Documenting the journey

Happy Wednesday! ūüôā

If you would like to join the conversation, today we are discussing how documenting a child’s learning journey doesn’t have to be a difficult process. ¬†There are many different ways we can document learning and how much or little detail and time given to any provocation or project depends on the child/ children.¬†

In the above pictures, you see paint, a cat figure and then much more. ūüôā ¬†Setting out paint and paper is a provocation that is common in all early learning programs, it is what most children gravitate towards. ¬†If we just think about how paint includes the full spectrum of colors, it is wet, creamy, glossy, squishy, and you get my point. ¬†I am not the type of teacher to tell children they have to paint or what to paint. ¬†Painting is a very open and expressive way for children to not only de-stress, get inspired, be creative, it is a way for children to show their skill level when they are interested in something and take the¬†time to put their best into their work. ¬†There was no lines or picture for this little girl to follow. ¬†She likes cats and she made the decision to paint one. ¬†Did the picture stay a cat? ¬†No, it continued to evolve with her creativity, exploration, and intense concentration as she continued with her work. ¬†

My documentation for this provocation was, of course, pictures, but I journaled the process to her parents so they could not only see the wonderful artwork as it emerged but so they could gain more understanding of how their child assimilates knowledge in a Reggio inspired environment.  

For the preschool fair last fall, I bought some lovely yellow roses for my display and of course they went right on the table for school the next day. ¬†I put out plain paper and crayons with the bouquet¬†as a provocation. ¬†I did not know if anything similar to the roses was going to emerge, so it was a complete surprise to me when it did! ¬†Prior to this representation of a rose, the drawings were not symbolic, they were still heavy in scribble form. ¬†Apparently, I was not the only one in love with the roses! ūüôā ¬†See how internal motivation and something aesthetically pleasing can bring out such creativity and understanding?! ¬†Once again I not only took pictures, but I typed the process this child went through. ¬†Now, I only chose to use two forms of documentation for these two examples, but there are more ways to document children’s learning journeys.

Documentation is a wonderful way to travel with each child as he/ she begins their learning journeys.  Each step one takes is full of curiosity, explorations, discoveries, experimentations and creativity.  The path each child embarks on is one that encourages each to keep building onto the knowledge they already possess.  The more interested and involved children become in these journeys, the more they strengthen the foundation for all learning.  I want young children to be well prepared for their futures.  However, I also want to make sure that I am honoring each child as a human being that needs time to use play as their vehicle.  Documenting this process requires me to listen to their words, their  dialogue, and watch their play patterns.  I can take pictures, video, write their words, type their discussions, map out their plans and the process each takes when creating something new.  Then not only myself but the children and their families can look back on the process and be as happy and proud of their children as I am!  

Young children have so much intelligence that can be tapped into if we only stop pushing harsh worksheets and structured academics onto them.  Respecting the developmental journey each child has ahead of him/ her means valuing play and documenting along with the child the entire learning process.  Why?  Because children are our precious future and they will carry the world ahead of us.  So why not respect, value and care for them as intelligent and capable human beings.

Please like, share and keep the conversations going!  Read my previous blogs so you can see how this conversation is emerging!  Thank you for stopping by!

Heidi Scott, BA & MIT

The Marigold School of Early Learning

The Third Teacher?

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101_5647¬†Today’s discussion will revolve around the classroom as a “third teacher”. ¬†Having a preschool that is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to education, I have reflected and enjoyed the many years of learning how the classroom is like a third teacher. If any of you have ideas, thoughts, and experiences around this topic please join in the discussion! ūüôā ¬†Also keep in mind that large spaces and small spaces will have some things in common, yet many other things that are not common.

