March 2018 Newsletter – Director WOYC Activity Ideas

The Week of the Young Child can be as big or as low key as you want.  Each program celebrates in their own way, based on the resources available to them.  Here are a few tips to help you plan your special event:

  • If you are interested in learning what others have done for WOYC, you can check out the #woyc site for ideas.
  • Set aside time during upcoming staff meetings to brainstorm ideas and plan activities for WOYC. Share some of the #woyc17 ideas to spark the creativity of your staff.
  • It may be necessary to create a budget for WOYC. Make sure staff are aware of the budget for activities and events.  Collect supply lists as early as possible to ensure that teachers have everything they need for the event.
  • Recognize that some activities may require more than one day to complete. These activities can either be kicked off during the WOYC or they can wrap up during this week.  Help teachers make decisions about the timing that is most appropriate for their individual projects.
  • Use this time to connect parents with community resources. Set up times for hearing and vision screenings during this week.  Invite representatives from early intervention agencies to come talk with families about general child development and what to do if they have concerns.  Host a resource fair for parents at your location.
  • Market WOYC events in your parent communication tools. You can also use the WOYC logos that are available here.  Spread the word to your early learning connections and the community at large.
  • Tie into the larger celebration by tagging social media posts with #woyc18. You are also encourages to share stories and images of your event at the NAEYC’s Facebook page.  Your local or state NAEYC affiliate may also have a Facebook page.
  • Be sure you have parent permission to share any images of children on social media. Do not share any images of children for whom you do not have written permission.
  • Get invitations out to community and government officials as soon as possible. Brainstorm a list of possible invitees. Ask family members if they have any connections that could be leveraged.  Include messages from children in your invitations as well as facts about the importance of early childhood education.
  • If a dignitary or official is able to attend, be prepared to document the event.  Perhaps there is a connection to a photographer among the children or staff.  Invite parents to visit while the official visits to share their support of early learning.  Prepare a press release, if possible.

March 2018 Newsletter – School-Age WOYC Activity Ideas

Music Monday

  • Encourage children to create songs about the program, their friends, families, or themselves. If children are willing, they can perform these songs for the other children in a concert or traveling band that visits the other rooms in the program. Record these performances.  Share them with elected officials and post them on social media (with parent permission).
  • Invite a dance instructor in to teach children the steps of popular dances. Tie this activity to a dance-a-thon charity event to raise money for a local cause.

Tasty Tuesday

  • Plan a meal for families or community members. Invite the cook or a caterer (possibly a family volunteer?) to work with children to plan the meal. Encourage children to take an active role in as many steps of the process as possible, including taking a fieldtrip to a grocery store to purchase supplies. This project may start on Tasty Tuesday and culminate at a later date.
  • Host a new food challenge. Ask children to identify foods that they have never had or that they do not like.  Encourage children to try new foods or to retry foods they did not like in the past.

Work Together Wednesday

  • Work together on a clean-up project. Look for opportunities to have children, families, and community members work together to clean up a park, garden, or playground space.
  • Collaborate on a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, highlighting the importance of the experiences children have had while participating in the program.

Artsy Thursday

  • Engage in performance art. Host a talent show, put on a play or puppet show.  Invite children and families from the program to watch the show and cheer on the performers.
  • Invite community members and government officials to come in to sit for a portrait. Spend time prior to the event exploring different types of portraits that have been painted in the past, including as many styles as you can find.  Children can use this time to ask and answer questions from the visitor.

Family Friday

  • Write thank you notes to family members. This can be done on a collaborative mural, in a video recording, or on traditional cards.  Encourage children to identify all the things they are thankful for about their families.  Assist children in creating their notes or scripts and share with families.
  • Encourage children and families to work together to write letters or postcards to the governor or state representatives asking for their commitment to supporting early learning.

March 2018 Newsletter – Preschool WOYC Activity Ideas

Music Monday

  • Introduce a brand new type of music to the children. Explore the different music from around the globe.   Ask parents for suggestions.
  • Invite a local musician or performer in to put on a show for children and families. Encourage children to create a list of questions to ask the performer about their work.  You may be able to identify family members who have musical talents to spend time with the children instead of a paid performer.

Tasty Tuesday

  • Sponsor a food drive for a local shelter or food bank. Encourage children to create marketing materials for the project and take part in collecting and dropping off the food at the end of the event.
  • Plant some seeds. Start your garden indoors by planting seeds, then transferring them to the outdoor garden once the conditions are suitable.

