1 Articles and Readings Exercise Feedback Early Childhood Education Module 1 Advocacy Article 1 November 2004 Volume 62 Number 3 Closing Achievement Gaps Pages A Call for Universal Preschool Rosa A. Smith 1. What is needed in order for the No Child Left Behind Act to realize its goals? In order for the No Child Left Behind Act to realize its goals there must be the provision of high-quality early education programs for all children, especially children of color and children in poverty. 2. List three known results of high-quality early education. Reduction in special education enrollments. At-risk children are less likely to repeat a grade. Increased high-school graduation rates. 3. Do you think Universal Preschool is a worthwhile goal in the U.S. or is it too costly? Quality early education is expensive but a group of economists, brain scientists and child development experts recently concluded that it is one of the wisest public investments a state can make. The effects of quality early education include: less special education enrollment, less grade retention, more high school graduation, higher wages, and reduced crime rate and jail population. In the long run, the costsavings of tax dollars for high-quality Universal Preschool outweigh the initial expense. 4. How does high-quality early education affect children from low-income families? High-quality early education can help break the cycle of poverty. Children from lowincome families who participated in preschool programs were more likely to graduate from high school and earn higher wages.
2 Module 1 Advocacy Article 2 Education Leadership April 2003 Volume 60 Number 7 The First Years of School Pages Integrating Early Care and Education Sharon L. Kagan and Michelle J. Neuman 1. A. In this article what does the term infrastructure mean? Infrastructure refers to the supports that are essential to child care and preschool programs and other direct services to children and families, such as health and parenting education. B. List two examples of early education infrastructure. Examples of early childhood infrastructure include: finance, governance, accountability, professional development and training, appropriate regulations, quality-assurance mechanisms, and dissemination of information. 2. Do you believe states should require the accreditation of state prekindergarten programs? Why or why not? Many studies have found that states with more stringent regulations have higherquality child care in centers and in family child care. And research has found that programs accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) pay higher staff wages, report lower teacher turnover, and have retained twice as many staff members over the past decade as nonaccredited programs. Finally, quality curriculum and pedagogy are essential for successful child outcomes, and can be achieved through the credentialing of a well-prepared professional staff. 3. Why is each of the eight components for a system of early care and education important? Quality Programs are important because they provide services to children that support their physical and mental health, provide a balance between academics and play, encourage early childhood professionals to enhance the quality of care, and foster ongoing relationships between families and the education community. A Results-Driven System is important because it defines appropriate results with appropriate developmental benchmarks.
3 Public Engagement is important because it supports parents needs and rights, encourages business and community support for early education, and increases public awareness of early childhood education. Individual Credentialing is important because it creates criteria for early childhood educators and compensates them accordingly. It creates specific criteria for teachers, administrators, directors, master teachers, and leaders. Professional Development is important because it ensures that teacher certification and preparation programs are current and based on sound developmentally-appropriate practice. It fosters leadership in the early education system. Program Licensing is important because it ensures that all early childhood programs meet state standards and regulations. Funding and Financing are important because they identify the costs of a quality system, ensure adequate staff compensation for early childhood educators, identify revenue sources and develop a financing plan. Accountability is important because it establishes state governance structures for the planning, assessment, distribution of resources, and agenda setting for early care and education. It creates a delivery system of services and ensures the effective use of funds.