101_5681Obviously as a teacher I was trained and have years of experience setting up classrooms and using those spaces to support learning. ¬†However, it wasn’t until I started learning more about the Reggio Emilia approach that I really took a good hard look at the teaching spaces both students and myself occupied. Once I really observed and set about reorganizing and shifting these spaces I was able to understand¬†how the classroom itself could be another teacher supporting the learning of children. ¬†Trial and error is the best way to put it really. ¬†I spent a lot of time moving furniture and creating spaces for the children to engage in. ¬†After seeing the children function in those areas I would know what to keep the same or change. ¬†You’re¬†right if you are thinking I changed more than kept the same. Our adult minds can only plan so far in advance for how children will respond to the learning environment, so the absolutely best way is to pay close attention to how the room set up works with and for the children. ¬†When I would see things not working for them and spaces not being used or cutting off inquiry and exploration, I would take all the information I’d gathered from observing the children at play and make some functional changes. ¬†

101_5471Creating my own preschool has allowed me to put to practice what I’ve been developing in my mind all these years. ¬†I am happy that my classroom will change with each group of children that comes through. ¬†My environment is a “third teacher” because I love putting the children’s learning needs ahead of my own desire for how the room should be. ¬†I change or keep things the same based on the patterns of play. ¬†If the room is not being fully used I change the provocations, move some of the materials to different interest areas and of course keep things the same for spaces that have been working for the children. ¬†Fortunately, the materials are very clear to see and easily accessible for children to find and use, so the classroom does get used in its entirety.¬†¬†

cropped-101_4757.jpgAnother aspect of the classroom being a third teacher falls under the category of too many materials and wall decor contributing to overstimulation, while less is not as overwhelming and more conducive to learning. ¬†I have found that children do much better in clean, well organized, and aesthetically¬†pleasing environments than they do in clutter-filled rooms with way too many materials and wall decor. ¬†So I’ve made sure to keep the materials that are out and available to children at a minimal¬†so that they do not get as overwhelmed as they normally would in a more traditional program with bright primary colors everywhere. (I don’t know about you, but when I go outdoors, shopping or am at home, I am not bombarded with primary colors in all directions like most traditional preschools and elementary schools.)

101_5961Keep in mind that when young children come to school for the first time or change school environments the entire process can be very overwhelming for young minds. ¬†It does take a couple of weeks for some personalities to adjust to any learning environment. ¬†The ¬†first thought most of us teachers have when we see a child overwhelmed and not able to choose a space and engage in that area for long enough to actually go through the inquiry and investigation process, is to guide that child and in essence tell them where they should explore first, second and so on. ¬†Basically, control how they assimilate the new information they have been hit with. ¬†Yet that would be awful for that child because that child needs time to explore in the only way a young developing mind can. ¬†Young children are not adults and they operate differently than we do. ¬†They have energy!! ¬†They have the capacity to assimilate quite a bit of information by moving quickly through new spaces and trying out everything they want. ¬†It is through this process that they are able to learn how to plan, make decisions, question, explore and engage in projects and interact with peers. ¬†A young child’s mind needs a couple of weeks of consistent class time to allow their brain to transform from the assimilation of new information. ¬†Once the child has been through this haphazard approach he/ she is able to slow themselves and become more engrossed in the areas of interst each choses. ¬†So we can gain a lot from each other!

101_5963The environment as a third teacher is very helpful when children are becoming accustomed to new situations. As I’ve observed children in the beginning phase of taking in this new space, I have been able to gain information about those children’s interests, believe it or not, so I can set up provocations the next day that may entice each to spend a little more time in certain areas than they would have during this period of time in which they were acquiring new knowledge. ¬†Last school year I had a little student become super energized and excited to explore every inch of the classroom, but once this child gained all the knowledge from rapid explorations she settled right into planning the areas she enjoyed engaging in first , second and so forth. And as a teacher inspired by the Reggio Emilia process, I was so happy to learn from her as she went through this journey. ¬†I have observed many other children during this assimilation phase being treated as though they have either a learning disability or behavioral issue. ¬†And that makes me so frustrated because this phase is normal development and most of the human population actually did go through this either at home, a friends house, at school and most definitely if they moved to a new city. ¬†The duration in which children go through this phase of rapid and haphazard assimilation is different for each child, but please know this is absolutely normal and perfectly okay! ¬†

101_5682How has your teaching or understanding of children changed since using your classroom as a third teacher? ¬†How has your perception’s of your children changed as parents using your home as a third teacher? ¬†Please comment, like and share! ¬†Let’s keep these conversations going! ūüôā

Heidi Scott, BA & MIT

The Marigold School of Early Learning! ūüôā

 

 

Summer to Autumn

101_6083¬†The month of September often is bittersweet¬†due to the summer season ending and the autumn approaching. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, I love autumn, but it is always a bit sad when the warmer summer months leave. ¬†The hydrangea I have in my yard is one of my favorite flowers because it has two lives. The purple flower is a nice summer bloom, while the green and red,¬†is a second life for the beginning of autumn.

