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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in early learning
Posted by on in What If?

teacher and children

Those of us with children have all been there: standing in a queue as long as the river Nile at the supermarket with a slowly unraveling toddler in the cart. You could hand her your iPhone with a colorful app that bings and boings to forestall that tantrum. Or, you could talk to her – where are those apples in the cart? Can she find the picture of the little girl on the cereal box, or find the letter “G” that her name starts with on the big sign over head?

In fact, researcher Julia Ma and her colleagues suggest that you just might want to have that conversation. At a recent Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting, they reported their findings from a study of over 1000 children under the age of 2. They had asked parents to report how often their children used handheld digital devices in an average day. These same parents then responded to a questionnaire about their children’s language abilities. What did they find? Children with more screen time were more likely to be delayed in their language expression! Moreover, these researchers were careful and took many other factors into account when they did their analyses: maternal education, family income, infant temperament, and parent - child overall screen time on other than handheld devices. These precautions suggest that their finding was really about children’s handheld screen time.

Handheld devices are pervasive – found in every crevice of our lives. We check them before we go to bed and they are the first point of contact with the world when we awaken in the morning. Recent data shows high uptake by even the youngest children. Reports suggest that the 2-4 crowd goes digital for almost 2 hours a day. But the widespread use of these devices is a relatively new phenomenon. We just sang "Happy Birthday" to the 10-year-old iPhone and the tablet is just 7 years of age. Not surprisingly, research has lagged behind the rapidly changing technology. But that means that we are putting devices into the hands of our toddlers when we know very little about their possible effects.

But we do know what helps our children learn language. Decades of research tell us that language learning depends on human interaction and on what researchers call ‘contingency’ – responding to our children soon after they speak and building on what they say. Digital devices can interrupt the conversation that is so vital to language success. Research from our labs shows that children will not learn new words when their conversation with a parent is interrupted by a cell phone call.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Do you remember the first time you had a sleep-over? Along with that first loose tooth, this is one great big rite of passage.

Lately I find myself spending more time listening to the ever-present Eugene rain, Soundscapes and relaxation music. If I look at social media I get fixated on mindless, fun stuff or very inspirational real life stories and musings.

Except for the littles, not much makes sense to me right now. I kind of feel like that scene in the movie "2012" where the North and South Poles switch places. Maybe I am sort of like the Woody Harrelson character, sure those secret ships will take us up and away. 

Now a fan of therapy dogs Max and companion Ruby, Esther the Wonder Pig, cat videos, although I am allergic to cats. A lot of wonder and wonderful, kind-hearted people in this world. That's what I'm focusing on.

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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

b2ap3_thumbnail_curious-child.jpg

I was once asked during a presentation for a parent’s group what it is that preschoolers need most to prepare them academically.

I’m sure some would have loved tips on building early readers or how to get a jump start on math skills (both important, to be sure), but what I really believe young children need goes beyond even those basic skills.


“Honestly,” I said, “if I had to pick one thing, it would be for them to simply keep their curiosity.  Everything else will follow.”

Passionately Curious

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

kindergarten classroom

Recent news continues to highlight the increasing demands on teachers, students and families during the first year of school. Kindergarten is the "New First Grade" has been said many times during the past few years, however increased academic expectations can be met with developmentally appropriate instructional strategies…play included.  The benefits of play in the new first grade are seen throughout a child’s day in multiple domains.

1. Development of the whole child.  Play-based activities reach a wide scope and sequence of skills.  From critical thinking to problem solving skills-students have a very concrete and motivating way to learn the foundation skills that will support their learning K-12 and beyond.

2. Reaches the diverse learning styles of our students.  Play is a universal language.  I have observed students of all native languages interact together at a sensory table with water and sink/float activities.  We don’t always need our words to learn-but for our students who thrive in modes of learning that incorporate kinesthetic and visual activities- play can be the spark that supports more meaningful understanding of concepts.

3. Opportunities for development of oral language skills.  So much research has come out in regards to the importance of meaningful talk time for our early learners.  Playful learning offers intentional opportunities for students to enhance their vocabulary skills, while having student models and teacher facilitation of conversations.

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