4 Module 1 Advocacy Article 3 Summer 2006 Volume 63 Best of Pages 2-6 What Does It Mean to Educate the Whole Child? Nel Noddings 1. What are some benefits of the No Child Left Behind Act? The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act is intended to provide every student with a thorough and efficient education, and reverse years of failure to educate many of our inner-city and minority children. 2. What are some criticisms of the No Child Left Behind Act? Since it is unfunded, NCLB makes costly demands without providing the resources to meet them. Other criticisms include: its bureaucratic complexity; its unattainable main goal (100 percent of students proficient in reading and math by 2014); its motivationally undesirable methods (threats, punishments, and pernicious comparisons); its overdependence on standardized tests; its demoralizing effects; and its corrupting influences on administrators, teachers, and students. All these criticisms are important, but NCLB has a more fundamental problem: its failure to address the basic question: What are the proper aims of education? 3. Has the teaching of academics always been the primary aim of schools in the United States? No, public schools in the United States were established as much for moral and social reasons as for academic instruction. In his 1818 Report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia, for example, Thomas Jefferson included in the objects of primary education such qualities as morals, understanding of duties to neighbors and country, knowledge of rights, and intelligence and faithfulness in social relations. The National Education Association listed seven aims in its 1918 report, Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education: (1) health; (2) command of the fundamental processes; (3) worthy home membership; (4) vocation; (5) citizenship; (6) worthy use of leisure; and (7) ethical character (Kliebard, 1995, p. 98). Later in the century, educators trying to revive the progressive tradition advocated open education, which aimed to encourage creativity, invention, cooperation, and democratic participation in the classroom and in lifelong learning (Silberman, 1973). 4. How does educating the whole child help support a democratic society?
5 A democratic society needs graduates who exhibit sound character, have a social conscience, think critically, are willing to make commitments, and are aware of global problems (Soder, Goodlad, & McMannon, 2001). In addition, a democratic society needs an education system that helps to sustain its democracy by developing thoughtful citizens who can make wise civic choices. 5. In recent years what has been the focus of teaching for children in poverty? In recent years, the focus of teaching children in poverty has on boosting their standardized test scores.
6 Module 2 Child Development Article 1 September 2005 Volume 63 Number 1 The Whole Child Pages Healthy and Ready to Learn David Satcher 1. What changes have occurred in the past few decades with regard to children s physical development and health? Children today spend more time indoors at sedentary activities and get less physical exercise both at home and at school. In addition, children eat less balanced nutritious meals. These factors have led to a significant increase in the number of overweight and obese children with associated health problems. 2. What have been the effects of these changes on children s physical fitness and health? Children s level of fitness is in decline. Health problems associated with obesity and overweight include: Type II diabetes, gallbladder disease, asthma, depression, and anxiety. 3. What can teachers do to encourage physical fitness? Offer physical education courses in an environment in which students learn, practice, and are assessed on developmentally appropriate motor skills, social skills, and knowledge. Provide students with at least 60 minutes of physical activity on all or most days of the week. Discourage extended periods of inactivity (periods of two or more hours). Provide at least 150 minutes each week of physical education classes for elementary school students and at least 225 minutes each week for middle and high school students for the entire school year. Ensure that students are moderately to vigorously active in physical education classes for at least 50 percent of the time. Provide daily recess periods of at least 20 minutes for all elementary school students. Provide physical activity breaks during classroom hours. Encourage parents and community members to institute programs that support physical activity, such as a walk-to-school program.
7 4. How do nutrition and physical fitness impact students academic achievement? Good nutrition and physical fitness have a positive effect on students academic achievement. Well-nourished children tend to be better students and achieve higher scores on standardized tests. Children who suffer from poor nutrition during the brain s most formative years have much lower test scores in vocabulary, reading comprehension, arithmetic, and general knowledge. Even skipping breakfast has been shown to adversely affect children s performance on problem-solving tests. Students who participate in daily physical education exhibit better attendance, a more positive attitude toward school, and superior academic performance (National Association for Sport and Physical Education & Council of Physical Education for Children, 2001). Two studies demonstrated that providing more time for physical activity by reducing class time can lead to increased test scores, particularly in the area of mathematics (Shephard, 1997; Shephard et al., 1984). Another study linked physical activity programs to stronger academic achievement; increased concentration; and improved math, reading, and writing test scores (Symons, Cinelli, James, & Groff, 1997).