101_6082 The purple is more a plum with undertones of red, rather than blue.  Next year I would love to plant a new hydrangea with the proper soil to turn the flowers a lovely deep and rich blue.  These flowers have such a long life and make wonderful arrangements.  You can dry them easily and they keep their autumn color really well.  The summer color does fade quite rapidly if you try to dry the summer blooms, though.

101_6086¬†If you have hydrangeas please share some of your pics! ¬†I would love to see how lovely yours are too! ūüôā

Heidi Scott, BA & MIT

The Marigold School of Early Learning

 

 

Projects and the Role of the Teacher

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The next part of the discussion I would like to address concerns provocations that turn to projects and the role of the teacher in a Reggio Emilia inspired early learning environment. ¬†My prior blogs revolve around provocations, challenges, and a few other things that relate to how children learn in developmentally appropriate ways. ¬† Once again I invite anyone who is involved in young children’s lives to please join the conversation and share your Reggio Emilia inspired teaching and learning journeys.

101_5967Provocations, as I ‘ve stated before, are invitations to learn, to challenge, to stretch children’s minds. ¬†Sometimes children will decide to engage in those provocations and other times he/ she may choose not to involve themselves at that time. ¬†When one or more children choose to engage in a provocation multiple layers of developmental understanding occurs. ¬†For some children, the provocation is a one time experience and they may only scratch the surface of the concepts before them. ¬†At the same time, there are children that will take that provocation and add other materials, ideas and enlist the help of classmates to further their learning. ¬†These children may create more of a challenge for themselves as they turn a provocation into a project.¬†

101_5650I’ve stated before that projects can be for one child, two, three, a small group or the entire class. ¬†It really depends on the interest level of the children. ¬†When a provocation emerges into a project, multiple layers of learning begin to take place and what children learn depends on their developmental level, interest and how much they are willing to accept their peers’ influences. ¬†Remember that each child brings their own portfolio of knowledge with them as they enter the classroom. ¬†Children learn from children because each is a unique individual full of life experiences that enabled them to possess¬†knowledge that is not exactly the same as each other. ¬† As a teacher my role is to support, bring more information to the table, keep their ideas fresh and remind them of what their goals are. ¬†And as I document the children’s journey through this project I am better able to assist them or challenge them along the way.

101_6007I’m reminded through the Reggio Emilia approach that my role as a teacher is not to directly tell the children what to do, but rather scaffold, to assist the children and further their understanding. ¬†I must be a constant support and not a hindrance to their learning journey through this project of theirs. ¬†It can be really hard as a teacher if you are not used to stepping back and allowing children the freedom to follow through with their own ideas. ¬†However, once you get the hang of it, stepping back enables you to be better at documenting each step of the project the children work on. ¬†Documentation allows me as a teacher to not only understand where each child is at developmentally, but it informs me of where I need to add my support and scaffold new information onto the base of knowledge that already exists. ¬†It allows me to also, find different ways to enable the children to challenge themselves ¬†and keep them on track with their plans. ¬†We must always remember that young children’s attention spans are long if they possess a¬†strong interest in what they are engaged in. ¬†Younge children have shorter attention spans in general due to their minds still developing and the many detailed life experiences they are a part of every day. ¬†As a teacher, I can keep their ideas out in the open and help them continue with their project.

