Teaching Strategies - Collecting

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Elementary teaching techniques - What is collecting?

Collecting is the process of gathering things together. As a teaching technique, collecting is a deliberate process of gathering together objects, information and ideas to help generate children's interest in and learning about their natural and their social and cultural world. Collecting can help children to learn how to sort, classify, match and organise their environment. In doing so, collecting enhances numerous skills across all areas of development.

How do you initiate collecting, and what kinds of things do we collect?

This teaching strategy is very simple. Anybody can start collecting. You can prompt children to start collecting by pointing out an object the children have already collected such as leaves, stones, pine cones etc. depending on your environment. Start by asking, 'Why don't we see if we can find some more like it? I wonder who would like to help.'

All sorts of objects can be collected. You can develop collections from things in the natural world or the social and cultural world you share with your children. Items from the natural world that can be collected include rocks, leaves, plants, shells, seeds, feathers or bones. Items from our social and cultural world that are easily collected include memorabilia and cultural artefacts such as music, records, tapes, books, magazines, comics or toys. Recycled and found objects can also provide lots of ideas about collecting. You can also take your children to visit museum to initiate an interest in a particular collecting idea.

Collections do not need to be limited to objects. Interesting collections can also be made from:

  • sounds using recordings of traffic noises, or sounds in the bush etc.
  • jokes - young children love having fun and collecting the things they find amusing can be valuable. Children's humour generally derives from what they find incongruous. This may include a sound that seems odd such as ants barking in a cartoon, an action that is strange such as dogs flying in a cartoon, or word play such as Mousey Mick instead of Mickey Mouse. Seeing and understanding such funny 'mistakes' can assist the development of higher level cognitive skills, as children search for what is funny and try to create their own 'mistakes' they need to problem-solve and create a new language.

What to do to ensure that collecting is a positive and productive learning experience

Follow these simple principles and you will find collecting a valuable and positive contribution to your child's learning:

  • Set aside a special place for the collected objects to be displayed and investigated by your children.
  • Have reference books available. Children can use the reference books to label their 'finds' and to compare and contrast different items in the collection. This can enrich their learning by extending their vocabulary and by enabling them to gain more in-depth understandings of how things grow or work.
  • Keep special box of tools for investigating the objects collected in more details. This could include a magnifying glass, rulers, simple balance scales, a colour chart and a shape chart.
  • Have some tools handy with which children can record their discoveries. Pencils, paper, camera, scales etc. all present great ways to learn about recording finding.
  • Display objects with care to encourage children to take care of them.
  • Develop clear rules about how to deal with collected items, and if things are expensive, model appropriate handling and supervise at all times.
  • Ask children questions about their discoveries - open ended preferably so that children are developing their problem-solving and logical thinking skills.
  • Ensure that the collection links with or reminds the younger children of real-life. experiences to make it meaningful to them.
  • Ensure that all objects collected can be handled safely by the children.
  • Avoid collecting flora and fauna which are on the endangered or protected species lists, or anything that may be harmful to children and/or household pets.
  • Avoid collecting becoming a competition between the children about who can bring the best or most items

Collecting becomes a worthwhile learning experience when children are encouraged to explore, sort and classify the objects they or you have collected. Children can look for a number of properties that differentiate objects from each other or group them together. Shape, size, colour, texture, smell, weight and function can each be used to explore, sort and classify. Asking children to think about how to sort hings and what they might call the categories into which they can be sorted can add fun, interest and conceptual challenges to the experience of collecting.

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