Uniting Our Voices toDAY To Ensure Their Tomorrows

Uniting Our
Today to
Dr. Sue Starks
Concordia University
March 2014
A Professional Development Continuum
*The importance of your personal, professional
Pause & Reflect #1
• Jot down a
comment/question or
two you have heard in
the past several
months that has
the value of play or
DAP (developmentally
appropriate practices).
A Thought to Think On
“If I can learn in a way that satisfies me, I will learn
anything you want me to. But if I cannot learn in a
way that is comfortable for me, then I will not learn
anything, even if I want to learn it, let alone if you
want me to learn it. The ‘how’ of my learning
governs the ‘what.’ The pedagogy is more
important than the curriculum.”
Sir Christopher Ball, 2001
Our Unsettled Educational System
• “One of the biggest problems we have in education today
is that we are trying to force learning into children, and
when you force something, you break it.” (p. 2)
(Houston, 2010)
• “There is a puzzling contrast—really an awesome
disconnect—between the breathtaking diversity of
schoolchildren and the uniformity, homogenization, and
regimentation of classroom practices, from prekindergarten onward.”
(Genishi & Dyson, 2009)
Not a Box!
Settling Our Unsettled
Educational System
• Education “is life and work—
right here, right now—it is
something you evoke and
draw from” learners. (p. 2)
• “Education is really about
people’s hearts as much as
it is about their minds. It is
about their possibilities as
much as it is about their
performance.” (p. 5)
• “The magic of learning is in
wanting to learn.” (p. 23)
• Hmm…Not a Box!
(Houston, 2010)
The Importance of the Early
Childhood Years
• A period of rapid growth
• A prime time for development
• A time having a decisive and long-lasting impact
on how children (people) develop, learn, and
begin to regulate their own emotions
• A time when dispositions and attitudes toward
school, education, & themselves as learners are
The Brain Power of the Early Years
Key Social-Emotional Skills
• Confidence
• Capacity to develop good relationships with
peers and adults
Concentration and persistence on challenging
Ability to effectively communicate emotions
Ability to listen to instructions and be attentive
Ability to solve social problems
(Eager to Learn; Neurons to Neighborhoods; The Kaufman Report)
What Do You Notice?
In the Future Children
Will Need To:
• Possess a solid education
• Be able to apply what they
know and can do in relevant
Work well with others
Act as problem solvers
Utilize skills broadly and
engage in flexible thinking
Function as information
Envision themselves as
lifelong learners
(Source: Developmentally Appropriate
Curriculum: Best Practices in ECE by
Kostelnik, Soderman, & Whiren)
Children Who Engage in
Play Have:
• Greater language skills
than non-players
Better social skills
More empathy
More imagination
More of the subtle
capacity to know what
others mean
More self-control and
less aggressive behavior
Higher levels of thinking
(Alliance for Childhood, 2011)
A Question to Consider:
•Why has PLAY
seemingly become a
bad 4 letter word?
Societal Change
• “Parents, anxious for their children to
succeed in an increasingly competitive
global economy, regard play as a luxury
that the contemporary child cannot afford.”
• “Over the past two decades, children have
lost twelve hours of free time a week,
including eight hours of unstructured play
and outdoor activities.”
(Elkind, 2007)
Screen Time
• Children lose out on
opportunities to:
• use their creativity
• use their imagination
• figure out how things work
• socialize
• be active
Note: exercising these
mental tools is important
for success in higher-level
thinking such as math and
Too Much!
• Children have become a
viable market.
• This market encourages
• This market encourages a
“too much syndrome”.
• Only when a child spends
ample time with a
particular toy/activity is it
possible for him/her to
create a personal
connection and personal
The Emphasis on Testing
• The academic pressures of the rising demands of
accountability and NCLB have “all but eliminated
creative and playful teaching practices.”
(Elkind, 2007)
• Until recently, kindergarten was a time for children to
prepare for school. Today, it is school.
(Stipek, 2006)
• In real ways, play is being “silenced.” (Elkind, 2007)
The Complexity of Play Within Curriculum
• It is difficult to define just when learning is
• Teachers must devise and use diverse
teaching strategies and play multiple roles.
• Assessment includes measuring children’s
knowledge, however must also include
assessment of their engagement.
• Assessment is ongoing and tied to planning.
