Thursday, March 16, 2017

March 16, 2017

 3 Important Skills Needed for Reading

Rhyming Words

Rhyming words are words like rat and cat or even head and red. Rhyming words are words that have ending sounds that are similar. While there is such a thing as imperfect rhymes {words like home and bone, found in the song, “This Old Man”}, I like to focus more on the rhymes that end the same, like house/mouse or dog/frog. Rhyming words are not always spelled the same; they just need to sound the same. Here are some things we want kids to be able to do with rhyming words:
•       Recognize when words rhyme and when they don’t
•       Produce rhyming words {You ask: “What rhymes with cat?” and they answer, “Rat.”}
•       Play with rhyming words. Create a bunch of words that rhyme with the word, even silly ones.


Syllables are the “big parts” in words. For example, words like cat or fish only have one syllable. Words like happy and table have two syllables. For those who find it tricky to hear syllables, I tell people to put their hand under their chin and count the times they “drop” their child when they say a word. Generally, this is the number of syllables the word has. Here are some things we want kids to be able to do with syllables:
•       Count the number of syllables in a word
•       Combine syllables to form a word. Example: “What word do you get when you put together the two parts, hap {pause here} py?”
•       Say the parts of a word when a syllable is dropped. For example, “What does it sound like when you say rainbow without the rain part?“


This is where I usually lose people. Phonemes. It sounds so teacher-y, doesn’t it? So, what exactly are phonemes? Phonemes are the
individual sounds in words. For example, the simple word cat has three phonemes {or individual sounds} /k/ – /a/ – /t/.
What makes this one a little tricky, especially for adults trying to teach phonemes, is that some words have more letters than phonemes. Take the word light, for example. While it has 5 letters, it only has three phonemes {or individual sounds}: /l/ – /i/ – /t/. We will explore more about phonemes on days 4-6 of this series. But for now, let’s see what we want kids to be able to do with phonemes:
•       Isolate phonemes, such as “What’s the first sound you hear in the word bear?”
•       Blend phonemes. For example, “I’m going to say the sounds in a word very slowly. See if you can listen to what I say and tell me what word it is: /m/-/ee/.” {me}
•       Separate phonemes. For example, “How many little sounds do you hear in the word bug?” {3}
Counting phonemes is a more advanced skill that typically comes AFTER kids have mastered rhyming and syllables. Many children will also be reading easy texts, like those found in Reading the Alphabet, before they have mastered counting and manipulating phonemes.

Phonological & Phonemic Awareness
Phonological Awareness is a broad term. It refers to the awareness of sounds in a word. A child with phonological awareness can identify and create rhyming words, count syllables in a word, or (on the smallest level) identify and manipulate individual sounds in a word.
Phonemic Awareness fits under the umbrella of phonological awareness. It is an awareness of the smallest units of sound (or phonemes) in a word. For example, a child with phonemic awareness could hear that the word bat has the sounds:  /b/  /a/  /t/. A child with keen phonemic awareness could change /h/ at the beginning of hat to /c/ and know that now, it’s the word cat.
Phonological and phonemic awareness activities are things your child can do with their eyes shut.  They only need their ear as they identify and manipulate sounds within words.

Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal
Discovery School

Monday, March 6, 2017

March 6, 2017

Early child development sets the foundation for lifelong learning, behavior, and health. The experiences children have in early childhood shape the brain and the child’s capacity to learn, to get along with others, and to respond to daily stresses and challenges.

 Early Brain Development
There are some important concepts that help us understand early brain development:
Beginning in the last trimester of the prenatal period, brain pathways are formed by developing new connections. This growth increases after birth and follows a predictable sequence.
At birth, newborns start with very similar brains and brain structures.
There are “sensitive periods” during a child’s development, when the wiring of the brain for specific abilities is established.
Providing responsive, nurturing, and stimulating experiences establish the wiring of the brain connections. Children who are well supported and nurtured physically, emotionally, socially, and intellectually will develop a multitude of neural connections that will serve them well throughout their life course.

A child’s interest and curiosity are the motivators that create new connections to acquire new skills. Each new skill builds on a skill already learned. The child’s environment can support and enhance his interest and curiosity.
Early brain development establishes a child’s social competence, cognitive skills, emotional well-being, language, literacy skills, physical abilities and is a marker for well-being in school and life resiliency.

