Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dr. Ellaine Miller: Trusting Relationships for Young Children

I am so excited to be a part of the PreK + K Sharing blog!

I am a first time blogger and hail from the south.
I live in LaGrange, Georgia, and root for the University of Georgia Bulldogs while working as the managing director of the Family Child Care Partnerships (FCCP) program at Auburn University. I have been married to my husband Peter for 20 years and am mother to Charles, almost 18, and MaryAynne 14. On my personal time I enjoy volunteering as our church youth leader, a Girl Scout leader, and as the local ballet guild president. This is a very busy time for us with a senior in high school making his way to be out in the world soon as well as a star in the making who is involved in numerous holiday performances as a dancer and singer.

As Managing Director for FCCP, I supervise and oversee all personnel and programming for a state-wide professional development program for licensed family child care providers in Alabama. We offer in-home mentoring services that support providers in their efforts to enhance the quality of care they offer with an eye toward national accreditation (through the National Association for Family Child Care). I also enjoy being an NAFCC accreditation council member, part of the first cohort of Alabama Early Care and Education Leadership Academy, and a trainer for the Alabama Early Learning Guidelines.
I have a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies from Auburn University and received training and expertise in attachment theory and quality environments and relationships both during my graduate school experiences as well as on the job with FCCP.  I am often consulted about challenges the mentoring staff have with adults who resist change as well as challenges staff and clients have with children who “misbehave.” I am excited to be able to share information with all of you about how to deal with challenges from adults and children in your lives.
I am passionate about the quality of caregiving and environments for young children. I spend most of my time providing programming, assistance, and support in the realms of adult-child relationships, interpersonal skills for adults (adult-adult and adult-child), children’s challenging behaviors and adult responses to them, the science and mechanisms of change, and recently healthy habits for children and caregivers (focusing on active play and proper nutrition). My practices are grounded in attachment theory, and I work from an attachment and brain development perspective.
I look forward to being able to provide the blog with insights and information and best practices for working with infants and toddlers, challenging children, and even challenging adults. I find that when a person understands the typically developing child and knows what to expect at each age and stage, it is easier to provide quality interactions and experiences and create a secure relationship with that child.
My “news you can use” tidbit today is to provide consistent, warm, responsive, nurturing caregiving that meets the needs of the child which will create a long-lasting trusting relationship. When this pattern of caregiving is offered during the first 18 months of a child’s life, s/he will develop a trust for adults and those who meet his/her needs that will last a lifetime. When this pattern of caregiving is not offered during the first 18 months of life, distrust is formed and influences all future relationships that child has.
For more in-depth information about Attachment, please access this article:
I look forward to our interaction here and welcome your comments and questions.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bill Corbett: The Dr. Phil of Parenting

Hello fellow bloggers and blog readers, I’m so glad to be here and to learn from, and to share with, all of you.  I am first and foremost a loving husband, a father of 3 grown children, a grandfather to a 10 year old girl and a 12 year old boy, and step dad to two grown boys and a 13 year old girl.  I love what I do and love to have fun doing it.  I am also the author of the award winning parenting book series, “Love, Limits, & Lessons: A Parent’s Guideto Raising Cooperative Kids” in English and in Spanish.  I love babies (the fuzzy ones too - see photo), children, tweens, and even teens.  But most important, as a behavior specialist, my passion lies with helping caregivers better understand why their children behave the way they do.  Once I am able to develop this understanding, parents, grandparents, step parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, teachers, and anyone else who helps to raise and care for children, are more likely to be successful in raising happy, confident, and cooperative children.

Teaching a Parenting Class

As a parenting instructor and coach for nearly 20 years, I developed the LOVE, LIMITS, & LESSONS® parent education program and created the organization COOPERATIVE KIDS as a vehicle for bringing that program to more families.  As author John W. Whitehead once said, children are the living messages that we send to a time we will not see.  So I say, why not ensure the message we are creating is one that will allow our children to reach their full potential, discover their purpose in life, and then arrive at that purpose on schedule.

Alfred Adler (1870 - 1937)
So what makes me different from all of the other parent educators out there and how does my message help create children who will more likely find their purpose in life?  That difference is that I’m called an Adlerian… someone who is inspired by the teachings of the amazing “Father of Individual Psychology” himself, Alfred Adler.  An Adlerian believes that inside of every child is a social and emotional spirit that has so much to express, and that all behavior (both positive and challenging) is simply a demonstration of that expression of a need (or in some cases, an unmet need).  Once the adult is able to interpret that expression and provide appropriate opportunities to satisfy what the child is seeking, there is little or no need for that child to act out in challenging ways.  What I do is teach adults how to interpret what they see in a child’s behavior and then know what to do about it.

