-Education specialises in customised professional learning design for Preschool and Junior Primary Leaders, Educators and Curriculum Coordinators. Edu-Chameleon is her first book.
Ultimate World Publishing
Question: What originally inspired the idea of Edu-Chameleon?
Lili-Ann Kriegler: As an education consultant I see early childhood teachers struggle with conflicting information. They're told that children's right to play is paramount, but they also hear they're not doing their job if children haven't been taught what they need for school success. Edu-Chameleon engages with the interrelationship between learning and play and offers leaders, curriculum coordinators and teachers seven definitive zones, each with characteristic techniques, to give them confidence in their practice. In some of the zones, children's play is emphasised and in others the intention of the educator uppermost. What inspires me is the hope that the zones will give educators clarity to vary their teaching and be more agile in choosing a zone that fits with the overall goals for their students. The chameleon on the cover, nature's arch adaptor, is a metaphor for the ability to match strategies to each situation.
Question: What's the main message you hope readers take from Edu-Chameleon?
Lili-Ann Kriegler: Children are wonderful thinkers and learners. Their brains are 90% developed by the time they are five years old, so we have to take their education seriously. Sometimes, this seriousness is missed because it is so widely accepted that they learn through play. The book is a call to focus on language and conceptual understanding from an early age. Edu-Chameleon tracks how concepts are formed. From the moment of birth, children are actively making sense of their world by recognising patterns in their surrounds. Within a short space of time, they learn language and lay down neural pathways for a multitude of foundational concepts. I expand on four words: know, connect, mobilise and communicate. Unless children use and communicate what they learn, they are only halfway there. The message I hope readers take away is how much children deserve to be taken seriously as learners at the same time as we provide playful, engaging environments for them.
Question: Can you share tips with us, featured in the book?
Lili-Ann Kriegler: One of the recurring themes in the book is that to use information we need to have it solidly in our long-term memory. My tip is to spend time ensuring children understand something before we expect them to apply it or move on to something else. When this consolidation doesn't happen, they may be left behind as their peers progress. There is an argument that children should be left alone to discover things for themselves, or we curtail their creativity. But, the more knowledge, skills and language children have, the more they can use that creativity. So my advice is to teach what is necessary so children can progress to more complex levels of thinking. I'm not suggesting that this be done directly, or in a high-handed way, but sometimes children genuinely need a scaffold to get to the next level, to be lent a skill, to make progress.
A second tip is that parents and educators can magnify the impact of their communication with children simply by thinking out loud. Rather than being non-specific and saying: 'Please pick that up', say, 'Please pick up that book and put it on the shelf. The place feels really organised when things are where they belong, don't you think?' Your longer response, without taking up more time, provides the labels for several items, explains the action, and has a respectful, inclusive quality. What is going on in our minds, and our reasons for saying and doing things is generally invisible to children, so talking out loud, gives them entry into our thinking processes and access to our logical connections. Every moment of every day our language can enhance children's understanding. We can use these moments, or they can pass us by.
Question: Was it difficult reliving certain aspects/times of your life, whilst writing Edu-Chameleon?
Lili-Ann Kriegler: What comes to mind when I read this question is not so much my experience, but a deep sense of gratitude that I have been able to follow my goals and use my talents throughout my life. My mother grew up and in a time when women's education was undervalued. She was intelligent and gifted, and most certainly made a difference in the world, but I know that so much of her potential was stifled by social norms in her day. I believe in the transformative power of education and every person should have the right to engage in it to the absolute limit of their own wishes. So in a sense, this book is a dedication to both her and my father who always used to say 'your education gives you roots and wings'.
Question: What research did you do, prior to writing Edu-Chameleon?
Lili-Ann Kriegler: Without knowing the exact form this book would take, I have been researching it for the last ten years! I always knew it would be about language and concept development. I have read a multitude of books, collecting references, lists and quotes along the way. But I have also been extremely lucky through my work as a consultant at Independent Schools Victoria to undertake courses through the Feuerstein Institute in Jerusalem. The courses were the outcome of the ground-breaking work of the now late cognitive psychologist, Professor Reuven Feuerstein, on intelligence, thinking and learning. This has given me both a high- level overview and granular knowledge about cognition.
Question: What advice do you have for aspiring writers or artists?
Lili-Ann Kriegler: Flip, that's a hard question. Just keep at it! I had a full manuscript for this book which I touted to a couple of publishers only to be shown the door. You must be resilient and find a way. I was fortunate to work with an Australian company 'Ultimate 48 Hour Author' to self-publish. Their processes made a huge difference. And it took more than 48 hours! But if you have a message and knowledge to share, you'll find a way and you'll find your tribe.
Question: What or who inspired your love of reading/writing?
Lili-Ann Kriegler: My mother used to read to us as children. Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Grimm's Fairy Tales all used to spin around in my head. My grandmother had a special cabinet with prized porcelain pieces on display, but the real treasure was a collection of about fifteen books on the bottom shelf! I read them a million times. Enid Blyton, remarkable in her time, was a favourite and I used to haul my brother and sister to the library on a miniature wagon my grandfather made for us to get my next famous five or adventurous four.
Question: What's next, for you?
Lili-Ann Kriegler: I am currently working on a book specifically for parents, primary carers and any other form a family can take! It focuses on crafting communication to forge a family with mettle. There is no substitute for good thinking to help us become resilient and to have a positive mindset. I think it will be called 'Roots and Wings'. Thank you so much female.com.au for the opportunity to share my thoughts! I truly wish everyone well through the COVID crisis and hope you're all managing.
Interview by Gwen van Montfort