What Is Cognitive Development?

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What Is Cognitive Development?
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What Is Cognitive Development?

Cognitive development is the growth of intellectual skills, such as language, imagination, mathematical concepts, and problem solving. Skills in this area include:

  • Identifying physical properties of people, places, things, and events
  • Grouping, classifying, and matching
  • Comparing, identifying likes and differences
  • Ordering, seriating, patterning, and sequencing
  • Number concepts
  • Attention
  • Memory
  • Trial and error
  • Cause and effect

Children develop understanding of concepts about themselves, others, and the world around them through observation, interacting with people and real objects, using all of their senses, and seeking solutions to concrete problems. Learning about math, science, social studies, health, and other content areas is integrated through meaningful activities such as:

  • Building with blocks
  • Measuring sand, water, or ingredients for cooking
  • Observing changes in the environment
  • Working with wood and tools
  • Sorting objects for a purpose
  • Exploring animals, plants, water, wheels, and gears
  • Singing and listening to music from various cultures
  • Drawing, painting, and working with clay

A child’s cognitive development is measured not only by what information the child knows but also includes whether a child has the self-confidence and skills to explore, try out new ideas, and take on new challenges.

Piaget’s Cognitive Development

Piaget theorized that cognitive development occurs in the process of biological maturity and interaction with the environment. He wasn’t interested in measuring I.Q. but rather how concepts such as number, time, and quantity emerged during the children’s learning. The chart below gives examples of how Piaget’s theory would look like in the learning environment:

Piaget’s Cognitive Abilities – Observation in the Learning Environment

Classification The child can sort things into groups of the same and different. – For example, give the child some objects and ask him or her to put them in two piles of things that are the same and things that are different. Describe what you observed a child sort and what were the attributes of the piles.

One-to-One Correspondence The child can match two groups of objects, lining up one object of one group with one and only one of the other group. – Ask a child, for instance, to put one glass for snack for each chair at the table. Describe what you observed a child match and whether he or she could match one-to-one and only one.

Conservation of Number The child understands that the way the objects are arranged does not affect their quantity. – For example, put a bunch of 5 colored bears together and spread 5 more colored bears in a line. Ask the child which group has more bears? Record what the child does and says. Try again with different objects or one cup of water in a wide jar and one cup in a tall, narrow jar.

Seriation The child can arrange objects or ideas sequentially, according to a specific attribute. – For example, ask a child to arrange a set of Cuisenaire rods from the shortest to the tallest. Record what the child says and does.

Causality The child has some comprehension of cause and effect relationships, such as the relation between the weather and how one dresses or how baking transforms dough into cookies. – Record incidents in which you observe children understanding or not understanding cause and effect.

Artificialism The child assumes natural things were created for human means, such as the sun is shining so we can go on a picnic today. – Record the child’s conversations or comments that suggest a sense of artificialism.

Space The child has some awareness of how things are located in space and in relationship. – Record the child’s experiences with space and relationships.

Time The child has some awareness of past, present, future, and duration. – Does the child have a sense of before, during, after? Record an example.

Cognitive Skills in the Learning Environment

Cognitive development promotes the child’s ability to think, reason, and solve problems. Every experience leads to stimulation of cognitive development. Through their natural curiosity, children explore their world and act upon what they find. The educator’s goal should be to provide a learning environment that nurtures and stimulates this process. Are they allowed to explore their world or is it stored out of reach? Adults have a common misconception that children think like adults. Allowing them to explore real objects and role-play develops their understanding of the abstract. They begin to ask “what if…” and begin to move away from the literal.



EEC4005, Module 03 Course Project

Lesson Plan Template


When you create your lesson, you will use this template to design the activity. Be sure to fill in ALL sections of the Lesson Plan Template. Provide in-text citations and a reference page in APA format. Do not make changes or remove anything from the template as it is already formatted in Times New Roman 12-point font. An example is provided in a separate document. Remember to complete one plan for EACH age group provided in the assignment instructions. (Age groups very with each assignment) Start each lesson plan on a new page. (REMOVE THESE INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE SUBMITTING)

Please complete all sections following the arrows even direction headings

Your Name:

Specific Age/Level of Students:


Length of Activity:

Developmental Domain(s) Covered:

Activity Title:


Goals (Connect with citation to the “Developmental Traits” handout):











Rational: (Connect with citation to State Standards for Early Learning) DAP Rationale: (Connect with citations to NAEYC Developmentally Appropriate Practice Guidelines)







Lesson Activities and Steps

In this column, describe the details of your plan.


