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Posted by on in Early Childhood

young boy writing with pencil

I once had a reading specialist tell me that the only way for children to learn to read is for them to read. I never have figured out how one learns to do something she can’t yet do by doing it! But I sometimes feel as though I’m in the minority here, as this attitude seems to be a fairly prevalent one – and not just in the area of reading.

recently I had the opportunity to talk with pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom and early childhood specialist Amanda Morgan on my radio show, Studentcentricity. As I told these two dedicated professionals at the beginning of the discussion, while doing some instructional coaching last fall, I watched as a kindergarten teacher handed out pencils to the children, along with some lined paper, and instructed them to practice their writing. And what I witnessed made me sad. Not only were these children not prepared to write; also, their little hands were having a terrible time controlling those long, skinny, yellow things. But despite those two overwhelmingly obvious facts, it was clear that the teacher believed that the only way these students could learn to write was by writing.

For those who understand child development, however, it’s clear that this is a serious misconception. All forms of development, including the fine motor development required to manipulate a pencil, involve a process. And unless a child has progressed through the stages necessary to ensure the appropriate hand strength and fine motor control, trying to write is an exercise in futility and frustration.

Motor skills develop from the inside to the outside of the body, and from the large to the small muscles. That means that until a child has control over such body parts as the trunk and arms, control of the hands and fingers just ain’t happening. And it is due to this progression, put in place by none other than Mother Nature, that it’s been said – believe it or not -- that the best way to prepare children to write is to let them swing on monkey bars. Or, as Angela recommended during our conversation, to let them hang from tree limbs, because the limbs stimulate more parts of the hands than do the monkey bars. She also recommended crawling, particularly in the outdoors, where the arches of the hands will contact far different surfaces than they would indoors. And, of course, hanging from tree limbs and crawling have the added benefit of strengthening the body’s large muscles, which must take place before the hands and fingers are ready to write!

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Posted by on in General

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Ironically if you look up my bad in the dictionary there’s a picture of me waving.

 

Todd Whitaker

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Posted by on in General

teaching

Educators everywhere immerse themselves into the work of impacting young lives because they love kids! Teaching is no ordinary job, and it takes an extraordinary teacher to overcome the many obstacles that children face. It takes an exceptional school leader to create a culture where children and adults have high expectations and can learn in a positive, safe, environment. I believe, like many others, that teaching and working with kids is a calling. We are called to serve the youngest population, to provide an education where young people are taught to rise above mediocrity and to think for themselves, to collaboratively problem solve and make the world better. We are called upon to teach students how to be leaders, readers, learners for a lifetime and changers of the status quo. The challenge is great, and the responsibility is immense, but educators everywhere accept the challenge and in the words of Marva Collins, “Make the poor student good and the good student great with no excuses in between.” Teaching is not for the faint of heart. It requires hard work, dedication, and unceasingly love.     

It is not uncommon for school administrators and teachers to work long hours, weekends, and holidays preparing their lessons and learning how to improve their practice. It’s not uncommon for teachers to have sleepless nights worrying about students, to purchase granola bars so kids can have something on their stomach, or to spend extra hours away from their own families to attend extracurricular activities. It’s not uncommon because those who enter the teaching field know that “the pay” is knowing they can have a positive impact. Administrators and teachers know the negative public perception of schools, and yet they dig in and serve their students and communities day in and day out. They know that their talents are gifts to be shared with their students. Educators not only believe but know that they can make a difference!     

Great educators refuse to let students fail! They teach children that difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Mistakes are opportunities to learn and stepping stones to success. Children learn about having a growth mindset and how to overcome challenges. Teachers give students hope and a belief in themselves. Michelangelo said, “Inside is an angel trying to get out” about a piece of marble. Teachers know that every child has something wonderful and special inside. They know that every child can learn. And they know that they cannot meet every child’s needs alone. The challenge is too great! Great educators know that it takes collaboration and a commitment to action that will ensure that every child succeeds. Their focus is the learning of each student. They roll up their sleeves and delve into the work!     

In those rare moments of disappointment and despair, great educators are inspired to further the work. They know that just one more time, one more attempt might make a connection and difference for a child. First, it’s the work and then the inspiration. Thomas Edison did not give up on his vision. He learned hundreds of ways not to make a lightbulb. It was only after hours of focused work that his team was inspired and found a way. And the “miracle” was light.   

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

 preschool

"Let's start at the very beginning. It's a very good place to start. When we read we begin with A B C...."

Who knew I'd love teaching littles? Not me, that's for sure. 

Preschool KWLW: Here's my learning update, month seven of my what was I thinking in year forty six? Who else in their right mind would start over, at the very beginning. Like how to hold a pencil, how to handle a book with love and repair ripped pages. I think I'm doing pretty well with the goals of the literacy grant, but I'm not working in sequential order like I usually do. I feel so out of sync, then all of a sudden, voila! the pieces come together.

Show and Tell and Circle Time offer time to structure, hold a class meeting for a couple minutes, sing, stretch and say our affirmations. Growth Mindset oozing from every pore of all of us. I lead Circle two days a week. I set and Close and bring puppets, props, a costume, tell stories, you know where I'm going here. Family learning.

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Posted by on in General

Grins-and-Giggles.jpg.PNG 

When I saw her walk in I quickly scanned the room for some age-appropriate toys that I hoped might have a shot at entertaining her for the hour or so she would have to wait. I didn't see anything that even remotely resembled something that a three year old would want to play with. I was just guessing that she was three. Maybe a little older or a little younger.

I've sat in meetings before in which children were unable to sit still or keep quiet for longer than a minute. It is very distracting and it can be difficult to stay focused. I don't blame the children or their parents. It have a hard time myself.

Once we all had our seats at the table, it just so happened that she was she seated directly to my left. As we began to introduce ourselves, her mother took out a notebook, turned to a clean page and handed her daughter a pen. She had come prepared. I had not. To be quite honest, I am usually the person in meetings that has the hardest time focusing and keeping still. I fidget. I doodle. I lean forward. I lean backward. And, I too, make sure I have a notebook, a clean page and something to write with. I guess I'm a lot like a three year old.

The meeting began. I couldn't help but notice that this little girl knew how to hold a pen. Something that is not common for someone her age.

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Tagged in: children Mistakes My Bad