Tools of the Mind is a curriculum based on the century old work of the Russian developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky and supported by neuroscience which emphasizes self regulated learning. In a Tools of the Mind classroom distractions are limited and kids are taught tools or mental techniques that help them stay focused. In short, teacher teaches and students learn.
My son’s teacher is very enthusiastic about it. My daughter had her too. She is a wonderful, hard working, and experienced teacher. Last year she received Tools of the Mind training and this is her second year teaching with it. To help with the transition, she also receives two hours of support from a curriculum specialist in the classroom each day. My daughter had her with a traditional curriculum so it will be interesting to compare their kindergarten experiences, in a sense, at the end of the year even though it won’t be a perfect comparison since my kids have different learning styles and temperaments.
I must admit I am excited and optimistic about this program based on what I have read and what I am seeing with my son so far. Last night he told me he “dramatized” the stick house pig from The Three Little Pigs. I read that through dramatic play, children are taught how to work together. And as “study buddies” they are taught to be constructive, praise, and encourage each other. I think that is fantastic! Often classmates are thought of as competition or obstacles to one’s learning instead of a community of fellow learners and talents. I also think it is entirely realistic. It reminds me of when I used to work in a design office. I worked with lots of really talented people. There were people with more experience and people with less and I learned from all of them. In fact, that is the thing I miss most now that I work from home.
Support Tools of the Mind from Home
Here are a couple ways to support this curriculum from home:
Foster advanced imaginative play by having lots of open ended props and toys like scarves, blocks, and dolls/figures available. Help your kids get started by playing with them. You could try acting out a story you read together the night before.
Support self regulation through routines, expectations, and by the use of organizational tools. As a parent, how do you remember things? Include your kids in making grocery lists and using a family calendar. Playing games is a great way to practice following rules. Anyone remember red light, green light? I wrote out basic instructions at the end of this post.
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Want to learn more? Listen to this great intro from NPR which explains why this is such a fitting curriculum for our technology age then check out the Tools of the Mind website. And stay tuned, I am planning to post an update on my son’s progress later this year.