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Tools of the Mind: A Vygotskian based early

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Tools of the Mind: A Vygotskian-
Based Early Chlldhood Curriculutn

Elena Bodrova
Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning .

Deborah J. Leong
Center for the lmprovement of Early Learning
at Metropolitan State College of Denver

Tools oftbe Mind is a comprehensive early childhood currículum for children

in preschool and kindergarten that explicitly foclises on the role of self-regula-
tion in learning and academic ability. The Tools currículum uses both specijic
activities that promote self-regulation and embeds self-regulation strategies
into the content of academic activities. Based on the Vygotskian approach,
Tools helps teachers use mediators, language, and shared activities to support
the intemalization of cognitive tools which help children attend, solve prob-
lems, plan, and remember. At the core of the programare strategies designed
to promote the development of mature make-believe play. These strategies,
along with carefully planned activities designed to "amplify" social-emotion-
al and cognitive skills, enables Tools to support the multiple facets of school
readiness. Allactivities are designed to be multilevel so that teachers can meet
the needs of children of varying abilities within the class. The profession-
al development program also follows the Vygotskian approach, scaffolding
teacher learning through a system of coaching, workshops, and self-reflection
activities designed to provide teachers with an understanding of learning pro-
cesses and specific instructional tactics. The article describes the theory
underlying Tools and gives examples of typical activities along with a de-
scription of the professional development program.

KeyWords: Vygotsky, self-regulation, make-believe play, scaffolding school readiness

Early Childhood Services

Volume 3, Number 3, pp. 245-262 245
Copyright © 2009 Plural Publishing, Inc.

Tools of the Mind is a comprehensive audiences than the ideas of Vygotsky him-
early childhood currículum for children in self. Tools of the Mind is one of the first at-
preschool and kindergarten that explicit- tempts in the United States to create a com-
ly focuses on the role of self-regulation in prehensive Vygotskian-based currículum
learning and academic abllity by using spe- that could be used in early childhood class-
cific activities that promote self-regulation rooms. Although Vygotskian-based currícula
and by embedding self-regulation promot- have been designed for older students (Cam-
ing activities in instruction designed to build pione & Brown, 1990; Newman, Griffirt, &
foundational skills in literacy, mathematics Cole, 1989; Tharp & Gallimore, 1989) most
and social-emotional competence. of the previous attempts to use Vygotskian-
To date, Tools of the Mind has been based pedagogy with younger children were
implemented in 600 early childhood class- limited to individual instructional strategies
rooms including public and prívate pre- (e.g., "Elkonin blocks") or focused on only
schools, Head Start, Even Start, as well as one type of scaffolding (e.g., teacher-assist-
half-day and full-day kindergarten and has ed leaming in one-on-one setting).
been aligned with early learniÍlg standards
and kindergarten academic standards in 9
states and 40 districts, serving over 25,000 Vygotsky's Cultural-
children. Tools ofthe Mind training staff de- Historical Approach
livered professional development and tech- .
nical assistance to 2,000 teachers, teacher
Vygotskian approach holds that human
assistants, administrators, and support staff development involves a complex interplay
with their educational levels varying from
between the processes of natural develop-
high school to advanced degrees. ment determined biologically and the pro-
Tools of the Mind curricula designed for cesses of cultural development brought
preschool and kindergarten have been de- about by the interactions of the growing in-
veloped using the Vygotskian theoretical ap- dividual with other people and cultural arti-
proach to development and instruction with facts. In more practica! terms, it means that
content matching the developmental trajecto- although sorne leaming .cannot occur un-
ries of self-regulation, children's intellectual til the developmental prerequisites are in
capacities, and national and state standards. In place, such as in case of children not being
this article we will discuss the preschool pro- able to read until they reach certain level of
gram. lnformation about kindergarten curríc- development of their oral language, the op-
ulum and the differences betWeen the kinder- posite is also true: certain developments in
garten and preschool program are available cognitive, social, or language areas do not
on the web: simply emerge as a result of maturation but
rather depend on what a child leams. Based
on research done on children of different ag-
Tools of the Mind es raised in different cultures, Vygotsky con-
Theoretical Orientation: The eludes tliat sorne developments that were
Vygotskian Approach to previously thought to be universally pres-
Development and Learning ent in a certain age, such as the abllity to
use abstract reasoning, in reality are an out-
growth of a very specific kind of lea.ming ex-
Tools ofthe Mind is grounded in the Vy- periences typicany associated with formal
gotskian Cultural-Historical theory of devel- schooling (Vygotsky, 1987). In the course
opment. The currículum also incorporales of formal schooling, teachers teach -and
the contributions of post-Vygotskians such as students leam-a specific system of mental
Daniel Elk:onin and Alexander Zaporozhets tools that brings these students' cognitive
whose ideas are less familiar to the Westem development to a qualitatively different lev-