101_0676Documenting children’s learning journeys is a process that involves different mediums and a creative mind to see how to implement all the forms I want. ¬†I love taking pictures because the pictures can¬†tell a wonderful story of how the children are learning. ¬†I also enjoy typing or writing down their words, their discussions, because the topics children talk about give me so much more insight into what they are thinking and planning and where each child is at with their development in terms of understanding the core aspects of the project that has emerged through their interest. ¬†Documenting enables me as a teacher to not only support children as learning emerges from their efforts, but it holds me accountable for the emergent curriculum that I implement based on the children’s interests and levels of development. ¬†Documentation is a form of assessment and it is a great tool to help me, the teacher learn and grow as an educator and at the same time supports each child as he/ she travels along this early learning journey.

101_5663*Tell me what types of provocations you’ve set out and whether they turned into projects too. ¬†What forms of documentation do you enjoy and which forms have you found more challenging to implement? ¬†Share this blog post and help continue this topic of discussion. ¬†

Thank you for stopping by¬†The Marigold School of Early Learning! ūüôā

 

Projects & Literacy

101_5385¬†! ūüôā

I would like to keep an open discussion going surrounding aspects of the Reggio Emilia approach to early education.  If you want to join in this conversation I would love to read your thoughts too!  Also, check out my other two blog posts so you can join in those conversations as well.

101_3132¬†Children have a lot to express and they do this in many ways, however, one way in particular is their emerging ability to tell stories. ¬†Stories can be real life experiences they have lived through or upcoming events they are excited about. ¬†Stories can also be make-believe experiences based off of books that have been read to them, movies they’ve seen, or other people’s experiences they’ve listened to. Most recently a little boy was talking about how he had climbed a small tree and that he really wanted to climb trees that were taller. ¬†A little girl next to him was a bit younger and took the experience she just heard and reworked it to fit her own “story”. ¬†In essence, she took what she heard and made it her own. ¬†Now some may say she was copying and possibly lying, but that is not what she was doing. She was using a relatable experience to practice her story-telling skills and it did not matter if the facts in her version were the same or different. ¬†Retelling life events whether a child ¬†has experienced it himself/herself or ones they’ve heard about are all part of literacy development and a way for children to try out life roles they have yet to engage in themselves.

101_5515  Do you provide areas where your students or your children can flourish in their creativity on writing projects?  I call them writing projects because when I scribe for a child the story they are telling me continues to change shape.  One day we will be discussing a dragon and the next day a bear.  Sometimes my role is all about  questioning because I start asking specific questions to keep the child thinking about the story they told me.  What happens next?  What color was the dragon?  Where was the dragon going?  Who is this bear you mention?  Where did the bear come from?  Does the bear live next to the dragon?  I do not ask all these types of questions at once, but I rather listen and insert them when I see the child needs some support with this project of theirs.  

101_5650¬†Stories children would like written down can easily be turned into projects¬†because they can be revisited as often or as little as a child’s interest in them happens to be. ¬†And sometimes through one of these creative stories the concepts are transferred to other interest areas. ¬†Then the story is no longer just one child’s, it becomes a part of the group and together we can meet and discuss how we are going to take elements of the story and make them “real”. ¬†Projects that emerge like this one take just as much time as any project that involves other children would. ¬†

100_8986Projects like stories the children come up with do not have to be long term, they can be short. ¬†Projects also can be for only one child, two, three or a group. ¬†It really depends on the interests of each child and what that child would like to contribute. ¬†How a project emerges changes from child to child and there are only a few elements or frameworks that I like to use as a way to organize and guide children when I see they need the support. ¬†And remember we want to stretch children’s minds, so they keep learning new information and building onto what they already know. ¬†So teaching children how to organize and plan their projects respects the capabilities each child has for learning. ¬†And yes, preschool aged children can and do work quite effectively in cooperative group situations. ¬†In some cases, the skills they have mastered prior to elementary school are more advanced due the children being enabled to act on their own ideas and abilities. ¬†Again, my role is that of facilitator, support, challenge, mentor and learner. ¬†My role changes to fit the needs of the children and that makes it possible for their learning to be uninterrupted and flow continuously instead of being stopped and started based on an adult’s ideas of what they should be doing at the ages of three, four or five.