Today, I produce and host a parenting television show that brings my unique methodology to more families everywhere.  They call me the “Dr. Phil of Parenting” and the show is called CREATING COOPERATIVE KIDS.  It is currently airing on the public access channel in nearly 100 communities from Boston to Pittsburgh and we’re adding new stations all the time.  Because the show can be seen online, my audience is expanding daily.

I look forward to contributing to this great blog each month and meeting so many great bloggers and readers alike.  You can learn more about me and read my own blog at  You’ll also find me on Twitter at billcorbett99, on Facebook at, and you can download my podcasts for free on iTunes.  I hope you’ll let me know how I can help you on your parenting journey.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Erin Wing: Creating a Print-Rich Home

Hello to the PreK + K Sharing community! I’m so honored and excited to be a part of this fabulous new blog collaboration!

I’m Erin Wing, a mom of three boys, (ages 3, 5 and 8), and a former teacher with ten years of experience in the elementary grades. I blog at, where I share simple ideas to help parents create literacy rich homes. I began blogging as a way to exercise my "teacher brain" while home with my own kids; by finding new ways to instill in my children a love for literacy learning, and by collaborating and sharing those ideas with other parents.

I’m passionate about...
I’ll chime in here at PreK + K on those topics, and I look forward to hanging out with this amazing community of early childhood fans!

See you next month!  In the meantime, you can always find me on Pinterest.  (And sometimes on Facebook and Twitter too.)  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Leeanne: Kreative-Resources

Hi my name is Leeanne – I live in Canada - this is my story.           

As a child I was the one in the neighbourhood who wanted to play school, I pretended to be a librarian, and I made crests to present to the children who skated in my back yard, for a job well done. I loved to be in a position where I could mentor and teach other children. I guess I always had the role of a teacher deep in my soul. At age 12 I volunteered as a local Recreational Camp Councilor, which then led to becoming a developmental assistant, with special needs teens and adults. I was lucky enough to get a job as a Residential Service Worker and special needs ‘in home’ Family Councilor by the time I was 18 years old.  I went to college to get my diploma as a Developmental Service Worker, and at the same time I married my first husband and had two wonderful children.
At this time I was presented with many family challenges. Topping the list, my son was born with autism and some medical difficulties. My job became my life and the stress of a 24 hour a day job dealing with special needs took me on a different path for awhile. I created my own home business and I became a Cultural Program Developer and was lucky enough to have my program published and distributed worldwide through a prominent International Karate Association. Through this time I also volunteered with the Girl Guides of Canada as a ‘Leader in charge’ and Area Commissioner.
It seems as though my life has taken many different paths – dependant on the situation of my life at the time. I had to make another job choice after nursing my parents for a few years until their passing.
I decided I wanted to have a job where I could feel happy on a daily basis – hence my decision to go into Early Childhood Education. I supervised a before and after school program in a local public school, at the same time I worked full time in a Preschool classroom. It was a long day, but enjoyable. I loved using my creativity and interacting with the children and their families. Then the government decided they would change all the rules for anyone working in childcare – we all have to have our ECE diploma and register with the newly created, ‘College of Early Childhood Education’. Despite my more than 30 years of working with children and their families, and my ‘Developmental Service Worker’ diploma, I had to go back to school and get that ECE diploma. I worked full time in a preschool and toddler room, while going to college each night for 3 years. My social life was put on a backburner, but I got that diploma – with honours! During this time I got remarried to a wonderfully supportive man with strong convictions and a level head – he kept me steadfast on my path to success.
I now work as a Lead Toddler Teacher in a Montessori school, where I implement both Montessori and emergent ECE curriculum. I have been able to use my creativity, developmental skills, experience and my ECE expertise. I am more than happy there and I hope to stay a long time.

Here's my recent post on creating an "Eye-Spy" jar for winter exploration..... created from an excursion to the dollar store. Click here to see the whole article.

Here's another of my DIY (do-it-yourself) projects. Click here to see how I created this project and how much the kiddos loved it!

Here's one more invitation to look over my shoulder. Click here to see my DIY for color recognition and color matching, which doubles as a fine motor exercise.