eL For example by learning to see isolated as well as emotions. In addition to the trans- .
objects as a part of a larger class or category, formation of the cbild's cognitive process-
children develop logical thinking. es, early childhood is a critica! period in the
Consistent with his view of development child's learning to become the "the master
as being culturally determined, Vygotsky be- of his or her behavior" -in other words, in
lieved that the role of the teacher is more developing self-regulation. According to Vy-
than teaching facts and sk:ills-teachers can gotsky, the early childhood years culminate
actually shape children's development by in the child overcoming the dependence on
helping them acquire the mental tools of the environmental stimuli and becoming ca-
their culture (Grigorenko, 1998). Although pable of intentional behaviors through the
believing, similar to other constructivist ed- use of self-regulatory private speech and
ucators, that children construct their own through participation in make-believe play
understandings and do not passively repro- (Vygotsky, 1956, 1967).
duce what is presented to them, Vygotsky,
however, saw this process not so much
as construction as coconstruction. In oth- Application of Vygotskian
er words, each individual child's c:onstruc- and Post-Vygotskian Ideas to
tion of knowledge always takes place in a Early Childhood Education
cultural context and is always mediated, di-
rectly or indirectly, by other people (Kar-
While many of the most well known
pov, 2005). In the classroom setting, for ex- principies ofthe Cultural-Historical theory-
ample, a teacher can directly affect a child's such as the relationship between teaching/
construction of knowledge by focusing the learning and development, the importance
child's attention on a specific object or by of make-believe play, and the evolution of
using specific words. The teacher can also oral speech from public to private-are of-
affect the child's construction ofknowledge ten discussed in the context of the devel-
in an indirect way by orchestrating the con- opment of young children, Vygotsky's own
text for this child's interactions with other writing usually provides only general guide-
children or by providing certain instruction- lines on how these ideas could be imple-
al materials. mented to improve early childhood educa-
tion. The place to look for more practica!
insights is the work of post-Vygotskians,
Vygotsky's Theory of Child from Vygotsky's colleagues and students
Development in Early Childhood who later developed their own theories to
third and fourth gel).eration Vygotsky schol-
Describing child development during ars who have continued to carry out the Vy-
preschool and kindergarten years, Vygotsky gotskian tradition by adding to the work of
views the child's mind as a dynamic system their mentors. Tools of the Mind applies the
of mental functions with new higher men- Vygotskian approach to instructional prac-
tal functions emerging and changing al- tices in American classroom by building on
ready existing lower mental functions. The the work of Vygotsky as well as the work of
years before elementary school are the pe- these post-Vygotskians.
riod when lower mental· functions such as The contributions made by post-Vy-
reactive attention go through initial stages gotskians to the field of early childhood ed-
of development into focused, intentional at- ucation could be summarized in the idea of
tention. At this phase, the young children's amplification of child development (Zaporo-
use of language and their ongoing acquisi- zhets, 1986). The term "amplification" was
tion of other cultural tools continue to trans- coined by Vygotsky's colleague and the
form perception and begin to transform at- founder of the All-Soviet Institute for Pre-
tention, memory, imagination, and thinking school Education, Alexander Zaporozhets

as the answer to the educators who thought colleagues limited their definition of play
that the preschool classroom should be de- to the dramatic or make-believe play of pre-
signed as a miniature copy of a primary class- schoolers and children of primary school
room with teaching methods and materials age. The Vygotskian definition of play does
modeled after the ones used by elementary not include such activities as object manip-
teachers. The idea of amplification also was ulations and explorations that are consid-
intended as an altemative to the notion of ered precursors to play and such activities
"spontaneous development" of young chil- as games and sports that are considered an
dren, the idea that development could not outgrowth of play. Consistent with the foun-
and should not be affected by instruction. dational ideas of the Cultural-Historical the-
Amplification focuses on the role of educa- ory, Vygotskians do not believe that play de-
tion in child development, emphasizing that velops spontaneously in all children once
properly designed educational interactions they reach preschool age but rather associ-
do not' stifle development of preschool chil- ate the level of play sophistication with the
dren but instead promote it, thus, present- certain features of a child's social situation
ing a logical extension of Vygotsky's princi- of development, namely the adult mediation
pie of instruction leading development. ofplay.
We use just three Vygotskian ideas to il- Not all play is equally beneficia! for the
lustrate the application of the principies of development of self-regulation. Current
the Cultural-Historical theory to preschool studies of the relationship between play
education. These three principies underlie and self-regulation confirm Vygotsky's belief
most of the materials, interactions, and ac- that make-believe play can improve self-reg-
tivities in the Tools of the Mind curriculum. ulation especially in highly impulsive, "hard
Make-believe play is the leading ac- to manage" children (Berk, Mann, & Ogan,
tivity of preschool and kindergarten-aged 2006). However, it happens only when chil-
children. For Vygotskians, certain activi- dren are able to create a joint :irtlaginary sit-
ties children engage in produce the greatest uation, take on the roles of various pretend
gains in development. Called "leading activi- characters, and act these out using imaginary
ties," they are age-specific and provide the props, language, and symbolic gestures.
best conditions for the acquisition of cogni- Sca.ffolded interactions are essential
tive and social competencies most critica! to children's learning. Although the term
for child development at this age (Chaiklin, "scaffolding" has a long history in the West
Hedegaard, & }ensen, 1999; Elkonin, 1977; of being associated with the Vygotsky's par-
Leont'ev, 1978). In addition, when engaged adigm, (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976) it is
in a leading activity appropriate for their not a term used either by Vygotsky himself
age, children develop prerequisites for the or by the post-Vygotskians. The closest term
competencies that make it possible for them found in the writings of the post-Vygotski-
to successfully participate in the leading ac- ans is "razvivajuschee obuchenije" (develop-
tivity specific to the next age leveL ing instruction) (Davydov, 1990), which pro-
Make-believe play is the leading activity vides an important link between Vygotsky's
of preschool and kindergarten-aged children theory of leaming and development and its
whereas the students of primary grades en- classroom applications. We will continue
gage in the activity of intentional leaming to use the term "scaffolding" to adhere to
(frequently referred to as the "leaming ac- the Westem tradition, but will specify sorne
tivity"). Vygotskians cite multiple benefits characteristics of this process that will make
of young children's engagement in high-lev- it more consistent with the Vygotskian view
el make-believe play focusing especially on on the relationship between instruction and
play's contributions to children's develop- development.
ing symbolic thinking and self-regulation. In Scaffolding interactions are used in the
their writings, however, Vygotsky and his course of teaching to help a child move

