Archives for category: literacy

 

I have attempted to tell a story of my recovery from an ear infection. Every educator has most likely experienced the feeling of teaching when they wanted nothing more than to stay in bed. In this story I was reminded of how the children can teach me a thing or two:-0)

I am finally recovering from a terrible double ear infection that has left me temporarily hearing impaired. I must persevere. My classroom and personal issues must consciously be separated. I silently remind myself of this fact as I balance on one knee so I can hear the children’s requests. In reality, I would like nothing better than to be home in bed. Smiles must be placed upon my face and I feign interest in all the children’s requests. If I can’t do this the children will merely infer that I do not wish to be with them. Despite every day challenges they light up my day. I keep reminding my self that for some of these children, I am the only stability in their life.

I silently decided to remind myself of what my role in this class is. My eyes scanned the room and reminders of the positive influence I have on these children are every where. I eyed the cubbies. My coat had been silently moved to a five year olds coat hook. I had forgotten that she likes our jackets to be hung together on the coat hook so that they touch each other. On the table laid several notes written for me in childish scrawl from the children. One portrayed a brightly colored rendition of me wearing my children’s workshop shirt. Under the picture was a note that said “I like that Miss Mari Cares about us.”Another note said “I am glad Miss Mari is here”. These notes reminded me of how much my effort are noticed by the children. How could one not feel better after seeing these reminders?

The children would soon remind me of the difference betweens an adult’s perception of what is important versus a child’s. Saturday is the day we are celebrating Dr. Seuss birthday party. We are to have an open house at the school of which I am expected to attend. Mountains of Dr. Seuss pencils and erasers sat upon the table in my classroom. They awaited the active participation of my young charges to create 100 goody bags for the party. I gazed at those bags and thought about what an effort it would be to get these children to make goodie bags. The thought of that and doling out green eggs and ham the following morning was not my idea of a rousing experience.

The children surprised me. They reminded me of the dangers of assuming the future with my adult lenses. The children gazed at the goody bag articles and shouted with glee. They sat patiently as I explained how to assemble the bags. We than got down to work.  The children ranged in age from five to eight years old. The younger ones were intent on tying the ribbons on the bags independently. My assumption of a job that would be incomplete at days end proved to be wrong. The bags were finished in one hour! The children had such a feeling of pride on their face.

I was reminded that not all learning experiences lie within my curriculum. There is more to learn than just reading and writing. I learned as much from the children as they learned from this experience. Children that began the project feeling incompetent and incapable of doing the project independently had learned new skills like how to tie ribbons on bags. They practiced sorting skills by placing two pencils, and eraser, and a pencil grip in each bag. What I initially perceived as a drudge project turned out to be an enjoyable experience that taught all involved lessons, including me.

I hope my experience reminds all educators of what an awesome job AND responsibility we have.

Mari N. M.Ed., CECE

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Today started off on a pleasant note. I felt like this was going to be a day of smooth sailing. I welcomed my morning class into the room and convened at a table with the children. I always plan a morning meeting where expectations for the class are expressed. My form of expressing expectations is always done on a positive note. I make a point to ask each child how their evening went before moving on to classroom business. As expectations are presented, I remind each child in the room that I have every confidence in them to make the right choice instead of the wrong choice.

I address the children with behavior issues with the same tone I address the others. We must always keep our unconscious perceptions of others in check hence the self fulfillment prophecy does not follow. A child will behave poorly if they know an educator expects them to. Cheering them on reminds the child that I believe in each and every one of them. I was extremely pleased at the amount of self-control a child with behavior issues was using. Any directions were met with a positive response. If I asked her to stop running, she did so.

At nine o’clock I lined the children up to go to the traditional classroom. I moved on to another classroom to assist and went about my day. At 2:45 I entered a classroom to find the class in a shambles. The teacher appeared as if she had been through a war. A little girl had busied herself by putting glue in the other children’s hair. I learned that the little girl had hit the teacher with a ruler and kicked another child in the nose. The teacher was telling me these war stories within the earshot of the mini offender and the child’s peers.