101_5675When we take the¬†time to listen, respect and cultivate a child’s interests amazing things emerge! ¬†The term “academic” is not used appropriately most of the time. ¬†Children are engaged in academic learning the moment they notice their surroundings. ¬†Concepts of math, science, literacy, art¬†and social studies actually do enter a child’s mind in the early years; just not in such formal or rigid ways. ¬†The way those “academic” concepts actually influence children depends on if we as adults are listening, watching and being sensitive to young children’s desires to learn. ¬†If we allow children to tell stories, engage in their own projects and invite others to join, we are assisting young children during a time when they are most excited about life!

What do you think? ¬†Are you a teacher or parent that supports your young child’s desires to learn? ¬†Do you enjoy learning along with your students or children? ¬†Let me know and share your words! ūüôā

Thank you for stopping by The Marigold School of Early Learning!

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Reggio Provocations, creativity and the zone of proximal development

101_5964¬†¬†Earlier in the week, I posted a blog about having an open discussion centered around the broad topic of provocations. ¬†Provocations, of course, stem from the Reggio Emilia approach. To continue with this discussion, I would like to talk about not only provocations¬†but the growing and evolving role of creativity and the “zone of proximal development”, a term coined by Lev Vygotsky.

I am a teacher inspired, changed and constantly growing in my understanding of how young minds learn.  I attribute this to learning about the Reggio Emilia approach several years ago.  Before I learned of this branch of constructivism, I was much more close-minded and rigid in my view of education in general and of what capacity young children were capable of in terms of learning for understanding.  Since opening my own preschool and being able to fully take advantage of the fact that I can implement as much or as little of this philosophy as I wish, has made me appreciate how much I love this approach to education and how I am constantly learning by implementing aspects of the Reggio approach.

101_5979 Provocations are not glorified activities.  They are not cute things set up just to look at.  Provocations are invitations to learn, to question, to explore, to gain new knowledge while utilizing the information a child already possesses.  Provocations also can rely on the child working alongside a peer with more knowledge on the particular provocation that is set up.  For example, one of my students knew how to use American sign language, so she was able to teach me the appropriate way to sign her name and other words familiar to her.  I was the learner and she was the teacher, the peer in this instance in which I learned from and gained new knowledge from.  I used knowledge, I had of sign language, but it was limited compared to her capacity since she was born using this form of communication.  A provocation such as, the picture above was an invitation to learn for not only me but any student that wanted to learn more about American sign language.  It was also an opportunity for another child to become the teacher and together we worked so that my capacity for understanding grew.  However, her capacity for learning sign language also grew, because she became more interested in furthering her vocabulary as a result.

My continual goal for my preschool is that it grows and changes with each student that walks through the doors. ¬†By taking into account each child’s unique capabilities and limitless capacity for learning I can set up provocations that not only grab their attention¬†but enable each child to take on roles that are not usually strong in traditional preschool classrooms. ¬†Children have diverse capabilities and each contains knowledge on subjects that others may not possess, so why not use provocations as a vehicle to allow each child to become either a “teacher” or “student” while interacting together. ¬†Why not continually use my knowledge as a teacher to stretch each child’s capacity for understanding? ¬†I love challenging children in ways that neither I nor they ever thought of. ¬†And guess what? ¬†We all benefit from this wonderfully social way of teaching and learning!

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Creativity is my next topic that fits into everything we do. ¬†Creativity is not one skill that fits neatly into the subject of art. ¬†Creativity is a part of how human beings make things happen. ¬†We use creativity to form new theories, to experiment, to construct, to use and to gain new understandings. ¬†Creativity is an innate part of being human. ¬†Children utilize creativity in both a more open, expressive and unique form and in a more unorganized, haphazard and unrefined way. ¬†I say this because we all know that young children are still developing in many different physical and cognitive ways, so their approach is not going to be polished and refined such as older children, and adults. ¬†Creativity fits nicely into any provocation or project because children use this form of expression to understand what they are dealing with. ¬†In the pictures above, I included examples of different areas in which creativity is the main part. ¬†When using recyclable materials creativity is vital to how a child will gain new insight. ¬†Recycled materials are items that were used for a different purpose at first and are now free to be used any which way a child can come up with. ¬†By incorporating other known objects into the provocation I am stretching that child’s current understanding and communicating that I trust he/ she is capable of using these materials in a new and maybe better way.

