Wednesday, February 7, 2018

February 7, 2018

Movement in the Early Years

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Movement in the Early Years

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. All of these math concepts are unfolding while kids are actively building and moving.”

Research has shown time and again 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. 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.”

“Children need opportunities to move in class.” Ben Mardell, a professor of early-childhood education at Lesley University and the project director of the Pedagogy of Play initiative at Harvard’s Project Zero, observes that even when adults do incorporate play into learning, they often do so in a way that restricts free movement and agency. “The idea that there should be formal instruction makes it no longer play,” says Mardell. “In play the player is choosing to participate, choosing a goal, and directing and formulating the rules. When there is an adult telling the kids, ‘This is what we are supposed to do,’ many of the important developmental benefits of play get lost.”

The role of play has been established not just as a part of learning, but as a foundation for healthy social and emotional function. The National Association for the Education of Young Children has published widely circulated position papers on the need for developmentally appropriate teaching practices and for reversing the “unacceptable trends in kindergarten entry and placement” that have been prompted largely by policy makers’ demand for more stringent educational standards and more testing.  Some teachers are enacting changes, seeking ways to bring movement back into the classroom.
Play-based preschools are seeing increased popularity. Enrichment programs engaging children in movement with intention (yoga, meditation, martial arts) are also gaining traction.

Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal

Monday, January 29, 2018

January 29, 2018

Why are Stories Important for Children?

Stories play a vital role in the growth and development of children. The books they read and the characters they get to know can become like friends. It’s also good for children to understand that books are a useful source of information and that good reading skills are important for success in their future lives. Reading also helps children with their confidence levels, coping with feelings and language and learning.

Confidence Levels

Children who can read well are more likely to have higher confidence 
levels. This will benefit them in school as they’ll feel able to participate fully in activities. Another part of building confidence and self-esteem is knowing where you fit into the world. Stories can help with this process by showing children what people’s lives are like where they live and in other parts of the world.

Language and Learning

Stories are a great way to introduce new words and ideas into a child’s language – starting with picture books for the very young, working up to more complex novels for teenagers. Stories can help children learn about concepts such as shape, size, space, and color, up and down, inside, and outside, numbers and the names of objects. They can also teach children about everyday tasks, such as how to brush their teeth, taking care of animals, cleaning and tidying and preparing food.
Stories are also useful for teaching more complex ideas, such as the importance of sharing, the passage of time, compassion for others. They can be useful when trying to explain traumatic events, such as family break-ups and bereavement.
Fiction based on real-life can also help children with their own life experience – it shows them how diverse the world is and that some people’s lives are vastly different to theirs. And what’s so great about learning through stories is that the process is done in a natural way. There’s no actual teaching involved at all, they learn from simply reading the story.


Reading stories can be helpful for relaxation, before bedtime for example. They allow children to forget the stresses and strains of the day and indulge in fantasy for a while. The soothing familiarity of a much-loved story, the rhyming and repetition in a picture book, plus the sense of security that time spent reading together can foster, all help the child to relax.

Development of Imagination

Stories help to develop a child’s imagination by introducing new ideas into their world – ideas about fantastical worlds, other planets, different points in time and invented characters. It’ll encourage the children to realize that they can, and should, imagine anything they want. The beauty of stories is that they can be super realistic or incredibly fantastical. They can be reading about children growing up in the same situation as them one minute and about another species, Martians holidaying on Jupiter for example, the next.

Coping with Feelings

When children read stories that contain feelings it can help them understand and accept their own feelings. It helps them understand that there are other children who feel the same way and they are not alone. This helps the child understand that feelings are normal and should be expressed. Watching their responses to the feelings of the characters in the stories will give you some idea of how a child feels about certain situations and emotions. For example, how the child responds to the character in the story feeling sad or scared will give you some idea of how the child thinks.
As you can see, children’s stories are important for many reasons and form a vital part of the growing process. Being part of that process can bring writers a sense of satisfaction as well as being great fun.

Ms. Nora Sierra

EC Assistant principal

Friday, January 12, 2018

January 12, 2018

Why Hands-on Learning at Preschool Is Best

For decades research has shown that hands-on learning at preschool is best. While knowledgeable early childhood educators understand how valuable it is, many who have the decision-making power do not. That's why it's important that parents educate themselves on the issue and become advocates for hands-on learning at preschool and, thus, advocates for what's best for their young children.

