Close your eyes. Can you imagine children 100 years from now? What will their world look like? What will they play with? 100 years from now will children still build with wooden blocks?
Caroline Pratt, founder of the City & Country School in New York City is lauded as the creator of the unit block, the standard wooden blocks found in preschools, early childhood classrooms, and homes across the country and around the world. And as 2013 comes to a close, let's take a moment to celebrate, as this year marks the 100th anniversary of the unit block.
The Block Book, a classic in early childhood education describes the many ways young children learn through block building and block play. The book also highlights the historical factors that contributed to Caroline Pratt’s interest in hands on education – one being that the world was becoming increasingly complicated. She wanted to offer children a material (wooden building blocks) children could use in their play to recreate and understand their world.
Fellow educator Lucy Sprague Mitchell wrote about the increasingly complicated world that concerned Caroline Pratt in this way:
Modern children are born into an appallingly complicated world. A three-year-old in a city environment may be whisked to his steam-heated nursery in an electric elevator, fed from supplies which are ordered by telephone, sent up in a dumbwaiter, and stored in an electric refrigerator: he may be taken to a hole in the sidewalk and borne rapidly on an underground train to a distant place. The forces which move his elevator, warm his nursery, extend his mother’s voice to a grocery store, cook his milk, propel the subway train, are complicated and difficult to understand not only at three, at six, at nine, but even at forty. (excerpted from The Block Book, pg. 1 )
100 years ago the concern was about dumbwaiters, elevators, phone orders for groceries, and refrigerators – technology that educators thought might make it harder for children to understand the world.
Could Caroline Pratt and Lucy Sprague Mitchell have imagined a future with our technology? Probably not! But perhaps they could have imagined a future where no matter the technology, children continue to play, learn, and explore, recreating their world to learn and understand how it works. Yes some of the tools children use to understand and recreate their world (like apps for digital story telling) are different but some like the unit block are remarkably the same.
Happy birthday unit blocks!
Susan Friedman is Executive Editor of Digital Content at NAEYC. Many years ago, she taught preschool at City & Country School in New York, NY.
NAEYC Accredited Program Director in the news!
NAEYC member Kimberlee Kiehl is Director of the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, an NAEYC Accredited Program in Washington DC impacted by the Federal Shutdown.
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The latest issue of TYC features a list of encouraging things to say to children instead of "Good job!"
Parents and teachers often say “good job” as an automatic response to a child’s action. “You ate all of your peas. Good job!” “You did a good job putting away the toys.” A “good job” now and then is fine, but it doesn’t help children understand why what they did was good. Preschoolers need to know what they did, why it worked, or why it shows they are capable. Try the following suggestions to give preschoolers specific, detailed information that recognizes their achievements and encourages their learning. (Read the article.)
We posted the article on social media and so far it's been liked, shared, forwarded, and commented on - exponentially reaching more than 70,000 educators.
We're thrilled that so many of you find this set of tips useful and are sharing with the teachers in your program and in your own virtual communities. Below we've included some of the feedback we've received.
And now we want to know - what other topics would you like covered in this way? Please let us know and thank you for all you do for children...good job! (Just kidding!)
Derry Koralek, TYC Editor in Chief and the TYC Editorial Team
TYC contributors Louis Mark Romei, Holly Seplocha, and Laura Colker answered the question: "What's your advice for a new preschool teacher?" as part of a Q&A on Back to School Strategies. Together they shared 10 tips.
|Teaching Young Children|
Read the latest issue of TYC.
Each issue provides useful, research-based ideas and activities that preschool teachers, educators, and PreK teachers can use in their classrooms.
What's your advice for a new teacher? Share your thoughts below.
Superhero Play has been in the news recently. We're very excited about the upcoming book, Beyond Remote-Controlled Childhood: Teaching Young Children in the Media Age, by Diane Levin being published by NAEYC.
The book addresses many topics related to children and media consumption. In one chapter the author offers guidance for teachers on how to address issues that might arise when children engage in superhero play in the classroom. Here's an excerpt:
Share With Families How You Address Media and Technology and Why
If you have a regular newsletter or blog for your classroom, or your school sends out newsletters or other regular communication to families, create a feature about media and technology issues. For instance, you can include the following:
- What media and technology you use in the classroom and how and why you use it
- How you help children process specific content issues from the media that they bring into the classroom—for example, through art, play, or discussion
- Media issues that come up in your setting that are cause for concern
Tell parents about media-related topics and concerns that come up in the classroom with their own children as well as with the class as a whole. Describing your concern and how and why you are addressing it models strategies families might use at home. For example, if you describe specific rules and routines—such as deciding with the children that they can play superheroes outside but not inside - families may be inspired to try similar strategies at home.
Have you addressed superhero play in the classroom? Have you shared information about your approach with families? Share your experiences below.
|Isauro Michael Escamilla, M.A., an Early Childhood Education Teacher Researcher from the San Francisco Unified School District, spoke at the closing session of NAEYC’s Institute for Professional Development in San Francisco this year. We are pleased to be able to share a particularly moving excerpt below.|
I Dream of the Day
by Isauro Michael Escamilla, M.A.
I dream of the day when all the schools are designed keeping in mind that these spaces are for active, inventive, creative children, full of life.
I dream of the day when all the schools include a school yard garden and when all the children are served fresh, organic, healthy foods, three times a day.
I dream of the day when parents are given enough time to bond with their newborn children without the fear of losing their jobs or a paycheck.
I dream of the day when all teachers and home care providers get the training they need, the financial compensation they should have and the respect they deserve.