from being assisted by an adult in perform- nal mediators, and symbolic representations
ing a new task to being able to perform this written or drawn by a child. According to Vy-
and similar tasks independently (Bodrova & gotsky, private speech in young children is
Leong, 2007). These interactions must fall a precursor to verbal thinking that serves as
within each individual's Zone of Proximal a carrier of thought at the time when most
Development so that they would support higher mental functions are not fully devel-
the very skills and knowledge that are on the oped (Vygotsky, 1987). As it was later found
edge of emergence (Vygotsky, 1978). When by Alexander Luria, (Luria, 1969) and then
providing scaffolding, an adult does not confirmed by many studies within and out-
make the task easier but instead makes the side Vygotskian framework, private speech
child's job easier by giving this child max- has another important function: it helps chil-
imum support in the beginning stages and dren regulate their behaviors, both overt and
then gradually withdrawing this support as mental (Berk, 1992; Winsler, De Leon, Wal-
the child' s mastery of a new skill increases lace, Carlton, & Willson-Quayle, 2003). EX-
(wood et al., 1976). An appropriate support tema! mediatol"S are another example of the
is the one that not only makes it easier for a first tools that are used by children. They in- .
child to complete a current task or brif:tgs to elude tangible objects, pictures of the ob-
the surface behaviors most mature to date, jects, and physical actions that children use
but plays a role in the child's "construction to ·gain control over their own behavior. Fi-
of mind," influencing the development of nally, children's early representations-sym-
· mental categories and processes responsi- bolic drawings (pictographs), scribbles, or
ble for the child's performance on a variety writing-were also found by the Vygotski-
of tasks. Thus, effective scaffolding should ans to act as the first tools that children use
provide only temporary support, needed to support their memory (Luria, 1983). Tools
until these new mental processes and cate- of tbe Mind curriculum expands children's
gories are fully developed and can be used repertoire of tools ·and provides new op-
by the child without any outside assistance portunities for children to use their existing
(Figure 1). From this perspective, scaffold- tools. For example, prior to going to the cen-
ing may exist in different formats ranging ters children are asked to draw a picture of
from teacher-child interactions when they where they will be and what they will play to
work on a task jointly, to teacher introduc- help them remember their play ideas.
ing child to a strategy or a "tool" the child Re-mediation is the core principie of
will be later able to use on his or her own, to special education. Vygotsky believed that
the teacher planning for a specific context children with disabilities follow a different
or environment where the child will be sup- developmental path than their typically de-
ported by other children (Bodrova & Leong, veloping peers with their disability affecting
2007; Campione & Brown, 1990; Wood et other areas of development in a complex
al., 1976). In Tools ofthe Mind classrooms, and systemic way. The major components
teachers provide scaffolding in a variety of that determine the course of development
formats and across various contexts not lim- for a child with a disability include the pri-
ited to academic tasks. For example, if a mary disability (e.g., visual impairment or
child has difficulty engaging in play because restricted movements) and the social con-
she cannot remember her role, the teacher text in which the child develops (Vygotsky,
may add props and a special costume piece 1993). This social context would determine
to help the child remember who she is. the extent to which this child would be
When applied to young children, scaf- considered (and will consider him/herself)
folding should focus on introducing chil- "disabled." As a result of the interaction be-
dren to the earliest strategies and "tools" tween the primary disability and the social
even young children can use on their own. context a secondary disability can develop.
Among these tools are private speech, exter- While the child's primary disabilities affect
Level ·
Assisted 3
.. ••

of Jo o writes her m.rte with supp:~rl

difficulty Joo oopi:!s hu nam.e independ.erd:ly.

Assisted 2 ~~' lndependent 3

Joo oopi:!s her m.rte with :ru.pp:~rl

Jo o tr<ees her nam.e independ.erd:ly

Assisted 1 lndependent 2

Joo tr<ees her nam.e w:il:h supporl

Jo o fm.ds her nam.e indepe:nderd:ly

lndependent 1

Beginning ofthe year End ofthe year

Figure l. The dynamics of scaffolding in the zone of proximal development.


primarily lower mental functions, secondary ing and development represented in the doc-
disabilities are the distortions of higher men- uments of professional organizations such as
tal functions. The reason for the secondary National Council ofTeachers of Mathematics
disabilities to develop is the fact that pri- (NCTM), lntemational Reading Association
mary disabilities often prevent a child from (IRA), and National Association for the Edu-
mastering cultural tools critical for engaging cation of Young Children (NAEYC). Each of
in social interactions. In tum, limited social the target competencies is addressed in three
interactions prevent the child from acquir- major contexts: in focal activities, the target
ing even more cultural tools, which even- concept or skill is systematically scaffolded
tually leads to systemic distortions in this by the teacher using a variety of teaching
child's mental functioning. strategies; in embedded· activities, the same
For Vygotsky and his students, the way skill or concept is introduced or practiced
to engage higher mental functions ·to com- in the. context of learning other concepts or
pensate for the deficiencies in lower mental skills; in make-believe play, the nature of in-
functions is by using specific mental tools. teractions between children provides opti-.
Since all mental tools work as mediators, mal context for children to practice newly
helping children gain control over their own acquired concepts or skills at the highest lev-
mental functions, replacing a set of tools that el (fable 1 presents examples of Tools of the
do not work for a child with a disability with Mind activities along with the competencies
another set can be called "remediation." they address).
The best known example of such re-medi- The following is an e4ample ofhow these
ation is teaching visually impaired children three contexts are used in the Tools of the
to use Braille symbols instead of regular let- Mind classrooms to promote the develop-
ters. Vygotsky's students extended this ap- ment of self-regulation. In focal self-regulation
proach to many other disabilities designit\g a~ivities, children are taught to use strategies
many disability-specific tools as well as strat- that have been empirically provento enhance
egies to teach these thus creating the sys- self-regulation, such as private speech (Berk,
tem of special education based on the ideas 1992; Luria, 1969; Vygotsky, 1987). Forexam-
of re-mediation. Tools of the Mind teachers ple, as children play a type of "Freeze" game
are trained in the use of re-mediation tech- where they move when the music plays and
niques with children who have special ed- "freeze" when it stops in the position por-
ucational needs. For example, a child with trayed on a card held up by the teacher. Chil-
speech and language delay who cannot re- dren are encouraged to ta1k to themselves
member enough about a role to play it dur- saying "dance" or "stop" so that they can
ing dramatic play may be offered a pictorial have better control of their movements and
sequence to help him remember what a fire- not get distracted by other children.
fighter does. An example of an embedded self-regula-
tion activity is "Buddy Reading," whose pri-
mary focus is teaching children about print.
Do:mains Addressed by the Children are to take tums "reading" to one
another. Initially, all want to "read"; none
Tools of the Mind Curriculu:m want to listen. To support self-regulatory be-
haviors, the teacher uses visual representa-
Tools of the Mind is an integrated cur- tions, giving one child in each pair a draw-
riculum with children acquiring foundation- ing of lips and the other child a drawing of
al competencies across basic domains and in an ear, explaining that "ears don't talk; ears
a variety of activities and interactions. Specif- listen." With the concrete drawing to refer
ic expectations for acquiring each of these back to, amazingly, preschoolers with the
competencies are established based on the ear inhibit talking, wait their tum, and lis-
current research on young children's leam- ten. Children then trade drawings and roles,
Table l. Sample of Tools ojthe Mind Activities by Domain

