Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Support the campaign for 'I See You: Anti-Bullying Lesson Plan with Film (Teaches literature and tolerance)'

Support the anti-bullying campaign

'I See You'

a film by Cinti Laird

It takes a village to raise a kid. Bullying is a problem that is even more prevalent than ever. We need to attack the problem before it starts, helping younger children learn to not be bullies.

This film seeks to do just that.

When you support this film campaign, you can also get access to anti-bullying lesson plans for your classroom or to share with a whole school.

Visit the IndieGoGo page directly for more information.

Visit the website for the film for more video.

Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Celebrate the Polish My Life Grand Opening!


Welcome to Polish My Life's Grand Opening
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She created Polish MyLife because her love of nail polish; it is her "happy place." She loves providing quality, hand-crafted boutique nail polish to nail polish lovers.

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Talk to your kids or talk on the phone"

It's a common sight these days, and something that many of us are guilty of doing. We are playing or talking on our smartphones, while the young ones are nearby. Sometimes it is while they are playing with other children at the playground or children's museum. Sometimes it is while they are alone, sitting in their stroller, as we go for a walk or take a break at the park. We are just ridiculously conditioned to pay attention to those technological devices at all times. We are all addicted.

But to what cost to our young ones? NAMC shared an interesting article today on The Atlantic, called "Papa, Don't Text: The Perils of Distracted Parenting." It talks about the importance of actually engaging in two-way dialogue with children, even as young as infants, to teach them about linguistic skills. A study done back in 2009 showed that children whose parents actively engaged with them on a regular basis did better than those who were stimulated with electronic means.


We all think that when we read something like this, but then how many of us go back to being on the electronic devices? How many people still rely on technology to "boost" their child's learning?

It's not just with the young children, either. Even as adults, we tend to play on our phones when we perceive that we are bored. I was recently in Chicago with one college friend, and we stayed with another college friend we hadn't seen in 15 years. I remember noting at the time how much our lives had changed. 15 years ago, I was probably the only one with a cell phone. It cost something like a dollar a minute to use, so I only had it for emergencies. Back then, we actually spent time talking and debating various topics. Now, we all sat playing on our phones, because it was too hot to go anywhere. There was little to no quality conversation during the entire weekend.

Make more of a conscious effort to put away the electronics, especially when young children are around. I try to keep mine put away when I am with my friends' kids or babysitting. They are not allowed in my classroom, unless we are looking up something. Talk to the kids and actively listen to what they are saying. Engage them in both natural language learning and socialization, before we create a generation of zombies!

Photo courtesy of MorgueFile

Monday, June 17, 2013

Australia's Silent Epidemic; it’s preventing good early year’s sites and services from demonstrating excellence.

While this guest post from Andrea Doyle focuses on the Australian education system, many of her points are also valid here in the United States. Read and let us know what you think.

Plus, check out the observation app that she has created for the iPad. It could come in handy!
This is a sponsored post via Fiverr.com 

Is it just me? I don't think so. In fact, I know so. Early years carers, educators and leaders are frazzled, frustrated and in many cases burnt out.


Is it the myths and misconceptions we hold about what is required of us in our current roles, in the current educational climate of new regulations and frameworks? Do we do it to ourselves? No, there has always and will always be changes in education systems. As educators, we except, and expect this and have rolled with it for decades. I believe it is the magnitude of multiple changes all at once and the absence of support structures to assist in implementation and embedding into practice. We were balancing the ‘Reflect, Respect and Relate: Observation Scales’ and devising clever inquiry questions when we were handed the EYLF and almost immediately the NQS on top of it. We had no hands left. In comparison, look how slowly and steadily the Australian Curriculum has been rolled out. That's because when it was handed to school principals they had the strength and courage to hand it back, knowing that they would support each other in their refusal, that they would have one another's back, prepared to cause waves and rock the boat if necessary, to avoid additional stress and pressure and to maintain the dignity of their role. They said, 'The quality of my school, wellbeing of my teachers and learning of my students would be compromised if I agreed to such a task so no thank you, not until you tell me about and provide me with the support structures I require in order to implement this successfully. My teachers need training, release days and time to do this.' Leaders in the early years must find this courage too.

The sad fact!

I have experienced it myself and witnessed it personally over the past year or two and I bet you have too; Directors and team leaders stepping down from their role, an increase in significant medical and emotional illness and leave from work, family breakdowns and excellent, but bewildered, educators leaving the profession they once loved (and often still do).