8 Module 2 Child Development Article 2 September 2005 Volume 63 Number 1 The Whole Child Pages Uniquely Preschool Elena Bodrova and Deborah J. Leong 1. Which skills should children learn in preschool? The skills children should learn in preschool include oral language, deliberate memory, focused attention, and self-regulation. 2. How do these skills affect later academic learning? These skills form a set of fundamental cognitive, linguistic, and social-emotional competencies that shape their minds for further learning not just academic learning, but all learning. 3. Describe two features of how young children think and give an example of each. Preschool children's thinking is reactive: They react to the most salient characteristic or the first thing that comes to their minds, whether or not it is important to the situation (Vygotsky, 1956). For example, when you ask preschool children to get up, wash your hands, and sit down at the table, most children react to either the first direction or the last direction. Many just do what the other children are doing. When children see a toy that they want, they often grab it, regardless of who else is playing with the toy. Such reactions represent an immediate response to what children see and feel rather than a premeditated act. Preschool children's ability to learn depends on repetition or on an experience being personally meaningful. Children can remember information only when it is presented in a repetitive and exciting way such as the letter A jumping out of a box and dancing around over and over again or when the information is of special interest to them, such as the month of their birthday. Vygotskians argue that this is why young children easily remember the names of dinosaurs or Pokémon characters but take much longer to learn their phone numbers or the letters of the alphabet. 4. What is the key aspect of children s thinking described in the article that distinguishes formal schooling from preschool? One of the key aspects that distinguish formal schooling from preschool is that postpreschool students are able to learn on demand. They can expend mental effort to learn information just because the teacher tells them to learn it, even if it is not particularly interesting or salient. When a teacher gives an elementary class a list of
9 spelling words, for example, students are expected to put effort into learning the words; the teacher will not repeat the information multiple times or use a lot of gimmicks to make the task fun. To succeed in school, a child must make this transition from learning that follows the child's own agenda to learning that follows the school agenda (Vygotsky, 1956, p. 426). One of the milestones of the preschool age is the development of intentionality in all areas from physical behaviors to social interactions to problem solving. From the Vygotskian perspective, the major goal of preschool education for the whole child is to transform a child who is wholly reactive into one who is wholly intentional. 5. From the Vygotskian perspective, what are the three ways early childhood teachers can foster self-regulation? From the Vygotskian perspective, early childhood teachers can foster the development of self-regulation in three ways: by helping children develop mature intentional play, by modifying existing activities to support cognitive skills, and by minimizing or eliminating activities that are counterproductive to developing such skills.
10 Module 2 Child Development Article 3 November 1998 Volume 56 Number 3 How the Brain Learns Pages 8-13 What Do We Know from Brain Research? Pat Wolfe and Ron Brandt 1. What does window of opportunity mean in brain development? A window of opportunity refers to the time in brain development when a child's peak learning occurs. Not only does the child's brain overdevelop during the early years, but that during these years, it also has a remarkable ability to adapt and reorganize. It appears to develop some capacities with more ease at this time than in the years after puberty. These stages once called "critical periods" are more accurately described as "sensitive periods" or "windows of opportunity." 2. Give an example of a window of opportunity. Probably the prime example of a window is vision. Lack of visual stimulation at birth, such as that which occurs with blindness or cataracts, causes the brain cells designed to interpret vision to atrophy or be diverted to other tasks. If sight is not restored by age 3, the child will be forever blind. Similarly, the critical period for learning spoken language is totally lost by about age 10. If a child is born deaf, the 50,000 neural pathways that would normally activate the auditory cells remain silent, and the sound of the human voice, essential for learning language, can't get through. Finally, as the child grows older, the cells atrophy and the ability to learn spoken language is lost. 3. What is an enriched environment and how does it affect brain development? An enriched environment enhances brain development and consists of the following elements: Includes a steady source of positive emotional support; Provides a nutritious diet with enough protein, vitamins, minerals, and calories; Stimulates all the senses (but not necessarily all at once!); Has an atmosphere free of undue pressure and stress but suffused with a degree of pleasurable intensity; Presents a series of novel challenges that are neither too easy nor too difficult for the child at his or her stage of development; Allows social interaction for a significant percentage of activities; Promotes the development of a broad range of skills and interests that are mental, physical, aesthetic, social, and emotional;
11 Gives the child an opportunity to choose many of his or her efforts and to modify them; Provides an enjoyable atmosphere that promotes exploration and the fun of learning; Allows the child to be an active participant rather than a passive observer. 4. Do you think IQ is fixed at birth? Why or why not? According to recent brain research IQ is not fixed at birth. Studies have show that early intervention programs can prevent children from having low IQs and mental retardation. 5. What important findings have been discovered in the past decade from brain research? Some of the recent brain research findings include: The brain changes physiologically as a result of experience. IQ is not fixed at birth. Some abilities are acquired more easily during certain sensitive periods, or "windows of opportunity." Learning is strongly influenced by emotion.
