My literature review will be divided into four sections. The first part will define child development and is followed by the domains of learning. The third part concerns group activities and the last part will discuss practical strategies for exploring the three domains of learning in-group activities.
Understanding children, their development, and the factors that can lead to positive or negative outcomes can allow us to help children reach their potential and be successful, active and happy children. Children need to explore the three domains of development in their early childhood education to succeed academically later in life. Child development is the changes that a child goes through in the first 15 years of the human life, physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively. As Fabes & Martin (2003) state “child development involves changes in physical, social, emotional and intellectual functioning over time” (p.4). Similar to this, Ambedkar (2008) claims, “As children grow older, they develop in several different ways. Child development includes physical, intellectual, social, and emotional changes” (p.38). Therefore, children go through different stages in their early life where they develop in the three main domains physical, cognitive and social/emotional development. In addition, Hoy & Hughes (2008) suggests that children’s development can be defined through observations and assessing the domains of development and she points to five specific areas: motor/physical, cognitive, social/emotional, communication language, and self-help/adaptive.
In addition, teachers need to be equipped with the knowledge of children’s development so they can provide opportunities for their students to explore the different domains of learning. As Daniel & Shumow (2002) mention “teachers need to understand child development and are especially important given the current drive for schools to foster higher order reasoning and create autonomous learners who are able to function successfully in the rapidly changing information age”.
Child development refers to the three individual, yet interdependent components of child growth. These domains are physical, cognitive, and social/emotional.
Physical development is divided into two main skills, fine motor and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills involve single movement such as throwing and catching, they also involve the use of hands and fingers in activities such as drawing, cutting and writing. (Meggitt, 2005) Gross skills use the large muscles in the body and include running and walking. (ibid)
The cognitive domain is also divided into two main areas of development, cognitive or intellectual development and language development. Cognitive development is the development of the mind, the part of the brain that is used for reasoning, recognizing and understanding. Additionally, it involves the perception skills because “cognitive skills involves people making sense of what they see, hear, touch and smell” (Meggitt, 2005, p.2). Language development in children begins before birth, and children communicate when they are infants using crying as a method of communication. Language development is a long process and according to Berk (2009) “is the process by which children come to understand and communicate language during early childhood.” (p.222)
Similar to the physical domain and the cognitive domain, the social/emotional domain is divided into two areas of development, social development and emotional development. Social development includes the growth of the child’s relationship with other people and according to Davies (2004) “socialization is the process of learning the behavior and skills that enable the child to live with other people”. (p.62) Emotional development involves the growth of feeling towards oneself and other people. It’s also the development of self-esteem and self-concept. (Johnson & Christie & Yawkey, 1999) Having discussed the three developmental domains, we now consider group activities and how they can benefit the development of these domains.
The second aspect of my study concerns group activities because child development can be better explored through group activities. Group activities in the classroom happen when students are divided into a set of smaller groups for some portion of the time they are in the classroom. This is in line with Johnson, Christie and Yawkey (1999) who explain that a small group is known and treated as a separate and distinct social entity by the teacher and the students in the classroom. Group activity usually has 5 to 6 members, which is a small number of people who are together in the same place to do the task. (Eliason & Jenkins, 2008) While some writers define group activities as a situation where people experienced within a group aim to achieve a specific goal (Fabes & Martin, 2009)
Group activities contributes to development of domains when children work in a group of their peers, their cognitive and social emotional domains are explored because “working in a group, children are more engaged not only intellectually but emotionally as well. They have to think, contribute to the group, evaluate what other members of the group say, share information, ask friends for clarification, and prepare a presentation together” (Gorgoń, 2008) Group activities don’t only help develop cognitive and emotional domains, they also contribute in building children’s confidence, their language fluency and independence, for example,
Students use and experiment with the language items they already know in order to develop fluency; they also use some items pre taught by the teacher or contributed by the members of the group to express themselves more fully and improve the quality of their performance. In the long run group work develops learners’ independence. Using class technique regularly students become more efficient and skilled at practicing the language. They become more confident, their motivation also increases and they can manage without regular teacher’s supervision. Students learn how to learn and gradually take responsibility for their own learning. (ibid)
Furthermore, group can activities create positive nurturing environment for the students’ to learn and enhance their developmental domains. As Palin & Jackson &Thompson suggest that group activities “Provide safe and inviting environments for children, both indoors and outdoors, that facilitate physical activity, challenge development, and do not restrict movement for prolonged periods of time”(2007) In addition, group activities ensure that all children have access to experience activities that challenge and stimulate them to pursue tasks that promote physical and social development. (ibid)
I now discuss three general guidelines for group activities that develop the different domains as the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2004) suggests. Firstly, to motivate students, the teacher should create activities that encourage students to work together as a team and create a class friendly environment where the students respect and help each other. Secondly, encouragement to take risks, the teacher might need to encourage shy students more and reward them with gifts or praise them when they share with their friends and teacher. A similar strategy could be used with students who laugh at their friends when they make a mistake or don’t speak well. This leads to the third guideline, which is respect. Children will experience working in a healthy social and emotional environment that will help to develop their social emotional skills. Following these guidelines and implementing the following types of activities could help the students to explore the three domains of development in group activities. (The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004)
These strategies include active learning, cooperative learning, art activities and staged activities.
Active learning can be implemented through providing opportunities for students to solve problems, answer teacher’s questions, and ask questions of their own, discuss, explain, or brainstorm during class to help their cognitive and language developmental domain.
The use of cooperative learning through arranging activities to be done in groups, so children can develop their social and emotional developmental domain within a positive interaction with peers.
Art activities that inquire students to use their fine motor skills, cognitive skills and social skills, for examples, a craft activity that is done with a group or making a collage on an A2 paper in small groups.
Staged activities such as role-play and a drama center are the type of tasks that cover the three domains of development and enhance children self esteem and confidence. Eliason & Jenkins (2008) recommend drama and role-play to help students develop social, emotional, language, cognitive and physical skills.
A fifth strategy is activities that require at least two steps to finish the required task, for example, coloring a picture and writing the first letter of that picture, because activities that have several steps to complete and require planning, correction and completion such as puzzles, playing a game, and building structures. (ibid)