Planting Seeds and Sprouting Wings

Helping children and families find their wings but never forget their roots

Thanksgiving

I have decided today to include a great article that guides teachers of all ages on how to give a culturally respectful perspective of Thanksgiving.   Please take these suggestions into consideration as you lesson plan for Thanksgiving.

http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/Teach-the-Real-Story-of-the-First-Thanksgiving.shtml

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Partnering for Children’s Success: Why Parent Engagement Matters.

Today I am posting a blog show that I participated in regarding Family Engagement and it’s importance in all educational settings.   Here is the link to the show:

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Colorado’s Family and School Partnership in Education Month

For the past three years running Colorado’s governor, John Hickenlooper has declared the month of October Family and School Partnership in Education Month.   The goal is to support educators and families in working together for every student’s success.  Early childhood, especially Head Start, typically does a great job of partnering with families.  Unfortunately, once those families leave, they are often shocked at the unwelcome introduction to public schools.

I’ve heard nightmare stories about parents not even being allowed to bring their child to the front door of the classroom.  Parents who were fully engaged in their child’s ECE centers decide that their voice isn’t important anymore.  Worse yet, I’ve heard helpless parents stop assisting their child complete homework, or understand a classroom topic.   These stories seem to increase with lack of English skills and/or the more unique the culture.

Often teachers lack training to understand the importance of parent involvement and they lack the skills needed to engage parents.   Our educational programs need to do a better job of preparing teachers to have parents fully involved in their student education.

Wonderful things can stem from parent involvement: added resources to add to current classroom studies, increased support to ensure student success and improved student engagement.   I’ve written previously about all the amazing things I’ve seen teachers do over the years.  Parent involvement adds an enriching depth to the learning that the teacher alone just can’t accomplish.

I encourage each one of you to step up to the plate and see what your parents can do.   How can you best utilize the skills that your families bring with them into the classroom?   How do you tap into that depth of knowledge that can increase student engagement?    When families and schools partner together, students can’t fail.

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Apps for Preschool Learners

We live in a digital society. Everyone feels the need to be continuously plugged in. We read, write, play games and do research on our phones.   We wonder what people did before the internet, before Google, before smartphones.  

Our children are digital natives. They were born long after the invention of these technologies that can be such a blessing and a curse.   They are no longer learning in the same way we once did. Information is always available right at the touch of a button, screen time has increased exponentially. This is exciting…and scary.

Currently, not much research exists that show the outcomes of excessive technology use for young children, but, as anything else, moderation is key. Furthermore, we must find ways to adapt to new ways while holding true to what we know works. We know children learn best through relationships; however, we also know that children will have access to their parents’ smartphones, ipads and other devices. It is our responsibility to nurture our children and help them to learn and grow, as parents and caregivers we need to set explicit and clear parameters.  

The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that kids screen time is limited to 1-2 hours a day for children and adolescents and avoided for children younger than 2.   I also know that this recommendation is often either ignored or impossible for families to ignore. In that spirit, I suggest that children under two don’t have any unsupervised access, and children over two should be strictly limited to regular screen time hours as much as possible. However, I would also suggest that any time spent with devices and/or television should be heavily monitored and intentional.   Here are a few apps that highlight tried and tested (kid and teacher approved) apps. (DISCLAIMER: children learn best in relationships, so play these games WITH your child whenever possible and extend these activities into everyday conversations and routines.)

For academic readiness

  • Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Oceanhouse Media
  • Elmo Calls by Sesame Street
  • Elmo’s Monster Maker (iphone only) by Sesame Street
  • Peekaboo Barn, Peekaboo Forest by Night and Day Studios
  • Kids ABC Letters Lite by Intellijoy
  • Read Me Stories by 8Interactive

 For social emotional development

  • Tuli Emotions by IMB Argentina
  • The Moon Secrets HD by Playtales Books
  • Things to think about by Jackson County Intermediate School District

Any puzzle apps, books, and alphabet and number knowledge apps are also great, but remember to use in moderation, play with an adult whenever possible and turn the phone, tablet or computer after a half hour and turn on  REAL life experiences. 

NOTE:  Any apps that teach children in the home language, are more important than any of the ones I previously mentioned!!!!

 

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Fathers are Teachers TOO!!!

With Father’s Day quickly approaching, I have decided to pay tribute to fatherhood and their role in their child’s development, especially in the early years. Fathers are so important to the educational, socio-emotional and physical development of their children. They offer a different perspective than mothers and play a different but very valuable role.