You can find me by clicking here to go to my blogat Kreative Activities and on Facebook my fanpage is Kreative-Resources and look here for my Pinterest collection.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It's a Jungle Out There (in kindergarten, that is)

I am so honored to be a part of this new blog! 
Sometimes being a kindergarten teacher, you feel like you are an entity of your own.  Even when conferences, activities, and workshops say they are created for K-3, you know that it really won't be pertain to you and your grade level if you teach K.  This is because most of your students come to you not being able to read, not being able to write and, often, not knowing how to appropriately socialize and interact in a group of 20+ children with only one adult overseeing.  It is a huge job to do, but someone has to do it and it might as well be me, someone who loves the challenge!
Here I am with one of my beanies from last year!
My name is Krissy Miner and I am a kindergarten teacher (for 12 years and counting).
  Is it easy? 
Absolutely not, but the challenge is what makes it all worth it in the end.
There is no other grade level that the students leave demonstrating as much growth as they do from start to finish in kindergarten.  Some come with little to no letter knowledge and leave, wait for it...
(oh, and sitting still for longer than 15 minutes)

Writing a book "about the ABCs".  Look, he has

 If that isn't amazing to anyone with connections to education, I would say that nothing is. I can't say that I agree wholeheartedly with the standards expected of these little beanies at such a young age, but they are what they are and I can say wholeheartedly that they are more than capable of achieving these expectations with lots of nurturing, accountability and believing in them.
As an author at PreK and K Sharing, I am devoted to bringing you the latest trials, tribulations and, of course, the celebrations straight from the jungle of Mrs. Miner's Monkey Business.  I would love to address specific questions and concerns about kindergarten from parents or beginning teachers in my postings here since it is all about SHARING, right?
Take a peek in my classroom (this was right before the kids joined me this year--it all goes to pieces once that happens!  You know the saying, "Excuse the mess, there's learning going on here."):
I would love for all of you to hop over to my blog to see what's going on there where I post regularly about kindergarten happenings.
Until next time,
Krissy Miner

Friday, November 25, 2011

Danny Brassell, PhD: Reading

What Parents Need to Know About Raising Readers

Welcome to my first blog for “PreK + K Sharing.” I look forward to interacting with you, as I am passionate about helping parents, teachers and administrators create a lifelong passion for reading in children. I'm Danny Brassell, broadcasting to you from California. I'm excited to be part of this collaboration and look forward to your comments and questions.

Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook, says that giving a kid a passion for reading is like giving a kid a head cold: you cannot give it, if you do not have it. So parents need to understand that the best way to encourage their children to read is to read with and in front of their children as much as possible. It does not take a rocket scientist to raise a reader. All any child needs is a caring parent who is present. Here are some quick tips for parents to encourage their children’s reading development:

  • Sound crazy? In one study researchers asked women in the last trimester of their pregnancies to repeatedly read aloud Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat. Once the babies in the study were born, they demonstrated the ability to distinguish rhyming passages from Dr. Seuss from another book without rhymes. Translation: it is never too early to read aloud to children.
  • By the way – babies are naturally attached to their mothers because, among other reasons, they hear their mothers talking. Be an active parent and talk to your baby so she is familiar with you before she is born.
  • Share books that your infant can “man-handle.” These include board books (those made of thicker cardboard), vinyl books and those made out of cloth. Keep in mind that a lot of infants get their first “taste” of reading by literally putting books in their mouths.
  • Whenever the time, read books that rhyme. And babies think it’s neat, when their parents repeat.

  • As toddlers can have a limited attention span, it is a good idea to pick out short reading passages. Nursery rhymes, poems and fables are ideal.
  • Share picture books with limited text and encourage toddlers to tell their own stories based on the pictures.

  • Movement sells. For example, if you read a book that features a thunderstorm, encourage your child to pat his thighs.
  • Ham it up. Don’t be afraid to look foolish and laugh with your child by using different voices as you read stories together.

  • Make reading the reward instead of movies, candy and video games by treating your child to library visits, new books from the bookstore, etc.
  • Whenever possible, connect stories that you and your child read with experiences from your own lives.
Now, I understand this blog is meant primarily to address PreK + K needs, but just to add some food for thought, I’d like to include a few more tips for early elementary school students:

First Graders
  • If television is an inevitable part of your child’s life, make a rule that your child must bring you a book to read before watching any television programs. When the television is on, turn on the closed-captioning so your child still sees print.
  • Reading is not just books. Supply children with newspapers, magazines, football cards, brochures, etc.