12 Module 3 Early Learning Article 1 April 2003 Volume 60 Number 7 The First Years of School Pages 6-10 On the Mind of a Child: A Conversation with Sally Shaywitz Marcia D'Arcangelo 1. What developments take place in the child s brain during the preschool years? Between ages 4 and 6, the brain is actually pruning synapses connections between brain cells. As the child is exposed to different experiences in life, the brain reinforces some of these connections and prunes back others that are not going to be useful. The brain is becoming more focused and more specialized. It's taking shape. 2. Explain why the early years are so important in brain development. The brain is a living, dynamic organ that is plastic throughout life. It is always taking in information and refining and reinforcing connections once they're made. But when a child is young, this refining goes on more easily and as a matter of course. You're starting with so many possibilities. It's like a house. Think of it this way. It is much harder to renovate an already standing house than it is to build it right from the start. To correct a reading problem in 3rd or 4th grade, you almost have to undo certain pathways that the child has developed. But children between 4 and 6 are at the cusp of learning to read. Their spoken language system is in place. They are ready to build the connection to print. It is an incredibly exciting time. They want the signal Go. You have wide-open opportunities. You don't have to undo faulty connections. 3. What is dyslexia? What can teachers do to ensure that their students learn to read? Dyslexia is defined as a difficulty in learning to read for children and adults who have the intelligence and motivation to be able to read and who have been exposed to good reading instruction. Teaching phonemic awareness is extremely helpful, particularly to younger children. But it helps all children. Teaching phonemic awareness and letter-sound relationships helps build the neural systems for reading. Of course, we have to find pleasurable and enjoyable ways to teach. 4. Which early education practices encourage fluency in reading?
13 Phonics has to be taught systematically. Because English is a very complicated language system, you want to gradually progress from the easiest to the more complex letter-sound relationships. You also want to make sure you cover all of them. By teaching these relationships systematically and explicitly, children will learn them.
14 Module 3 Early Learning Article 2 April 2003 Volume 60 Number 7 The First Years of School Pages Preschool: The Most Important Grade W. Steven Barnett and Jason T. Hustedt 1. Cite three benefits of early childhood education. Preschool education produces persistent gains on achievement test scores, along with fewer occurrences of grade retention and placement in special education programs (Barnett & Camilli, 2002). Other long-term benefits from preschool education include increased high school graduation rates and decreased crime and delinquency rates. 2. What is Head Start and who is its target population? Head Start is a program established in 1994 that seeks to improve the long-term outcomes of infants and preschoolers in poverty by providing comprehensive services to both the children and their parents. Head Start targets children of low socioeconomic status or children who are otherwise at risk. 3. What have been the effects of Head Start? Research suggests that Head Start has a variety of positive impacts. Participants in Head Start earned higher scores on assessments of cognitive and language development and were less aggressive than were nonparticipants. Early Head Start parents achieved positive outcomes as well: They gained self-sufficiency through job training and education activities and improved on parenting assessments. 4. Why is preschool the most important grade? Many research studies have confirmed preschool's positive effects on school readiness and school success, especially for our most disadvantaged children.
