What Is Week of the Young Child, Anyway?

The Week of the Young Child is upon us again! My center is one of 1000s that takes part. But what does that even mean?

All this week, my preschool is one of the thousands across the nation that is celebrating The Week of the Young Child (WOYC). For many parents, you may have received flyers and seen posters that have heralded the arrival of this exciting week; some of you may have wondered ‘That sounds very nice, but what is the Week of the Young Child, anyway?’ There may be many more of you that will be wondering ‘Why are you doing it? What is the intended point?’ Well, worry no more. These are some questions I hope to help answer by the end of this post.

To first understand the WOYC, it helps to understand its origins. I’m not going to burden you with any lengthy history lectures, don’t worry about that! But it helps to understand the heft of the organisation that has put the WOYC into motion; that organisation is the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The NAEYC is one of the largest, non-profit, education and advocacy groups for early childhood; they promote furthering of research, education, and professional development and they center their focus around children ages birth through age 8 years old. They firmly believe in developmentally appropriate practice, involvement of family in the child’s education, and keeping teachers on top with continuing education. Understanding that some of the greatest scientific and educational minds back WOYC really helps give the movement some great momentum!

So every year, the Week of the Young Child is a week long event when the NAEYC wants to increase public awareness and education about young children, their needs, their abilities, and better ways for families, educators, and the community as a whole to help them grow! A theme is established with suggestions for activities, projects, and events by the NAEYC, but it becomes truly exciting and inspiring when local communities take the themes and interpet them their own way. And today, with social media, many preschools and early learning facilities are able to upload images and videos of their classrooms participating in daily activities on the NAEYC’s facebook page, and you can see children contributing to WOYC all across the entire nation! This is the kind of stuff that I get really passionate about, I am not kidding you.

So What’s Going On In WOYC 2016?

We’re two days into WOYC already.

*For Music Monday, the children in my classroom each picked out musical instruments, we sat in a giant circle, and took turn requesting song favourites as we tried our best to play with rhythm. We enjoyed talking about different instruments make different sounds. Some children brought musical instruments from home, and we enjoyed hearing the new sounds they shared with us. And of course, plenty of singing!

*Today was Taco Tuesday, this day was terrific! We read a delicious story titled Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin (a student brought us this book to read, great idea!) We got really hands on, mashing and cutting avocados to make guacamole, stirring and rolling both flour and corn tortilla dough, and having tacos with the works for lunch! We also kept the conversation going with talks of different things we could put on our tacos, other things that are good to put in our bodies, what ways can we keep our bodies healthy…the hands-on activities are fantastic ways to keep the kids both engaged and so entertained they don’t even realise they are learning.

For the rest of the week, I thought it might help if I offered some ways that parents and guardians at home could help tie-in the different daily themes. It’s a powerful thought; literally thousands of children across the country are celebrating this same event all week, and all in the idea of bettering our young ones and trying to make the next generation that much more intelligent, creative, and happier!

*Work-Together Wednesday: The goal of this day is to help enhance math and science skills through building activities. You want to think, blocks, blocks, ramps, Lego, and blocks! If you have a child that is already an avid block builder, challenge them to build something that they don’t normally build: have them count only thirty blocks and then ask them, ‘Now, what can you build with these blocks?’ If they come up with something pretty quickly, take away five blocks and have them try again. An easy and fun science experiment with a ramp is simply take a ‘ramp’ (cardboard, a tray, a long wooden building block) and then take an assortment of objects. Next, have your child guess which ones will roll down the ramp (if they are old enough to grasp the concept, tell them that this is called a ‘hypothesis’!) Now, test your hypothesis! And of course, you can’t forget the joy of building pillow forts!

*Twin Thursday– Our center has chosen for this day to be designed for helping children in each classroom build relationships and develop their social skills. Whilst this may deviate a little from the NAEYC’s ‘Artsy Thursday’, this is what I meant about centers being able to interpret the themes for the betterment of their children and their needs. For Twin Thursday, our kids drew names and randomly picked a twin, they also agreed on a colour; on Thursday they will both dress up in this colour. There is also going to be a focus on working as a team to get things done, helping children come out of their comfort zones to build new friendships and develop their social skills, etc. For your child at home, you could engage them with activities such as a three-legged race, where you would tie yours and their legs together and cooperate to get from one place to another. You could put on a blindfold and have your child give you verbal directions on where to walk (I recommend this in your living room or another safe place!)