Materials & Resources

In this column, indicate what materials you will use. Think about the Physical Development Checklist Created in Module 1.


Measurable Assessment of Activity (provide at least 2 examples):








Assessment Tools (Think about the Physical Development Checklist Created in Module 1 .)



Procedures (Introduction, Main, Closing – Step-by-Step)


Introduction of Activity:





Main Activity:






Closing the Activity:









Materials/Resources Needed (What resources or materials will you use? Be specific.)



Activity Extension: How will you extend the learning after the activity has been accomplished by the children (what is the next goal)?




Materials for Extension: What items will be needed for the extension?



Evaluation and Reflection (Response Required) Take time to reflect and evaluate your current lesson plan. Provide a substantial response to each of the following questions:


· How does this activity align with the developmental needs of children for your selected age group? Be specific in your response (connect with citations to the DAP and State Standards listed at the beginning of the plan).





· How does this activity support the specified developmental domain? (Connect with citations to the Developmental Traits/Goals of Activity from the beginning of the plan.)




· How could this activity be modified to meet the specific learning needs of individual children, such as children with special needs and/or language barriers? Give at least 2 examples.







Lesson Plan Example


When you create your lesson, you will use this template to design the activity. Be sure to fill in ALL sections on this chart.


Your Name: Susan Student

Age/Level of Students: 3-5 years (remember you will have ONE plan for EACH age group)

Date: 07/10/17

Length of Activity: 20 minutes

Developmental Domain(s) Covered: Language Development

Activity Title: What Tools do they Use?



These should be in the form of action statements:

By completing this activity, children will demonstrate new vocabulary words by using them in the activity as well in their general activities throughout the day.



Connect your state or national learning standards here. For Example:


According to the Indiana Foundations Standard ELA 4.150 Uses new vocabulary learned through experiences (IDOE, 2012), this activity supports accessing new vocabulary words through a fun activity. It is essential for children to build their vocabulary for future language learning (High Scope, 2015).


DAP (Developmentally Appropriate Practice) Rationale:

How do you know this is DAP? According to what standards will you know this activity is developmentally appropriate? For Example:



DAP (Developmentally Appropriate)

This activity meets the three criteria for DAP in the following ways:

1. Knowing about child development learning – fits with the developmental criteria in LA for children aged 3-5.

2. Knowing what is individually appropriate – the activity will have multiple levels of challenge.

3. Knowing what is culturally important – the activity will have no bias representation of community helpers.

DAP section 3.C.2

In their planning and follow-through, teachers use the curriculum framework along with what they know (from their observation and other assessment) about the children’s interests, progress, language proficiency, and learning needs. They carefully shape and adapt the experiences they provide children to enable each child to reach the goals outlined in the curriculum (p. 21)

(NAEYC, 2009)




Assessment of Prior Knowledge

How will you assess the student’s prior knowledge in order to do this activity successfully? What skills are needed to complete this activity and how will you know they have these skills? For Example:


The children have completed many different matching activities prior to this, and have a clear understanding of how they work







Lesson Activities and Steps

In this column, describe the details of your plan.


Materials & Resources

In this column, indicate what materials you will use.


Assessment of Activity


How will you know that the students have met the goals that you have for them? What will you look for? How will you know it was a success? For example:


A self-checking tool will be included for the children to use. As part of the KWL process, children will review what they have learned and the chart will be posted at the end of the unit. As children complete the activity, a teacher created checklist will be completed to demonstrate progress and/or areas for further development.



Assessment Tools


Is there a tool you will use to show how students did with this activity? Tools can be a variety of methods, including observations or a sample of the child’s work. For example:


The Know, Want to Know, Learned documentation chart method will be used to determine the content of the assessment. A simple self-checking tool will be created for children to check their own work. Written documentation will be a checklist for each child’s progress.