I couldn’t help to think how those negative comments exacerbated the child’s issues. I hold my tongue when observing other teachers as I do not wish to breed resentment between them and me. Resentment between educators trickles down to the children. Children sense the stress and their education suffers as a result of it. Upon taking the children back to my class for the afternoon we had an afternoon meeting. Some children immediately tattled on the other child with glee. One child told me that this child was the “baddest” child in the class that day. I immediately told the children to stop and listen to me. I reminded them all that I abhor the word bad. I reiterated the fact that no child is bad. We make mistakes and misbehave, but are never bad. The word bad is not allowed in my classroom. We may say that someone made the wrong choice instead of a good choice. We never use the word bad to describe someone. I told the children that the teacher had it under control. My intent here was to instill respect in the children towards the kindergarten teacher.

I wanted them to sense that she and I work as a team. If a child knows they can pit teachers against each other the educational experience will be ruined. I suggested that all the children worry about themselves versus taking joy in tattling on others. The children were all informed that they had hurt the offending girl’s feelings by publicly pointing out her problems. I demanded that they apologize to the little girl. They quickly did so in unison. When they realized that their words could hurt a peer they experienced remorse to some degree. The children were all reminded that everyone makes mistakes and misbehaves. I suggested that focusing on our own problems is a full-time job leaving us no time to worry about anyone else’s antics.

I took the offending child aside. Words were chosen carefully and positively. I explained to the child that I was shocked and appalled by her behavior. In reality I had seen it many times. The child was reminded that she was capable of making better choices than she had that day. My goal by using positive statements is to let the child know people believe in her and her capabilities. The child received an explanation of how her infractions had impacted others that day.

I demanded the same thing from her that I demanded from the others, an apology to her peers. I also had her apologize to the teacher for making it difficult for the other children to learn, and physically harming her teacher. She promptly did as she was told. I believe that explaining the reasoning behind rules goes a long way in terms of having the children appreciate why rules are a necessity.

Reflective teaching versus objective teaching can assist educators in the behavioral management realm. My favorite phrase is that a behavior never presents itself without a reason. Prevention, although not always doable always out ways remediation. Usually, the issue has exacerbated by the time remediation is warranted.

Have a great day:-0)

Mari N. M.Ed.

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“Imagine spending several hours everyday in a place where you felt like a nobody.”   What a powerful statement.  The primary responsibility of an educator should be to assure that no child ever feels like they are not worthy contributors in their classroom.  Each child must feel a sense of belonging within the classroom. Learning is not merely the absorption of material by a student. It isa combination of many factors. Class room layout, a child centered class room, positive behavior management techniques, mutual trust, a safe learning environment, lack of bias, cultural sensitivity, and the ability to draw out each child’s special talent to make them feel like worthy contributors.

A class room must have a positive climate. The children must feel a sense of security. The atmosphere must be conducive to taking safe challenges with out fear of ridicule.  A positive environment is the building block in developing a child with the positive self efficacy to take safe challenges. If a child fears shame and ridicule from peers and teachers, they will avoid taking risks to protect themselves from embarrassment. Within my classroom, the environment is structured to encourage positive self concepts. A piece of mirrored paper is placed at a child’s eye level on the wall. Above the mirror is a simple piece of paper that says, “Look in here to see the coolest person in the world”. The children love to stare in that mirror. The intent behind the statement I wrote for the mirror is to remind all the children that look in it that they are valued members of my room. The mirror was decorated by all the children to give them a feeling of ownership. A poster with six classroom rules is displayed on the wall. Below my poster sits rules developed and handwritten by the children. Again, the intent was to have student involvement in rule setting and give the children a feeling of ownership. The learning environment is the most important lens in a classroom.

The learning environment will dictate how well or poorly a child will learn. A major factor in the learning environment is the teacher’s role. Teachers must take their position as a role model seriously.   Through observing role models, children hone skills that well assist their successful assimilation into society. A class room that lacks a teacher that exhibits quiet control will see behavioral issues exacerbate. The outcome will be deleterious.  Structuring a classroom so positive teacher student relationships develop will have a trickle down effect. Positive behavior will appear in venues such as the playground, parental interaction, and socialization with other children. My teaching style is direct. Supply the children with a warm and trusting class room environment. Explain the why, how, and where. Don’t simply order children and respond with “because I said so”. A teacher should be a guide, and fade into the background. The ultimate role should be a coach, not a dictator. I would like to use the development of baby birds as an analogy. The baby bird doesn’t know it is capable of flying until the mother bird pushes it out of the nest. The baby bird is nurtured, taught life skills, and than pushed out of the nest. The bird’s wings flutter. It eventually succeeds in spreading its wings in flight. The mother bird watches from the nest. She doesn’t physically intervene. The mother bird is present, and available if needed.

