Introducing Vygotsky: A Guide for Practitioners and Students in Early Years Education

Introducing Vygotsky: A Guide for Practitioners and Students in Early Years Education

Introducing Vygotsky: A Guide for Practitioners and Students in Early Years Education

Introducing Vygotsky: A Guide for Practitioners and Students in Early Years Education


Sandra Smidt takes the reader on a journey through the key concepts of Lev Vygotsky, one of the twentieth century's most influential theorists in the field of early education. His ground-breaking principles of early learning and teaching are unpicked here using every-day language, and critical links between his fascinating ideas are revealed.

Introducing Vygotskyis an invaluable companion for anyone involved with children in the early years. The introduction of Vygotsky's key concepts is followed by discussion of the implications of these for teaching and learning. Each chapter also includes a useful glossary of terms.

This accessible text is illustrated throughout with examples drawn from real-life early years settings and the concepts discussed include:

  • mediation and memory
  • culture and cultural tools
  • mental functions
  • language, concepts and thinking
  • activity theory
  • play and meaning.

Essential reading for all those interested in or working with children, Introducing Vygotskyemphasises the social nature of learning and examines the importance of issues such as culture, history, language, and symbols in learning.


This book has been written particularly for the many people who work with or care for young children and find it difficult to understand the work of one of the most important theorists in the field of early education – that of the great Russian thinker Lev Vygotsky. His work is difficult to understand partly because we only have access to it in translation and partly because it is full of wonderful ideas and theories which are difficult to unpack because they are written in dense and academic language. More than that, even those who have written about his work tend to keep to that academic language, which often means that the lay reader has to keep referring back to a dictionary. This makes the reading slow and laborious and, in my experience, many readers just give up. In writing this ‘beginner’s guide’ I have often found myself trying to find a way into explaining something which is difficult to understand using everyday language. But – just like a young child – my interest in the subject and my great admiration for Vygotsky have kept me on-task, and I find myself now more able to think about the work of Vygotsky without continually having to refer to a text. In trying to ‘teach’ you about his work I have become aware of my own knowledge of the subject and have started to be able to think more abstractly. Much of what we say about young learners applies to learning throughout life. Tackling something new successfully often depends on previous experience and access to useful cultural tools. At the end of this book I hope you will understand this.

The book looks at some of the key themes in the work of Vygotsky, particularly those that apply to learning and to teaching. You will notice some words or phrases in italic script. These are key words or ideas and you may find the individual words in the glossary at the end of each chapter. Here the words are explained and their relevance to teaching and learning indicated. Each chapter ends with a brief closing section called ‘Looking back, looking ahead’. This summarises what has been covered in the chapter and explains what will be dealt with in the next chapter. This is a technique to allow you to both reflect on what you have read and think about what is coming.

For me, writing this book has been a challenging, involving and satisfying task. It has been challenging because making the incomprehensible comprehensible . . .

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