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Posted by on in Early Childhood

child reading

Littles say the funniest things. The other day I asked “What’s your Mommy’s name?” Reply- Mommy.” Get what you ask for, right?

Childhood is a precious time. What’s the rush?

I’m back at school, year two, one week in, hired under a Literacy Grant, a good thing and not so good. What’s great is I have an opportunity to fine-tune teaching littlest learners, emergent readers. I was really winging it last year.

Students who returned are lots bigger, now the “biggers”, having moved up the ladder.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

ying yang wallpaper by rstovall

I love listening to to Rae Pica’s BAM Radio program, Studentcentricity, during my commute to Northern Virginia Community college to teach. Thank God for Bluetooth! Last night I listened to a program about enjoying process over product in education. I totally agree with Amanda Morgan. Teachers shouldn’t do toddlers’ art for them, or give cookie-cutter art projects to preschoolers. They should know, by now, that asking for the right answer shuts off the process of learning to think. But they still do these things, with good, if misguided, intentions. Parents love the cute. Children love to be praised by their teachers and parents. Our culture mandates the great finished product. This cultural bias invades our efforts to teach young children how to solve problems, find creative solutions, and pursue worthy projects.

But wait a minute! Solving problems? Finding Solutions? Projects? Isn’t that about product?

Years ago in education, we discussed the importance of divergent, vs. convergent thinking. Divergent thinking was elevated, as well it should have been, because for too long convergent thinking (getting the “right” answer) was seen as the sole indicator of intelligence. Brainstorming, mind-mapping, and webbing became symbols and tools for divergent thinking. Creativity depends on divergent thinking! We need it in order to converge on something cool! Diverging to different creative ideas eventually leads to answers, products, which lead to more thinking, more creating and—yep—more final products.

Today we elevate process over product, just as we did divergent over convergent thinking. In doing so, we perpetuate a false dichotomy. As the old song goes (even though its premise was not true), “…you can’t have one without the other.” Amanda discussed allowing children to make mistakes in order for them to learn. Mistakes are not bad. They are necessary bumps on the road to learning. The cognitive process involved is invaluable to the child. They learn to learn. Process leads to product, which leads to…well, you know! A false dichotomy is where there is either one right answer or another. The two ideas compete. There should be no competition between process and product. Like the colors in the Yin/Yang sympol, there’s a little bit of each in the other.

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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

It’s right in your face, 24/7… terrorist attacks, shootings, disasters, accidents, and violence. This can be upsetting for adults, not to mention children.

Last week I couldn’t turn on any screen without seeing the eye-witness phone video of a state fair ride in a neighboring state, breaking apart and hurling riders to the ground. I remember gasping the first time I saw it, kind of surprised to see such graphic coverage on network television. But, as I thought about it more, I realized this was what we are all coming to expect from the news. Later that day, I met my neighbor and her daughter while walking my dogs. Little Megan was so excited to tell me she was going to the fair with Mommy and Daddy. She quickly added, “But we can’t ride on that one ride that broke and people got dead.” Her mother shared that unfortunately, Megan had also seen that video.

When I was growing up, most news coverage was in the newspaper and often a day old. There were grainy photos and copy I was yet unable to read. Television coverage consisted of some film and still photos taken by journalists. Today, everyone is a photojournalist, capturing news as it happens on their phones and there it is… in real time, on the big screen, in living color, and largely uncensored.

You could argue we are much better informed, but this has come at a cost to young children. They just don’t have the ability to comprehend news events in context. It becomes a barrage of disturbing images, voices, and information they can’t fully process. And, many times, parents aren’t around to help them process it at all.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

first day of kindergarten

Scores of moms and dads clung to the fence surrounding the kindergarten building shouting, amid tears, last-minute advice and terms of endearment.

“I love you, honey!”

“Be good, my little one!”

“Listen and learn, baby!”

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