In most education systems, teachers as well as institutions emphasize only on deploying teaching and learning process based on standardized or benchmark approaches. Therefore, teachers have not been able to understand the uniqueness of each child as attributed to the social environment they come from. This in turn has made learning and teaching processes a commanding technique deployed only to honor and reward children’s curiosity in order to motivate their thinking. However, this approach has not played off significantly, especially to those active children who are at their early stages of learning. In the book Tools of the Mind, the authors bring out the importance of understanding and enhancing child’s mental functionality as the key to which learning and teaching can be effectively achieved. It presents general strategies based on Vygotskian approach. They believe that such strategies could help early childhood educators in deploying specific tactics in scaffolding learning and teaching processes. It is based on these facts that this paper reflects on the importance of the book content understanding.

Reading Reflection on Elena Bodrova and Deborah Leong’s Book Tools of the Mind

For people especially teachers interested in child psychology and development, Elena Bodrova and Deborah Leong’s book Tools of the Mind best serve their purpose. This book provides in-depth information concerning Vygotsky’s theories, neo-Vygotskians’ findings and insightful explanations and strategies (Larry, 2009). All this can help the teachers not only in influencing the student’s learning, but also in enhancing the development among their pupils. In addition, the article aims to foster the cognitive development associated with young children in relation to their early literacy learning.

A number of approaches to early childhood learning and development can be reflected in Bodrova and Leong’s book. Firstly, it provides illustration on the major ideas of Vygotskian approach in teaching and learning for early childhood. The two authors have given a deeper understanding and appreciation to Vygotskian principle and thinking. Vygotskian principle develops a participatory manner in which early childhood learning should be constructed (Bodrova & Deborah, 2008). With a critical commonality that learning should be constructed both through active participatory and individual interaction manner, these authors develop an interactive cognitive environment essential for early childhood development.

Enhancing Vygotskian principle in learning and teaching enables teachers to develop dynamic learning and teaching processes geared towards individual’s level of development. Vygotskian approach shows that child development especially in learning does not occur spontaneously with the various processes of maturation and neither is it driven by such processes ((Bodrova & Deborah, 2008). From this approach therefore, both learning and teaching instructions not effectively engaged can never alter development of a child at any age. Instead, only through a more complex and dynamic relationship between learning and development can only be determined through child’s zone of proximal development (ZPD).

ZPD is an essential bridge between learner’s level of independent performance and his or her level of assisted performance (Bodrova & Deborah, 2008). This essentiality is contributed by the fact that independent performance denotes the learner’s ability to do best without being offered help, while assisted performance shows his or her maximum achievement that is based on rendered help. The notion of ZPD, as presented in Vygotskian approach and outlined in the book denotes that by observing assisted performance, a teacher can learn the potential and current highest level of child’s mental functioning. This can be achieved by offering supportive tools such as make-believe play for preschool children and potentially observing the interaction each child initiates towards other knowledgeable mates. Additionally, supporting children’s ZPD translates to supporting their growth (Davidson, Anderson & Diamond, 2006).

Secondly, Vygotskian approach as outlined in the book can be an essential tool for addressing learning and teaching inequities associated with special education. The Vygotskian principle set out child’s development as well as that of all human kind as due to the interaction of people with their social environment (Bodrova & Deborah, 2008). These interactions are based on cultural artifacts especially written languages, various signs and symbols, as well as systems designed to transform a child’s mind special education. Therefore, enabling children to social interact by engaging education system that enhances their mindset development allows them to acquire mental capacities. In so doing, they are instilled with high levels of individual’s behavior. This shows that a child can only develop higher mental functions which are not intentional and self-regulated, but mediated as based on the language and other sign systems incorporated to assist in special education.

On the other hand, Vygotskian principle of self-regulation is based on critical development that signal emergence of unique set of human competencies associated with higher mental functions (Larry, 2009). This shows that by allowing children to acquire higher mental functions they become able to transform from being a slave to the social environment, thereby becoming masters of their own behaviors. Additionally, child’s self-regulatory abilities normally develop from social interactions. Teachers will, thus, know that if a child is taught either formally or informally within the social context, he/she will be able to instill this sense of independency.

Furthermore, enhancing Vygotskian approach makes classroom to serve as a perfect social environment for child’s learning of self-regulation (Bodrova & Deborah, 2008). If teachers do not offer or support any development of self-regulatory behavior in classroom environment, children will continue to be salves of social environment. This means that children would only be guided by external stimulus which may render them incompetent in understanding of their intentional actions. However, this can be addressed through deploying special cultural tools that allow children to cooperate with others and later become independent. Teachers will, therefore, be acknowledged that it is through focused attention, deliberate memory, and verbal thinking that they will be able to understand particular structure and content of higher mental functions of each child as contributed by his or her social situation development.

Thirdly, language is an essential acquisition mental tool. It is both an important tool and mediator for enhancing the acquisition of other mental tools essential for child’s self-regulatory development (Bodrova & Deborah, 2008). Therefore, the evident evolution of private speech from social context to self-directed, and eventually, to internalized context demonstrates the acquisition of mental tool.  This shows that by children tending to increase the usage of private speech when in the preschool period, but later transforms it into being organized speech; they use language development as a way to develop their mental acquisition.

Similarly, playing as a tool for mental acquisition is outlined as an essential tool for creating a zone of proximal development among children. Playing normally signifies an activity that symbolically represents child’s self-regulation development and enquiry for motivation (Bodrova & Deborah, 2008). For instance, “When a child squeezes, drops, and bangs soft plastic cup on the table,” they say “this is object manipulation, not play.” But when a child uses the same cup as a duck and swims it on the table, the action becomes to them a play,” (Bodrova & Deborah, 2008). From this perspective, teachers should not be worried on what to teach their students, and how they can effectively learn as all answers to these processes are based on incorporating rightful mental process.

Enhancing effective mental process can help in achieving appropriate mental development among children (Damon, Lerner & Renninger, 2006).  This shows that if a teacher employs effective mental process in learning and teaching, he or she is able to be aware of appropriate development mentality of which he or she can effectively use ZPD in helping children to transit into higher mental functions. Through identifying learner’s ZPD, a teacher is able to find out the kind of knowledge, skills, and understandings that are still a part of the learner yet are on the edge of emergence. It, therefore, means more than complementing tasks through structured fashion, but rather developing learner’s higher mental functions that include his or her ability to plan, memorize, evaluate, and reason.

For instance, listening carefully to what children say and trying to figure out what they mean, and listening or observing what a teacher says and its interpretation by children and the reasons why he or she says so can effectively help in developing child’s higher mental functions. This translates into making learning to be more engaging and playful, thereby, enabling teachers and students to view the validity of mistakes incurred during the process, rather than the answers which do not add value to the child’s mind development. In so doing, early childhood educators will ensure that make-believe play is effectively developed and enhanced in order to develop multiple aspects of child’s self-regulation and learning (Larry, 2009).

In conclusion, Tools of the Mind is a well-developed and structured book that calls for redesigning of traditional culture and educational system which is based on honoring the curiosity of the children. Early childhood educators and educational institutions should, thus, understand that child’s learning ability depends on the effectiveness of the incorporated mental processes. They should ensure that children are actively involved through participation in learning process in order to maximize their mental functions that allow them to be more independent both in learning and in developing their behavior.

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