Examples of Target Skills jn Self-Regulation Example Currlculum Components That Support the Development of Self-Regulation
• Effortful Control: Ability to stop and think before you • Executive Function training is the primary focus: Children plan to play a specific role during make-believe play and
act, delaying gratification, acting appropriately when must remember to act and talk like that person until it is time for that child to choose another role.
tempted to act inappropriately • Executive Functions training is embedded in a broader context: Children work in pairs and take tums reading and
• Selective and Sustained attention: controlling your listening. One child is given a card with lips that means that that child is to read. The other child has a card with
attention so that you are not distracted an ear which means that the child listens. The children practice effortful control.
• Emotion Regulation: ability to control feelings of ·
anxiety or anger.

Examples of Target Skills in Literacy Example Curriculum Components That Support the Development of Literacy
• Phonemic/Phonological Awareness: Recognizing • Sound games based on Elkonin Boxes (Elkonin, ·1963) are used to teach children to identify and isolate specific
and manipulating phonemes and syllables within phonemes in a word (all phonemes in the word, first vs. last phorteme).
spoken words, including rhymes. • Children practice sound to symbol correspondences by using Scaffolded Writing (Bodrova & Leong, 1995). The
• Understanding and using sound to symbol writing technique is .modeled by the teacher and by mid-year, children begin to use it to identify the concept of
correspondence word, and practice sound to symbol correspondence to represent their own messages using letters to stand for
b; • Listening Comprehension: Being able to remember a initial sounds in words. ·
N storyline from a book, understanding the sequence of • Specifically designed Read Aloud activities are designed to teach children how to remember the story as well as
actions, able to discuss elements ofthe story-what think about aspects of the story, such as the events from different perspectives.
happened, who is the story about, etc.

Example of Target Skills in Mathematics Example Curriculum Components That Support the Development of Mathematics
• Numbers and Operations • Numbers and Operations: Activities are designed to give children practice in rote and meaningful counting in a
• Geometry number of contexts (Making Collections, Numerals Game, Timeline calendar, Number Line Hop Scotch, Tallying).
• Geometry: Using Venger Drawing and Block Building activities, children work with two- and three-dimensional shapes,
create drawings and representations using shapes, solve problems, discuss relative positions, and use shape vocabulary.

Example ofTarget Skills in Social-Emotional Examples of Curriculum Components That Support Social-Emotional Development
Development • Prosocial Skills: Children practice prosocial beh;lviors in the 14 cooperative/paired activities where children work
• Prosocial Skills: Understanding/demonstrating together to leam (Question ofthe Week; Mystery Games-Word, Letter, Number, Pattem; Paired Freeze Game;
positive social behavior including playing with Share the News; Buddy Reading; Story Discussions; Making Collections; Numerals Game; Science Eyes; Attribute
others, helping, sharing, taking tums. Game; and Make-Believe Play).
• Social Problem-Solving: The capacity to identify • Social Problem-Solving: Children practice social problem-solving during Make-Believe Play as the problems arise,
problems, suggest altemative solutions, negotiate children also practice pretend solutions to social problems that are contained in the storyline of the pretend play
with peers, and resolve conflicts with words. scenarios. Children discuss potential problems with other children during Share the News.

