Friday, December 2, 2011
It is often difficult to help a struggling child keep a positive attitude about reading. For many children it becomes a daunting and impossible task. It is up to the adult working with the child to do everything possible to instill in the child a desire to be successfull and a feeling that she can become a reader. That is a challenge for us all. How do we help the child become excited about something that she feels unsuccessful doing? I think that tracking (grouping children by ability) is one of the mistakes teachers often make. Reading researchers indicate that tracking is one of the worst things that can be done for a child on or below reading level. She has no models for success and she may mentally label herself as "dumb." Those are hard issues to overcome. Mixed level groups and activities seem to be the most successful for struggling readers. I had a lot of success in my own classroom with mixed groups. It was a beginning step to instilling that desire to read in a child who originally had that excitement when she started school.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Friday, October 7, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
I have spent many years working on helping children be prepared for kindergarten. I have always thought that it was imperative that parents know what truly is important as their child moves into the foundation year of school. When I began teaching kindergarten approximately 25 years ago, many of the children in my class had never attended a preschool. I remember that I preferred that a child not even know how to write her name to having her arrive at school writing it incorrectly (all in capitals). I could teach a child to write her name correctly, but it was twice as difficult to un-teach a child with a learned bad habit. We know that there are critical preschool skills that are important for kindergarten success (being able to identify alphabet letters) and there are skills that are actually not so critical prior to beginning kindergarten (knowing letter sounds). I'm pleased that we completed an I'm Ready for Kindergarten backpack this year. It contains parent-friendly activities that zero in on skills that will be critical for kindergarten success. It is my hope that it will assist parents and preschool workers in preparing our young ones for what I consider their most important beginning. I have two grandchildren who started kindergarten this year. They have had lots of support along the way and I feel confident they are ready for this big step. I wish I could help every kindergartner be that prepared.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I am a big believer in classroom meetings and introducing problems to children. Teachers often try to solve all the problems and make all the decisions. Parents do the same at home. I often use one example from my own classroom. In exasperation one day I noticed that the art center was a mess after we 'cleaned up' the room. I could have lectured or told the children how disappointed I was in their lack of follow-through. Instead, I drew the students' attention to the art center and asked if they could identify what was wrong. Of course they knew the center was not cleaned up properly. I asked for volunteers to clean the center. After it was appropriately cleaned I drew attention to how it should look after clean up. I then asked the children what we were going to do about the problem of having centers left in disarray. They had a variety of ideas, which we adopted as our procedures, and the problem of messy learning centers improved 100%.
Lecturing to the children was one ineffective approach to the problem. However, using several suggestions from the children solved the issue. Divergent thinking can rule the day!
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
A group of us were looking at new early childhood product possibilities recently and we saw this large, colorful slinky. Everyone was so excited and thought it was so cool. A product developer said, "Yes, everyone thinks it is great. But what do you do with it?" That became the big question. They gave me the slinky to try out with my grandchildren to see if we could think of activities to do with the slinky. This was a difficult assignment. Because the slinky is prone to knot and bend and really was too big to do the token 'walking down the stairs.' We did have fun shaking it up and down like a parachute, but beyond that there wasn't much to do with it. I certainly realized I couldn't write an activity guide to accompany the slinky. It was a lesson learned about how sometimes things are cute and attractive, but not very useful in building skills. I see early childhood products like that occasionally. Sometimes they're just a slinky.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
While serving on this committee, I have expressed my desire that we provide a usable document that an early childhood teacher can use "at a glance" to prepare her lesson plans. Sometimes we create large documents that many teachers do not take the time to read completely or we use terminology that is not always easy to understand. While I think it is critical for us to create a solid complete document, I also think it is important to have a simpler road map for teachers to use on a daily basis. Unfortunately, teachers don't always have access to complete professional development to help them 'decipher the code' of a government document. Hence, my request that we make a document usable for the masses. We must do that if we want the standards taught regularly in the classroom.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Monday, May 2, 2011
Jimmy had a violent temper and when angry he would hit anyone in his path, including adults. He was a little leery about me at the beginning (his first male teacher), but soon settled into his usual routine. Since he was so physical, I decided to capitalize on that energy. Our classroom was near an outside door that led to a large playground. I made a deal with Jimmy and told him that he could have some fresh air time if he ever felt angry and wanted to hit something. I told him that from that point on I wanted him to excuse himself, go outside and run to the fence and back until he calmed down and felt like he could re-enter the room. I made sure he knew this wasn't a punishment, but an opportunity to calm down. For this particular child, it worked and by December he could calm down by putting his head on his desk.
