Tag Archives: schooling

interactive teaching resources for use on the interactive whiteboard for the first three years of school

readilearn: What place do worksheets have in your early childhood classroom?

How do you feel about worksheets? Love them? Hate them? Use them sparingly?

I would say I’ve never been greatly in favour of worksheets. I’m not saying I never used them, but I used them sparingly. If I could do something as well or better without using a worksheet I would. There were a few reasons for this:

  • I valued children’s own work and didn’t feel the need to “pretty” up their books with the work of others.
  • I always looked for ways to progress children’s learning as opposed to keeping them busy.
  • I liked to reduce our paper usage.

Available on the internet and in bookstores are oodles of collections of worksheets; worksheets for anything you can imagine. You can spend hours trawling through websites looking for a sheet to support learning or practice a specific concept. Some of that time could be better spent considering other opportunities you could provide children for learning or practice, or even doing something pleasant for yourself for a change. Now there’s a thought.

When you think you may want a worksheet, or come across a worksheet that you may want to use, stop and evaluate its potential benefit:

Continue reading: readilearn: What place do worksheets have in your early childhood classroom?

ideas for teaching friendship skills in early childhood classrooms

readilearn: Learning to be friends – unleash your friendship superpower

Sometimes we expect that all we have to do for children to make friends is to put them in close proximity to other children. We may see it happen at the park, in a playground, in a shopping centre, at school. Children are attracted to other children, but it is not always easy for them to make friends. We should no more expect them to get along than we would expect adults thrown together at a party, conference or other social situation to become friends immediately.

While some children are gregarious and will talk to anyone, others may be more introverted and less inclined to make the first move. But whether extrovert or introvert, children need to learn how to interact with others in ways that encourage friendships to be made. The development of social-emotional skills, including empathy or understanding how others feel, is an important part of becoming a friend.

Make friendship skills lessons an ongoing part of your program

Lessons in how to be a friend need to be an ongoing part of any class program. While many teachers allocate some time for getting to know each other at the beginning of the school year, it is important to maintain the focus throughout the year. As children mature and interact with others, they will encounter a greater variety of situations with which they need to deal.

It is not always necessary to timetable or set up specific lessons. Sometimes the spontaneous discussions before and after break times can help highlight needs and alert you to who is having trouble in the playground. These focused incident-specific discussions can help resolve issues and prevent them from escalating.

As new children enter the class, they also need to be introduced and made to feel welcome and included. It is important for the introductions to go both ways. New children have many others to get to know; the existing class members have only one, and it may be difficult for a new child to settle into established groups. It is necessary to establish procedures that will help a child settle while more permanent friendships are being formed. For example, friendship buddies could be allocated to show the child around and help them become familiar with school routines and behaviour expectations.

Establish a supportive classroom environment

One of the best ways of ensuring that children feel friendly towards each other is by establishing a supportive classroom environment in which children have a sense of belonging, feel respected and valued.

Previous posts about establishing a supportive classroom environment include Establishing a supportive classroom environment from day one. A search of resources using the words ‘supportive classroom’ will bring up a list of other related posts and resources.

Continue reading: readilearn: Learning to be friends – unleash your friendship superpower

Kathy Hoopman on teaching children with ASD in the classroom

readilearn: Teaching children with ASD — ideas for the classroom- with guest author Kathy Hoopmann

Do you have children with Asperger Syndrome in your classroom and wonder how best to cater to their needs? Do you have friends with Asperger Syndrome, or maybe have it yourself? This week’s guest Kathy Hoopmann has a wealth of suggestions to help you understand, appreciate and enjoy the complex syndrome that is known as ASD.

Combining her knowledge of Asperger Syndrome with her teaching background, Kathy has written over twenty books for children and adults.  She is best known for her photo-illustrated books that deal with Asperger Syndrome, ADHD and anxiety.  The simplicity, charm and insight of these books has made them must-haves for children and adults around the world.

Kathy has won and been shortlisted for many literary awards including the Children’s Book Council of Australia Award, and she has four times been awarded a silver Nautilus Award (US).  Her books have been translated into thirteen languages and sell widely in Australia, the UK, the US and the Middle East.

The books help children and adults with ASD recognise that they are not alone and provide support to carers, teachers and other professionals working with people with ASD.  In any home, school or classroom library Kathy’s books would help everyone learn to understand and support each other.

