Stuff and new stuff
Three new teacher resources
Parent Engagement in Early Learning: Strategies for Working with Families, 2nd Ed.
Written by Julie Powers. Redleaf Press, 2016 ($29.95)
The research is clear: Children who have parents that are supportive and engaged in educational efforts have better long-term outcomes—across domains. Support and engagement rely on meaningful and reflective communication streams between families and teachers, a willingness to trust that both parties are working in the best interests of children, and systems in place that make communication both fruitful and easy.
In her newest book, Julie Powers reflects on her years working in a parent cooperative (with parents and their children) to offer guidance in improving communication, understanding a parent’s perspective, developing and implementing effective communication policies, and using media to make communication more efficient and effective. The book is rich in scenarios and worksheets that can help both new and experienced educators build relationships with families—and to maintain or repair relationships that are fractured.
Each of the six chapters invites an exploration of too-familiar interactions like those with parents who don’t follow policy (“We’re special”), are consistently late (“Is it 6:15 already?”), or question roles in pretend play (“Not my son!”). Each chapter closes with discussion questions that are perfectly phrased to generate productive discussion in teacher meetings and in-service training.
Especially useful is the section that explores family beliefs that don’t match those of the program: Holidaze. Powers asks readers to consider the family’s perspective, encourages ways to avoid a problem of conflicting beliefs or expectations, and offers concrete suggestions for resolving the conflict and moving toward a desired partnership that is mutually supportive and engaged.
Successful Inclusion Strategies for Early Childhood Teachers
Written by Cynthia G. Simpson and Laverne Warner. Prufroch Press, 2016 ($24.95)
Experienced educators Cynthia Simpson and Laverne Warner have created a worthy addition to the inclusion library that is perfect for program directors and teachers who are eager to build the skills necessary to support the growth and development of all children.
The compact and idea-rich book incorporates information on the basics of inclusion—from ADA law and how the law impacts early care and education programs, to field-tested strategies in a concise, reader-friendly format. Chapters include specific descriptions of conditions most often found in early childhood classrooms as well as vignettes that illustrate how children with these conditions may interact with and be challenged by people and objects in the environment.
Exceptionally helpful is the information on modifications to classroom spaces and materials to encourage universal skill development in children—with and without disabling conditions.
As an example of the tools and insights the book provides, Chapter 6 focuses on a preschool child, Kiesha, who has a hearing impairment. The chapter opens with an observational vignette of Kiesha in her classroom. Following is an overview of hearing impairments, categories of hearing loss, a section on what teachers need to know about hearing loss, and a description of inclusive learning strategies, tools, and interactions. As in all chapters, there is a cautionary section on safety issues and a list of resources that can provide additional guidance to teachers and children’s families.
If you’re eager to build a supportive, compassionate, and responsive program that is steeped in child development theory and best practices for all children, you’ll find this book a valuable resource.
Engaging Young Engineers: Teaching Problem-Solving Skills Through STEM
Written by Angi Stone-MacDonald, Kristen Wendell, Anne Douglass, and Mary Lu Love. Brooks Publishing, 2015 ($36.95)
Engineers use problem-solving strategies to discover solutions to everyday problems. This simplistic definition invites all early childhood teachers, and the children in their classrooms, to claim the prestigious job description: We are all engineers.
The title is hardly limited to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) work but imbues the routine challenges and solutions inherent in all interactions with materials and people. Engineering is not accidental or casual, however, but can, even in the youngest learners, be a process for exploring and thinking critically about problems and how to overcome them.
Within the problem-solving framework of Engaging Young Engineers, children and adults work together through four phases of work: think about it, try it, fix it, and share it. Each phase is related to the higher-level thinking skills of curiosity, persistence, flexibility, reflection, and collaboration.
Masterfully, the authors offer teachers a framework for both helping children engage in complex problem-solving called engineering design and then using engineering design to guide children in higher-level thinking skills and constructive interactions with materials. Further, the authors supply the underlying research, theories, and practices of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) that ensure the successful inclusion of children of all abilities and skill levels in all classroom activities.
The book offers ideas for specific activities to guide teachers in building children’s curiosity, persistence, flexibility, reflection, and collaboration from infancy through early childhood. The activities use books and materials found in typical preschool classrooms. For example, teachers can encourage curiosity in infants with Where’s Spot by Eric Hill’s lift-the-flap book. Similarly, preschool teachers can share Candace Fleming’s book Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! to encourage predictions and investigations (experiments and trials) to protect Mr. McGreely’s vegetable garden from the hungry rabbits.
Engaging Young Engineers can help curious and eager teachers work effectively and mindfully with children in inclusive early childhood classrooms. The examples of classroom activities, self-reflection checklists, project strategies, modifications, and planning templates help make the job title Engineer more comfortable and reflective of the work of all early childhood educators.