In the meantime, I found out a little more background about Jimmy and found there were violent episodes in his home. It makes sense that children who observe violence may react in the same way. With the social worker also involved in teaching Jimmy coping skills, he lost the title of 'terror of the school' and became a successful student.
Talking with my student teacher reminded me of the steps that I go through when working with a 'challenging' child:
1. Work on building a positive relationship with the child.
2. Try to find out the root of the problems.
3. If necessary, replace physical aggression with physical exertion.
4. Keep working on the problem. It may take 20 different procedures to find one that works for that child. Don't be cynical, be systematic.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
I always hoped that my students would have good memories of being in my classroom and the year we spent together. When I run into former students, I'm always surprised by what they remember. Many have told me about trying to catch the leprechaun. Who would have thought...
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Linguistic ("word smart")
Logical-mathematical ("number/reasoning smart")
Spatial ("picture smart")
Bodily-Kinesthetic ("body smart")
Musical ("music smart")
Interpersonal ("people smart")
Intrapersonal ("self smart")
Naturalist ("nature smart")
He has suggested additional intelligences over the years, but the bottom line is that we are all good at something and learn in different ways.
It is always interesting to have my university students do a multiple intelligence inventory. Some participants are surprised by the high and low scores that become evident during the inventory. Other students think the inventory does a good job of summing up their intelligence strengths. When we do this inventory, I always stress that the lower scores on their inventory are not weaknesses, but areas that may not play a key role in their daily lives. They also may be areas that have been difficult for them to use for learning. However, we know that intelligence can change. I know that my inventory scores are much different now than they would have been when I was in my 20s. This is mostly due to what I have chosen to do with my life. Linguistic and spatial skills have become more prominent in my life while logical thinking and music have become less of a focus for me.
We use the multiple intelligence inventory so that I can show my students that children have many learning styles and different opportunities to excel. When a child has a rounded view of life's choices, he can make educated life decisions in the future. Children who are not exposed to different learning areas do not understand all the choices that life can provide and they may have a difficult time learning new skills. This is another important consideration when working with young children.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
I began teaching children's literature to college students in 1997. As the years have passed, I became convinced about how important it is for teachers and parents to read children's and adolescent literature. Whether you are teaching 5 year-olds or 15 year-olds, I don't think there is any better way to remind yourself how children function than by reading literature featuring young characters. Each time I read a new children's novel I feel a deeper connection to kids. I believe that good teachers read children's literature.
I just finished reading the current Newbery Medal winner, Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. Abilene Tucker, the main character, is sent by her father to the town of Manifest for the summer. True to it's name, the town and citizens reveal to Abilene their unusual history and how her father fits into their existence. The town folk also have a few things manifested to them as Abilene searches through the history of the town. I think the manifestation that came to me during reading is how children interpret what they are told using what background knowledge they have acquired. It reminded me again that when you tell a child something, your interpretation of those instructions may not be the same translation in the child's head. Children can create an entirely different experience out of the simplest suggestion.
You learn a lot about children by reading. Check out Moon Over Manifest and see what is manifested to you.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Monday, January 3, 2011
During the holidays, I had the opportunity to be in California with all six of my grandchildren. After a rousing Wii music game, three of my granddaughters picked up the ukulele and some costumes, then proceeded to serenade the rest of us. One of the adults present called out, "That sounds just awful." Maybe it did, but the effort impressed me. Here were three girls who were not afraid to take a chance and exhibited great planning strategies. We know how critical it is to teach children thinking skills and to take a chance. Sir Ken Robinson, an expert on creativity, says, "If they don't know, they will have a go." Children are natural risk takers, but adults often shut down their comfort level for taking risks. This has great impact on thinking skills and creativity. To encourage taking risks and developing thinking skills, adults should:
1. Allow the "awful music," realizing that the process the child developed is what should be encouraged, not shut down. Don't worry about the product.
2. Look for toys and materials that need a process of development. Instead of a coloring book (no thinking there), provide construction paper, scissors and glue (endless process). The end product doesn't really matter.
3. Encourage an atmosphere of taking risks. Recently, a child I know filled the sink with water and started floating her shoe in the water. I applaud her mother who did not get upset and yell, "What are you doing?" She simply asked calmly, "So, what are you doing with your shoe." Her daughter said, "Seeing if my shoe can float." "What did you find out?" asked her mom. After a great discussion they cleaned the mess and dried the shoe.
4. Do projects together. Routinely do projects with the child and allow him to suggest many of the procedures. Even if you know it may not 'work.' Trial and error is great for thinking. A wonderful resource book for doing projects is, "The Complete Book of Activities, Games, Stories, etc." by Pam Schiller and Jackie Silberg.
My granddaughters can serenade me anytime. It was music to my ears as I was thrilled they created a band. The right notes can come later!