Monday, May 14, 2012

In the Zone

In my last school I had a poster up in the lab that said:

I do, you watch
I do, you help
You do, I help
You do, I watch

I've started to think about how this ties in with Lev Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development.  Basically this is the area where learning takes place, it's the area between what a student can do alone (what he or she has already mastered) and what the student can do with adult support.  Vygotsky believed that children first learn by watching and then imitating adults, with assistance.  Over time children are able to do these things without assistance, and then increasingly can take on more and more challenging work.  Tasks that are too simple do not promote learning.  Tasks that are too complex are frustrating and no learning occurs.  Last week at our staff meeting the question was asked how often our students are "in the zone".  In an ideal situation, I suppose, they should be in the zone all the time.  What this means for a teacher is that each student has to be presented with a task that is just out of reach of his or her present abilities - this is different for everyone and so the work has to be differentiated.  The movie below explain this very well and it is something that I think we all need to consider when we plan our lessons.  With the above statements I guess that by the time you reach the last one, students are no longer in the zone and it's time to think of something more challenging for them.


  1. Or the you in the last sentence of your statement becomes the I in the first statement so that the child is now teaching/mentoring someone else. I say this because for Vygotsky the key was that the learner is "apprenticed", in a way, to the "teacher" who is more advanced than the learner in a particular area. So, we can all be teachers and learners at different times in our lives.

    1. Elisa, you are absolutely right! You learn or consolidate your learning by teaching others. I use this often - a student who has mastered something has the responsibility of helping someone else. I think of myself as both a teacher and a learner and you are right that students can think of themselves in this way too. Thanks for this insight and for taking the time to comment.