Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Sometimes we educators are so consumed with teaching the appropriate skills that we forget there needs to be a fertile ground for those new sprouts of knowledge to grow. If the child feels uncomfortable about any part of the school day, he may not be learning at his capacity. In fact, he most assuredly is not. I hope those of us who work with children will take this holiday break to rejuvenate ourselves and be committed to creating the optimal learning environment. One where the children have basic needs met while expanding with new skills and knowledge.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
One example of this happened to me years ago when my school district sent me to a math workshop at Boise State University. Most of the workshops were labeled K-3 and did not have much content for me as a kindergarten teacher. However, I did learn to make little journal books at that conference. I used those books continually in my teaching from that point on and they became a major tool for teaching children to think and be creative. For me that long 3-day workshops was work every minute and dollar spent. It made me a better teacher by teaching me about a very useful tool. Those of you attending conferences and workshops should make a goal to find something that will profoundly improve your teaching and learning.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Boss teachers rely on what Glasser calls the 7 Deadly Habits: criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and rewarding students to control them. I think we are all familiar with teachers that fall into this category.
Rather than falling into the rut of being a 'boss' teacher, Glasser suggests that we become, 'lead' teachers. A lead teacher relies on the 7 Connecting Habits: caring, listening, supporting, contributing, encouraging, trusting, and befriending. The most successful classrooms are the ones led by lead teachers.
I have told my student teachers that if they start using one of the deadly habits, combat the temptation with one of the connecting habits. Our goal is to be lead teachers and provide a nurturing atmosphere for the students.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
- Gluing leaves on pictures to represent the autumn
- Placing larger leaves under thin paper and doing leaf rubbings with the side of a peeled crayon
- Having the children replicate the colors of the leaves by color mixing
- Laminating leaves for use in the science center
- Looking at the leaves under a magnifying glass or microscope
- Leaf glitter (finely crumbled leaves glued on projects)
I remember when another teacher told me about leaf glitter. I laughed thinking it was a weak idea. Then I watched what happened when I crumbled leaves and allowed the children to use the crumbs just like they would use glitter. They were thrilled and we had to continually make more! Who knew such a simple idea would be such a hit. The biggest plus was that it was so much easier to clean up than regular glitter.
Those of you who are surrounded by the colors of autumn and work with young children, make the most of this time of year. For those of you who live where leaves don't do much changing, I'm sorry. You can give me a rough time during the winter when you are having a picnic.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
This past week we were talking about classroom setup and how important it is to have a well thought-out schedule and a concrete way for children to know what is expected during the day. I love having a schedule in the room (horizontal and visual for PreK-2), but I also mentioned the success I had using a 'Center Board,' similar to the commercial one you see above. Children in classrooms which are set up in centers can identify what centers are open and available for the day. I've seen a form of this used in upper grades, as well, showing the children visually what activities/assignments they need to work on for the day.
I think a center or assignment board, coupled with a solid posted daily schedule helps children feel stable in the setting. Stable children do not exhibit negative behaviors as often as children who don't know what is going to happen next (CSEFEL, 2006).
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Monday, August 2, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
My latest thrilling product is triangular-shaped crayons! I know, I know, crayons, markers and pencils that shape have been around for a while, but not very accessible. I'm so excited that Colorations came up with a classroom pack of these beauties. Just think, no more crayons rolling on the floor. These wonders stay where they are placed. I am packaging little bags of the crayons to take with me to restaurants when I take my grandkids. I have already had servers ask me where to get them. They really are the answer for child-friendly food establishments. It will be so nice not to be crawling under the booth to retrieve a crayon which rolled away from your child. That will make the eating experience much more positive.
I also love these for the classroom. I'm sure the number of crayons I picked up from the floor number in the millions. I like the idea of having crayons take up residency on the table and stay there. :-) I guess it doesn't take much to make me happy.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
Sometimes 'null' curriculum (curriculum that we don't intentionally teach, but the children still learn) is reinforced as much as the 'explicit' curriculum (core standards). What do children understand about life in the classroom by the way we respond to daily occurrences?