Mother bird wishes her baby to experience the taste of independence. The baby bird is enabled if the mother bird hovers over her offspring. Figuratively speaking, children learn through the same methods. My classroom is proactive not reactive. Every strategy I employ, from token reward systems, to earning special privileges are developed in the hope of developing internalized self control, and enhancement of individual and group development. Being reactive merely exacerbates behavior problems. Proactive strategies assist the child in evolving into autonomous and mature individuals. I am a facilitator. I have gradually eased responsibility to the children. Reactive and authoritarian behavior breeds a hostile environment. Autonomy is non existent if the teacher attempts to portray a dictator. Power trips have no place in a classroom. In positive structured environment children develop internalized behavior mechanisms. In the fall, a class begins as a teacher lead environment. A good educator should ease into a child centered environment within a couple of months. The path should gravitate from teacher lead, to a classroom of students who are self starters. Children should be involved in decision making processes. These should include but not be limited to, student input in classroom policies, themes for academic units, and roles students will play in development of school projects. Involving children in the choice making process is essential in creating an autonomous class room environment. Prevention is a key component in creating a positive classroom environment that is void of behavior issues.  Build positive attributes, not negative self efficacy.

Developing class room rules as a team, using inclusive social activities, and developing problem solving activities have proven to be an asset to avoiding behavior issues in my class. My classroom is predictable and structured. I follow a rhythm of the day. The children know what to expect. I am open to feed back. Although structured, my curriculum has wavered by taking a class vote occasionally. Respect for individual learning styles, and personalities are nonnegotiable in my class. I demand respect. I model respect, and expect each child in the room to emulate my respectful behavior. Consequences for behavioral infractions are swiftly enforced. As an educator in a multiage classroom, a middle ground was developed. All age groups must benefit. Behavior management must be carried out in a form that the Kindergarten children can comprehend.  Older children must not find my management system demeaning. Management of transition times has been learned through trial and error. Cleaning between activities is rarely an issue.

Through child and error a method was developed. I told the children I was closing my eyes and giving them one minute to clean the room. When I opened my eyes the room was spotless. The children were hiding. I heard sounds of quiet laughter emanating from various areas of the room. All the children were in view. I pretended I could not see them. I pretended to look for them in the toilet, complete with flushing. I looked for them in the sink. I turned the water on and mentioned out loud that I did not see children falling out of the drain. This caused a bundle of distant giggling. I continued my trek through silly areas that would be impossibility for the children to hide in. Hiding spots I searched were cubbies, cups, crayon boxes and more. I finally found my young charges by sneaking up with a loud “boo”. This one time game turned into a ritual. When I tell the children we must clean up in order to move on I am always asked if we can play “the hiding game at the end”. This enforces the idea that many behavior management techniques do not come from a book. They come from taking our students individual personalities into account.

Children learn from educators and educators learn from the students. Observing the children can result in squelching behaviors before they become issues. Accomodations and restructuring the class room environment can squelch further outbursts. If a child resorts to attention getting behavior, giving the child a sense of power can make all the difference. I give the children special chores. They hold clip boards, carry my phone, carry my first aid kit, even help me do a head count. These small chores have given the children a feeling of ownership. That has made a world of difference. Brainstorming during group time enhances decision skills. Each child is given a question to answer. Each child offers a resolution. An example would be why we don’t run in class. I pair older kids with younger ones during this exercise. This creates equality. If the younger child struggles with the question, the older child can assist with the answer.

The main goal is teaching the art of self monitoring behavior. Self monitoring allows the children to evaluate, record, reflect on their own behavior. Discipline is used in my program. I wish to reinforce that discipline is different than punishment. Punishment controls a child. It does not teach how to modify behavior. Discipline is individualized for each personality. Discipline teaches how to identify behaviors, and how to modify them in the future.  An example of punishment is time out. Time out temporarily stops a child in their tracks. This punishment is merely temporary. Taking time to point out how a behavior affected another human being teaches empathy. Consequences for future infractions are discussed during discipline. I always make consequences clear and concise so a child knows what is expected in the future. Discipline should always fit the crime. If a child damages a project others have worked on, I expect them to repair that project. If a child has abused my personal body space rule, the repercussion would me more severe. Tokens and beloved privileges are taken away.  Children are not mini adults.