Indicate in great detail how you will do this activity. This should be a step-by-step guide to follow. If you were to pass this to another teacher (for example, if you were sick and a sub was taking over for you), would the teacher be able to carry out the activity based on your directions?

Before you begin you should think about:

How will you start?

How will you gain the children’s attention?

What materials will you need to gather?

What specific statements would you use to introduce the activity?

What prep work will you need to do beforehand?


Main Activity

Write step-by-step procedures of how you will do this activity. Be VERY specific.

Indicate what the teacher should say and do.

Indicate what you want the children to do.


Closing the Activity

What will you do to let the children know the activity has ended? Do you have specific words to use?

Will the children have to help clean up?

Do they need to transition to another activity? For example, if they will go outside, how will you keep them engaged while you wrap up the activity and move them to the next stage?




· This activity will be preceded by an introduction to the unit, an overview of the community helpers being studied, and books, songs, and finger plays that build the background knowledge needed.

· The children’s attention and interest will be drawn through investigation into the people who help us in our community, and in our classroom.

· The activity will be a result of our field trip to visit local community helpers.

Main Activity

· Step 1 – Children will learn about the various community helpers through stories and other activities in the classroom. Children will compile a list of community helpers they want to explore and will complete a “pre-test” of matching tools to helpers.

· Step 2 – Children will go on a field trip of community helpers and will be equipped with cameras to document their experiences.

· Step 3 – When children’s pictures are brought back to the classroom, we will sort them according to each helper. Children will then identify the appropriate tools/materials used for each one.

· Step 4 – Children will assist the teacher in making a matching game for each helper.

· Step 5 – Children will work in small groups to match tools (ranging from easy to more complicated) to the appropriate helper.

Closing the Activity

· Children will know they have successfully completed the activity when they can appropriately identify all the tools to the helper. A self-check chart will be provided for each level.

· The activity can be repeated as often as needed or desire lasts and will be presented as a tray-task for easy set-up and clean-up.

· Children will be able to transition to another activity such as the dress-up area to further cement the concept (Christie, Enz, & Vukelich, 2011).


Materials/Resources Needed


What resources or materials will you use?


List the specific materials and resources you will use in this section. Think of this as a recipe and include the ingredients.




· Community Helpers Books, Songs, Finger Plays

· Classroom Helpers Chart

· Field trip locations/plans

· Disposable cameras for children’s use

· Pictures of community helpers and the materials/tools they use.

· Laminating supplies for durability of the activity and repetitive use.

· Task trays


Activity Extension:


How will you extend the learning after the activity has been completed?


How can you connect this to another learning center or activity for children to continue promoting the developmental goals? Think of challenges you can add as children successfully complete the initial activity. For example:


This activity will be extended in all the other interest areas such as dress up clothes/tools in the dramatic play area, exploration of using those tools in the science area and block area, etc.


Materials for Extension:


Will other items be needed for the extension?


List materials, resources, support needed to extend the learning activity. For example:


Tools and duplicates of tools for each of the additional areas in the classroom.

Evaluation and Reflection (Response Required)


Take time to reflect and evaluate your current lesson plan. Provide a substantial response to each of the following questions:

· How does this activity align with the developmental needs of children for your selected age group? Be specific in your response. Example:


According to NAECY (2009) and the Indiana foundations (2012), the activity meets the needs of children aged 3-5 accessing new vocabulary through experiences. The experience of matching the tools to the appropriate community helper encourages children to not only speak the names of the tools, but also exposes them to the written form of each.


· How does this activity support the specified developmental domain? Example:


First words are an essential piece of language development. By exposing the children to these introductory words, the process of developing vocabulary begins, and is further developed through the activity extensions. (Christie, Enz, & Vukelich, 2011).


· How could this activity be modified to meet the specific learning needs of individual children? Example:


Changes may need to be made to adapt for children with special needs, although none of the children in our program have any identified needs. The challenge will be to provide enough of a challenge in variety for the multi-age range.



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