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In the course of teaching, I often found myself trying to defend my open-ended hands-on approach to learning vs. the worksheet method.  Yet no matter how much I tried to explain, some parents still valued, paperwork they could hold on to.  I used to try to explain that worksheets, don’t teach, they only documented what a child already knew.  I tried to explain that children needed time to explore and learn through observation.

Then I heard a wonderful story about an “Orange” and I knew I had the perfect example for skeptic parents or inexperienced teachers.  This story was ideal for explaining the importance of allowing preschoolers the freedom of learning through hands-on experiences.

Explain to your parents that tomorrow you are going to bring some oranges to school to teach the children about oranges.  Ask the parents if they can help you list all of the things the children might learn about oranges.  As the parents think about it your list will grow and grow.  Children could learn about their shape, their size, their weight, their color, their texture, their taste, their design, their ability to roll, their ability to knock things over, their number, ect.  I have seen lists of over 30 things children could learn from a group of oranges.

Then, when your list is complete, suddenly remember that you forgot to buy oranges and that you will now have to substitute the real oranges with some plastic ones you have in your home-making area. Ask the parents to help you make up a new list of all of the things that the children could learn from plastic oranges.  Believe me your list will be much shorter this time, but the children would still be able to count them, roll them, learn their color and size.

Finally, remember that you loaned out your plastic oranges to another teacher and now, the best you can now do is to show a picture of oranges.  What would their list be like now?  Probably the best they could come up with would be one, counting oranges.

When working with preschoolers, real hands-on experiences are always best!