  Second Graders
  • Talk about your favorite books with your child. Compare stories that you liked when you were his age and what you like to read now.
  • Ask your child to dictate stories to you and create books together. Then, “publish” your books (you can laminate stories, knit books and even create professional-quality books using free online software).

Third Graders
  • Create a “balanced diet” for your child by exposing him to different genres, such as fiction, non-fiction, poetry, fantasy, etc.
  • Encourage your child to write to her favorite author. Children’s authors are notoriously good about responding to their young fans.

Keep in mind that strategies that work with toddlers often work for second graders, so do not get stuck with age-specific ideas. You do not have to wait until third grade to expose your child to different genres. The most important tip is to keep reading fun. Children who love reading tend to love it because they associate it as a special activity between them and their parents. 

Danny Brassell, Ph.D., is a father of three and professor in the Teacher Education Department at California State University-Dominguez Hills. He is the founder of The Lazy Readers’ Book Club,, Google’s #1-ranked site for cool, “short book recommendations” for all ages. You can get more teaching tips by browsing his books and videos at his website,

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Deanna Jump: Kindergarten Thankfulness

Happy Thanksgiving!!
Happy Day of Tradition and Time of Reflection.

It's me, Debbie Clement, circus ring-master and editor-in-chief here at PreK + K Sharing, broadcasting to you from the land of opportunity and the home of new beginnings. Today it is my great joy and privilege to introduce you to our newest contributor, Deanna Jump. Deanna is part house-hold name, part professional cheerleader to fellow educators,  part celebrity of Teachers Pay Teachers notoriety fame -- plus kind and gracious fellow grandma filled with smiles. She has a very special spot in many a kindergarten teacher's heart. I can't wait for her to take up official residence here among the rest of our crew.

In the future Deanna is eager to share with us here from her own kindergarten classroom and she was kind enough to agree to join us now, if I could just help her get this particular post launched. So I have had the great good fortune to go digging thru her 14 month old blog in search of material of an introductory nature. That's her on the right above, giving a hug to her para-professional, who created the 50's style car for their 50th day of school celebrations. (Click here for more on those festivities.) They are obviously an amazing team!

Combing through Deanna's blog posts, its apparent that she places a high value on family. I know that she is treasuring this day of Thanksgiving by relishing in all things family. After all that's what Thanksgiving is for.  

You only have to scroll down just a tad here in our collective blog to read fellow kindergarten teacher Carie's post here yesterday of the heroic nature of Carie's own service in the US Army and her reflections on the effect of that service upon her own family.  

When I saw this picture in Deanna's blog it seemed a fitting follow-up to yesterday's post. I thought you'd like to meet Deanna's son-in-law upon his return home to the States from his service in Afghanistan surrounded by his adoring family. Look at Deanna's two delightful grand-daughters! Blessings indeed!! You can read the post Deanna wrote last year about Veteran's Day by clicking here. I'll let Deanna tell us about the rest of her family in time.

As I have scoured Mrs.Jump's class blog I have learned quite a lot myself. I honestly had to do a little research to make certain that I understood all about glyphs, because Mrs. Jump uses this form frequently in her classroom with her young mathematicians-in-the-making. Here's an example: Turkey glyph from last year's Nov post, click here to read more. By the way, a glyph is a graphic representation, as in hieroGHYPHic. So each child's turkey project will have personalized details based on their own specifics of liking turkey or not, their age at the time, and the story they preferred. Genius. No?

As a former elementary Art teacher I never tire of seeing creativity expressed by the entire family. From the same post mentioned above, here's a peak at the homework assignments created by Mrs. Jump's kindergarten families.

                                    I could go on:
Pilgrim Project

and on:
Click here to read about this year's Pilgrim project

But I have to say that I truly admire a woman who has a pumpkin decaying in her classroom in a salute to combining science and great literature. You'll have to click right here to read more of that process.

We all look forward to hearing directly from this Master-Teacher.
Please leave comments & questions for Deanna's welcome to our midst!!

**Please visit Deanna Jump's own blog at Mrs.Jump's Class to see her gazillions of ideas combining the Arts, Science, Math and reading direction of all sorts. Deanna writes original stories and poems and creates original teacher materials which are available through her Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Carie: US Army & Kindergarten Teacher

I'm 'thankful' to be a part of this collaboration. I'm a Kindergarten teacher now, but I have another earlier and rather unique  part of my own story.