thus learning how to enact the social norms to establish both the child's current level of
of taking tums and waiting one's tum. achievement anda child's potential ability to
As make-believe play is considered by attain higher levels. Dynamic assessment is
the Vygotskians to be the context most an altemative to a typical assessment where
beneficia! for developing self-regulation, at- only the child's current competencies are
tention to play is one of the hallmarks of a measured and where any tester's interven-
Tools oftheMind curriculum. In Tools class- tion in the éhild's performance on the test
rooms, children spend a significant amount immediately renders the test results invalid.
of their day-around 60 minutes-playing In contrast, dynamic assessment treats the
and play is scaffolded and organized in a par- interactions between the child and the tes-
ticular way to ensure that children create ter as a valuable source of information about
an imaginary situation, act out well-defined a child's ability. Whefuused in a classroom,
roles and follow the rules built in the pre- Dynamic Assessment consists of a series of
tend scenario. Children are taught to think prompts and hints provided by the teacher
about their play scenario ahead of time and to probe children's skills and understandings
to generate a "Play Plan" representing what that are still "on the edge of emergence" (Vy-
they are going to do with their play part- gotsky, 1978). Skills and understandings that
ners. The teacher scaffolds children as they children demonstrate as a result of minimal
verbalize and draw their plans encouraging assistance are considered closer to being de-
them to specify who will do what and what veloped and are then chosen as a focus of
will happen when. Teachers also provide immediate instruction.
support as children are role-playing, helping
them to engage in other-regulation and self-
regulation when monitoring their own and Linking Assessment to Scaffolding
others' play actions in regards to the rules of
the play (Elkonin, 1978; Vygotsky, 1967). Teachers in the Tools classrooms use the
results of Dynamic Assessment to determine
whích scaffolding strategy works best with
Tools of the Mind Pedagogy: each individual child or with a group of chil-
Dynamic Assessment and Scaffolding dren with like needs. All activities are multi-
level and by design contain scaffolds for the
developmental trajectory of the skill being
The pedagogy used by Tools ofthe Mind
practiced. These scaffolds are described in
teachers is based on the concept of individ-
the Teacher Manual and taught to the teach-
ualized scaffolding within each child's Zone ers during the training sessions. For exam-
of Proximal Development (ZPD) that the ple, for Play Planning activity, teachers pro-
teacher has determined through Dynamic vide different scaffolding for children who
Assessment. are only able to describe their plan orally
(scaffolding vocabulary development and
sentence structure), for those who can
Dynamic Assessment represent their plan in a picture (scaffold-
ing symbolic representation), and for those
An essential part of instruction in the who begin to write down their plan using
Tools classroom is the teachers' use of Dy- letters (Figures 2 and 3). For this last cate-
namic Assessment techniques to identify gory of children, scaffolding is differentiated
whether or not children need more or less even further to address children at different
assistance, and to identify the primary lan- points of their literacy acquisition: teachers
guage most likely to be the one most effec- will work on one-to-one correspondence be-
tive for support. Dynamic assessment "takes tween written and spoken words with sorne
into account the results of an intervention" children and on the specific associations be-
(Stemberg & Grigorenko, 2002) and is used tween letters and sounds with the others.
Figure 2. Example of scaffolded
writing and dynamic assessment
during play planning. Sample J.
The child is unable to draw a pic-
ture of himself. The teacher has
circled P standing for Picture in
the box signifying that during
Dynamic Assessment, the teach-
er worked on the child trying to
represent his message on paper
through drawing. This plan was
made in September. The writing
is the teacher's. The child dic-
tated the message "Quiero pin-
tar." The teacher gave the child
a choice to have the message in
Spanish and English and the child
chose both. Hence, the teacher
also wrote "1 am going to paint."


Figure 3. Example of scaffolded writing and dynamic assessment during
play planning. Sample 2. The same child as in Sample 1 in May. The child
now draws representing what he will do in the center. The child uses Scaf-
folded Writing to represent "1 am going to the water table" with a line rep-
resentillg each word and invented spelling "1 M Go To F W T" written to-
tally independently. The writing under the lines is the teacher's. The letter
S circled in the box indicates that during Dynamic Assessment the teacher
worked on Sounds,-the ending sound in "water"-but the child did not
respond to scaffolding.


Accom.modations for Children letter and has the child write the
with Special Needs other letters.
A cbild who has difficulty copying bis
Because of the emphasis on scaffold- or ber name from a teacber's sample:
ing, Tools of the Mind activities are de- l. If a child has difficulty copying his
signed to accommodate the entire range of or her name when the sample is
development in the preschool setting. Chil- placed far away or on the side, the
dren with special needs are given specific teacher places the nametag directly
support within .the activity so that they re- above the child's name to write.
main totally integrated in the classroom. 2. If a child has difficulty copying
The training manual has a section that de- severalletters of his or her name the
scribes scaffolds designed to help the class- teacher works on one letter at a
room teacher to support a child within the time helping the child to use private
activity. These vary in the level of support speech when forming a letter
depending on the child's abilities. Teachers (e.g., "A is up down and across").
also leam to use Dynamic Assessment to de-
termine whether the level of support can In addition to the scaffolds designed to
be removed as the child is more and more help children with special needs, Tools of
capable of doing the activity on his or her tbe Mind curriculum also has procedural
own. In addition, many activities in Tools of and structural scaffolds designed to specif-
the Mind curriculum are éspecially benefi- ically support children who do not speak
cia! for children with behavior problems be- English. Procedural scaffolds are designed
cause these are the very children who lack to assist ELL students in engaging in spe-
self-regulation. cific Tools activities and in participating in
The following are sample scaffolding make-believe play whereas structural scaf-
strategies to use with children who experi- folds are materials that ELL students can
ence difficulties writing their name: use as special tools for self-scaffolding. An
example of structural supports is the Tools
A child wbo has difficulty writing alphabet chart designed so that the picture
bis or her entire name: cues for letters are words that start with the
same sound in both Spanish and English and
l. If the child writes her name when sounds are English language specific,
correctly but in backward order, they are identified. Although children are
the teacher places a green dot on not given direct instruction in this, the al-
the line and under the first letter phabet chart supports a faster intemaliza-
of the name to act as an extemal tion of the letter-sound correspondences.
mediator for where to start.
2. If the child is missing only specific
letters or has a few letters in the Research Supporting
wrong order, the teacher
highlights those letters in another
color pen of the child's choosing
on the nametag. Th~ child is Tools of the Mind has been evaluated
encouraged to change pens when in a number of small scale research studies
writing to make those missing , ranging from quasiexperimental studies to
letters very special. the ones using randomized design.
3. If the child's name starts with a The first study was a quasiexperimental
letter that is difficult to write, such study that compared preschool and kinder-
as S or W, the teacher writes that garten classrooms that implemented an ear-

