Tag Archives: early childhood teaching and learning

establishing a supportive classroom environment from the first day of school in early childhood classrooms

readilearn: Establishing a supportive classroom environment from day one – Readilearn

Establishing a supportive classroom environment from day one builds a strong foundation of positive relationships and attitudes to school and learning. It is important to begin the year as you wish it to continue, and a welcoming classroom helps children and families feel valued. Having an organised classroom is just a part of it.

Many existing readilearn resources support the establishment of a supportive classroom environment.

The free resource Getting ready for the first day with Busy Bee resources lists some of the available resources and suggestions for using them; including:

busy Bees welcome to first day of school package

These resources are available to download individually, or as a collection in the zip folder Busy Bee – Welcome resources for Day one.

In many of the schools in which I have worked, children are expected to bring their own set of supplies – books, pencils, scissors, glue, paint shirts, even tissues. I recognise that not all schools have this requirement, so ignore any suggestions that are not relevant to your situation.

Whether children are required to bring their own supplies or not, it is useful to have spares

Source: readilearn: Establishing a supportive classroom environment from day one – Readilearn

Number combinations – Readilearn

number-combinations-for-norahcolvin

Mathematics is all around us. We use it every day for a wide range of purposes; from deciding on the sequence in which we dress ourselves, to calculating how much time we have available for an activity.

Number is just one component of mathematics but the ability to use it confidently and competently is essential to life in the 21st century; from managing one’s finances, to calculating time and distance, to knowing how many followers one has on social media.

The views that people hold of themselves as mathematicians, and their attitudes to mathematics in general, are formed early in life. It is important that we early childhood teachers provide children with mathematical experiences that are meaningful, engaging, and in context.

readilearn mathematics activities are designed to support you in doing so by providing a range of digital and printable resources that encourage mathematical thinking and discussion alongside hands-on experiences. It is important to provide children with a variety of learning contexts to encourage the development of “I can do it” attitude to number and maths.

Number combinations

A child’s ability to count is sometimes seen as an early indicator of ability with numbers. However, an understanding of number requires far more than

 

Continue reading at: Number combinations – Readilearn

The end

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

I have always loved working with beginning writers, rejoicing with them, and sharing their excitement, as they make meaningful marks on paper for the first time.

Their stories may be just a few writing-like squiggles, one word, one sentence, or one event in length; but the stories in their heads are much more, with elaborate settings, characters and events. Their ability to create stories, for a long time outstrips their ability to express them in written words.

It is the role of the teacher to acknowledge the effort and, armed with an understanding of the writing process, knowledge of how writing develops, and awareness of each writer’s learning journey and needs, support the learning.

As soon as they can, many of these beginning writers add the words “The end” to their stories. It gives them a sense of accomplishment, of completion, of a job finished with nothing more to be done.

But don’t all writers enjoy that sense of accomplishment, of completion, of a job finished?

However, the reality is that there is usually much more to be done: revisions and rewrites, edits and proofreads, and feedback from readers to consider. The end of the story is only the beginning of the publishing process.

It is the process of writing that children must also learn. They need to know that not every piece must carry the perfection required of publication. Unrealistic expectations can quickly demolish a child’s willingness to have a go. Appropriate and timely feedback and encouragement is important to the development of beginning writers.

love of writing

Providing them with real audiences for their writing provides a purpose and incentive to engage in the process of revision, rewriting, editing and proofreading. Of course, the publication expectations of beginning writers are not as rigorous as for older or professional writers.

There are many ways of providing young children with readers; including:

  • class books of stories and poems (not unlike the flash fiction compilations of our stories)
  • books made for siblings or children in earlier grades
  • letters written to parents, grandparents, children at other schools
  • blogging, now widely accepted and implemented
  • journal writing

If all drafts of writing are kept in a folder or portfolio, a favourite can be chosen for improvement and publication. I wrote about this in a previous post: Writing to order. Conferences between the teacher and individual writers are important when choosing a piece and deciding on preparations required for publication.

The initial conference would be about the content; specifically what the writer wanted to convey, the intended audience, and how the writer wanted the audience to feel.

When the writer was happy with the message, usually after revisions, edits, and possible rewrites, discussions would focus on choice of words and sentence structures.

The final conference would target surface features such as spelling and punctuation.

No red pen is ever used by the teacher to mark a child’s work. All changes are made by the child in pencil. The purpose of conferencing is to help children develop independence in their own writing process. The number of conferences and revisions required would be tailored to an individual writer’s development.

In order to respond to what has been achieved, it is necessary to understand the individual’s development, and to ascertain whether this piece of writing is reflective of that. Consideration must be given to all aspects of development displayed in the work; for example:

  • is the message clear?
  • is the piece complete?
  • what words are spelled correctly?
  • what language structures are incorporated?
  • does it sounds bookish?
  • does it have elements of figurative or poetic language?

