Bringing Life to Early Childhood

A Blog by Jan Jobey

Month: July 2016

Respecting the Rights and Opinions of Others

One of the many great things about living in a democratic society, is that we all have rights and opinions.  Recognizing however, that WE all have rights and opinions, also comes the understanding that my neighbor, friend, coworker, or peer also has rights and opinions that may be DIFFERENT from mine.  And that’s okay.  We all come from different backgrounds and walks in life which influences our perspectives and opinions.  I love the opportunity to be able to have those conversations with my colleagues that help me to see their perspective.  I may not embrace their opinion, but I can certainly respect it and accept that they have valid reasons for it…and understand and appreciate them even more!  But this is really a very difficult thing to teach preschoolers.  Young children are, by nature, egocentric.  They have a viewpoint from THEIR perspective from which they operate.  AND they have difficulty taking another’s perspective.  But it doesn’t mean that we can’t teach “other” perspective or that they can’t learn from others. In this post, I will discuss a couple of ways to promote respecting the rights and opinions of others.

  • We begin by modeling “Do what I do” is much more powerful than “do what I say”, right? The essential, most fundamental, most important, aspect of developing self-regulation in young children, is empathy.  Empathy is knowing how others are feeling. And when someone has empathy for me, I learn that someone cares.  I might also hear “feeling” vocabulary.  I learn the facial expressions and the gestures that accompany those words.  I learn how it feels for someone to care about me and my feelings.
  • From infants to grown-ups, we can simply reflect another’s feelings. You are really upset.  You are so excited that you did it by yourself. You are very sad that she doesn’t want to be your friend.  You’re upset that you didn’t get invited to the party.  It’s so easy…but yet, we frequently skip this step–a ten second step to show the other person you know how they feel.
  • Another strategy is inform the child how “others” are affected by their behavior…but matter-of-factly. No shaming here because that only defeats your purpose.  “I’m really concerned that others may not want to play with you if you use hurtful words.”  “Jaxon didn’t like it when you said that to him.”   Additionally, what’s even more powerful, is to have an injured child tell the offender how his behavior made him feel.
  • Children love puppet shows…even impromptu ones. The perspective of a cow and a pig might be quite different when discussing their favorite place to play.  To have puppets act out a scenario that happened just a few minutes earlier in the block area, can be very intriguing! And it can be very surprising the insight that children can have!
  • Want to try something a little more benign? Find a beautiful work of art (maybe about your topic of study) or a photograph that evokes feelings.  Try an “art appreciation” exercise: Ask children to tell you how it makes them feel.  Make a list of children’s names and their identified feeling.  Or ask them to tell a story about the picture.  “Stories” for children may only be 1 to 3 sentences….so you aren’t asking for a novel here!  But the point is, that we can begin to learn that different perspectives are a fact of life.
  • Ask children’s perspectives and opinions about all sorts of things: what they think this book is about, how that story made them feel, what do they think will happen, how do you think the turtle in this story felt, how do you think Goldilocks felt when she got lost, how do you think Baby Bear felt when he found his chair broken to pieces?

So, while children are egocentric, we can do a lot to develop empathy. From what I’ve experienced this week, I think the world could use more empathy…more caring for others…and less thinking about themselves!  I’d love to hear if you other ways to teach empathy to young children!  Stay tuned for more about teaching “democratic principles”…respecting and following rules!

The “Right to Vote” and Preschoolers Voting Rights

For Preschoolers, voting can be about more than the democratic process!  And while that’s important, think of all the numeracy and literacy connections that abound when preschoolers “vote”.  Let’s get started!

  • Vote for class pet: A fish, gerbil, or hamster?  Cut out pet animal shapes (that you find acceptable) out of heavy paper.  Give each child a clothespin to attach to their fish shape. Graph the results!  After the pet arrives…Discuss Pet names and then vote between the favorite names.
  • Vote for class party treat: popcorn or pizza?
  • You hear children talking about the construction going on next door and one little boy exclaims how he loves the big dirt shovel. Another child joins in and states that he’d like to study machines.  At meeting time, you might relay what you heard and offer children an opportunity to study big machines or continue your current study.  You decide to take a poll by offering yellow and red craft sticks. Children select a yellow stick for big machines or a red one to continue studying fish.
  • Children vote for the new study topic but some materials may be needed. Have children/families volunteer to contribute with found/gathered materials.  Volunteering and contributing to the larger group are great ways to spread democratic principles.
  • Take a poll for places that children would like to visit for their class field trip.
  • What’s your favorite lunch or snack foods? Take a poll and share it with the cook.  Are there foods that you like to eat at home that you don’t get at school?  What are they?  Make a list of those foods.  Allow children to vote for their top 2 to share with the cook.
  • Decide on classroom rules together as a group. We all appreciate laws or rules when we understand them or agree with them.  You can facilitate a great discussion about “what are ways we can keep ourselves and others safe” in our classroom.  You can also help them formulate the rules into positive statements.  For example, a child might say, “no hitting” is a good rule.  That’s a great rule, so how do you want your friends to touch you?  Or why do you think our friends hit?  So, what is something we can do instead of hit?  How about if our “no hitting” rule is “Use Your Words”?  Who all thinks this is a good rule?  If you think this is a good rule, raise your hand. If you don’t think this is a good rule for our class, put your hands on your hips.
  • There are many things you can use in the classroom as voting tokens: stack lego blocks, clip on clothespins, craft sticks, post-it notes, counting bears, chain links….