Work Together Wednesday

  • Encourage children to work together to create a nature collection. Provide cookie sheets and ask groups of children to fill the cookie sheets with items from nature that they find on the playground.  Introduce new vocabulary words and math concepts related to the objects that children find.
  • Invite family members, community leaders, etc. to come talk with the children about the importance of working together. Brainstorms a list of ways that children can work together in the classroom.  Create a class book about all the ways that children can work together.  Encourage children to illustrate and bind the book for the library.

Artsy Thursday

  • Create marketing materials for quality early learning experiences. Have children create posters, brochures, commercials, or advertisements highlighting all the things they have learned in the program.  Send these materials to elected officials at all levels of government.  Ask for their commitment to support early learning in their funding decisions.
  • Decorate sidewalks near your program with chalk decorations and WOYC facts.

Family Friday

  • Invite families to volunteer. Not all families will be able to participate and not everyone will participate in the same way. Find out from family members how they might be able to donate some of their time to your program.  If you don’t have a volunteer program, you could officially launch it on this day.
  • Share learning with families.  Talk with children about what they want to be when they grow up.  Work with individual children to think of things they are learning today that will they will also use in their job in the future.  Create a representation of this information to share with families.  Copies can also be shared with elected officials in your community or in social media (with parent permission).

March 2018 Newsletter – Infant-Toddler WOYC Activity Ideas

Music Monday

  • Introduce different musical instruments. Encourage children to explore the instruments and start a marching band that travels around the facility.
  • Sing in the park. Take a walk in the community and sing out loud.  Share copies of the resource 10 Ways Babies Learn When We Sing to Them with the people you encounter on your walk.

Tasty Tuesday

  • Encourage children to take part in making their own snacks. Take pictures of children making their own snack and share with families or on social media (with parent permission).  List the skills that children are learning as they make their own snack.
  • Introduce new vocabulary related to the foods children are eating. Talk about the colors, textures, and tastes of the foods included in the meals. Document the new vocabulary words and share them with parents so they can use them at home.

Work Together Wednesday

  • Create a Cooperation Castle. Use a large cardboard box to create a play space. Encourage children to work together to paint and decorate the play space.
  • Invite families to participate in an activity that they work on with their child. It could be a project related to art, music, science, or construction.

Artsy Thursday

  • Invite members of the community to visit your program and work on a community mural with the children. Point out the skills that children are learning as they engage in the art project.  Use language from your state’s early learning standards so community members can clearly see the connection between the activity and children’s learning.
  • Create mini paintings. Place facts about the benefits of open ended art activities on the back of each painting. Share the paintings with families or take them on a walk to pass out to members of your community.

Family Friday

  • Throw a surprise party for families. Welcome each family member who comes to pick up their child with an enthusiastic “Surprise!”  Have healthy snacks available and invite families to join you for an afternoon celebration.
  • Make Week of the Young Child 2018 Provide a variety of materials needed for homemade books that families can create with their children. Have pictures of children engaged in learning activities, sample works of art, and dictations of children’s language available. Encourage families to bring in images of their own to add to the book.

March 2018 Newsletter – Planning for the Week of the Young Child

Each year, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) organizes a celebration focused on early childhood education, children, families, and teachers.  They have named the event the Week of the Young ChildTM (WOYC). The goal of the event is to raise awareness of the importance of high quality early learning experiences and garner support from stakeholders, both within and outside of the early learning community.

It is a time to share the valuable short and long term contributions that early learning provides to our society and economy.  While the event is organized and sponsored by NAEYC, it is implemented in individual communities in ways that reflect the unique nature of the programs and communities that participate.

Mark your calendar; this year’s WOYC event will be held April 16-20.

NAEYC has created suggested themes for each day of the event:

  • April 16 – Music Monday
  • April 17 – Tasty Tuesday
  • April 18 – Work Together Wednesday
  • April 19 – Artsy Thursday
  • April 20 – Family Friday

More information and suggested activities related to these themes can be found here and here.  Many of the resources can be shared with parents, members of the community, or local and state government officials. It’s important to start planning early, especially if you plan to invite government officials to participate in your event.  You want to get on their calendars as early as possible.

The suggested themes are just that, suggestions – you can plan different activities that highlight the important work that you are doing in your program.  Check out the links to the different age groups for ideas that might be appropriate for the children in your program.

April 2018 Newsletter – Director’s Corner: Helping Teachers Understand and Implement UDL

Whether you currently have children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or any other disability, enrolled in your program, UDL is designed to help all learners succeed.  Some of the language included in UDL is geared more toward elementary, middle, and high school learners.  However, many of the recommendations contained in UDL align with the principles of Developmentally Appropriate Practice, with which early learning professionals should already be familiar.