There is always something new to celebrate in each piece of writing.

In the end, what is important is to encourage children to write, to wonder, and imagine. The process for young writers is not much different from that of all writers, and their egos are just as tender. We want their engagement with writing to have happy endings.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills wrote that

“Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. It might be the end of the world as we know it, what comes next?”

She challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pivots around an unexpected ending.”

The end of my story, I hope, implies a new beginning; and a better one than that of the original I penned. (I’ll let you know at the conclusion.)

Pretty Princess

Once upon a time there was a princess, pretty in pink and smothered in cottonwool. In constant preparation for the life arranged for her, there were few opportunities to think outside her royal expectations and obligations: Stand straight. Point your toes. Smile sweetly; and on, and on.

But think she did: Why does the moon shine? What makes the rain fall? How does the grass grow? Why can’t I: play outside? straighten my hair? eat with my fingers? go to school with other kids?

One day she said, “That’s it. I’m going.”

And she did. The end.

In the original the parents said she’d only leave over their dead bodies. She said that could be arranged!

“And she did. The end.”

thank-you-1200x757

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Early childhood resources for celebrating friendship – Readilearn

Republished from readilearn

In this post I suggest ways of helping children develop friendship skills, and describe some readilearn resources for celebrating friendship.

Developing a welcoming, happy, supportive classroom environment, a place where children want to be, is essential for learners of all ages, but especially so in early childhood. These classrooms are the first that children experience and influence lifelong attitudes to school and learning. It is important to establish strong foundations with positive attitudes, respect, and friendship.

Making friends doesn’t come easily to everyone. Simply being put with a whole bunch of other children of similar ages doesn’t ensure friendships will be established, or that children will be accepting of, and respectful to, others.

Strategies for helping children develop effective social skills need to be interwoven throughout the curriculum. Respect, kindness, and empathy need to be modelled and taught. It is especially important for children who have had limited experience mixing with others, or for those who respond to others in inappropriate or unkind ways.

Some useful strategies include:

  • Develop a vocabulary of words used to describe feelings. Words

Source: Early childhood resources for celebrating friendship – Readilearn

5 forms of poetry to write with children – Readilearn

I love to write poems. Children do too.

Giving young children a simple structure or a repetitive pattern to start from gets them thinking about words, how they sound, what they mean, the number of syllables and letters. All the while they are having fun, playing with words and sounds, and learning about language.

Five easy poems to write with children are:

  • Acrostic poems
  • Sound poems
  • Haiku
  • “I love” poems, and
  • Shape poems

Acrostic poems are one of the easiest. They don’t need to rhyme or follow a set rhythmic pattern.

Click to continue reading: 5 forms of poetry to write with children – Readilearn

 

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Interactive early childhood teaching resource: Transport Sort – Readilearn

Sorting is a very important skill. We sort things every day without even thinking about it. We sort items in cutlery drawers, sort and arrange dishes in the dishwasher, even our socks and undies. While we might not physically sort them, while we are walking down the street we might sort familiar from the unfamiliar, friends from strangers, and safe from unsafe.

From a very young age, children learn to sort. They can spend a lot of time organising things that go together. By the time they arrive at school most children are able to sort objects according to their properties; such as shape, colour, texture, smell, and size. This prepares them for use of a dichotomous key in identifying natural and manufactured objects.

The interactive resource Transport Sort helps children develop sort

Source: Interactive early childhood teaching resource: Transport Sort – Readilearn

Sharing circles

On Tuesdays I have regularly published a post and response to the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Today I am breaking with tradition as I wrote the prompt this week and included my flash with it.

In that post I mentioned classroom sharing circles where everyone comes together to share their work, thoughts and ideas, not unlike the sharing of stories and ideas at the Carrot Ranch. In the classroom everyone in the circle is equal, with equal opportunity to see and hear, and to be seen and heard. The focus is lifted from the teacher and shared equally among class members, creating a democracy.

In this post I describe some of the sharing circles I used in my classroom and show how these processes are not all that dissimilar from our own blogging circles.

reading

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) is a daily quiet reading session lasting about 15 minutes. In these sessions everyone, including the teacher, chooses a book and finds a comfortable space for reading. Some children sit at desks, some on cushions in the reading corner, others prop themselves up against the wall, and others lie on the floor.

The one rule is:

  • Everybody reads without interruption.

