Friday, November 20, 2009

To Play or Not to To Play: That is STILL the Question

I came across an article in the Washington Post today that brings to the forefront the debate on the value of play. The article suggests that this debate has been ongoing among early childhood educators...but I wonder if this is really true. Somehow I believe that most early childhood educators know, value, understand, and respect the important role that play has in the preschool classroom. I think the debate about the value of play is one that some parents and legislators have. Legislators want children to pass tests, parents want children to be successful in school (i.e. to pass tests), so early childhood educators find themselves in a position of having to defend why play is such an integral part of our curriculum. The debate really isn't one among early childhood educators, it really is a debate that we have with the rest of the world!

The Post article recognizes that the debate about play really becomes an issue when schools are placed in a position of having to achieve certain benchmarks of federal legislation. With three and four year olds increasingly being integrated into public school programs, they are at the mercy of testing methods that are inadequate or inappropriate for their developmental ability.

The article quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan who spoke at the NAEYC conference: "If we are to prevent the achievement gap and develop a cradle-to-career educational pipeline, early learning programs are going to have to be better integrated with the K-12 system." I couldn't agree more! But it seems now, that young children are expected to assimilate into an already existing K-12 system instead of having that system reworked to accommodate the unique needs and learning styles of young children. We all learned in preschool that you can't fit a round peg in a square hole... well, maybe you only learned this if you went to a school that valued play and exploration.

The Post article points to research that suggests what early childhood educators already know: young children who have a chance to play and explore have better social skills and reasoning ability, both of which are predictors of future school success. Surely, we have some significant improvement to make in the world of early childhood education: higher training requirements, more communication with the K-12 system, and more training for teachers of high-risk or ESL preschoolers. But the answer is does not lie in creating a society of children who can pass tests but cannot think creatively. We have to start the discussion and kudos to the Washington Post and Education Secretary Arne Duncan for starting the conversation (again)!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Germs Make Me (and You) Sick!

Well, in case you haven't noticed, my weekly blog has been on hiatus because I've been under the bed for the last week, sick, sick, sick! So today is the first day I've been able to focus my eyes and coordinate my thoughts enough to write and it took me 2.2 seconds to decide upon my topic for this week. In fairness, I will give some of the credit to this idea to PBS Teachers. Last night I attended an awesome (and FREE) webinar called, Helping Kids Understand Viruses and Vaccinations with Sid the Science Kid. During the session, some of the participants expressed the everyday challenges we face in the classroom with helping children to learn the important habits that we all know spread germs. Several of us started exchanging ideas that we use in the classroom and I thought this might be a good place to expand that conversation.
So here we are in the middle of cold and flu season and people are still deciding whether to get the seasonal flu vaccination, where to find the H1N1 shots, and how to survive these upcoming weeks and months without getting sick. Despite the lingering questions, there are things that we know that we can do right now in our classrooms to reduce the spread of germs. Below you will find some of my favorite books for preschoolers that I hope will inspire a healthier classroom environment for you.

Germs Make Me Sick by Melvin Berger

  • Listen to the book at PBS Kids/Reading Rainbow.
  • Turn your dramatic play area into a Doctor's office! Be sure to have several dolls and stuffed animals to act as patients. Items to include: gauze, toy doctor kit, band aids, note pads for prescriptions, calendar for appointments, telephone, etc...

Germs Are Not for Sharing by Elizabeth Verdick

  • Make Germ Stopper Badges for the children and award them when children are seen doing things to prevent the spread of germs (washing hands, sneezing into elbow, etc).
  • How do germs spread? Cover one child's hand with flour (some teachers use glitter, lotion, or paint) to represent germs. Then let that child shake the next child's hand, and then let that child shake another child's hand, and so on...This helps give children a visual idea of how germs spread, even though we can't see them.
Those Mean Nasty Dirty Downright Disgusting but...Invisible Germs by Judith Anne Rice

  • Make "Sneezing Faces" by having the children decorate a paper plate to look like themselves. Trace the child's hand on skin-toned construction paper; then cut it out. Glue a tissue on the nose area and then glue the hand on the tissue. Here is an example.
  • Hand Wash Scramble: Take any hand washing poster such as this one cut out the steps and laminate them individually. Have children practice putting the steps in order.

Wash Your Hands by Tony Ross
  • Make up a hand washing song for your class.
  • Have the class illustrate their own hand washing posters to post at each sink. The posters should illustrate each of the four steps in the process.
Resources for Teachers

Share your ideas:
  • Do you have a favorite hand-washing song?
  • How do you remind your preschoolers to wash their hands?
  • What kind of information do you share with the parents of your students?
  • Do you have other books or activities that you use to teach children health-related information?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happy 40th Anniversary Sesame Street

This week I am swamped with things to do. There are projects unfinished, articles to write, a fundraiser to plan, extra hours to be worked, and mounds of work to be done. So yesterday I posted on Twitter: "Hey Tweeps... no new blog this week -- I'm a busy, busy bee - BUT I will re-post some previously mentioned (and wonderful) BOOKS OF THE DAY!" I felt confident that I could cross off "Write Blog" from my Things to Do List. And I went to bed happy.

And then I woke up this morning. I happily went to check my email when I saw a familiar pair of orange legs on my Google Page and I was reminded that Sesame Street's 40th Anniversary is fast approaching! Well, I thought, I cannot let the day pass without paying a little homage to the show that is so synonymous with childhood.

I am thirty-eight years old so I have literally grown up with Big Bird and Friends (my, hasn't he aged well?). I have so many fond memories of watching Sesame Street. What's amazing to me is timelessness of the show. My niece, who is not yet two, knows all of my old favorites like Big Bird and Cookie Monster and she's met some new friends along the way like Elmo, Zoe, and Abby Cadabby. I am amazed when I hear her singing Rubber Ducky and C is for Cookie. Of course, she listens to those songs on her Mommy's i-Pod while I had the old LPs (which I think are still stored in my parents' basement).

Take a walk down Memory Lane by checking out these CLASSIC CLIPS from Sesame Street! (Oh how I looooooved Grover! Cookie Monster was blue and fuzzy but in my mind he had NOTHING on Grover! In fact, one of his books made by BOOK OF THE DAY Monster Mash blog!)

Well, I feel better that I took time out of my day to share a little bit of my childhood with you. Happy 40th Anniversary Sesame Street! I am looking forward to a year full of PBS excitement!

Visit the Sesame Street Store to get your FREE Big Bird Google Doodle T-Shirt with every 40th Anniversary item purchased!

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