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Posted by on in Early Childhood

bad table manners

I had a couple encounters recently that really got me thinking about how we are teaching social skills to young children- or not. I was visiting a couple of my students at their child care programs, which I sometimes do, prior to their formal CDA observations.

The first visit was in a 2’s room, with eight children and two teachers. I arrived just before lunch and watched as hands and tables were washed and children were placed into those built-in bucket seats. The kitchen had delivered portion compartment trays with some kind of meat casserole, fruit, and vegetables. What happened next literally took my breath away.

Both teachers began bringing the trays over to the two tables. No eating utensils were evident. As each tray was set in front of a child, the teacher flipped it over, banged the contents onto the table, and placed the empty tray back on the cart. Huh? Gasp!

Messy Eating Fatherly

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

blocks and basket (Brick by Brick)

I take a lot of photos. Often I will look back through the photos...and I'm reminded of things. I see things that I forgot happened. Recently, I came across the photo above. As I look at it, several things come to mind.

  1. Many things happen in a classroom each week. I forget most of them. A remark or a shared activity will often come to my mind. But often I forget about moments - big and small - without reminders. I need to take photos and/or write down things to remember the great things that happen.
  2. Lots of learning happens in the classroom each week that isn't planned, at least planned by me. These will also probably not be remembered individually but become part of the foundational knowledge in the child's learning.
  3. Children are creative. They see everything as a possible resource for what they are doing.

This last one is something that I've thought about before. Kids are open to all kinds of possibilities; anything is possible.

And this photo reminds me again that I put limits on my thinking so often. A basket is for holding things. I don't consider it as a possible building item. If I were working in a blocks center and needed something for the top of my building, I would have overlooked this basket. It doesn't fit my definition of building item. But my friend saw it, decided to try it, and figured out how to use it in his structure.

We do the same for children. We see them in a particular light or through a particular lens. We try to figure out how they tick and interpret everything by our conclusions. "She's quiet. She won't be interested in doing this." "He is active. He will not sit down to do that." And so forth.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

So, infancy is sliding out of the way and now there’s this new little person who is suddenly both mobile and opinionated. We know there are two ways to get through life…the easy way and the hard way. There may not truly be an easy way to navigate through toddlerhood, but being mindful of the unnegotiable rules can help move the needle in that direction.

1. Make sure there’s a routine set up and stick to that throughout the day. Predictability is important to toddlers. It brings a sense of security and stability that make for more happy and more calm.


2. Anticipate…no, EXPECT them to be irrational. You can’t really expect to reason with a child who has his own rules of reason and will change them at will. He may ask you to cut up his fruit and then scream when you do, wanting it put back together again. See? Don’t even try.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

It started when I gave my students a passage from The Hundred Languages of Children to analyze and discuss. It was, I confess, rather abstruse, and they were speechless when I asked for opinions. In frustration, I blurted out: Malaguzzi took it one step further. Vygotsky said that language was interdependent with growth and development. He was talking about verbal language. Malaguzzi asserted that the hundred languages at children’s disposal were interdependent with their development. All of these languages helped them express what they knew and furthermore, changed them and those around them. I was rather emphatic, as I can be, sometimes when talking about children. But I gave them this example:

At a NAREA conference, George Forman showed a video of mobile infants, sitting on the floor, watching teachers spin pot lids like tops. The babies watched, and then expressed their understanding of what they saw: They began undulating their bodies as they sat! The babies were being playful, but their behavior was purposeful. This is how a baby expresses a concept. I believe there was a combination of physical, intellectual and emotional intent inherent in their behavior. Teachers provided the “provocation”, and the babies went for it.  So much cognitive development going on, and in an artistic language—dance!

Similarly, older children at play are exploring concepts through different modes of expression. Stomping around to imitate dinosaurs demonstrates a three’s understanding of force, as well as their understanding of psychological intent (intimidation, power). Painting a picture demonstrates a four’s understanding of light and dark, one’s day, or the universe. Sharing work with each other can bring more learning and development. My boys, last year, began drawing from a picture of a T-Rex. Every day they took time to gather and draw, pointing out different parts of the picture to each other, arguing about perspective, detail and color (Constructive arguing, I like to call it). This was interdependent learning at its finest.

Teachers in a center situation can be a potent resource, asking questions that bring out the intent of play (“Oh, I see you are making a house” doesn’t cut it!).  A teacher must be a grounding presence; an advocate for the individual child’s intent, even when the child doesn’t yet know what that intent is. To continually look for the intent through listening, observing, and collaboration is to be the “intentional teacher” that we all seek to be. This teacher (and other members of the team) provides what is necessary for children to seek the experiences they need, and to express their learning in powerful ways. A teacher moves with the children; s/he collaborates with them.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Ronan and Kerrigan 1024x682

How do you spell love? Literacy on little angel wings. Such joy, the most amazing learning experience of my life.

Here’s my update, year two preschool, teaching kiddos emergent skills of reading and writing, well, a lot more than that. Never sure who’s teaching whom. A day in the passionate life, so to speak. Since I wrote about the infamous PreKinder assessments, I'm into the sheer joy of teaching and learning from the kids, my best teachers. Life lessons, sometimes minute to minute. 

I walk into school, immediately surrounded by sticky fingers, hugs and checking out whether I have on my Minnie Mouse rainbow light-up watch. Loaded down with bags of mini-lessons, supplies, my lunch bag and layers, I barely make it to our little middle room to organize in about three minutes. Feel like the Pied Piper. "Good morning, Teacher Rita!"

I already told you I am really bad with crafts, so back out of the art room, big room so distracting, at home in the middle room, with all my favorite things, calendar, maps and globe, alphabet, flannel boards, our little table and chairs and loads of teaching sets, readers and books. In the corner is a huge beanbag with big stuffies and pillow. We read there a lot. And talk. And I listen.

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