Understanding the cognitive abilities of your students will enhance your capabilities as a teacher and promote student learning. Psychologist Jean Piaget’s stages of cognitive development provide a basis for understanding how students learn at different stages of childhood. The concrete operational stage of development extends from seven to ten years of age. When teaching this age group, using cognitively appropriate strategies will enhance student learning.

Hands-on Activities

Piaget theorized that children in the concrete stage of development are active and curious. Incorporating hands-on activities in which students can experiment with objects will help them begin to make observations and understand multiple aspects of how things work. For example, a student uses a glass liquid measuring cup to measure one cup of water, then pours the cup into two half-cup measures; at this stage, students will begin to make the connection that the same amount of water can be measured in two different ways. Hands-on activities such as science experiments and crafting can help students discover the meanings of concepts using their previous knowledge and logical thought.

Props and Visual Aids

Children in Piaget's concrete operational stage also begin to make connections between different concepts. Presenting information in multiple ways allows concepts to become more meaningful to them. Graphical representations, such as Venn diagrams when making comparisons and timelines when illustrating historical events, can illustrate ideas. Props and demonstrations such as spinners, paper folding and blocks can illustrate mathematical concepts.

Build on Existing Knowledge

Piaget’s theory, often referred to as constructivism, infers that children use their existing knowledge to interpret their new experiences. In the concrete stage, students still rely on concrete materials and situations they have already experienced when interpreting new information. Using real-life examples helps students relate topics to prior knowledge. For example, introducing fractions can include relating them to measurements used in a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Children can order fractions using different measuring utensils to illustrate greater and lesser amounts in the recipe.

Challenge to Promote Growth

According to Piaget, children in the concrete operational stage begin to make logical connections between concepts. In the later years of the concrete operational stage, they will begin to think in abstract terms, using logic. Students can explore their abilities with challenging logic problems and brainteasers. Open-ended questions also stimulate abstract thinking.