*Family Friday– I love this one. It’s all about letting the child share photos and stories about their family with the classroom and the classroom recognising that ‘the family is at the heart of supporting our youngest learners…the NAEYC applauds family members’ role as young children’s first and most important teachers’ (The NAEYC’s wording for this was too perfect, I could not have said it better myself). You can help prepare your child for this day by printing some copies of family photos they really enjoy, writing some stories or notes on the back (this way, we teachers can use them to prompt them if needed for story-telling), or maybe asking them to dictate to you something they love about their family.

The WOYC really is an awesome concept. It’s about focusing intently on the ways children learn, about getting families and the community both aware and involved, and about trying our best to make it as fun as we can. I hope you guys enjoy celebrating our young ones; I know I have one heck of a time teaching them!

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts,

Miss Jaide

 

The Power of A Good Book

It’s incredible how much we can help children just by reading to them when they’re young. Some of my thoughts and tips on reading aloud with kids and some of my favourite books I’ve used in the classroom.

I recently finished up a class this past winter quarter at California State University, East Bay (CSUEB, where I am wrapping up my BA in English) that was a Masters level class designed to help writing teachers teach writing. The class was very interesting in and of itself, but the reason I bring it up is that a reoccurring topic was the ever-growing struggle that middle-school, high-school, and college level English teachers are having with getting their students to enjoy reading. Because to be a strong writer, you also have to be a strong reader; you have to read to write and visa versa. One of the suggested solutions to this? Get kids involved with reading when they are young!

Now, I myself am an avid reader, I devour books left right and center. And one of the greater joys I get during my days teaching is reading to my students. They are at the age when they themselves are just discovering the magic of understanding letters, that those curved  and jagged lines on papers and signs all around them are not beyond their realm of understanding. But they cannot yet read; that makes it my responsibility to show them the magic that can be found in stories and storytelling. There is a bounty of research that links reading with your child and helping their literacy, their increased chances of enjoying reading, and their overall increased chances of academic success. I will link some of these articles at the end of this post.

I want to share with you some tips I have found that really help with my storytelling with my children. It is so important to read with your child; I cannot express this enough. But more importantly, you want to have fun with it!

Throughout my teaching, I have found that there are some books that children really connect with. It helps to be a dramatic story-teller, and even if you are not one for acting out with heart and soul, just switching up different voices can really help your child become that much more engaged with a story. I have also found that if I am reading a new book, it helps me to read it through one time, or at least skim the pages, so it’s not too unfamiliar to me (or so there isn’t anything in the book that I might find too ‘scary’ or unsettling for the kids).  I try my best to eliminate distractions (this might be easier to do at home than in a classroom of twenty-four children), but sometimes, I don’t need to try that hard; to this day, ten years into teaching, it really surprises me how intently children can listen to a good story.

Here is a list of some of the top picks I have used through my time in the classroom:

  • Go Away Big Green Monster– Ed Emberley
  • The Grouchy Ladybug– Eric Carle
  • Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys, and Their Monkey Business– Esphyr Slobodkina
  • Mog– Judith Kerr
  • The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin– Joe Troiano
  • Mustache Baby- Bridget Heos
  • The Chocolate-Covered-Cookie Tantrum- Deborah Blumenthal
  • The Pete the Cat Books (My favourites are Rocking in My School Shoes, I Love My New Shoes, and My Four Groovy Buttons)- Eric Litwin
  • The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything- Linda Williams
  • Sheep in a Jeep– Nancy Shaw
  • The Napping House– Audrey Wood
  • King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub– Audrey Wood
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt- Michael Rosen
  • The Kissing Hand- Audrey Penn
  • I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More- Karen Beaumont
  • A Hat for Minerva Louise– Janet Stoeke
  • One Duck Stuck- Phyllis Root

This list is by no means exhaustive. It doesn’t include MY favourites, even (all though I do really like them!), or ones that I think can nessecarily teach certain important messages or be used for particular discussions, etc.,  etc…if I attempted to do that I would essentially be typing up a book-centered curriculum. The books that I listed are my preschoolers’ favourites. In multiple classrooms, across multiple age groups, over and over again, these books have entertained them, kept them laughing, engaged, and asking questions. I recommend all of them for helping build a lasting love of reading in your little one.