Lack of understanding from the community, lack of support from demanding parents, lack of funding from government departments and therefore lack of sufficient administration time to do their job, the job they want to do to the best of their ability. They want the best outcomes possible for their little learners but there is no balance, most work many extra hours above their paid hours, they have to in order to try to meet the expectations of their role, they sacrifice time with their own families, time for their own professional and personal interests and as for leisure time, what's that? They are left with a deep aching conflict within themselves, the desire to make theirs the most exceptional early year’s site ever but an overwhelming feeling of job dissatisfaction because they are spread so thin they are unable to give 100% to any of the tasks required of them. This is not about a cry for more pay, I believe 99 out of 100 early years staff would just like a reasonable amount of admin time to meet the requirements of their role, time to write meaningful child observation records, to discuss and analyse the play program and plan together, to enter attendances into their Early Years systems and to follow up that issue that occurred today with a phone call to the parent - today.

Tell me why a small country school site with an enrolment of 100 students can have a full time Principal with no teaching load (and even a part-time deputy too) and yet an integrated Kindy site with childcare facilities and an enrolment of 120 three and a half (early entry) to five and a half year olds (due to the 'same first day' policy, I'm in SA) has a Director who is still required to teach two days on the floor?

In many sites, Directors, teachers and ancillary staff do not have breaks, they eat with the children because children must be supervised at all times with certain ratios but no additional staff has been employed/allocated to cover these ratio requirements. Even staff toilet breaks are taken at rocket speed, so as not to leave another staff member with too many children to supervise alone, the paper is off the roll before your backside hits the seat. It sounds like some kind of joke doesn't it? But, I am very serious. New young fresh graduates walk in with big smiles, plans and high hopes, excitement and a genuine love for children and go home by the end of their first week shaking their heads and asking 'This can’t be right, can it?'

The fact is, our early years sites and services are filled with maternal nurturing women (mainly, though I respectfully acknowledge and admire our few male colleagues dedicated to early years education) and they are wearing capes, scared that if they express concern over current demands placed upon them, if they question, complain, admit they need help or support, if they buckle under the strain or don't dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ as required they may be stripped of at worst, their job or what little super human powers that remain. Have I lost you? I’m talking about those super powers which allow these dedicated educators to miss their own children's Sports Days, Concerts, award ceremonies and school assemblies so they can be there to act as teacher, advisor, guide, counsellor, nurse etc to teach, challenge, develop imagination as well as water, feed, bandage, tie shoelaces, wipe noses, and generally 'mother' other people's children as if they were their own.

Do they receive medals, certificates, praise (let alone appropriate financial remuneration) or even just an occasional little ‘thanks’ for their choice, for the sacrifice they make? Rarely, in fact they mainly hear from parents when they wish to complain and bosses when they are requesting to add something more to the already overflowing sink of (becoming very cloudy) dish washing water. A commitment to continual improvement is one thing, I don't think there's many of us that don't want to be the best we can be, but to continue to raise the bar without proper acknowledgement of what has already been achieved is not just unfair, it’s plain rude.

The National Quality Agenda was necessary and long overdue, we all know why so I'm not going to go in to a lengthy rant about it, and I am not disputing that. I personally believe the National Quality Standards cover all they should and are well set out and written. I love the National Early Years Learning Framework. I believe it captured the recognised and unseen principles, practices and learning goals for children that Early Years educators have been dedicated to, enacted and aspired to for many years. To me it was like the old 'Teachers Work' document had been rewritten for the early years. It defines what we already believed about community, parents, children and learning, what we were already doing in practice and what we already aimed for children to know and do before beginning school.

Now, with implementation complete, QIP’s written and submitted, on-going assessment and validation continuing and a new deep understanding permeating all we do, as we deal with the continued lack of understanding, support, funding, and admin time, we need to be kind to one another, support one another, encourage one another and praise one another for all we have achieved in the Early Years over the past two to three years. For our sanity, we must prioritise the most important administration jobs, prioritise the needs of the children and let the rest go. It is hard and we hate it but the children will survive without pre-entry visits and huge bound scrapbooks of every painting they completed at Childcare. Some things have to go. It’s time to work smarter, not harder.

I wonder if maybe the next time we are handed that new massive framework of expectations we will have the strength and courage to hand it back, but likely we'll continue to be superheroes, waiting for the understanding, support, funding and time we need to make our good Early Years sites and services places of excellence.

Written by Andrea Doyle, Teacher, Leader, Learner and Business Owner of Teaching Made Easy

Teaching Made Easy’

During her Master Class, renowned author and educator, Maggie Dent, examines the role of stressors and explores ways to de-stress and relax to deal with the unique challenges of our teaching profession. We believe our ‘Teaching Made Easy’ resources compliment Maggie’s message perfectly.

