Create a structure around both off and onscreen learning
The key factor isn’t the means through which your child is learning: it’s the structure around it. For example, giving your child free reign to do whatever he or she pleases on an iPad may be somewhat less effective than scheduling a block of time for them to engage in highly-acclaimed learning apps.
This holds true for offscreen play as well. You don’t need to dictate every activity your child engages in, but it’s good to be cognizant of how they spend the blocks of time where no screen is involved.
Remain a part of the process
Whether you’re helping your child build something from blocks or asking questions about the learning app they’re playing with, your participation matters.
While it can be tempting to let your child “figure it out on their own”, it’s important to remain invested in the process. Ask questions, show your interest, and let your child know that you want to be involved, regardless of what the activity may be. Continue reading “Offscreen vs. Onscreen Learning”
How to prevent bullying in the Pre-K through 3rd Grade Classroom.
When thinking about bullying, I find many parents and teachers immediately gravitate to the image of a middle or high school student showing cruelty to their classmates. In reality, bullying starts much younger than this (as early as Pre-K!). Often, by the time
young children hit their pre-teens their ‘bully’ personalities have already begun to make mischief. This is why it’s so important to teach fairness, sharing, and compassion from an early age.
My experiences with parents and teachers who deal with a bully and bullied children led to the creation of Stanley the Snack Snatcher. This short, compelling story provides teachers and parents with a tool to begin conversations about bullying. In addition, there are a number of strategies teachers can use to prevent bullying in the classroom, including creating a classroom community, involving parents, and keeping an
Create a Classroom Community.
Bullying often stems from kids who are isolated: isolated from their peers, their families, or their communities. One way to prevent bullying is to make sure every student in your classroom feels like a valued member of the classroom community.
There are many ways to do this, but one that many teachers use is a daily circle time with an activity called “Give, Get, Pass.” Each student gets a turn in the circle, and when it is
their turn, they can choose to give a compliment to the classmate of their choice, get a compliment from a classmate of their choice, or simply pass. At first, this activity is very surface level- “I like your clothes. I like your hair,” but with time, grows much more meaningful and really makes each student feel valued. Another circle time activity is a daily share, where one or two students share anything they want- something they did at home, something they’re excited about, something that happened at lunch. Other students actively listen and ask questions about the sharing
The activity itself isn’t as important as the intention behind it; encouraging compassion, understanding, and a safe place to share. Outside of circle time, this community can be emphasized by promoting collaboration and discussion. Showing each child that their opinion is valued, not just by the teacher, but also by their peers, is crucial to building empathy.
No parent wants to hear that their child is bullying or being bullied, but the sooner parents are involved, the better. Teachers should immediately communicate any concerns about bullying to the parents of the bully and the bullied. This can help in two main ways.
First, parents will be able to speak with their children at home. In some cases, this may be all the redirection they need. In doing this, parents have the opportunity to help their child learn empathy and sharing.
Second, parents can often shed light on why bullying might be happening. Perhaps there are changes at home- a new baby, a new job, a new routine. Even small changes can seem drastic to young children, so making sure that teachers and parents are partners with open communication is key.
Keep an open dialogue about bullying. Each child arrives with different experiences, backgrounds, and ideas about their world.
As you guide them through the school year, it’s important to embrace and value these differences. Even more important is maintaining a dialogue around these difference as well as behavioral red flags. Young children often know right from wrong, but it is a lesson that needs to be reinforced. Talk to your class about bully behavior and why it is wrong. Use a book about bullying, like Stanley the Snack Snatcher, to guide your conversation, allowing children to openly share their experiences.
Bullying stops when we begin to value one another’s differences
At the end of the day, I believe it is vital for young children to learn how to value the differences among their peers, maintain a sense of community, and deal with conflict in an empathetic manner.
We all want what is best for our child, and part of this is providing a safe, healthy learning environment filled with mutual respect and trust. By approaching the issue of bullying from an early age, we can cultivate this environment.
Using critical thinking skills to approach cyber security and your preschooler.
