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R Scott Wiley | @sxwiley

R Scott Wiley | @sxwiley

Scott has been an early childhood educator for 30 years. He has been a preschool center director and preschool ministry leader in a church. He has taught elementary school. He developed and edited curriculum for a religious publisher for 15 years. Currently, Scott is a freelance curriculum writer and editor, a workshop leader, and a school volunteer. In addition to his blog, Brick by Brick, he writes for the collaborative blog Pre-K and K Sharing (http://prekandksharing.blogspot.com) and works as editor for Pre-K Pages (pre-kpages.com).

Posted by on in Early Childhood

Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, "Make me feel important."  (Mary Kay Ash)

In educational circles today, I hear a lot about social and emotional skills, social and emotional learning, and so forth. Foundational for preschoolers to learn how to relate to the people around them and to begin to regulate themselves is a feeling of being valued and valuable. All children in our classes want to feel valued; they want to know (with the heart not the head) someone cares about them. They want the approval of adults. We teachers have a powerful impact on the lives of boys and girls.

A "simple" action is at the core of buildng a caring community that supports social and emotional skills - using names.

Names are the beginning point of the child's identity. Calling a child by name builds the relationship and helps the child feel that you know him and care about him. Once I was walking along behind a group of brothers. They stopped in the hall to wait for their mom. I spoke to each one, calling each by name. After I walked by, I heard one whisper, "He knows who we are." Knowing names = knowing the child. That makes them feel valued and important to you.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

kindergarten classroom

I've been thinking about mistakes in the classroom...mostly the ones I make. The first one that comes to mind happened when I was teaching first graders. I had put up a wonder wall and received lots of great questions and wonders. One day, when reading some of the wonders in our group, I read a great question about rainbows - and then I proceeded to answer it instead of leading the group in ways to discover the answer. I realized that mistake as I drove home. I'd missed a great opportunity to lead children in discovering their own answers to questions.

I've made spelling mistakes and factual mistakes in the classroom. I've tried things that just didn't work or that just didn't interest the children like I thought it would.

I think about how to take advantage of mistakes when I make them - showing the children that we all make mistakes and mistakes help us learn. I think about how plan to avoid general mistakes. I think about how to laugh when I make them and how to encourage when kids make them. Making mistakes is a great way to learn. So often, children are afraid to be wrong, to make mistakes. But I hope to create classrooms that welcome mistakes and use them for more learning.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

 Recently I finished the book Free to Learn by Peter Gray. This book was very thought-provoking, challenging some of my ideas and affirming others. One of those things that Peter Gray repeated in various ways is that play is freedom. He stressed the freedom to quit (to decide when to stop doing the activity). But I think that the freedom to use whatever resources are needed is important, too.

I'm a big advocate of children's creativity. I encourage children to follow their ideas and experiment with materials. And a few years ago, we adopted a "rule" to provide resources for a child when he asks for it, if possible. If a child asks me for tape or scissors (and those items are not already out in the room somewhere), I get them for him. I want to provide the tools he needs to explore and create at that moment.

Often in my room, scissors, glue sticks, and paper scraps are always available if needed. I found some of those magnetic locker "baskets" (cheap at the back-to-school sale) and attached them to my white board. Kids can use these items whenever they choose; the resources are always at hand. (Not a new idea, I know. But it was a new step for us.)

I worried that I would be cleaning up paper bits each week from overuse of scissors. However, kids only use them when they really need them...which is not very frequently. And when they are used, the results can be surprising and amusing.

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Posted by on in General

dull classroom

It's a new year. Often it's the time we think about making changes or doing something new.

As I think about teachers and classrooms and a new year, I think about the words of a four-year-old friend. One day he told me: "You are the best Mr. Scott ever!"

That's what I want to be - the best Mr. Scott ever - the best I can be as a teacher.

Too often we teachers fall into the comparison game. "My room doesn't look like hers." "His kids are so much quieter walking in the hall." "Her kids are all learning faster than my class."

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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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