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Posted by on in Early Childhood

As parents, we are quick to protect our children. When a physical ailment pops up, like a high fever, a strange rash, or broken bone, we take the child to the doctor. These things are easy to see and we immediately react. It can be different when a child begins having random outbursts, trouble at school, becomes noncompliant, or distant. These kinds of things leave parents, as well as teachers, confused and unsure about what to do.

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It may be that the child seems fine most of the time, but these behaviors pop up on occasion. Despite hearing from colleagues, friends, relatives, or even the family doctor that this is just a “stage,” your gut feeling tells you something just isn’t right.

And, frankly, we can’t afford to let it slide. Statistics from NIMH are staggering.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

On the flight home, I sat and recalled some of the delightful interactions I’d had over the past several days with my two grandsons. One in particular stood out. As I read the youngest a story for oh, probably the 15th time, we pretended to pluck up cookies, fruits, and other goodies off the pages and pretend to eat them. Later, he sat with the book, repeating this on his own. His older brother saw this and laughed. When I reminded him that he and I did the very same thing just a few years earlier, he had no recollection. It made me think about all the other precious games and little talks we’d had that were also lost and how the ones between his little brother and me would be forgotten, too.

When do we really begin to sock things away into our long-term memory? How far back in childhood can something be remembered? I often ask this question in my child development classes. Many will be quick to answer with an event from middle or high school. But then, I ask them to sit quietly a moment and really think back. One by one, earlier and earlier memories begin to surface- most of them not particularly clear, but memories nonetheless.

For the most part, though, no one, including myself, can remember anything much before age two. Hmmm.

There are a couple fascinating theories about why we have trouble remembering anything any earlier. One involves something called “infantile amnesia.” According to the theory, it isn’t until about 18 months that we begin to develop a sense of self- the understanding that we are separate beings from anyone or anything else. In addition, we are moving from listening to speech to actually verbalizing. Before this time, we are just part of the landscape, part of the big picture. We’re merged with other people and everything that’s part of our surroundings. So, nothing that happens is specifically designated to us in particular and therefore, not stored to memory. As a side note, this theory may also help to explain why sharing is such a struggle for young toddlers. If an 18-month-old sees his environment and what’s in it as part of himself, asking him to give up a toy truck would be much like asking him to take off his arm and share that.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

All Things STEAM logo

co-authored by Nancy Alvarez and Heid Veal

 

What do you picture when you imagine an ideal early childhood learning experience? Do you see young children sitting quietly at tables, independently completing school work or do you visualize them in various groups exploring, creating, pretending, tinkering, and communicating? The later is what the majority imagine and is what many would describe as developmentally appropriate for our youngest learners. When considering an ideal early learning setting, the young learn best when educators design purposeful, integrated experiences where students’ inquisitive nature and creativity are capitalized on to propel them towards foundational learning.

 

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

I’ve come to use “flat-out” to describe what others may call “bossy,” simply because it’s not as derogatory or stereotypical. True, there are little girls who live up to the stereotype and are not pleasant to be around. But, for the most part, the rest have a spunk that’s better off being channeled than stifled.

Little girls with grit are often criticized for being b*tchy or bossy at a young age. At the same time, strong-minded little boys are considered leaders, with an admirable amount of confidence.

pumpkins children www.wall321.com 49

In today’s world, confidence and moxie are qualities that are just as important for girls. When we take a look at the strong women who have made a difference in how our gender is perceived and respected, it is clear the days of standing back and taking whatever’s hurled our way are over. Yet, we feel compelled to look a little girl in the eye and tell her to stand down and be nice.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Teachers, do you know the Mozart Rondo in A minor? Bach’s Cello Suite no. 1? Perhaps you, like many Americans, prefer to stick with what you know when you play music for children. It is certainly understandable. When I started teaching, I mostly played this music in my classroom because my undergraduate degree was in music. I knew “classical” music through and through. I was trained to identify Beethoven in two bars. I still can! So why should you, as a teacher, use music you are less familiar with? After all, the children won’t like it, will they? Not so, of course. Young children love music, and do not discriminate, as adults do, on the basis of genre. Just as they do not on the basis of race or culture. Music penetrates their undefended hearts.

Let me say that I myself had a learning curve once I began teaching young children. Multi-cultural classrooms enticed me into multi-cultural musical genres. Other genres caught my attention on iTunes and I introduced those as well. In my years of teaching preschool, I played all of these musical gems in the background during centers. Placing instruments or scarves near my boom box, children could participate in the artists’ music making. During Vivaldi’s concerto, Summer, the storm sequence (presto), two little boys spontaneously invented a partner dance that reflected the energy of the piece. Jittering their bodies in place, making claws with their hands as they looked at each other, they expressed the feelings of the music as they experienced it. This is called creative movement and meets a national dance standard for pre-k. The way the children danced was play-based because it was spontaneously chosen. They started and stopped at will. So using classical music created an opportunity for play-based learning. 

I have taught college students that there is no end to the possibilities of playing music for young children, and they have proved my point by bringing in anecdotes such as this one, involving behavior management: A teacher was substituting in a classroom of threes. The children were “off the wall”.  I had taught her about how music from the Baroque period, especially, created a more purposeful and balanced atmosphere for children during play due to its steady beat (Baroque composers believed in keeping the beat steady in each movement. The beat is called the tactus). So, at her wit’s end, she put on Vivaldi. The mood in her classroom shifted to one of calm, and the children stayed longer at their chosen activities.

This, of course, is anecdotal information, but there is ample research available to prove the point. For me, no proof is needed. When I played the opening from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana for a class of teachers, and told them children could benefit from this music, they looked at me in horror. “It will scare them!”, they said. So I took it to the voters, my preschoolers, as an experiment. I played the opening of the piece and they, sitting in a circle on the floor, began pounding their heels into the carpet, ecstatic smiles on their faces. I gave them feeling words to choose from to express their response. Only two words resonated: Happy, and excited. Needless to say, they wanted to stand and dance.

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