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Teaching Techniques for Young Children - Positioning equipment and materials, and the technique of demonstrating

Updated on May 18, 2015

Positioning as a teaching technique

Positioning is the process of placing objects in relation to each other or in relation to people. AS a teaching technique, positioning involves placing learning materials in ways that safely support and enhance children's learning.

You as a parent/teacher can use positioning to illustrate an explanation or to encourage further questions from a child. To do this you need to think about the physical organization of inside and outside space so that materials can be placed strategically and safely to assist children's learning.

Physical organization of the learning area

You need to decide how you will place materials and equipment in the physical learning environment to best assist children's learning. Specifically, you need to decide:

  • the equipment, materials and spaces that are available in the inside and outside play areas
  • the balance between the different types of closed and open spaces and materials
  • the boundaries between the different areas within the area
  • the ways in which materials will be grouped together
  • the ways in which the placement of materials will encourage movement and interaction between children
  • the ways in which the placement of materials will allow for quiet moments of reflection, and
  • the ways in which spaces will allow for robust physical exploration of materials.

Social organization of the learning areas

You will need to decide how you will place materials and equipment to facilitate social interaction within the learning environment. For example, you need to think about how you will make places available for adults and/or children to sit individually, in groups, on the floor, on chairs, and stand and move about. The equipment will have to be placed in easy reach of the children, what things they will be able to access and how if you want the children to work alone, or in small or large groups to encourage individual and group exploration and thinking.

Materials need to be placed in such a way so that children are encouraged to participate and develop and excite interest in the activities you want them to experience.

When deciding how to place people and materials, you should seek to create and maintain a safe, secure, interesting and pleasurable learning environment for children and adults. To do this, you need to:

  1. place people to ensure safe supervision of all children
  2. place equipment to meet children's and their health and safety needs
  3. place equipment to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the environment, thus maximising children's enjoyment and interest in activities
  4. place equipment so that children develop competence with it
  5. place things so that children are stimulated and curious to interact with them
  6. make sure equipment can be used by all children regardless of ability

The positioning of equipment to encourage interactions between children of mixed abilities can have positive effects on children's learning. You can encourage placing children of different ages and abilities together for a play and their interactions will enhance their social skills.

The placing of equipment is also important in encouraging young children's cognitive development. It encourages children's acquisition of problem-solving skills and helps them to imagine, create and recognise relationships between events and objects in their environment, as well as supporting their early numeracy and literacy and mathematical thinking.

Demonstrating to children

What is demonstrating?

To demonstrate means to show. Watching a skilled movement being made helps a learner to acquire a skill by deliberately imitating other people, they get the feel of the movement and the learning process is accelerated. Extensions of the demonstration method are to have the children practise the demonstration while the adult/teacher supervises and to ask a child to demonstrate to other children.

In its most basic form, to demonstrate something is to show how it's done. As a teaching technique, demonstrating can help children's learning by showing them how to use materials and special tools, or how to accomplish a particular task. simply moving in and showing children how to approach a task can be a very effective way of reminding them how to do something that they may have forgotten or of teaching them a new skill. It can also help children to learn alternative and more effective ways of approaching a problem.

How is demonstrating done?

Demonstrating will most effectively support children's learning when you:

  • use clear, unambiguous verbal instructions to support the demonstration.
  • break a skill or task into small, sequential steps. this is particularly important when you are demonstrating complex (many steps) techniques to children.
  • keep the demonstrations brief to allow for the children's often short attention span.
  • are familiar with the steps involved in the skill or technique so that you do not confuse children.
  • review with children what they have learned so that additional demonstrations can be planned if necessary.
  • provide the children with lots of opportunities to practise the skill or technique being demonstrated.
  • use visual aids when possible as that will work best.

When and why to demonstrate?

Demonstrating will be most appropriately used as a teaching technique when:

  • children are eager to learn
  • children have the necessary competence to learn the new technique/skill with minimal adult support and minimal frustration
  • children's own creativity and experimentation with skills/techniques are not hampered by an adult direction.

There are many occasions when simply showing your child how to do something can be the most effective way to assist their learning.

Demonstrating is a particularly useful technique for helping children to learn basic daily living skills, such as preparing food and setting the table but also broader skills/appreciations, such as caring for the environment.

The main concern to watch out for while using this technique is that you match correctly your child's ability, interest and attention span to the activity you are demonstrating. The rest should follow naturally and you will see your child gain new knowledge and confidence.


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