Yes, we all want the best for our children. We want them to have the opportunities and experiences that we never had. If, as a parent, we think we would have been more successful if we’d done better in school or participated in sports, chances are we will push our children in that direction. Afterall, we want them to be happy and successful. But our idea of what is best for our children might not always be what they need or want. Finding that balance between encouraging our children and pushing them too hard is often difficult to achieve.
The heightened focus on parents wanting their children to read at a very early age is real … and it is worrisome. There is little current research showing the long-term benefits of learning to read at a very young age. In fact, pushing children to learn too fast may actually rob some children of the joy that they should be experiencing along the way. Research indicates that attempts to accelerate intellectual development, and reading, in particular, are in fact counterproductive … so why do some parents continue to push? It could quite likely be that they are simply not aware of the learning process.
Until your child is developmentally ready to read, reading instruction is basically useless. Pressuring your child to do what they aren’t yet developmentally able to do and that they don’t see a point in doing may cause frustration and anger. Going through reading lessons may train your child to recognize letters or blends, but it won’t be reading.
Think about it in another way. Learning to read is similar to what happens when you baby learned to walk. He pulled himself up to a standing position, sometimes practicing this for months. He held your hands as he cautiously took shaky steps forward, and then one day, maybe unexpectedly … he took his first steps on his own. If you are like many parents, you have documented this moment have it etched into your memory.
Just like children showing signs that they’re almost ready to start walking, they also give clues that they are ready to begin reading. But how will you know? The first indicator is motivation. Your child must be interested in reading before he will put forth the effort to learn how to do it. How can you support this significant stage of your child’s pre-reading experience? Foster a love of reading. Make it a habit of snuggling up with your child in a comfortable place and together, lose yourselves in the imaginary world of a book. Sing it, read it, act it out. Do this daily. Be a role model. Reading to your child will provide educational advantages, develop communication skills and promote creativity.
Print awareness is another indicator that your child is ready to read and includes a basic understanding of how to read a book. “How” to read a book is easily modelled from birth, as you look at the cover of a book and talk about it with your child and then have your child turn the pages of the book carefully from beginning to end. (Board books or cloth books are a great idea for your baby who is still putting everything into his mouth.) Pointing out interesting details in pictures also promotes print awareness and as your child matures, he will focus on the words as communicating meaning. When you see you child pick up a favourite book and “read” in his own words (often nonsensical in the early years, and sometimes memorized) it is another one of those milestones worthy of recording.
We know that each child is unique, and all children develop at slightly different rates. Maybe your child has an abounding love for books, and maybe he doesn’t. Do not worry. Dr. and Mrs. Moore, in their recent research, have found that giving children time and space to explore and learn to read on their own timetable may actually set them on a path to greater understanding and maturity (http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/are-we-pushing-kids-read-too-early)
In many cases pushing children to read before they are ready leads to short-term progress at the cost of long-term (sometimes lifelong) dislike of reading. “Interestingly, the Finnish school system, which has some of the highest reading scores in the world, does not begin direct instruction in reading until age seven, closer to the peak of a natural unforced bell curve than the American system, which keeps pushing instruction ever earlier. A study in New Zealand compared Waldorf schools, which begin reading instruction at age seven, to public schools, which begin at age five, and found no long-term benefit to earlier instruction. In fact, many of the studies which show an advantage to early reading instruction compare children’s proficiency at around age eight or nine. What the New Zealand study shows is that by age ten or eleven, that advantage may disappear, and that by twelve or thirteen, it often reverses, with children taught later showing greater comprehension and enjoyment of reading than those taught earlier.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/08/19/what-the-modern-world-has-forgotten-about-children-and-learning/?utm_term=.96932edf2383)
Yes, we all want the best for our children. We all want them to be readers. Find that balance between encouraging your child and pushing him too hard. Be a role model, read to him and encourage his love of books.
How to help kids to learn Language
Language is a big part of each child’s daily life. It is a necessary skill to be ready for their future learning and work. So, how can you help your child to develop good foundational language skills and prepare them for the future?
Child’s Mother Tongue Learning:
0-5岁是儿童学习语言的关键期。研究表明， 儿童在此期间大脑快速生长，相比于成年人他们更易于接受和学习新事物。0-5岁期间，儿童学习语言的主要方式是与别人的社交互动, 其中家长和同伴都承担着相当重要的角色。
We know that from the ages of 0 to 5 years old children are developing key language skills. At this age children’s brains grow fast and they can adapt to new knowledge and skills more quickly than adults. Children learn languages through interaction with other people. At this age a child’s parents, family and friends are important role models for learning language.