They teach their boys (and future fathers) how to be men and how to relate to women. They give their girls (and future wives) self-esteem and help them to develop strong relationships with males. Fathers will play with their children in a physical and vigorous way. Moreover, mothers often follow a child’s lead during play, while fathers like to challenge their children by being the lead and making children think. These two very different types of play are very important for a child’s development.

As educators, we must be INTENTIONAL in providing opportunities for fathers to contribute and be involved in their child’s education. This means making an active effort to include fathers in regular school activities; as well as providing father specific activities to invite fathers to use their strengths in the classroom. This needs to happen regardless if the child’s parents are separated. As the teacher of the child every effort should be made contact the father to ensure he gets an equal opportunity to participate. This in turn will encourage more fathers to be involved. Be more welcoming for fathers and fathers will jump at the chance to be a support

Some of my favorite activities that I have seen over the years have been

1. Building projects with their children. It can be bird houses, doll houses or model cars but fathers enjoy doing this activity that will remind them of the time spent together for years to come.
2. Donuts with dad days- an easy breakfast and fun father focused activity
3. Touch a Truck events where children can get up and personal with large transport and construction vehicles. This tends to excite fathers as well.
4. Science nights with dad
5. Field days where dads will get especially competitive
6. Reading nights with Dads
7. Some schools have a fatherhood committee comprised of fathers and men who can help come up with ideas.

Have fun, get messy and remember: “One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.” George Herbert

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Unplug and plug into your kids.

A few weekends ago I was going for a jog in my neighborhood when, like any normal day, I noticed children and their families on the playground. As I drew closer, something caught my eye. There was a baby on a safety swing as an elderly man pushed her (or so I thought). I excitedly looked to her face for a view of the utter excitement that usually falls across a babies face when they are flying through the air. Instead I was met with her looking off to the side, at something in the distance. I glanced at the grandfather and realized the source of her disengagement, he was scrolling through his phone, not even paying the slightest bit of attention to her. I slowed to a stop, and contemplated several different approaches to remind the grandfather about the small child in front of him. In the end I decided not to approach him, nonetheless I continue to be disturbed by that scene.

As an early childhood educator, I not only understand the importance of the engagement of children and the adults around them, but I also long to see it. Grandpa had it half right, bringing his little one to the park, but the most important piece of the puzzle was noticeably missing. I couldn’t help but imagine the lack of firing synapses in her small but growing brain. I couldn’t help wonder how detrimental this would be to her long term development. I couldn’t help but lament for our youngest children in this era of technological engagement and lack of people engagement. I understand that this was one time glance into this child’s life, however, I know this is a norm in many families. I along with countless others, can’t help but wonder what sort of example we are setting for children with our attachment to our devices. If children need to model adult behavior, I suddenly understand the need of children to play on phones and tablets. They not only can “be” adult, but they also receive some response to their need of engagement. Granted the computer does not give children anything near what one on one interactions give them, but it does stimulate their brains. How disturbing.

There is a fine line to walk between providing digital natives a way to learn technology and its benefits, while doing it without sacrificing personal interactions. I work for an International Franchising company that designs Early Childhood curriculum for Smart Boards. A strong departure from what so deeply disturbed me, however, the methodology of the program is what really benefits this kids. We believe in providing ECE teachers with content (which decreases the need for research before presenting information to a child), which frees up the teachers focus to be intentional in facilitating the lesson. We follow the American Pediatric Guidelines of 20 minutes of screen time per day, and we encourage parents to use technology intentionally with their children as well. We definitely focus on the importance of relationships in supporting young minds to grow.

Ultimately the key is, as an adult caregiver, to put down your device and pick up your children. Look them in the eye and talk. Go out and play at the park. Leave your phone in the car. Make dinner together. Have a tea party. …And maybe, just maybe after you are done you can pick up the phone and post on Facebook about how much fun you had together.

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Summer Learning, Had Me Some Fun

I recently saw a great video about summer learning loss and how it contributes to the achievement gap.   Low income families suffer the most.  Low income families often have less information about summer learning loss and they often have less access to resources.  However, having an educational summer with your child does not have to be expensive nor time consuming.  There are some amazingly simple ways to have some learning activities within their regularly scheduled routines.   It doesn’t have to be extra, it just has to be intentional.  I have attached a calendar for June for ideas to do with young children and will be tweeting ideas on my twitter account @seedstowings.  Plus here are some additional ideas you can use on a daily basis.