Welcome to readilearn, Kathy. Over to you.

The boy crawled under a table, his cap pulled low.  All eyes were on me to watch what I would do.  I was the relief teacher, or ‘light relief’ and the class was eager for a good show.  But I had been a relief teacher for too long to take the bait.  Besides, I recognised the behavior.  The boy displayed many characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder and frankly under the table was the very best place he could be, for his sake and mine. 

‘Miss?’ a child ventured, ‘Billy’s under the table and he’s wearing a hat indoors.’

Continue reading: readilearn: Teaching children with ASD — ideas for the classroom- with guest author Kathy Hoopmann – Readilearn

and be sure to check out the generous discount offered to readers during the month of July.

readilearn: NAIDOC Week Celebrations 2018—Because of Her, We Can

In Australia, NAIDOC Week is celebrated around the country each July. The acronym NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. The theme of this year’s celebration, which runs from 8 to 15 July, is Because of Her, We Can!

The purpose of the week is to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Islander Peoples and acknowledge their contributions to our country. This year’s theme recognises that “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have played – and continue to play – active and significant roles at the community, local, state and national levels”, roles that have often gone unrecognised.

The 2018 poster, a painting by Bigambul woman, Cheryl Moggs, from Goondiwindi, portrays the courage and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. You can read, in Cheryl’s own words, the inspiration behind her artwork here.

While most Australian school children are enjoying their mid-year break during NAIDOC Week, many teachers will be looking for ways to share the celebrations with their students when school resumes.

Any time is a good time to incorporate learning about Indigenous cultures and histories. In fact, embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures is one of the cross-curriculum priorities in the Australian Curriculum.  Although I provide links to resources and suggestions that Australian teachers can use with their classes when celebrating NAIDOC Week, I’m certain many of the resources will be of interest to others around the world when teaching about diverse cultures and histories.

The NAIDOC website has suggestions to get you started, and you can download a free copy of the 2018 NAIDOC Week poster from the website too. You can also check out their calendar for events near you. Refer to News for stories of women to celebrate.

In the following video, Uncle Barry Watson, the Elder in Residence with Communities for Children in Logan City in south-east Queensland, explains the

Continue reading: readilearn: NAIDOC Week Celebrations 2018—Because of Her, We Can – Readilearn

Dimity Powell, author, discusses the importance of libraries

readilearn: Libraries: A wondrous universe to explore — A guest post by Dimity Powell

This week I am delighted to introduce you to award-winning children’s author Dimity Powell.

Dimity likes to fill every spare moment with words. She writes and reviews stories exclusively for kids and is the Managing Editor for Kids’ Book Review. Her word webs appear in anthologies, school magazines, junior novels, as creative digital content, and picture books including The Fix-It Man (2017) and At The End of Holyrood Lane (2018).

She is a seasoned presenter both in Australia and overseas, an accredited Write Like An Author facilitator and a Books in Homes Role Model Volunteer in Australia.

Dimity believes picture books are soul food, to be consumed at least 10 times a week. If these aren’t available, she’ll settle for ice-cream. She lives just around the corner from Bat Man on the Gold Coast although she still prefers hanging out in libraries than with superheroes.

In this post, Dimity shares her love of libraries and explains why it is important to ensure every child has access to a library at school and every reader a local library.

Welcome to readilearn, Dimity. Over to you.

Continue reading: readilearn: Libraries: A wondrous universe to explore — A guest post by Dimity Powell

When ideas mesh

Have you ever had that moment of inspiration when two ideas mesh and you know you’ve found the answer? I’m certain you have. It’s creativity. It’s energising. It’s like bubbles in a can, popping all over the place, bursting with exuberance, needing to express; and there’s no keeping it in.

Writing is like that for me. Writing or teaching. Writing and teaching!

Except for when it’s not.

I can think and think and think and struggle to find an idea. But as soon as the two (or more) right ideas come together, there’s an explosion, and I just can’t wait to get it down, or try it out.

It’s what I love about creating teaching resources. I think: how can I best explain this concept, what will children enjoy most, how will they best learn? Fizz! And I’ve just got to do it. I love the creative outlet. Without it, life’s just, well – dull.

