Teaching in a Multicultural Kindergarten Classroom

In the spirit of Hispanic Heritage month, this month we are celebrating the multicultural classroom. As of the fall of 2014, the overall number of Latino, African-American, and Asian students in public K-12 classrooms surpassed the number of non-Hispanic whites, pushing them just over 50% of the student population. (source: Education Week)

We all know teaching kindergarten is tough. You have children coming in with different readiness levels. Some know their letters, others don’t. Some know how to walk down the hall in a straight line, others don’t. Some students like to shout out all the answers, while others don’t even want you to look in their direction. As if these challenges weren’t already a hurdle for kindergarten teachers, the rise in diverse demographics of students is creating additional demands. These new challenges present themselves, not only as the obvious language differences, but also cultural differences, entirely different belief systems, academic levels and educational expectations.

Kindergarten and the early elementary level is the time to embrace these differences. Having a multicultural approach in your classroom can help students with self-image, develop perspectives in thinking, and also reduce prejudicial behavior and stereotyping. These benefits touch all of your students whether they are considered minority or majority.

Here are some tips for teaching in a multicultural classroom.

 

  1. Don’t wait for Hispanic Heritage Month or Black History Month to celebrate differences. Celebrate them every day! Discuss culturally and historically significant days with your students as they come up during the year.
  2. Build a diverse library of books. Books not just about other cultures, but books written by authors of all ethnicities: black, Asian, Hispanic, non-Hispanic white, Middle Eastern, etc. Ask your students if there are books that they read at home with their parents that can be shared with the class. This sets a precedent that everyone’s thoughts are important regardless of their background.
  3. Let the children feel pride for their heritage. Ask all students to share their experiences. Share their family traditions. Let others be interested in what they have to say. After all that is part of learning.
  4. Learn respect and empathy for other cultures by having fun. Kids love to sing and dance. Every kindergartener needs to have some movement activities during the day. Try incorporating multicultural activity songs into your day. Ask students to bring in some of their favorite traditional songs. You can also find a large variety of multicultural recordings — from holiday classics to traditional folk songs — on our Multicultural Education page.

For more information about Multicultural Classrooms:

Building Blocks: The First Steps of Creating a Multicultural Classroom

5 Steps to Build a Diverse Classroom Library and Encourage Empathy

Multicultural Education in Your Classroom

Your Multicultural Classroom: The 4 Elements You Need For Success

Posted in ELL/ESL, Social & Emotional Behavior, What's New Tagged with: ,

How To Talk To Students About Natural Disasters

It’s been a rough couple of months – from “once in a lifetime” hurricanes, to severe earthquakes and never-ending forest fires. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another; and it seems like no matter where you live in the U.S., your life is somehow impacted by a natural disaster.

Even if you think your students are sheltered from the news and media, they still manage to piece together enough information to be scared. Oftentimes an event doesn’t have to have a direct impact on them, but just knowing that these horrible catastrophes can occur can be quite overwhelming to many children – and some adults as well!

 

Behavior

Have you noticed sudden changes in a child’s behavior? Or maybe the student just really seems off. Research shows that a child’s body chemistry changes during times of great fear. It’s possible that the child is experiencing trauma from a recent event. As a teacher, you are in an excellent position to recognize these fears and work with the child to guide him/her through these tough times.

 

Communication

Once you have recognized that a child is struggling, communication is key. One very important and highly forgotten part of communication is listening. Listen, and show the child that you recognize and understand these feelings. Use child-friendly helpful words. You can communicate verbally and non-verbally and pay attention and listen to what the student has to say.

 

Environment

Create a safe environment for your students. Prepare engaging, uncluttered play areas that help reinforce a sense of security and control. Create safe outlets for stress.

 

Activities

The trauma from a natural disaster can be so overwhelming and difficult that a child may not be able to talk about it. There are many activities that can help children express their feelings and create outlets for pent-up feeling. Some of these activities include art, music and movement, and sand and water play.

 

Health and Nutrition

When people are stressed, one of the first things to get disturbed is their eating and sleeping habits. This is true for everyone, child or adult. It is very important to encourage children to eat when they are in your care. If they need extra nap time, allow them to sleep. Getting good nutrition and sleep is very important for children’s successful education as well as their overall well-being.

There are a huge number of resources out there to guide teachers through the process of helping children cope with natural disasters. The concepts we presented above are covered in great detail with accompanying activities for teachers to use with their students in the DVD program Helping Children Cope with Frightening Events…What You Can Do!

 

 

Posted in Health, Professional Development, Trauma, What's New Tagged with: , , , , ,

What Happens to Your Children When They Play Outside?

outdoor play

It’s summer! It’s beautiful! Kids should be outside enjoying the warm weather and fresh air. If you feel that your kids are spending too much time inside, you may be right!

There has been a significant decline in the time children are spending outside. The list of reasons for this is long and varied and includes things such as increased screen time, loss of natural habitats, crime and safety concerns and daycares or schools with restricted free time.

Now that it is summer it is the perfect time to get your kids outside. Whether you are running a summer day care or you are a parent with kids at home, the best thing you can do is send your kids outside. Research shows that there are many beneficial outcomes for children that spend time playing and learning outside.

outdoor play

 Physical Fitness

 When children are outside they are more likely to play in ways that benefit their bodies (i.e. running, jumping, climbing, crawling, walking, etc.) strengthening their hearts, lungs and muscles. This access to exercise is the first step in preventing childhood obesity.