As a parent, how can you help your child to develop their language skills?
· give positive feedback to your child using any language (such as actions, a sounds, single words, non-verbal as well as oral).
· ask open ended questions, because these kinds of questions can encourage your child to generate their own opinions and improve their expression skills.
· read a story with your child and ask questions about the story.
· 和孩子一起表演故事，鼓励他们使用自己／书中的语言去表达，给孩子提供大量使用语言的机会, 体会语言表达情感的作用
· role play about the story you have read and encourage them to use their language or the character’s language. This provides opportunities for using language and feeling the emotion in the language.
· engage in every day conversations with your child. Not serious talk, but everyday observations and experiences; this can happen when you are doing handy crafts , cleaning rooms or taking a walk with your child. This is a good chance to develop your child’s expression skills, it also helps you to know your child better and builds up a strong and close relationship with your child.
· please turn off the television. Some parents may think that kids can learn from TV, but the fact is that the child learns things from interactions with people and the environment. TV can not communicate with your child, so the learning is very limited.
· play games and sing with your child. When children do these kinds of activities they use language more and they learn more because they are involved.
· do not stop your child pretending to “read” or “draw”. These actions may not seem important to you, but to your child it is really important. It is actually necessary practice for their future reading, hand writing, writing and expression. You can prepare their own chalk board/ white board/paper wall to encourage them to make marks and begin the writing process.
· take any chance to develop your child’s language skills. Before shopping in the supermarket, let your child help you to make a shopping list. This allows them to notice that language is useful. This modelling can motivate them.
· avoid correcting your child all the time. Can you imagine the feeling that whenever you try to do something new, someone tells you it is wrong (“You need to do this or you need to do that”) would you still want to try? Children respond to support and encouragement . If you are concerned about their grammar mistakes or sentences are not complete, please do not worry about it. Children can learn and self-correct through modelling.
let your child play with their peers as much as they can. They can learn more from them! Peers are a child’s teacher too!
Language learning is a gradual and slow process. You may not see the obvious results in a short time, but when your child starts learning at school, you will find out that the child who is good at expression and oral language enjoys written language, this fosters a love of books, This helps them to develop comprehension skills while speaking and reading and they can connect to the content faster. This all contributes to supporting your child in learning languages.
Is community important to learning?
The first response is perhaps….“If my child is learning, developing skills and achieving…well yes, community is a good bonus.”
But, I would like to suggest that success begins with community and that our children in fact learn better, improve skills and meet their goals because of the influence of community.
Research shows that children learn better when they feel confident, have a sense of belonging and can make connections from themselves, their interests and their learning to the wider world. This helps them to build relationships and connect to others. This begins at home but then to the extended family, the school, their immediate living environment, (building, compound, street), the local community, the city and as they grow, further beyond into the global community. This connection is crucial not only for the student themselves but for also building a global awareness and involvement to support future contributions.
As educators we recognize this and believe in building community, connecting with community and honouring community. This is the starting point for learning in every way as children must know how to connect, interact and interpret their environment and the people with in it physically, factually and emotionally. This needs to occur first because it effects a child’s conditions for learning as the community can effect a child’s well being physically and emotionally.
At school we support children in feeling physically and emotionally safe, we support them in making connections to the environment and the people in it. We encourage children to explore and feel safe, to wonder and be risk takers, to create and be curious and to connect and be open.
We achieve this by:
- making links from the content of their learning to their community
- making relationships with organisations and experts within the community to support student learning and build relationships for sharing skills
- developing a sense of empathy and awareness in students in order to value how they can contribute
- recognizing the efforts of others in improving student learning and well being
- developing a sense of responsibility in students for their contributions to the community
- supporting students in using important skills of communication, research, analysis and self management within this context to allow them to practice and improve these skills
- supporting, communicating with and connecting to all members of the school community and local community to build and celebrate learning for all
Understanding the value of these relationships and how they contribute to learning and developing skills offer important foundations to the learning environment for children. The community is an important influencing factor to learning beginning with the family community, the school community, the local community, the regional community, the national community and ultimately the global community.
It seems that lately our office has been overtaken by a constant and stimulating buzz about the creators’ philosophy of Innova Academy. Conversations about the latest technologies and the possible personal and academic connections, trialling of high-tech gadgets and products and engaging in conversations and active interactions with interesting industry people have added to this air of excitement. Enthusiastic educators are learning how to create a mindset and an environment that will support differentiated and personalized learning for all of our students.