I like to think that what I write is different; that my teaching resources differ from the millions of repetitive worksheets that are written to keep children busily unengaged in the learning process. I imagine myself using them, and having fun with my class. I like to think of other teachers using them to encourage children to think creatively, critically, logically, imaginatively, and learning through discussion with their teachers and peers. But do they? I like to think.

Do you hear that self-doubt? Like so many creatives, I find self-promotion difficult. I struggle to put my work out there for fear it might not be good enough. Each new step requires blinkered determination, focus, and practice, practice, practice to strengthen self- belief that wavers at the first hint of a breeze.

But did you see that? I called myself a creative. Should I? Do I have the right? I always say that one thing I loved about teaching was the opportunity it gave me to be creative. Though I may think I was creative, does my thinking allow me the label?

A few years ago, I gave myself some good talking-tos, took some deep breaths, and attended a writer’s group. Sure, they were the creative types – picture book writers and junior fiction writers. And me. Well, I was aspirational, but had a number of educational publications behind me and was working on my own collection of teaching resources.

In turn, around the circle, we were required to introduce ourselves to the group, sharing what writing we were working on. I could have said I was working on picture books and junior fiction. I have several stuck away in drawers for future development, many with rejection slips to prove I was aspiring. I’d been collecting rejection slips since long before many of these writers were born. I must admit that none of them were recent though, as I’d been more involved in other things, including educational writing.

When it was my turn, I took a deep breath, and stated that I was involved in educational writing at the moment. “Oh,” said the leader. “Educational writing. That’s so formulaic.” And she quickly turned to the next person. Well, if that didn’t burst my bubble. The confidence I’d struggled to muster to even attend the meeting was felled in one swoop.

Not only was she wrong, (well, I believe she was wrong), her attitude was wrong, and her response to an aspiring writer was wrong. She asked no questions, gave no opportunity to discuss why my work may be considered creative, or what other more creative writing I might engage in. She obviously considered I had no business being there among the “real” creatives.

Similar difficulties can be experienced by children in school. People are quick to judge, assess and dismiss on perceptions of background, ability and potential. It can be difficult to stay strong and persistent when the brush of other’s biases paints you inadequate. Without a strong framework and inner fortitude, the will may crack and crumble at the first sign of tension.

Surely, one purpose of education must be to build those strong foundations in order to avoid wreckage in the future. Just as for buildings, we start from the bottom, building on a strong base, adding more to each layer. There’s no starting at the top, or even the middle. Each new layer must mesh with the one before.

Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) use the word mesh in a story. Mesh is both an object and a verb, which you can freely explore. You can play with its sound, too. Go where the prompt leads.

I immediately thought of the mesh that is embedded in concrete to give it inner strength, to hold it together when under pressure, to prevent it cracking and crumbling. What a great analogy for both personal core strength and a foundation of a great education. How could I resist?

Here’s my story. I hope you enjoy it.

Strong foundations

Jamie heard the vehicles; the doors slam; then men’s voices. He looked to his mum. She smiled and nodded. Dad was already there, giving instructions.

“Watch, but don’t get in the way,” he’d said.

Clara arrived, breathless. “What’s happenin’?”

“Carport. Pourin’ the slab,” he answered. “That’s the frame. Keeps it in shape.”

Beep. Beep. Beep. The concrete truck backed into position.

The men quickly spread the mix, then lifted the mesh into place.

“Makes it strong,” said Jamie.

Another load of mix was spread.

“All done,” said Jamie.

Later, in the sandpit, the children experimented with strengthening their structures.

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

P.S. If you are a teacher of children of about 5 to 7 years of age in their first three years of school, I’d love your feedback on readilearn, my collection of early childhood teaching resources. Please complete the survey here and share this post with other early childhood educators you know. I am keen to receive honest feedback about the site’s visual appeal and usability, as well as suitability of resources. Thank you. 🙂

Life is for living

I first published this post two years ago. I am sharing it again as I continue to hear of similar things happening. I apologise to those who may have read it the first time around. 🙂

Many would agree that to enjoy life to the full we must live in the present moment, appreciating what we have and being mindful of our surroundings and others.

Most would also agree that a certain amount of preparation for the future is necessary to both enjoy and deal with what lies ahead.

marshmallow 5

In previous posts I have referred to related ideas including The importance of emotional intelligence and the ability to delay gratification, for example when studying towards a degree or saving to purchase a car. Recently I wrote about future-proofing kids by preparing them to embrace the future. Schooling is often considered a preparation for the future, for ‘what you want to be when you grow up’.

firefighter and nurse

Are the concepts of living in the present moment and preparing for the future contradictory?

