Clayton Early Learning

What Am I Teaching? What Are We Learning?

Brenda Hoge

Posted by Brenda Hoge


Brenda Hoge

Think back to when you were in school. Was there something teachers insisted that you learn that you never used and you wouldn't even know when or why you should use it? For me, it was logarithmic functions. When I was in high school, my math teacher insisted that I must learn how to do logarithmic functions and tried to assure me that I couldn't possibly have a career without knowing this. Well, as it turns out, other than the math modules I had to take in college, I have never had to do a logarithmic function and I’m pretty sure I wouldn't even know when to use one. I’m sure it’s useful, maybe even essential knowledge for some professions. But the one thing my teacher neglected to tell me was, “what is it that I need to know and why do I need to know this?” In other words, what was the objective behind logarithmic functions and how is it relevant to my life?

The lack of clarifying the learning objective also happens in preschool. Right now, we are observing classrooms across Denver using the CLASS™ Pre-K tool and one of the indicators that classrooms score low on is Clarity of Learning Objectives. Most teachers have a plan for what children are going to learn each and every day they are in school and most lesson plans have objectives stated. But do we take the time to verbally explain to the children “what is it they are learning and why they are learning this?” Often times we don’t. So what does clarifying the learning objective look like? Little Girl in Classroom

According to the CLASS™ Pre-K manual, clarifying the learning objective means that “children should be aware of the point of the lessons or how they should be focusing their attention during activities.” The teacher can do this in a variety of ways:

The first thing you can do is use what is called an Advanced Organizer. Basically what an advanced organizer means is that you state what the objective of the lesson is or what children should be focusing on prior to starting the activity. For example, if your classroom is doing a unit on sea animals and last week you talked about whales and this week you are introducing dolphins, you can use an advanced organizer by saying “We are going to read a story about whales and then a story about dolphins. Think about things that are the same between whales and dolphins and things that are different about them. And as we find the things that are similar and different, we will write them down on our chart.”

The second thing that you could use are Summaries. Summaries are stating what the objective was or what they just learned after the activity. For instance, using the same whales vs. dolphins example, you could use a summary statement by saying, “We just learned that whales and dolphins both live in the ocean and that they are both mammals. They also both have a blowhole at the top of their head. They are different in that whales are bigger, they swim slower than dolphins, and they swim by themselves while dolphins swim in groups.”

The third thing you can use is called a Reorientation statement. This is one of my favorites because there is always one child in your classroom that gets the conversation “off-track.” Now whether that child is really getting the conversation “off-track” or whether they are making some connection you aren't aware of is something that you don’t know. So you want to make sure that you acknowledge what they are saying but then you want to re-orient back to the planned objective. For example, if you are talking about whales vs. dolphins and you said that you could see whales and dolphins at aquariums, one child starts talking about their visit to zoo, and how they saw monkeys, and then another child talks about the elephants, and someone mentions the lions, and before you know it, you are talking about zoo and zoo animals. A reorientation statement is a statement you use to bring it all back around to the whales and dolphins while still acknowledging what the child said. For instance, you could say, “Sometimes the zoo has sea animals in it including dolphins. An aquarium is similar to a zoo except that you can see all types of sea animals there, including whales. So let’s think about what size tank you would need to hold a whale.”

Clarifying the learning objective can be used anytime-during group, free time, and even in routines, like meals and snack time. The important thing is to practice because it’s not something that comes naturally to most of us. Put up little reminder statements in your centers, write the objective on your board so you remember to tell the children what and why they are learning this, and practice with your co-teachers. You know that you have achieved success when your children can tell you what it was that they were learning.


Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed: Shedding Light on Character Education



Open the pages of Paul Tough’s new book, How Children Succeed , and you will find stories, research, and narration offering insight into the ways children harness grit and curiosityto overcome obstacles to reach their potential. The book highlights research studies which challenge what Tough calls the “cognitive hypothesis,” the belief that IQ is the key indicator of success. Instead, Tough argues strong character and behavior skills are a better indicator of success than standard measurements of intelligence.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character cover, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin HarcourtTough examines different factors influencing a child’s ability to eventually graduate college and pursue a career of their choosing. He discusses how children who grow up in highly stressful environments must become resilient to adversity in order to be successful in school. One research study by Michael Meaney, a neuroscientist at McGill University, demonstrated how rats were able to overcome stress with a parental buffer. Meaney noticed how rat pups’ stress levels increased when scientists handled them but recovered when returned to their mothers who licked and groomed them. He noticed different rates of licking and grooming among rat mothers and set up an experiment where researchers compared rat pups that experienced high and low rates of licking and grooming. He found that rats who had high rates of licking and grooming did better on all tests; they were better at mazes, more social, more curious, and less aggressive. They had more self-control, were healthier, and lived longer. Meaney also found striking differences in the size and shape of brain centers that regulate stress response of high- and low-licking and grooming rats. While the social and intellectual worlds of human children are likely far more complex than those of rats, Meany and other scientists have seen this phenomenon in humans as well, which is often referred to as attachment. Children who are securely attached to a caregiver have similarly positive results.

Tough also explores Walter Mischel’s marshmallow test and subsequent research studies as evidence of self-control as an essential non-cognitive skill (Tough, 2012, p. 64). In the late 1960’s, Mischel conducted an experiment at Stanford University where children were given a marshmallow and told they could eat the marshmallow or wait until the researcher returned and receive another marshmallow. The experiment tested students’ ability to defer gratification, an important element of self-control. Follow-up studies showed that children who were able to delay gratification longer received higher scores on the SAT assessment.

A focus on social emotional development has been commonplace in Head Start since its inception in 1965 (“Domain 6,” 2003). Social emotional development is included as a domain in Head Start’s Child Development and Early Learning Framework and Clayton’s early learning curriculum. Just as students need to leave preschool with critical thinking skills and letter and number knowledge, kindergarten-bound students must learn self-control, deferred gratification, and positive responses to failure in order to do well in school. As described on the Head Start website, “Promoting young children’s social-emotional development is a major responsibility of any early childhood program. Because so many Head Start children experience emotional and social risk factors, the Head Start program has the added responsibility of taking steps to help children develop skills that contribute to resiliency. These steps include providing warm, positive relationships with teachers and other adults, helping children make friends with other children and developing their interests and abilities” (“Domain 6,” 2003).

While social emotional development has been a priority in ECE for many years, educators on all grade levels are beginning to prioritize both cognitive and social skills. Tough describes how Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) kindergarten through high school charter schools emphasize both academic and character education. Students at KIPP receive report cards that describe both academic and character skills. Teachers discuss students’ progress in grit, self-control, zest, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism, and curiosity (Tough, 2012, p. 76).

Tough’s work causes readers to think about how we educate our students and examines why students need support and teaching beyond ABC’s and 123’s. Tough (2012) wrote:

Science suggests… that character strengths that matter so much to young people’s success are not innate; they don’t appear in us magically, as a result of good luck or good genes. And they are not simply a choice. They are rooted in brain chemistry, and they are molded, in measurable and predictable ways, by the environment in which children grow up. That means the rest of us- society as a whole- can do an enormous amount to influence their development in children. (p. 196).

As a community invested in molding our next generation, we need to remember what we can do. When teaching students, do we praise students’ work ethic and their persistence to complete a task? Do we remember the significance of students waiting their turn, the importance of a positive teacher/student relationship, and the enormous effect of a smile and a high five?  Do we consider the profound impact of engaged and responsive parenting and our ability to influence a child’s environment to create positive outcomes?


Domain 6: Social and Emotional Development. (2003). The Head Start Leaders Guide to Positive Child Outcomes. HHS/ACF/ACYF/HSB. Retrieved from of Child Development/Social and Emotional Development/edudev_art_00016_061705.html

Tough, P. (2012).  Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.


