Sunday, August 6, 2017

Back-to-School Reflections

The back-to-school season provides early care educators with the chance to practice their self-reflection skills. This professional practice provides an opportunity to build on strengths, make improvements, and prevent issues from occurring in the environment.

Let’s take a look at a few questions you can ask yourself as you begin a new school year:
  • What do I know about the children in my group?  What are their interests, skills, and abilities?  What steps do I need to take to find out this information? 
  • What areas of the daily routine worked well last year?  Which parts of the routine seemed to cause problems for me or the children?  Can I add a transition activity or rearrange the routine in any way to address problem areas?
  • Does the arrangement of the classroom define interest areas?  Is it easy to navigate?  Are traffic areas clear?  Are quiet areas separated from active areas? Are work spaces and their storage areas obvious?  Are builders protected?  Are there blind spots? 
  • Are the interest areas arranged to promote play and cooperation? Are the interest areas organized or cluttered?  Are there enough materials for several children to play without causing competition for materials?  Do I need to add multiple items (i.e. more than one shiny red truck)?  Are the areas easy to clean up? 
  • Which areas of the classroom did children enjoy the most last year?  What materials seemed to engage the children the most?
  • Which interest areas were not used as much as others? Are there different materials that I could add to promote engagement in these areas?
  • Are the classroom expectations (rules) phrased in simple language? Do the expectations communicate what children are expected to do?  How can I engage the children in the creation of the classroom expectations?
  • Am I prepared to collect observations about the new children entering my program?  What methods and materials will I use to collect my observations? How can my coworker(s) and I work together to gather information about children’s skills and abilities? How will I organize the data I collect?
  • Do the decorations, toys, and materials represent gender-neutral roles?  Show people with disabilities in a positive light? Promote cultural diversity? What do I need to add to accomplish this?
  • What are some new topics I would like to explore with children this year?  How can I incorporate more of the children’s interests into the curriculum this year?
  • How will I build classroom community between the children in my group?  See the CCEI August Newsletter for more information.

What are your favorite self-reflection questions to ask during the back-to-school season?  We’d love to hear from you on Facebook.  Click Here to join in on the discussion!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Stepping Out of Your Professional Development Comfort Zone

Have you ever found yourself reading through a list of professional development opportunities circling the ones that really interest you, only to realize that you are already pretty confident in your ability to implement those skills or topics? 

Folks who enjoy music and movement love attending training that teaches about using music and movement in the classroom.  Teachers who love nature and science, are naturally drawn to outdoor learning trainings. Providers who enjoy painting and drawing will be the first to sign up for courses that promote open ended art experiences for young children.  Naturally, we are drawn to professional development opportunities that align with our personal preferences and interests.  Unfortunately, staying in our professional development comfort zone doesn’t fully prepare us for the challenges we will face in the classroom.

It is important to recognize this phenomenon in action and make an intentional effort to pick training classes that don’t necessarily grab our attention. If you find yourself reading a training title that includes the words “sand and water table” but you avoid the use of a sand and water table because you don’t like the mess that comes along with it… you need to sign up for that training.  If you see a training description that discusses the integration of technology into classroom activities, but you are not technologically savvy… you need to sign up for that course.

There may be other topics that we do not choose because we feel that we have those skills solidly under our belts.  We need to keep in mind that there are new developments and improved strategies that we can learn about by revisiting topics every so often.

To ensure that you are including a wide variety of topics, employ the use of a professional development record or create a tracking tool that will help you plan and document all of the training you complete.  Reflect on your current practices, preferences, and aversion. Then create a professional development plan that checks off as many of the topics as possible.

Include general topics such as:

❏Health and safety
❏Working with children with special needs
❏Cultural competency
❏Engaging and communicating with families
❏Child development
➯Social and emotional
➯Language and Communication
                  ➯Construction and block play
                  ➯Science in the classroom
                  ➯Social studies projects
                  ➯Open ended art
                  ➯Music and movement
                  ➯Dramatic play and storytelling
                  ➯Outdoor learning
❏Teaching practices
➯Small group activities
➯Conflict resolution

CCEI's July Newsletter Edition also covers topics on Professional Development for Early Care and Education Professionals with regards to Creating a Reflective Practice you don't want to miss!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Process-Oriented Summer Activities for Early Childhood

The summer season provides children across the country with an opportunity to get outside and enjoy some sunshine. This is a great time of year to look for opportunities to incorporate more open-ended and process-oriented activities into the curriculum. 

