Implementing "Tools of the Mind" in the Classroom
“Tools of the Mind” is a program currently being implemented in various early-learning classroom settings. The program is based upon the work of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsk. Many of Vygotsky’s educational theories have been utilized by other famous and respected educational experts, some of whom were his students.
What is “Tools of the Mind”?
“Tools of the Mind” is a self-regulated, dynamic, interactive learning program. It helps teachers train the mental capabilities of children to operate harmoniously with their visceral and physical abilities. It also encourages self-regulation, autonomy and taking the initiative. Because of this, children develop in a way that leads to independent learning, and the things that they learn are absorbed and integrated more rapidly.
Five “Tools of the Mind” to use in the classroom
The actual “tools” in this program can vary, but what they all have in common is fostering a proactive, self-directed learning style in a natural and integrated way. The following are examples of how to integrate the program into student activities:
One very effective and foundational Tool of the Mind is blending learning with play. Of course, children love to play, and learning while having fun is often more effective than traditional classroom work. Creativity and imagination stimulate a desire to learn more and apply what is learned in real-life situations.
Active group discussions
In active group discussions, children are encouraged to take the lead in the group, taking turns as the facilitator. Instead of placing this responsibility in the hands of an adult authority figure, children begin to see themselves as their own learning authorities, grooming them for autonomy and leadership roles in life down the road.
Instead of conducting drills on letters, words or phrases, language is learned and refined in the context of a game, signing up for a contest, writing a letter, etc. This applied use of language gives the child exposure to real-world examples of how language is used, instead of in the rarer, and sometimes sterile, atmosphere of an English or language arts class.
Writing and drawing games
Kids love to write, draw, scribble and doodle, and very often do it independently. When this activity is folded into the learning process, children can become very interested and engaged. Kids can be encouraged to illustrate their thoughts and feelings about a project or task, or keep a journal or sketchbook. You might also have them work on a group drawing or mind map as a task unfolds.
Encouraging choice and autonomy
One of the best ways to mentally stimulate a child is by asking their opinion, giving them a choice and putting the ball in their court. No matter what the assignment, this practice will encourage an active approach to learning instead of a passive one, where the child is just receiving information. In this way, the child remains engaged in the process and feels a personal stake in the assignment and the outcome.
While Tools of the Mind are not flashy in nature, they are highly effective, shaping the child’s learning experience and demeanor to become more balanced and proactive. In addition to implementing this program in the classroom, parents should be encouraged to augment the effectiveness of Tools of the Mind by putting them into practice while interacting with the child. Independent thinking and leadership abilities are a natural outgrowth of the application of these tools.