Domains of Development
Human development is complex and all aspects are interconnected. Yet, in most texts and writings, early human development has been artificially divided into developmental domains. This categorization can assist professionals in ensuring that all areas of the child’s development are observed and supported, thus furthering his whole development. Professionals must keep in mind that all domains or areas of development are interconnected. For example, learning to talk is usually placed in the language domain, but involves physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. In this resource, children’s development has been grouped into the following domains:

Early Learning
In the past decade, there has been considerably more interest and investment in the early years both in Canada and abroad. By supporting young children and families now, society will benefit later with “healthy, educated, confident and productive adults”.
Supporting early learning is based on the following facts and premises:

·        Children are cared for as their families provide nutrition, shelter, nurturing, stimulation and protection. The        care they receive enables children to learn and develop to their full potential with increasing influence from the world outside the family.

·        Parents want to understand how their child develops and learns. Prenatal and parenting classes, drop-in programs, home visiting and many other opportunities can be explored to support parents from various cultural, educational, geographic and socio-economic backgrounds.

·        High-quality child care settings and pre-school education improve children’s developmental outcomes. Two longitudinal studies, the High/Scope Perry Preschool project and the Carolina Abecedarian project, compared children who received high-quality, early-years programs with children who did not. When comparing the two groups of children over several decades, key differences emerged. The children who received the quality program scored higher on language, literacy, and numeracy tests throughout their schooling; finished more years of school; and had higher rates of employment. In Canada, Quebec has developed an educational program adapted from the High/Scope model that fosters full and holistic development of children through an evidence-based curriculum and has demonstrated positive results.  Other studies have also found that participation in quality early childhood education and care settings has been positively linked to child outcomes such as improved language, literacy, and numeracy development, school readiness and social skills.
·        Parent participation in early childhood education and care settings not only improves children’s development, but also strengthens families and parenting skills through connecting and sharing with other families. When parent and family involvement is planned into the early childhood education and care setting, and relationships between professionals family members are built on trust and respect, the greatest benefits are reaped. Clearly, when children have access to quality early childhood environments and experiences, it can set the stage for positive trajectories later on in life.

Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal

Friday, February 24, 2017

February 28, 2017

Teaching Kids to Eat Healthy

Teaching kids to eat well can be tricky. You don’t want to give them more facts than they can grasp or turn every meal into a lecture.  If you wait too long, they could pick up unhealthy habits in the meantime.

“Kids need to know that every food they put into their bodies affects them,” says Danelle Fisher, MD, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.

Parents can get that message across by talking with kids about the food they put in their bodies, why it matters, and how they can learn to make the healthiest choices.
Not just a rule, but a routine. Make sure healthy foods are the default setting for your family’s meals, and get everyone involved in choosing some nutritious, delicious options. Take kids with you to the grocery store or farmers market. Younger kids can pick out fresh fruits and veggies. Older kids can take on larger roles like choosing recipes and making a shopping list.

Show kids what “eating right” looks like. Explain that they should fill half their plate with fruits and veggies that have nutrients that will help their bodies grow. The other half should be whole grains and lean protein that gives them energy to run, dance, and play. When you’re cooking or grocery shopping, show them different examples of these key food groups.

Avoid calling foods “good” or “bad.” Kids should learn that all foods have a place in their diet. Label foods as “go,” “slow,” or “whoa.” Kids can “green light” foods like whole grains and skim milk they should have every day and “slow down” with less healthy foods like waffles. Foods with the least nutrition, such as French fries, don’t need to be off limits, but kids should stop and think twice before they eat them often.

Talk about portion size.  It’s not just what kids eat that matters, but how much. Even very young kids can learn that the amount of rice or pasta they eat should match the size of their fist. Protein should be palm-sized, and fats like butter or mayonnaise about the tip of their thumb. When you buy packaged foods, have kids help you find the serving size. Then talk about why sticking to it is a good idea.

Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal

Friday, February 17, 2017

February 17, 2017


The Reggio Emilia Approach is an innovative and inspiring approach to early childhood education which values the child as strong, capable, and resilient; rich with wonder and knowledge. Every child brings with them deep curiosity and potential and this innate curiosity drives their interest to understand their world and their place within it.