Veteran’s Day is near and dear to my heart because I am a Veteran.
I served in the Army Reserves for over 9 years. The reason I joined the Army was to serve overseas and fight for my country. I didn’t care about getting college paid for or getting recognition for my service but just to give back to my country. In September of 2004, the last year of my service and the first year of my marriage, that dream became a reality and I was deployed to Iraq with a unit from Missouri (not my home state).
I was deployed with a unit made up of people from all over the United States. I only knew 5 people that I was deployed with. The wonderful part was, a friend of mine who I had been friends with since kindergarten, was deployed a month earlier with a different unit. My first week on the job, we ran into each other. It was so amazing and comforting seeing such a familiar face! I served overseas for 12 months but was away from home a total of 15 months.

My job in the Army was an Ammunition Specialist. My job consisted of inventorying, repairing, re-packaging, shipping and receiving ammunition used during war. I did this for just a short time while I was deployed when they decided to change my job. I became the training NCO for our company. This changed my daily duties from dealing with ammunition to training other soldiers. Right up my alley and exactly what I had gone to college for, to TEACH!! I was ecstatic!

As I mentioned earlier, it was my first year of marriage, which made leaving home that much harder. I got married in July of 2004, I found out I was getting deployed the beginning of August and left home the beginning of September. It was a whirlwind of emotions, and change in my life in such a short amount of time! The deployment was interesting, sad, exciting, maddening, stressful and so many other emotions wrapped into one long year!

We were on a base that was constantly being mortared (bombed). The enemy knew that we were the base with all the ammo and so of course they wanted to take it out. Each time we were mortared, the sirens would sound and we would have to go to the bunkers until "all clear" was called and it was safe to get back to duty. This was a regular occurrence in the day of a soldier there.

When I came home for 2 weeks of rest and relaxation, it was a happy time but yet a very scary time. I had been deployed for 7 months at that point and came home only to find out that although MY civilian world had been put on hold; my husband’s and my family’s civilian lives had continued on. This was a HUGE adjustment for me and hard for me to understand. I traveled back to Iraq sad and confused and just wanting to be home for good. Thank goodness for all of the good friends I had made during deployment because they kept me going and kept me focused on the mission. Five more months and I could go home for good!

The biggest adjustment was coming home permanently. For a whole year, I was in another country with a new "family" and new friends, living with a roommate and showering in cold water, wearing 40lbs of gear everyday and living in 140 degree heat! Then to come home and re-adjust to the civilian world where most people close to me didn’t understand where I had been and what I had been through. I felt like a stranger in my own home. I felt like I was meeting my husband for the first time and learning all of his new quirks and personality. It was then I realized that when couples are living together, they grow and change together as a couple, but when they are separated from each other for 15 months, they grow and change apart. My husband and I basically had to start over. We had to find that connection that brought us together in the first place. This didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t happen in 3 months, it took a long time and we still work at it to this day.

The next step in my life was to move from teaching adults, to teaching children! I was so excited!
I dove right into substitute teaching (mostly middle school). I took the discipline that I had learned and taught in the military and used it to earn the respect of the students. I also used my story to teach those middle school children about history and current events. My story captivated their attention and left them wanting to learn more. I was so excited to be able to share my story and make it learning experience for children of all ages.

A kindergarten opening became available in the district in which I was substitute teaching and I applied. Now here I am today as a kindergarten teacher, teaching my students about patriotism! Each year for Halloween, I dress up in my Desert Camouflage Uniform to show them that I was a soldier, now a Veteran. I have also designed a showcase dedicated to the soldiers and Veterans related to the students and staff at our school.

Now that you know a little bit of my history, you may understand why Veteran’s Day is so important to me and how each year I try to come up with a new and better way to teach my kindergartners about what Veterans are and why we celebrate them. After meeting Debbie Clement last year and falling in love with her book "Red, White and Blue" I can’t imagine not using it to help teach about patriotism and Veterans. Here's a picture of the quilt that we created last spring, in response to her book. We finished our 19 by 11 foot 'marble-painted' quilt last spring, just in time for Memorial Day. [Click here to see the blog posts about that process.]

This year I needed a new project to do to go with it for my new students. So, while thinking about what kind of project I wanted to do, I came across Michaele Sommerville’s blog, titled "Veterans, We Love You". After reading her blog-post and tearing up, I decided I had to do this project. I took Michaele’s idea to use an open heart and affix the stars in an AB pattern on the heart. But in my mind, I envisioned a quilt, so I was thinking something smaller. That is when I decided to cut out 4 inch white hearts on the Ellison and 1 ½ inch red and blue stars on my Cricut.