(Gronlund & James, 2008)
Pause & Reflect #2
On a scale of 1-10—
What value do you
place on play?
Who are your THEYs?
Pros to Early Learning Standards
• Provide richness to conversations about children’s growth
and learning.
We can match standards to what we do.
We can link EC standards to primary standards.
Standards help identify the next steps and transitions.
Standards professionalize the field.
Standards help us communicate across the grades, to
one another, to the public.
Standards raise the bar of expectations.
Standards result in authentic assessment tied to identified
Standards provide the all important link to accountability!
Challenges Connected to Early Learning
• They can lead to cookie cutter curriculum.
• They bring a risk for a pushed down curriculum.
• Many often believe direct instruction and drill and kill are
the only teaching avenues.
They can add to a we verses they mentality (preschool
and elementary teachers).
They can lead to inappropriate assessment.
They can lead to teaching to the test.
It takes time, interaction, practice, and reflection to utilize
them effectively.
The funds to support and mentor teachers as they learn to
use them is slim to non-existent.
Accountability Challenges for Teachers:
• Balancing DAP and the push for academic,
testable achievement.
• Meeting the needs of individual children
alongside the whole classroom.
• Dealing with the possible mismatch between
personal philosophy and expectations from
administrators, families, coworkers.
• Helping children see that learning itself is
valuable amidst the academic emphasis.
Meeting the Challenges
•We Go Back to
the ESSENCE of
The Importance of DAP
• The significance of the early years is being
recognized as well as the beneficial outcomes of
early intervention.
• The desire to remain competitive with other
nations and to help our children “get ahead” led
to the “earlier is better” belief, which in turn led to
the “pushed down” curriculum.
• David Elkind phrased it as the “miseducation” of
the youngest members of society—the erosion of
childhood—DAP works to counteract this
occurrence—erosion—if we have the faith to
step outside the box.
The Cornerstones of DAP
• Age appropriate
• Individually appropriate
• Socially and culturally appropriate (a family connection)
• Young children learn differently.
• Programs for children birth to age 8 must focus on
building solid foundations (elaboration)– NOT –
introducing upper elementary methods sooner
The Impact of DAP
• Opens up the curriculum.
• Moves away from the narrow emphasis on
only isolated academic skills and drill and
• Encourages us to examine our practices
and beliefs in regard to young children and
their growth, development, and learning.
• Encourages us to examine our programs in
regard to young children and their growth,
development, and learning.
Principles of DAP
• Teaching the whole child
• Cognitive, social, emotional, physical, & spiritual
• Literacy, math, science, art, music, movement, social
• Individualizing
• Children’s choice & initiation
• Learning by doing
• Manipulative & tangible materials
• Open-endedness
• First hand experiences
• Primary source materials
A Thought to Think On…
• 10% of what we read
• 20% of what we hear
• 30% of what we see
• 50% of what we hear
and see
• 70% of what we say
• 90% of what we say
and do
Brain Development
• The issue is not whether the
child is “smart enough” or
“motivated” to learn, but
whether the necessary brain
circuitry is sufficiently
“wired” to support the specific
domains required for that
(Center on the Developing Child, 2007, p.7)
• Too much too soon creates a
risk of overwhelming the brain’s
neural circuits, reducing its
sensitivity to the experiences it
needs for healthy development.
Source: Gullo, D. (2006). Kindergarten Today
We Add in the Context of Play!
In the context of PLAY the CHILD can:
• The child can choose the skill level.
• The child can complicate the activity.
• The child learns to persist in play.
• The child experiences opportunities for success.
• The child experiences challenges.
• The child experiences minimum risk.
• The child connects play to their knowledge and
experience base.
• The child can make what is unfamiliar, familiar.
• The child can create his/her own concepts and name
• The child is in control!
OUR Role in Play
• We help children engage!
• We give the gift of TIME!
• We create, with the children, the space to make
play/choice come alive.
• We provide the props…the “stuff” needed for
• We offer planned experiences to extend and
expand play.
• We observe, interact, scaffold, play!
• We VALUE and RESPECT play as a way to
Pause & Reflect #3
On a scale of 1-10—
How comfortable are
you with the roles you
play in children’s play?
Is there a goal you
would like to set for
We Add to the DAP Mix Intentionality!