Children can construct their own learning. They are driven by their interests and their interactions with others. Children form an understanding of themselves and their place in the world through their interactions with others

There is a strong focus on social collaboration, working in groups, where each child is an equal participant, having their thoughts and questions valued. The adult is not the giver of knowledge. Children search out the knowledge through their own investigations.
Children are amazing communicators. We are all aware that communication is a process, a way of discovering things, asking questions, using language as play. Playing with sounds and rhythm and rhyme; delighting in the process of communicating.

Children are encouraged to use language to investigate and explore, to reflect on their experiences. They are listened to with respect, believing that their questions and observations are an opportunity to learn and search together. It is a process; a continual process. A collaborative process. Rather than the child asking a question and the adult offering the answers, the search is undertaken together.
For children at such an early age, the environment is the third teacher. 

The environment is recognized for its potential to inspire children. An environment filled with natural light, order and beauty. Open spaces free from clutter, where every material is considered for its purpose, every corner is ever-evolving to encourage children to delve deeper and deeper into their interests.

The space encourages collaboration, communication, and exploration. The space respects children as capable by providing them with authentic materials & tools. The space is cared for by the children and the adults.
The adult or parent is a mentor and guide. Our role as adults is to observe (our) children, listen to their questions and their stories, find what interests them and then provide them with opportunities to explore these interests further.

The Reggio Emilia Approach takes a child-led project approach. The projects aren’t planned in advanced, they emerge based on the child’s interests.

Probably the most well-known aspect of the Reggio Emilia Approach. The belief that children use many, many, different ways to show their understanding and express their thoughts and creativity.

A hundred different ways of thinking, of discovering, of learning. Through drawing and sculpting, through dance and movement, through painting and pretend play, through modelling and music, and that each one of these Hundred Languages must be valued and nurtured.

These languages, or ways of learning, are all a part of the child. Learning and play are not separated.
The Reggio Emilia Approach emphasizes hands-on discovery learning that allows the child to use all their senses and all their languages to learn.

Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal
Discovery School

Friday, February 10, 2017

February 10, 2017


STEM is a pretty hot word these days, but do you know what it stands for or how important it really is? What is STEM? STEM is the future. STEM is science, technology, engineering, and math. These are all areas of learning that our kids need to be comfortable with to excel in the future. STEM makes creators, thinkers, problem solvers, doers, innovators, and inventors. Exposing kids to simple STEM ideas at an early age today sets a foundation for higher learning tomorrow.

What is STEM? STEM is a real-world focus. STEM is hands-on learning that applies to the world around us. STEM is the future.  Exposing kids to simple STEM ideas at an early age today sets a foundation for higher learning tomorrow.

STEM builds and teaches creativity, problem solving, life skills, ingenuity, resourcefulness, patience, curiosity. STEM is what shapes the future as our world grows and changes. STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. STEM is everywhere and in everything we do and how we live. From the natural world, around us to the tablets in our hands that show us the world far, far away. STEM builds inventors!

Our kids thrive with STEM activities. STEM activities push kids to expand their horizons, experiment, problem solve, and accept failure to success. Teachers need to choose STEM activities early on and present STEM activities in a playful way. You will not only teach your kids amazing concepts, but you will build a love for exploring, discovering, learning, and creating!

Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal

Discovery School

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 1, 2017

Music Play
Creating Centers for
Musical Play and Exploration

The presence of music in young children’s lives can sometimes be taken for granted. In most early childhood classrooms, teachers and children sing a song or two at circle time. Many teachers use musical strategies to help children handle transitions for example, singing “We’re cleaning up our room, we’re cleaning up our room, we’re putting all the blocks away, we’re cleaning up our room” to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”. Parents often sing lullabies and traditional rhymes to their young children. At home and in the car, parents play recorded music
they themselves enjoy. They may play a “kid’s’” tape or CD to keep the children happy and occupied on the road. Music certainly is present in the lives of many young children. Nevertheless, there is a growing awareness that music is underused and under addressed in early childhood education. In the early years, musical aptitude is still developing. Infancy and early childhood are prime times to capitalize on children’s innate musical spontaneity, and to encourage their natural inclinations
to sing, move, and play with sound.

Creating Centers for Musical Play and Exploration
Music is in the air in Ms. Viola’s Head Start classroom. She has a large collection of CDs, most of which were recorded specifically for children. Music often plays in the background during greeting, snack, choice, and nap times.

