Friday, October 28, 2016

October 28, 2016

Differentiation in Early Childhood? It Can Be Done!

Hello everyone, my name is Marsha McGuire, from A Differentiated Kindergarten.  Today, I will explain to you what my blog is all about.

My blog is a mixture of ideas and activities to use in your classroom with a little fun thrown in to liven things up, I also have a special interest in Differentiated Instruction. 
The one thing that I constantly hear from student-teachers and teachers who haven't quite caught on to differentiating their instruction, is 'it's soooooo overwhelming" or "I can't quite get my head wrapped around it"  For those teachers I like to suggest starting out with only tackling one thing  and build up.

Remember, you can differentiate by responding to a student’s interests, learning profile or readiness.  So, to start with you might want to tackle tiering one activity, just to get your feet wet.

I do think it will be helpful, especially to us visual learners, in giving you an idea of what it might look like to tier and how to go about thinking about tiering an activity.
First identify your key concept . . . this is your common core; standard or whatever skill or concept is ESSENTIAL for them to master.

Next Pre-assess . . . this is where you can do a simple thumb up, thumbs down quick test to get an idea of what they already understand. This shouldn't be a paper/pencil test necessarily

Then create your whole group experience or lesson.  I like to make this fun and interactive so that I get them HOOKED and interested.

And finally, you're ready to create your activity. This is where you adjust the pace, steps or complexity based on your students and place them in the corresponding tiers.

Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal
Discovery School

Monday, October 24, 2016

October 24, 2016

What Are Sight Words and Why Are They Important?

What Are Sight Words and Why Are They Important?
 Sight words (high-frequency words, core words or even popcorn words) are the words that are used most often in reading and writing.
In classrooms across America, the development of sight word recognition continues to be a top priority when instructing emerging and beginning readers.
They are called “sight” words because the goal is for your child to recognize these words instantly, at first sight.

Why are Sight Words Important?

Sight words are very important for your child to master because, believe it or not, “sight words account for up to 75% of the words used in beginning children’s printed material”, per Study to Identify High-Frequency Words in Printed Materials, by D.J. Kear & M.A. Gladhart. There are different sight words for every grade level. Each set of words builds upon the other, meaning that once your child learns the sight words in Kindergarten, he will be expected to still recognize those words as he learns new words in first grade, and so forth.
Many of the over 200 “sight words” do not follow the basic phonics principles, thus they cannot be “sounded out.” Beginning readers need an effective strategy for decoding unknown words, and being familiar with sight words is an effective method. 

Other benefits of sight words include:

  • ·       Sight words promote confidence. Because the first 100 sight words represent over 50% of English text, a child who has mastered the list of sight words can already recognize at least half of a sentence. If your child begins to read a book and can already recognize the words, chances are he won’t feel discouraged and put the book down, rather he’ll have more confidence to read it all the way through. And, choose another!
  • ·       Sight words help promote reading comprehension. When your child opens her book for the first time, instead of trying to decipher what ALL of the words mean, she can shift her attention to focus on those words she is not familiar with. She will already know at least half of the words, so focusing on the other half helps strengthen her understanding of the text.
  • ·       Sight words provide clues to the context of the text. If your child is familiar with the sight words, she may be able to decode the meaning of the paragraph or sentence by reading the sight words. And, if a picture accompanies the text, your child may be able to determine what the story is about and come away with a few new words under her belt.

Nora Sierra
Early Childhood Assistant Principal
Discovery School
(504)9500-1720(school cell)

Monday, October 17, 2016

October 17, 2016

The Importance of Phonemic Awareness in Learning to Read

 Phonemic awareness is a critical skill for learning to read an alphabetically
 written language. Yet a fair amount of confusion, especially among educators, persists about what this skill is and why it is so important. Written for practitioners, this article describes phonemic awareness and discusses why it is a prerequisite for learning to read, how we have come to understand its importance, why it can be difficult to acquire, and what happens to the would-be reader who fails to acquire it. Our discussion of phonemic awareness is framed within a particular view of reading,
 to which we turn first.

What is reading?
Reading, or more precisely reading comprehension, is the ability to derive meaning, particularly that intended by the author, from the printed word in short, reading is understanding the meaning of written language. The major difference between the written and the spoken word is not what is being communicated, but how the communication is taking place, by eye rather than
 ear. In this simple view, reading is dependent on two major cognitive capacities. The first is comprehension, the ability to understand language. The second is decoding, the ability to derive a word phonological representation (one based in the domain of spoken words) from the sequences of letters that represent it. Skilled decoding allows the reader, through print, to retrieve the meaning of words known and organized through the learning of spoken language. Together, decoding and comprehension skills combine to permit language comprehension to take place via the printed word.

What is phonemic awareness?
Phonemic awareness is a cognitive skill that consists of three pieces. The first piece concerns a linguistic unit, the phoneme; the second concerns the explicit, conscious awareness of that unit; and the third involves the ability to explicitly manipulate such units. Phonemic awareness is thus the ability to consciously manipulate language at the level of phonemes.  Let’s take each of these in turn.
A phoneme is an abstract linguistic unit. Linguists define it as the most basic unit of language capable of making a difference in meaning. As an example, the difference between the word pairs (each containing three phonemes) bit and pit, bat and bet, bin and bid, is a single phoneme, one occurring
 in these examples in the initial, medial, or final position, respectively, of the spoken word.

