Helping Children Take the Lead

As teachers, we often hope that working in projects will provide opportunities for every child in our class to feel ownership and take initiative in a class project. However, we sometimes lack confidence about how to get these kinds of things to happen. Following are some suggestions for possible ways to help children take initiative in various aspects of a project.

It is helpful to select a topic that children can investigate without assistance from adults. When deciding on a project topic, ask yourself, “Are direct experiences with it accessible? Can the children touch it, manipulate it, pretend about it, measure or count aspects of it?” If the topic is an abstract idea or theme, such as “transportation” or “friendship,” children are less likely to know how to investigate it on their own.

When a child is not used to taking initiative, consider offering prompts. For example, if the class is investigating insects from the playground, you might suggest to a child that she take a container to the playground and search for insects to add to the habitat in the science area. By acknowledging the child’s efforts, you can increase the likelihood that she will take the initiative in the future.

In addition to asking the children what they want to find out about a topic, consider asking them “how” they would like to find out. What materials do they think would help? Who will they ask for advice?

Sallee Beneke Sallee Beneke

An experienced implementer of the Project Approach with young children, Sallee enjoys helping others learn to implement the approach. Ms. Beneke is the author of Rearview Mirror: Reflections on a Preschool Car Project, coauthor of Windows on Learning: Documenting Young Children’s Work, Second Edition, and coeditor of The Power of Projects: Meeting Contemporary Challenges in Early Childhood Classrooms—Strategies & Solutions, as well as several articles related to the Project Approach and documentation. Currently an associate professor at St. Ambrose University, Sallee is interested in the potential of the Project Approach to support the inclusion of diverse learners in prekindergarten classrooms.
(Biography current as of 2018)

About this resource

Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
  • Preschool Program

Intended audience(s):
  • Faculty / Trainer
  • Teachers / Service providers

Age Levels (the age of the children to whom the article applies):
  • Preschoolers (Age 3 Through Age 5)

Revised: 2008