The Powerful Role of Music

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

“I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.” ~ Plato

Children benefit from being introduced to all different types of music. Music is all around us, in the home, and in society. There are many ways we incorporate music and movement into the Discovery classrooms. Whether listening to music from Raffi to classical, singing songs, playing instruments, or musical movement, music is incorporated and created daily in our environment. We teach the children how to sing a song. After practicing together, the children can sing the song as a class, and songs then can be used for transitioning from one activity to the next or in group or circle time. Children can also use their bodies as instruments by taping their feet, clapping their hands, and making different noises and sounds with their voices. Every classroom has various instruments that can be used individually during choice time and during circle time together as a group. Music is a tool we use throughout the day.

Music can play an important role in brain development. In the article, Why Music and Arts Education Is Important, Shari Black states, “According to a recent study done by neurologist Frank Wilson, when a musician plays he/she uses approximately 90 percent of the brain. Wilson could not find no other activity that uses the brain to this extent.” When a child plays a musical instrument or sings on a regular basis, it is exercising the entire brain while stimulating intelligence. Through singing and listening to music, children can learn new concepts. Singing helps children to understand meaning of words and repeating songs helps children to memorize phrases and strengthen memory.

Singing to your child is also an important element in music. Young children love to hear a calm singing voice while listening to patterns and recognizing the familiar sound of a caregiver’s tone. Each night before bedtime, I would rock my daughter to sleep while singing to her. I do not have the best singing voice, but she didn’t mind. I could see at an instant when I sang, she felt comforted and loved. As a toddler, we would sing nursery rhymes and children songs, which felt like all day long. In preschool, she would sing many songs in the Discovery classroom and repeat them in the car on our way home. Now that she is in elementary school, she still loves to sing. I can hear that sweet voice singing a tune while getting ready in the morning or when she is playing in her bedroom.

“Music plays a powerful role in the lives of young children. Through music, babies and toddlers can come to better understand themselves and their feelings, learn to decipher patterns and solve problems, and discover the world around them in rich, complex ways. Most important, sharing music experiences with the people they love makes very young children feel cherished and important.” (NAEYC). So don’t be shy and sing a song!

How do you integrate music with your children?

Below are a few websites on music:

Music and Your Baby

http://www.babycenter.com/0_music-and-your-baby-newborn-to-1-year_6548.bc

Learning of Music: The support of Brain Research

http://www.communityplaythings.com/resources/articles/musicandmovement/learningthroughmusic.html

Music and Movement – Instrumental in Language Development

http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=601

Music and Young Children

http://www.theparentreport.com/2012/06/music-and-young-children/

Parent-Child Time: The Heart of ECFE

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By: Ms. Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

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I believe in the statement that parent-interaction time is, “The heart of Early Childhood Family Education programs in Minnesota’s programs for parents with young children”.  It is a wonderful time for parents to interact with their children in a prepared and safe environment.  This time is used for children to have an opportunity to socialize and interact with other children of similar ages.  It benefits the parents by giving them an opportunity to observe, interact, and learn more about their child.  The parents share quality time with their children, and on occasion, generate ideas that they can bring home to do with their child.  This valuable time enables them to learn new songs they can sing with their children, recreate art projects, and interact with their child through play activities.  When I attended ECFE with my child, I found it very beneficial having this chance to observe my child in a different setting with children her age.  I could see developmentally where the other children were and how this compared to typical development.  It helped me to observe how my child interacted with other children and how I could help her to learn social behaviors and skills.  My daughter loved the messy play that we could do in an ECFE classroom and I did not have to worry about the mess.  We painted many pictures together, played with silly putty called “Glurch,” and there were often many art activities that we explored and later tried out at home (I found the best play dough recipe from the Early Childhood Teacher).  The time we spent together in ECFE are moments in her lifetime that I will never forget.  I always looked forward to our days where we could just play together and forget about the outside world.

