Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Multi-Sensory Transitions in the Pre-K Classroom

Lights, Timer, Music, Action! by Gail Mishler

Posted on July 30th, 2014
Young children are learning many new skills in Pre-K.  The daily schedule can be rigorous and the many transitions they must comply with can be difficult for them.  Think about when you are in deep concentration working on something important to you; either a paper you are writing, or a project you're creating... now imagine in this process, someone keeps telling you to stop, put away your things and do something else...right now. Frustrating, right?  So beside making the classroom environment, warm, friendly, safe and engaging, let's consider how to make transitions smooth.  

Monday, August 21, 2017

COLLABORATION - a life skill taught in every pre-k.

Posted on July 25, 2013


What challenges exist as students work collaboratively as opposed to working individually? Students working collaboratively and co-constructing knowledge is a powerful learning experience. What scaffolds can the teacher put in place to support all students as they collaborate?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

It's time for an Education Revolution

For many years I've felt that public education is failing our children. I work in public education, in what I believe is our greatest hope for change...Pre-K.  Suddenly, for the first time policy makers and decision makers are seeing the importance of quality early childhood education. I will be the first to agree, and have advocated for early childhood education in Hartford, CT and in DC. But I am leery that administrators and policy makers will force their agenda, curriculum/standards & expectations down upon Pre-School rather than allowing Early Childhood Educators to lead and push our developmentally appropriate curriculum up into K-3 where it would do the most good. People who argue that early childhood education doesn't matter because it all levels out in 3rd grade are partially right..because the good work we do in pre-k is undone by forcing young students to sit in desks, wait in lines, perform paper and pencil tasks and completely stifle their youthful exuberance, playfulness and joy in K-3. It doesn't matter how early a child learns to read, but that he does, and that she understands what she is reading and has schema to draw upon from life experiences to  make connections.

There is so much emphasis on assessment, testing, reading by kindergarten...that we have lost sight of the whole child. Children are naturally curious, and learn more through exploring, questioning, wondering, creating and imagining, than by any paper and pencil lesson or assessment. Kindergarten students are working hard all day with very little time to play...yes, play.  Play...or if you prefer...experiential learning is what children do, it's how they process new information, it's what forms pathways in their brains and builds schema, higher order thinking skills, collaboration (social) skills, and communication skills (language!).

We speak of the achievement gap, the need to close the word gap and promote literacy and language skills, then we put 20-28 students in a classroom and tell them not to talk. "Don't talk, don't touch anything, don't ask questions, don't touch any one, just...don't."  We are stifling the creativity, brain and language development and gross motor skills of our country's youth.  Instead of teaching them they are capable, we tell them ( in our words, attitudes and actions) that they aren't, as we expect every child to learn the same thing at the same pace, in the same way, without considering each child's aptitudes and interests. In pre-k we focus on child interests, and individualize instruction based on each student's strengths and needs. When did teaching become about competition and tricking students by giving them several possible answers to choose from that may be an answer but not the best answer? Or give simple examples in class then test them on a more difficult problem with a twist?  When did AP US History become reading 500 pages a week and answering 300 multiple choice questions each Friday? Where is the deeper learning? The Critical thinking?

We are failing our kids, our students...our future leaders, entrepreneurs and workers of this country. The more I learn in our coursework at UNH in IT&DML, the more passionate I become about changing what is broken: Our schools. Please take the time to watch these four relatively short but very powerful videos, selected from about 40 I've watched this year. Please view them, share them, talk about them, blog about them, and get get policy makers, decision makers, administrators and teachers to take notice.  We are holding our kids back. We are.  It's time to let them shine.