Activities are considered process-oriented if they provide children with the opportunity to:
  • Determine the end result
  • Focus on the exploration of the materials
  • Express creativity
When children engage in process-oriented activities, the end result (product) is less important than the steps the children worked through to accomplish the task. There are no samples, or teacher created models. It requires simply providing children with a variety of materials and tools and encouraging them to explore.

Summer is an excellent time to incorporate these activities because one of the biggest barriers to process-oriented activities is the fact that they can be messy.  Introducing this type of activity outdoors gives both children and teachers a chance to experience the benefits of process-oriented activities before bringing them indoors in the fall.

Here are some examples of process-oriented activities that you can try:
  • Provide children with pails of water and paint brushes of different sizes. Encourage them to “paint” the side of the building or a wooden fence.
  • Children can create collections of natural items.  Create a collage filled with items from nature, paint with them, or paint on them.
  • Hang a sheet at the children’s level.  Provide spray bottles filled with watered down paint. See what happens next.
  • Make mud pies. If you are not ready for mud pies, introduce different types of clay (not Play-Doh) to the children.
  • Encourage children to create their own games, mazes, or relay races.
  • Make sand art.
  • Encourage children to create structures or sculptures out of sticks.
  • Introduce weaving by providing a variety of fabrics, yarns, and ribbons. Encourage children to decorate the playground fence.
  • Add washable paint to ice cube trays and then let the children paint with the melting cubes.
  • Finger painting, foot painting, elbow painting, etc.  Not the foot prints that teachers later decorate – allow children to create an original work of art with their feet.
  • Provide wooden blocks and wood glue. With close supervision, children can even make wooden structures using screws and screwdrivers.
This is just a quick list to get you started; there are hundreds of different ideas and variations available if you follow these rules:
  • Allow children to take the lead
  • Avoid pre-determined end results or samples to follow
  • Provide a variety of materials and see what children come up with
  • Provide guidance and suggestions on different ways to use materials
  • Make observations and provide positive feedback about children’s efforts
  • Each child’s work should be unique! 

Check out the CCEI Pinterest page for 25 Process-Oriented Learning Activity ideas!  

CCEI's June Newsletter Edition also covers topics on Enhancing your Outdoor Learning Environment you don't want to miss!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that young minds will undeniably need and utilize well beyond their school years. Critical thinking skills are essential for good decision making and long-term academic and professional success. Childcare experts agree that in order to keep up with the constant changing technology advances, students will need to obtain, understand, and analyze information on a much more efficient scale. As educators, it's your job to promote critical thinking to the best of your ability. However, keep in mind that it will take years for children to develop into true "critical thinkers." For more information on Critical Thinking, read CCEI's August Newsletter!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Transportation Safety

Transporting children in a vehicle is a huge responsibility that must be taken seriously. Traffic accidents are unpredictable, but precautions can be taken to ensure the safest environment possible for children and other passengers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for persons between the ages of 5 and 29. While not all vehicle accidents are preventable, many can be avoided with proper training and attention to detail. For more information on Transportation Safety, read CCEI's May Newsletter!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

CCEI Achieves New Recognition Status

ChildCare Education Institute (CCEI), a nationally accredited distance training institution dedicated to the child care industry is proud to announce a new recognition status with the National Workforce Registry Alliance.

CCEI has achieved status on the Training Organization Recognition List with the National Workforce Registry Alliance. The criteria for this list address the organization’s design and structure of training. To meet this criteria, organizations must successfully demonstrate the following: instructors have knowledge of adult learning principles, instructors have professional knowledge and qualifications to teach in the content area of the training, training provided has clearly stated learning outcomes for the participants, training content is appropriate to and designed for early care and education or afterschool workers, the hour or CEU value of training is consistently and properly calculated, and training completion is properly documented and stored.