lier version of the currículum with matched experimental groups on number of English
control classrooms (Bodrova & Leong, 2001; Language Learners, entry levelliteracy scores,
Bodrova, Leong, & Semenov, 1997a). In the SES and parent education. Measures used to
kindergarten sample, 5 teachers implement- assess literacy included Early Reading Con-
ed Tools of the Mind and 5 teachers used cepts (Bodrova, Leong, Semenov, & Paynter,
district literacy program. 218 children in 2000) test-with such subtests as book han-
the Tools of the Mind classrooms and 208 dling skills, the concept of a word, phono-
in control classrooms were assessed in }an- logical awareness, the alphabetic principie,
uary and then again in May on a battery of length of a word, distinguishing print from
instruments that included prereading and pictures, and comprehension of the story-
writing measures. The students of the Tools Sound to Symbol Correspondence Test and Vi-
of the Mind classrooms demonstrated both sual Letter Recognition test (Bodrova, Leong,
higher levels of performance and faster rates Semenov, & Paynter, 2000). Pretest scores in
of progress than the students of the control the control and experimental groups were
classrooms. Significantly stronger growth not significantly different from each other on
was documented in severa! pre-literacy any of the major assessments and their sub-
variables most closely associated in the lit- tests. On the post-test, significant advantages
erature with reading achievement in later for the children who re~eived the Tools of
grades. Overall, children in the Tools of the the Mind currículum were found on compos-
Mind classrooms performed at higher levels ite test scores for Early Reading Concepts and
on all measures. for seven of the nine Early Reading Concepts
Similar results were documented for a subscales, as well as for tests of Letter Recog-
smaller preschool sample (Bodrova & Le- nition and Sound-Symbol correspondence. In
ong, 2001; Bodrova, Leong, & Semenov, addition, greater levels of implementation of
1997b). Children from 2 classrooms using the currículum in the classroom based on fi-
delity ratings were associated with better out-
Tools ofthe Mind currículum (n =53) were
comes for children.
compared with children from control class-
A more recent version of the Tools ofthe
rooms (n = 22) in}anuary and in May on sev-
era! early literacy measures. Children in the Mind currículum was evaluated by the Na-
Tools classrooms demonstrated statistically tional Institute for Early Education Research
stronger growth compared with children (NIEER) in a double-randomized experimen-
in control classrooms in letter recognition; tal design study to evaluate its effectiveness
sound-to-symbol correspondence; compre- (Bamett et al., 2008). The control group ex-
hension of a pattem in a text; understanding perienced an established district-created
of the symbolic function of a printed word; model described as a "balanced literacy cur-
and separation of a printed word into its rículum with themes." The study was con-
component letters. ducted in a school district with a high leve!
Another quasiexperimental study (Bodro- of poverty and a predominantly non-English
va & Leong, 2002) compared a matched sam- speaking population. Teachers and students
ple of children in Tools of the Mind class- were randomly assigned to either treatment
rooms and in control classrooms in a Head or control classrooms. Children (88 Tools
Start program and found significant differenc- and 122 controls) were compared on so-
es in children's progress in literacy skills af- cial behavior, language, and literacy growth.
ter one year in the program. Teachers from The Tools currículum was found to improve
15 classrooms were matched on level of edu- classroom quality and children's executive
cation and number of years of teaching and functions as indicated by lower scores on
were assigned to either the control or exper- the problem behavior dimension of the So-
imental groups. A pretest of the 101 Tools cial Skills Rating Scale. Although there were
children and the 127 controls showed no sta- gains in language development, these effects
tistical differences between the control and were smaller and did not reach convention-

allevels of statistical significance. Teachers search (NIEER), which can be made avail-
trained in Tools scored higher in classroom able to those wishing to view it or can be
management, using classroom time produc- viewed on the Intemet at the NIEER Web
tively and having a higher rate of appropri- site: . A description of the
ate interactions that challenged children to theoretical approach is presented in the
leam at the next level. book "Tools of the Mind: Tbe Vygotskian
A quasiexperimental study (Diamond, Approach to Early Childhood Education,"
Barnett, Thompson, & Munroe, 2007) com- (Merrill/Prentice-Hall, 2006), and more re-
pared Tools to control children on sever- cently in the chapter on Vygotskian ap-
a! measures of executive/inhibitory con- proach in Rooparine and]ones' Approacbes
trol administered by computer. The sample to Early Childhood Education (2008).
was built on the one used in the Barnett et Tools of the Mind currículum was re-
al. (2008) study reported above, but by the viewed in the following books and articles:
time the executive function study occurred · l. Copple, C. (2003). Fostering young children's
the original control group had already been representation, planning, and reflection: A fo-
placed in classrooms using Tools. The exec- cus in three current early childhood models.
utive function study involved 100 Tools chil- Journal of Applied Developmental Psycholo-
dren who were compared with 100 children gy, 24(6), 763-771.
in the same district that were not in Tools 2. Hyson, M., Copple, C., &Jones, J. (2006). Ear-
ly childhood development and education. In
classroom:s. A stratified randomized sample
K. A. Renninger, LE. Sigel, W. Damon, & R.
was used to control for teacher effects. Chil-
M. Lemer (Eds.), Handbook of cbild psychol-
dren were assessed on the Dots and Flank-
ogy, 6th ed.: Vol. 4, Child psychology in prac-
er tests which have been used with chil-
tice (pp. 3-47). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley &
dren ages 4 to adults (Rueda et al., 2004) to Sons, Inc.
test executive function. The results showed 3. Hyson, M. (2008). Enthusiastic and engaged
that on the test trials requiring minimal ex- learners: Approaches to learning in the early
ecutive function, children in the Tools and childhood classroom. New York: Teacher
control conditions performed the same. In College Press and Washington, DC: NAEYC.
those conditions that taxed executive func- 4. Zigler, E. F., & Bishop-Josef, S. J. (1996). The
tion, children in Tools did significantly bet- cognitive child vs. the whole child: Lessons
ter than controls. Further analyses compar- from 40 years of Head Start. D. G. Singer, R.
ing the child's scores on the two executive Golinkoff, & K. Hirsh-Pasek (Eds.), Play =
function tests and the academic achieve- learning: How play motivates and enhances
ment measures collected on the Tools chil- children :S cognitive and social-emotional
dren found that the higher the level of exec- growth. NewYork: Oxford UniversityPress.
utive function, the higher the achievement Tools of the Mind is currently the sub-
scores. In addition the results on the execu- ject of a number of randomized design trials;
tive function measures correlated with the several more experimental and quasiexper-
teachers ratings of behavior on the Social imental studies are in the planning stages.
Skills Rating scale (Gresham & Elliot, 1990). Results of these new studies will provide a
In 2001 United Nations Education, Sci- more accurate reflection of the current state
entific, and Cultural Organization's (UNES- of the currículum that has changed signifi-
CO) Intemational Bureau of Education cantly since the time when the NIEER study
named Tools of the Mind an exemplary in- was conducted.
novative educational program (http://www.
lnnodata/inograph.htm Monograph 7). Foot- Professional Development
age showing the Tools of the Mind class-
room activities can be seen in the "Growing
and Leaming in Preschool" video produced District capacity building is an important
by National Institute for Early Education Re- aspect of Tools training. Professional devel-