With cyber-attacks inundating news reports, cyber security has been on my mind lately – especially when it comes to young children. October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to assess your preschool child’s safety in an increasingly complex digital world. First, let’s talk about what cyber security is. Often, we think of it in terms of our passwords. Long, complex passwords that differ for each of your logins is standard (and recommended. But cyber security as a whole is more in-depth. It’s the protection of an entire ecosystem of digital data on a personal, communal, and national level. For you personally, this can mean protecting everything from your bank account to your child’s school records. Even if your children are young – say in preschool or daycare – there are steps you can take to make sure they are not being exposed to vulnerabilities.
Know where data is being stored. Academic institutions keep a record of their students. Some of these records are still following old-school paper techniques, or are housed on internal databases, but not all. In fact, it’s often more beneficial to keep student records somewhere easily accessible throughout the institution, which often means relying on an internet connection. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a good idea to know how the data is being stored. Once you know what programs are being used, you can verify that the company creating the program has systems in place to keep the data safe.
Know where your child is spending their digital time.
Thanks to tablets and an open marketplace for app development, your child has the potential to be exposed to a mountain of digital educational resources. In many ways, this is a wonderful asset to your child’s academic growth. There are countless games designed for the sole purpose of creating a fun, educational learning environment that can be accessed anywhere. Of course, there is a flip side of the coin. Many apps, when downloaded, require access to personal information. Often within an app, users are exposed to advertisements. Taking the time to check exactly what permissions are being sought out and what is available within the app, will help keep your iPad and your child safe. Talk to your child about cyber security. It may seem like a big topic, but safety in a digital world is a reality of today’s youngest generations. Because of this, it’s crucial to teach them how to approach the Internet in a smart, critical way from an early age. This means keeping an open dialogue. Over the years, your child will be exposed to any number of digital dilemmas, whether they are exposed to cyber bullying, are contacted by someone who seems suspicious, or simply are not sure how to access information in a safe way.
Each of these issues can be tackled through critical thinking skills and an open dialogue. The Internet isn’t something to be feared, but it is something to approach with a healthy dose of caution.
When your young child is constantly distracted by, well, everything, it can be hard to make learning stick. Sometimes it can be difficult just to get their attention long enough to check in with them, let alone introduce a new concept.
While it can be frustrating to have a child who seems constantly preoccupied, it is possible to teach them how to become more adept at compartmentalizing and focusing. This revolves around two key skills: listening and attention.
Honing in on listening skills
Listening skills come into play when students have something they need to remember and focus on. For example, activities that require pattern recognition also require a good amount of focus. If students are seeking out a familiar pattern (ABAB, for instance), they will need to trust in their own ability to focus. If they begin to struggle, they will have to seek help and practice listening to the prompts given to them.
Similarly, memory games help students improve their recall and their ability to retell stories. I’m particularly fond of abstract puzzles, which provide a layer of complexity that often requires the use of listening skills. Putting children in pairs can also help develop this skill.
Finally, you can help your young learner develop listening skills by reading to them. By teaching young learners to recognize and focus on the sounds of the English language they will be more tuned to it. This includes the 44 phonic sounds, rhymes, onomatopoeia, and alliteration. Picture books and beginning chapter books are great starting points. For the particularly distracted child, don’t pressure them to finish the book in one sitting. You can always go back to it or re-read it.
Developing longer attention spans
Help your child increase their attention span by providing them with activities that grab their interest and keep it. For example, if their focus seems to wander when reading books, switch up the genre. By deviating beyond fairy tale stories and including a wider variety, you allow students to find their preferences.
In particular, including books with real-world information will give them a new perspective on reading and digesting information. If your child finds a topic they are particularly enthralled by, encourage their interest
Additionally, critical thinking games and puzzles provide ample opportunities for developing attention spans. Forcing your child to think outside of the box through new topics, classifications, and activities will help them understand and interpret their world in new ways. This often results in a spark of curiosity and interest, leading to longer attention spans.
The benefits of abstract puzzles
Abstract puzzles are a great way to help encourage students to be more focused. As you can see from the video below, when abstract puzzles are introduced into a child’s learning environment it requires both listening skills and a long attention span:
Enrolling your child in preschool can be a major transition. Trusting a stranger with their education and well-being, can be intimidating. Even worse, parents have so many options and face pressure to find the perfect fit.
It’s hard, but you don’t have to worry. With the right approach, you will find the best possible place for your child to learn and grow. There are some simple things you can do to cut down on the stress and make the process easier.