Child development case study

1. Introduction Nowadays, children are very important and numerous in a large number of societies. They are cared for and taught to become the future caretakers of their country by family and society. A strong social, psychological and physical development of children needs to be given special attention. Every day, children spend a large part of their waking time studying in school with teachers and friends. Besides learning, they also play and join in many extra-curricular activities at school. Children’s personality and psychological characteristics are revealed when they are engaged in activities and communication at school. As a result, the class teacher has the opportunity to understand child’s psychological development thoroughly. However, class teacher are involved with many things while teaching. A case study would provide educators with an overview of the practical experiences that a child has in his activities [3]. Appropriate measures could then be proposed to benefit the students.

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JOURNAL OF SCIENCE OF HNUE Interdisciplinary Science, 2013, Vol. 58, No. 5, pp. 93-101 This paper is available online at CHILD DEVELOPMENT CASE STUDY Pho Duc Hoa Department of Post Graduate, Hanoi National University of Education Abstract. Determining psychological characteristics, intellectual ability and life skills of students in grades 1 on the basis of a single, short-term case study. If the method of this study is followed, educators will be able to obtain an accurate and objective assessment of students. Keywords: Psychological characteristics, cognitive characteristics, imagination, attention capacity, language skills, communication, soft skills, emotion. 1. Introduction Nowadays, children are very important and numerous in a large number of societies. They are cared for and taught to become the future caretakers of their country by family and society. A strong social, psychological and physical development of children needs to be given special attention. Every day, children spend a large part of their waking time studying in school with teachers and friends. Besides learning, they also play and join in many extra-curricular activities at school. Children’s personality and psychological characteristics are revealed when they are engaged in activities and communication at school. As a result, the class teacher has the opportunity to understand child’s psychological development thoroughly. However, class teacher are involved with many things while teaching. A case study would provide educators with an overview of the practical experiences that a child has in his activities [3]. Appropriate measures could then be proposed to benefit the students. 2. Content 2.1. Introduction Full name: Nguyen Cong Tu Sex: Male Date of birth: 15/8/2006; Age: 6 years 4 months; Class: 1. Received November 15, 2012. Accepted February 29, 2013. Contact Pho Duc Hoa, e-mail address: 93 Pho Duc Hoa 2.1.1. Family circumstances Tu is an only child. His father was born in Central Vietnam. Tu lives with his mother and father in Hanoi. They have a ‘high standard of living’. 2.1.2. General characteristics of the child Cong Tu is a very smart, confident and agile boy with a smiley face. He has a close relationship with a friend and he always cares for and helps classmates. He is interested in the lessons and eager to contribute to class discussions. He has a sharp sense of perception and makes an active effort to learn, always completing the assigned tasks. He is a good student in class. However, Tu does not arrange his work reasonably or work carefully. 2.2. Psychological characteristics Psychological characteristics of children are generally shown by their actions and communications [2]. To become aware of a children’s psychological make-up, teachers might use many methods, but observation is recognised as being highly effective. We can know about a child’s personality, thinking and language by observation and analysis. Therefore it is possible for teachers to understand specific physiological characteristics as well as their advantages and disadvantages and to know how to promote the former and discourage the latter so that they can develop comprehensively. 2.2.1. Cognitive characteristics a. Thinking Math is an important subject which requires good thinking, analysis and calculation competence. Through observation, I saw that Tu prefer Math over Vietnamese. Why? He is quite enthusiastic about numbers but it is difficult for him to write things down. In the math lessons, Tu always contributes to class discussion and responds quickly to the teacher’s questions. Sometimes, he answers the teacher’s question immediately. For example: - When children were learning how to double a numbers, teacher demonstrated that if you double 2 you get 4 which is the same as 2 plus 2. The teacher then asked: “What do you get when you double 3?” Tu raised his hand and said that if you double 3 you get 6. He explained that 3 plus 3 is 6. With all young children, it is clear that detailed thinking and formalistic thinking are popular. This is true with Tu, also. As evidence