Using The Daily 5 in Pre-K

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For the coming school year, Pre-K classrooms in Tennessee are going to be evaluated using a new model for certification.  This model includes more intentional teaching of literacy skills, such as “writing around the room” and “reading to self or others” than in previous years.  When I began the Pre-K program in my school system in 2005, writing and paper work were a big “no-no” and I defended my use of pencil and paper when teaching my students to write their name.  I was a Kindergarten teacher in my previous life 🙂 and I knew the importance of being able to write their first name on a paper so I stuck to my guns and kept on writing.  NOW we have (as we always do in education) swung all the way to the other side of the spectrum with teaching children not only to write, but to incorporate the skills of holding a clipboard and pencil, moving about the room orderly, and searching for words to write and share with the class.  We also were not to “teach letters” and I didn’t dare think about teaching children to read!  Don’t get me wrong, I am excited about making some changes in my classroom with these new guidelines, but I am not sure how is the best way to incorporate these measures for at-risk 4 year olds.  I have spent A LOT of time on Pinterest and googling the topic, but still I am having trouble moving forward with a plan that I believe best meets the needs of my students.  So I am looking for advice on what works in your classroom or doesn’t work as the case may be.  How did you set up your classroom?  your work stations?  What do you require from your students during the Daily 5 time?  Do you have Teacher time and what skills do you focus on teaching?  Any help will be appreciated, after all, teachers are the best at sharing their ideas and helping each other figure it out!

Using Communication to Engage Change

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Communication is a two way process and the key to serving in any professional capacity in today’s society.  Effective communication requires both speaking and listening skills.  As a early childhood educator, communication is used to interact with my students, parents, co-workers, administration and advocates.  Social media is an effective tool in providing quality communication to many people in a very short time with little time and effort on the part of the communicator.  With more and more parents engaging in social media during the day during their work hours, teachers can provide a unique look into the daily activities of their child’s classroom.

In thinking about my own communication skills, I often am required to speak to large groups for educational purposes.  I am typically comfortable speaking to large groups and I enjoy interacting with parents, but very little listening is involved in these communication opportunities.  I also meet with parents on a more one-on-one basis and in these types of conferences, I engage in both listening and speaking equally.  Non-verbal communication is also a vital skill necessary to my profession.  Maintaining eye contact with people when speaking and keeping an open body position will allow people to feel that I am open and interested in what they are saying to me.  By presenting an open expression and neutral facial expression, others will feel that I am validating what they are saying and will be more receptive to listening when I am speaking.  The art of conversation is lost art with the advances in the technology associated with cell phones, laptops, tablets, iPads, iPods, and social media.  Continuing to practice communication skills is important to being able to effectively engage people in an effort to advocate for children and early childhood education (Robinson, Segal, Segal, Last, 2014).

My course project is to change the policies of the after school program for my Pre-K children called Kid’s Club and create a more developmentally appropriate curriculum and enrichment activities.  In creating a change in policy change for the Union City Elementary School’s Kid’s Club program, social media can be an effective way to engage and inform parents.  Facebook is an important social media tool that will enable me to provide information, pictures, videos, and posts to parents that request to be part of the UCES Kid’s Club group.  Facebook will also provide opportunities for parents can ask questions and share thoughts about the program,  While social media is a great communication tool, I will also need to provide opportunities for parents to meet together to discuss strengths and challenges of our program.  It will be important to provide a forum where both speaking, listening, and non-verbal communication skills are used to give all interested parties a voice in the creation of this new after school Pre-K program.

 

Robinson, L., Ph.D., J. S., Segal, M., & Las, M. (2014, May 1). Effective Communication. : Improving Communication Skills in Business and Relationships. Retrieved June 5, 2014, from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/effective_communication_skills.htm

Using social media to promote high quality after school care

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Social media has quickly become the way that people communicate with each other. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other websites like these have become common place for young people and adults alike and have replaced the practice of calling, texting, and writing letters to peers. In an effort to utilize current technology to engage families, teachers needs to research appropriate ways of “getting their message out” using social media sites.  In carefully looking for ways to share calendar dates, important information concerning the school and classrooms, and curriculum guides, teachers must be aware of the pros and cons of each media site in order to find one that will best meet their needs.