For more information on our ECFE classes and other programs go to:

http://elkriver.registryinsight.com

The Power of Nature

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By: Angy Talbot

“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.” ~Valerie Andrews

When I was a child, I was exposed to and experienced nature in many ways. Each year we spent a week at Itasca State Park. During our visit, we would tent; make campfires, go swimming in the lake, hike, and fish. One of my favorite things to do was to bike ride the Wilderness Trail where we would stop to take hikes in the woods to see various natural landmarks along the way. We would witness so many beautiful species, plants, and trees along our path. I can still smell the fresh scent of cedar and lake water. Once my father and I stopped at the Pioneer Cemetery. We were the only visitors. I remember the moment, it was so peaceful and I could hear what seemed like every sound in the woods from the rustle of leaves to waves hitting the shore. As we sat in silence, little did we know that we had a visitor watching us. No more than a few feet away stood a fawn standing in the path looking at us with such an intense stare. I couldn’t help but stand and walk toward this stunning creature. At the time, I was just 8 years old. As I approached the deer, it too approached me. I was able to get close enough to pet this wild animal like it was a pet on a farm. My father who was in complete shock, grabbed his camera only to drop a roll of film on the ground which startled the young fawn to run back into the woods. I had no idea at the time what a great honor it was for me to have lived out that moment. My father was disappointed that he didn’t have the opportunity to snap a picture of this rare occurrence. I recall many other great memories of my childhood in those special moments experiencing nature with those I loved. As a parent, I have tried to recreate some cherished moments I had with my family. There are so many opportunities to engage and connect our children to nature! Children today do not spend as much time outdoors in the natural world. I feel fortunate as a teacher that we have a magnificent Nature Explore Center on our school grounds. It is a natural environment with gardens, trees, grass, flowers, and a hill. There are also different medians for the children to work and play with from instruments, sand, climbing, building, and relaxing. I see so much creativity, cooperation, and exploration in their play when they are outside in nature experiencing our Earth. The bugs are no longer scary and all they can see, hear, touch, and smell heightens the children’s senses. Giving children opportunities in nature will provide memories to cherish for a lifetime. This time can be spent at the park, beach, in the woods, and lets not forget about our own back yards! The cost is simply priceless.
Here is a list of places that you can take your children right here in Minnesota to explore the powers and wonders of nature:
Sherburne County National Wildlife Refuge
http://exploresherburne.org/_index.php

Spring brook Nature Center
http://www.springbrooknaturecenter.org/

Elm Creek Park and Preserve
http://www.threeriversparks.org/parks/elm-creek-park.aspx

Minnesota State Parks
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/index.html

Tamarack Nature Center
https://parks.co.ramsey.mn.us/tamarack/Pages/tamarack.aspx

Oliver Kelly Farm
http://sites.mnhs.org/historic-sites/oliver-h-kelley-farm

These are just a few places that you can go to discover nature. There are so many neighboring parks near and in every city of Minnesota. So take some time and enjoy this wonderful physical world we live in with your children.

The Importance of Play

By Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

peek a boo Play is one significant way that children learn and play is important for children’s healthy development.  Through play, children explore and use their imagination by trying out new skills and bonding with others.  Play is an essential and critical part of all children’s development.  “Play starts in the child’s infancy, and ideally, continues throughout his or her life.  Play is how children learn to socialize, to think, to solve problems, to mature, and most importantly, to have fun.  Play connects children with their imagination, their environment, their parents and family, and the world (Play, Montana State).”  As parents, we can support our children’s play by initiating play activities and simply playing with our children.  As early as infancy, parents are their child’s first playmate.  When you engage with your baby by making silly faces or playing peek-a-boo, this is the beginning stage of play.   When a caregiver plays with an infant, there is a connection and bond that helps him or her feel secure, safe, and loved.  It’s important to try to spend as much time connecting and playing with your infant or toddler.

As children grow older, play becomes their “work.”  They begin to use materials and toys in their play to assist with their imagination.  As a preschool teacher, at least 40 minutes of our class time is “Free-Choice” where children have an opportunity to play in all areas of the room from dramatic play, blocks, art, books, writing, water, sand, discovery, math, science, computer, and games.  During play, not only are children learning with the various materials, they are learning to communicate with other children and adults.  Play helps preschoolers learn how to share, play together, problem solve, and use critical thinking skills.  There are many cognitive activities that take place in a Discovery Preschool Classroom from learning letter names to numbers.  Even though academics are important, children’s social well-being and the development of social skills through play should never be overlooked or undervalued.  Play is not only enjoyable; it is the building blocks toward children’s knowledge and their experiences for the future!