Sir Ken Robinson, Tony Wagner, Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Marc-Andre Lalande are passionate about changing the education system. I am too...will you join us? Click on the link to view their videos.
I'd love to discuss your thoughts after watching these videos. Are you on board? Who will you share
these with? How do you think we can affect change?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Worried about Women's Rights

I am deeply concerned about the systematic tearing down of women's rights in every aspect of our society today. If you know your history, you know women used to be property of their fathers and husbands and were not allowed to work or own property. When the man of the house died, if there was no male heir, the women would be thrown on the streets and all of their assets taken by distant male relatives. Women have made great strides over the past century.  We can work, own property, and there are laws that protect us from domestic violence.  But our hold on these rights is becoming more and more fragile. Women are rapidly losing our very basic rights.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Violent Video Games and Young Children

Dear Parents, Grandparents, Guardians of Young Children,

More and more we are hearing our young students talk about video games they play, including mature rated games such as Modern Warfare and Grand Theft Auto.  Usually these games are played with older siblings or cousins. We implore you to monitor all video and computer games your children play.  Three and four year old children do not yet have the ability to tell fantasy from reality, right from wrong, or have a developed moral compass. A lot of the aggressive behaviors and lack of self regulation we are seeing in Pre-k are resulting from too much screen time, too many incidences of violence witnessed daily and too little sleep. Young children’s brains are developing at the most rapid rate they will ever develop at any other time of their lives.  Violent fast paced video games rewire these young brains, moving children away from social behavior, toward more aggressive behavior or “loner” type personalities, create behaviors similar to ADD or ADHD and are over stimulating our children.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

ORMS: engaging students as digital citizens

As children progress through the grades the ability to collaborate becomes more and more important.  When I taught 4th grade I integrated as many kinesthetic, creative, collaborative processes of learning as I could (get away with.)  We once created a solar system across the ceiling (to scale) with paper mache’ planets.  Everyone got to choose who they wanted to work with, which planet they wanted to research and create, and how they would report back their findings.  Two boys came to me and asked if they could research and create a constellation instead.  I asked how they would represent it.  They had an idea that involved a black box, pin holes and a flashlight.  I let them run with it. There was never an issue with this unit.  Every student was engaged, excited, involved in the research and creative aspects.  They quickly learned each other’s strengths and assigned responsibilities based on those strengths. Teachers from other classrooms came to see our project, and even brought their students (in school field trip!)

What challenges occur when students are empowered to create online “text” and share globally with others?

Posted on August 13, 2013
Mimi Ito exquisitely voiced what I have been feeling, in her video Connected Learning, Children and Digital Media  in her opening statement: 
 “Why do we assume that kids socializing and play is not a side of learning; and on the flip side, why schools can’t have a spirit of entertainment and play as a part of what they are doing.”
As a proponent for play and hands-on learning in ECE, I concur that it is time for educators and administrators to open our minds to the new digital literacies, and begin to better understand similarities and differences in formal learning and new literacies. Educators have long understood the importance of a child’s home, peer and community environment in his success in school. 

What a child does after school, the activities they pursue outside of school, the people they interact with, all effect their learning and development. If children are spending hours online socializing and playing, what skills are they learning? What benefits do they see? Mimi Ito outlines the importance of the social aspect of online interaction. 

I see it in my own home. My son does not go to his friends’ houses like he and his sisters did when they were younger. Instead, he is on his computer or X-box interacting with “friends” online. This interaction IS their social life. Each participant is at their own computer or gaming devise, with his own controller, fully engaged in the game. NOT a passive observer, but a gamer, a doer, a creator. My son is driven to create and construct online. He has a Youtube channel and narrates his gaming, creates 3-D graphics, and finds copyright free dubstep music to use as the soundtrack for his work. He is fully and completely engaged and engrossed in this creative process. Yet at school, my son is merely average. He comes to life when he is allowed to create and share his online pursuits. I often find myself pushing him to use his digital skills to complete an assignment for school. He has created iconic, historical buildings on Minecraft to submit for his french class, where he builds the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre (with art work inside) the Arc d’Truimph, and labels everything in French. He has created a Prezi for an oral book report, shared graphics from his Youtube account. I have to remind him of his talents and skills. His teachers do not encourage his geekish pursuits. They are lecture based, textbook bound and have lost him. I have found his aural comprehension to be fair at best. This is a kid I have to repeat 6-8 times to take out the garbage before the job is complete, yet he will spend hours creating a video game, or video for youtube, with no instruction or help from anyone. He is a kinesthetic learner who has amazing abilities that are never encouraged in school.ZurichMy son created this Nordic village on MineCraft.