Children Act on How They Are Treated



On multiple occasions a year, the staff at Clayton Early Learning gathers into one of our many meeting spaces for professional development.  This is an opportunity for us to look at various aspects of research and we are challenged to deliberate and often are called to action. This school year has been no exception. Early this year we gathered together to review a piece of research that would help us improve our practice and encourage us to focus on building stronger relationships with the families we work with; Metatheories of Childrearing by Ronald Lally can be found in the pages of Concepts of Care: 20 Essays on Infant Toddler Development and Learning.

Lally draws attention to the fact that every person has a theory, fed by experiences, that contributes to their point of view on child rearing.  This is important to understand, especially by those who are in the position of working directly with parents, caregivers or home visitors in matters of childrearing, guidance and discipline.  Being that each individual will be bringing a different set of values and opinions, there can be a difference of opinion between practitioners and clients.  These differences are typically caused by conflicting Metatheories of Childrearing.  Simply put, a meta-theory of child rearing is the story carried by an adult about what makes a children act and how a child must be treated given those actions.  By identifying our individual and organizational beliefs in child rearing we are able to work more effectively with our children and families by reaching a third space where you can work together around new ideas.  These Metatheories are popular amongst both caregivers and parents:

The Blank Slate (Empty Vessel): From this point of view the way children turn out is completely based on the experiences the children have in the environments in which they are raised and through the provision of information by others.

The Unfolding Flower (Noble Savage): The child is viewed as a flower that is blossoming with a trajectory for healthy growth that is present from birth.  From this meta-theory a child’s development can be damaged from too much interference from the outside.

The Constantly Tempted:  Also referred to as the “Devil On Left Shoulder – Angel On the Right”.  Individuals who see child rearing this way want the child to be on guard so that they pay attention to whom is whispering in the ear.  They will warn the child to pay attention to that angel whispering, not listen to the temptation of the devil and to stay vigilant. They continually remind the child that they are in a struggle between good and evil, and will be tempted to do bad things.

The Savage:  From this point of view unless impulses are strongly inhibited and controlled right from birth the child will be an un-socialized wild person.

The Unknowing/UnfeelingThe Unknowing/Unfeeling: This metatheorie suggests that little engagement happens until age two and pretty much anything can happen in front of children of a younger age without permanent consequence.

The Late/Early Bloomer: This philosophy believes that until a child is about 5, 6, or 7 years old – the age of reason – that the child does not have the capacity or the  responsibility for right or wrong actions. children are given free reign to explore, allowed to play, allowed to transgress i.e. to “be children”.  But come age 5, 6 or 7 things change dramatically. Expectations of  children change quickly, almost over night as do socialization patterns and educational practices.

The Predestined: From this perspective those who care for children see their roles as both one of nurturance and  of facilitation of the child’s learning agenda.

What if your Metatheorie on Childrearing?  How does it impact your decisions as a parent or educator?



101 Three Friends 7131 (2010). [Graph illustration February 12, 2010].  Retrieved from


Celebrating Culture: Our School’s Approach to Building a Community of Respect


Kelsy Petersen-Hardie

Teachers and Home Visitors huddle around tables in a conference room to learn about a program family’s subculture of “Southern Coastal/Beach” during a professional development day this month.  Down the hall, more early childhood professionals settle on bean bag chairs and large foam blocks to absorb the cultural traditions of how one family celebrates Carnabal and how another family celebrates Dia de los Muertos.  Across the campus, still more education and family service staff gather in a conference room to understand the cultural heritage of one family’s Hawaiian culture.  This interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration is taking place in preparation for Clayton Early Learning’s annual Culture Night celebration, a chance for families and staff to share their own and learn about others’ cultural heritages, beliefs, and traditions.  These three cultures were chosen by our families to be featured in this year’s festivities, although all families and staff will have opportunities through classroom experiences to explore and share their own cultures in the months and weeks preceding Culture Night.