We watched a video of an interview with an elementary child, Mary. Mary stated that when another child asked the teacher why Mary had two dads instead of a mom, the teacher responded, "We are not going to talk about that in this class." Mary felt unsupported and the result was that some children began to taunt Mary at recess. She began to dislike coming to school because she thought she must be a bad person.
Since our job is to support ALL children, we need to be prepared to address null curriculum issues when they happen during the school day. Much like taking a test, if we are prepared, we can address the issue and support the child. I try to ask my pre-service teachers, "What will you do or say if this happens? Or this?" I believe prior thought and understanding can prepare these future teachers to respond appropriately.
As educators, we need to always remember that a child seldom is in the position to choose his religion, culture, lifestyle or family makeup. Even though our values may be different, it is critical to support that child in his educational journey. Not doing anything or refusing to have the discussion is not an option. If the teacher in the video was uncomfortable addressing the issue, she only needed to say, "That is the makeup of Mary's family. Isn't it wonderful that all of our families are different and we can be happy." I like the part of NAEYC's Code of Ethical Conduct which says, "...do no harm."
Monday, May 24, 2010
I have continued to get feedback for my blog entry a couple of months ago about disliking coloring books or pre-printed pages. I have been told there is a time and a place, but I'm still not on board with using such creativity-killing materials. I was reminded again this weekend when I was watching my grandchildren paint with tempera paint cakes. I watched the process unfold as I have many times. Creating their own pictures allow children to:
- develop organizational skills
- test experimentation skills
- explore decision-making skills
- be supported in creativity
Children that are immersed in these types of activities jump right into the project when they see what materials are available. Compare these children to those who wait to be encouraged and to see what the adult wants them to do. There is no comparison. Children who can organize, experiment, make decisions and create will always be more successful. They have the ability to think. Thinking is a good thing!
For some great creative activities, check out the following blog:
Art and Creativity.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
As an early childhood educator, I want my students to discover everything they can about our natural world. I always prefer taking children to the zoo to see live animals as opposed to the natural history museum filled with the stuffed version. But, I always drew the line at snakes. I assigned that to another adult to supervise. Sheesh...they give me the creeps. I will continue to encourage and assist children in finding out about the natural world. But, for snakes, they can go to my relative's house. Their snake is beau.... OK.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
We went on a family outing to southern Utah this past weekend. We were able to see Canyonlands and Natural Bridges National Parks. It was a nice adventure and I was very impressed with the Native America Petroglyphs that we were able to see while hiking. Some were off the beaten path away from most tourist spots. Like young children, they were able to tell stories through pictures. A true written dialogue.
In one park we were able to see the ruins of the Anasazi from at least 700 years ago. As we were looking at the homes in the cliffs, I was struck by the thought of how difficult it would have been to allow children to safely play on the sloping rock. We don't even allow slides on school playgrounds anymore and here was an entire village on a cliff. Where was the gate for the top of the stairs? I am happy that we are so conscious of safety in our time, but I wonder if children were more prepared for life when they had to learn how to protect themselves. Perhaps many children in the 1300s lost their lives because of their lack of protection. But, it makes me wonder if sometimes we protect children so much they don't develop life skills. Maybe protect is not the correct word. Maybe it's smother. Just thinking out loud as I wonder how they stayed up there.
Monday, April 19, 2010
This past weekend I competed in a 5K race to celebrate my birthday. The best part of the entire experience is that this old man finished the race on two legs! I was not quite as fast as I may have been ten years ago, but I was pleased with my time. Isn't it funny that we judge a race by how fast we can get to the finish. The first one over the finish line wins the race. Because I am not an athletic competitor at this age, it is the triumph of working to be able to actually run the race that is important to me. The process that I have gone through during years of running have helped me in other aspects of life.
I often think that for some parents, teaching their child is like a race. They want their child to know everything and get to the finish line first. Perhaps the process of building the skills appropriately would benefit the child more in the long run. I remember working with parents occasionally who were so driven to push their young child that they had very unreal expectations. I also realized that in most cases it was the parents' ego that was the driving force, not having a well-adjusted child with appropriate skills.
