Recently, I’ve been noticing many public service announcements on the television from First5. From their website, first5california.com: “Research shows 90 percent of a child's brain develops in the first five years of life. Making those years count is what First 5 California is all about. Our focus is to educate parents and caregivers about the important role they play in their children's first years.”
The PSAs advocate the importance of reading, talking and singing to babies. With a new grandson, I pay particular attention to how this benefits brain development. It’s led me to reflecting on all we do in the preschool years to expand brain development; particularly in the areas of language acquisition, literacy and social skills.
For developmentally appropriate reasons, most preschools do not ‘teach’ reading but, we can scaffold on a child’s natural curiosity in many ways. In addition to reading, we can help enhance brain development through encouraging language and literacy.
GUIDELINES FOR TEACHERS:
- Dictation: Having children dictate what they are feeling, thinking, wanting and imagining is a powerful tool. It was given to the teachers of our school by our Executive Director, Belann Giarretto, and has served the children well. They often ask us to write letters to their parents to express how they are feeling when it’s been a challenge saying goodbye.
- In one of the classrooms, I’ve noticed loose leaf journals are kept in the reading area for the drawings, words and stories dictated to teachers. Connecting their own work to that of favorite books inspires and motivates.
- Lately I’ve been enlarging the photos and texts of my blogs for school bulletin boards. Displays increase the visibility of what the children are learning. The photos illustrate the fun they are having while their parents are at home or work..
While hanging the documentation in a central spot that parents pass through daily, I was also given the feedback that busy parents don’t always have the time to read a full blog. In the interest of more parents seeing and valuing what their children are learning, I now enlarge part of the blog and direct them to the blog site for more.
Teachers, too, are using the blogs, sometimes for their parent conferences. A teacher told me she used one to show the child’s growth from last year to the present.
As tours begin for next year’s enrollment, having documentation on a bulletin board also helps clarify our school values for prospective parents. It helps them evaluate whether our values are in alignment with their own. Increasing the capacity to make informed decisions regarding which school best fits for their child’s needs is a great benefit.
While the parent documentation is at adult level, literally and figuratively, I have also been hanging portions of blogs at children’s eye level. This helps create a print-rich environment as well as igniting the children’s natural curiosity.
“It is important to create and provide meaningful print for preschool children. Children learn as they explore, interact and have meaningful discussion about the written word.
In order for children to explore and interact with the written word (print) we must set up our preschool classrooms to have a print rich environment throughout the whole classroom.
If your classroom is full of print then it provides the children with countless opportunities to learn about letters, letter sounds and the concept of print. Children will be able to build on their knowledge that printed words hold meaning.”
When children notice my blogs which are integrated into their environment, I’m often asked, “What does that say?” Sometimes I answer directly. At other times, I ask them to tell me a story about what could be happening. Those involved in the photos are asked whether they remember what happened. This is useful for reminding a child of how they successfully solved a problem previously.
Sometimes I ask if they remember how they were feeling? What did we do? How did we solve the problem? It can also be used to name emotions and enhance emotional literacy for children in other classes.
An added benefit is that the children can view the work of other classes. This has a unifying benefit and offers opportunities to learn from the experience of others while developing empathy.
Lately, in addition to the photos I email parents for permission to use in the blog, I send the posted blog. It is a lovely way to interact with parents, giving them a ‘fly on the wall’ view of their child at play while they are at work. It’s also a great way for grandparents and other relatives to be kept in the loop through sending links to the blog.
This just in from one of our parents: “What a lovely piece, Elyse. It gives me such a window into what you get to do with the kids, how much they benefit, and ways I can build on it as a parent. Thank you!”
Strengthening the bond between teachers and parents holds children in a cocoon of partnership and support.