This celebration that occurs in December every year is one of the ways Clayton Early Learning puts into practice Principle 5 from the guiding document, Multicultural Principles for Head Start Programs Serving Children Ages Birth to Five: Every individual has the right to maintain his or her own identity while acquiring the skills required to function in our diverse societyCelebrating Culture Night at Clayton Early Learning, December 2011This document highlights research that shows the strength that family culture brings to a growing child’s forming identity; self-esteem, healthy social-emotional development, and school achievement are all associated with one’s connection to cultural roots. Therefore, it is the work of the day for early childhood programs to foster a sense of cultural pride for families and children, while helping one another grow skills to function successfully in the diverse world in which we live.

From our experiences, this charge is easier said than done as we sometimes risk stereotyping the cultures we seek to honor and approaching cultural beliefs and practices that are outside the dominant culture’s “norm” in a touristy way.  Having individual families showcase the concrete ways in which they live out their cultures, along with investigating each child’s and family’s culture during classroom experiences, monthly parent meetings and home links, we hope to provide families and young children with an experience that will go beyond the one night of our school’s celebration, heeding the advice of Louise Derman Sparks in Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children:  “Have cultural diversity permeate the daily life of the classroom through frequent, concrete, hands-on experiences related to young children’s interests, …explore the similarities among people through their differences, [and] …begin with the cultural diversity among the children and staff in your classroom” (p. 58).

How do you grow a sense of cultural pride and identity among the children and families in your school?  How are families invited to share their cultures with children, families, or program staff? How does culture show up in the classroom to honor every individual?


Revisiting and Updating The Multicultural Principles for Head Start Programs Serving Children Ages Birth to Five (2010).  HHS/ACF/OHS.

Sparks, L. D.  (1989).  Anti-bias Curriculum:  Tools for Empowering Young Children.  Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children. (NAEYC Publication #242).



Dialogic Reading

Lauren Williams

Posted by Lauren Williams


Lauren Williams

Dialogic Reading

Reading to children is considered one of the best activities for future success in developing language and literacy skills. Children’s experiences with books play an important role in preparing them to learn. Children who have been introduced to books and reading do much better in later development than children who are read to less frequently, whether it be from watching parents and siblings read for pleasure, reading aloud and creating their own stories with caregivers, or pointing to pictures in picture books and giving them a name. Children need to have their basic needs met for safety, food, shelter, and love. They also need the nourishment of books.

Picture of child reading with teacher.One key component is the type of interaction we provide our children. How we read to children is as important as how frequently we read to them.

Children learn most from books when they are actively involved, through play, conversations, and from loving caregivers. Dialogic reading is designed to get children involved and enhance language and literacy skills. Dialogic reading is an interactive technique that encourages the child to become the storyteller over time. Instead of the parent reading the entire book cover to cover, conversations, or dialogues, are encouraged by using pictures in the story and the child’s imagination.

Dialogic reading is based upon three main techniques - asking "what" questions, asking open-ended questions, and expanding upon what the child says. These three techniques are designed to encourage children to talk more and give descriptions of what they see. Dialogic reading can be used for children of all ages but is most effective when a child has a greater amount of words for expressive vocabulary. Dialogic reading can also increase  children’s vocabulary. For example, an engaged toddler having a simple back-and-forth exchange with a caregiver can learn about nine new words a day- that’s sixty three words per week!

Dialogic reading is a technique everyone can do-- it is simply children and adults having a conversation about a book. This type of interaction has derived from thousands of years of a specific human practice: oral storytelling. In many cultures still today, this is the predominant form of language and connecting the human experience.  An oral storyteller does not use props, but makes use of language, facial expressions, gestures, body movements, and voice. Parents, caregivers and teachers can expand the storytelling experience by encouraging children to re-tell the story in their own way. Start with the characters in the story, but welcome the children’s ideas and let their imaginations guide them. Step back and enjoy as they recreate the story.


