In the elementary classroom of today,what would be some possible, practical applications of cognitive development from Vygotsky's point of view?
One key principle of Vygotsky that is currently present in the classroom is the idea of "scaffolding." Whether labeled as such or not, this was Vygotsky's term for building new learning by using what the child already knows.
In lesson planning, elementary and middle school grades often use the K-W-L chart, which first looks at what the students already know about a subject in order to introduce something new. Even in a highschool classroom, an effective teacher plans to review, tap into prior knowledge, or utilize personal experience when introducing a new concept.
#2 makes a number of valid points regarding the various "zones" of learning that Vygotsky points towards in his writings. Above all, for me, Vygotsky points towards the way that each child is different and the different speeds that they have in terms of grasping new ideas should be understood and catered for. Any idea of producing standards that dictate what children should know at a certain stage in their lives are therefore highly questionable. These standards if they are used at all should be used as general guidelines rather than a stick to beat children with (metaphorically) if their rate of learning is not as quick as other children's rate of learning.
Vygotsky's theories are easily applicable in elementary school. Think, for example, of the "zone of proximate development (ZPD)." A child who is not yet able to identify symbols as representing sounds cannot be moved on to the idea that these symbols will combine into words. That is simply too big a stretch. However, the child who understands that symbols stand for sounds is ready for the next stage, which is combing those symbols and sounds into words. Similarly, the child who understands that numbers represented quantities is in the ZPD in which he or she may, with assistance, begin to learn that one can add or subtract quantities with the use of numeric symbols. All learning must connect to something that is already present in the brain, and the idea is that trying to teach a child who does not possess a sufficient foundation will end in frustration and mostly failure. Simply put, Vygotsky's ZPD could be characterized as "baby steps." Elementary school teachers put this theory into practice in all content areas. What kinds of examples can you think of in science, art, or physical education? A child who has an understanding of the solar system can now grasp the concept of the rotation of the earth. A child who can draw two-dimensionally might be ready to learn to draw in three dimensions. The child who knows how to swing at a ball with hands should be able to learn to connect with the ball with an extension such as a bat or racket.