Each student was given 6 stars (3 red and 3 blue) and then glued them on in an AB pattern. Then I cut out 6" x 6" purple squares and the students glued their hearts in the center of the square. To complete our quilt, I needed something else but I wasn’t sure what I quite wanted. It was then, right in the middle of my lesson, that I realized I still had extra hearts!! I had the solid hearts left from when I cut out hearts from the Ellison AND I had left over stars! This is when the light came on! I gave each student a solid heart and either a blue or red star to glue in the center of the heart.

Then I gave them another 6"x6" purple square and had them glue it in the center. I must say the students LOVED the project and wanted to share it with everyone! So we did! We taped the pieces of our quilt together and laminated it, then hung it above the "Support Our Troops" showcase in the hallway. My students are so proud and each time they walk by it, they point and say "We made that", "Hey; there is my square on the quilt"! So here you go, here is our quilt that we are so proud of!

I'm thankful to have the opportunity to weave all of my experience together: from the discipline of my experience in the Army to my appreciation for being home again, teaching in Kindergarten. I look forward to sharing from my classroom over the months ahead!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

erika: mother, aide, rainbow-maker

When I admit, out loud, that I not only have a child with a significant disability but that I also choose to work with 3, 4 and 5 year old children in a special education classroom, it even gives me pause from time to time. I wonder if the person I am speaking to is thinking, "Does this woman enjoy pain? Does she milk rainbows out of her frustration? Who gives her those really good happy pills? How does that work for her, exactly?"

Sometimes it doesn't work very well at all. Sometimes I feel very overwhelmed by sensory needs, impulsive behaviors, unintelligible speech, and hearing my own voice repeat the same phrase twenty five times in two minutes. Mostly, though, it has been a blessing I never expected. I never meant to work as a ParaEducator for long; it was a job I applied for right out of college when I was pregnant with my son. But after seven years I have to admit I feel strongly that the education field is exactly where I belong.

My son has
fragile x syndrome, an inherited condition that causes mental impairment, ADHD, autism, and sensory processing disorder. Having a child with a disability has given me the perspective I need to work with children who have challenges and communicate with their parents.

We've all had that child who frustrates us, who makes us think we cannot possibly make a positive difference in their behavior. Sometimes the child needs a picture schedule to help ease anxiety, sometimes the child responds well to a behavior chart or other tangible positive reinforcements, and other times just the structure and consistency of school is enough to extinguish negative behavior patterns. And sometimes none of that works and we find ourselves crouched in the corner pulling our hair out.

It's important to remember, though, that you aren't the only one who is having a bad day. That child is struggling, too, and their parents are probably having a lot of hair-pulling nights at home. As the parent of a child who often gave his preschool teachers a run for their money, I'd like to give some thoughts about communicating with parents of disruptive children.
Don't say, "Johnny had a bad day." This tells me nothing. Instead try, "Johnny struggled with controlling his body. He touched his friends without asking and often got up from his seat during carpet time. I had to ask him several times to complete the same task." Now I can talk to my son about keeping his hands to himself, tell his doctor about his difficulty remaining on task (if it continues to be an issue), and I never heard the words "bad," "problem," or "naughty." And please remember that there is always a reason for disruptive behavior, even if we don't see it.  

Tell us something good. I don't care if the best part of my son's day was that he loved the chicken nuggets at lunch, I want to hear it. In our program, we call it "sandwiching." We talk about something we're learning in the classroom, talk about a problem we're having or a difficult part of the day, and then say something positive. Here's an example: "We're working on the letter Rr this week. We made tissue paper rainbows. Johnny enjoyed making his, although he was upset when we had to clean up and threw the materials. He loved the chicken nuggets for lunch and did a great job using his words to ask for more."

Sometimes parents are the experts. Especially when you're working with a child who has a syndrome, you may find that the parents have extensive knowledge of the condition. Take advantage of all the work they've done! Ask for copies of articles they've read and for notes from the conferences they've attended. We want to help. We really, really want to help. 

Remember to laugh in the funny moments, like when a boy is hiding the rind of ham in his pocket because he doesn't want you to make him eat it or when you have to say things like, "Don't put your head in the toilet, honey." As parents, more than anything, we want you to see our kiddos the way we see them -- as loveable, silly, and full of potential.

About Erika...

