Planting Seeds and Sprouting Wings

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

Dr. Suess should Be Your Muse

dr-seuss-teeAs we celebrate Dr. Suess’ birthday this week, it inspires us to have fun with language.   Part of the joy of Dr. Suess is his stories filled with nonsensical words and rhymes.  It reminds us, that language and literacy development does not have to be solely reading and writing, but should include playing with language and learning how to make language fun.

“Nonsense wakes up the brain cells. And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age. Humor has a tremendous place in this sordid world. It’s more than just a matter of laughing. If you can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in whack.”  ~Dr. Suess

As educators and parents we should spend time each day playing with language, singing silly songs, making up tongue twisters in whatever language we are the most comfortable with.   Already established songs and rhymes are fun, but giving children the opportunity to create their own allows for a deeper understanding of language and literacy.   These activities will help promote language development, help children understand that language has rhythm and encourage creativity and thinking skills.

Dr. Suess provides us with the opportunity to step away from normal structured learning and reminds us that learning can and should be fun.  I leave with this excerpt from his book, “On Beyond Zebra!”

In the places I go there are things that I see
That I never could spell if I stopped with the Z.

I’m telling you this ’cause you’re one of my friends.
My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends!

So, on beyond Z!
It’s high time you were shown
That you really don’t know
All there is to be known.

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Spring into Learning

Spring is in the air.  The warmer weather gives us an opportunity to bring learning outside to really engage some of our naturalist learners.  We can interact with plants, animals and bugs.   We can observe and track nature’s growth from winter’s death to spring’s vibrant soul.  We can take “nature” expeditions where children can explore the outdoors and make observations.   Now is the time of growth and renewal and children love watching things flourish.

Here are some more ideas to bring learning outside:

Educators, as you start incorporating these activities, don’t forget to include ways to engage your other learners as well.  Make the scavenger hunt logical-mathematical friendly by adding a certain number of the each of the different colors to find.  Have children illustrate or “write” a story about what they observed; in order to engage the linguistic children in your classroom.  Make a collage, sing a song, imitate the animals you see, have them work in groups and alone to make sure that your activities reach all your children!   Most of all have fun!

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Black History Month?

It’s February, as if on cue, my Facebook feed and television  is littered with inspirational messages, stories and history of black people.   Over the last several years there has been some controversy as to IF we should even celebrate heritages months such as these.  The point is that teachers should be educating children about black history, Hispanic heritage, etc, etc, etc.   Unfortunately if doesn’t happen.   These stories often get lost in the every day work.   So how do we celebrate a culture without demeaning it?

Head over to Teaching Tolerance’s article about Heritage Months and how to handle it as an inclusive educator.  If you are looking for ways to incorporate intentional heritage teaching or anti-bias activities, look at this article.  Also don’t forget to include your families in these types of activities.   Finally, please take the time to read this book, it is a great resource for anti-bias teaching of preschoolers.

However you decide to commemorate Black History Month, remember to be intentional and purposeful in all your activities. Also, please remember, teaching children about diversity and black history should be incorporated into your daily classroom and life, it shouldn’t stop on February 28th.

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Power of Yet

How many times a day do you tell the children in your life that they are smart?  By contrast, how often do you tell the children in your life that they need to work a bit harder but they have almost got it?

We all agree that children should be healthy, confident and smart.   However, new research is showing that telling our children they are “smart” can actually be detrimental to the child’s development.   When we tell a child, “You’re so smart”, they look at their abilities as an innate, fixed skill that can’t be improved.  This makes it difficult to continue when they do not immediately excel at a task.   It can make it harder for them to try new things.   They just might not understand that sometimes particular skills might take a while to develop.   Practice might not always make perfect, but it indeed makes us better.

My goddaughter is a perfect example of this lack of confidence with underdeveloped skills.  She is an incredibly talented, creative young lady.  Writing and creating come naturally to her, math however does not.   She tends to struggle and then becomes dispirited with the struggle.  As I listened to her describe how difficult math was, I asked her, “Do you know who Albert Einstein is?”   She responded, “He’s one of the smartest men to ever live.”   “Did you know that he couldn’t even tie his shoe until he was like 9?   Or that he was thought of as developmentally disabled by his school teachers?”   “Really?” she asked incredulously.    One week later, her math scores had improved tremendously.   Not only did the scores improve, she was feeling much more confident in her abilities about math.  Sometimes it’s all about perspective.

I urge all educators and parents to see what happens when they interact with their children in this way.   Find the “power of yet”.  Teach your young learners that sometimes the satisfaction of accomplishing a difficult task makes it that much more satisfying.  I leave you with a few videos that further explain the power of mindset.
The Power of Yet ~ Janelle Monae on Sesame Street

Carol Dweck – Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

The Power of Belief – mindset and success ǀ Eduardo Briceno ǀ

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Answering Life’s Most Persistent Question (with your children)

Life's most <br />persistent <br />and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others? Martin Luther King Jr. | #mlk, #martinlutherking, #martinlutherkingjr, #authorquotes, #famousquotesAs the week honoring the contributions of Martin Luther King comes to a close, another way to celebrate him comes to mind.  Since 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service.   Although the day has passed, the ability to teach your child or your students about the importance of service remains.  I have located several blogs that give some amazing ideas regarding ways that you can get your children involved in serving others.  The service should also coincide with a conversation about why doing service projects are so important.   We must give back to the community because it creates a world where we can relate to others and also, every act of service is an opportunity to learn something about people, communities and government.

Scan the following blogs and schedule a day that you can complete a project with the children in your life.

These are just a few of the millions ideas out there to provide a way for your family or classroom to make a difference.   I would love to hear stories in the comments below.

