Archive for Early Childhood Education

14 Jan 2013

Motivational Monday

No Comments Early Childhood Education

My unanticipated 16 hour long day which included stops in four cities has delayed my plans to write a post on my favorite children’s books. So that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Instead I thought I would share a quote with you from one of my favourite books, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr Seuss. Although many might consider this a “children’s book”, I think it’s a book for everyone, as the many adults that I have purchased this for or read this to, can attest. I have strong emotional ties to this book, as it connects to one of my favorite memories, of a much beloved teacher reading this to us on our last day after four years of being in her program. It was also her last day, as the program she’d run for so long was being cut, and so she had decided to retire. Mrs A. changed my life and I think of her often, especially when I read this book.

There are many quotes in this book, as it speaks to success, but also to the reality of things not working out, of having to wait, of feeling low. However, here’s just one of my favorites.

“So be sure when you step,

Step with care and great tact.

And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act.

And will you succeed?

Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)”

-Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

13 Jan 2013

Sunday Watching and Reading

1 Comment Early Childhood Education

I came across the inspiring story of children’s author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka this week.

He shares the story of how he became a children’s author/illustrator, starting from his childhood. What I really appreciated about his story are all the individuals who had such a profound impact on him, because it went beyond families to many supportive teachers and even to a simple comment from a visiting author.

I came across this video via the TEDBlog, and so accompanying it was an equally interesting read in Krosoczka’s 10 picks for children’s books that will become classics. You can read it here. Some I recognize, and some I will definitely be checking out in the future.

Tomorrow on the blog I will list some of my favorite children’s books, so be sure to check that out as well.

12 Jan 2013

Saturday Reading – January 12 2013

1 Comment Blogroll, Early Childhood Education

Here’s a few blog posts that caught my eye this week.

C is for Chicks from Preschool Daze – One of the most vivid memories that I have from my early years are a pair of chicks that we hosted in my third grade class. I remember being fascinated by them, and I remember the sounds they made (and that smell). I had the opportunity to take them home for a few days, probably a long weekend, and that’s when we named them Orville and Wilbur after the Wright brothers, because they seemed determined to fly. I think that animals of all kinds are a wonderful experience for young children.

Best Art and Creativity Quotes for Children & Adults from the Artful Parent – I always hold onto quotes and there are a number in this post that I will definitely be writing down. A couple of my favorites are “Art takes nature as its model.” – Aristotle and “The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children.” -Elaine Heffner.

Painting the Snow from Happy Hooligans – This activity combines two of my favorite things, snow and bringing art experiences outdoors.

What have you been reading this week?

11 Jan 2013

Documenting History

No Comments Child Care, Documentation, Early Childhood Education

I visited a child care centre where I used to work this afternoon and it was an interesting experience. Certainly a lot has changed in the years since I’ve worked there, but what was interesting to see were the things that hadn’t changed. Documentation panels that I’d assembled at the end of long term projects were still on the walls and a classroom display that had come out of a project on farm animals was still up on the cupboards. The furniture was different, the toys and learning materials were changed, but there were still these base elements, part of this centre’s history that remained. These project boards and displays were once the first things put up on bare walls, the first few pages of a new centre’s history. Now they are joined by more recent documentation and displays of current projects. The walls are full of history, and the centre seems lived in, rather than institutional as it had before.

I remember when I started at that centre, it was just opening in a brand new building. We shared a building with another institution, and so although the centre was beautiful, the starkness of the bare walls and the general design of the building seemed more like a hospital than a home. We wanted to fill the walls with documentation and other displays, as we were Reggio inspired and wanted to create a similar look and feel, however we were reminded that creating a history takes time. I was certainly reminded of that today. I think that we are often eager to move forward to get to the next stage in our practice, in our journey; we want the end result and lose sight of the process. Being in that centre today reminded me of the importance of the journey, that each step is necessary and important. History doesn’t happen overnight.

Photo by JaniceCullivan on Flickr

10 Jan 2013

Simple Planning

No Comments Child Care, Early Childhood Education

Less is more. I think that’s one of the hardest things for an Early Childhood Educator to learn. We know that our role is to build relationships, to set up a supportive environment and to provide learning opportunities to promote children’s development. So, we “plan activities”, which is where the challenge lies.