Generally I would say that a balance is needed. We need to live in the present while making some preparation for the future. Hopefully the choices made can still be appreciated now and enjoyment is not all delayed until the future “When I . . .”

Recently I read an article that caused me some concern because, it seemed to me, there was little balance between appreciating the present and preparation for the future. Of greater concern was that the one for whom balance was lacking was not the one making the choice.

 

The article described a situation in which a 3½ year old was being taught to use scissors by an occupational therapist. The teaching, which had been occurring in regular sessions for over seven months, began before the child was three years of age.

Like I did, you might assume the child had a developmental delay which required regular sessions with the occupational therapist (OT). However no mention of that was made in the article.

The parent, writing the article, described feeling sad while watching the child experience difficulty in using the scissors.  Additionally, it was mentioned that the child had not been requested by the parent to use scissors at home as it just made the child miserable.

After seven months the parent finally broached the subject with the OT, asking why the use of scissors was being pushed at this time.

It was the reported response of the OT that caused me greatest concern.

The OT explained that when the child entered kindergarten at age five, the ability to use scissors appropriately would be expected. The lessons in learning to use scissors were being given to avoid the child being behind when beginning kindergarten. The OT went on to further explain that the use of scissors was not developmentally appropriate until age five!

The OT, presumably a trained professional, who believed it was not developmentally appropriate for a child to be using scissors until age five, began teaching a child to use scissors before that child was even three years of age!

The child was miserable when using scissors and the parent was saddened when viewing the attempts!

If using scissors is developmentally appropriate at age five, then when the child is entering kindergarten, unless there is a development delay, coordination or muscular problem, that child will easily learn to use scissors appropriately, without the need for lessons from an OT. Forcing a child to practice a skill before developmentally ready is definitely not in the child’s best interests.

Think of the wonderful things about a child of two or three years of age; the things they are learning and doing. I am always amazed at how quickly children learn and progress. They grow up so quickly and are only little for such a short time. Why try to pressure them through to stages beyond their current development? These years of enormous growth and potential are precious. We are adults for most of our lives. What is wrong with appreciating the special two-ness or three-ness of a child? It will not matter in the future if scissors can be used at age three, age five or age seven.

If the child is constantly pressured to perform in ways that are not developmentally appropriate then feelings of inadequacy, loss of confidence and self-esteem may ensue, resulting in an ‘I can’t do it attitude’, a fear of failure and unwillingness to have a go. I believe many perceived behaviour problems are problems only because the expectations are not relevant to a child’s stage of development.

When adults strive for a child to achieve beyond the age expected norms they are not appreciating, but rather showing a lack of respect for, who the child is and for the stage of development. This is not living in the present. It is attempting to live in the future, which can become very scary if one does not feel it can approached with confidence.

One may hope this scissors example is an extreme and isolated incident, but sadly pressure placed upon children by expectations that are not developmentally appropriate is far too common.

Teaching colleagues here in Australia often express their dismay that children in the first three years of school are crying every day because they find the expectations upon their learning and behaviour too great.

I hear similar stories about trying to rush the children through from the UK, Canada and the USA. Maybe it is happening in other places too. Sadly the pressure of unrealistic expectations doesn’t achieve anything positive for the students, the teachers or the parents.

How different would schools be if, instead of being considered a preparation for life, they were focused on living life now? If three year olds were appreciated and respected as three year olds, five year olds as five year olds, and eight year olds as 8 year olds, rather than as apprentices for the adult they will one day be, how different would their school situation be?

An affirmation song I used to sing with my classes is one by Anne Infante called Just the way I am.

The song is made up of a series of verses about appreciating oneself just as one is – now, not in the future – including characteristics such as responsible,  lovable, confident and friendly; for example:

I am beautiful and I like me,

I am beautiful and I like me,

I am beautiful and I like me,

Just the way I am.

I have written about using Anne’s songs of affirmation in previous posts, here and here.

What do you think? How have you seen developmentally appropriate programs in action? How have you seen them disregarded? What have been the effects?

Further reading: The Cost of Ignoring Developmentally Appropriate Practice

Thank you

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