Learning Through Play

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” ~Fred Rogers

Play is how children begin to comprehend and grasp all the many concepts of their surroundings. Play is the groundwork for knowledge for young children. Children need opportunities to play in an atmosphere that promotes learning in all the areas of child development (Social Emotional, Fine Motor, Gross Motor, Cognitive, Language, Literacy, and Math). Today children do not have as many play opportunities with the increased demands of academic success, structured activities and technology devices from computers, phones and television. Many toys sold are battery operated and don’t allow for the building of imagination or make believe play. Early childhood classrooms give children a unique educational play setting that fosters imagination and dramatic play. The early childhood classroom allows for social development for children to learn to play with other children of the same age with trained and responsive teachers that guide and coach children to play successfully with one another.
Our ECFE and Discovery Learning Preschool programs are prepared and enriched learning environments that allow for children to have opportunities to explore many different learning areas from blocks, dramatic play, art, sand, water, music, writing, literacy, math, sensory, science, puzzles, games, and outdoor play. Play is an effective and enjoyable way for children to develop many learning skills. “Play is an important vehicle for developing self regulation as well as for promoting language, cognition, and social competence. Children of all ages love to play, and it gives them opportunities to develop physical competence and enjoyment of the outdoors, understand and make sense of their world, interact with others, express and control emotions, develop their symbolic and problem solving abilities, and practice emerging skills. Research shows the links between play and foundational capacities such as memory, self regulation, oral language abilities, social skills, and success in school” (NAEYC position statement on play). Play is the basis of initial learning, which helps children to develop understanding of fundamental concepts and inquiry skills.
In addition to being linked to self-regulation skills, studies have found that purposeful and productive play is positively related to:
• Memory development (Levy, Wolfgang & Koorland, 1992)

• Symbolic thinking (Davidson, 1998; Kim, 1999)

• Positive approaches to learning (Levy, Wolfgang & Koorland, 1992)

• Positive social skills (Corsaro, 1988; Levy, Wolfgang & Koorland, 1992)

• Language and literacy skills (Berk, 2009; Kim, 1999; Levy, Wolfgang & Koorland, 1992)

• Math skills (Berk, 2009; Kim, 1999; Levy, Wolfgang & Koorland, 1992)
(Research Foundation – Creative Curriculum)
Concepts are developed through activities that occur naturally during play, such as counting, sorting, sequencing, predicting, hypothesizing, and evaluating. They are engaged in things they’re interested in—so they have a natural motivation to learn (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). As a preschool teacher, I have seen first hand the differences in children who have opportunities to play. Children through play are learning academic concepts from the alphabet to math skills in a manner that is fun, enjoyable, and retainable. Many children come to school for the first time not having the ability to engage and cooperate with their peers. Play has given them the opportunities to learn to interact, share, take turns, and bond with their peers and to form relationships with adults other than their parents. Not only is play fun in preschool, it gives children the prospect to relate with others and learn many different concepts with hands-on materials by using their imagination and making abstract concepts become concrete.
“ Play is the highest form of research.” ~Albert Einstein

For more information on the benefits of play check out these informational articles:

It’s The Way Young Children Learn
http://www.childaction.org/families/publications/docs/guidance/PlayItstheWayYoungChildrenLearn_Eng.pdf

10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Play
https://families.naeyc.org/learning-and-development/child-development/10-things-every-parent-should-know-about-play

The love of Valentine’s Day through childrens’ eyes

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heartsBy Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

I remember as a child looking forward to Valentine’s Day.  I would prepare each valentine for my classmates with care and wake up every Valentine’s Day morning with a card and a yummy box of chocolates on my breakfast plate.  For months after, I would organize and sort through all those lovely cards.  Valentine’s Day has always had a special place in my heart . . . no pun intended!  On my daughter’s first Valentine’s Day in preschool we had so much fun making all her friends a special valentine.  She took such immense attention to detail in decorating each and every one.  I was relieved that we started weeks before the holiday or I don’t think we would have been done on time.  Each year since her first Valentine’s Day, we still make her Valentine’s.  This has become a tradition, one I enjoyed as a child that I can now share with my daughter.  In our preschool Discovery classrooms, the children decorate bags or boxes to prepare for their Valentine cards and treats.  It is so fun to see the Valentine’s they pick or make to pass out to their friends.  I especially enjoy the excitement they have opening their bags after being filled with cards and candies.  Looking and inspecting each valentine!

