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

Friday, August 31, 2018

August 31, 2018

6 Essential Skills for Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension can be challenging for kids.
Kids must master several key skills to fully understand what they’re reading.
There are ways to help struggling readers build these skills at home and at school.
Some people think of the act of reading as a straightforward task that’s easy to master. It’s a complex process that draws on many different skills. Together, these skills lead to the goal of reading:
reading comprehension or understanding what’s been read.

Reading comprehension is a challenge for some kids with learning and attention issues. That’s especially true of kids with dyslexia. Knowing the skills involved, and which ones your child struggles with, can help you get the right support.

Here are six essential skills needed for reading comprehension, and what might help struggling readers improve this skill.

1. Decoding
Decoding is a vital step in the reading process. Kids use this skill to sound out words they’ve heard before but haven’t seen written out. The ability to do that is the foundation for other reading skills.
Decoding relies on an early language skill called phonemic awareness. (This skill is part of an even broader skill called phonological awareness.) Phonemic awareness enables kids to hear individual sounds in words (known as phonemes). It also allows them to “play” with sounds at the word and syllable level.

Decoding also relies on the ability to connect the individual sounds to letters. For instance, to read the word sun, kids must know that the letter s makes the /s/ sound. Grasping the connection between a letter (or group of letters) and the sounds they typically make is an important step toward “sounding out” words.
What can help: Most kids pick up the broad skill of phonological awareness naturally, by being exposed to books, songs and rhymes. But some don’t. In fact, one of the early signs of reading issues is trouble with rhyming, counting syllables or identifying the first sound in a word.
The best way to help kids with these skills is through specific instruction and practice. Kids must be taught how to identify and work with sounds. Parents can also build phonological awareness at home through activities like word games and reading to their child.

2. Fluency
To read fluently, kids need to instantly recognize words, including ones they can’t sound out. Fluency speeds up the rate at which they can read and understand text. It’s also important when kids encounter irregular words, like of and the, which can’t be sounded out.
Sounding out or decoding every word can take a lot of effort. Word recognition is the ability to recognize whole words instantly by sight, without sounding them out.
When kids can read quickly and without making too many errors, they are “fluent” readers.
Fluent readers read smoothly at a good pace. They group words together to help with meaning, and they use the proper tone in their voice when reading aloud. Reading fluency is essential for good reading comprehension.
What can help: Word recognition can be a big obstacle for kids. Average readers need to see a word four to 14 times before it becomes a “sight word” they automatically recognize.
As with other reading skills, kids need lots of specific instruction and practice to improve word recognition.

Lots of kids struggle with reading fluency. The main way to help build this skill is through practice reading books. It’s important to pick out books that are at the right level of difficulty for kids.

3. Vocabulary
To understand what you’re reading, you need to understand most of the words in the text. Having a strong vocabulary is a key component of reading comprehension. Students can learn vocabulary through instruction. But they typically learn the meaning of words through everyday experience and by reading.
What can help: The more words kids are exposed to, the greater their vocabulary becomes. You can help build your child’s vocabulary by having frequent conversations on a variety of topics. Try to include new words and ideas. Telling jokes and playing word games is a fun way to build this skill.
Reading together every day also helps improve vocabulary. When reading aloud, stop at new words and define them. But also encourage your child to read alone. Even without hearing a definition of a new word, your child can use context to help figure it out.
Teachers can help in several ways. They can carefully choose interesting words to teach and then give explicit instruction (instruction that is specialized and direct). They can engage students in conversation. And they can make learning vocabulary fun by playing word games in class.

4. Sentence Construction and Cohesion
Understanding how sentences are built might seem like a writing skill. So, might connecting ideas within and between sentences, which is called cohesion. But these skills are important for reading comprehension as well.
Knowing how ideas link up at the sentence level helps kids get meaning from passages and entire texts. It also leads to something called coherence, or the ability to connect ideas to other ideas in an overall piece of writing.

What can help: Explicit instruction can teach kids the basics of sentence construction. Teachers can also work with students on connecting two or more thoughts, through both writing and reading.