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Celebrate MLK Day the right way

Martin_Luther_King_-_March_on_WashingtonNext Monday marks the celebration of a great man who did amazing things for the civil rights movement.   Martin Luther King Jr. was the voice of non-violent action, who organized millions for a just cause.   My husband and I watched the movie Selma last week and were struck by how he was portrayed as markedly human, yet able to dig deep and choose the leadership action he thought would provide the most progress; despite what his true self would have wanted to do. In today’s turbulent world, a voice and a presence like his would provide a welcome leader for race relations.

His leadership and place in history can provide many lessons for children.  In fact for many children, his legacy lives on.   Here are some ideas that you can put into place for your classroom.

  1. Watch this Talk about the word injustice, the injustices you heard about in the video and how Martin Luther King and others “fought” against them.
  2. Read Martin’s Big Words or watch this video clip based on the book. Afterwards you can have a short discussion about what having a dream means to each child. Have them draw and/or write about their own dreams.
  3. Using Crayola’s multicultural crayons, have each child draw their families, using the colors that best reflect the person that they are drawing. Discuss the differences in skin tone and the similarities in other ways.   Is everyone in their family the same color?   Does it matter?
  4. Using different shades of panty hose, have children find the pantyhose that best match their skin tone. Talk about the different colors and why
  5. If you are feeling confident in your anti-bias skills as a teacher you can pull this activity from ehow. Teach your preschoolers about discrimination by printing pictures of tie sneakers, a white shirt, red shirt, shorts and blue jeans. Draw the “no” sign on top of the pictures and scattered them around the room at different stations or play areas. The “no” sign is the circle with the diagonally line going through it. Tell the preschoolers that anyone wearing that article of clothing at each play area cannot play in that area or use that item. At the end of the day, have a discussion about how these changes made them feel. Discuss why discrimination is wrong.

In the end, anyway you choose to celebrate Martin Luther King Day is important.  It provides valuable discussion for children who are surprisingly adept at already knowing that discrimination exists and can often use it to their advantage.  Having these conversations with young children now plants the seeds for much deeper conversations later.

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S.M.A.R.T.E.R Kids

As we embark on a new year, we all try to make improvements in our lives.  However, many of us fail.

One of the most successful techniques I have learned to set and accomplish goals is to set S.M.A.R.T.E.R goals.  Many goals that have been set using this system are more easily accomplished.  Most of us are familiar with S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T.E.R goals give us two more crucial steps in order to be more successful.  We must make goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time bound AND we also must EVALUATE and REWARD. Each of these steps are easily adaptable to ensure that you can prepare your young child and help develop lifelong skills and habits for the future.

  1. Listen to your children talk about the things they would like to do (i.e. I wish) and talk to your children about your goals and how you plan to achieve them. Give them time to reflect and allow them to put down their thoughts on paper.  You may want to have your child dictate their process on their paper so you can capture it.
  2. If your child shows and interest in creating a goal, start by asking them lots of questions to understand the what, where and why. You also want to create a reward at this point.  Try to make the reward something intrinsic rather than external.  You could offer them a later bedtime or allow a friend to come over and visit.   Experiences are more valuable than material goods.
  3. Help them simplify it (make it achievable in a day or two). This helps them understand the purpose and development of smart goals later on.
  4. Work together to create a system of tracking. This could be a sticker chart, a coloring page that they can color each time they complete their goal, or any other ideas you both have to track their progress.
  5. Review the progress daily. Talk to your child about how close they are to achieving the goal as well as problem solving any obstacles along the way.
  6. Once they reach the goal, make sure that you reward them appropriately and promptly. Talk about the possibility of moving on to the next step, or creating a new goal if your goal only had one step.

Remember, children learn best from the adults around them.  This means that you might have extra incentive (and pressure) to maintain progress with your own goals this year.   Show your goals as much attention and follow through as you show your little one’s goals and you both can be celebrating lots of success this year!!

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Toys will be Toys

The other day, I asked my 12 year old niece for a Christmas wish list and requested that she work with her younger brothers and sister to get me one for them too.   When I received them back, I was astonished…and then embarrassed.

  • For my 10 year old niece? Legos
  • For my 4 year old nephew? A toy vacuum, fridge and stove.

Suddenly I recalled my nephew’s birthday a year previously, I had bought him Legos, partially because he had just started a Lego club at school, but partially because what BOY wouldn’t enjoy them?   I remembered that my then 9 year old niece exclaimed, “I want Legos so bad”.  I smiled and nodded and went on with my day.

As an educator and an advocate for equality, I like to believe that I expose the children in my life not only ways to enjoy education but also that I am open enough to give children a well-rounded experience.   And yet I failed.   I had put these toys in a box, literally and figuratively and gave them to the “correctly gendered” child.

Later that week, I got into a conversation with a friend of mine, who is a technology designer of some sort .  We looked on smiling as my husband threw our friends’ one year old in the air.  In an effort to ever be the educator, I exclaimed, “And this is why children need father figures”.  Men are so much “rougher” with children giving them skills they wouldn’t have otherwise.   He excitedly told me about a study he had read about, in which some basic S.T.E.M. skills are enhanced by activities such as these.  According to this study (I am researching its whereabouts), girls are played with a bit more gently even by their fathers, in turn affecting their proprioception and other essential skills.

As I think about the implications for the real world, both home and classroom, it encourages me to dig deep and really examine my preconceived notions about toys and their role.   Parents need to be able to identify their own misconceptions and make decisions based off of their values in order to ensure that their children receive the most well rounded opportunities to grow their passions and build on their strengths.

Who knows?  My 10 year old niece might grow up to be a world renowned architect.  And my 4 year old nephew?   Well he could decide that he wants to be a stay at home dad, own his own cleaning company or design and manufacture the newest and best household products.  The possibilities are endless.  If we let them be.

Read more about gender typed toys at:

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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.

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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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