This means:

  • Nobody talks
  • Everybody chooses enough reading material for the session
  • No outside interruptions are permitted (unless it’s an emergency)

It is essential for the teacher to engage in personal reading, along with the children, to show that reading is valued and to provide a model of “expert reader” behaviour. Inviting other school personnel to join the session is also valuable. It is particularly important for children, who may not see adults engaged in regular sustained recreational reading at home, to see adults enjoying reading.

I always concluded my D.E.A.R. sessions with a Reader’s circle. Children would bring their books to the circle and share what they had read. While there wasn’t time for every child to share every day, I ensured each child had an opportunity of doing so at least once a week. Children would:

  • Tell the book’s title and author
  • What it was about
  • What they liked about it, and
  • Read a small section to the class

I loved the way children would look to each other’s book responses to guide their own selection, often asking others to help them find a book that had previously been talked about. We do the same in sharing and reading book reviews on our blogs.

If a love of reading is contagious, Reader’s circle is one of the best ways of spreading the contagion.

love of reading

A love of writing can be equally contagious. One of the things children enjoyed most about writing, other than the actual writing, was sharing it with others. Children would have opportunities to discuss and read their writing to each other in pairs and small groups as well as in the Writer’s circle.

Sometimes we would have a pre-writing circle to share ideas and inspiration. It was rare that anyone would leave the circle without an idea. Surprisingly perhaps, it was even rarer that two would write about the same thing. Bouncing ideas off each other seemed to encourage a diversity, rather than similarity, of ideas. I guess the responses to Charli’s flash fiction prompt demonstrate the same principle.

Post-writing circles provided opportunities to discuss what had been written and to read sections to others. Writers might share what they liked about their writing, or what they were having trouble with. Others might ask questions for clarification, to understand character motivations, or to find out what will happen next. Sometimes, with the writer’s permission, I would use a piece of writing to discuss an aspect of the writing process that would have application for many. If any children were reluctant to read their own writing, I would be more than happy to read it with them.

If a love of writing is contagious, Writer’s circle is one of the best ways of spreading the contagion.

love of writing

Discussion circles could occur at any time, in any subject on any topic where a sharing of ideas was required. I had a lovely smiley face ball that children would sometimes pass around, or across the circle, to each other, to indicate whose turn it was to talk. This ensured that everyone had an opportunity to share their ideas and thoughts, as well as to hear the ideas and thoughts of others. Topics could be as diverse as:

  • “I feel happy when …”
  • “When I lose a tooth …”
  • “On the holidays, I …”
  • “I think children should be able to … because …”

discussion circles

Each of these sharing circles gives children a voice, demonstrating that they, their thoughts, their ideas and their opinions are accepted and valued. Each encourages children to listen attentively and respectfully to others by providing a supportive environment in which they can test out ideas, then reflect and reassess in response to the reactions of others.

These discussions are not unlike those we engage in on our blogs; sharing books and articles read, and videos watched, along with our ideas and opinions and, most of all, our writing.

Thank you

Thank you for the opportunity of sharing mine. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Formal Schooling and the Death of Literacy

Paul Thomas in this post describes the literate home environment of his early childhood days, an environment that created his advantage, his privilege in becoming literate.
He also describes the tedium of school days that had to be endured rather than enjoyed, and decries the cult of measuring and labeling texts and students that “murders literacy among our students“.
He goes on to say that “The very best and most effective literacy instruction requires no textbooks, no programs, and no punitive reading policies.
Literacy is an ever-evolving human facility; it grows from reading, being read to, and writing—all by choice, with passion, and in the presence of others more dexterous than you are.
I couldn’t agree more.
If you enjoy this post by Paul, check out this follow-up post Everyone Learns to Read by Direct Instruction on his blog the becoming radical. You may find many other posts of interest as well.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

radical eyes for equity

My privilege is easily identified in my being white and male, but it is the story of my life that better reveals my enormous privilege established by my mother when I was a child.

I entered formal schooling with such a relatively high level of literacy and numeracy that from those first days I was labeled “smart”—a misnomer for that privilege.

From Green Eggs and Ham to Hop on Pop, from canasta to spades, from Chinese checkers to Scrabble—games with my mother and often my father were my schooling until I entered first grade. And none of that ever seemed to be a chore, and none of that involved worksheets, reading levels, or tests.

Formal schooling was always easy for me because of those roots, but formal schooling was also often tedious and so much that had to be tolerated to do the things I truly enjoyed—such as collecting, reading…

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The intrigue of nature 

By nature, young children are explorers and discovers. Their purpose is to investigate the world around them and figure out what’s in it, how it works, and how they can get it to work for themselves. It takes little effort on the part of parents and early childhood teachers to nurture this innate curiosity and stimulate an interest in the natural world.