Closing the Writing Achievement Gap

Lynn Andrews

Posted by Lynn Andrews


Lynn Andrews

Test: Most student writers still not proficient, Denver Post, 9/14/2012

Only 27% of 8th and 12th graders in the U.S. scored proficient last year on a computerized writing test, according to a recent article in the Denver Post. Students who had regular access to computers, and particularly those who were able to use built-in editing tools like spell check, did the best. This makes sense, but it’s also been found that when students have access to computers in the classroom, they write more. Maybe this shouldn’t be surprising given how much of our written communication these days happens through text messages, tweets, and e-mail – even for pre-teens.

But has this technology really helped children learn how to write? A 27% proficiency rate is pretty dismal. Our desire to be efficient and trendy and for “instant messaging” doesn’t lend itself to high quality writing. I have to admit I have a bias as someone who would rather read an elegantly written novel than watch a You-Tube video, but when there are radio ads quoting business leaders who say they can’t find job candidates who can communicate effectively with customers in writing, we have a serious problem. There are wider implications. How much does our ability to write reflect our ability to think – to generate and organize ideas into a coherent and logical whole? If we can’t do that, we can’t invent new solutions to problems, or negotiate conflicts, or change attitudes, or teach.

I’m sure that if it doesn’t already exist, we will soon have technology that really can help students learn how to write well. Even then, for technology to be an effective teaching tool for writing, we would need to address the technology gap that still exists between affluent and poor schools and families. And, as Kathleen Yancey from Florida State University states in the Denver Post article, “Digital technology is a technology. Paper and pencil is a technology. If technology were the answer, it would be pretty simple.”

For those of us in early childhood education, there truly are very simple, low-tech strategies to help children learn how to think, and eventually, how to write. Rich conversations with children and interactive reading can greatly increase children’s oral language skills that are precursors to writing skills. Stringing words together to make full sentences using correct syntax and grammar, and assembling sentences together to make paragraphs that describe and explain and sequence ideas, provides children with models both to think and to communicate. Asking children questions that encourage them to reason things out and to talk about their ideas lays the foundation for organizing thoughts in writing. Seeing words organized in print helps them make the connection between the spoken and written word. And then, of course, encouraging young children to “write” their thoughts using pencil and paper further develops these skills and a comfort level with written expression. I am amazed at how capable children as young as three years old can be in using computers, but let’s not forget what they have to learn to communicate effectively with human beings.


Teachers Engaging Their Children’s First Teachers


Many people in Early Childhood Education (ECE) often say, "Parents are a child's first teacher." However, when parents enroll their children in various forms of ECE (child care, preschool, pre- K, family child care, Head Start), teachers, providers, and administrators often struggle with how to effectively engage families in the activities of the program. Thus begins what can become a series of miscues in communication between what families want and what educators think is best for children. The relationships can become more tension filled when the race, ethnicity, nationality, social class and/or expectations of the parents and program staff are different. ECE professionals must take intentional steps to blend their knowledge with parental knowledge in order for children to succeed. Stephen Covey (1989) has said that we should "seek first to understand" if we wish to be effective leaders and relationship builders. By that he means that we should stop and listen carefully, asking questions using nonjudgmental language to make sure the essence of the other person's point of view is clear to us.   According to the book Using Skilled Dialogue to Transform Challenging Interactions, the authors note that it is all too common for us to focus on the challenge in challenging behaviors.  They suggest we need to see the challenges as bumps that can serve as triggers for unseen options outside of our familiar paradigms (Barrera and Kramer, 2007).

     Recognizing parents for their good intentions helps parents feel valued and builds trust in the relationship. Intentionally building trust makes it much easier to relate to parents in positive, respectful ways when (1) we engage in a two-way conversation (listening carefully as well as speaking) and (2) we try to recognize the potential for good ideas behind parental requests and behaviors.  Janis Keyser, author of From Parents to Partners: Building a Family Centered Early Childhood Program (2007), encourages early childhood practitioners to look for the good idea behind a parent request or demand that may initially seem strange or inappropriate.  Looking for the good idea is a way of building on a parent's strengths, of beginning to understand a person whose culture may be very different from your own. 