Here are some links to a few articles that provide more information about the importance of reading aloud with your child:

Do you read aloud often to your child? What are your favourite books to read with them? Please share you and your kids’ favourite stories in the comments, or any questions you may have for me! I look forward to your feedback.

Miss Jaide

Translating That Teacher Talk!

Has it ever happened when you’re talking to your child’s teacher, they are telling you something wonderful that happened during the day, or something they have been working on with your child, and the teacher uses some terminology that is new to you? Creating a common ground between parents and teachers, especially with communication, is essential to a successful classroom experience for any child, and their family! For my introductory post, I want to de-mystify some commonly used teacher jargon to help facilitate communication between the classroom and the home-front:

*Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP): Teaching strategies that are based on scientific understanding of how young children develop and learn, what makes each child unique, and the child’s community and family culture and home language. When we use DAP activities in the classroom, they aren’t too easy for the children, nor too challenging, but just right! For instance, in most cases it is developmentally appropriate to introduce a 4-year-old to the letters in his name, with the expectation that over time he will learn to write his name on his own. On the other hand, it is not developmentally appropriate to ask 4-year-olds to write letters over and over again on worksheets. Worksheets limit the child to tedious fine-motor practice related around an abstract concept. Whilst on their own, a worksheet isn’t going to make-or-break your child’s ability to learn how to write, the goal for teachers is for us to find more hands-on relatable ways for your child to experience the joy of creating letters!

 

*Cognitive development: Children’s developing knowledge, skills, and dispositions, which help them to think about and understand the world around them. This the variety of processes through which your child remembers situations, applies knowledge to make current and future decisions, and solve problems in their environment. We can help strengthen a child’s cognitive development by asking them questions when faced with a problem (What can we do to get the bike unstuck? Is there a different way you can build your tower so it won’t fall down again?) or by playing games that test their memory (I like to sing familiar songs, such as Old MacDonald, switch up one or two words, and see if they’ll catch it!) Another activity you can do at home (or in a restaurant/on the road) is place five items in front of your child, have them close their eyes, take one away, and see if they can recognise which one is missing! Children as young as 2.5 years can enjoy this game, and as they grow older and more adept at the game, you can add more items.

*Language Acquisition: The process through which your child develops the ability the understand and manipulate language, both by comprehending the language and learning to use words/sentences to communicate. Children can acquire language in multiple languages at one time! Children love to play with language, and because words, letters, and sounds are prevalent in nearly every environment, helping their language acquisition grow can be fun and easy: one of my go-to games is playing I-Spy; depending on the age group I’m playing with, I can adapt the clues to make the game accessible but also fun! For instance, if I were playing with a group of 2 year olds, I would tell them I spied something purple, and then give them more hints that described the item: it’s round, we kick it, you can pick it up with your hands, etc. Children that have shown an awareness of letter sounds can play the game with you spying something that starts with a certain sound: ‘I spy something that starts with an ‘S’ sound.’

*Fine Motor Skills/Fine Motor Development: Your child uses the smaller muscle groups in their body to complete everyday tasks. Tasks that strengthen their fingers and wrists are of particular importance in early childhood, as children strengthen muscles that will help them manipulate their cars, their writing instruments, their food…almost everything! Teachers and parents can help develop fine motor skills with fun, everyday activities such as cutting playdough with scissors, using tongs to put cotton balls in containers, or turning shaped blocks to fit in specific holes. I recently did an activity with my class that celebrated Chinese New Year- they enjoyed folding the paper over and over to make fans. This can be done with your children anytime you have paper! With littler ones, such as toddlers, you can help them work on their hand-eye coordination and strengthening those little hands by threading pipe-cleaners (available at Target, Wal-Mart, Michaels) through your pasta strainer at home! 

I’ve only listed a few of the more common terms that I hear both myself and fellow teachers using. Our goals as teachers is to create a powerful team with the families that allows us to build our children into the best possible people they can be! If you hear your child’s teacher using a term that maybe you don’t quite get, please ask!

  Miss Jaide