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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Preschoolers

Leaving a Legacy. Walking the Talk

I never dreamed I'd take my biggest educational risk ever, teaching the littles, but I did. Although for several years I was a Preschool Principal, it's not the same as this. 

After summer volunteering, a literacy grant was awarded this special preschool, just my thing, so I'm back in the classroom again, helping out. I joined a wonderful multi-age, fully included school, ages 2-8. That's quite a span to differentiate for. Right now, mostly littles, 2-5. 

Tears, tantrums, need for bandaids, and reassurance. They miss mamas and daddies. Shoes on wrong feet, saying sorry, sharing and helping, spilling milk and dropping food, who knew? No just sitting around that kidney shaped table. 

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

So much uneasiness and so many serious events in the news. Pondering it all took me to a different place. It just seemed to be a good time for a change of direction.

The focus always seems to be on what we can teach our youngest contingent. Let’s turn things around, shall we? What are some of the valuable things we can learn from them?

These aren’t new lessons, because when we were children, we had them down. Somehow, as we got older, busier… perhaps sidetracked, what came naturally to us as kids became unpracticed and sometimes as good as gone. Well, are these things still important now that we’re grownups? You betcha! So let’s be reminded.

princess

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

paper towel roll instrument

A few years ago, my wife took several recycle/repurpose items to a preschool classroom to use as "environmental instruments" with the other rhythm instruments. She took some paper towel tubes, plastic plates, and some paper wads; children took pairs of each item to tap together and create some different rhythm sounds.

Another teacher remarked that she had brought trash for the kids to use...and her tone was an unfavorable one. Kids immediately began calling the items "trash," especially the paper wads. They used them reluctantly and quickly moved to change to something else when the time came. Weeks later, they still referred to the items as trash and wanted to quickly trade whenever they can. While one child was tapping the paper wads together, another child said, "He's got the trash!" The first kid immediately dropped them and wouldn't play until he moved to the next instrument.

I think that we adults sometimes forget the power we have. Our influence can go beyond learning content. Our reactions, comments, facial expressions, and words can impact how kids feel about what they are doing and even how they feel about themselves. How I wish that teacher had enthusiastically said, "Look at what we can use as instruments. We can use things that normally would be thrown away to make rhythms and music." I think then the kids would be excited to use "trash" as instruments.

Now my wife and I work together with a group of 4-year-olds in a music/choir class. This group is enthusiastic about just about everything. One thing that my wife does each week involves our lining up to leave the room and move to the next thing. As you know, most kids want to be the leader of a line. But Cindy makes every place in the line seem special. She lines them up in different ways - calling names or describing clothing or using initial letters of names. But it's always like this: "Who will be #3 in line? It is Liam! You are number 3!" Each position in line is exciting. I haven't heard a child yet who complains about who is leader or who whines to be first in line. Every place is great!

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

kindergarten classroom

Recent news continues to highlight the increasing demands on teachers, students and families during the first year of school. Kindergarten is the "New First Grade" has been said many times during the past few years, however increased academic expectations can be met with developmentally appropriate instructional strategies…play included.  The benefits of play in the new first grade are seen throughout a child’s day in multiple domains.

1. Development of the whole child.  Play-based activities reach a wide scope and sequence of skills.  From critical thinking to problem solving skills-students have a very concrete and motivating way to learn the foundation skills that will support their learning K-12 and beyond.

2. Reaches the diverse learning styles of our students.  Play is a universal language.  I have observed students of all native languages interact together at a sensory table with water and sink/float activities.  We don’t always need our words to learn-but for our students who thrive in modes of learning that incorporate kinesthetic and visual activities- play can be the spark that supports more meaningful understanding of concepts.

3. Opportunities for development of oral language skills.  So much research has come out in regards to the importance of meaningful talk time for our early learners.  Playful learning offers intentional opportunities for students to enhance their vocabulary skills, while having student models and teacher facilitation of conversations.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

child_20161121-214212_1.jpg

A few years ago, the Gesell Institute, named for developmental pioneer Dr. Arnold Gesell, decided to test the premise that kids today develop more quickly than they used to.  They took the developmental norms established by the work of Dr. Gesell in the 1940s and launched a three year study concluding in 2010 to gauge whether or not the same framework still holds up.  What they found, of course, is that even over the span of decades, the developmental norms remain the same.

(Read more about that study and the follow up interview with the director of the Gesell Institute, Dr. Marcy Guddemi.)

While there are many, many quotes from that study’s roll out that caught my attention, one that particularly made me think was when Dr. Guddemi responded to the question of why it may sometimes appear that children are capable of skills beyond their developmental level:

You can train them, but the knowledge and understanding—the true learning—has not happened.  Our country has this hang up that if the child can perform, that they know.”

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