Setting up blocks with fairies was not enough for one child. ¬†This child needed the geoboards as well. ¬†The fairies were going to use the blocks as furniture and the geo-boards were to be movie screens. ¬†This provocation was an invitation that took on a more complex form and what followed was this child dramatized how she behaves when she is at the movies. ¬†This particular provocation¬†could have stayed with using two materials, blocks and fairies, but it evolved through this child’s own ideas and knowledge. ¬†Creativity was vital for this to happen. ¬†Creativity was the vehicle in which this idea was allowed to take off.

101_5168¬†As we all know painting is one of the very best and most recognizable in terms of creativity. ¬†As long as there are no pre-cut shapes and lines to stay within, children are enabled to be as creative as they wish. ¬†The colors, the feel, the temperature, the paper, and paint brushes are all very recognizable and much-used materials in creative expressions. ¬†Color exploration is one of the first things I notice children enjoying. ¬†Discovering that blue and yellow make green is so exciting to see happen for the first time! ¬†Another aspect that opens the mind and is very captivating is being able to feel the cool, shiny and wet paint. ¬†The texture, the tactile experience alone can invoke creativity in a child. ¬†This is not a waste of time! ¬†Children’s minds are opened to so much more understandings if they are allowed to explore paint and color without the close-ended coloring books and worksheets that are so often the staple and “proof of learning” in more traditional preschool programs. ¬†In the picture above a three-year-old formed a cat on a blank piece of paper with no lines to follow, no adult assisting and only her imagination and love of cats. ūüôā¬†

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My last category for this posting is “the zone of proximal development”. ¬†Children come to school having knowledge, they actually are not empty sponges soaking up everything once they start school. ¬†When a child has knowledge of a topic it doesn’t matter how much or how little the child knows, what matters is that the knowledge they already possess becomes the platform onto which more information can be obtained. ¬†The process of gaining new information and learning happens when peers, adults, and the environment are utilized as pieces of information to construct with. ¬†A child will learn and be competent in anything he or she desires or anything they are required to know as they grow, however, that process is assisted by those who can impart knowledge, can assist, can support the need for new information for understanding. ¬†Learning only happens when we as human beings interact with people and the environment. ¬†And most importantly, where your child learns must be positive, kind, empathetic, and safe for that child to continue to have the internal and external motivation to learn.

An environment that does not respect children, their capacity to learn, their¬†emotional sensitivities and their interests,¬†is not supporting “the zone of proximal development”. ¬†When we want to learn something new, we turn to other resources, whether that be books, articles, classes, online information, friends, family or strangers. ¬†We are supported in doing so because as adults it is expected of us and we are supported in positive ways most of the time, in doing these things. The same positive and supportive environments should be 100% available to young children too.

101_5663¬†Tell me your thoughts on provocations, creativity and the zone of proximal development. ¬†I would love to engage in this topic more with anyone who has the time, experience and interest! ūüôā

Thank you for stopping by The Marigold School of Early Learning! ūüôā

 

 

Literacy, a different approach

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Literacy is a natural part of a child’s development. ¬†Children want to understand the letter symbols they see us adults utilizing every day. ¬†They want to unlock that mystery and become readers too. ¬†Setting up interest areas and provocations containing literacy all support children’s need to understand this abstract concept. ¬†I have two jars with capital and lowercase stamp letters. ¬†Small ones like these are great for small hands to use with ease. ¬†

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The alphabet is a staple in learning and every child will learn all about these abstract symbols as they interact with their peers, their environment,¬†and the teacher during their school journey. ¬†The way in which it is introduced does not have to follow the traditional letter of a week format. ¬†Each child is at a different point of understanding with literacy development. ¬†Each child enters the classroom with a portfolio of words they know and recognize and those vary from child to child. ¬†And every child has their own interests, so learning the letters as a whole and not so isolated is a developmentally appropriate¬†way in which children learn their letters. ¬†Think of it as another approach to teaching and learning that supports a child’s early years of literacy foundational development.