Some would call my race last week a failure because I didn't cross the finish line first. However, I was a winner because I finished the race. I learned that I still have what it takes to run the race. Pretty good for an old man.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I have the opportunity to try out products for Discount School Supply on a regular basis. I was trying out some blocks a year ago and I was getting frustrated by my lack of imagination in creating something with the blocks. I gave the blocks to my grandson who was almost 3 at the time. He immediately set to work putting the blocks together. He was enthralled with the blocks for what I consider a very long time for someone who is 3. He loved them. When I was working with the blocks earlier, I was questioning how valuable they would be for preschool children. My grandson taught me a great lesson. Children know what is best for them. If given a choice, children will play all day. That is what they do. It becomes essential for those of us who work with young children to create opportunities for play. Almost every early childhood skill can be reinforced using play. Since children instinctively want to play, that should be our first clue about appropriate approaches to teaching children. It is through open-ended play the children learn to solve problems, explore the world and make decisions.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Childhood obesity is certainly an epidemic in our country. I think my biggest frustration with this epidemic are the factors that we can do something about, such as outdoor play at school. Schools that limit or cancel outdoor play with the excuse of needing more learning time are not doing anything to help student learning. I think some schools just don't want to deal with any problems that may occur on the playground. To my way of thinking, they are sacrificing the health of the children in their care. I'm still waiting to see documented research that says cancelling recess increases student learning. I think I will be waiting a long time. All the while, young children are getting more sedentary. I think a better idea is to give teachers resources to help children stay healthy.
Monday, February 1, 2010
I sometimes worry that children in this century are not allowed to really be kids. They are constantly surrounded by adult commentary and much of the television programing contains adult humor. We all laugh when a child on TV says something sarcastic or profound. Statements that in the real world usually don't occur. A college student mentioned to me recently how much she enjoyed the movie Kindergarten Cop when she was a child. I remember that movie well as I was a male kindergarten teacher at the time. The movie was funny and entertaining, but I was dismayed by the fact that most of the things the kindergartners said in that movie would not even occur to a five year-old. Again, adult humor masked as child humor.
I was observing a student teacher working in a first grade classroom the other day. She was reading a joke book (the children's choice) for a few minutes prior to leaving for the day. She told the following joke:
"She's married to Mr. Sippi!"
The children laughed and laughed at the joke. A simple joke for a child's humor. I love to see children who are able to be children. I wish everyone could have a lengthy and humorous childhood. Maybe adulthood would be a happier experience, as well.
My second grade grandson loves jokes. I think I will go call him and tell him my latest.....
Monday, January 18, 2010
Any student who has taken a class from me at the university knows how I feel about coloring books and other pre-drawn images for children. Some adults tell me it is 'relaxing' for children to just color. Coloring books are designed to occupy a child's time. For some adults that is a good thing. If you have ever taken young children on a long car trip or to the doctor with a long wait, coloring books may serve a purpose. If for no other reason than to spread out the time between, "Are we there yet?" questions.
In school, however, color book-type pages are not appropriate, especially for young children. Teachers sometimes use those pages to keep a child busy so they can work with other children. Reading the research of Victor Lowenfeld, we find out that coloring book pages can take almost all creative thinking away from 50-60% of children. The other 40% may be effected as well, but may have been nourished enough to at least maintain some creativity. In fact, if a child continually uses pre-made pages, he may never be satisfied with anything that he draws. He will be upset that his drawings look like a child's drawings, not the adult drawings in coloring books.
There are much better things to give children to occupy their time. Crayons and a blank sheet of paper are much more appropriate. Paints and watercolors are also effective to allow the child to create. One of my favorite activities is to give children construction paper and glue (scissors for 4+ children). I ask them to create a picture of themselves using just tearing/cutting the paper and the glue. This can be done with any theme or activity. Many adults would be shocked at the amazing projects that the children create. So, in my 30+ years working with children, I am even more convinced that coloring books can be the enemy. I want the children I have in my care to be thinkers and creaters, not colorers.