opment is a two-year process. At the end of which means that activities introduced in lat-
two years, programs have a strong core of er sessions become more and more complex
teachers who understand and can apply the as children in the program grow and develop.
theories that shape Tools of the Mind, with The workshops include the following topics:
a new set of teaching skills and instruction- introduction to the Vygotskian approach to
al strategies. The professional development learning and development, learning trajec-
process includes the training of program tories for self-regulation/executive function
staff to provide ongoing coaching support development, cognitive and social develop-
to teachers. This means that after the two ment, and the development of literacy; using
years programs are well equipped to con- these learning trajectories within the Tools
tinue successful implementation and navi- of the Mind activities for observation, scaf-
gate the challenges they face without losing folding activities, and other authentic assess-
ground and momentum. The Tools profes- ment strategies; supporting self-regulation
sional development process is designed to development in the classroom; supporting
have flexibility and responsiveness built in. the needs of special education students and
Tools staff collaborate with programs to de- English language learners; and supporting
sign the details of each program's profes- self-regulation and development of language,
sional development plan. literacy, and mathematics in the home. Proj-
Fidelity to the program is defined in two ect staff, assisted by local coaches, lead all
professional development, including hands-
ways. First, the teacher should implement
on experiences and interactions with peers
all of the activities with sufficient frequen-
around common issues. Discussions of Tools
cy during the day and during the week. Sec-
best-practice videos make explicit how such
ond, the -teacher is also able to implement
practice exemplifies research-based princi-
the structure and flow of each activity and
pies and how each activity supports self-reg-
do it in a way that is responsive and provides
ulated learning and behavior.
appropriate individualized scaffolding that
Year 2 training involves three workshops
flows from dynamic assessment. Tools activ-
timed for the beginning, middle and end of
ities require that teachers understand how
the year. The emphasis in these workshops is
to modify, adjust, and individualize supports
on individualization and scaffolding, a deep-
based on children's needs in addition to be-
er understanding of the theory behind the
ing able to implement the activity.
activities, and helping teachers to strengthen
implementation and fidelity to the program.
As in the previous year, coaches provide
Professional Development support between workshops and continue
for Teachers to work with teachers .. Most programs find
that they no longer require the coach to vis-
For the first year of training, teachers par- it with the same degree of frequency, usu-
ticipate in a professional development pro- ally dropping to once a month visits unless
gram that has three components: (a) work- a teacher is having difficulty with a specific
shops: 3 days of professional development child or needs mqre support to reach fidelity.
during the summer prior to the start of school, Programs continue to have meetings once a
1 day during the school day in October, 1 day month with teachers, but the focus changes
during the school year in January, and 1 day to a study of theory and learning concepts on
during the school year in April/May (with the which the program is based.
project paying for substitutes) for each of the Training for the program's special needs
first 2 years of the project, (b) coaching and team is either integrated into the workshop
mentoring within each teacher's classroom, or a specialized training is held for them to
and (e) electronic communications. discuss the issues related to inclusion, work-
The workshop content rolls out based on ing within the Tools classroom, and meeting
the developmental trajectory of the children children's Individual Education Plans using

Tools activities. Currently all Tools class- there is a 2-hour coach's workshop. After
rooms are inclusion classrooins with 30% classroom visits with the Tools trainer, the
being reverse inclusion. coach and the trainer sit down for an hour
debriefing and goal setting for each teach-
er. The trainer and coach work as a team
Tec~calAss~tance to decide how to best meet the needs of a
in the Classroom. particular teacher. lf coaches are not prac-
ticing teachers at the time of training, they
Coaching and mentoring is delivered in are required to have a "model" classroom in
three ways. First, there is a mechanism for which they implement all of the activities
teachers ·who wish to gain further support just as the teachers do. They are asked to
on their own through a website with videos videotape their implementation of specific
of best practice and through videotaping focal activities and send it with reflection to.
themselves and reviewing the videotape us- the Tools trainer for discussion.
ing a self-coaching questionnaire. This helps There is a Coach's Manual that describes
the teachers to identify and reflect on impor- the Tools approach to coaching and helps the
tant aspects of their implementation. coach scaffold teachers. The manual details
Second, Tools trains a local coach who typical problems in implementation, how to
meets with the teachers every 2 to 3 weeks help teachers deal with the affective issues
observing and working with the teachers in in changing practices, and specific ways that
their rooms or holding a "Tool Shed" meet- the coach can help the teacher. Coaches are
ing for the community of teachers imple- trained to use the communication portfolio
menting the program. When the coaches and the classroom survey observation instru-
visit the classroom they help teachers with ment particular to Tools to identify those ar-
implementation issues or questions these eas of concem that the teacher may have and
teachers might have. Special materials and to identify areas in which there is greater or
procedures are designed to support teacher- less fidelity to the program.
coach interactions. These include an imple-
mentation questionnaire sent out after train-
ings and activities such as a teacher/coach Support for Ad~trators
communication folder that allows the teach-
ers to jot down notes about things they wish In addition to working with coaches,
to discuss at the ne:x:t coaching visit. Tools provides support for administrators.
Third, Tools trainers visit the classrooms · There is an administrator's manual to help
with the coach. This serves to help the coach the administrator quickly assess progress
as well as help the teachers by providing an toward Tools goals for teachers and coach-
expert that can help them address the needs es and to troubleshoot common problems
of specific children who are not responding that occur that an administrator can solve.
to the curriculum and to help teachers gain There is a section that answers questions
a better understanding of how to implement and concems that administrators have, such
the curriculum in their specific classroom. as the alignment of Tools activities with oth-
er assessment instruments that might be re-
quired by outside agencies or the alignment
Professional Developm.ent with state and other program standards.

