No Worksheets in Early Childhood Part II

NO Worksheets in Early Learning:

WHY?

Reason Number Three: Worksheets shut down thinking and only require passive thinking.

Worksheets are stressful since they usually have a right or wrong answer. When children are just starting to learn how to navigate school, how to learn and how to become confident learners, they will gain more from open-ended, hands-on activities that promote risk-taking and persistence. A worksheet shuts down thinking and promotes a mind-set that learning is all about guessing.

no worksheet in EC part 2NOTE: Response sheets where students are illustrating or writing an idea based on a response to a prompt from a piece of literature, such as draw the setting or draw your favorite part of the story OR a documentation sheet, data collection sheet or “lab report” where information from science observations or data is begin recorded are NOT considered worksheets. Worksheets typically have one correct answer such as “circle all of pictures that start with the letter H” or “underline the words that rhyme with car.”

 

No More Letter of the Week

 

 

NO More Letter of the Week (UPDATED)

We cannot write or read without knowing what a letter is and it’s corresponding sound. Knowing letters, the sounds AND that they hold meaning to form a word are critical skills to learn during the early childhood years. The National Early Literacy Panel 2008 informs us that students who demonstrate phonemic awareness and alphabet recognition are more likely to become successful readers. Teaching alphabet knowledge concurrent with phonological awareness has a significant impact on the early development of the concept of language (National Reading Panel 2000; National Early Literacy Panel 2008).
no more letter featured imageAlthough there are many different ways to teach the letters of the alphabet that are successful, letter of the week is NOT one of them. Children need repeated, varied and meaningful exposure to the letters. Research by Jones and Reutzel also shows us that the teacher should only provide experiences and practices with no more instruction than needed.
When using the letter of the week approach, we are expending our valuable learning time on only a handful of children. Some of the children already know the letter and others will not learn it that week since it does not yet hold meaning for them. Exposure to all of the letters in fun, hands-on, meaningful activities allows for natural differentiation of learning and as well as builds the concept of language and meaning of written print.
20190115_101740Some suggestions for teaching the letters of the alphabet include using students names each day in various chants, counting of the letters, comparing them, etc.; pairing letters with phonological awareness instruction in shared reading or writing activities; creating predictable charts with alliterations, reading lots and lots of fun ABC books, including letters in all learning centers such as foam letters in dramatic play to become the pancakes or cookies.
What strategies have you found to be most successful for the teaching of the letters in a fun, holistic, engaging, meaningful way?

 

Dramatic play is a great place to authentically include the learning of the letter names and their corresponding sounds. For ideas including the chocolate chip cookies in the picture above, gingerbread cookies, recipe, and grocery list templates, and more, visit Home Living Dramatic Play- Resources to Extend Children’s Play

Note: send me an email at journeyintoearlychildhood.com and let me know that you have signed up to receive my biweekly to weekly blog post. I will send you the Home Living Resources for free.

Safe Risk- in Block Building

Safe Risk is Important for Children:  safe risk quote

  • Allowing children to take risks develops their self-confidence, to plan, to solve problems, to engage their creativity, to be challenged and to use judgment.
  • Risk can include gross motor activities such as climbing on a jungle gym, using shovels in a dirt pile, building with large tree stumps or sensory activities such as touching the gooey insides of a pumpkin, walking in paint, or playing in the mud.
  • The teacher is the guide who provides an environment in which safe risk can occur, monitors children’s efforts and allows the child to do the work instead of stepping in with a “That’s not safe.”
  • Yes, we need to manage the risk; we stay close, but we allow the child to experience that joy of accomplishment or be able to determine how to do it differently the next time.

Block Building:high block structure

Staying safe while building high:

  • Place a hula hoop around the block structure so that other students are a safe distance while also allowing the opportunity to develop skills of balance.
  • Provide softer materials instead of wooden blocks such as plastic cups, cardboard blocks, plastic food containers such as lemonade cylinders, lunchmeat containers, and toilet paper rolls. building with cups

 

In what ways do you encourage children to take risks to become problem-solvers, inventors, and resourceful individuals in your classroom?

Vocabulary during Block Play

Expanding Children’s Vocabulary

during Block/Construction Play:

vocab in blocks featured imageState standards require children to explain, describe, define, ask, compare and contrast, respond, and so on.

To accomplish these skills, children need an expanded expressive vocabulary to both describe and tell the use of many familiar objects and to incorporate new, less familiar or technical words in everyday conversations.