15 Module 3 Early Learning Article 3 April 2003 Volume 60 Number 7 The First Years of School Pages The Importance of Being Playful Elena Bodrova and Deborah J. Leong 1. How is play an important part of children s learning? Children learn through play and play is linked to their cognitive development. Play contributes to advances in verbalization, vocabulary, language comprehension, attention span, imagination, concentration, impulse control, curiosity, problemsolving strategies, cooperation, empathy, and group participation (Smilansky & Shefatya, 1990). Recent research provides additional evidence of the strong connections between quality of play in preschool years and children's readiness for school instruction (Bowman, Donovan, & Burns, 2000; Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, 2002; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). Further, research directly links play to children's ability to master such academic content as literacy and numeracy. 2. How can teachers support children s play? Teachers can support children s play by: Creating imaginative situations Integrating different play themes and roles Sustaining play 3. Does play take away from or enhance cognitive development? Give two examples to support your argument. Play is essential for young children's learning and development. In classrooms where teachers supported play, children not only mastered literacy skills and concepts at a higher rate but also developed better language and social skills and learned how to regulate their physical and cognitive behaviors (Bodrova, Leong, Norford, & Paynter, in press). By contrast, in the classrooms where play was on the back burner, teachers struggled with a variety of problems, including classroom management and children's lack of interest in reading and writing. Proponents of the argument that play detracts form children s cognitive development believe that play takes away valuable time that could be better spent on academic tasks. In addition, the benefits of play are not as easy to understand and assess as, for example, children's ability to recognize letters or write their names.
16 Module 4 Appropriate Early Environments Article 1 April 2003 Volume 60 Number 7 The First Years of School Pages Putting Early Academics in Their Place Marilou Hyson 1. With the new emphasis on learning outcomes, should early childhood classrooms focus primarily on teaching academic skills? No--excellent prekindergarten, kindergarten, Head Start, and child care programs put academics in their place as essential but not isolated components of an effective early education system. 2. Why is the social and emotional climate of the preschool classroom important? Both an academic emphasis and a social-emotional focus are essential to high-quality early education (Hyson, in press; Kauffman Early Education Exchange, 2002). Children who enter kindergarten with curiosity, delighted engagement, and persistence at learning tasks leave 2nd grade with better skills in reading and mathematics (National Center for Education Statistics, 2002). Good early childhood teachers actively assess and promote social and emotional competence through classroom routines and activities including academic and cognitive activities. 3. Why is it important to have well-prepared teachers? Teachers who know the big ideas in such academic domains as mathematics, literacy, and science, and who also know about early development, teaching, and learning are well prepared to implement challenging yet child-friendly academic content. Effective early childhood teachers must fine-tune a balance between adult direction and child-initiated activities, from moment to moment and from child to child (Bodrova & Leong, 1995). They must be able to celebrate and guide young children's energy, fantasies, and intense curiosity about sneakers and boots, block towers and dancing, pegs and pigs (Andrews & Trafton, 2002; Davidson, 1996). They must create experiences that build the concepts, vocabulary, and engagement that make academic competence possible (Neuman et al., 2001). And they must know how to build the warm, nurturing, secure relationships from which young children can launch into academic challenges (Howes & Ritchie, 2002). 4. Can an early childhood classroom be too child-centered? How so?
17 Yes, a child-centered environment that lacks intellectual challenges falls short of what curious young learners deserve. Academics are an essential part of early education programs and can enhance children's experiences now and build the foundation for their later success.
18 Module 5 Curriculum Planning and Programs Article 1 October 2006 Volume 64 Number 2 Reading, Writing, Thinking Pages N Is for Nonsensical Susan B. Neuman 1. Why is the author critical of the common preschool practice, Letter of the Week? The author views Letter of the Week activities as mind-numbing and ageinappropriate. More importantly, such activities do not engage children s minds and are detrimental to children s real learning and literacy development. 2. What are the features of effective content- and language-rich instruction? Features of effective content- and language-rich instruction include Time, materials, and resources that actively help students build language and conceptual knowledge. A supportive learning environment in which students have access to a wide variety of print resources. Experiences that help students connect new learning to what they already know and can do. Opportunities for sustained, in-depth learning. High levels of teacher interaction to assist and guide students' learning. 3. What can teachers do to help close the knowledge gap? List three examples. To reduce the knowledge gap, we need to provide knowledge-building experiences that help children understand their worlds and build rich vocabulary. We need to encourage children to question, discover, evaluate, and use higher-order thinking skills. Three examples of providing knowledge-building experiences include: Field trips On-going investigations of topics of interest to the children Expert visitors to the classroom 4. What are the effects of poverty on children s school achievement? On average, cognitive scores of low-income 4-year-olds lag as much as 60 percent below those of their more affluent peers. Unfortunately, once they fall behind, children often stay behind. Evidence from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (2004) shows that throughout their schooling, children in low-income
19 families continue to trail significantly behind children in higher-income families academically, socially, and physically.
