TYC contributor Laura Colker answered this question in an online Q&A* about the value of creating a construction focused learning center in a primary classroom, and how to explain its importance to an administrator.
The key to approaching an administrator who may question how Legos, blocks, and other building materials fit into the curriculum is providing clear examples of the ways a construction learning center can inspire and enhance academic learning. To do this, focus on the clear link between construction and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) learning. It is generally agreed that to be competitive in our global economy children need to develop learning and skills in science, technology,engineering, and mathematics. Building with blocks, Legos, and other building materials can connect to STEM learning in many ways.
*Adapted from a January 2013 Q&A with Laura Colker on Learning Centers.
By: Susan Friedman
Television, smart phones, tablets, video games - As children spend more time using screen media, what do parents think their children are learning? A national survey of more than 1500 parents of children ages 2-10, conducted by the Joanne Ganz Cooney Center, asked parents about how much their children learned from educational media.
The resulting report, Learning at home: families’ educational media use in America was released on January 24, 2014 and offers many insights.
Here are some highlights from the study:
- More than half of the parents surveyed (57%) believe their children have “learned a lot” from educational media
- The use of educational media drops at age four, just when screen time goes up
- Two to four year olds spend more time each day with educational media than any other age group
- Parents report that on average, their children spend 42 minutes a day with educational TV, compared to 5 minutes with educational content on mobile devices/computers and 3 minutes with educational video games
- Parents reported their children learned more from educational content on TV than from mobile devices
- Children are reading an average of 40 minutes a day, including 29 minutes with print, 8 minutes on computers, and 5 minutes using e-platforms
- Parents don’t believe their children learn as much about science from educational media as they do about other subjects
- Many parents observed that their children extend what they learned from educational media beyond the screen by asking questions, engaging in imaginative play, and wanting to do projects related to something they learned
Upon the study’s release the Joan Ganz Cooney Center gathered a group of educators, researchers, and those involved in children’s educational media to discuss the study.
Some highlights from the discussion:
- Parents may not feel as confident evaluating the educational value of content offered on mobile apps as they do evaluating the educational content TV
- Parents need more information about what is educational and how to evaluate the educational value apps and other new media
Educational media developers could think of ways to to address the needs of the children in low-income households in particular around the vocabulary gap
- For some low-income families, mobile devices are a lifeline to many essential services, and this may impact how children use educational media on those devices
- Not all children have the same level of access to educational media
To read the report and see video of researchers and educators discussing the findings, visit the Joan Ganz Cooney Center website.
How do you talk to families about their children's media use?
1. You sing the “clean-up song” when cleaning at home.
2. You recite from Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Pete the Cat when conversation lags at a dinner party.
3. You chant "Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" to yourself while walking down the street.
4. You hand the person in front of you at the DMV a tissue when she sneezes.
5. All the chairs in your house look really big to you.
6. You use the term "phonemic awareness" in your day-to-day conversations.
7. You explain to parents in the park how much their kids are learning when they dig in the dirt.
8. You tell a dad in the grocery store, who waits patiently as his son counts all the apples, how he's supporting his son's learning.
9. You are used to the fact that the children think the classroom is where you live.
10. You can find 20 ways to use empty yogurt containers as learning materials.
11. You can count a group of toddlers in 5 seconds.
12. You wash your hands at least 30 times a day
13. You can explain why the boys in your class are allowed to play with the dolls if they choose.
14. You know that a child who drew two random lines has a whole story to tell when you ask, "Tell me about your drawing." And you write it down.
15. You print more pictures of the young children in your class than your own family.
16. You wonder how dinosaurs, crayons, and Legos end up in your laundry every week.
17. You growl (or make a face) when called a babysitter.
18. You’ve actually eaten what you’ve baked as a class, no matter the preparation, ingredients, or outcome.
19. You know that when children draw, paint, make art - it's about the process and not the product.
20. You deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for the arguments you’ve mediated and tantrums you’ve redirected.
21. You can explain the toddler biting stage to the families of the child who bit AND the child who was bitten.
22. You can turn a simple nature walk or trip to the grocery store into an action-packed learning adventure…..and connect it to early learning standards.
23. You know that even though your paycheck does not reflect the work that you do, you go to bed at night knowing that you are shaping the world and wake up every morning with your superhero cape.
Thanks for all that you do!
Add your own ideas to the list by posting below!
Happy New Year from NAEYC! What will inspire your work with young children this year? We reviewed some of our web posts from this past year and found these ideas and inspirations. Make sure to share your own inspirations with us below.
