Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Dec.4, 2018


It's almost Christmas, and according to some people, it's "the most wonderful time of the year."

Here are Christmas celebrations that are found around the world.

Some Armenians choose to fast the week before Christmas. Then, they break their fast with a light Christmas Eve meal called "khetum," which includes rice, fish, chickpeas, yogurt soup, dried nuts and grape jelly desserts.

Why have eggnog and pumpkin pie when you can celebrate Christmas by eating plump, fuzzy caterpillars, aka Emperor Moths? Don't worry, they're fried in oil, so you know it's good... right?

The Ukrainians use fake spider webs to cover their trees.
Why? According to legend, a poor widower had no money to decorate the family's tree. Some friendly spiders were grief-stricken when they saw the widow and her crying children, so at night, when everyone was asleep, they decorated the tree with silver and gold.
After that, the poor family became prosperous, lucky and never had a financial woe, ever again. Thus, a spider web-covered tree signifies prosperity and wealth for the next year.

On Christmas Eve, Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, closes its streets so everyone and anyone can make their way to church.

India is one of the most populous countries in the world, meaning that translates to 25 million people who celebrate Christmas.
Due to lack of fir and pine trees in the region, Indians use banana or mango trees as a substitute.

You won't find stockings hanging on chimneys in the Philippines. Rather, kids will polish their shoes and leave them by the window sills, so when the Three Kings walk by at night, they'll leave presents.

Rather than milk and cookies for Santa, it's all about Christmas pudding made with Guinness or Irish Whiskey. This tradition also carries over to the UK.

Ms. Nora Sierra

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Nov. 8, 2018

Technology in the Classroom

One Person’s Point of View:

By Robert Holl

I have seen many changes impacting how instruction is delivered, and nothing has impacted change more than technology and the internet. As with most change, there have been both positive and negative outcomes. Whether a given change is positive or negative will often depend on one’s own perspective.

My name is Robert Holland my career, upon graduating from college, began as a classroom teacher and then transitioned into various facets of educational publishing. These varied experiences have affected my point of view and influenced my current thinking. However, the last 15 years, during which I founded and grew the Learning A-Z Publishing Company and developed hundreds of classroom resources, have led me to appreciate more fully how technology can assist teachers and improve learning for students.

As a publisher of learning resources and as a former classroom teacher, I have always believed that it is vital to never lose sight of the teacher’s significance in and out of the classroom. I have carefully weighed every product development decision to ensure that it strengthens a teacher’s instructional efficiency and effectiveness.


It seems to me that there are two faces of technology in the classroom. On the one side, I have come to believe that overuse of technology can have a dehumanizing effect. But on the other hand, I also have come to believe that technology can help personalize learning, promote interaction and engagement, and help improve motivation. From my point of view, we should not park students in front of a computer or other device and deliver technology-driven curriculum solutions that place limitations on human connections. This, I believe, would be detrimental to the development of the whole child. But there are countless benefits that support the use of technology in classrooms.

One of the most compelling benefits technology offers is its ability to save teachers time and deliver resources economically. Take, for example, books and other resources needed to build reading skills, grow knowledge, and motivate readers. Today’s teachers can have a library of electronic books delivered directly to their classroom as PDF documents that can be printed and made into low-cost books for their students to read in the classroom or at home.

These same books can be assigned as eBooks to read on any type of device. Teachers can also project these books within whole-class and small-group instructional settings. Never have so many books and other reading resources, in multiple formats, been so readily accessible to teachers and their students – developmentally appropriate books aligned with students’ interest.

Technology-enhanced text resources can have many embedded tools to support and guide the reader. For example, an audio track for listening to the entire text with words and phrases highlighted so the student can follow along can be especially helpful to struggling readers and English language learners. In addition, words that are unknown and difficult to pronounce can be selected for a pronunciation and a definition. EBooks can also have recording features for students to record their reading of text and then play it back to self-monitor fluency. They can also send a recorded reading to their teacher who can then listen and monitor student progress.
Student engagement and interactivity with text can be facilitated by highlighting and other mark-up tools, notetaking and journaling features, as well as embedded prompts for students to respond to as they read. These tools and features can enhance comprehension and free up the teacher to interact more personally with students who need extra help.

Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal

Monday, October 22, 2018

October 22, 2018

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 15, 2018

October 15, 2018

Creativity and Play

Creativity is the freest form of self-expression. There is nothing more satisfying and fulfilling for children than to be able to express themselves openly and without judgment. The ability to be creative, to create something from personal feelings and experiences, can reflect and nurture children's emotional health. The experiences children have during their first years of life can significantly enhance the development of their creativity.

Importance of the Creative Process
All children need to be truly creative is the freedom to commit themselves completely to the effort and make whatever activity they are doing their own. What's important in any creative act is the process of self-expression. Creative experiences can help children express and cope with their feelings. A child's creative activity can help teachers to learn more about what the child may be thinking or feeling. Creativity also fosters mental growth in children by providing opportunities for trying out new ideas, and new ways of thinking and problem-solving. Creative activities help acknowledge and celebrate children's uniqueness and diversity as well as offer excellent opportunities to personalize our teaching and focus on each child.