So, you get the point: There are many things that you can vote on.   Allow children to learn about voting about things that are meaningful to them.  While not everyone’s opinion or preference “wins” all the time, it’s also important to understand that “the group decided” and children learn that everyone’s vote matters.  Just like in the adult world.

We can do a lot with young children to develop democratic principles: Voting is one way to promote functioning as a group.  Please share your ideas for preschool voting!  I’d love to hear your ideas! Next, I’ll be moving to another Democratic principle:  respecting the rights and opinions of others. See you at the next posting!

The Right to “Vote” and Infant and Toddler Voting “Rights”

We usually don’t think of children as voters, but there are plenty of ways to teach the concept of “voting” to young children.  Voting is a method for a group such as a meeting or an electorate to make a decision or express an opinion, usually following discussions, debates…(Wikipedia).  Do young children have opinions?  How about babies?  Do you?  An opinion is really just a preference for someone, something, or some way something is being done.  So the answer is a resolute “YES”.  Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers have opinions. They exercise their opinions when they choose the toy they want to play with, or the person they hold their hands up to be picked up, or the peer they want to play with, or whether or not they eat the peas on their plate. There’s a choice…a decision to be made.   To really grasp what this “voting” option means, let’s consider the opposite of  “voting”:  to appoint, prearrange, select, or determine something; for example, to control what happens when, what we study, where and or with whom I play.  I cannot help but think of what over-control does to young children—control prevents the development of autonomous morality (making decisions based on logical thinking), with morality stalling out at the heteronymous level –doing things simply because we have been told to do them rather than thinking on our own and developing self-expression and problem-solving skills.  We rob children of developing self-regulatory and citizenship skills when we don’t offer choices.

So before you stop reading this post completely, let me say this: There are many things in our early childhood programs that we do and should control–things like providing a nutritional dietary plan, having classroom rules, setting a schedule or routine, or determining operational hours of our program.  But even within the things we control, there may be ways for young children to voice opinions.  Let’s look at some:

For Infants, it is about recognizing and accepting their preferences.  Before you can “vote”,  you have to learn that your preferences are valued–that someone cares about what you want or need!  Young babies prefer their mother’s voice to anyone else’s…and her scent. They have preferences for how they like to be held, what they like to look at, or which blankie or pacifier becomes the favored one.  Babies will look at both objects when given two items, but they will continue to gaze at the preferred item.  They tell us what they are interested in learning if we’ll only just observe. But more often than not, we tell them what they’ll be learning today or this week.  Take an infant who has discovered their hands or feet…they study them, play with them, kick them, put them in their mouth. Think of the sensorial richness of this “study” and really all we need to do is ensure that we “follow the child’s lead” by playing “This Little Piggy” with baby’s toes, counting toes, reading 10 Little Fingers and 10 Little Toes by Mem Fox, putting toes in sand or water, and so on!  Just look! We’ve done creativity, language and literacy, numeracy, social/emotional, and science.  The child tells us what their study topic is…we provide experiences to expand learning.  This individualized approach sends the message to the child that we value them and their preferences!

For Toddlers, we can also follow their interests…whether it’s cars and trucks, baby dolls, or potty training.  What we need to remember for both infants and toddlers is that the processes for learning are relationships, routines, and play!  Relationships, in which infants and toddlers feel secure, promote exploration.  Exploration leads to learning.  But we all know that toddlerhood can be fraught with tantrums and power struggles.   Their favorite word is “no” and so they are in their own way asserting their opinion, casting their vote if you will.  The problem here is that they think they know what they want and they haven’t been convinced otherwise, right?  Simple choices make life a lot easier for you and the toddlers in your life.  Two choices that are BOTH acceptable choices:  You want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?  Do you want to play with the truck or the blocks?  Would you like to wash your hands by yourself or would you like me to help you?  Once again, everything can’t be a choice, but offering choices when you can makes the times when there is no choice much easier!