In looking at social media sites that will help raise awareness for the importance of high quality early childhood education and after school care for my Pre-K program, I looked at Facebook and YouTube.  These two sites were chosen primarily because they allow me to minimize public viewing with privacy settings so I can protect my students, their families, and myself from unwanted visitors to my pages.  Facebook is a good fit for promoting Union City Elementary School Pre-K after school care to students, families, teachers and administration because I can post important parent information about registration, rules and consequences, days and hours of operation, curriculum information, and pictures of daily activities.  Parents can comment or ask questions as needed either on the news feed or send a private message to me as the director.  Facebook also will share our address and phone number to others needing information about our after school program.  Each week I will post a list of our daily activities and learning goals and follow up with photos of the children engaged in fun small and large group activities.   YouTube is another great media site that I will use to promote a connection between school and home.  Videos of me sharing important announcements,  small and large cooperative group projects, children reading, and creating special messages for parents and families are a few of the ways UCES Pre-K after school care can be used.  Also I can subscribe to other channels that provide educational videos that parents can use at home to assist their child with readiness skills, such as saying the alphabet, counting, and learning nursery rhymes.

In communicating with families through social media sites, it is important to consider the possible benefits or challenges  that may come up.  With any type of social media,  major obstacles are parent access to the internet and privacy issues concerning children. Facebook is a versatile way to publish information, photos, calendar dates,  and announcements easily and make it convenient for parents to see quickly.  The downside of Facebook is that if a parent shares a photo or comments on a post, it is then posted on their wall and visible for all their friends to see and this will allow information about our program and students  to be less secure.  I hope to alleviate some of these problems by sharing with parents the need for privacy and discouraging sharing of Pre-K after school information with their friends.    Similarly, You Tube is a great site for sharing videos with families of classroom activities and allowing students to present cooperative group learning.  Another benefit is that students can save their videos and watch them over an extended period of time.  One negative impact of YouTube is the unlimited access students would have to other videos posted that would be inappropriate for them to view.  Again, by using YouTube, it is important that parents understand exactly how I will use this social media and what the dangers are when their children use it at home. Social media has become the major form of communication between adults and youth alike so it is important for teachers and schools to become proactive in using technology effectively.  When using social media, there are many concerns with posting children and their activities.  By making sure to provide appropriate family education and attention to privacy, Facebook and YouTube can share exciting learning activities and important information with parents in an engaging manner quickly.

Pre-K and Early Childhood Policies and Systems

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I am very excited to be working on a course this semester on Early Childhood Policies and Systems.  In my years spent in early childhood education, I have always been interested in why we do the things we do.  Since I was the first Pre-K teacher in my school system, I had to very quickly learn much about the rules and policies governing our program in order to be an effective teacher that followed the guidelines established for a Lottery Pre-K classroom in Tennessee.  During the past 9 years, I have worked closely with the State Department to make sure that our program is following policies and meeting the standards for our students.  Every year, we establish goals that can make our program better in an effort to continually grow and improve.  In this course, I have been asked to think about early childhood policies and systems and set goals that will enable me to be a better educator.  These goals are more program orientated than classroom orientated and should focus on making our program more effective.

When thinking of ways to make our program better, I initially think of data collection and how to assess children with the ability to share and compare data with other Pre-K teachers and Kindergarten teachers.  We currently pre-screen children in July to determine if visual, motor, or language delays exist and we use that data to divide children evenly based on gender, race, and level of readiness into classes.  We feel that this even distribution of varying levels will allow all children to learn from each other and be successful.  After school begins in the fall, we give each student a Formative Assessment to establish a base-line for instruction.  We re-administer the assessment again in the spring to determine growth for the year.  We also pre-and post-test skills taught in each theme of our curriculum to measure growth.  While I value the necessary data these assessments provide, I feel that we should have a more standardized measuring tool that would show growth from the beginning of Pre-K until after Kindergarten or even 1st grade.  The ability to have multi-year data beginning in Pre-K would be so important when working with our at-risk students and their families by being able to show growth and improvement or challenging areas that needed to be worked on at home. 