In Year 1, coaches participate in the Mec~m.s for Maintaining Fidelity

same professional development as the teach- After the Training Is Com.pleted
ers. They also participate in the equivalent
of two full days of professional development Once training is completed, teachers
on coaching in Tools. After each workshop, can apply for Tools ofthe Mind certification.

They have to submit a portfolio which in- the Tools Web page devoted to parents. The
eludes the answers to written questions, evi- goal of the parent involvement activities is
dence of being able to do Dynamic Assess- (1) to help parents to understand the Tools
ment, and a video of their practice. These program and the philosophy that underlies
are evaluated and then teachers and coaches it and (2) to help parents support the devel-
can be certified. The certification lasts for 3 opment of self-regulation at home.
years and can be renewed .. Once certified,
teachers can attend workshops being held
in their area free of charge to keep up their Support for Transitions
skills. They can attend speciallectures given
once a year by Tools of the Mind staff. They There is a specific set of activities de-
have access to any new materials being used signed to help children prepare for kinder-
in classrooms. garten as well as a set of suggested activities
and materials to help facllitate the transition
by famlliarizing elementary school adminis-
Specific Materials Needed trators and kindergarten teachers about the
for ltnplem.entation Tools program and to how to access Tools
children's skills. The classroom activities are
Tools of the Mind is designed to be lay- designed to famlliarize children with typical
ered on top of a classroom that meets ba- kindergarten rules and the learning activities
sic NAEYC accreditation guidelines or in kindergarten classrooms. The administra-
Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale- tor information is designed to explain the
Revised (ECERS-R: Harms, Clifford, & Cryer, Tools program, the scope and sequence of
1998) classroom guidelines. All Tools ma- skills covered during the preschool program
terials not a part of a traditionaVstandard and their relationship to state and national
early childhood classroom are provided on standards, an explanation ofthe child's port-
four CDs. These contain master copies that folio, and a description of typical kindergar-
teachers duplicate for the classroom activi- ten activities that would access Tools child's
ties. There are additional classroom materi- skills. Suggestions for open houses and oth-
als that relate to play (e.g., a big box that can er activities to help elementary school staff
be turned into a car) or are used in specific observe in the classr<;>om also are provided.
Tools of the Mind activities (e.g., wipe-off The preschool program is given the same
markers for Graphic Practice) that amount information with suggestions of how the
to $100 for the year. preschool can facllitate the transition and a
timeline for implementation.

Guidance for Related Services

Parent Program
Following the Vygotskian view of edu-
Tools does not have a formal parent pro- cation as "arming children with tools" we
gram but provides newsletters, home activi- continue to revise and expand the "tool kit"
ties, and suggestions as well as all materials Tools of the Mind curriculum offers pre-
for parent meetings and parent conferenc- school- and kindergarten-aged children to
es. Because it is implemented in so many better match their varying social situations
different types of programs, sorne of which of development. lt resulted in the develop-
have their own parent programs, Tools fa- ment of new strategies and instructional
cllitates the program' s developing their own scaffolds to be used in the classrooms with
approach for parents. There is a section of English Language Leamers and with children

with special needs. 1bis increased number Vygotskian principies of development and
of instructional strategies along with the in- learning in ati early childhood literacy pro-
creased focus on individualization resulted gram. Unpublished manuscript, Mid-conti-
in turn in substantial changes in the depth nent Research for Education and Learning.
Bodrova, E., & Leong, D.]. (2007). Tools of the
and frequency of professional development
mind (2nd ed.). Columbus, OH: Menill/Pren-
for teachers and coaches. lt is hoped that
this new round of studies focusing on the Bodrova, E., & Leong, D. (2008). Tools of the
updated version of Tools will shed further mind: Vygotskian approach to early child-
light on how self-regulation can be taught hood education. In]. L. Rooparine &]. ]ones
and its relationship to the development of (Eds.), Approaches to early childhood educa-
school readiness. tion (5th ed., pp. 213-231). Columbus, OH:
Address Correspondence to: Elena Bodrova, E., Leong, D.]., Paynter D. E., & Semen-
Bodrova, Ph.D., McREL, 4601 DTC Blvd., av, D. (2000). Early literacy assessments for
Suite 500, Denver, Colorado 80237; Tel: the pre-K child. Aurora, CO: McREL.
303-632-5610; Fax: 303-337-3005; E-mail: Bodrova, E., Leong, D.]., &Semenov, D. (1997a). Tools of the Mind end of the year report, Ad-
ams School District 50. Denver, CO: Metro-
politan State College of Denver.
Bodrova, E., Leong, D.]., & Semenov, D. (1997b).
Tools ofthe Mind end ofthe year report, ECE
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