For my students going out into the field to do their practicum they know that one of the expectations is a certain amount of “planned activities”. What is challenging for these students, and for other ECEs as well is that once you’ve planned the activity and you’re implementing it, you have to let go of the plan. As ECEs our role is to facilitate learning, to provide an environment where children are free to make choices in their explorations. We can support their learning, and we can scaffold their learning, but I think that learning happens best when the adults let go of their own agendas and follow the child’s lead. This is hard for ECE students, who want to plan “successful” activities, and who often base the success of their plan on whether the children did as they anticipated. Allowing children to change the plan or to use materials in new ways, is something that can still be difficult for veteran ECEs. We make plans based on the children’s interests, sometimes based on our own interests or experiences, and based on our knowledge of child development. Sometimes a patterning activity turns into pretend play, sometimes an art activity becomes a sensory explorations, and that’s okay.

Therefore, I think that simple can be better. Our plans should require less planning. We can bring together materials and speculate on two or more ways the children might use them, anticipating the different learning that can occur, then when we actually give them the materials, we carefully observe. Maybe some of the children will do as we anticipated and we’ll feel prepared to support them in that, but even if they don’t, we can still use our skills as observers and our relationship as play partners to join them in their explorations, and to support the learning that is still happening.

The more planning that an adult puts in to an activity, the more closed-ended the materials, the less the children can do with it. The more open-ended the materials, the less the adult puts into it (in the planning stage), the more the child puts into the activity, the more opportunities they have to make choices, to experiment, to problem solve and to learn what they need to learn. It’s that simple; but then again, keeping things simple is a hard thing to learn.

Photo by woodleywonderworks on Flickr.

09 Jan 2013

Wordless Wednesday – First Friends

No Comments Early Childhood Education

07 Jan 2013

Documentation and Reflection

2 Comments Documentation, Early Childhood Education, Infants

I have wanted to read The Diary of Laura for a number of years now, even purchasing a copy at conference last year, however I’ve been so caught up in the busyness of life that I tucked it away and promptly forgot about it. Luckily, my year end cleaning turned it up and now I’m trying to work through it in an intentional way, as is my goal for all things this year. The Diary of Laura is, as it sounds, the documentation diary of a infant named Laura during her time in an infant-toddler program in Reggio Emilia, Italy. What I really like about this book is that it has a number of chapters written by different authors sharing their reflections on the diary, and their experiences working with young children. There is also a section with questions to encourage group reading or the use of the book as a professional development tool, so if anyone wants to start a group read of this book, let me know.

One of the first things that struck me is a question posed in the introduction of the book – “Is the form of documentation called “diary” still of interest after twenty years?” I think that as early childhood educators, the practice of documentation is one that we are constantly refining. Programs and individuals have different goals in their use of documentation and especially as technology continues to evolve and change, our methods of documentation also seem to be changing. So, then if we are trying to determine whether the “diary” is still of interest, we need to examine what do we mean by “diary”. Clearly, a diary is a narrative form of documentation, it can include media, such as photos or videos and work samplings. However, I think what sets a diary apart from other documentation is that it requires reflection. A diary is not an exclusively objective presentation of the facts, it allows for wonder, for speculation. You can go back to a previous entry in a diary and continue to add to it, as insights occur. Contextual information is often included. As important as it is for us to be objective observers, the value of our reflections and speculations about why a child might be doing something (especially when the child can’t tell us themselves) are of equal value. I think that in a time where test scores and checklists are becoming our standards for assessment, it’s important to include in our observations opportunities to reflect, to wonder, and even to speculate.

What do you think?

Oh, and one last thing- the diaries in the infant-toddler programs in Reggio and shared between caregivers and families, and both have the opportunity to contribute their thoughts and observations. What a wonderful way to nurture our partnerships with families!

06 Jan 2013

Sunday Watching

No Comments Early Childhood Education

Sunday is typically a day of rest for me. So, instead of me sharing something with you, I thought I would let some others do the talking.