My name is Erika and I blog over at the other lion about my son, Punkin, who has fragile x syndrome. I'd love to answer any of your questions about parenting a child with special needs.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Embrace the Hand-print Turkey

In my list of "duties" in my life, my role as Mom is number one on my list. I'm that Mom that makes a huge deal out of every piece of artwork that my son brings home from school (he's three). I have all the artwork he's ever done stacked in folders in our hall closet, and every time I open the door some sort of colorful macaroni noodle falls from the pile of art onto the floor. Yes, I am that mom. It's important to also note that I'm a tad biased because I am an elementary Art Teacher and feel that besides learning manners, creativity is one of the most important skills my son is learning in preschool!

From the day my kids were born, we were using their handprints and footprints to make things....Christmas ornaments, Valentine's cards, even footprints on a step-stool for the bathroom. When your kids are babies, their precious handprints and footprints are their identity. Case in point:

My son's first Christmas program at school, in a onesie they created in class of a reindeer using his handprints as antlers. Guess who still has this onesie in his keepsake bin in our over-stuffed closet?! How could I get rid of this? I am not a hoarder. I am not a hoarder. I am not a hoarder of keepsakes.

I digress.

Last year I did a project with my Kindergartners called "Rudolph the Handprint Reindeer". The kids were elated with their work. They were ah-dorable! I received phone calls from parents with rave reviews of their child's artwork. Their artwork showed up on holiday mugs and Christmas cards. PARENTAL KUDOS! JACKPOT!!! In all my years of teaching I have never received so many kudos from parents as I did on that project. Handprint art forever!

Rudolph the Handprint Reindeer, made by one of my ECSTATIC Kindergartners.

That being said, I house a lot of my students' art projects on an online art gallery called Artsonia and also post a lesson plan starters to the site for other art teachers to give feedback, try the lesson, etc. My only comment on the lesson was "I swear, if I see another handprint project I'm going to scream..." It also included some other banter about lack of exploration and creativity, blah, blah, blah. Of course the comment was written by an anonymous poster and it bothered me all day.

How could someone NOT like handprint artwork?

It must have been a high-school teacher.

It must have been someone without kids.

They must have had a bad day.

They must be joking, right?

After stewing on it for a couple of a YEAR...(no, I'm not someone who lets things go very easily!) I wanted to put together a come-back for this commenter that the artwork wasn't necessarily ABOUT the handprint. It was about the whole composition, about fine-motor skills, and about sensory-processing. It was also about utilizing a piece of their identity to create art. It was about my students experiencing SUCCESS.

It's no different than when I was asked in college in EVERY SINGLE studio class to create a self-portrait of myself. Draw your eye, draw your hand, draw the back of your head (?!). For a preschooler, their handprint is their identity. They aren't aware of how they look, or what makes them look different. They don't see "color lines", races, ethnicities (aren't pre-schoolers the BEST?!) What they know is that "THAT, Mommy, that is MY hand! It's a part of me! It is not like anyone else's!"

Fine motor skills activities for children are the best way to ensure proper development and promote the most functional use of a child's hands. You see, normal development DEMANDS that children are able to accurately and effectively use the small muscles (intrinsic muscles) in their hands. These intrinsic muscles will be used for the rest of their lives and for essential functional activities. Have you ever watched your kiddos trace or cut out their handprints? It's truly agonizing for me to watch, but they're learning. I had some three-legged Rudolphs last year and embraced them all the same.

I won't even go into how the handprint has been used as subject matter throughout the history of Islamic, Aboriginal, and pre-historic Art. I think I have enough in my arsenal for a comback of epic proportions about how handprint art IS essential to a pre-schooler's development, creativity, fine-motor skills, and SUCCESS in creating art. And you wanna know what my comeback said? I was fired up, I had done my research, I had my boxing gloves on. I was ready for a full-out battle of words.

"Thank you for your opinion". Why did I have to defend my students' happiness and success?! It is, after all, all about them.

So teachers, continue on with your hand print turkeys, butterflies, jellyfish, and Fourth of July flags. As parents, we LOVE them. As a teacher, I ADORE the kids' faces and squeals of joy when they're finished and successful. As an educator, I THRIVE off the phone calls of delighted parents thanking me for a piece of meaningful, sentimental artwork. Embrace those hand print turkeys, because sometimes you just need to make art for ART'S SAKE.