Intentionality Defined:
Acting with knowledge and purpose to ensure that
young children acquire the knowledge and skills
(content) they need to succeed in school and
life…basing what we do on wide-ranging knowledge
about how children typically develop and learn (DAP).
(Epstein, 2007)
What are these children learning at play?
Be on autopilot with learning standards!
• Communicate needs,
feelings, and ideas
Experience the joy of play
Share materials,
cooperate, and show
respect for others
Develop body control
Play simple games by the
Develop and refine makebelieve skills
Intentionality continued
• Understand it does not happen by chance.
• Understand it takes purposeful and thoughtful
planning and implementation.
• Have clearly defined goals.
• Thoughtfully choose teaching strategies.
• Continually assess children’s progress and adjust
• Are well prepared to tell others about WHAT they
are doing and WHY.
It Takes in the Moment Teachers
“Young children
experience their world as
an environment of
relationships, and these
relationships affect
virtually all aspects of
their development—
intellectual, social,
emotional, physical,
behavioral, and moral.”
(National Scientific Council on the
Developing Child, 2004)
It Takes in the Moment Teachers
“Every one of your
interactions holds the
potential to make a
positive impact on how
children feel about
themselves and about
learning, as well as on
what and how they
(Dombro, Jablon, & Stetson, 2011, p. 1).
The third ear in action!
A quiet little guy has something
to share!
Allowing Children Opportunities to
Continue to Persist
Consider the Environment
• This is a good place to be.
• You belong here.
• This is a place you can
• There are places where
you can be by yourself
when you want to be.
• You can do things on your
own here.
• This is a safe place to
explore and try out your
Freedom to Move From
Center to Center
Allow Children to Be In the Moment
Balance Activities
Balance Activities
Small Group
Large Group
Balance Activities
Child - directed
Teacher - directed
Slide 8
Staff Development Activity 3
Balance Your Daily Schedule to
Include Different Types of Activities
Group Time Considerations
Integration of Curriculum
• Supports learning in all
domains and content
• Supports brain functions
(patterns, building on
• Weaves multiple
learning threads
• Children are motivated
and charged as they
play an active, key role!
Integration of Curriculum continued…
• Connects to higher-level
thinking skills…analyzing,
hypothesizing, predicting,
problem solving
• Connects to
standards…be flexible with
content unless it follows a
• Children learn best when
learning is kept whole,
meaningful, interesting,
and functional.
• Children learn best by
talking and doing!
Our Role as Advocates
• A critical role of an early childhood teacher (this
includes Kindergarten!) is to be an advocate for play.
• Part of being an advocate requires one to reflect
upon the level of importance you personally
place on play.
• There is a significant amount of information
(research!) to access and build upon related to play
that will support you in this role.
• Each of us must be willing and able to articulate
the reasons why play is a imperative component
of the children’s day.
A Teacher Candidate Perspective
• While student teaching, I realized that I did adopt some of
my cooperating teacher’s mannerisms and expectations.
This scared me and I often think about the teacher I have
become and if it aligns with my ideal teacher or with the
system around me. To me, advocating for children means
that I should always be reflective of my role as a teacher
and to question best practices. (Liz Baxter)
How can you advocate on play’s behalf?
Children’s behalf?
• Embrace your role as an advocate.
• Share what you know.
• Invite families, coworkers, your THEYs
in to see play and learning in action.
• Offer play workshops.
• Create play related newsletter blurbs.
How can you advocate on play’s behalf?
Children’s behalf?
• Utilize area room signs.
• Share play articles.
• Take photos of & video tape children at
• Link play to learning and to learning
• Directly connect photos and video to
Connecting with Families
Why is the family
unit so critical?
• A child spends 900 hours a
year in school.
• A child spends 7800 hours
a year outside of school.
• “The seeds of reading
and school success are
sown in the home, long
before the child arrives
at school.”
(Jim Trelease)
So, What Can Families Do?
• Four of the most important things families
can do with and for their children include:
• Talking to and with children!
• Reading to and with children!
• Singing to and with children!
• Playing with children!
Some Play Possibilities at Home
 Talking: language is the cornerstone of literacy!
 Provide time and space to play.
 Provide open-ended materials to play.
 Remember, sometimes simple is best!
 Set play dates.
 Watch Me!...observe and interact within play.
 Extend and expand the play.
 Model play for the child.
