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

Expression Through Art

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By: Angy Talbot, ECFE Blog Writer

Art is more than something exquisite or interesting; art can be an expression of someone’s soul.  Art can tell a story, make you feel, and keep you guessing.  There are many ways an artist can express themselves through painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, and art can be produced from any media imaginable.  There are many types of art and numerous ways that one could present an art piece.  When you paint a picture, you need to decide the type of paint you will use, the type of material you will be painting on, and the images you would like to paint.  There are many different elements that one can express through their art.  Many people, who do not consider themselves artists, would even be surprised at what they are capable of producing.  It is about the experimentation and enjoyment of the process while making something with your own hands.

Children enjoy participating in art activities.  Children can express what they may not be able to say in words sometimes through the use of a painting or drawing.  Art gives children the ability and the chance for them to produce their own creations.  Art is different than crafts.  “Art is open-ended with no specific end-product in mind; children are allowed to use materials in any way they choose” (NAEYC).  In the Discovery Classrooms, children are given the opportunity to use art materials how they wish from watercolors, paints, crayons, glue, scissors, play-dough, stamps, collage, clay, constructing, just to name a few items used.  The child doesn’t copy what the adult has made, but creates what they desire.  The process that a child goes through in creating art is more important than the end artifact.  By giving children many different ways to express themselves, this will help unlock their hidden talents or help the little artist to explore.  Children need to be given the opportunity to discover through various art materials.  Art is not about all children making one particular project.  Art is about self-expression, creativity, imagination, critical thinking, and problem solving.  Art is a beautiful way to express ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

As stated from, The Creative Curriculum for Preschool in the chapter titled, ArtLetter To Families:

Art is an important part of our curriculum.  Every day, children find a variety of art materials available on our shelves.  Drawing, painting, pasting, molding, and constructing are not only enjoyable but also provide important opportunities for learning.  Children express their ideas and feelings, improve their coordination, learn to recognize colors and textures, and develop creativity and pride in their accomplishments by exploring and using art materials.

When children are engaged in art activities, we talk with them about what they are doing and ask questions that encourage them to think about their ideas and express feelings.

We are just as interested in the creative process as we are in what children make.

What are some ways you incorporate art with your child?

Here are some other resources on art:

The Creative Arts Curriculum

http://www.naeyc.org/yc/pastissues/2004/july

Art vs. Crafts

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/MaryAnn-Kohl-Arts-Crafts/379002813/

Preschool Process And Product Art Defined

http://suite101.com/article/process-and-product-art-for-preschoolers-a122456

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?

Screen Time: How much is too much?

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

“Screen time” is a term used for activities done in front of a screen, such as watching TV, working on a computer, or playing video games. Screen time is a sedentary activity, meaning you are being physically inactive while sitting down. Very little energy is used during screen time. Most American children spend about 3 hours a day watching TV. Added together, all types of screen time can total 5 to 7 hours a day. (MedicinePlus Medical Encyclopedia). I remember when my daughter was two years old, and before naptime every day, she would watch Dora on television. During dinnertime I would put on a DVD that she could watch so I could make dinner hands free and without any commotion. I asked her pediatrician how much television is all right and she told me no more than 2 hours a day after the age of two years old. My daughter is now nine years old, and when she was younger, there were no smart phones, hand devices or apps. I remember being so cautious to be sure she didn’t have too much screen time. I can’t image what it is like for parents today with so much technology at their fingertips. I often see young children playing on screens of all sizes everywhere from the grocery store to the park. I remember as a kid looking out the window when we drove in the car, now children look at video screens.

I understand how convenient it is to keep children entertained with our various devices, video games, and television, but how much screen time is too much?