of this: - The Half lesson – this is a difficult, abstract concept that is presented in the international Math curriculum of Grade 1. At first, when the teacher said: “What number is half of 6?” Tu didn’t know what half meant. Then, Teacher use a cube as a model to explain that if one wants to find half of number, we should divide it into 2 equal parts. He listened with concentration to the steps of teacher. Then, he understood and knew how to 94 Child development case study find half of a number. Tu worked on the worksheet. He used the cube to do exercises, too. First, he made cubes that are equal to the given number. Then, he divided the cubes into 2 equal parts, getting 2 parts which he could put together to repeat the process. Next, he counted a part and found halve of that number. It was observed that he took these steps proficiently and fluently. He finished his homework quickly. - When learning about ‘greater than’ and ‘less than’ signs, he confused the two signs. When comparing 3 to 4, he knew that 3 is smaller than 4, but he wrote ‘3>4’. The teacher used a “crocodile mouth” to illustrate and explain that a crocodile is very voracious. So, he is often hungry and it eats a lot, and that the “crocodile mouth” always opens to the bigger number. Then, when comparing two numbers, he usually identifies the bigger number and makes the ‘crocodile mouth’ open to that number. He successfully identified how to use the greater to and less than signs and did not confuse them anymore. From this case, it can be concluded that children’s thinking tends toward something specific and close to life. - When children were learning how to find the missing number in 2 + . . . = 5 (1). The teacher introduced a method to find the missing number using a timeline, and she gave some examples. Tu did very well and he was fast. At first, he recognized the starting number and the ending number. Then, he counted the distance between the two numbers to get the missing number. Other classmates often confused that start number is 6, after jumping 5 steps, the missing number would be 7. Then teacher presented another problem, . . . + 2 = 5 (2), and asked the students to find the missing number. The students had to find a way to solve the problem. Tu could not solve this problem using the timeline method because he didn’t know where to begin. Then he remembered number bond to 5 and realised that: 3 + 2 = 5 => and the missing number is 3. Why did he not he use the timeline? Because he thought that the missing number and the given number in this problem are different than those in the last problem. He didn’t know where to start and how to do it but he found another way to solve the problem. It shows that he has flexible thinking and can find different ways to solve a problem. Because children use visual thinking, children are more interested in math problems that are related to life. Like the others, Tu oftentimes used resources to help him with what he is doing, for example, the cube and the timeline. With addition and subtraction that is less than 10, they use their fingers or mental math to find the answers to the problems. b. Memory 95 Pho Duc Hoa Tu has a good memory. At his age, children oftentimes make use of visual memory and images rather than words and logic. In a plane geometry lesson, children learned about squares, rectangles, circles and triangles. Children observed and touched physical symbols. He remembered that square have 4 equal sides and triangles have 3 sides. Then, all of the students went around the classroom to find things that are in the shape of a square, rectangle, circle or triangle. As a group, they found: + Rectangle: book, notebook, desk; + Circle: Clock, plate. Initially, Tu changed the original image making a different shape. During the next lesson, the children made the shapes using a piece of ribbon. At first, he made a square. He knew that square has 4 equal sides. So, he cut 4 equal pieces from the ribbon and made a square. To make a rectangle, he cut 4 pieces from ribbon which were not equal. He cut 2 pieces of equal length from a yellow ribbon, then he cut 2 of equal length from a blue ribbon. He cut and made the shape proficiently and quickly. Thus, making use of a visual image will help a 5-year-old boy remember better. In math lesson, children learned about “money”. In the beginning, the teacher asked: “Yesterday, what did you learn about money?” Tu raised his hand and said: “We learned about 1p, 2p and 5p coins.” “What do they look like?” He also remembered and said “They are a circle, a pentagon and one is 7- sided,” although he didn’t remember what the shape of each coin was. We found that when children have the opportunity to see a real object, they can better remember it. They always remember real objects and phenomenon more accurately, faster and better than a definition or long explanation. Moreover, students remember things better when they are repeated. For instance, when they learned about the number bond to 5, in their first lesson, the teacher used ladybugs that had dots on their wings to present: 1 + 4 = 5, 2 + 3 = 5 and 0 + 5 = 5. In following lessons, the teacher spent 5 