These types of learning spaces are becoming more common in today’s schools because they offer a complete learning environment that is inviting and inclusive and encourages vast opportunities for students. Innova Academy’s creators’ spaces will be interspersed throughout the school, available to every student to explore and create their wonderings in a supportive, collaborative and stimulating environment where ideas are endless. Passion and innovation are at the heart of our spirit at Innova Academy. We believe that our makers’ environment will nurture inquiry, investigation and real-world experiential learning.
Some of Innova Academy’s purposefully positioned creators’ spaces will be intermingled in the library areas. Arranging flexible creator spaces in libraries is another step in the evolving debate over what a library’s core mission is or should be. I see our libraries at Innova Academy ensuring that our students and staff are informed, self-directed, discriminating and effective users of ideas, information, resources and materials. Of course we need to remember that at our core, we are still a library and our focus is on supporting and promoting literacy, and these creator spaces are an extension of our library. What better way to see this come to fruition than to support the whole child in a well-resourced, multi-dimensional library space?
So, as the buzz continues, so too does my excitement about the environment. These are exhilarating times that provoke thought about our future at Innova Academy.
Once upon a time, there was a library in which people sat silently as they read and were hushed if they dared to make any noise louder than a whisper. This library was a space in which the storage and preservation of books and periodicals were closely watched by the custodian of the library, a person whom many feared.
But those library chronicles have been rewritten. As we consider our learning communities more closely, we know that our libraries need to continually be revised in order to effectively support those whom we serve. Most recently I have been contemplating the needs of our youngest library users. What do children in the Early Years need at their critical developmental stage? How can we encourage youngsters at this stage to develop a lifelong love for reading and inquiry skills? How can we use best practices in teaching and learning within our library space to support these children? How can we inspire them to wonder, challenge them to explore, support them to create and empower them to connect? (http://www.originsedu.cn/) These are the next chapters in our New Library book.
As we focus on the needs of children in the Early Years, we know that “play is a necessary element for the child’s development and learning in their beginning school years. Play allows children to make sense of the world around them. “(C. Bucheler, Head of Early Years, Innova Academy, Children learn as they play (1)) Play is often referred to as the classroom of life in which children develop their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. In fact, play helps children develop (early) literacy skills.
So what is the connection between play and the library? Often referred to as the HEART of the school, the library should also be a playground for learning, a space where young children can explore their queries and passions in a number of ways and a place where librarians can empower children to be the best that they can be. Our Innova library spaces will easily support meaningful, open-ended learning events that can impact each child’s development in a very personal way. Our library may not be an actual playground, but there certainly is a place for play in our library.
Librarians encourage play while facilitating skill development; listening, speaking, reading and writing skills, social-emotional skills and motor skills, are at the very core of what librarians do. Our library spaces in Innova Academy will provide a plethora of resources, including a variety of fiction, and nonfiction books, story sacks, magazines, and manipulatives to be used intentionally to support these skills through developmentally appropriate learning opportunities. Children will also have the option to use iPads and eReaders to enjoy eBooks and digital resources. At Innova Academy learners will be nurtured and challenged to develop an innovator’s mindset and encouraged to become life-long learners.
Which library do you want for your child – the one in which he is hushed and fettered, or the one in which he is heard and free? The one in which books were the only resource? Or the one in which healthy brain development, exploration skills, language skills, social skills, physical skills and creativity are nourished through a variety of learning materials? We believe we know what you want, and we are ready to welcome you.
From infancy onwards children connect to Mathematics through experiences and daily life. They are learning concepts of size, shape, distance, number and comparisons. These early understandings are crucial for building foundations for developing skills and knowledge, but also for developing attitude, problem solving and Mathematical thinking.
So how can you support this? Help your child to love Mathematics by modelling and including your child in Mathematics from daily life. Encourage them to ask questions, to take risks and to be curious by talking about Mathematics in every day life.
Here are ten ideas for doing just this:
- When shapes, amounts, size or numbers can be compared ask your child’s opinion. Which toy is bigger? Or smaller? Will it take us longer to walk to the park or to the shop? Do you have more strawberries or less strawberries? Look for things you can compare and share these experiences with your child
- Develop number sense by counting at every opportunity. Our everyday life is full of opportunities to count. When we dress, when we cook, when we walk to school. Ask your child to count how many bikes there are on the corner? Or how many carrots are in the fridge, better still ask them to count and choose the carrots when shopping. Use coins and notes too and ask them to count out daily how many 1 yuan notes there are in your wallet.
- Solve problems with your child. Puzzles allow children to develop problem solving skills by using strategic thinking and reasoning skills. Ask them lots of questions about how they are solving these problems and this helps them to explain their ideas. Why do you think that piece goes there? What do you think the picture in this corner will be? What colors can you see?