1. Classroom Stories That Celebrate Teachers and Children
2. Support for Strong Start for America's Children
Children’s early learning experiences set the course for success in school and life. We were inspired by how many of our members and readers participated in the Strong Start campaign. Thanks to you all! If you haven’t participated yet you still can.
3. The New DAP Focus Series
These age specific DAP books offer ideas for Developmentally Appropriate Practice for each age and stage. If you’re new to DAP this online DAP primer explains DAP and offers links to many resources to help you in your teaching.
4. Ten Things to Say instead of “Good Job”
Wow! So many readers shared this article on social media so we know it really resonated. Recognize children's achievements and encourage their learning with these ten alternatives to saying "good job" from TYC.
5. Integrating STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
Early childhood teachers are preparing children to be critical thinkers by integrating Science, Technology, Engineering and Math learning in thoughtful ways. The opening session of the 2013 annual conference showed how the arts can be integrated into STEM learning. This excerpt from Spotlight on Young Children: Exploring Science shows science learning in action at the water table. And a new survey gathers information on how teachers are using the Technology and Young Children position statement in their work.
6. New Research on Dual Language Learners
This blog post updated us on the growing body of research which shows many benefits to growing up learning and thinking in two languages and offers ways early childhood teachers can support the dual language learners in their programs. A Young Children article offers more ideas for supporting the literacy development of dual language learners.
7. The 10 NAEYC Programs Standards
Did you know that there are over 6500 childcare programs accredited by NAEYC serving more than 1 million children? NAEYC accredited programs follow the 10 Program Standards. Read about them here.
8. Ten Things Every Parent Should Know about Play
Here’s another post that our readers shared widely on social media. Through play children learn and develop cognitive skills – like math and problem solving in a pretend grocery store and so much more.
9. Teachers Who Do Their Own Research!
An infant teacher writes in her journal as part of her self-reflection; another teacher explores how 2-year-olds make theories about physical and chemical changes taking place during cooking. These teachers ask and explore deep questions as they teach and then write about their own teacher research.
10. NAEYC Members
We are so proud and inspired by the many diverse and wonderful ways NAEYC members promote quality early childhood education in the work they do. Read about our members and share your story with us. Not a member? Learn about the many benefits of joining the NAEYC community.
Share what inspires you below!
By: Susan Friedman
NAEYC offers content that focuses on children’s learning and development, and from that perspective we highlight a number of resources as you sort through your thoughts about toys.
What’s so bad about princess toys? They’re gender typed to the max! Research on children and toys shows that if you want to develop children's physical, cognitive, academic, musical, and artistic skills, toys that are not strongly gender-typed are more likely to do this.
2. Time with adults matters in the digital age.
What bothers educators about attaching a tablet to a potty chair or bouncy seat? It’s designated time with an e-tablet without an adult, and in the digital age, time with adults is especially important! Michael Robb from the Fred Rogers Center wrote about the importance of infants and toddlers spending time with adults on the Fred Rogers Center Blog. For more guidance on young children and technology see the joint position statement on technology and young children from NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center.
3. The type of toy matters.
Research shows that different toys impact children’s behavior in different ways. Some toys have a powerful influence on children’s thinking, interaction with peers, and creative expression. Others do not.
4. The best toys match a child's development.
What makes a good toy? Good toys for young children match their stages of development and emerging abilities.
5. Ask yourself some questions before selecting a toy.
Dr. Toy (Stevanne Auerbach) talks about the value of toys and what to think about before selecting a toy for your child.
6. Some of the most engaging toys might be items you already have.
Ever see a 3-year-old with bubble wrap or a 4-year-old with some tape? See these no cost toy suggestions for infants, toddlers, and preschooler.
7. Simple toys and tools can support children's science explorations.
Young children don't need highly specialized or expensive equipment to learn how to explore the natural world scientifically. They do need, as Rachel Carson mused in The Sense of Wonder, “the companionship of at least one adult who can share it.” Simple toys and tools with adult support can engage children as they explore natural phenomena in ways that will support their later science learning.
8. No matter what toy you select for a one-year-old she'll probably play with the box first.
We’ve all seen it - a baby who opens a present and plays with the box. Why do babies like the box more than the toy? The answer lies in her development!
Hope all this info helps guide you as you think about toys.
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.
We want to hear more from and about NAEYC members!
1. Be one of the first members featured in our Member Spotlight!
2. Nominate a member you're proud of.
3. Have an idea you'd like to write about? Contribute to the NAEYC blog.
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.
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.