Phonemes are abstract because they are not the actual sounds of which words are composed; these are known as phones. Rather they are the underlying category of which the phones are members.  To illustrate this, think of how the sound represented by the letter p is different in the words pan and span. To make this readily apparent, hold your hand close to your mouth and notice that the puff of air that is released when saying the former is much stronger than that released with the latter.  The puff, known as aspiration, is not distinctive in English, in that there are no pairs of words where this single difference
 in aspiration marks a difference in meaning. In short, these two sounds (or phones) are different, yet they represent the same underlying category (or phoneme). As we will see, the abstract nature of phonemes presents one of the obstacles a child must overcome in developing phonemic awareness.

Terms Often Confused with Phonemic Awareness
Phonics: An instructional
 approach for helping children learn the relationship between letters and sounds.
Phonetics: The process used by linguists to describe the speech sounds
 in natural language.
Phonology: The linguistic component of language that deals with the systems and patterns of sounds that occur in languages (distinguished from the other two components of language, which are syntax
 and semantics).

Phonological awareness: A general term for metalinguistic awareness of any of the phonological characteristics of language, including phonemic units, syllables, rimes, and words.

Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal
Discovery School

Monday, October 10, 2016

October 10, 2016

Assessment in Early Childhood

There are many reasons why children undergo assessments; among these is the desire to know how well children are learning, if they are making progress and meeting proficiency benchmarks, and if they are being taught effectively. Data from assessments provide valuable information for planning whole-group and individualized instruction, for determining program quality, and for communicating with others. Assessment practices encompass a range of instruments and techniques including structured one-on-one child assessments, standardized assessments, portfolios, rating scales, and observation. Comprehensive assessment is based on information from multiple sources, including measures that provide different types of information.

Progress Monitoring
Progress monitoring is a term used to describe any of a number of activities or approaches to data collection that focus on a child’s learning over time and help to document and provide meaningful feedback on learning outcomes. Progress monitoring measures, provide information about the level of children’s growth in key skills, which helps to determine the support and services each child needs to be successful. Currently, the majority of progress monitoring tools target language and early literacy skills rather than all domains of development and learning.

When teachers observe children in the classroom, they are afforded unique opportunities to understand how to enhance classroom routines and instructional practices. Gathering student observation data provides teachers with opportunities to reflect on the classroom environment, curriculum, and teaching strategies and to determine which aspects of the classroom experience are working well for the children and which aspects might be adapted to better meet children’s needs. For example, if the teacher notices, through whole class observations, that many children seem to struggle with self-management during free time she may decide to teach specific routines to help children. These routines may be as simple as a guideline that you want children to do. Through systematic observation of the whole class the teacher becomes aware of patterns of needs and can respond appropriately.

Systematic observation is a promising method for screening children to recognize and respond to their needs. Observation allows teachers to record information about all areas of development and to identify areas of strength as well as areas of need. Additionally, because observation occurs in natural contexts and is meaningfully connected to the routines, activities, and curriculum of the classroom, teachers can identify children’s interests in order to adapt curriculum and incorporate skill building into activities that are of interest to the child.

Nora Sierra
Early Childhood Assistant Principal
Discovery School
(504)9500-1720(school cell)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Teachers in early childhood education must understand the diversity of learning styles in the classroom environment. Since each child is likely to have a different learning style, students need a variety of lesson plans and activities to engage the entire class. Understanding how students learn will make it easier to create appropriate lesson plans for the educational program.

Most common Learning Styles in Early Childhood
Although different learning styles might develop as children get older, students will generally learn in one of three ways:

Visual: The students with a visual style of learning will remember information best when presented with pictures or images. Visual learners will often recognize numbers and letters better than peers with another type of learning style.
Auditory: Auditory learners are best able to understand when they hear information. In early education, auditory learners are more likely to prefer listening to stories or telling stories as a major method of understanding information.
Kinesthetic: Students with a kinesthetic learning style are the physically active members of the class. The students learn best by manipulating objects and engaging in physical activities to learn the material.
As children continue learning reading, writing, logic and socializing skills, they may adapt to different learning styles. However, these changes often won’t develop until later in life and are less common during early childhood development stages.

Other styles of learning
While the average student in early education will learn through one of the styles listed above, some of the class may learn in different ways. Children can develop alternative learning styles over their educational experience.

Verbal: Students who focus on words rather than simple auditory sound. In early childhood education, verbal learners and auditory learners will have similarities due to the use of stories as a primary method of understanding information. As children get a little older, the verbal learners will prefer learning through reading, writing and listening to information. Auditory learners will focus on music and sound in general, but will not necessarily enjoy reading or writing.
Logical or mathematical: Focus is on finding a pattern to the thought processes. These students will understand math and science better than peers. Using reason to provide answers to questions will help the students learn information.
Social: Interaction with classmates is also a contributing factor in learning. While some young children will learn best when working with peers, other children will prefer working alone on class projects.
While many children will have a secondary learning style related to social interaction, others are solitary learners. They understand information best when allowed to work out the problems without classmates offering input. Early education teachers will notice that the children prefer playing alone rather than spending time with peers.

Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal

Discovery School

April 20, 2018

Wrapping Up the School Year The end of the school year brings the expected joy at finishing another year, and perhaps some sadne...