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Posted by on in What If?

One of the very best Saturday Night Live holiday season skits is "A Holiday Wish." In it, Steve Martin expresses his wish that "All the children of the world join hands and sing together in a spirit of harmony and peace." Fretting the logistics of such an undertaking, Martin quickly loses interest in that wish in favor of all-encompassing power over the universe, revenge on his enemies, and other items that render the clip unsharable with students.

If I had a wish this holiday season, I would  look up at a star in the night sky and greedily make seven wishes.

For all children to feel safe and included in our schools

This is a pretty obvious wish but takes on even more urgency for students of color and LGBTQI students with Donald Trump about to assume the presidency. The Southern Poverty Law Center raises legitimate concerns about students' safety in the age of Trump. Let's hope this concern is unwarranted despite early evidence it is.

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Posted by on in What If?

The Thinker

On more than one occasion I’ve been heard muttering that we have far too few critical thinkers in this world – that too many people simply behave like sheep. Some of us studied critical thinking in college – but most of us wouldn’t associate it with early childhood. Yet that’s exactly when Roberta Golinkoff, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, and Jill Berkowicz – recent guests on Studentcentricity – believe we should begin fostering it. They also contend that it’s really quite easy – because the little ones are already critical thinkers and teachers just need to “give the work to the children.”

I absolutely loved the conversation with these three brilliant, passionate, critical thinkers. They give me hope in an education climate that’s obsessed with kids having “one right answer” – and a world in which there are people who seem to be engaging in no thinking at all.

In answer to the question, why is critical thinking important, Kathy replied:

I think we want people to think differently about what counts as success.  In a Google world you can look up facts in just seconds. What is key is what you do with those facts.

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Posted by on in What If?

Jumping in leaves

Last year I was doing site visits, having been hired to observe PreK to second-grade classrooms and offer suggestions for more active learning. On two different occasions I walked into a room just as the class was scheduled to go outside to recess. But the teachers didn’t feel like going outside – so the kids wandered aimlessly about the classroom throughout the 20-minute period allotted to recess.

The teachers apparently considered this “indoor recess” acceptable, but I did not – for many, many reasons.

From a physical perspective, the outdoors is the very best place for children to practice and master emerging motor skills. It is in the outdoors that children can fully and freely experience such skills as running, leaping, and jumping. It is also the most appropriate area for the practice of ball-handling skills, like throwing, catching, and striking. And children can perform other such manipulative skills as pushing a swing, pulling a wagon, and lifting and carrying movable objects. Heaven knows they have too few opportunities for exercising the upper torso these days! And because development occurs from large to small body parts, children who’ve had such experiences are much better prepared for such fine-motor skills as handwriting.

Additionally, it is in the outdoors that children are likely to burn the most calories, which helps fight obesity, a heart disease risk factor that is plaguing children. With studies showing that as many as half of American children are not getting enough exercise -- and that risk factors like hypertension and arteriosclerosis are showing up at age 5! -- parents and teachers need to give serious consideration to ways in which to prevent such health problems.

Cognitive and social/emotional development are also impacted by time spent outdoors. Outside, children are more likely to invent games. As they do, they're able to express themselves and learn about the world in their own way. They feel safe and in control, which promotes autonomy, decision-making, and organizational skills. Inventing rules for games (as kids like to do) promotes an understanding of why rules are necessary. Although the children are only playing to have fun, they're learning

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Posted by on in What If?

autism awareness

A new government survey suggests that one in 45 children, ages 3 to 17, has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. It’s quite likely, then, that you will have one or more of these children in your classroom at some point. But very few of us know a lot about the disorder -- how to recognize the signs, or what accommodations to make for these students. So I invited Tricia Shelton, an expert in ASD, to join me on Studentcentricity, along with teacher Melanie Link Taylor.

Following our conversation, Tricia contributed this takeaway:

Teaching students with ASD can be challenging because the disorder is highly complex and can manifest differently in each student. Like their typically-developing counterparts, students with ASD have differing needs, strengths, and interests. Educators must take the time to get to know their students with ASD and to find strategies that work well for individual children. Be mindful that the first attempt at implementing a strategy may not be successful. Further, a strategy that is effective for one student with ASD may not be particularly helpful for another child. Teachers must be resilient in their efforts to support students with ASD.  However, no educator should feel alone in his/her practice; teachers should work with others both within and beyond the school community to help learners with ASD be successful.  Through this type of collaboration as well as on-going professional development, educators can offer students with ASD daily opportunities to reach their potential.

Melanie added:

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Tagged in: Autism

Posted by on in What If?

Letter of the week A

Letter of the week and daily calendar are well-known staples of circle time in early childhood education. But there are many experts in the field who feel they’re a waste of time and should be banished. So, what if they have no real value to young children?

That idea gets a lot of pushback from many early childhood teachers, who fervently believe there are good reasons why these practices have “always been done.” But, too often, it’s because they’ve always been done that letter of the week and daily calendar continue to be a presence in many ECE environments.

To discuss this topic, I invited three extremely thoughtful early childhood professionals – Heather Shumaker, Deborah Stewart, and Amanda Morgan – to Studentcentricity. The conversation was lively and informative. Afterwards, Amanda sent this takeaway regarding letter of the week:

Children's minds don't hold information in an alphabetized filing system. It looks more like webbing with meaningful connections. Organizing your content based on meaningful themes rather than letters will be more effective. Focusing on the letter M and doing diverse activities focused on maps, monkeys, museums, and marmalade will not connect as well as exploring one fascinating theme in depth, and emphasizing meaningful language and literacy experiences along the way.

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