Sharing in the excitement of children’s discoveries is a marvellous experience and something I loved about having my own young children and working in early childhood classrooms, I now have the additional privilege of sharing in the wonder with my grandchildren. I feel very proud watching my two children, their dad and aunt, as together they explore the flora and fauna in our backyard. I know I have done something right.

These are just a few of the wonders we found this year:

The ladybird life cycle on our beautiful wattle tree.

© Bec Colvin

© Bec Colvin

A bee on the same wattle tree.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

A case moth attached to the rainwater tank.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Nuts already forming on my little gum tree.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Flowers on the native ginger.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Plover eggs in a nest.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

The plover sitting on the eggs.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Fruit on the sandpaper fig.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Bottlebrush sawfly larvae.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

A silver orb spider.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Flowers on my wattle tree.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills was talking about having a “looky-loo”, I’d probably call it a “sticky-beak”, at the effects of a river in flood, and described the way that neighbours help each other out, even if they’ve never met before. But Charli dives deep into the analogy of a flooded river, feeling washed out and overwhelmed by the rising tide of fear fuelled by a lack of understanding and appreciation of difference. She pleads for all of us to find our common ground, to realise that, while we are complex and contradictory, we share the same needs and wants. She says that if we don’t understand we should, “Ask, don’t judge. Learn, don’t isolate.”

Charli got me thinking about these issues, as she always does. I wondered, if we value, appreciate and marvel at diversity in the natural world, why don’t we appreciate it in other humans? After all, we are merely part of the natural world. That we have done more than any other species in manipulating it doesn’t alter that fact. Why can’t we all just agree to live and let live? Why do some think otherwise?

These thoughts reminded me of something I had heard in a fascinating TED talk by Ed Yong, called Zombie roaches and other parasite tales. Ed Yong is a science journalist on a mission to “ignite excitement for science in everyone”. He blogs at Not Exactly Rocket Science for National Geographic.

This particular TED talk is fascinating, funny, disgusting and very informative, with a little of something for everyone. He throws in terms like “mind control”, “eaten alive”, and “bursts out of body”. Science fiction has nothing on science fact.

He begins the talk by questioning whether animals choose their behaviour such as gathering in large flocks or herds for safety. He then talks about the popular children’s science “pet” brine shrimp, or sea monkey, and the ways in which a parasitic tapeworm influences the shrimp’s behaviour to enable its own reproductive cycle. He says, “The tapeworm hijacks their brains and their bodies, turning them into vehicles for getting itself into a flamingo.”

But that is just the first of his stories of animals behaving in ways as a result of the mind-control of parasites. He describes others and says that “Manipulation is not an oddity. It is a critical and common part of the world around us, and scientists have now found hundreds of examples of such manipulators, and more excitingly, they’re starting to understand exactly how these creatures control their hosts.

He describes a wasp that attacks a cockroach and “un-checks the escape-from-danger box in the roach’s operating system”. I wondered if this same box could be un-checked in humans. Not surprisingly, Ed went on to discuss humans but said that our methods of mind control were fairly primitive compared to the techniques of parasites. He said that this is what makes the study of parasites so compelling. We value our free will and fear having our minds controlled by others, but this situation occurs all the time in nature.

Yong then asks what he considers an obvious and disquieting question:

“Are there dark, sinister parasites that are influencing our behaviour without us knowing about it …?

He talks about a parasite that manipulates cats, a parasite that many people have in their brains. While there is no conclusive evidence of parasitic manipulation of human behaviour, Yong suggests that “it would be completely implausible for humans to be the only species that weren’t similarly affected.” I urge you to have a looky-loo at the now not-so-secret behaviour of these parasites. I’m certain you will be as entertained as you are informed and challenged.

So from a looky-loo in my backyard to a looky-loo at the world of parasites we come to my response to Charli’s flash fiction challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a looky-loo.

Copy-cat Sticky-beak

High in the branches Maggie practised her repertoire.  She watched people scurrying: erecting tents and marking long white lines.  She absorbed the rhythm of new songs: thump-thump, clink-clink.

She breakfasted on scarab beetles and was ready when the children arrived. But they didn’t notice her playful mimicry. Instead they flooded the field with colourful shirts and excited chatter.

Maggie watched silently. Soon she heard an unfamiliar song: “Go team, go team, go!” She flew to the top of the biggest tent and joined in. The children listened, then cheered. Maggie felt she’d almost burst. Instead she sang, and sang.

Perhaps we could learn from the magpie, one who looks, listens and learns and shows appreciation for others in the most sincere form of flattery: singing their song.

I love awakening to the beautiful songs of the magpie every morning. I chose to share this particular video, as yesterday we were also visited by a beautiful king parrot such as the one featured in this video. Awesome.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.