- Early addition and subtraction skills come from informal experiences using objects. When sharing food (i.e. singular items: fruit, candy, dumplings) ask children to count how many pieces there are in total. If everyone got one apple how many apples in total? How many plates are on the table? How many shoes are at the door?
- Identify shapes in real life. When walking or in malls or at the park, play games looking for shapes in real life. As children develop their knowledge explore more complex shapes.
- Cooking offers a range of mathematical learning experiences. Counting ingredients, measuring ingredients, discussing shapes of resources and creations, comparing sizes.
- Playing games offers children the opportunity to experience through modelling and practice strategic thinking. Pattern games, sharing games, building games
- Sorting activities using shells, buttons, coins, ribbons or any easy to handle objects that your family will enjoy collecting. Then at different times sort them by color, size, shape.
- Pattern activities: identifying patterns in life at an early age help build a foundation for future Mathematical problem solving
- Look for Mathematics in story books. Are they discussing size, comparing amounts, counting? Ask your child to look at the numbers on the page and count with you. Ask your child to count a certain object on the page.
Research has shown that children with a positive attitude about mathematics, who value mistakes and see the fun in Mathematics develop greater fluency and confidence. Helping children to see that Mathematics is more than simply calculating broadens their understandings and expectations.
Well known researcher in Mathematics Learning and Teaching Jo Boaler (2013) states, “The core of mathematics is reasoning – thinking through why methods make sense and talking about reasons for the use of different methods” (https://bhi61nm2cr3mkdgk1dtaov18-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/FluencyWithoutFear-2015.pdf) This is why encouraging children to explain their ideas and thinking is so important. For young children this begins by adults modelling this process. When you are using Mathematics skills in daily life tell your children. “Hmm, I do not know if this book will fit into my bag? How can I find out? Can we measure the book and then the bag? What can we measure it with? Our hands. Ok let’s try” This models, and includes your child, in how to solve a problem and use specific skills. The power of involving your child and sharing these experiences can have a big impact.
Just as reading with your child develops a love of books, so can playing and exploring Mathematics in daily life develop a love of Mathematics.
Make Mathematics fun! Celebrate mistakes as learning experiences. Encourage children to ask questions about numbers, shapes, location, pattern and measurement.
Ashley Spires’ book “The Most Magnificent Thing”, inspired this 6 Part series looking at the power of “Growth Mindset” in Early years education and beyond each part has been “paired” with an online video reference to extend the conversation
– by Nikos Kritsantonis, Origins Education
Study after study has shown the incredible capacity of brains to grow and change in a really short time. When we talk about early years education this capacity is significantly increased. At this developmental stage the plasticity of the human brain allows students to learn much easier and be very creative. Every student possesses talents; with the right support of the environment and with experience they will shape the type of personality that will allow them to be successful in their lives. The key in this process is the development of a specific type of mindset. A type of mindset that values obstacles and sees mistakes as a learning opportunity.
Anyone who needs advice on how to build magnificent things should visit a school that promotes creativity and embraces the culture of making. Being creative, being a maker is a mindset. The learning process, especially in Early years, offers great insight on the concept of creativity and how grown-ups have abolished it for fear of failure. At some point we all have failed at something; for most people failure is a dead end, yet for others it is a guide that shows the way.
Can creativity, innovation and talents be taught? How is school responsible for students’ success?
Study after study has shown the incredible capacity of brains to grow and change in a really short time. When we talk about early years education this capacity is significantly increased. At this developmental stage the plasticity of the human brain allows students to learn much easier and be very creative. Every student possesses talents; with the right support of the environment and with experience they will shape the type of personality that will allow them to be successful in their lives. The key in this process is the development of a specific type of mindset, a type of mindset that values obstacles and sees mistakes as a learning opportunity.
Anyone who needs advice about how to build magnificent things should visit a school that promotes creativity and embraces the culture of making. Being creative, being a maker, is a mindset. The learning process, especially in Early years, offers great insight on the concept of creativity and how grown-ups have abolished it in fear of failure. At some point we all have failed at something; for most people failure is a dead end, yet for others it is a guide that shows the way.
Developing a Growth Mindset
Last week I took part in a teachers’ workshop titled “Teaching with 21st century skills in mind”, led by Lance G. King. The facilitator has made an impact on education with his book “The Importance of Failing Well”. In this book the author, based on his research, claims that, among other qualities, successful students demonstrated acceptance of failure, while underachievers tended to deny that failure existed for them or took steps to avoid the possibility of failure in their lives. Lance G King, claims that students with a growth mindset see failure as an opportunity for feedback, that they believe that personality and intelligence can change and grow, and that they also believe in continual improvement through adaptation. In other words, the mindset of successful students does not let failure get in their way to success!