Opportunities for Creativity

Children need plenty of opportunities for creative play and creative thinking. Start by providing activities that are based on the children's interests and ideas. This means learning how to listen intently to what children are saying. It is very helpful to tape record and transcribe children's conversations as well as take notes and review them with your co-teachers.
 Be sure to offer children a wide range of creative materials and experiences. Being creative is more than drawing or painting. There's also photography, music, field trips, working with wire, clay, paper, wood, water or shadows. The possibilities are endless. It's important to provide children lots of time to explore materials and pursue their ideas. This includes time to think about how to plan, design, construct, experiment and revise project ideas. Don't forget to build in time to talk these ideas over with other people - both teachers and children.

Varieties of Experience
Look for ways to provide multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and other community experiences for children. Activities such as field trips, celebrating holidays and activities with other ethnic groups, and encouraging children to bring visitors to school enhances the creative process. The more varied experiences children have in their lives, the wider the range of creative expression. The more personal experiences children have with people and situations outside of their own environment, the more material they can draw on to incorporate in their play. Our challenge is to try not to be intimidated by the variety and diversity of artistic expression in our classroom.

Fostering the Creative Process
Encouraging children to make their own choices is important. Children should be permitted frequent opportunities - and lots of time - to experience and explore expressive materials. Put your emphasis on the process of creativity and not on the finished product. What children learn and discover about themselves is vital to their development. Show your support for the creative process by appreciating and offering support for children's efforts. Independence and control are important components in the creative process.


Ms. Nora Sierra
Early Childhood Assistant Principal
Discovery School

Monday, October 8, 2018

October 8, 2018


We find that books in the home have a positive payoff in improved test scores throughout the world,” writes a research team led by University of Nevada-Reno sociologist Mariah Evans. “The relationship is strong, clear, and statistically significant in every one of the 42 nations (we studied).”
Evans made this same point in a 2010 study, which found “home library size has a very substantial effect on educational attainment.” Her new research confirms that conclusion using data from even a larger number of nations—42, rather than the 27 in the earlier report.


“They enhance the academic performance of children from families as all educational and occupation levels,” the researchers write, “but the enhancement is greater for families with little education and low-status occupations.”
Evans and colleagues Jonathan Kelley and Joanna Sikora examined data from the Program for International Student Assessment, a project of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Academic achievement of participating students (most of whom were 15 years old at the time of the study) was determined by a test that the researchers describe as “carefully designed, comprehensive, structured to minimize class and ethnic bias, and anonymously graded.”
Data was also collected on family demographics, as well as the number of books in the student’s family home. (There was no information available on the specific types of volumes.)
The results were unambiguous: “Regardless of how many books the family already has, each addition to the home library helps children do better (on the standard test),” Evans and her colleagues report.
 “A home with books as an integral part of the way of life encourages children to read for pleasure and encourages discussion among family members about what they have read," Evans and her colleagues write, "thereby providing children with information, vocabulary, imaginative richness, wide horizons, and skills for discovery and play.”
They concede that their research leaves something of a chicken-and-egg question: Are books in the home merely an indication of that sort of “scholarly culture,” or does their presence create an intellectually stimulating family environment?
While the answer isn’t clear, the researchers point to recent research suggesting that “books themselves do matter.”
Being read to, reading for yourself, discussing what you’ve read—that’s the sort of positive spiral that can lead to greater academic achievement years down the line. The Cat in the Hat may turn out to be the catalyst between the covers.

Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal
Discovery School

Monday, September 24, 2018

September 24, 2018


Phonemic Awareness is an important early reading skill for preschoolers and kindergarteners to develop. It is the ability to play with sounds in a variety of ways to manipulate, substitute, and hear isolated sounds. It is also an essential skill to develop before a student can learn to read.

Many of the students who have phonics difficulties also had an underdeveloped phonemic awareness. They could not isolate and blend sounds. They just didn’t have enough practice in listening to and playing with sounds, apart from the letters.
When a five-year-old enters kindergarten, their phonemic awareness skills need to be as strong as ever. Phonemic Awareness is an important early reading skill for preschoolers and kindergarteners to develop.

In the simplest of terms, it is an awareness of sounds. It is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate phonemes, which are the smallest units of sound that have meaning.
One very important thing to emphasize is that phonemic awareness is done without letters. It is all sound. Once you add letters, it becomes phonics. Students need a strong phonemic awareness foundation before you add phonics on top of it.


Rhyming is one of the earlier phonemic awareness skills to develop. It is present in most of our nursery rhymes and songs for young children. Alliteration is like rhyming, but on the other side of the word.
Rhyming is a difficult skill to learn for some readers, especially for English learners. Although rhyming is a phonemic awareness skill, I wouldn’t focus intervention on it. Teach it, yes. Do songs, poems, and rhymes in your classroom, yes. However, if a student is not able to produce rhyming words after some instruction, I would move into the other phonemic awareness skills. Is Rhyming Ability Important in Reading? is a great article about how much emphasis to put on rhyming. The basic conclusion is that the other components of phonemic awareness are more influential in reading success than rhyming.