I dream of the day when bilingual children are given credit for preserving their home language and culture, instead of being placed in special education classes under the assumption that they suffer from a language delay.
I dream of the day when young children are given the opportunity to express their knowledge and understanding not only through the spoken language, but also through the language of painting, drawing, music, movement, poetry, sculpture, photography and many other languages.
I dream of the day when education in the early years is a memorable, enjoyable, exciting experience for children and their families.
I dream of the day when schools are the place where children, families, and educators see themselves as both teachers and learners with the power to both acquire and generate new knowledge.
I dream of the day when schools for young children are considered cocoons, where creativity finds its wings, and where no child is bullied for being different.
I know that if we work together, today is the day when we can start making some of these dreams come true.
What are your dreams?
We hope you'll share your dreams by posting a comment below.
This post is from authors Amy Laura Dombro, Judy Jablon, and Charlotte Stetson.
We’ve been very excited about readers’ responses to our book, Powerful Interactions: How to Connect with Children to Extend Their Learning, published in 2011. Shortly after the book came out, we received emails through our website from early childhood program directors, teachers, and others wanting to use Powerful Interactions in book groups. They asked us to post study group questions on our website. We organized the questions around the three steps of Powerful Interactions: Be Present, Connect, and Extend Learning. Members of study groups have told us that they read sections of the book at each group meeting and then use the questions to guide discussion and sharing.
A Strengths-Based Approach
In our book we talk about the value of “instant replay.” Although this process is not actually “instant,” the purpose of this term is to convey that using photos and video lets you focus on your actions and words to reflect on your interactions in greater detail. We encourage study groups to come prepared to try this practice during their meetings. It is so much easier to notice the little details of what you say and do when you can actually look at them carefully with colleagues.
We emphasize using a strengths-based approach when talking about photos and videos. Focusing on strengths allows teachers to become more consciously competent about what they do well. In addition, when group members work together, they notice strategies that others do well that they haven’t ever tried before. Sometimes people ask: “What about talking about what you didn’t do well?” The fact is that we perform many actions without knowing that we’re doing them. Focusing on strengths is more motivating than looking at deficits. Moreover, it models what we believe about working with children. Focus on strengths and build upon them! Here’s how “I notice” statements work:
• “I notice that the teacher is smiling. Her warm and friendly expression helps the child feel safe and secure.”
• “I notice that the teacher is at the same eye level as the child. This promotes respect.”
• “I notice that the teacher and the child are both laughing. Shared or ‘mirrored’ affect or emotion strengthens the relationship between them.”
Mirror Talk and Using Rich Vocabulary Instead of Quizzing
We’ve also encouraged study groups to practice two Extend Learning strategies—Mirror Talk and Use Rich Vocabulary—by talking about photographs in the book Powerful Interactions or about photographs they have taken in their own classrooms.
Study group members look at photos that depict children and teachers together in the classroom and discuss how the teachers in the photos could use mirror talk (commenting on what the child is doing) in a way that incorporates rich vocabulary.
Example 1: Study group members look at a photo of a teacher sitting beside a child who is painting. They discuss Mirror Talk a teacher in a similar situation could try such as: “I see you are using your paintbrush to make long, wavy strokes.” (The first part of the sentence is the mirror talk. ‘The words, “Long wavy strokes” are the rich vocabulary).
Example 2: Study group members look at another photo in which a teacher sits beside a child building with magnetic tiles. They discuss Mirror Talk a teacher in a similar situation could try such as: "You have put together four triangles of different colors to create a square.” (Here “You have put together” is the mirror talk, and the word “create” “triangles” and “square” are the rich vocabulary.)
Many teachers say that they are quick to jump to quiz questions (questions that have one short answer, such as “What color is this?” or “How many bears do you have?”) when talking with children instead of using Mirror Talk. Some say that “Mirror Talk” is a hard habit to form. Others joke that asking quiz questions is a hard habit to break!
Reflecting on Videos
One study group decided to use videos as a major part of their work. During an initial session together, they watched video clips of children playing alone. They discussed what they might have to think, say, and do to be present and connect with each of these children if they were to join them.
- If they paused to observe for a moment before joining the child, what might they be thinking and feeling based on what they saw the child doing?
- What were some different ways they might join a child and connect?
o Smiling and saying hi
o Greeting the child by name
After a few sessions, they began experimenting with being videotaped and videotaping each other. Using a strengths-based approach, they analyzed the videos, looking for the three steps of Powerful Interactions. They also considered other strategies that could have been used. At the close of the study group, each member wrote a personal commitment statement about the strategy they would work on during the next month.
Study Groups in Action
The Professional Development Institute at City University of New York (CUNY) organized a four-session study group series for directors and providers from sites around New York City. We created a guide for them to use that includes four key ideas from the book. Each section of the guide has discussion questions, a small group activity for reflection, and then a suggestion to bring back to their setting for practice.
The staff at The Children’s Museum in Indianapolis read the book together as the basis of discussion about how to facilitate responsive and extraordinary interactions among the families who visit.
Another colleague, Marilyn Brink at NatureStart Program in Chicago (a program of the Chicago Zoological Society) has incorporated Powerful Interactions in her organization’s work. She recently shared with us that she will be teaching a week-long course at the zoo and using Powerful Interactions as the “perfect resource for supporting their ‘Talking With Young Children’ component.”
The leader of one Connecticut study group asked another teacher in the group why Powerful Interactions are important to her. She replied, “Powerful Interactions are a catalyst for creating a great learning environment.”
We’d love to hear from you about how you’ve used the book. Have you formed a study group to discuss Powerful Interactions? How did it go? How are Powerful Interactions important for you?