     When my child’s teacher assumed that my child had behavior consistent with Attention Deficit Disorder, she contacted me in a very authoritative manner as if she knew everything about the disorder, and my child and I knew nothing.  After she took the time to find out that I had worked with children with this type of disability for many years, she realized that she wasn’t the only one with some options.  We started chatting about our educational history and found something in common which led us to find a solution to the problem at hand, my daughter’s behavior.  Together we threw out a few ideas and came to a strategy that both of us could use at school and home.  We decided to have her sit and face in a different direction so the stimulation of looking at the students and the activity in the room wouldn’t be distracting.

     Ultimately, if we intentionally consider and seek to understand that different values, attitudes, and behaviors of families and staff are not wrong, but are rich in information about a child, family and their culture, will it be possible for ECE teachers to form collaborative partnerships with their children's "first teachers?"  Please share your stories of how you engaged your children’s first teachers-their parents!


Authentic Assessment of Infants and Toddlers: Exciting New Research on the Learning Through Relating System

Mary Klute

Posted by Mary Klute


Mary Klute

Think back to the greatest teachers you ever had.  When I do, I think of teachers who challenged me, rarely presenting me with material or tasks that were too easy for me.  And when they challenged me, they did so by pushing me to achieve things that required real effort, but weren’t so hard that I felt frustrated.  Doing this for every child in a classroom is precisely what educators are talking about when they use terms like “individualization” (in the early childhood world) and “differentiation” (in the K-12 world).  When you consider how varied children are in their abilities in different areas, you can appreciate what a monumental task it is to meet each and every child where they are and support them to get to the next level.

Before a teacher can engage in this monumental task, they have to get some idea of where each child is developmentally.  In a high quality early childhood program, teachers do this via a process called authentic assessment.  Authentic assessment is the process of on-going observation in the context of everyday classroom environments. Teachers make notes throughout the day when they see children display various skills while participating in classroom activities. Using authentic assessment techniques, children are not put in a testing situation, rather, teachers document relevant observations in the form of ‘anecdotes’ that they refer to later when completing a developmental checklist.

Many authentic assessment tools are available for the preschool age range and to guide early intervention efforts.  However, few options exist for authentic assessment during the infant and toddler period.  In response to this, the Learning Through Relating system was developed with funding from the Administration for Children and Families.  When this project started, my colleague, Amanda Moreno and I were working at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.  Amanda was working closely with the staff here at Clayton Early Learning Institute, particularly Chris Sciarrino, to create an authentic assessment for infants and toddlers.  When the grant opportunity came along, we were thrilled to obtain funding to further develop the system and to conduct research on it. With this funding, we were able to implement the curriculum in Clayton’s Early Head Start program and provide intensive coaching to support teachers and home visitors to use the curriculum well.

Learning Through Relating is unique in that it is not a downward extension of a preschool curriculum.  Instead, it was created with the key developmental tasks for infants and toddlers in mind.  In addition, the system includes a curriculum that is linked to the assessment.  The curriculum offers caregivers guidance about how to provide meaningful learning opportunities for children that can be customized to meet each child where he or she is.

One of the most frequent questions I’ve heard when I’ve spoken to people about Learning Through Relating has been, “that sounds great, but is it reliable and valid?”  I’m thrilled to now be able to answer that question, “YES!”  A journal article documenting the reliability and validity of the Learning Through Relating Child Assets Record was published in this month’s issue of Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

The development and refinement of the Learning Through Relating System has truly been the result of an ongoing partnership.  Over the years, many people have provided valuable input to refine the Learning Through Relating system including teachers and home visitors in Clayton’s Early Head Start program and Clayton infant-toddler coaches, Shelly Anderson and Laura Rothe.  We are deeply grateful to them for their contributions.