minutes to rewrite number bond to 5 on a small board. At first, Tu could do it but he forgot 0 + 5 = 5 and his calculations were not in the right order. The next day, he could write all the calculations but not in the right order. All calculations were repeated each day and he did memorize them. In the next lesson, when learning about plus, in addition to the timeline, he could recall these calculations so that he could mentally find the missing number in addition. Memory in early primary students is unintended and short-term. They can remember easily but they also forget easily. With the time passing of time, the memory gradually becomes more intentional and long-term. c. Attention capacity It can be clearly seen that primary students have a weak intentional attention span and their ability to pay attention is not strong. Unintentional attention does develop strongly. Apparently, new colorful or surprising things would be attention-grabbing to students. For Grade 1 students, because they are immature, their attention capacity is 96 Child development case study generally weak. For example, in the math lesson using money, the children sat on a carpet and the teacher talked for 15 minutes, but they listened for only about 5 minutes. The teacher bent down, bit her nails and did other things to get their attention but she was not successful. Children’s attention span is limited and it’s quite normal that they get distracted. When the teacher shifted to other activities (work in groups, do exercises) or provided a vivid, brilliant object or had them play a game, the children’s attention came back quickly [4]. Teachers present important information at the end of a lesson. For example, students are told they must bring a book to school, hand in homework, bring PE or swimming clothes or they hear of upcoming events at school. However, when the time is up, children are excited to go home and their attention is not high - they can’t remember what the teacher said. They only remember things that they are interested in. The process of inhibition in their brain is weak and so their attention is distracted. Obviously, concentration cannot be maintained for a long time. Increasing the attention span should be part of the learning process and a leading function of teacher. d. Imagination Imagination is an important cognitive process. Primary school students’ imagination is formed and developed through learning and activities in school. . The imagination of primary school students has been shaped and is more diverse than that of pre-school students. The imagination of a child is just a repeat. If children want to change, they will do little about shape, size or replace other characters they are familiar with. The process of awareness of children from vivid visual to abstract thinking; then from abstract thinking back to reality. It is the way to reach the truth. In summary, awareness in children is not fully developed at their young age. They have moved from playing to learning but their psychological characteristics are unstable. Sometimes, they’d rather play than learn. In lessons, children are distracted and don’t concentrate for a long time. Sometimes, they don’t think before they act and they might be disorderly. Suggested ways to help children grow and develop: + Always create rich and diverse learning activities. + Let students be active in class. + For children who can think well (such as Tu), we should give more advanced and challenging exercises. + Encourage children to spend more time reading books and exploring their environment to develop their imagination. Children will form psychological characteristics if and only if they can express themselves in a diverse variety of learning situations. Only through activities in which learning is at the forefront will they gradually expand their personality. 97 Pho Duc Hoa 2.3. Personality characteristics a. Personality Much of a child’s personality is formed when he is of pre-school age. Through observation, I saw that Tu is a bold and vibrant boy. He is not scared of an unfamiliar, new environment. In each class period, he often gives his opinion whether it is reasonable or not. Sometimes, when the teacher was teaching about something that he already knew, he would say, "I know that" or "I learned that before." This could be a psychological characteristic of his age. He has weak control of his behavior and he doesn’t know how to make goals and pursue them to the end. At this age, children are often stubborn and erratic. They like to do what they want. For example, when learning about the number 6, Tu worked with teaching assistants and in a small group. He was the first to complete the homework and it was more correct than the others. Teachers tell children that if they complete their homework quickly and accurately, they will be allowed to play online games online on the school’s computer. Tu wanted to play computer games but the teaching assistant prepared another game for him. Although he wanted to play computer games, when she encouraged him the new game, he was interested in it and played with his friends. At that time, he could play computer games but he chose