Oral blending is the ability to put units of sounds together.  Oral Segmenting is the ability to break a word apart into the units of sound. For example, say the word cat. Tell me the sounds in cat. /k/ /a/ /t/.  Both segmenting and blending should be practiced regularly.
Start with compound words, like pancake, then move onto (2) two-syllable words, then onto (3) cvc words with continuous sounds. Finally do (4) open syllables, (5) cvc with stop sounds, and (6) long vowel patterns.

Consonant isolation is the ability to tell the first sound of a word. For instance, say the word cat, tell me the first sound, /k/? Teach and practice the initial, final and then medial sounds. Start with consonants in the initial and final positions before you work on the vowels.

Deletion is the ability to remove a sound from a word and tell what is left. For instance, say the word cat. Remove the /k/. What is left?

Substitution is like deletion, but a little more advanced. It requires a student to remove a sound and place another sound in its place. For instance, say the word cat. Replace the /k/ with /b/. What do you have?

Most phonemic awareness actives should be done daily for short intervals of time throughout the day. The point is short, frequent interactions with the sounds to build competency, moving from simple cvc words to more complex blends. Also move from simple rhyming and identification tasks to segmenting, blending, deletion and substitution tasks.
Which words do you choose? Choose words based on the activities that you’re doing in class and stories that you’re already reading with students. Pull words that are familiar to students and play around with the words.  Having some familiarity with the words will help students break them apart into their sounds.

  1.          Be sure you are pronouncing the sounds consistently and accurately.  The stop sounds are the most difficult, because we want to put an /uh/ sound after them, like buh. Do your best to isolate the sound. Like for /p/, put your hand in front of your mouth and feel the air. It’s quick.  Likewise, exaggerate the continuous sounds more than usual. Like, /m/ should be mmmmmmmmmmmm . . . emphasize that it’s a continuous sound. This over emphasis will pay off when you get to blending.
  2.      Use the letter sound, not the name, when you’re working on phonemic awareness skills. Using the sound consistently helps students form a pattern isolating the sound.
  3.  Do not use letters or symbols. I said this earlier, but this is an important distinction. Phonemic awareness is the awareness of sound without letters. When you add letters, it becomes phonics.
  4.   Pictures help, especially for English learners or students with speech problems. If you can find a good source for pictures of common cvc words. Picture Sorting for Phonemic Awareness has some good pictures in it.
  5.  Use the full body. Have students hold up their fist and then fingers to isolate sounds. I would have them put their hands together with the finger tips touching and draw them apart to blend sounds slowly. (Slinkies are a great tool for this, too!) Have students hop each sound. Draw some boxes or dots onto floor and have students hop or walk the sounds. Clap hands for sounds or syllables.

·         Pay attention to your students. Assessments help to understand where a student is in their phonemic awareness journey. Can they rhyme? Identify initial, final, and medial sounds? Can they delete sounds? Substitute sounds? I know assessments are a lot of work, but they also give you a lot of information, if they’re the right assessment, and can guide your instruction to make it meaningful, focused and valuable for most students in your classroom. Assessments will also tell you which students are not successful, so you can focus more targeting instruction with them in small groups.

·         If something is not working, try something else. There is no right way to teach phonemic awareness for all students. Some things will click for some students and other things for other students. The point is that students are learning to play with sounds and learning how to blend and segment sounds, so that they can apply those skills to reading and phonics instruction.

Ms. Nora Sierra

Monday, September 10, 2018

September 10, 2018

Learning should be fun to grab students' interest with engaging lessons

If the longstanding TV program Sesame Street teaches anything, it is that kids don't need dry lessons and humorless lectures to learn. In fact, when teachers add fun activities to their classroom agendas, they ignite kids' natural curiosity about more than just the three R's.
And that's not the only reason learning should be fun. The real benefit is that when children are taught early on to enjoy learning, they'll make it a lifelong habit. 

Learning Fun: What It Is and Isn't
When teachers talk about fun lesson plans, they don't mean replacing traditional school work with back-to-back board games. Nor do they mean diluting academic standards to the point that coloring within the lines can substitute for having to write grammatically correct sentences.
What fun learning does mean is that teachers use non-traditional lessons to teach essential skills. Why non-traditional? Because allowing students to create a PowerPoint presentation rather than draft a five-paragraph essay allows them to demonstrate knowledge of a topic that might not grab their interest in a way that does.

Naturally Curious
The theory behind educational fun comes down to this: children are born with a hunger for knowledge about the world around them. Fun learning is based on a fact that's almost inarguable: learning doesn't begin on the first day of kindergarten. It starts at birth. The 100 million or so cells in a newborn's brain allow infants to soak in knowledge just by observing the world, by hearing the sound made by a rattle or seeing their mother's face.
As babies grow, their natural curiosity about the world they've been observing leads them to make discoveries. They discover, for example, what happens when they trap a lightning bug in a jar or stick a fork into an electric outlet. These natural desires children have -- to observe, explore, and discover -- are traits teachers are hoping to provoke when they design classwork around fun activities.

Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal

Dec.4, 2018

CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS AROUND  THE WORLD It's almost Christmas, and according to some people, it's "the most wonde...