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use by children younger than age two and recommends limiting older children’s screen time to no more than 1 or 2 hours a day. Too much screen time has been linked to:

  • Obesity
  • Irregular sleep
  • Behavioral problems
  • Impaired academic performance
  • Violence.
  • Less time for play

How to limit screen time – Suggestions from the Mayo Clinic

Your child’s total screen time might be greater than you realize. Start monitoring it and talk to your child about the importance of sitting less and moving more. Also, explain screen time rules — and the consequences of breaking them. In the meantime, take simple steps to reduce screen time. For example:

  • Eliminate background TV. If the TV is turned on — even if it’s just in the background — it’s likely to draw your child’s attention. If you’re not actively watching a show, turn off the TV.
  • Keep TVs and computers out of the bedroom. Children who have TVs in their bedrooms watch more TV than children who don’t have TVs in their bedrooms. Monitor your child’s screen time and the websites he or she is visiting by keeping TVs and computers in a common area in your house.
  • Don’t eat in front of the TV. Allowing your child to eat or snack in front of the TV increases his or her screen time. The habit also encourages mindless munching, which can lead to weight gain.
  • Set school day rules. Most children have limited free time during the school week. Don’t let your child spend all of it in front of a screen. Also, avoid using screen time as a reward or punishment. This can make screen time seem even more important to children.
  • Talk to your child’s caregivers. Encourage other adults in your child’s life to limit your child’s screen time, too.
  • Suggest other activities. Rather than relying on screen time for entertainment, help your child find other things to do, such as reading, playing a sport, helping with cooking, or trying a board game.
  • Set a good example. Be a good role model by limiting your own screen time.
  • Unplug it. If screen time is becoming a source of tension in your family, unplug the TV, turn off the computer, or put away the smart phones or video games for a while. You might designate one day a week or month as a screen-free day for the whole family. To prevent unauthorized TV viewing, put a lock on your TV’s electrical plug. (Mayo Clinic, Children and TV: Limiting Your Child’s Screen Time. August, 2013)

With the use of so much technology, it can be a challenge to manage our children’s screen time. We need to do more planning when it comes to the use of media by giving children limits and have times set aside for their use. Try to cut down on your child’s screen time by:

  • Decide which programs to watch ahead of time. Turn off the TV when those programs are over.
  • Suggest other activities, such as family board games, puzzles, or going for a walk.
  • Be a good role model as a parent. Decrease your own screen time to 2 hours a day.
  • Think of some activities you and your child can do instead using a device or screen. The more you turn the screen off, the easier it becomes to keep it off.

When Steve Jobs was asked by New York Times reporter Nick Bilton, “So your kids must love the iPad?” Jobs responded: “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

 

 

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?

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?

Preparing Your Child for Preschool: Tips From a Teacher

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By: Becca Dey – Discovery Learning Extra Teacher

Preschool is a great experience for both children and adults. It gives young children the opportunity to interact with other children their age, gain independence by completing tasks of their own choice and carving out their own way through the classroom. It also gives them the chance to work with a teacher and get a first impression of their school years to come.

A good place to start is to get your child mentally ready; “School” is a very abstract concept to a child who has never been before. So, give your child some details about the experience. Tell him about the games that he will play, or the new friends and toys he will get to play with.

Be positive. Children take cues from their parents, so be calm and confident that everything will go well. Also, take this time to start congratulating your child’s “school-ready skills” by noticing them share with a sibling or a friend, by saying “ I noticed you shared your trucks with Lynne. That made her very happy. Your new friends at school are really going to like how well you share.” School should always be talked of in a positive manner to keep kids excited.

Take a visit to the school before classes start if possible. Visit your child’s classroom, meet the teacher, and find their cubby so they feel some ownership to this new place. Look for specific toys or books that your child will enjoy, and remind her about them as school approaches. “Remember Laura, next week you get to go to your school and play with that neat train set.”

Incorporate school into your life by using some “school language.” Talk about art time, rest time, snack time etc. Pretend play school with siblings or furry friends. Go on a mini “school shopping spree”. Your child can pick out a backpack and a few small supplies. This will make him feel like a big kid. Let your child play with the supplies before class starts to keep the excitement going.

Finally, reading books about starting school is a great way to approach the topic from another person’s viewpoint; these are some of my favorites:

  • The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
  • Oh My Baby, Little One by Kathi Appelt
  • Don’t Go! By Janet Breskin Zalben
  • Owen by Kevin Henkes
  • I am too absolutely small for School by Lauren Child
  • Do you want to be my friend?  By Eric Carle
  • Wemberley Worried By Kevin Henkes
  • Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney