Let's Share Some Ideas!
Looking to run some STEAM+ projects in your Early Childhood or School Age classroom? We have had many requests for ideas and suggestions, subsequent to PD Sessions on STEAM+. Here are a few...
*Note: The Wampanoag Tribe is the tribe of Native Americans that our English Ancestors, the Pilgrims, encountered when the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in "Plimoth" Massachusetts in 1620. Here is a great resource for learning about that: http://www.plimoth.org/
Questions about Implementing?
Visit MyPlate Kids' Place for tons of great information and fun, including games, recipes, videos, songs and more! Don't forget all of the free materials you can order and/or download like this vegetable race car poster!
March is National Nutrition Month
Become a MyPlate Champion for National Nutrition Month
Join the Two-Bite Club for National Nutrition Month!
- Choose MyPlate: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/
- MyPlate for Kids: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/kids/
- MyPlate Daily Food Plans for Preschoolers: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/health-nutrition-information-preschoolers/daily-food-plan-preschoolers.html
- USDA's Cookbook for Child Care Centers: http://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/recipes-healthy-kids-cookbook-child-care-centers-0
- Federal Nutrition Education Resources: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/USDA-DHHS-ComprehensiveListing-FederalNutritionEducationResources2005-to-Feb2010.pdf
- The Family Dinner Project: http://thefamilydinnerproject.org/
- Food Network's Recipes Kids Can Make: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/packages/recipes-for-kids/cooking-with-kids/recipes-kids-can-make.html
Have Other Nutrition Resources to Share? Post a Comment!
Sign Language Serves Several Purposes in the Classroom...
- Sign Language increases vocabulary and communication, and it relieves frustration due to communication issues.
- Sign Language activates additional parts of the brain during learning, and the rule of thumb is that the more parts of the brain we engage during learning, the deeper the learning goes!
- Sign Language provides similar benefits to a child's developing brain as when learning other foreign languages.
- Sign Language exposes children to the world of the deaf and hard of hearing, contributing to their cultural competence and understanding of disabilities.
Give American Sign Language a Try in Your Classroom
Visit the Sign2Me site for Sign Language Research Articles and
Contact Colleen at www.BeyondTheStandards.com for Sign2Me Workshops and Materials!
We will have Sign2Me Products Available at our Exhibit Space during the DVAEYC Conference in March!
Questioning Strategies Foster Critical Thinking During STEAM and Science Explorations
Sink or Float? WHY?
Engaging questions stimulate children's inquiry and investigation rather than suggest "correct" answers. These include questions that help children to describe observations, explain procedures, and make predictions. Following their investigations, teachers can ask children questions that encourage them to reflect on what they learned.
Asking "Why do you think so?" also supports planning. Sometimes it leads to surprises. When one teacher asked a child why he thought a golf ball would sink, he said "Because it's round." She had assumed that he was basing his prediction on the ball's weight. She decided to facilitate a follow-up investigation of round things rather than heavy things.
What do you think?
water. Teaching Young Children/Preschool, 8(1), 30-31.
In response to a blog post by seasoned educator and well-known blogger, Jill Jenkins, let's talk about creating a bully-proof environment in your classroom.
To read Jill's post, "Reduce Bullying by Creating a Community", click on the image below.
For example, kindergarten teachers love the morning meeting concept. It is truly a great way to start the day, and it's all about community building. Students greet each other as they begin, touch base on what is going on in their classroom for the day, share personal experiences with each other, celebrate birthdays, and much more. This is a wonderful community-building framework. In order for these ideas and programs that we adopt to truly be effective, though, the adults involved must consistently promote the psychological components of that desired community.
Do you see this happening in your classroom?
"Psychological Membership" is the Key to Community-Building
across the classroom and the school.
What Does the Research Tell Us About Belonging?
- Walker and Green (2009) tell us that with regard to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, the basic human needs of food and shelter are the only precursors to the need for love and belonging within the context of personal growth and development.
- Johnson's findings (2009) indicate that both teacher support and classroom belongingness have a significant impact on student achievement, particularly in the areas of student autonomy, investment in learning, and school safety.
- Sutton and Wheatley (2003) studied secondary students and shared that they place great value on teachers who care about them. They also presented a connection between a teacher's sense of humor and high content mastery in the classroom.
- Those who Shaw (2010) labeled as "slow learners" are demonstrated to require close relationships with their teachers in order to develop academic skills and successes.
Fostering the Caring Among Kids
Do you use sarcasm in your classroom? Do you call kids out? Do you respond to an inappropriate or sarcastic answer from a student with the same type of behavior? Reflect. It matters. Did you know that psychologically, saracasm is one of the most damaging forms of communication? In order to model good citizenship and treating others kindly, we must make it a moment-to-moment effort to demonstrate what kindness, friendship, and understanding look like. Children will emulate what they see you do.
Lead by Example
Provide Self-Regulation Techniques
The "class clown" or "funny guy" isn't working toward a spot at the Improv!
Offer Developmentally Appropriate Problem-Solving Strategies
We explain it at the start of the school year, we model, practice, and encourage it.
Jane pushed me when I got the ball. I gave Jane A Bug and A Wish:
"It Bugs Me when you push me, I Wish You wouldn't push me when you want the ball."
This strategy teaches children from a young age to express what they are feeling, to stand up for themselves, and to stop someone from crossing boundaries with them. Using the strategy builds confidence and teaches that expressing their feelings and discomfort with situations gets results. And there is no need for anyone to get upset.
The other piece of this strategy that makes it effective is the adult role, of course. The rule is that a bug and a wish is a serious tool, and it can only be used when the child is seriously bothered by the behavior of another child. We role play scenarios to determine when it is appropriate to use this tool. Also, it is made clear to all that once you have received A Bug and A Wish, you must comply forever. If you do not, the teacher is notified and consequences for poor choices are followed. (This may be thinking time during recess or some other supportive measure to teach the offender some self-regulation.)
Children take this strategy very seriously because they feel empowered!
It also diminishes tattling dramatically!
The Classroom Community Works
Bullying Doesn't Exist When Everyone Feels Valued.
Psychological Membership is the Key.
Build a Classroom Full of Friends...A School Full of Friends.
(for Staff and Students)
What are Some of Your Bully-Proofing Strategies?
The Great Barrier Reef in our own KE Classroom
The beach was the winner, and all of the students whole-heartedly embraced our virtual trip to the Coral Sea. The students' brainstorming eventually led us to exploring the land down under, a beach on Australia's East Coast called Lizard Island, and finally, The Great Barrier Reef. Students were attracted like their magnets (opposite poles, they will tell you) to the incredible world that exists under the sea.
In response to this post on the PennAEYC Face Book page...
"Study: High-quality early education could reduce costs"
The article was interesting and informative, and I have decided to follow the author; however, what intrigued me more was a lengthy comment left by a gentleman who does not identify his role in education. He is so exact on with this issue, that he put me right up on one of my largest soap boxes!
Educators have a responsibility to have an insightful understanding of how learning happens.
This means that we must understand a little bit of neurology, like it or not. I share this type of information in my professional development sessions, and I am thanked time and time again for the deeper understanding of learning and development in children.
It ALL happens in the brain.
So why aren't we all striving for proficiency in understanding the most modern information on child development? It seems that the classic theories remain at the forefront with those who work face-to-face and hand-in-hand with children on a daily basis. Step into the 21st Century with new scientific understandings of child development. It's absolutely fascinating! And you will find your practice and results with children of all ages will change dramatically.
Here is a link to a great article explaining the basics that any one of us should know:
(Click on Photo to read article)
Mrs. Mantell's 2013-14 Kindergarten Enrichment Class Created an Alaska Ice Fishing Village in the Classroom
as published in the Bucks County Herald
Over the past two years, our Kindergarten Enrichment classroom has accomplished projects including: The Pizza Parlor, The Airport, The Bakery, The North Pole with Santa's Workshop, and many more. We are currently building The Great Barrier Reef! Within each project, we have defined the work with Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math once the children agreed upon the topic. However, based on choices the students make, we often find the learning leads to subject areas including Commerce, Geography, History, and always Reading and Writing.
S.T.E.A.M.+ Projects are appropriate for preschoolers at both the 3s and 4s levels, as well as kindergarten and elementary school. Additionally, there are very small projects that can be incorporated into a single area of learning on one particular day, such as snack/cooking or during your language arts block.
Wouldn't it be great to watch the classroom come alive with inquiry and theory, talent and motivation, as you facilitate the learning that the children choose to pursue? What is holding them back? Go for it!
(We'll be happy to help should you need training or assistance!)
In early childhood education, we encounter the term, "Developmentally Appropriate Practices" and in more advanced grades, we encounter the term, "Differentiated Instructional Strategies". They both point us to the same concept... IT IS OUR JOB TO MEET ALL STUDENTS WHERE THEY ARE AS UNIQUE INDIVIDUALS.
Therefore, the only appropriate style to teach in is the style that best suits the needs of our students. If you prefer not to conduct learning centers with young children because you don't like the initial chaos of students learning how to behave and interact with each other in order to work somewhat independently, you must question who is benefiting from your strategy. If you teach upper grades and prefer to assign group work whenever you see fit to do so, think again. You may have students who don't function best in a group setting or in a group for a particular type of assignment. Who gains?
I once had a classroom of kindergarten students with approximately 1/3 of them demonstrating difficulties with impulse control during whole group and teacher-centered lessons. It quickly became apparent that this was a developmentally younger group. When I switched to very short intervals of teacher-centered and whole-group time (just snippets of giving directions, brief demonstrations, etc.), with many intervals of small group, hands-on activities -- involving manipulatives whenever possible, the entire learning experience and classroom tone changed dramatically. We found...Success!!!
How are YOU meeting the needs of each of YOUR students?
It happens at home, it happens in the child care setting, so what do we do about toddlers biting and hitting?
According to psychologists, aggressive behavior in children from infancy to 3 1/2 years old is "normal".
So what do we know about
aggressive behavior in young children?
Activities to Keep Toddlers Engaged
Keep in Mind, with Toddlers, It's All About Learning Through the Senses...
Toddler-Safe Cloud Dough
4 Cups of Flour
1/2 Cup of Vegetable Oil
Optional: 1 Pkg. Kool-Aid (sugar-free is a great choice), Food Coloring to Match Flavor
Variety of Kitchen Items and Toys that can be used for Scooping and Pressing
Cloud dough is safe for toddlers becuase it's harmless if eaten, and when making it, you can alter the texture to have choices between a smooth (more oil) dough or a gritty texture (less oil), which is a great substitute for sand!
Sensory Walking Mat
Duct Tape or Masking Tape
Optional: Sand, Pom-Poms, Yarn, Bubble Wrap, Light Sand Paper, Crinkled Tissue Paper, Patches of Textured Fabric
Tape the contact paper, sticky side up, to the floor or carpet. A long strip will allow for a great sensory experience. Leave some space for the toddler to walk along feeling the stickiness of the contact paper. Place optional items along the path for the toddler's feet to experience a variety of textures. Assist toddlers with walking along the sticky mat, reacting to and talking about the textures and reactions.
Toddler-Safe Sensory Bottles
Clean, Dry, Empty Water Bottles and Caps
(Note: I prefer 16.9 oz. recyclable bottles for size and "squeezability")
Variety of Fill Items Considering the Senses of Sight and Sound:
Various Beans, Yarn, Pipe Cleaners, Colorful Straws, Buttons, Garland, Candies, Colorful Paper Clips, Beads, Colored Pasta, etc.
Peel the labels off of the bottles. Fill bottles with items. (Note: I prefer one type of item per bottle to keep the toddlers interested. This enables the teacher to swap out a variety of bottles and utilize the activity frequently. ) With the glue gun, secure the caps on the bottles such that they cannot be opened. Check bottle caps with each use for safety. Toddlers can squeeze, roll and push the bottle for a tactile sensory experience, shake the bottle for an auditory sensory experience, and they can observe the brightly-colored objects in the bottle for a visual sensory experience.
Resources for Additional Questions Asked
in Response to the Session
How do we deal with children who refuse to nap?
Where can we continue to find ideas for activities for toddlers?
Every classroom should have at least two pairs!
Note that scissors claiming to be designed for left- or right-handed cutting and scissors that advertise simply a grip for left-handed cutters Are Not Appropriate For Left-Handed Students. Neither is a right-handed pair of scissors turned upside-down.
The difference is in the overall design of the scissors. In addition to the comfort of the appropriately constructed grips for a left hand, the blade on left-handed scissors is set in a position opposite of the blade on right-handed scissors. Without this design shift, left-handed students must see over the blade while they cut. This is Difficult and Counterproductive.
Happy Cutting to All of Your ECE Students! :)
Writing and Assessment, Beginning at Age Two... Yes! You Heard Me Correctly, T-W-O, Two (2)!!!
Recently there have been many, many questions
posed to me about young children and writing.
- Can they do it?
- Should we encourage them to do it?
- So we just lower our expectations, right?
- Why in the world would we concern ourselves with 2s and 3s writing??!!
- Isn't this more of the "pushing down" pressure that children are experiencing academically?
Remember, reading and writing go hand-in-hand.
This means that we learn to read by writing, and we learn to write by reading!
Reading with young children promotes vocabulary, speaking and listening skills, communication in general, and pre-reading skills including the basic understanding that the words we say and the ideas we express can be written down and later read aloud and shared.
Just as we expose young children to reading by reading stories to them, which eventually results in them imitating this behavior, we also must expose young children to writing by modeling and sharing our writing. They will, inevitably, mimic this behavior as well. If I write a grocery list and read the first three items to my two-year-old, asking if he wants me to add anything to the list of items we will pick up at the grocery store today, he might very well say, "nana" (bananas). I will write the word bananas and read it back to him. Making this a fun game between us, he may eventually choose to sit next to me and make his own grocery list while I make mine each week, and we might read them to each other before we leave and as we shop.
Early on, before children can regulate gross and fine motor skills to the extent that they can practice writing letters, writing is all about the scribble! Scribble can represent a picture and a picture tells a story just as words do. The scribble can represent the words that describe a picture, and the scribble-words can be read aloud to tell the story, with reference to the picture for visual details.
A very important facet of this early scribble is that writing is an individual's opportunity to tell his or her story. Therefore, the scribble, whether a drawing or an attempt to imitate writing, is documenting the toddler's story! Hence, the key component needed in order to reach the outcome is to have the child "read" aloud his or her story from the illustration and/or scribble-words he or she created. This is ever so exciting! This is the beginning of a person's ability to share or express his or her thoughts by authoring those thoughts. WOW! Powerful play!!! We can ask a child to draw and write about her favorite place, favorite toy, trip to the zoo, etc., and she can read us her story! We can even work on advanced reading skills such as reading with expression, because when telling her own story, this lesson is a natural one and can be an opportunity for learning through play. "Show us your sad face so we know what you looked like when you fell off the swing in your story. Can you read it with your sad voice?"
Once children reach three years old, assuming developmentally appropriate fine and gross motor play has been happening up until this point, they can begin to make attempts at controlling a marker, crayon or even a pencil, in order to work toward writing letters. This is the stage where we may have some actual letters or scribbles similar to letters that are "read" to us when the child tells the story of his illustration.
Assessing pre-writing skills is important. The purpose of assessment is to inform instruction. This means that we monitor the development of the skills in order to determine what it is that each individual child needs from us at this point. Assessment does not have to be and should not be - particularly in early childhood - formalized testing. During the early years, children learn through play, and they demonstrate their skills in the same manner. Therefore, the same fun that we have with them when we are exposing them to writing and encouraging them to be the young authors that they are, is the same fun we must plan and engage, in order to assess skills.
I have found that Scholastic's Easy Assessments for Pre-Kindergarten, by Laurie B. Fyke, is a wonderful resource for developmentally-appropriate assessment activities. Fyke includes a Language Arts Reading Assessment that makes a must-have tool for checking in with early readers and writers. She lists objectives for the assessment, the materials needed, the directions, and she provides a student form as well as a teacher form. How does it work? The child receives a page that has a large box on it with a title, "I can draw a picture and tell about my story." Sound familiar? The teacher form is a check-off grid with space for notes and four assessment times, each corresponding with a list of skills to assess. The skills range from retelling their own story orally to reading with expression. This covers skills that range from toddlers to first grade!
Another assessment of Fyke's asks the student to draw a picture of him- or herself. This writing assessment pertains to organizing information and the skills assessed range from age-appropriate development of the figure in the drawing to demonstrating a correct pencil grip. Once again, she offers a wide range of skills to assess. The checklists, forms, and details make these assessments a breeze for teachers and easy to complete one-on-one with students, without stress or tears. It's easy to keep it fun and see what's going on!
Such assessments allow teachers to easily observe and record where a student is with (pre-)reading and writing skills at a particular point in time. This enables the educator to build upon the current skills, and just as important, to celebrate achievement with students, no matter how minor, because the milestones will be observed. Progress is the goal, at the rate at which it fits each individual student's development.
Below is Fyke's book and also some resource articles pertaining to the information discussed in this post. Happy Writing...and Reading, naturally!
Fyke, L. B. (2007). Easy assessments for pre-kindergarten. New York, NY: Scholastic.
Toddlers and reading: Describe but don't drill. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2014, from
Early writing: Why squiggles are important. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2014, from Learning
Disabilities Association of America website: http://ldaamerica.org/
My purpose here is to follow up and share one issue from our discussion during the PD session, Writing: A Developmental Skills Approach, that I felt was left dangling. With the use of some wonderful resources, which I will list below, we visited the topic of pencil grip/grasp: the good and the bad. Actually the bad were labeled by our OT experts as "poor" and "awkward" pencil grips. We also looked at the developmental spectrum of pencil grasp. This is important for teachers of writing, particularly in early childhood education, to be aware of. I will also throw out the thought to those who teach reading to consider the grip as a clue when issues with reading comprehension are a concern; however, I stop there, because the relationship between pencil grip and reading is a topic for a PD session, too deep for a blog post. :)
Attendees learned today that along with the traditional "tripod" pencil grip, the "D'Nealian" pencil grip is completely acceptable/functional (see photo above). In our area, schools generally teach Zaner-Bloser style print, and this grip is named for another style of print, D'Nealian, which I have seen taught in other areas. This left me with concerns about crossing grasps with writing styles and wondering if there is a specific reason for this pencil grip to be used with D'Nealian style writing.
I consulted one of my OT resources, and there was a blog post with advice regarding the use of this D'Nealian grasp versus the conventional grasp, which gives some clarity.
are used with permission in my professional development
sessions can be accessed via the above links.
Thanks for Stopping By!
BCAEYC 2014 Conference
Colleen T. Mantell, M.S., Ed.
Beyond The Standards Inc.
Prof Dev Instructor
PA & MD Certified Teacher
-Early Childhood Edu
-Family & Consumer Sci
Kindergarten Enrichment Teacher
Wife and Mother of Three
Developmentally Appropriate Practices
Early Childhood Education
Fine Motor Skills
Health And Nutrition
Infants & Toddlers
Learning And Brain Development
Scissors & Cutting
Sensory Motor Development