I am Joanna Davis and I am a National Board Certified Art Teacher and teach at Garden Elementary School in Venice, Florida. I write a blog full of art lesson plans for grades K-5 called "We Heart Art" at My boys are my life and teaching Art is my passion. My students inspire me daily to push myself creatively and raise my teaching standards. I love the "honesty" of children's art...the reckless abandon of color and thought, and pure imagination at work. I have NEVER met a handprint turked I didn't like! If you'd like to see more handprint artwork, check out my Pinterest Handprint Art Board Happy Handprinting!
Editor's note: This post has been added to our very own, first ever "linkie-party" on: ALL THINGS Painting. Just click on the button to go back to the master-list of ideas!
PreK + K Sharing

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Greg Harvey - Who is This Bloke?

G’day everyone! For those who don't know me let me share a bit about myself. My name is Greg & I am from the Hunter Valley near Newcastle, NSW, Australia. I am truly honoured & humbled to be a part of this collective blog amongst such highly distinguished & renowned professionals. Now onto the actual post.

I realise I am an anomaly being a man working in a very female-dominated industry, yet I believe that also gives me opportunities that may not present themselves to my female colleagues. I am often approached by parents & fellow professionals & told that they are pleased to see a guy working in childcare. Along with this recognition come some expectations; some realistic while others are less so.

Some of the more unrealistic expectations or generalisations are the following: I am the go to guy for any hard to handle child – “If you don’t start listening I’m going to send you to Greg;” I’m the solution to all boys as I can relate to them better so they’ll listen to me; You’re a man so you can do the heavy lifting.

By being a male early childhood professional I am already regarded by many as an oddity. This is closer to the truth than some may first realise. I am an unusual individual with a warped sense of humour & break gender stereotypes in many ways including preferring shopping to manual labour, chatting you ear off & remembering significant dates such as birthdays & anniversaries.

I feel I am a positive influence in children’s lives because of whom I am as a professional regardless of my gender & that anyone can impact young children’s lives in a similar fashion. I relish the one on one time nappy (diaper) change time provides, enabling strong relationships to be formed between myself & the children. I’m also humbled by the many positive words of encouragement & support I regularly receive from families  & colleagues.

Finally, if you would like to check out my Males in early Childhood blog then click here. The site was originally set up for a local Males in EC support group, but as everyone sort of went their separate ways I took it upon myself to use the blog for two purposes. To share my own experiences & hence I hope to provide positive examples of a guy working with young children. Also to highlight various issues concerning men in early childhood & the profession in general.
Hope to see you there. :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Welcome to my WORLD!!

Greetings new friends! I am thrilled to be a part of this collaborative blog. My name is Crystal Radke and I am a Kindergarten teacher. I am also the author of the blog Kreative in Kinder. I love my job! I couldn't imagine doing anything else.  I am a Texas born and raised wife and mother of three and I like to think my heart is as big as my home state.

If you were to go back in time and take a peek at my kindergarten classroom when I was a sweet five year old girl (that’s my story at least), it would look much different than today.  If I had a quarter for every time I heard the saying “Kindergarten is the new first grade!” I would be rich! In all seriousness, you won’t see a big open play area, a classroom of 12 students, nap mats or even a half day program in my classroom in Texas anymore.  I could only find this statistic, in 1999 61% of U.S. schools had a full day kindergarten program. I would think there has been a major increase since then. 

In Mrs. Radke's class, we hit the ground running as soon as the classroom door opens, ready to grow and learn, hoping to meet the increasing expectations set for Kindergarten students. Yes, they want them reading...I mean REALLY reading among so much more. I teach in a Title 1 school. My class consists of 22 sweet kindergarten students coming from all walks of life. We don't have class or grade level  teacher's aides but there are a few school instructional aides that provide interventions if necessary for each class, 30 minutes a day, four days a week. Our day starts at 7:30 a.m. and ends promptly at 3:00 p.m. Most of my students fall alseep on the way home for the first few months as they adapt to starting out their educational career of working and learning to achieve expectations set for them that are beyond their understanding. The very least I can do is provide an environment that is filled with imagination, exploration, and fun. Take a peak...

As you can see, you have entered the jungle. It’s such a fun place to be every day. I always tell my students that “This is OUR room”. I want them to take pride in taking care of the place they spend most of their waking hours. I want them to feel at home and loved. As educators, we spend more time with children than their families do so providing an exciting, enriched environment is an important part of their learning experiences. 

Thanks for taking time to visit my room. I look forward to learning and growing with you in the future. Want to know about something specific, leave me a comment. I can’t wait to tell you more about the great things (and struggles too) that take place in my worldmy Kindergarten WORLD!

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