What Is Hands-On Learning at Preschool?

Hands-on learning at preschool simply means the children are active learners throughout the day: exploring with materials, learning by doing, moving throughout the classroom, and interacting with one another. The teacher acts as a facilitator – not by telling the children what to do with the materials – but by asking questions that challenge them to use them in new and creative ways. A teacher skilled at hands-on learning will often begin her inquiries with how: How can you build that bigger without it falling? How can you make sure those plants grow healthy? How can you all play together so everyone has a turn?

Most of us experienced hands-on learning when we were children in preschool and kindergarten, and it contributed greatly to our fond memories for those early years of learning. Scholars in early childhood development have written extensively on the value of hands-on learning, arguing that it's developmentally appropriate because young children discover best through their senses, through movement, and through their sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around them. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) – the world's largest organization of early childhood professionals – says a quality early childhood education is one in which “Children are given opportunities to learn and develop through exploration and play...materials and equipment spark children's interest and encourage them to experiment and learn.”

Ms. Nora Sierra

EC Assistant Principal

Friday, November 17, 2017

November 17, 2017

Why Art and Creativity Are Important

Your preschooler is having a blast finger-painting with a mix of colors. Little kids are masters of the moment -- they love the way it feels when they smear paint on paper, how it looks when they sprinkle glitter, and even the soft sound a brush makes as it crosses the page, says Amy Yang, founder of Brooklyn Design Lab, an art school for children. Unlike older kids and adults, most toddlers and preschoolers aren't self-conscious about what they're doing or focused on creating a finished product. Allowing kids to enjoy the process of creation -- can reap big rewards. "Children will be better off overall if they're allowed just to be in the moment and express themselves," she says.

Why Art?

Fostering creativity won't just increase your child's chances of becoming the next Picasso. You're also helping him develop mentally, socially, and emotionally, says Ecklund-Flores. Creating art may boost young children's ability to analyze and problem-solve in myriad ways, according to Mary Ann F. Kohl, author of Primary Art: It's the Process, Not the Product. As kids manipulate a paintbrush, their fine motor skills improve. By counting pieces and colors, they learn the basics of math. When children experiment with materials, they dabble in science. Most important perhaps, when kids feel good while they are creating, art helps boost self-confidence. And children who feel able to experiment and to make mistakes feel free to invent new ways of thinking, which extends well beyond the craft room.

Ms. Nora Sierra

EC Assistant Principal

Monday, November 6, 2017

November 6, 2017

The Importance of Listening Skills for Your Preschool Child’s Learning and Development

Most people know that hearing and speech are very important in a child’s development. What is as important is the skill of listening. Some people think hearing and listening are the same skill, but they are not. Hearing is simply the physical act of receiving sound stimulation through the ear and sending it to the brain for reception. Listening, however, involves a mental process of tuning into a sound, recognizing its importance, and interpreting the information at the brain. For the developing child, both hearing and listening are important, since a child can have good hearing, and not have good listening skills.

The ability to detect a sound is hearing, and the ability to attach meaning to it is the foundation for development. This is listening. Sounds are not only speech sounds. Sounds are all around us. Before a child learns to produce speech sounds, they begin to respond to sounds in their environment—responding to their mother’s voice, or a dog barking, or a baby crying. These sounds imprint their brain with rhythm, inflection, pitch, intensity changes and more. These sounds prepare the way for the ear to respond to incoming speech sounds.

The ear is also one’s balance and coordination center. Often, weak early motor skills suggest the possibility of future weak listening skills. The ear, through vibrational stimulation, also impacts all of one’s senses, either directly or indirectly, so poor listening skills often accompany children who have sensory integration or sensory processing issues. Sometimes, children are too sensitive to sound, or crave vestibular sensation like spinning, or enjoy more than normal, hugs or squeezes. These needs are all directly related to how sound stimulation is sent to the brain through the ear.