 Encourage children to play in their own way.
 Turn off the TV and play.
 Share your play stories as a child.
What Else Can YOU Do?
• Authentically define
high quality
programming &
education for families
and other individuals
(your THEYs) to
include aspects
beyond academics for
young learners.
What Else Can YOU Do?
• Identify your
Have to Dos so
you can embrace
your Want to &
Need to Dos!
What Else Can YOU Do?
• Dream big & Reach
for the Stars! You
may need to adjust,
but can move toward
your dream step by
step! Take the first
What Else Can YOU Do?
•Identify and
utilize your
What Else Can YOU Do?
• Stepping on
toes would you
rather step on?
What Else Can YOU Do?
• Identify your Non-
parallel to your
personal Not a Box!
advocate for them!
Crisis in K: Report Recommendations
• Restore child-initiated play and experiential learning with the active
support of teachers to their rightful place at the heart of K education.
Reassess K standards to ensure that they promote developmentally
appropriate practices (DAP), and eliminate those that do not.
End the inappropriate use in K of standardized tests, which are prone
to serious error especially when given to children under age 8.
Expand the early childhood research agenda to examine the longterm impact of current preschool and K practices on the development
of children from diverse backgrounds.
A NON-NEGOTIABLE!: Give teachers of young children first-rate
preparation that emphasizes the full development of the child
and the importance of play, nurtures children’s innate love of
learning, and supports teachers’ own capacities for creativity,
autonomy, and integrity.
(Alliance for Childhood, 2009)
The Power of Play—A Non-Negotiable
• Choice times and
learning centers offer
children opportunities
• Develop independence
• Take risks & persevere
• Initiate & be creative
• Reason & problem solve
• Practice & hone
“learning to learn” skills!
Source: Gullo, D. (2006).
Kindergarten Today
Not a Box!—A Non-Negotiable!
• “There is a growing assumption that uniformity of
instruction yields equality of outcome, but quality of
instruction means that all children have the opportunity
to develop in the only way possible—by building on
what they know.” (Genishi & Dyson, 2009)
• What children may bring to the learning equation in regard
to learning may be “unanticipated” by the curriculum.
• “We have to worry less about the answers children
provide and more about teaching the kinds of
questions that they need to ask.” (Houston, 2010, p. 74)
Not a Box!—A Non-Negotiable!
• “Every time we teach
something, we take
away the opportunity
for children to discover
something on their
• Encourage children
to be critical
thinkers, not simply
direction followers.
What Else Can YOU Do?
instrumental role in
advocating for it’s
place in early
• We are in This
Together clip
Pause & Reflect #4
On a scale of 1-10—How do you rate your current role in
advocating for play and DAP?
Where is your Wiggle Room?
What are your Non-Negotiables?
What are your personal goals as you move forward, uniting our
Meeting the Challenges
Use a variety of strategies.
Be flexible to accommodate changing circumstances.
Trust your own professional judgment
Have confidence in your philosophy and methods.
Respect and learn from the views of others.
Be proactive in letting others know what you believe.
Set an example to show others how well your approaches
• Use all the resources you have at hand.
• Develop good relationships with all who have a stake in
your classroom.
Meeting the Challenges
• Find others who can give you support.
• Keep your stress away from the children.
• Lobby, advocate, speak out for what you believe.
• Look for common ground when conflicts arise.
• Keep a balance between your professional and personal
Give yourself a break.
Be prepared for conflicts.
Remember, change takes time.
Remember, change is a process.
Implications of Developmentally
inappropriate practices on Children
 The needs of the “whole” child are not addressed (all
domains—cognitive, social, emotional, & physical).
 The effects of the “pushed-down” curriculum can be
 There is a disconnect between how children learn and
how they are being taught.
 There is an absence of learning to learn skills.
 The natural curiosity and motivation to learn within
young children can be squelched.
“The prime purpose of being four is to enjoy being
four - of secondary importance is to prepare for
being five.”
~Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook, 1985
Our United
THEY—A NonNegotiable!
THEY are the
children in your
classroom eager
to begin a new
day of active and
adventures with
you, a Not a Box
teacher &
Dr. Sue Starks
Concordia University
[email protected]
Getting things right
the first time is more
efficient and ultimately
more effective than
trying to fix them later.
Center on the Developing Child—
Harvard University