  • Count everything
  • Read and write whenever possible.   Have notebooks and writing utensils in the car/diaper bag.
  • Talk with your child instead of at your child.  Use big words and talk about what they mean.
  • Have conversations all the time.  Each conversation should consist of at least 5 exchanges.
  • Observe things in your world and talk about them with your child.
  • Ask your child lots of questions about how they think and feel they don’t have to be right, they just have to be thinking
  • If your child has a question you don’t know the answer to, ask them what they think.  It will get their brains firing up.
  • Give your child choices and then ask why they made the choice, it gives them insight into their own beliefs and desires.
  • Have fun!  Have fun with words, with movement, with your world.   Learning should always be fun.

(Note: If you and your child are English Language Learners, the bulk of the conversations should occur in your language.  I’ll say it once again, once children learn concepts they only need to learn labels in the new target language)  

Summer_Learning_Had_Me_Some_Fun  (calendar PDF)

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Que Viva el Valle

Over the past several weeks I have been reflecting about things that could change the cultural trajectory of the southwest.  I grew up in a small town located in Southern Colorado; in fact, my hometown is located in a part of the US that was once Mexico called the San Luis Valley.  The demographics continue to reflect its history as evidenced by a large percentage of Latinos, or as the large majority prefers to be called, Spanish.  Our culture and language, for the most part, have survived the generations as we moved from Mexican to US Citizens.

My father started school in the early ‘60s.  His story is like so many of Spanish-speakers’ stories in the southwest during that era.  He primarily spoke Spanish and was consequently beaten by the nuns.  In those days, the belief was that learning more than one language would confuse children.  This shameful abuse of my people resulted in a neurosis about our language that could only be fixed by English Only.  As a result, my brother, sister and I were never taught Spanish in order to avoid the distress that befell our parents.

In an effort to recapture that piece of culture I feel so isolated from, I since have learned to speak Spanish.   I’m not completely fluent but pretty darn close.  However, the fact remains that that the language of my people is slowly dying.  This continues to haunt me.  The Spanish spoken in that area is a rare mixture of 17th century Castillian Spanish, mixed with indigenous vocabulary, as well as new words that were invented to describe new technology, like troque for truck for example.

In fact, the Spanish of the Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico is a distinct dialect that cannot be located elsewhere.   Thus it stands to reason that the culture is quite unique as well due to the Native, Mexican and American influence over several generations.  There are things from culinary traditions to oral folklore that are unique to that area.  All these things will fade away if we don’t make an effort to hold on to these traditions.

Many relocated valleros have expressed their concern about the loss of culture we face.  There have been studies that show the connection between culture and language.  Furthermore, there is a distinct fear of losing culture along with the loss of language.  This is where my urgency lies.  I don’t want my children, my nieces and nephews, or any child feeling further isolation from who they are and where they belong.  I believe in a world where all children have a strong sense of themselves, their families and their culture.

We need to start taking steps before our elders are gone, and we have nowhere to go.

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Books Vs. E-readers

The other day I got an indignant text from my best friend about the woes of yet another bookstore going out of business.  As we wallowed together, it occurred to me that the method of reading is slowly changing.  Is this for better or worse?   Will children lose some of those important skills we emphasize now as “kindergarten ready” skills?  Or will those skills faze themselves out on their own without much ado, only to be the nostalgic pining’s of the broken hearted.

During traditional book reading, children learn to turn pages from the front to the back (or back to front depending on culture); this prepares them for the skill of reading from left to right.  It also develops valuable pincher grasp skills for writing, although that also seems to be phasing out with the focus of typing and texting taking away from the need to practice handwriting in school.

Furthermore, children are able to flip through the pages, “jump forward and backward” to review what happened or will happen in the book, this builds comprehension skills. Tracking skills are developed while adults model following a line of text across the page with the finger.  They learn about the cover, spine and pages.  There are so many skills to be learned from reading a real book.  What are your thoughts regarding a shift from paper books to e-readers?

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Quoted in a Being Latino Article

Hello readers,

Just wanted to share an article written by Ana Maria Trujillo about how expectations affect Latino youth.  I’m quoted in the article.  Subscribe to the newsletter if you would like to learn more about the Latino culture in the U.S.  Here is the mission pulled from the website:   Being Latino is a communication platform designed to educate, entertain and connect all peoples across the global Latino spectrum.  Our aim is to break down barriers and foster unity and empowerment through informative, thought-provoking dialogue and exchanging of ideas.  Being Latino seeks to give a unified voice to the multitude of communities that identify with the multidimensional culture that is Latino.

http://www.beinglatino.us/comunidad/how-low-expectations-title-coming/

 

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