The second goal that I have for our program is to create a community of practice made up of preschool teachers, directors, Pre-K teachers, and Kindergarten teachers that collaborate in order to share knowledge and collaborate on best practices for our students.  I do not believe that “school readiness” means the same thing to all early childhood professionals, but with the presence of Kindergarten Common Core we all must all be on the same page with instructional goals for 4 year olds going forth.  By engaging all 4 year old teachers with Kindergarten teachers, that goal can be achieved and ideas can be shared about how to best meet those learning standards.  I believe by validating everyone’s role in educating our children, we can build a team that will strengthen our Kindergarten program and benefit all students, but especially those at-risk students.  This team should be available to meet regularly before, during and after the school year to support each other and discuss progress monitoring.  For too many years, child care prior to Kindergarten has been removed from the scope of public education, but I believe the time is right to join together and work as a team.

The third goal that I have for our Pre-K program is the formation of a Pre-K Committee that includes parents, teachers, and administration with the purpose of assessing our program for strengths and weaknesses each year.  We have worked hard to include parents in our program, but their participation has been on the outside looking in.  I want to design a questionnaire for parents to fill out at the beginning of the year discussing their expectations and goals for their child’s year in Pre-K.  I also want us to seek out parents that would be willing to meet regularly and serve on a committee that will evaluate how our program is meeting the needs of our children and their families.  This committee would discuss how to better reach parents and what educational programs would benefit our families.  I envision that these committee members would be more accessible to people that might feel intimidated by a teacher, administrator, or the formal school setting.  I believe that by empowering parents as part of the educational team, they will encourage each other to be involved and provide important feedback that will improve our program.

The fourth goal I have for our Pre-K program is to seek funding for a before and after school program that will provide our families with high quality care during non-school hours.  Some of the families that we serve are employed during certain hours that make it difficult for them to get their child to school on time or pick their child up during our 2:15 pm dismissal.  We currently have an after school program, but it is only child care and not academic in any way.  I envision a before school program that gives children an opportunity to begin their day playing in learning centers and interacting with peers or working collaboratively to build using manipulatives.  Also I would like to provide an after school program that takes the classroom learning to another level through hands-on activities, dramatic play, art, and music.  Many of our students that stay for after school care are the same ones that would benefit from extra small group time devoted to mastering the skills that they are lacking.  These students would also benefit from extra one-on-one time spent in language acquisition and reading with teachers, assistance, or volunteers.

The fifth and final goal I see for our program would be to work with community leaders to establish a summer program available to all families that would help children continue to be engaged in learning during the months they are out of school.  Our at-risk children experience delays during this down time and lose some of the important gains that they made in Pre-K, but by creating a program where they will meet during the summer we can avoid some of that loss of knowledge prior to entering Kindergarten.  We are fortunate in my community to have a state-of-the-art public library that provides an excellent summer reading program.  We also have recently opened a 10 million dollar Discovery Museum that has an outstanding children’s area.  These two facilities can be utlized to provide students and families with enriching family activities during the summer months. By enriching these children’s experiences, language, and background knowledge, they will be better prepared for the world of Kindergarten and all that is expected of them.

Our Pre-K program is outstanding and I am so proud to be a member of such a strong teaching team, but I know that there is work to be done and I am excited for the challenge of the goals I have set for us to make our program even stronger for our students, families, and our community.

Final Thoughts and Reflections

For my final assignment in my current coursework, I have been asked to reflect on the experiences and work I have done and how it has changed me.  During this course, I have learned much about my personal values and biases and how my comments can be unintentionally hurtful to those that I have not taken the time to get to know better.  In our world of multiple cultures and values, it is never a good idea to assume that the people you are talking to share your beliefs.  In interacting with peers through discussions pertaining to assignment, I learned much about different cultures and even some about my own culture and how people see things I value differently.  Sometimes it is difficult for me to remember that there is a massive environment outside of the small town I inhabit and that issues and concerns are important there also.   I was extremely surprised to find out that even though I consider myself a tactful person, I still have made comments in the past that could offend people.