Psychologist and Stanford Professor Carol Dweck, in her book: “Mindset:The New Psychology of Success” summarized the key findings from her research on the nature and impact of mindsets. Her decades long research showed that students with a growth mindset, who believe that intelligence and “smartness” can be learned, go on to higher levels of achievement, engagement, and persistence.
Growth Mindset VS. Fixed Mindset
Mathematician John Mason from the University of Oxford claims that all students have “natural powers” in problem solving. He claims that these powers are integral to human intelligence and are used across fields of human activity. When it comes to being a successful problem solver, it is really about learning to use these powers within the right context. Cognitive psychologist Lev Vygotsky used the example of mathematics to argue that learning is a scientific endeavour and that students need to be in the presence of a teacher, who will scaffold the process of learning. It is within that process that students make meaning and they eventually become aware of how fundamental is to human intelligence to follow that process.
Another influential educator and mathematician Jo Boaler, in her book “The Elephant in the Classroom” claims that ” one of the most damaging mathematics myths propagated in classrooms and homes is that maths is a gift, that some people are naturally good at maths and some are not”
It is not only academics and mathematicians who are making the point that success is something you learn. Writers and artists as well are argue that what most people refer to as talent is the result of perseverance, resilience, self-awareness and systematic work, qualities that are at the core of 21st Century learning skills.
So, if we all have the power to be creative what’s getting in our way? Here lays the importance of Early years education. It is at this developmental stage that kids shape their mindset and it is really vital to make positive connections about their abilities and build trust on themselves.
Problem solving in the life of young learners
As an early years teacher I see pure creativity in my classroom every day and my role is to support the students’ “natural powers” . A book that I love to use as a reference about the beauty of making and the power of perseverance and resilience is “The Most Amazing Thing”.
Author and illustrator Ashley Spires in this book writes about a little girl who, alongside her best friend, her lovely dog, has a wonderful idea of making the “most MAGNIFICENT thing!”. The little girl starts with enthusiasm.
but when things don’t go as she has planned she feels such a disappointment that she decides to “QUIT”.
The little girl didn’t know back then that this is a phase of problem solving which is called “Being STUCK”.
If you are a maker you sure know how it feels! Writers and artists call this stage “creative block”. John Mason claims that “being STUCK” is a honorable and positive state from which much can be learned. There is a major physiological impact when we are creating something. Stress comes with creativity and creativity as well as stress are physical, a matter of hormone secretion that produces that special feeling. In that stage, positive reinforcement is crucial.
And this is what our little heroine did. After a long walk with her best friend and after she treats herself a muffin, the mad gets pushed out of her head. It might take some time but, as all teachers know, with the right support makers will go back to work. It is that time where reflection turns “Stuck” into “AHA!”.
Dr. Ken Atchity, whose work is part of very prestigious creative writing curriculums in universities around the world, claims that in that stage of creative block our mind is testing us to see how serious we are about our desire to be disciplined and to get the best from reflection.
Understanding how the process works is what converts anxiety to elation. As a learner and a maker, the challenge of been successful in pursuing your passion is not to avoid anxiety but to cope with it and turn it in positive energy.
Back to our story, the girl, who is now calmer, starts ” to work carefully and slowly, tinkering, hammering, gluing and painting”, or in the problem solving language, she entered the ATTACK phase,
and in the end :
The little girl in the story is a maker, she had the growth mindset to see the opportunity where others would have “failed bad”.
Her early failures enable her to gain control over her mood or the effective skill of emotional management. She also demonstrated perseverance and resilience. All these are part of the 21st century skills that modern education sets at the core of the teaching practice.
Once the environment supports the cognitive and physical growth of every child and learning is designed to scaffold learners capacity to be creative and develop their super powers innovation happens in the classroom every day.We can see it as long as we know where to look and how to support it. If we don’t recognize it, we are the ones that are failing, not out students.
Recently I attended ‘China’s Educational Equipment Exhibition at Beijing’s Conventional Centre.
As an educator with a keen interest in technology integration, I was able to get a clear picture of the market and the plethora of educational resources that were available.
Together with Grace Yang we presented Origins vision on how technology changes teaching practice.
I was delighted with the high attendance and the engagement from the visitors but most importantly I was very glad to interact with other educators who share the same concern and ideas about 21st century learning and modern teaching.
Our presentation was an introduction to what Origins has to offer as a learning institute in the rapidly changing field of education. After the end of the presentation, we had the chance to exchange experiences with other educators and explore ideas on the ways we can implement tools like robots and drones in students’ learning.