Block/Construction Building, Designing and Play offers excellent opportunities for introducing, reinforcing and expanding upon vocabulary while children are engaged in fun, hands-on experiences. While the teacher is interacting with the students during block play expanded vocabulary can be introduced and reinforced through questioning, scaffolding, and “I wonder” or “I notice” statements.

Examples of Vocabulary to Introduce/Reinforce during Block Play:

Tension           Stable                      Wobble                      Solid               Stability

Hard                 Smooth                    Heavy                         Firm                Incremental

Massive           Equal                       Steady                        Fasten            Negotiate

Measure          Several                    Less                            Level              Cooperate

More                 Area                         Length                       Numerous

Taller                Wider                       Three-dimensionalblocks for vocab

Horizontal        Diagonal                 Symmetry                 

Edge                 Connect                  Balance

Structure          Disassemble           Gravity

Vertical             Architecture             Surface

Tremble            Asymmetrical          Perpendicular

Parallel            Attributes                 Construction

 

 

Provocation in Block Play: SHIPS

Provocations are materials or the way we present materials to create a context where the child can explore. They are an extension or a challenge to our children’s current thinking and theories.

This past year we have been exploring different ways to add provocations within the construction center.

20180913_091728We began by observing and noticed that the students were consistently building ships. We started talking about the different types of ships and added pictures of different ships and started reading books during interactive read aloud time about ships.

SHARING: SHIP and BOAT PROVOCATIONS                             In this document, you will find pictures of different types of ships and boats, open-ended questions to pose and higher-level vocabulary to incorporate while engaging with students, and challenge cards to provoke students thinking.

 

20180822_083707Materials were added as students began to increase their thoughtfulness regarding ship building. For example, we included Duplo Blocks when the students drew their plans to build cargo or freight ships (note: students always made a sketch first of what they were going to build first to add in thoughtful planning. Many times when the students would add details to the construction part, they would return to their drawings to include those same details.)

and we added dowel rods, white paper and fabric, and tape when they stated they wanted to build sailboats and/or pirate ships. The problem solving that occurred to 20180822_090352figure out how to attach the sails was amazing to observe but eventually the students figured it out. Reminder: don’t be too quick to jump in to offer assistance, let the students figure it out for themselves.

Math objectives added included size proportions with the size of different ships. The students decided that they did not have enough blocks to build many of the ships to the correct size but that they could build a rowboat.

Social Studies objectives added included where ships and boats sail- the bodies of water. We discussed which ships would sail where, what would they carry, why some people have to travel by boat or ferry, etc.

Since the students continued to be interested in ships, we turned their interest into a unit long STEAM investigation in which the students first became material engineers to determine what materials were best for shipbuilding (what materials would float).

We next read the book, Circus Ship by Chris VanDusen, stopping after the ship hits a rock and starts to sink. We challenged the students to build a ship that would float and hold the 15 circus animals. The students worked on their ships each day for a week- some continuing to add to their original ship and some starting a new one. We tested the ships and the students added 15 animals. Note: We provided more than 15 animals so that the students were required to count them as they tested each of their ships.

The students continued to explore with ships throughout the year. During an investigation of Farm to Table, the students started making ships and when we inquired as to how the ships relate to the farm, they shared that sometimes food is transported on ships! So to move our food from the farm to the factory to the grocery store, the students built and then play acted with both trucks and ships!

For additional sets of provocations including pictures, challenges, material ideas, open-ended questions and vocabulary, visit https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Journey-Into-Early-Childhood

and/or sign up to receive my weekly blog through your email- more provocations will be shared on through this website.

 

Stages in Block Play- Moving Our Students to Complex Play

stages of play featured imageStages of Block Building:

All children progress through specific stages as they use blocks in play, building, and designing. Knowledge of these stages helps teachers provide the materials and questioning that will nudge children forward in their abilities and lead them to more complex play. 

Stage 1: Carrying blocks: Blocks are carried around but not used for construction. (Generally, very young children or very inexperienced builders.)vertical

Stage 2: Building Begins: Children mostly make rows, either horizontal (on the floor) or vertical (stacked). There is much repetition in this early building pattern, which is basic functional play with blocks. (approximately around age 2-3 years)

bridging

 

Stage 3: Bridging: children create a bridge (or portal) by using two blocks to support a third. (approximately three years of age)

 

 

enclosure

Stage 4: Enclosures: Children place blocks in such a way that they enclose a space. Bridging and enclosures are among the earliest technical problems children solve when playing with blocks, and they occur soon after a child begins to use blocks regularly. These spaces are often called cages in a zoo or pet store. In this stage, children will want to add additional accessories such as figures for dramatic play or gems for food. (approximately four years of age)

20181129_092632

 

complex 5Stage 5: Complex Structures: With age, children become steadily more imaginative in their block building. They use more blocks and create more elaborate designs, incorporating patterns and balance into their constructions. Children may incorporate several different block accessories as their play becomes more involved. (approximately 4 or 5 years of age)

Stage 6: Complex Structures with Elaborate Dramatic Play: Naming of structures for dramatic play begins and engagement in elaborate dramatic play scenarios occur. Before this stage, children may have named their structures, but not necessarily based on the function of the building.