Did you know that many children are deficient in vitamin D? (source: American Associate of Pediatrics) Exposure to sunlight also increases levels of vitamin D which is needed to strengthen teeth and bones.

 

Motor Skills Development

 Unstructured outdoor play often involves physical activities like rolling down hills, crawling under obstacles, climbing and walking on uneven surfaces, which help develop young children’s gross motor skills. And examining and picking up small objects like bugs, berries twigs can even help young children develop their fine motor skills.

 

Immune System Development

There is evidence that children who have daily playtime outdoors experience fewer illness related absences from school and daycare.

 

Regulating Sleeping Patterns

Natural sunlight helps regulate and balance sleep. Getting the proper amount of sleep is one of the most important things for developing children.

 

Language Development

Young children will notice different sounds and learn to identify and tell them apart. Noticing and discriminating sounds is a foundational skill for later literacy development. While having additional opportunities to make decisions, solve problems and collaborate with others will help promote language and communications skills in older children.

 

Cognitive Development

Children have a natural sense of wonder and exploration, two important motivators for lifelong learning. When children are outside, this sense of wonder is only enhanced. Unstructured outdoor play helps children learn concepts such as cause and effect and making connections while increasing creativity and imagination. Unstructured outdoor play also helps improve awareness, reasoning, and observation skills; and it has positive effects on children’s ability to focus and pay attention.

The unstructured aspect of outdoor play also has a significant impact on children’s self-directed executive function. In other words, their ability to organize thoughts, plan ahead, self-regulate emotions, initiate tasks, and navigate between multiple activities. This is very important not only for children who are just entering kindergarten, but also older children throughout their school careers. This directly impacts their ability to generate and achieve personal goals throughout their lives.

 

 Social Emotional Development

When playing outdoors with other children, there is an increase in social interaction between children. Infants and toddlers learn to play with each other when they take turns using pails and shovels, share a ride in a wagon, and chase each other. Through direct hands-on experiences, young children learn to be gentle with living things and with each other

 

So the benefits are clear. Get those kids moving outside!

 

If you would like to read some of our other summer play related blogs check these out:

Make Outdoor Play Safe for Young Children

Summer Activity Ideas

Nature Study for Young Children

 

For more information on the benefits for outdoor play check out these sites:

Supporting Outdoor Play and Exploration for Infants and Toddlers

Outdoor Play Benefits

Let ‘Em Out! The Many Benefits of Outdoor Play In Kindergarten

The Importance of Outdoor Play for Young Children’s Healthy Development

 

 

Posted in Health, Physical Education, Social & Emotional Behavior, What's New Tagged with: , ,

Summer Bucket List Challenge

We waited all year for summer to come. Now that it’s here and the scheduled activities are done, we face another hurdle. It’s the dreaded “I’m bored.” It’s a phrase we all hear during the summer. Long, lingering, unstructured days; what are we to do with our time?

If you feel like you’ve done everything there is to do with your kids, we’ve got the solution for you. We’ve created a summertime bucket list with activities for kids and adults alike. How many of these can you check off the list? We will keep you updated of our progress on Facebook and twitter. Check in and let us know how you are doing. We hope you enjoy the adventures you find along the way.

Download the Summer bucket list.

 

Posted in What's New Tagged with: , ,

When A Block Is Not Just A Block: Teaching Spatial Reasoning in the Classroom

You’ll find them in every PreK and Kindergarten classroom – Blocks! These underutilized staples in the early educators’ toolkit have been around as long as formal teaching! But only recently are we beginning to learn the importance of these tools.

There’s been a lot of research done recently on the effects of teaching spatial reasoning and geometry to young students. In fact, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) recommends that spatial reasoning should be a large focus of PreK – 8th grade math education. This goes a long way toward influencing a child’s performance in STEM activities down the road.

At first, the idea of teaching geometry to young children seems daunting. But what is spatial reasoning exactly? And how can it be taught at the PreK/Kindergarten level? Spatial reasoning involves the structuring of space: noticing and describing shape, location, orientation, movement, and spatial relations. Fortunately, you already have the tools you need in your classroom. In fact, research shows that children who work more with construction blocks perform better on standardized tests relating to spatial relations. (source: http://www.parentingscience.com/toy-blocks.html)

Children should be allowed to use the blocks in both a structured and unstructured way. With structured play, children can be shown creations that they must recreate exactly with their own blocks. In unstructured play, the children can use their imagination and ingenuity to create their own structures. Teachers should encourage students to talk about what they are doing with the blocks, why some blocks work in certain situations and why they don’t. In doing this, not only do blocks help with spatial relations, but they also foster creativity, problem solving and patience.

You may find that some children may have a hard time grasping the vocabulary that you are discussing with them; you can always use musical reinforcement while they are playing. For instance Hap Palmer’s “Math Moves Me” CD  introduces and reinforces the vocabulary of shapes and numbers.

So the next time you are looking at those blocks that have been shoved in the corner of your room, think about all the benefits your children will have if you take them out, dust them off and let the kids play!

 

If you are interested in putting together an extensive block play program in your classroom, you should check out this article from NAEYC.

You can find more information on specific spatial reasoning programs and research at: https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/01/20/five-compelling-reasons-to-teach-spatial-reasoning-to-young-children/

Posted in Math, Science, What's New Tagged with: , ,