Listening skills become extremely important when the child enters a learning environment such as a preschool. They are equally important to their social development as they attend and participate in conversations. Listening to spoken language is an integral part of developing speech, language, and communication. A preschool child also enjoys listening to music, songs, and stories. Some children enjoy music but can’t listen to conversation for long periods of time. Other children can listen and attend only if a visual picture is also present like the television. Each of these children have different listening skills, some of which can have a negative response in a school environment.

Mastering listening skills include developing auditory perceptual skills such as auditory detection, discrimination, recognition, sequencing, and memory. The blend of these skills allows for vocabulary development, proper grammar skills, future reading skills, and the ability to listen in background noise. These skills, when weak, can be enhanced by repatterning how the ear responds to surrounding sounds. The best time to repattern these skills is during the preschool years, as the brain is still growing. This can be done with repetitive activities that exercise the specific weaknesses over a long period of time. Speech Pathologists help develop communication skills, also typically over a long period of time.


Ms. Nora Sierra

EC Assistant Principal

Monday, October 23, 2017

October 23, 2017


Students work with tens as they explore place value, ten frames, and hundred charts.  Our entire number system is built from a system of tens. Developing a solid understanding of 10 as a benchmark number and how it works within our number system is key for students’ mathematical development.  Counting by 10s and seeing how each decade is organized builds numeracy, but it also supports students as they begin to add and subtract larger numbers.

Helping students develop the idea of 10 as a benchmark number is so important in our number system. First grade math and the beginning of second grade math reinforce this important addition fact concept. Encourage students to Make 10 and Use 10 when adding.
When you teach students math facts, do you help students understand, learn, and develop strategies for solving different math facts?  Do you work on memorizing math facts with a variety of flash cards and games?  Or do you do a combination of teaching strategies and fact memorization?


Many students come into second grade still counting on their fingers when adding larger numbers. They need to move toward more efficient strategies, but they’re glued to their fingers because it’s safe and easy.  Memorization may be difficult for them or maybe they haven’t had enough practice.

We help students develop fluency with basic facts so that they can learn to think strategically.  In between a student who counts each object and a student who has a fact memorized, are students who are using a variety of strategies to solve problems. Strategies help students find the answers to math facts, even if they forget. Strategies also transfer from solving one-digit problems to solving larger, multi-digit problems.

Students need to understand the value of using 10 as a benchmark number when adding within 20,  to aid in math fact memorization, but also so that they can transfer that skill when adding within 100, and again transfer it to adding within 1000.  Using tens to solve basic math facts not only helps students develop a strategy for solving facts they may not have memorized, but it leads toward students being able to solve two- and three-digit addition problems.


Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

October 11, 2017

3 Easy Steps to Write your Name

The first stage of learning names occurs when children start to recognize them! Young children begin to recognize the shape of their initial letter and often identify that first letter as “MY NAME!” They might find that initial letter in other places (separate from their names), point to it and say, “Look! There’s my name!” even if it is just the one letter.
In preschool, we can do lots of things to foster children’s recognition of their names. We label everything (lockers, change of clothes cubbies, snack chairs, carpet squares, folders, attendance chart, helper chart, and the alphabet wall) with their names and pictures, so that they begin to claim ownership of that very important word!
We use circle time as an opportunity to practice recognizing not only the child’s own name, but the names of all the classmates as well. With repeated exposure and practice recognizing each other’s names, the children begin to identify letters.

The next step, after children can recognize their names is to begin to spell them orally. We practice this in many ways. A child might be able to recite, “E-T-H-A-N” without seeing it written down. Then they will notice each letter. We provide a name activity like this one each morning for our students to practice. We practice with both capital letters, and we also practice matching capitals to lower case.

When the children are comfortable with recognizing and spelling their names, the next step is to work on writing them. Often these steps overlap and work in conjunction with each other! We give our children lots of opportunities to write their names with sidewalk chalk, paint, markers, in salt trays, etc. They are also work on strengthening their hand muscles and refining their fine motor skills. Our older Pre-K students (less than 1 year to kindergarten) also sign in their names each morning. It’s such a rewarding way to keep track of their progress. When children begin to write, they often use what they already know about names.


Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal

February 7, 2018

Movement in the Early Years Movement in the Early Years Movement allows children to connect concepts to action and to learn thr...