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When a child has an experience or story to tell me, I become their scribe, I write their words for them. They see me, model writing each time and they are an interactive part of the process. ¬†Every child I have taught in this way makes sure I write exactly what they say, so they are very interested in writing and pay close attention. ¬†I read back what they’ve said to me and each child adds more to the piece of work. ¬†The stories or experiences I scribe can become short one time pieces or pieces in which the child returns to for illustrations or more of the story or experience. ¬†The very act of sharing and retelling a story or experience is an interest in literacy and is part of the process in which children assimilate and form an¬†understanding of letters, and how they create words. ¬†No, they do not understand all the mechanics¬†yet, but the base, the foundation is being built. Every time I scribe for a child, or they interact with a literacy provocation the literacy foundation becomes stronger and more complex. ¬†Yes, complex.

Learning letters and how to read is not a one-time process or a shoe that fits all. Learning the alphabet and how letters have individual sounds and form words is a complex process that takes years to develop. ¬†I see too many traditional programs touting how their worksheets and letters of the week enabled the kids to read quickly. ¬†That is just not true. ¬†There is a much more complex cognitive process taking place in each child’s brain as they grow and learn, that enables them to be able to write and read. ¬†The more exposure to the alphabet the more a child understands what each letter means. ¬†However, that is a process that takes years and a lot of the learning for understanding comes directly from the child’s life experiences and interest.¬†

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The literacy interest areas and provocations I set up are diverse ways in which I attract a child’s attention to enable them to learn the alphabet, about letters, sounds, words, and the meanings behind words. ¬†Each time I evaluate my curriculum the curriculum emerges with that child’s level of understanding and interest. ¬†I provide many static opportunities for children to continue to expose themselves to letters. ¬†Their interest is natural and appropriate. ¬†And with a mixed age class of children, I make sure that the provocations and interest areas I set up are open so they enable each child to interact at the level they understand. When a child is interested in looking at and talking about the alphabet that is wonderful and again shows their internal interest to learn how to decode, decipher those symbols they observe us adults using. ¬†

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I do not believe in pushing children when they are not ready. ¬†I believe in supporting children’s internal desires to understand letter symbols. ¬†Challenging their abilities has to be in a way that doesn’t tip the equilibrium too far to the north or south. ¬†Young children should be challenged in a way that they can actually work to meet that challenge. ¬†If the child feels the task is too difficult he/ she feels hopeless, incapable and anxiety emerges. ¬†If a child can handle the task and face the challenge that means not only was the challenge appropriate for them, but they were developmentally ready for the challenge to learn new information. Both a mixture of internal and external motivation are factors that played a role in that child gaining more understanding of the alphabet. ¬†

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Praise is also something that I only do if a child shows me he/ she has worked hard and are proud of their own work.  When children are praised all the time or at a time when they do not feel the work they did is good enough for their standards, the praise is meaningless and can sway a child away from their interest in literacy.  So I like to pay attention to the facial expressions, words, and body language of each child before I praise their efforts. 

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I also like to add quality picture books to my classroom to keep children interested and continually questioning. ¬†I love the library for its huge range of children’s literature and on occasion, I add a permanent title to my collection. ¬†Reading stories is one of the absolutely best ways to keep children interested in literacy or to get the mind interested in learning about the alphabet! ¬†Discussions about letters have often happened as a result of quality stories and attractive pictures. ¬†Discussions about letters is also a huge part of how children form the foundation for literacy development. ¬†Please never think that when you are discussing the way letters look or feel, that that is a waste of time! ¬†It most certainly is not a waste of time! ¬†Any interest in letters a child shows is that child communicating a need and readiness to understand this complex and abstract concept.

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One more factor in how children assimilate an understanding of the alphabet and words is every time they ride in the car and see store adds and signs. ¬†Every time they ask you what that says, they are showing and communicating a desire to learn literacy. ¬†Support your child when he/she shows interest because they are telling you that at that moment their brains are ready to learn this specific information. ūüôā

Heidi Scott, BA & MIT

The Marigold School of Early Learning