In fact, I designed the ‘Teaching Made Easy – Child Observations’ app and ‘EYLF Made Easy’ programming and planning package after reading numerous blogs of educators crying out for help and after working as a Preschool Director and suffering health issues and stress brought about by the new requirements of the National Quality Agenda and implementation of the Early Years Learning Framework. Both ‘Teaching Made Easy’ resources aim to streamline the documentation demands of busy time-poor teachers to allow less time on paperwork and more quality time spent with children.

The ‘Teaching Made Easy - Child Observations’ app is a recording and reporting tool developed to assist educators in continuous documentation and assessment to meet the needs of individual learners. It allows users to easily develop a Child Profile Folder as they collect photographic evidence and align their learning story to the outcomes of current national curriculum frameworks (EYLF and the Australian Curriculum) and to identify extension ideas and intentional teaching opportunities.

You can view more screenshots & download your FREE ‘Teaching Made Easy, Child Observations’ app here:

We recommend you check it out and see if it would be an observation tool that might work for you.

The ‘EYLF Made Easy’ programming and planning package can be found in the featured products section of our ‘Teaching Made Easy Print’ website. www.teachingmadeeasy.com.au

Please send me an email to info@teachingmadeeasyprint.com.au if you would like more information or would like me to send you some samples.

If you are still not sure, join over 5,500 ‘Teaching Made Easy’ fans on our facebook page, and talk to other early year’s educators about why they love the support, features and benefits of ‘Teaching Made Easy’ resources.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

#AtoZChallenge Color Tablets

I love the color tablets for so many reasons. Yes, they teach children how to match colors and how to name colors. But, they also teach children to appreciate the gradations of colors that exist in our world. Ask a child to name something green. Answers may include grass, leaves, peppers, broccoli, apples, etc. If you think about it, yes, those are all representations of the color green. Every one of them, though, is a different kind of green. That is something children realize with the color tablets.

Color Box 1 teaches just the primary colors. Two sets of tablets include red, yellow, and blue. 

Color Box 2 adds more colors for matching, including pink, orange, green, purple, gray, brown, black, and white.

The third color box starts to teach children how to grade colors, from white to black, and grays in the middle. Some people use one color, grading lightest to darkest.

I learned Color Box 4 as being one in which you grade a color from lightest to darkest, as well as matching those tints and shades with two sets.

Color Box 5 is the best of them all. It grades all of the colors from Color Box 2 from darkest to lightest. Many people have the rows of colors radiate from a circle in the middle. My kids always call it "The Sun." It does resemble the sun or other star.

You can do all kinds of extensions with these materials. Maria wrote about he children using the original color tablets, which were actually spools of silk. You had to hold the ends of them so delicately, as fingers could leave a smudge on the silk and distort the color. Children delicately carried them around the environment, comparing them to everything they could find. I haven't yet seen my children do that, but carrying wooden versions don't feel quite as special.

When I was in training, my Montessori best friend made an original project in which children had to mix paint colors to try to match the color tablets in a grading sequence. I have added to that idea by creating cards that show a certain number of dots in a given color in each rectangle. They measure the drops and then mix the colors to see what they get. 

Does this impact kids for life? Well, I was the kid who always had to have the 64 box of crayons. As a teacher, I get annoyed with the 8-packs of colored pencils, markers, and crayons. I end up spending my own money on packages with more colors. I feel like you can be more creative, as well as more accurately represent the world around you with more color choices. I also aced the color chart exercise in my beginning oil painting class from a decade ago. The purpose was to create a chart of grades of all colors, to use as reference when painting. I whipped mine out in less than two sessions, when most people were taking several weeks to complete theirs. I feel like I can observe minute color changes everywhere around me, and find more complementary color combinations. My artistic eye was more finely tuned by using these materials. At least, that's my opinion. :-)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

#AtoZChallenge Binomial Cube

My favorite materials in the Montessori sensorial area are the algebraic cubes. Because this is a post for B, I guess I need to focus on the Binomial Cube.

Forgive me. I forgot to take pictures of my planned posts before spring break. I can't get a picture until we return next week, and can't seem to find one quickly in my collection. So, I am going to refer you to links with pictures that will pop open in other tabs, to help explain a few things.

The equation for the Binomial Cube is (a+b) cubed. (I again apologize, because I don't know how to make the little 3 for the cubed sign.) Montessori for Everyone has some cards that can be used with elementary students who are learning the equation. They also explain how the colors correspond to the equation. See the picture here.