We need to be the role models who act in a proactive manner. Children are controlled by their emotions. They don’t think of consequences until later. Educators must provide a safe environment where children can hone their skills. My job is to have a part in development of future self sufficient adults, the future leaders of our country.   I must model proper self control for the children to emulate. Children rely on me to show them the way. My mistakes are permanent. White out will not erase my errors.

A thought to ponder:-0)

Mari N. M.Ed.

1) I Caught You Raffle

For behavior management I use a “catch them when they are good” system.

During the day give the children a ticket for various positive behaviors that are noted. Have them write their name on the ticket and put it in the box.

At the end of the week, pull out a determined amount of tickets from the box. They then can earn small tokens like a pencil, homework slip, chart, book, etc. this is a great positive reinforcement technique. By recognizing positive behavior, negative behavior does not get reinforced. With a tangible object to look forward to at the end of the week, the majority of the children love to join this “game”.

A math lesson on percentages is a secondary outcome of this game. The odds of having one’s name drawn in the raffle according to how many tickets are earned during the week can be calculated. Middle level elementary age students and older can keep graphs from week to week to chart the correlation between these factors. When the children realize that the more tickets they earn, the better their chance of having their name picked in the drawing, they exhibit positive behavior to get their name in the raffle.

I have used this with great success. Parents are wonderful about donating to this project.

As we all know, one of the most important parts of the D.I. recipe is a positive classroom climate.

There must be a feeling of camaraderie between the children.  In order to instill this, the children must know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The following activities assist the children in getting to know each other. One activity increases positive behavior, which is also important in keeping the integrated classroom running smoothly. Behavior issues can take away a considerable amount of valuable learning time from other students.

2) The Toilet Paper Game

Throw a roll of toilet paper and tell students to take sheets from the role. Do not place a limit on how many sheets they can use.

Tell them what the sheets are for AFTER they all take sheets off the role.

For each toilet paper sheet they take, they have to tell the class one fact about themselves.

3) The Index Card Game

Each child takes an index card.  They have to write three questions on each card. Some examples would be: do you have a pet? do you have a brother or sister? do you like to play sports?

Have the kids walk around the room as you say, “mingle, mingle, mingle”. When the teacher says stop, the children switch cards with the child closest to them.

The intent of this game is to get children to speak and socialize with each other.

Whatever card a child was given when the cards were switched is kept, and the game starts again.

4) When children enter kindergarten some can already identify sounds of letters, some can actually spell words, and some are not readers. Some learn through auditory modalities, some through visual modalities, and some are tactile. This letter and sound recognition activity incorporates everyone’s different readiness levels.

Using concrete learning materials, everyone has fun while learning.

Take plastic letters, fill a bucket with macaroni and mix the letters into the bucket. Let the kids dig their hands into the bucket and pull out a letter.

If a child is a pre-reader, have them try to identify the letter. For the slightly more advanced child, have them identify the letter and the sound it makes. For the extremely advanced child, have them do all of the above. Ask them to think of a word that begins with that letter.

Have a great day and most of all have fun :-0)

Mari N. M.Ed.

Hello There :-0)

I have included some fun ideas to increase fine motor skill development, sensory awareness, literacy skills, and more. On the surface, these activities may look like mere fun. AHHHHHHH but one cannot always tell a book by its cover, can we?  Include a high fun factor in the learning and children will maintain the engagement in the project. The more engaged the child is, the more that child will recall and practice what they have learned.

1) Rutti Tutti Water Colors: This is an excellent way to explore colors,sense of smell, and occasionally taste, as an occasional child attempts to “taste” the paint. (do not worry, the paint is totally non toxic sugar-free jello) :-0)

Drop two boxes of sugar-free Jello in a bowl. This project works best when you use four or five flavors in separate bowls. i.e. orange jello for orange cherry jello for the color red, lime jello for the color green, etc. Drop tablespoons of water into the bowl of jello and stir. This must be done slowly as the intent is to create a pasty consistency. If too much water is added the jello will be watery, thus losing its texturized appearence when the children paint with it.

Attempt to include the children by allowing them turns stirring the jello and adding water. This encourages independence and a sense of team work in the kids. This project may be adapted by adding Q. TIPS, sponges, even potato stamps that the children create, as alternate ways to paint. This is an excellent way to explore and think outside the box.

You may want to encourage the children to provide you with their impression of what each flavor of jello smells like, and broach a discussion. i.e. You can talk about the orange jello and display an orange for visual reinforcement, etc.

