April 2018 Newsletter – Engagement: The Why of Learning

According to the CAST Universal Design for Learning Guidelines:

“…learners differ markedly in the ways in which they can be engaged or motivated to learn.”

Individual children have unique learning styles and approaches to learning. The goal of implementing UDL is to ensure that teachers explore many different ways of engaging learners. Here are a few specific recommendations that are included in UDL that can be applied to early learning environments:

  • Provide opportunities to work in groups and independently
  • Allow children to choose the materials and the length of time they engage with those materials (within the confines of the daily routine) -in other words, do not rotate children through learning centers
  • Incorporate children’s interest into curriculum activities and themes
  • Find out how children like to be rewarded and recognized and use these unique methods of acknowledgement
  • Incorporate concepts and materials that are relevant to children’s experiences and culture
  • Provide opportunity for children to engage in hands-on exploration
  • Encourage children to reflect on content and learning
  • Gather children’s feeling about their learning experiences
  • Promote creativity and open-ended activities that do not rely on an adult model
  • Create a safe space where children can take risks and make mistakes without punishment
  • Create a predictable routine to provide a sense of security in the environment; limit unpredictability such as loud noises and unannounced contact
  • Provide time and space for children to take breaks away from the larger group
  • Allow for alternative seating in group settings
  • Help children set achievable goals and make plans to reach those goals
  • Display goals and refer to them often to track progress with children
  • Include children in the assessment process and in evaluating their work
  • Provide a variety of materials that challenge children in different ways and on different levels
  • Plan for variations to activities and work in small groups to support individual learners
  • Adapt activities for children who experience sensory aversions to materials – for example, provide the option to use a brush or sponge during finger painting activities
  • Recognize effort and improvement over final product
  • Encourage children to contribute to elements of the daily routine
  • Teach children strategies that support social interactions
  • Encourage children to offer help and ask for help
  • Engage children to create behavioral expectations for the classroom, fieldtrips, etc.
  • Plan for how you will recognize children for completing tasks on a regular basis
  • Provide specific recognition that acknowledges children’s efforts
  • Recognize children for sticking with challenging tasks, regardless of the outcome
  • Teach children coping and self-calming strategies such as deep breathing, asking for help, or taking a break (before they need to use them)

Adapted from: CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org

To view the article on Representation – The What of Learning , click here.

To view the article on Action and Expression – The How of Learning, click here.

To view the article on Director’s Corner – Helping Teachers Understand and Implement UDL, click here.

April 2018 Newsletter – Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Strategies for Supporting all Learners

As you may know, April is Autism Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 68 school aged children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the United States. Many of these children receive a diagnosis during the early learning years and participate in child care programs on a regular basis. It is vital that teachers and caregivers understand the characteristics of autism, as well as teaching strategies that can support children’s success in the learning environment.

Some of the most common characteristics displayed by children with ASD are contained within the diagnostic criteria. The American Psychiatric Association′s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th edition has recently been updated to include the following ASD diagnostic criteria:

Persistent defects in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts including:

  • Lack of social-emotional reciprocity – a child may not engage in turn-taking conversations, share interests & emotions, or initiate/respond during social interactions
  • Lack of nonverbal communication – a child may avoid eye contact, misunderstand gestures and facial expressions, not be able to interpret the body language of others, or not use facial expressions or other forms of nonverbal communication themselves
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships – a child may have difficulty making friends, adjusting to different social situations, or showing interest in peers

Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities; demonstrated by at least 2 of the following:

  • Repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech – a child may wave their hands in front of their face, line up toys, spin wheels of a truck, or repeat words or phrases out of context
  • Insistence on sameness – a child may insist on a consistent routine, use the same greeting each day, eat only one type of food, or show distress if changes are made to the norm
  • Intense and fixed interests or focus – a child interested in trains may not show interest in any other topic, may discuss trains with others regardless of their interest in trains, or may become extremely attached to /focused on a particular object
  • May seek out, show sensitivity to, or avoid sensory input – a child may seek out or act to avoid sensations, smells, sounds, or visual stimuli

If you have experience working with children with autism, you may have noticed that each child is unique in how these characteristics manifest and impact children’s ability to interact and function in a classroom environment. (For even more information about ASD, consider taking the CCEI Course SPN101: Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders.)

This means that we need to develop an approach to teaching that is intentional and focused on supporting the success of every unique learner in the environment. Having a clear understanding of what is known as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can be extremely beneficial. UDL was developed by a group of researchers at the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) in 1984. Please visit www.cast.org to see all of the resources they have developed over the years.

The 3 main principles of UDL are based on brain research and the process of learning, which is unique to each child:

  • Engagement – The Why of learning; refers to the interests, motivation, effort, persistence, and self-regulation of learners
  • Representation – The What of learning; refers to the perception and comprehension of language, symbols, and concepts
  • Action and Expression – The How of learning; refers to the students’ expression of what they’ve learned

The UDL Guidelines provide specific strategies that teachers can incorporate into activities and the learning environment. These strategies are designed to enhance the learning experience for all learners, including those with diagnosed disabilities, such as ASD.

We will explore these three areas of UDL in the next sections of the April 2018 newsletter below:

To view the article on Engagement – The Why of Learning, click here.

To view the article on Representation – The What of Learning , click here.

To view the article on Action and Expression – The How of Learning, click here.

To view the article on Director’s Corner – Helping Teachers Understand and Implement UDL, click here.

April 2018 Student Spotlight – Selah Kneubuhl

I was a single mother of three young boys, two of which were in daycare and had two to three years left in early childcare before they could get into public schools. At this time I was starting my career as a real estate agent for charter schools. I had been doing site selection and micro school development consulting. As I gained more knowledge of America’s Public School System and the lack of attention and funding for Early Childcare, I saw an opportunity to spend more time with my children while developing a micro program that would allow me to incorporate things I longed to see in the early childcare industry. As I contemplated my path, the only things that came to mind were, “why can’t my children benefit from having mommy be their teacher?” So in November of 2015 I opened EDUS Primary Prep in South Austin.

My favorite time of day to spend with the children is Table Time. This is during lunch time when children are eating and getting the lesson of the day. Whether it’s about the new leaves on the trees or the new decorations we have up to celebrate the new season. It is our one on one time, where the kids learn good table manners, family bonding time, and whatever they wish to know about. I think the children truly enjoy table time as much as I do. They always seem to be truly involved and attentive.

My motivation to work with children surrounds our world and its future. If we can’t foster healthy beginnings then no one will have a chance. I enjoy seeing my work through their work. When a child starts displaying the behaviors or lessons we have shown and taught them, it fills my heart. I would like to expand in the future. I feel I have created something unique and special that has shown significant success from the children who have moved on to primary school. I will do this until I am able to retire but for now this is where I belong.

I currently live in Austin, TX.  In my free time, I spend every chance I get with my three sons, whether it be coaching their t-ball games or golfing together. They are so much fun and my world would be boring without them.

I just renewed my CDA with coursework from CCEI.  I plan on pursuing my education in the future and through educational programs like those that CCEI has to offer it has allowed me the opportunity to be a mom, business owner and student.   Because of CCEI’s convenience and flexibility, I feel I can do any future continuing education courses or certifications through them.  The staff, including my Education Coach, Laura, have always shown and displayed a true concern for my progress and success in the program. This truly is motivating and goes a long way.  I have always appreciated this program and will continue to support and refer the programs CCEI has to offer to others.