At my age level, though, we do not expect the children to memorize these equations, nor even know what they are. The cubes are a concrete representation of the algebraic equation. Children learn how to put the cubes back together like a puzzle, using the colors, sizes, and shapes of the various blocks. By doing so, they are mapping out later algebraic studies in their brains. When they have done it enough times, they should be able to put it together even when wearing a blindfold. I like to impress the kids by putting together the trinomial cube with a blindfold, to inspire them to try to do the same.

Take a look at kids doing the cubes in this post by Montessori MOMents. 

Does this really work? I tell parents time and time again that I truly believe that my experiences with the Montessori materials helped to shape my love for and ability to do advanced math in high school and beyond. I was able to better visualize the equations, and firmly believe it is due to having used these materials as a child. Others back me up on this.

Visit a Montessori classroom some time and see if you can put these together, yourself. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

#AtoZChallenge The Alphabet

For this year's challenge, my goal is to focus more on the activities, lessons, and materials in the Montessori classroom. What better way to kick off an alphabetical challenge than to talk about the alphabet?

Every year, when new parents come to visit the classroom, they boast about their child's ability to recite the ABCs, especially through song. Okay, that is a start for later learning, but it doesn't mean that the child is a genius who knows all of her letters and sounds. It only means that the ability to memorize and recite is present. She can't necessarily connect those sounds and names to actual letters, yet. Sorry to be blunt, but it's true.

They always want to know what to do at home, to help their child continue to learn the ABCs. It is always so hard to convince them that they need to first focus on the letter SOUNDS and not the names. That is when I show them how we use the sandpaper letters. I give examples about how letter names are more confusing and mess up the intial sounds learning process. For example, the name of the letter C always makes kids say /s/. W always makes them say /d/. Y always makes them say /w/. English is already confusing enough, as it is!

I also then explain the process of how the sandpaper letters lead to sound sorting activities, and then putting together the moveable alphabet to spell words. I adore the moveable alphabet for this reason. It's like all of those spelling games that we like as adults. Take a bunch of scrambled letters and put them together to make words. Scrabble, anyone? Only you have a much more defined path to take with your words. You can have fun taking away one letter and adding a new one to create new words. And how wonderful is it for the environment, to not be writing out sounds on endless worksheets?

I have noticed more of a demand to teach children the letter names, in addition to the phonetic sounds. I was taught to wait to do that until after the child has mastered all of the sounds. Some are doing it simultaneously, especially as more and more children are coming to school knowing their letter names.

So tell me a few things. How do you explain the alphabet to your parents? Do you use a moveable alphabet in one box or that huge one that takes up two boxes? Do you teach the names as well as the sounds? What are your favorite alphabet activities?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Big compliment from a therapist

Sorry I have been slacking. Again. It has been quite busy in the classroom! I have been trying to keep up on these kids' tremendous interest in everything, while simultaneously balancing numerous parent meetings, evaluations, and CPSE meetings. I have a large number of children who are qualifying for OT therapy for sensory processing disorder, and a few other issues. They keep me hopping!

The other day, one of my new therapists pulled me aside on her way out. She is an itinerant special ed teacher, who is helping one of my young guys learn how to communicate (he is nonverbal right now, slowly picking up more expressive language and has difficulty following complicated routines). She has worked in many Montessori programs before, so is quite familiar with the processes. At the end of her fourth visit to the classroom for this child, she said, "You have done an amazing job adapting Montessori for kids with special needs."

I was humbled. Sometimes I feel like we don't do enough. I am battling parents who don't want to acknowledge that their children need more help that I can provide. Some therapists who have no idea about anything with Montessori sometimes ask you to do things that you can't do. The school lawyer is constantly cautioning The Boss about implementing various techniques. Activities that you know would be ever so helpful are not permitted. You can read and research all you want, but never feel like you know enough. You're exhausted at the end of every day. And then a compliment like this comes through.

It isn't the first time. One day, my assistant was out sick. The sub was an older woman, who has been long retired from the Montessori classroom, but helps out on occasion. Before the kids came in, I started to fill her in on a bunch of their quirks and needs, so that she had somewhat of an idea of what to expect. Halfway through the morning, she said to me, "Had you not told me about these kids' issues, I never would have suspected. They are doing quite well."

This doesn't mean that we don't have difficult days. Difficult moments pop up on a daily basis. I get tired and frustrated. I try to cling to those beautiful moments. It's a constant work in progress. I will try to be better about sharing some of the techniques that I use. People have been asking. :-)