Academic journal article Childhood Education

Nurturing Children's Concepts of Time and Chronology through Literature

Academic journal article Childhood Education

Nurturing Children's Concepts of Time and Chronology through Literature

Article excerpt

Time is an emerging concept during childhood. According to the Geography Education Standards Project (as cited in Banks & Banks, 1999), "The development of a mature sense of time and chronology is a slow, complex, sequential, and cumulative task" (p. 145). At first, children's concept of time is rather vague. For example, one mother, in discussing with her 4-year-old daughter the deeds of the notorious James gang, took the child to see the monument erected to mark the spot of the James gang's first train robbery. The girl asked, "Oh, Mother, did you see it?," as if it were a recent event, instead of something that happened nearly a century before.

Banks and Banks suggest that the goal for teaching time concepts and chronology in the elementary and middle school years should be to nurture students' ability to understand and interpret time concepts and comprehend how past and present events are interrelated. Inhelder and Piaget (1962) conclude that children's understanding of time is related to intellectual growth and interaction with the environment (Wadsworth, 1996). Others suggest that children's social and cultural backgrounds and their familiarity with tasks and situations may contribute to their understanding of time (Donaldson, 1979). Gardner (1983) considers that differences in emerging thinking abilities, including concepts about time, are related to different intelligences.

Banks and Banks explain that young children's difficulty with understanding time involves relationship concepts. Such concepts define a particular association between attributes or distinguishing characteristics. Young children lack sufficient experiences with the basic facts related to time, and with abstracting these facts to establish a relationship. Implicit in the researchers' statement is the importance of home and school environments, rich in such experiences, where adults and children interact based primarily on their experiences.

By ages 10 and 11, students have gained an increased understanding of time and the chronology of past events. By the middle school years (ages 12-14), many students have developed the ability to understand time concepts fully (Inhelder & Piaget, 1962). Whatever the factors involved, some children will develop time and chronology concepts earlier than Inhelder and Piaget have suggested, and some will take longer to develop these concepts.

For lessons concerning the past, Garcia and Michaelis (2001) encourage teachers to nurture children's habits of the mind (e.g., historical empathy, universality of humankind, and appreciation of cultural diversity). Within the social studies program as well as in other areas of the curriculum, these knowledges, values, and behaviors are encouraged through student-teacher interaction (Vygotsky, 1962) and peer discussions (Almasi, 1996; Gambrell, 1996).

Discussions of quality literature from different genres can serve as a basis for connecting children to experiences in the past and support their developing sense of time and chronology. Such experiences in the primary grades nurture sequencing ability and help children develop a sense of order and time. This age group enjoys stories of the recent past as well as those about long ago. Such literature experiences also help primary grade students begin to understand that individuals may have different viewpoints about the past and to see relationships between human decisions and consequences. As middle grade students study history, they can expand their knowledge of the past and of historical concepts and inquiry. They can begin to recognize and appreciate that differences in historical perspectives are influenced by individuals' experiences, societal values, and cultural traditions (National Council for the Social Studies [NCSS], 1994).

The following suggestions for literature experiences representing different genres progress from early childhood to middle school years and the authors believe they support children's emerging time and chronology understandings. …

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