What is a book? E-books in ECE

Rebecca Soden

Posted by Rebecca Soden


Rebecca Soden

Something happened this week that could indicate a fundamental shift in what it means to “read”.  Amazon announced that the sale of e-books has now surpassed the sale of paper books.  For every 100 paper books sold, Amazon sells 105 e-books.  After hearing this on the news, the impact that e-books might have on young children started to slowly sink in for me.
For the past five years, I’ve been working with teachers and coaches to implement the kinds of classroom literacy practices that most effectively prepare children for success at reading.  We’ve worked to help children learn “book knowledge” skills, like how to hold a book, turn the pages, start from the front of the book and continue toward the back.  While these are and will always be important emergent reading skills, I wonder if we are missing the opportunity to build children’s skills with other types of books (like e-books)?
Adults aren't the only ones using e-books either, elementary-aged children are enjoying them too (as highlighted in a recent New York Times article).  When I talk about using technology to support reading with other educators, I sometimes sense a reluctance to explore its potential.  There is a concern that if we aren’t exposing children to REAL books and REAL objects that they are somehow missing out on the REAL world of learning.  Considering this news about the prevalence of e-books, I would ask all of us to consider what the REAL world is for children and how we are preparing them for the world if we are not introducing them to a variety of reading methods.
What are your thoughts?  What do you think would be important to consider when introducing this type of technology into an early childhood classroom?


Come and Play – Sesame Street Learning

Geri Mendoza

Posted by Geri Mendoza


Geri Mendoza

“Come and play. Everything's A-Ok……Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street…

Children using the SMARTBoard in DeShawn's classroom

When I was a kid, this tune signaled the start of a fun and silly experience for my siblings and me. It was amusing to watch Bert & Ernie, Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and the other lovable cast of humans, monsters and puppets make learning fun. Well, have you seen the “Street” lately? Go online and check out the interactive website, a wealth of incredible resources for parents and educators. According to Sesame Workshop CEO, Gary E. Knell, “For over 40 years, Sesame Workshop has helped children reach their highest potential by creating media which have engaged and educated millions of children in America and around the world. Through careful research which guides our work, Sesame Workshop has been able to address critical needs using television, books and interactive media which appeal to our nation’s young children and their parents.” And let me tell you, there are exciting plans on the part of Sesame Workshop to develop content-rich segments that go deeper, and impact children’s learning beyond “B-b-b banana”, as Clayton Early Learning teacher DeShawn Burks discovered on a recent trip to Manhattan. His participation was round one of an intensive phase of research and development in which Sesame Street has engaged early learning professionals and other partner leaders to design, build, examine, and explore the Sesame Street Learning program.

Children using the SMARTTable in DeShawn's classroom

Following his trip, DeShawn came back to school and shared the Sesame Workshop information. He has big plans to develop innovative and engaging educational content using what he heard from the workshop. Taking advantage of digital media, Deshawn is on the same page or rather the same SMARTBoard page as Sesame Workshop.

DeShawn was chosen to attend the Sesame workshop based on his use of technology curriculum with preschool children. He is one of six Technology Fellows at Clayton Early Learning.   He started with a SMART Table in his classroom (see the pictures in this blog) and has graduated to the SMARTBoard, mounted on a wall in his classroom. Through inviting age-appropriate materials, young children in DeShawn’s classroom become active participants in solving problems using observation and investigation and are introduced to vocabulary and concepts that are the foundation for later school success. DeShawn has plans to incorporate a variety of developmentally appropriate learning activities for the current classroom study of fruit that will:

  • facilitate understanding of a concept- DeShawn uses "how" and "why" questions to talk with the children about where fruit comes from and they are able to "investigate" their hypothesis using the SMARTBoard.
  • encourage analysis and reasoning- DeShawn has created opportunities for children to create graphs to document the types of apples they have tasted and explored.
  • allow children to predict, experiment and think about their work-DeShawn is able to chart what the children want to learn about fruit using a web diagram, asking questions that focus the children on the topic (fruit), uncovering what they know about the topic and helping chart what they want to know.
  • apply concepts to the real world-DeShawn uses pictures of the children doing their work and pictures from recent field trips to anchor the children's understanding of their study of fruit.

Come and play because, everything is A-OK, DeShawn is giving children the power of learning at Clayton Early Learning.