to play and learn with his friends in the group happily. In another case, Tu was working in group at a Vietnamese lesson – write a story. He has good writing skills and he often writes in his group. On one occasion the teacher told him, “You should spell and let your friends write”, and he did give the pen to someone else and the other child wrote while Tu dictated. Tu has excellent competence to lead others in a group. He joins in most team-work activities. He works hard and is always responsible in his team. During a Vietnamese lesson, children worked in groups to learn about writing. He divided the work among the kids in the group. But he usually works on all things in a group. Tu is a friendly boy. He is willing to help anyone when they are having difficulty. During GoldenTime, he chose to play his favorite game "Snack and Ladder" with three other kids, including a new student. At first, all of children were upset with the new student because he didn’t know how to play. When Tu told his teacher, she said: "You should show him how to play the game." So, he went back to the game and showed the new kid how to play the game. Vietnamese people believe that those who prefer the color red are likely to be strong and to misbehave. Tu often selected red toys. Once, when he went out late, he did not get to play with his favorite red toy. He looked sad but then he relaxed and chose other toys to play. Through his emotions and reactions, it can be seen that Tu is still as innocent and immature as his counterparts, but he is a little strong and mature for his age. He compromises, shares and helps anyone around him. 98 Child development case study b. Language and communication Language and communication express a part of children’s personality. While in primary school, language skills are being shaped and developed. Language skills in children are limited. Many children are afraid to communicate while others have weak language skills and so find it difficult to communicate. Children want to say what they are thinking but they can’t find the appropriate words to describe their thoughts and wants. In addition, their sentences are incomplete. This year, Tu is 6 years old. His language skills are better than that of his friends. He can talk to teachers and friends clearly, coherently and comprehensively. One time, a boy would not change seats with a girl. Teacher listened to what he said and then told him, “You should give your seat to the girl”. He then said, "Yes! Boys should be nice to girls”. The teacher was surprised to hear this. His sentence was clear and it sounded like he was repeating what an adult said. Tu also speaks English very well. Every day, the children have 3 periods to learn with foreign teachers and speak English. His English is at the intermediate level, but he tries to use his vocabulary to talk with foreign teachers. He can only speak short sentences but he is quite confident in his communication. c. Soft skills Soft skills are necessary in a child’s life. These skills help them integrate into society. Parents take care of and worry about their children. However, in the classroom, they are under the control of the teacher but are not with their parents or caregiver. Most of them are uncomfortable and embarrassed when they begin to go to school. Every day, Tu is picked up at his home by a school bus. This is an opportunity to him exercise independence. Before a PE class, the children oftentimes have to change into their PE clothing. At home, maids help Tu do everything. However, in school, he has to change his clothes and tidy up. Tu is oftentimes the quickest to change his clothes although it’s not done well. His independence is significant. In addition, he is a neat and tidy student. After finishing his work, he knows that he is supposed to tidy up. For example, the children must put their pencils, colored pencils and glue stick away before they sit on the carpet. While some of children forgot to put things away before they sit on the carpet, Tu has the habit of putting everything in place before he leaves his seat. So his desk looks neat. After playing, he puts his toys away quickly. He also helps other children tidy up, something that not all children at this age do. It could be said that he does this because of the personality and consciousness that he has. It is an important that he is well-educated in a good environment. He is not independent but he does engage in all activities. d. Emotion Emotion is a very important aspect of psychology in general and human life. For primary students, emotions are in play during their activities and express their level of awareness. Positive emotions have a positive effect on their activities. 99 Pho Duc Hoa When Tu was writing, he wrote badly and the teacher told him, "You wrote badly - you didn’t even try to write". He then sulked and did everything slowly. Later when he was writing, the teacher told him, "This is very nice. You should write like this". Tu then felt happy and wrote faster and better. Cognitive processes and activities of children are dominated by feelings and emotions. At Tu’s school, there is a swimming pool and children have a