Valentine’s Day can be a wonderful occasion to express to others how much we care, love, and appreciate them!  It does not have to be a holiday where you need to buy cards or gifts, but instead an opportunity to make Valentines for others or spend quality time together as a family.  “It’s never too early to help children express love and friendship in ways that transcend materialism. Because young children are concrete thinkers, it’s hard for them to understand a concept that can’t be represented by objects.  However, by watching you give gifts of kindness, time, compassion, respect, and thoughtfulness to the people you love – not just on holidays but throughout the year – they will learn that “I love you” means so much more than three words inscribed on a candy heart” (Alvin Poussaint, M.D.).  Have fun this Valentine’s Day expressing your love to those that mean so much to you.  You don’t need to spend a cent, because love is free and is the best gift of all!

For some fun Valentine’s Day ideas for kids go to:

PBS KIDSValentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day: Valentine’s Day Crafts for Kids – Martha Stewart

Valentine’s Day Ideas for Kids | Holiday Games and Activities

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 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?

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?

 

RTI for Kindergarten Readiness-Helping Children Early in the Classroom

rti_pyramidBy: Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer/Discovery Learning Teacher

RTI stands for Response to Intervention and is used to reach the needs of all children by providing early instructional interventions.  In Discovery Learning, when children need extra support the teaching team (lead teacher, ECSE teacher, MRC Representative and Classroom Assistant) in the classroom works together with the child in more explicit and purposeful teaching.  One way we administer our interventions is to begin with individual assessments.  By assessing children quarterly and when needed, we’re able to keep track of children’s progress and see areas of need and growth.  One example is in our literacy assessments.  Children are tested or bench marked on letter names, letter sounds, alliteration, rhyming, and picture naming in the fall, winter, and spring.  With the help of the Minnesota Reading Corps, children are progress monitored throughout the school year.  After the very first assessment in the fall, children who need some extra help will begin working with the classroom teacher or MRC representative to provide extra literacy support in small groups or one-on-one.  After each literacy goal is achieved, a new goal is implemented until the child is at benchmark in each area of literacy.

Another form of RTI in the Discovery Learning classrooms is the Response to Intervention and the Pyramid Model.  “The Pyramid Model provides a tiered intervention framework of evidence-based interventions for promoting the social, emotional, and behavioral development of young children” (Fox et al., 2003; Hemmeter, Ostrosky, & Fox, 2006).  The model describes three tiers of intervention practice:

  • Tier 1:  universal promotion for all children
  • Tier 2:  secondary preventions to address the intervention needs for children at risk of social emotional delays
  • Tier 3:  tertiary interventions needed for children with persistent challenges

One of the great advantages of working with RTI in our ECFE/SR program is the resources that are available to us.  With the Pyramid Model (formally TACSEI) and High Five (ISD 728) a team is available to guide the staff and families in RTI interventions from behavior specialists, parent educators, coaches, and a school psychologist.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in a description of RTI in our Discovery Classrooms.  There is so much being done daily in our environments for the achievement of every child’s academic and social-emotional success.  With the implementation of RTI:  early identification of children’s challenges is recognized, student’s are provided with instructional support, and children’s progress is monitored and assessed regularly.  I hope it is reassuring to know that our program will do what is needed to ensure that every child will be successful and prepared for kindergarten.

For more information on RTI go to the Center for RTI in Early Childhood website at: www.crtiec.org   To find information on Tier 2 and Tier 3 social emotional/behavior interventions, go to the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning at http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/ and for information on the Minnesota Reading Corps go to: www.minnesotareadingcorps.org

What are your thoughts on RTI interventions in preschool?

The Meaning Of Reading

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By: Angy Talbot (Discovery Teacher and ECFE Blog Writer)

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I remember in school learning how to read.  It was challenging to make since of words that sometimes I could sound out and other times I needed to remember by sight.    Learning to read did not come easy for me.  I had to work hard at it and needed extra help.     My third grade and favorite teacher, Mrs. Bramhall, did an excellent job at taking literacy concepts and making them understandable.  She made reading fun!  I was afraid to read out loud in school because I might pronounce a word incorrectly.  Mrs. Bramhall taught me to put aside those fears and that it does not matter if I said a word wrong.  If I came across a word that I didn’t know, I needed to learn the word and the meaning of it (I got a lot of use out of an old dictionary that year).  She taught me that reading is really about total comprehension and understanding what is read.  I began to actually read books for pleasure in the third grade.  I learned to love reading and not fear it.  I found out that reading is almost like an out of body experience.  Your imagination can transform you into another place or time, and where you can meet and get to know many different types of people.  After third grade, I no longer struggled in reading.  I began to excel not only reading, but in other subjects from writing, social studies, and all areas of English.  I still love to read and read leisurely, daily.  I think in order to help children love to read, adults need to demonstrate how much fun reading really is.  When you read a book, your imagination can take you anywhere.  You can be and do anything!  Not only do we need to read to our children, we need to read ourselves.  One of my favorite quotes is from Jacqueline Kennedy, “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world.  Love of books is the best of all.”  What was the last story you read for yourself?  It’s time to turn off that TV or computer and read!