5. Reasoning and Background Knowledge
Most readers relate what they’ve read to what they know.  So, it’s important for kids to have background or prior knowledge about the world when they read. They also need to be able to “read between the lines” and extract meaning even when it’s not literally spelled out.
Take this example. A child is reading a story about a poor family in the 1930s. Having knowledge about the Great Depression can provide insight into what’s happening in the story. The child can use that background knowledge to make inferences and draw conclusions.
What can help: Your child can build knowledge through reading, conversations, movies and TV shows, and art. Life experience and hands-on activities also build knowledge.
Expose your child to as much as possible and talk about what you’ve learned from experiences you’ve had together and separately. Help your child make connections between new knowledge and existing knowledge. And ask open-ended questions that require thinking and explanations.
You can also read a teacher tip on using animated videos to help your child make inferences.

6. Working Memory and Attention
These two skills are both part of a group of abilities known as executive function. They’re different but closely related.
When kids read, attention allows them to take in information from the text. Working memory allows them to hold on to that information and use it to gain meaning and build knowledge from what they’re reading. Working memory and attention are part of executive function.

The ability to self-monitor while reading is also tied to that. Kids need to be able to recognize when they don’t understand something. Then they need to stop, go back and re-read to clear up any confusion they may have.
What can help: There are many ways you can help improve your child’s working memory. Skill builders don’t have to feel like work, either. There are several games and everyday activities that can build working memory without your child even knowing it!
To help increase your child’s attention, look for reading material that’s interesting or motivating. Encourage your child to stop and re-read when something isn’t clear. And demonstrate how you “think aloud” when you read to make sure what you’re reading makes sense.

In conclusion, when kids struggle with one or more of these skills, they can have trouble fully understanding what they read. Reading everyday is the KEY TO SUCCESS!!


Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal
Discovery School

Friday, August 24, 2018

August 24, 2018

  Why Is Effective Communication In Schools Important?
 Related imageWhile most of the work done by schools is focused educating their pupils, many head teachers realize the importance of maintaining and constantly improving communication with parents. A lot of research and study has been undertaken in recent years that prove the benefits of involving parents more deeply in the educational process.

For some moms and dads, this might be as simple as understanding better the journey their child is going through. That can include things like grades and successes, as well as subject areas where an individual might be struggling. For other parents, effective communication can make them feel more involved in the school and lead to them willing to play a bigger part.

It’s all about creating interest and that can’t be done without a communication process that allows parents to feel part of the school community. This means developing an open and inclusive policy for reaching out to parents that helps build a stronger link between the bricks and mortar of the school, its teachers and the home.

It’s been 25 years since Discovery School has invited parents to come and participate in all special events or classroom activities. We have lots of fun!
Essentially, communication strategies create a much stronger bond between parents, pupils and teachers to form a strong community that works together to produce the best in education.

Ms. Nora

Friday, August 17, 2018

August 17, 2018

Creating Classroom Routines & Procedures
Best Practices

"Routines are the backbone of daily classroom life. They facilitate teaching and learning…. Routines don’t just make your life easier, they save valuable classroom time. And what’s most important, efficient routines make it easier for students to learn and achieve more."

When routines and procedures are carefully taught, modeled, and established in the classroom, children know what’s expected of them and how to do certain things on their own. Having these predictable patterns in place allows teachers to spend more time in meaningful instruction.

Arriving in the Morning
Teaching with Technology
As children start trickling into the classroom, they need to know exactly what to do. What should they do with their homework? Where should they put their book bags? Where do their coats and other materials belong? What should they do while they wait for the rest of the class to arrive? When does class start? When kids know the answers to these questions, they can move smoothly through the morning routine and get straight into learning.

Taking Attendance and Displaying Schedules
Teaching with Technology
After the bustle of putting away book bags, coats, and homework, taking attendance and discussing the schedule can help bring students together and build community in the classroom.

Throughout the Day
Teaching with Technology
Students move through many activities during a typical day, from whole-group lessons to small-group work, from reading time to math time, from in-class work to specials outside the classroom. It’s important to plan for these in-between times just as carefully as you plan your lessons. With predictable routines in place, students can move smoothly from one activity to the next without losing learning time. The teachers in this section share some clever ideas for signaling transition times and keeping track of students as they leave the classroom for various reasons during the day.

Ending the Day
Teaching with Technology
Just as a morning routine helps set the tone for the rest of the day, an end-of-the-day routine helps get children and the classroom ready for the next day. You may want to enlist some children’s help in tidying up the classroom while others gather their belongings, including homework.

Ms. Nora Sierra
Early Childhood Assistant Principal
Discovery School

October 15, 2018

Creativity and Play Creativity is the freest form of self-expression. There is nothing more satisfying and fulfilling for child...