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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

I was watching a couple of children working wooden puzzles the other day. Sometimes just watching kids work is great way to think about and understand more about children and development.

These two kids were working puzzles. Well, one was working a puzzle and the other was watching. (Her preferred method of learning is watching.) But occasionally the watcher would help with pieces and the worker was fine with that.

But as I watched, I noticed that there were two different techniques at play. One child would hold a piece and try it in several different places or in several different ways in a space. She would keep working until she found the right place or abandoned that piece for a new one. The other child would just look at the puzzle and look at the pieces lying around the table. Suddenly she would swoop in, grab and piece, and insert it in the right place.

Two different ways to solve puzzles - exploring and experimenting by physically trying different things; looking, observing, taking in the overall look and then seeing the "right answer" to the problem.

Both of these are valid puzzle solving strategies...and problem solving strategies. It was interesting to see these two children working on the same puzzle in completely different ways...and not even really communicating to one another as they worked.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Addition

It was a day in first grade that I will not forget. A student struggled to understand and a teacher struggled to help. I was the teacher.

For a while in our math lessons, we had been practicing single digit addition. We were working on becoming fluent...at least some of us were working on that. Others of us were working on really understanding the concept of addition. I sat with one of my friends, working through some addition practice. We had worked through several addition problems until we hit a wall. My friend was struggling with adding zero.

I pointed to the problem (because, you know, pointing at it makes it so much more understandable). I asked: "What is 7 plus 0?"

My friend stared at it and then looked up at me with his large dark eyes: "8?" he asked in a voice full of hope.

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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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