2)  Make Marbles and chopsticks: This game enhances eye hand coordination and fine motor skills. Have the children place colored marbles on a plate. Provide them with straws to use as chopsticks. The chopsticks are the only instrument that can be used to move marbles from one plate to another. This can be made into a team game. You can encourage the children to compete and see who can pick up the most marbles. Use judgment as applying the competitive edge depends on the childs social and emotional development. You can also provide a basic math activity by counting the marbles on the plate.

3) Chalk fun: The children have the opportunity to stand in a line and draw a line with chalk. The next child adds to the first childs line, (or drawing) with the intent of creating a group art project. No scribbles allowed in this one. The intent is to think ahead towards an ultimate creation. This is a fun way to reinforce taking turns, reciprocity, and plain old team work. :-0)

4) Spud Knockers : This is a great game for children who have social emotional challenges, or are merely not developmentally ready for team games. They merely compete against themselves. In this game, they will reinforce coordination, gross motor skills and more.

Two potatoes are placed in a panty hose leg. The pantyhose is lightly tied around the childs leg. Another potato is placed on the ground. The child hits the potato on the ground by swinging their leg that has the other potato in the pantyhose. The ultimate goal is to move the potato that is on the ground across the room with the other potato.

5: Snake Dance: This is played like follow the leader except in a Conga Line style. Children in line imitate the movements of the leader of the line while music plays in the background. This game encourages awareness and listening skill, as the children must stay in line and focus on what the lead child is doing.

I call out the child at the end of the line to go and lead every thirty seconds or so. As the child at the end goes to the front of the line the leader goes to the back. The intent here, is that ALL children get a chance to be the leader. You will have to prompt them to change places.

This game has a high fun factor. The children are welcome to move about anyway they wish when they are the leader. (As long as they stay in the snake line)

Warning be prepared for a high silly and giggle factor:-0)

Most of all, HAVE FUN!! :-0)

Mari N. M.Ed.

Empathy towards co – workers can avail adults the chance of a successful career. These traits are developed in early childhood. My long-term project has a major focus. It will emphasize what power children have when working as part of a team. Children often feel powerless. They often believe they are not capable of achieving anything of worth to adults. Hopefully, by the end of April these children will be equipped with self empowerment skills that will take them far in life. We are designing a giving tree. It sits on the wall by the art center. The children can pick a blank leaf. They may take the leaf home write the item down that they wish to donate to the families at the homeless shelter. When the item of choice is returned to the school, the leaf is placed back on the tree. A box sits by the door waiting to be filled with donations. The parents were asked to let the children pick the item of choice.

Parents may feel that a child’s donation is not the same item they would have chosen. By not coercing the child by choosing the item, parents are instilling choice making skills in the kids. The children are sorting, and packing the items every Friday. I will deliver the items to the shelter. We will add cheery notes and pictures from the school age class to our donation box. The shelter has agreed to let their children respond back to the school age class.  These will be memorable pen pals. Lessons will be learned, and a widened understanding of our world will develop.

I held a circle today to gain an understanding of how much my young charges comprehend about charitable projects.  We have gone over basic concepts such as the definition of a donation, and what kinds of notes we will write to the children. I first asked the children what the definition of a donation is. A child promptly raised her hand. Her definition was quite interesting. The child said a “donation is when we give away things that we don’t like”. This is a direct example of how children assess and scrutinize the adults in their life.

This child was mimicking others in her social circle. I responded by explaining that sometimes we donate things that others need. I added that this is a hard thing to do. We may choose a toy for our project. The child may decide that they would like to keep the toy. However, sometimes we need to realize that we have many nice things at home. The one toy we donate may be the only toy this child will own. Some may see this concept as above a child’s cognitive level. If adults take the time to model and explain, children surprise us with their level of compassion. Sometimes they are more empathetic than adults.

The next topic covered was the content of the pen pal letters. I asked the group what we should write in the letters. One child suggested that we write, “I am sorry you do not have a house”. I gently told the group that it was a wonderful sentiment but perhaps we could tell the children at the shelter about our hobbies, names, favorite foods, etc.  In actuality, the child’s statement had shown a simple level of comprehension in regards to why families live at the shelter. I believe the children will be shocked when the kids at the shelter write back with similar likes and dislikes. Perhaps the children will find a kindred spirit in the shelter kids. Utopian in thought, no doubt, but doable!

Have a great weekend !! Mari N. M.Ed.