I would like to share a quote by Anita Wadley, “When you asked me what I did in school today and I say, ‘I just played.’  Please don’t misunderstand me.  For you see, I am learning as I play.  I am learning to enjoy and be successful in my work.  Today I am a child and my work is play.”

The following websites promote creative play with ideas for activities you can do at home!

  • Public Broadcasting Service’s educational website for kids:

www.pbs.org/wholechild/parents/play.html

  • Art, science, architecture, history, ethnic studies, puzzles, games, activities

and much more, just for kids:   www.niehs.nih.gov/kids/home.htm

What are some ways you play with your child?

Hands-On Math for Preschoolers

By: Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

preschooler and mathThree years ago our Discovery Preschool Programs adopted a new math curriculum called, Real Math – Building Blocks.  Real Math is, “the first program to fully integrate all five strands of mathematical proficiency as defined by today’s research.”  The five key proficiencies that students need to achieve math stated by the Real Math curriculum are:

  1. Understanding: Comprehending mathematical concepts, operations, and relations – knowing what mathematical symbols, diagrams, and procedures mean.
  2. Computing: Carrying out mathematical procedures, such as adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing numbers flexibly, accurately, efficiently, and appropriately.
  3. Applying: Being able to formulate problems mathematically and devise strategies for solving them using concepts and procedures appropriately.
  4. Reasoning: Using logic to explain and justify a solution to a problem or to extend from something known to something not yet known.
  5. Engaging: Seeing mathematics as sensible, useful, and doable.

The Real Math curriculum combines skill-building and problem-solving instruction that includes technology.  Each child is given access to mathematical games, which can be found on the real math website.  Since the children login to their own account, each child’s successes and progress can be monitored.  This technology resource helps take the classroom to the next level while giving parent’s a great alterative for their child’s computer use at home.  Every Discovery classroom has a computer available for the children to use during class time.  The children greatly enjoy playing these different math games on the computer, which has provided a variation to learning diverse math skills.  “Technology opens the door to mathematical understanding and application that will prepare students for the real world.”

Each day children engage in whole group math activities, small group math activities, and hands on learning in the math center.  Each week the children learn and practice a math concept from counting, learning about shapes, measuring, patterns, number recognition, sorting, classifying, adding and subtracting small numbers, and much, much more!  Overall, the children are learning through hands on activities and teacher directed instruction, while children’s progress is monitored.

As a preschool teacher, I have enjoyed using this math curriculum.  This program offers support and training for teachers.  The lessons are very thorough, nicely prepared, and can be easily implemented into any classroom setting.  I feel it is very important for children at a young age to develop and understand numerous math skills.  The children are often applying and learning math concepts without even realizing it.  The activities are engaging and very age appropriate.  I want children to feel confident in math and think of it as fun!  “Quality mathematics is a joy, not a pressure.  It emerges from children’s play, their curiosity, and their natural ability to think.”  For more information on the Real Math curriculum please go to:

www.realmath.com

How do you apply math concepts at home?

D.I.Y. For Kids

towelBy Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

Quite often parents will ask me what they can do at home to help prepare their child for school.  One suggestion I always mention is to have their child begin to help out at home and do more things on their own.  At home, children can start by cleaning up after themselves.  If they take something out, they can put it away right after they are done using it.  I know as a parent and teacher, I have found myself often putting away items I never used myself.  Even if it is easier for you to pick up the mess, it is better for children to learn this responsibility.  Children can also help out with many household chores.  Some suggestions are:

  • Folding small washcloths and towels when doing laundry.
  • Helping with setting the table for meals.
  • Helping with making their beds.
  • Cleaning up their place setting after a meal.
  • Helping with pets such as feeding them.
  • Getting a child-size broom or shovel so they can help with sweeping and shoveling.
  • Pour their own water for drinking while using child-size pitchers and cups.
  • Helping with putting away groceries or dishes.
  • Washing dishes (it is fun to wash by hand from time-to-time even though you may have a dishwasher and children will better understand the concept of how things get from dirty to clean).

Not only is it valuable to show children how to take care of their environment, it is equally as important to inform children as to how they can take care of themselves.  Taking care of themselves not only will help them to achieve independence, but helps to develop self-confidence and pride.  It is helpful for children to practice getting ready in the morning from getting dressed, helping to pick out their own clothes, and brushing their hair and teeth.  They may still need some assistance from an adult, but giving them the opportunities to practice and try it on their own will help them to become self-sufficient.