One of my favorite Early Childhood researchers is Alison Gopnik. I read both The Scientist In The Crib and The Philosophical Baby and really enjoyed them. Not only is the information presented interesting and relevant to my work, but they are easy to read and understand, which makes both books appropriate for parents and caregivers as well as early childhood professionals. I was further delighted to discover she’s also a very engaging speaker, so I wanted to share this TED talk with you.

While browsing the TED site, I also came across this fascinating video of Annie Murphy Paul, who takes learning back even further by talking about what babies already know at birth. Learning starts in the womb, something I hadn’t really given a lot of thought to before, but I certainly am now.

Who are some of your favorite speakers/researchers? I’d love to know.

05 Jan 2013

Saturday Reading

2 Comments Blogroll, Early Childhood Education

The convenience of Google Reader and other RSS readers has made it so easy for me to keep track of blogs, that I keep track of too many. Like books and journals, I am now also accumulating blogs to follow at an almost unreadable pace. So, I thought I would make all my blog hoarding count and share some of what I’ve read this week with you.

First, a lovely post from Jenny at Let the Children Play. She shares her 2013 Teaching Manifesto here.

Here’s a wonderfully honest piece by Nadine at A Pikler Experience. I really admire her openness and honesty and she reflects about the way that her toddler’s throwing makes her feel and her acknowledgment of the role that all caregivers play in their child’s behaviours. Read “Everything Can Fly” here.

Teacher Tom always makes me think and I think often says the things that many early childhood professionals want to say (or at least want to want to say). This week he reminds us “it’s just weather and challenges us to allow “risky” play. Read “What we did on the Swings in the Weather” here.

I have always loved Light Boxes and I think that “playing” with light can be a rich experience, so of course I loved that Anna at The Imagination Tree shared how to make your own light box using those Christmas lights you haven’t put away yet. Read “DIY Lightbox for Sensory Play” here.

Finally, this isn’t a blog post, but it is something else that showed up in my inbox this week. For those of you living in Ontario, interested in the changes being made to the Child Care Funding, here is the technical paper with all the details.

If you’ve read something interesting this week, leave it in the comments. I love adding to my blog collection.

04 Jan 2013

Five Things Every New ECE Should Know

No Comments Child Care, Early Childhood Education

It’s the Friday before the start of a new semester and for many of my students, their final semester before they go out into the field. This has me thinking about what I would like them to know before they graduate, and I’ve come up with these five things.

  1. Your education does not end here; learning is a lifelong journey. Keep reading articles, blogs, journals and books, attend workshops, keep reflecting, keep an open dialogue with former classmates and co-workers and continue to build your Personal Learning Network. Keep building relationships with the children in your care, because they can teach us just as we teach them- learn from the children.
  2. Team work is key. You will have a partner or two, who will have their own beliefs about children, their own educational and experiential background and their own opinions and ideas. It is important that you communicate with each other and work together, sharing your own ideas and keeping an open mind about theirs. It isn’t always easy to work so closely with someone, but if you keep an open mind and engage in ongoing dialogue it will be an enriching experience.
  3. Money isn’t everything. This is a field where money is a hot button issue and all too often I see students planning their future employment based on which centres pay more. Now, I won’t disagree that money is important, but don’t let that rule your career. Sometimes making a little bit less money, but working at a centre where the staff and the centre’s philosophy matches your own, where you enjoy working, is preferable to working somewhere that causes you stress or makes you unhappy.
  4. Find your passion. If you are getting ready to graduate or have recently entered the field and this isn’t something that you love to do, then don’t. You have other options, don’t feel like you are “stuck” in this field forever. It may just mean you need to find another centre or another area of the field to work in, or it may mean a complete career shift. It’s okay to take another path.
  5. And last – Don’t forget to play! It’s easy to get caught up in the paperwork and the tidying and all the other busy work that we get called to do, but never forget that your job is to build relationships and to be a play partner. It’s okay to sit on the floor and play, it’s okay to have fun. It will invigorate you and inspire you, but most importantly it will make you a better Early Childhood Educator.

What advice would you give an ECE who’s just starting out?

Photo by familymwr on Flickr