In working to learn more about other cultures, I enjoyed reading the book, The Spirit Catches You When You Fall, that discussed the Hmong culture and a young girl that suffered from a debilitating disease.  The struggle that her family faced in working with medical professionals during her illness, but trying to hold on to their cultural values was tragic and left me feeling that the doctors involved needed to reflect on their bedside manner with patients. My community is seeing an increase in the number of families from different cultures and it is important as an early childhood profession that I continue to learn as much as I can about each family and their background and culture in an effort to provide a positive learning environment for their child.  

I feel that I connected and gained the most from the work that I did on working with children dealing with the trauma of poverty.  I work with at-risk children every day and the information I have gained from my course project will be beneficial for understanding and  working with families and their children that live a much different life that I am accustomed to living.  I would like to further research families living in poverty and how it affects the children.  There is so much research available and so many variable that can affect the way children respond to negative adversity and I want to learn as much as I can in order to give these children a solid foundation for learning and socialization.  In gaining more insight into my topic, I hope to be able to raise awareness of the need for quality early childhood education for all children and advocate for more funding in my community so that children that live in poverty can gain necessary skills in order to enter Kindergarten ready to learn with their peers.  I have been a long-term resident of my community so I can see the effects of generational poverty on families I have known all my life.  I want to try to help my students become successful learners in order to be able to break the cycle of poverty.  

Fadiman, A. (2012). The spirit catches you and you fall down: A Hmong child, her American doctors, and the collision of two cultures. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. 

 

A work in progress…

ImageIn my current post-graduate course I am continuing my work on researching the effects on children living in poverty.  My focus has narrowed to discussing how a child’s language development and socialization can be delayed as a result of their home environment.  Thus far in my project, I have conducted a literature review discussing the many different issues that can develop and affect a child’s physical, mental, emotional, and cognitive development.  I have also interviewed two early childhood professionals that live in my community and work daily with at-risk children and their families.  Both women are well known professionals in early childhood and active in community service activities outside of their daily careers.  Mrs. Rogers and Mrs. Waggoner were both very gracious and warm during our interview.  I felt that both women spoke very honestly and openly about the challenges that they face on a daily basis in working with young children living in poverty.  During the interview process, I was interested to find out how each professional viewed their role in working with children and how they worked to make a difference each day.  Mrs. Rogers, a Preschool Special Education teacher, believes her most important job is to develop a relationship with the families’ of her students in order to best meet the child’s needs.  She has come to understand that a teacher must child value and validate a child’s family in order to bridge the gap from home to school.  The comment that I found most mirrored by philosophy was when Mrs. Rogers discussed the negative effect on learning that a child can suffer when teachers do not take the time to develop a positive relationship with the child and the family.  I, too, believe that a positive relationship is the most important first step when beginning with a new student.  Parents need to trust that a teacher will love their child and children need to feel that a teacher wants them to be successful and loves them too.  Mrs. Waggoner, Director for The Promethean Foundation, works with families that are in need of child care services, but not able to financially afford them.  Children are awarded scholarships, funded by a private donor, if they qualify and are able to attended a high quality center that adheres to a strict Foundation approved curriculum.  Mrs. Waggoner visits the children in the center and at home to make sure that they are progressing in a positive academic and social direction.  Her belief is that she should treat all people as she wants to be treated because we are all created the same and deserving of love and respect.  The comment that I found most interesting during my interview was that in the beginning of her career, Mrs. Waggoner believed that children living in unsafe environments should be removed from the home, but through her work she has come to understand that family is everything to children and to remove a child from the home, without just cause, can be extremely detrimental to the child’s development.  This comment made me consider my own biases when working with difficult families and how I deal with them.  These two interviews have provided me with a more human perspective on working with at-risk children and I was impressed by the professionalism shown by these women.  I am working to incorporate their perspectives and beliefs into my course project in order to support the research.  My goal for this project to raise awareness for early childhood professionals on the effects of children living in poverty.  By working together to develop positive relationships with the child and their families, early intervention by professionals can help these families learn how to create a better home environment for everyone.