Some basic self-help skills are:

  • Carrying their backpack/book bag to school.
  • Washing their hands before meals or after using the bathroom.
  • Wiping their nose and washing their hands after.
  • Practicing with putting on their winter outdoor gear from snow pants, boots, to jackets.
  • Practicing with buttons and zippers.
  • Putting on their shoes and clothes.
  • Taking care of their own personal hygiene needs from combing their hair to washing their face.

I read a quote once that I often refer to as a teacher and mother, “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed” by Dr. Maria Montessori.  The key is showing children age-appropriate responsibilities for the environment and themselves by introducing new skills as they develop.  A great resource is an article titled, Teaching Your Child to Become Independent with Daily Routines, gives many suggestions and helpful tools in self-help skills for children.  You can download it at:

csefel.vanderbilt.edu/documents/teaching_routines.pdf.

What are some things you do at home to encourage your child’s independence?

 

Parent Involvement in the Classroom

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.” ~ Jane D. Hull

It is well established that parental school involvement has a positive influence on school-related outcomes for children. Consistently, cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have demonstrated an association between higher levels of parental school involvement and greater academic success for children and adolescents. For young children, parental school involvement is associated with early school success, including academic and language skills, and social competence (Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994; Hill, 2001; Hill & Craft, 2003). Parent involvement in schools promotes children’s early academic success, while supporting parents’ parenting skills. Parent involvement is a benefit factor, which promotes a partnership and relationship between schools and families while building positive educational and emotional environments at school and equally at home. Families have a major influence on their child’s achievement in school. When parents are involved in their child’s education, children do better in school. When schools encourage, engage, and support families, greater gains in improving learning is inevitable. Families benefit from guidance in learning how to engage their child at home with take-home materials, attending school events such as parent days, conferences, face-to-face interventions, and communication between teacher and parent.
A child’s first entry into school can be very stressful and scary for parents. School readiness not only prepares the child for school, it also helps prepare the parents. One of our parent involvement goals in our program is to help “coach” our parents. “Coaching is used to acknowledge and perhaps improve existing knowledge and practices, develop new skills, and promote continuous self-assessment and learning on the part of the coaches.” Rush & Sheldon, 2011. We provide insight and knowledge to our parents in areas of child development while working as role models in our classes.
Families have many opportunities to get involved in our Early Childhood and Discovery Learning Programs. Listed below are some ways we promote parent involvement in our schools and classrooms:
• Parents have the opportunity to regularly participate with their child in class on Family Days, which takes place daily, weekly or monthly depending on the program.
• Teachers help coach parents by setting goals and guiding the parents in parenting needs.
• Parent Educators are available for home visits and parent discussions to further promote parenting skills and knowledge.
• Parents and family members have the opportunity to volunteer and participate in their child’s classroom.
• Each teacher has a website with information of what is happening in the classroom and programs can be viewed by the families with downloads, pictures, classroom news, newsletters, and important parent information and resources.
• Families can participate in the classroom by presenting to the children about their career, special interest, or culture.
• Parents can come and read a story to the classroom as a special reader for the day.
• Special program activities from carnivals to 5k’s all promote family involvement and participation.
• Parents are informed and given information on the many curriculums, strategies, and resources that are used in the classroom that they can also be done at home from:
• TACSEI/High Five/ECTA (Social Emotional and behavior)
• Minnesota Reading Corps and SEEDS (Literacy)
• Creative Curriculum (Curriculum Used)
• LANA – Healthy eating and snack
• Learning Blocks Math
• Response to Intervention

This is just a short list of how our ECFE/SR program promotes, supports, and encourages family involvement and participation.

It has been proven that family participation and involvement in school greatly benefits children and the family unit. Our ECFE/SR program is designed to help families become engaged in school together at the young ages. Even as your child grows older, there are still many ways to get involved with your child’s learning environment. When families continue classroom learning at home, learning and development is strongly reinforced and family involvement is inspired. When parents and care-givers are involved in the early years of education, they will more likely stay actively involved in the elementary years.

What are some ways you are involved with your child’s schooling?