This stage of block building corresponds to the “realistic” stage in art development. Children use blocks to represent things they know, like cities, cars, airplanes, and houses.

 

Stages of Block Building

Resources:

Wardle, Francis. (2002) Introduction to Early Childhood Education: A Multidimensional Approach to Child-Centered Care and Learning. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

The Block Center.  The Institute for Childhood Education, L.L.C.  www.WeEducateTeachers.com

Pictures are of block structures created by K and Pre-K children in Union Public Schools.

journey blog

 

 

Block/Construction Center: What Are Children Learning

 

Building and Designing with Blocks what we are Learning

(document of the above pictures)

 

 

Executive Functioning Linked to Dramatic Play

I recently had the privilege of working with some amazing teachers at Union Public Schools in Tulsa, OK. We discussed the benefits of dramatic play for children and the critical role of children developing complex play within dramatic play experiences for the development of their executive functioning capabilities.EF

PreK and K teachers are first and foremost teachers of social and emotional skills, self-regulation, attention, engagement, persistence, thinking symbolically, and cognitive flexibility. If students do not first learn these skills, then the academics and life with always be a struggle.

Research links dramatic play activities with the support of the teacher to  move students to more complex play as one of the best strategies for developing social/emotional and executive functioning skills.

The teachers developed visual analogies to help us always remember the link. Here are pictures of their insightful analogies. Thanks, Union Teachers!

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Intentionally Designed Environments: Pictures of Classrooms

journeyintoearlychildhood.com Intentionally Designed EnvironmentsWOW! Teachers in the Union Public Schools in Tulsa, OK are incredible. I recently had the opportunity to visit some of their classrooms. They so graciously allowed me to take pictures to share with you the intentionality of their classroom design.

The environment in which children spend their day at school needs to support developmentally appropriate practices that allow children to freely move, to explore with hands-on opportunities, to engage in dramatic play experiences, to build social/emotional skills, and to develop their symbolic thinking and cognitive flexibility among others.

Learning theories from constructivism to social learningintentional design of environments journeyintoearlychildhood.com
to experiential learning underscore the importance of
active and inquiry-based learning, knowledge construction
through interaction with the environment, social contexts
and meaningful experiences.

-“Most Influential Theories of Learning,” Unesco Education

 

Intentional Design for hands-on exploration while encouraging symbolic thinking, problem solving, and cognitive flexibility.

 

Intentionally Designed Art Centers that encourage the process of art instead of the product,  and free exploration of creative ideas instead of template art.

 

Intentional Design of the Classroom Aesthetics so that the students can live and breathe in a beautiful space. Use of natural colors as we use in our homes for a calming effect.

Intentional Design of Student Contributions, the classroom belongs to the students. It should be a reflection of the students instead of the teachers passions or “cutesy/pinteresty” type themes.

Intentional Design to Include Dramatic Play. Students require dramatic play experiences to build executive functioning skills.

Teaching Letters of the Alphabet: Sorting Letters

In a previous blog post, we discussed NO MORE LETTER OF THE WEEK.

Instead of letter of the week, children benefit from exposure to all letters with meaningful experiences. Children need to compare and contrast letters based on formation and sounds. To help students with comparison, we can provide multiple experiences for them to sort letters.

As noted by researches Fountas and Pinnell:Sorting Letters- FREE DOWNLOAD labels to sort in multiple ways journeyintoearlychildhood.com

“Children’s first efforts at matching and sorting may be with letters of different shapes or colors, but they can soon learn to sort letters, match letters, find letters with features in common such as tails, circles, short sticks, tall sticks, tunnels, dots, capitals, and so on. Their time spent sorting letters in a myriad of ways is essential to learning how to look at print in the early levels. They need to develop fast, flexible recognition of letters. Begin with just a few letters rather than all twenty-six, and concentrate on the lowercase letters and get the children to develop speed in matching or sorting.“

From Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

 

FREE DOWNLOAD: Labels and Ideas for Sorting Letters

Some fun materials to use for sorting:

(link to Amazon or just use found materials!)