It is recommended that educators become familiar with both UDL and DAP, in order to create appropriate learning environments for all children.

Access the UDL Guidelines at http://udlguidelines.cast.org/.  Spend time familiarizing yourself with the different sections in the easy to read guide.  Once you have wrapped your mind around the recommendations, reflect on specific areas of your program in relation to the UDL guidelines.  This reflection will help you create a plan of action that will fit the unique needs of your program.

Consider the following list of recommendations for ways you can support your staff as they incorporate UDL in your program environment:

  • Introduce the UDL guidelines using a professional development community approach – create a plan to introduce one new guideline each month. Share information with teachers during a staff meeting and ask them to reflect and create a plan of action to incorporate the recommendations related to the guideline into their daily practice throughout the month. Establish a plan to check in throughout the month to support teachers and create accountability. Share successes and challenges at the next staff meeting before introducing the next guideline, or determine that more work needs to be done with the original guideline and rework the plans.
  • Assign each teaching team a different UDL guideline and ask them to create a presentation to share with the rest of the group during a staff meeting or professional development day.
  • Look for training opportunities that exist in your community. Arrange for a speaker to conduct professional development for your staff. Or look for online training options such as the special needs courses on CCEI, which contain many of the recommendations included in the UDL Guidelines.
  • Once the UDL Guidelines have been introduced, create a checklist for each area. You can start with the recommendations shared in the sections of this newsletter. Ask staff to conduct self-assessments using the checklists.  Work with each team to create a plan of action that will help them include more elements of UDL into their environments.

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.

Have you had success in implementing elements of UDL into your program?  Share your experience with us on Facebook here.

April 2018 Newsletter – Action and Expression: The How of Learning

According to the CAST Universal Design for Learning Guidelines:

“Learners differ in the ways that they can navigate a learning environment and express what they know.”

Whether it is due to a diagnosed disability or other learning difference, children explore and demonstrate learning in many different ways. Here are a few specific recommendations that are included in UDL that can be applied to early learning environments:

  • Incorporate any adaptive equipment used by students; work with parents and therapists to become familiar with these supports
  • Allow ample time for children to complete work; some children may require extended periods of time
  • Allow children to return to their work throughout the day; use a “Save Shelf” to store ongoing work
  • Allow options for children to respond to questions by pointing or otherwise indicating their choices
  • Allow children to show what they know about concepts using preferred materials (Blocks, paint, drawings, photography, manipulatives, storytelling, dramatic play, etc.)
  • Incorporate various technology as a means for children to express their knowledge (videos, computer drawings, music producing programs, PowerPoint, graphing, storyboards, etc.)
  • Encourage children to use manipulatives to express their understanding of math concepts
  • Allow children to express their knowledge independently or within small groups
  • Provide chances for children to share what they know one-on-one with teachers, in front of small groups, or in front of the large group; not every child will perform well in each of these situations
  • Help children determine the next steps in their learning, based on their current level of knowledge/skill
  • Help children create plans for accomplishing tasks; introduce strategy and creative thinking in order to solve problems
  • Help children organize information using a variety of visual organizers
  • Ask open ended questions to promote deeper thinking about concepts and self-reflection

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

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 Director’s Corner – Helping Teachers Understand and Implement UDL, click here.

April 2018 Newsletter – Representation: The What of Learning

According to the CAST Universal Design for Learning Guidelines:

Learners differ in the ways that they perceive and comprehend information that is presented to them.”

The fact that children take in and process information differently means that teachers must be prepared to present information in different ways for different learners. Here are a few specific recommendations that are included in UDL that can be applied to early learning environments:

  • Provide materials in different formats – large print books, audiobooks, tactile experiences, digital materials, etc.
  • Present information in graphs, charts, and illustrations for visual learners
  • Utilize American Sign Language to communicate with students and enhance language development
  • Incorporate visual/picture cues with instructions and daily routines
  • Introduce new words before using them in lessons
  • Explain unfamiliar or confusing language such as puns, jargon, and idioms
  • Connect new information with prior knowledge and experiences
  • Conduct picture walks through books prior to reading to identify main ideas of the story
  • Provide manipulatives when working on math concepts
  • Connect math concepts to everyday experiences such as meal times and how many children are in line for the playground
  • Create connections between key words and concepts for English Language Learners
  • Incorporate concepts across all learning centers, including outdoor learning
  • Teach children memory tricks
  • Provide many opportunities for exploration and repetition

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

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

To view the article on Representation – 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 – 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 (available at http://udlguidelines.cast.org/) 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.