I have some very strong feelings about developmental milestones in terms of assessment and education. Developmental milestones serve us by providing a broad picture of the tasks we would expect a child of a certain age to be able to perform. They range from gross and fine motor skills, to social, language and cognitive functioning. The age at which a child successfully passes through each developmental milestone varies with the uniqueness of the child.
Developmental milestones are helpful because they serve as a barometer of sorts. If we know which skills are likely to develop in a sequence, then we can plan instruction accordingly. You wouldn't expect a baby to ride a bike before they learn to walk or ask a child to read a book before they can identify letters. In this way, developmental milestones are extremely useful.
However, I take issue when they are used to label children. When the child who is making progress every single day along this continuum is thought 'less of' than a child who moves through each stage with ease.
Parents can worry and fret that their child is 'behind' and therefore ignore their brilliance.
We have a student this year who is making amazing strides every day. It is a struggle. Identifying letters and numbers is a challenge.
He is fidgety and does not always focus. He prefers 'hands-on' manipulation of objects that involve kinestic and tactile elements.
He stretches our thinking. And today on this snowy, cold day we found an activity that worked for him. It involves paper plates, the number line and a marker.
We gave him 20 paper plates. On each plate was written a number 1-20. We told him to throw the plates high into the air so that they landed all over the rug. He liked this. He was then asked to order the plates from 1-20 using the number line to help him if he got stuck. This required him to go back to number 1 on the number line each time he was looking for the next number because he knows the numbers when he says them in order but not when asked to identify them on their own.
So today we celebrated this milestone. Numbers 1-6 are solid! It gets murky around number 13 but that will come. He'll get there.
The paper plate idea can also be used with students who are learning to use the 100s chart. In this case they are given 100 paper plates to throw up in the air and arrange in order from 1-100. As they place the plates in 10 rows they begin to notice the patterns, which is an important developmental milestone in itself.
By reading down the tens column they count by 10s. They will see that all the 4s in the ones place are in the same column (all the 2s, 3s, 5s, etc.). They learn to navigate rows and columns. What number comes after 20? Before 51? It is surprising how this simple 'game' can bring about so much learning.
I love when that happens!
Thanks Laurie for the idea.