In a democracy, your opinion matters.  In a dictatorship, your opinion doesn’t matter “one iota” (as my mother would say).  Babies and toddlers are people too and learn so much by how we respect their opinion!  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic!  Next post…Preschooler voting!

By the way, check out ELI’s online course about Individualized Lesson Planning for Infants and Toddlers!!!

Good “Little People”

As I began thinking about my next blog topic, and since it is that time of year for Independence Day celebrations, family and community gatherings, as well as all the political noise of the day, I decided to write about democracy. Democracy literally means giving power to the people.  And so I want to work through some sub-topics of ways we can empower children to be decision makers, problem solvers, and socially skilled “little people”.  I think I can also safely say that these topics are always relevant and of interest to teachers and parents.   Our society, on every level, from our politicians to us “everyday” folk should be concerned about promoting pro-social behaviors and democratic principles.

So… my husband and I are taking a few days to “recreate” in the beautiful Smokey Mountains. We got to our destination around 4 in the afternoon and wanting to cram as much fun into our short three day  stay, we hurriedly bought tickets for a 5:30 dinner show.  What show?  The Hatfields and McCoys.  Now, it’s a comedy family “feud” and I doubt very close to accurate at all, but definitely entertaining with music, dance and comedy.  Anyway, as their story goes, the patriarch Anson Hatfield and the matriarch Granny McCoy are really secretly in love with the feud having its roots in a miscommunication between the two star-crossed lovers in their early years.  And in this story there is a happy ending, with Granny and Anson getting a second chance at love and marriage and everyone becoming one big happy family.  Cute…corny…and comical. But as the show comes to an end, our narrator (who has up until now teasingly engaged the audience into divided sides) proclaims that we are really just one big family…one big American family. A stirring rendition of America the Beautiful is sung by all the cast members while the audience stands and salutes the flag. I don’t know about you, but I get a little emotional and I am reminded how lucky I am to be an American.

The privilege of being an American, also comes with responsibilities.  As Americans we have the responsibility to vote, respect and obey the laws of the land, respect the rights and opinions of others, and…pay taxes.  As Samuel Adams noted in 1779, we also have the “responsibility to be a good person”.  So, I hope to share some ways in these next posts, to exercise democracy in our programs, promote social relationships and behaviors in our classrooms, and support problem solving in our conflicts—it’s never too early to learn how to be a “good person”!

Take Literacy Outside! Harvest Comprehension!

Writing is another important literacy skill and children need lots of opportunities. Strengthening those little hands and making it fun to write are important aspects of enhancing writing skills. Important brain connections are being made between visual, kinesthetic, and other literacy concept developments.  Writing also integrates many developmental domains.  The ability to understand that

It’s great to know our letters, to know the sounds the letters make, to know that we turn pages right to left, and to write the letters of our name…but we cannot forget how PRICELESS comprehension is!  Comprehension involves listening, thinking about what we’ve heard read, and communicating those thoughts.  It’s what a child will need the rest of his life to make sense of what he or she will read in texts, assignments, projects, digital pages and documents, and on and on.  As teachers, it means we need to learn how to ask good questions that do two things:  inform us of the child’s understanding and encourages the child to think about he/she has read.  The only requirement for these questions is that they be open-ended…questions that elicit more than one or two word responses….for example, questions that begin with how, what else, what if, what might, or what do you think? Here are some ideas to build comprehension skills while your outdoors!

 

Comprehension:
1. Act out favorite stories
2. Read stories outside about nature, then have them look for similar things book is about.
3. Challenge children to dictate a story about a field trip, a special visitor outside adventure, watching an animal or traffic.
4. Demonstrate actions or sounds from an earlier story reading.  “Show me what happened to the duck”, “Show me what the flea did”.
5. Act out nursery rhymes such as “Hickory Dickory Dock”.

6. Act out songs such as “Row Row Row your Boat”.
7. Information books:  Ask them to recall what the book said about an “outdoor” topic—leaves, for example—Ask them to find something that was in the book.

8. Read a book under a shady tree.

·         Ask prediction questions such as “What do you think will happen next?”, “What do you think this book is about”?

·         Ask recall questions such as “What happened when the bears came home?” or “What was this book about?” or “What happened first/second/next/last?”.

·         Ask opinion questions such as “What do you think little bear felt?”  or “What would you do if that happened to you?”

 

 

 

  Woodland Riddles                     Pet Riddles

(click on each book to find out more information!)

 

Woodland Riddles and Pet Riddles both provide great information about animals appropriate for children…but did you know there are conversational extenders on each animal page that supports the teacher in asking great questions?  Check it out! You and your children will love the many ways to learn in both of these books.

 

I hope you have enjoyed my “new” blog . Please let me hear from you.  Let me know what you think.  Do you have other ideas to share?  Also, I’d love to hear about other early childhood topics that you would like more information!