20 Module 5 Curriculum Planning and Programs Article 2 September 2004 Volume 62 Number 1 Teaching for Meaning Pages Projects That Power Young Minds Judy Harris Helm 1. How do projects differ from teacher-directed themes or units? Projects are multidisciplinary, thought-provoking, and emotionally involving. Projects lead to deeper levels of learning and understanding. When teachers rely on directed themes or units, students are less likely to develop the higher-level thinking skills of analyzing, hypothesizing, predicting, and problem solving. Teacher-centered approaches can limit students' vocabulary growth and they are less likely to motivate students to learn academic skills. Such activities are shallower, less productive uses of learning time, and they neglect learning goals that affect students' school achievement 2. What types of learning occur during projects? Project work for young children leads to higher-level thinking questioning, hypothesizing, and predicting not just to factual recall. Project work also inspires symbolic thinking, which is the foundation for academic skills. 3. List and describe the three phases of a project. Phase 1: Beginning Identify potential topic initiated by children. Build children's background knowledge. Narrow topic further. Help children create list of questions to investigate. Phase 2: Investigation Collect resources for investigating topic (books, videos, artifacts). Help children use resources. Arrange to meet with experts on topic. Arrange field site visits. Note new questions. Help children record and represent what they've learned. Phase 3: Culmination Guide children to reflect on what they've learned. List what children know now.
21 Help children find a way to share their learning (make a book, give a presentation, visit another class). 4. What does following the children s lead mean to you? Following the children s lead means listening to the children to discover their interests and curiosities. Appropriate curriculum activities and explorations are planned based on the children s interests to further pique their inquiry and learning.
22 Module 5 Curriculum Planning and Programs Article 3 April 2003 Volume 60 Number 7 The First Years of School Pages Reggio Emilia: New Ways to Think About Schooling Rebecca S. New 1. List three key ideas of the Reggio Emilia approach. Some key ideas of the Reggio approach include: The role of the classroom environment in children's learning; Long-term curriculum projects that promote inquiry among teachers and children; Partnerships with parents that include collaboration in the learning process; Documentation for observation, research, and assessment; and The hundred languages of children children's multiple means of expression and understanding 2. Do you believe the Reggio approach is do-able in the United States? Skeptics of Reggio Emilia's relevance to U.S. classrooms cite cultural challenges associated with Italy's philosophical roots, including the cultural support for close relationships between teachers and parents. Reggio Emilia's goals also stand in sharp contrast to a growing emphasis in the United States on high-stakes testing, a view of teachers as tools rather than decision makers, and a focus on individual learning in a competitive environment. Others point to the practical challenges of building sustained relationships in an increasingly fragmented and hurried society; of planning curriculum that will be responsive to the diverse needs of children and families; and of finding the time, resources, and support necessary for what is surely more rewarding work but also more work. Still others join me in cautioning against the idea that any one city, program, or set of guidelines can adequately determine what and how children are educated. And yet there are many reasons to be optimistic about Reggio Emilia's usefulness in helping U.S. educators rethink their approach to public education. Of all of its features, Reggio Emilia's reconceptualization of the working environment of teachers may have the most to offer. The respect for children and parents is central, but the international success of Reggio Emilia's example is surely due to the respect given to teachers as capable of asking good questions, willing to debate with one another, and committed to consultation with children's families. Even middle school teachers are beginning to think about how to adapt the Reggio Emilia approach to their instruction (Hill, 2002).
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