Music is in use in Mr. Kerry’s pre-K classroom.
“Piggyback” songs remind children of expected
behaviors and add a pleasant dose of calm to
transitions that might otherwise become chaotic.

Music is on the lips of Mrs. Rosetti’s kindergartners. Morning circle begins with a greeting song, followed by children’s selection of two more songs from the class’s impressive repertoire. Afternoon circle is the time for learning and practicing new songs. Each of these teachers might say, “My classroom is very musical,” and each student is providing something of value.

Why does music not receive deeper attention in early childhood education? 
Teachers may not recognize the full value and potential of providing for children’s musical development and may not understand the many ways musical involvement can enhance development and learning in other areas. They may believe that musical development is important only for a small number of highly talented children. They may be intimidated by the specialized expertise of music educators or inhibited by their own lack of knowledge about music education or a perceived lack of musicianship. 

NAEYC and MENC (National Association of Music Education [formerly the Music Educators National Conference], are collaborating to promote the full inclusion of music in early childhood curriculum.
Young children engage in music as play. Though many early childhood educators may not consider themselves musicians or music educators, they generally do feel comfortable with the medium of play. When offered a variety of drums and strikers, children play with sound.

By exploring and “messing around,” they discover they can make one sound by striking one drum and a different sound by striking another. Their drum play is supported because adults expect and allow for the “noise.”

When young children hear music, they move to it.
Supportive adults share their joy and delight in their fun, also, listening and moving in response to the music. Once children learn to sing, they create their own melodies and invent their own words to familiar songs. Their song play is supported when adults demonstrate authentic interest, interact with children through song, and engage in their own playful song making.

Play is central to early childhood education, and it is a primary vehicle for musical growth. When early childhood
teachers recognize the playful nature of children’s musical activity; music education may look more like familiar territory. Young children engage in music

as an exploratory activity, one that is interactive, social, creative, and joyful.

Ms. Nora Sierra
Early Childhood Assistant Principal
Discovery School

Monday, January 23, 2017

January 23, 2017

Why Young Kids Learn Through Movement

Children acquire knowledge by acting and then reflecting on their experiences, but such opportunities are increasingly rare in school.

One of my children is spinning in a circle, creating a narrative about a princess as she twirls. The other is building a rocket ship out of a discarded box, attaching propellers made of cardboard and jumping in and out of her makeshift launcher. It is a rainy day, and I’ve decided to let them design their own activities as I clean up and prepare a meal. My toddler becomes the spinning princess, imagining her character’s feelings and reactions. What seems like a simple story involves sequencing, character development, and empathy for the brave princess stuck in her tower. The rocket ship my first grader is working on needs a pilot and someone to devise the dimensions and scale of its frame; it also needs a story to go with it. She switches between roles and perspectives, between modes of thinking and tinkering.

Movement allows children to connect concepts to action and to learn through trial and error. “If you walk into a good kindergarten class, everyone is moving. The teacher is moving. There are structured activities, but generally it is about purposeful movement,”comments Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a professor emerita of early-childhood education at Lesley University and the author of Taking Back Childhood, describing the ideal classroom setup. In the classroom culture, she advocates for, “[Kids] are getting materials for an activity, they are going back and deciding what else they need for what they want to create, seeing how the shape of a block in relation to another block works, whether they need more, does it balance, does it need to be higher, is it symmetrical. These math concepts are unfolding while kids are actively building and moving.”

Research has shown repeatedly that children need opportunities to move in class. Memory and movement are linked, and the body is a tool of learning, not a roadblock to or a detour away from it. Any parent who has brought home a kindergartener after school, bursting with untapped energy yet often carrying homework to complete after a seven-hour day, can reasonably deduce why children today have trouble keeping still in their seats. Many children are getting 20-minute breaks, or none. (In Florida, parents whose children have no recess have been campaigning to legislate recess into the curriculum.) Recess, now a more frequent topic of research studies, has been found to have “important educational and developmental implications.” Schools that have sought to integrate more movement and free play, such as short 15-minute recess periods throughout the day, have seen gains in student attention span and instructional time. As Carlsson-Paige points out, “Recess is not a separate thing in early-childhood education.”

Ms. Nora Sierra
Early Childhood Assistant Principal