Becoming a Math-Minded Teacher

 

Quality is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

Many early childhood educators experience what has been termed “math anxiety’.   Some of us grew up in a time when it was ok for girls not to like math. We were just not supposed to be good at math or science. Thus, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. For others, math instruction was so poor that we either lost interest or just gave up. The abstract way math concepts were presented did not seem relevant to our lives. Early childhood educators may also lack professional development training on how to incorporate early math in their programs. Because of these reasons, we may not feel confident in our ability to facilitate math learning. Instead, we focus on areas where we feel more comfortable and competent, such as early literacy. After all, we are creatures of habit. Nevertheless, habits can be changed especially if we know that a good foundation in math benefits children and contributes to their future academic success. We can help build children’s awareness of early math skills by engaging them in hands-on math experiences throughout the day in play activities, routines, outdoor play and group times.

The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (third edition) recognizes the importance of providing children with many and varied math experiences throughout the day and addresses this in Item 24 – Math in Daily Events. If teachers unintentionally avoid math because of bad math experiences or lack of knowledge, it becomes even more important that they start to become intentional about ways they can provide math experiences throughout the day. One way for teachers to start is to reflect on how they use math in their everyday lives and what this might look like for the children they serve.  Here are just a few ideas………………………

How I use math everyday: Teachers have to stick to a schedule and frequently look at the clock so they know when it will be time to transition to a new activity, such as in five minutes they know it will be time to clean-up.

Opportunities for math learning: Although young children cannot tell time, it does give them a sense of the passage of time when teachers give them a five-minute warning before clean-up time. They know they have to start finishing what they are doing because they do not have much longer to play.

Children love doing countdown activities. When teachers have children freeze and countdown to five using their fingers – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, clean-up! , it offers children a great way to practice counting. Fingers are readily available and are a great visual and tactile aid as children practice counting.

Using a picture schedule and referring to it frequently throughout the day helps children gain an understanding of ordinal numbers and the sequence of events. As they talk about what comes first, next, children are developing logical concepts which helps them develop reasoning skills. If used frequently they will learn to understand the pattern that occurs. For example, we always have snack after outdoor play.

How I use math:  Teachers count children as they take attendance each day.

 Opportunities for math learning :  When children put their names in a pocket chart when they arrive for the day, they are also taking part in attendance. This helps them get to know the names of their friends, but is also a valuable way for them to count and compare quantities. Many opportunities for math learning occur as children compare the number of girls vs boys present, learn about more or less as they compare those present vs those absent, count on to find out how many children would be in class if everyone was present. Counting, comparing quantities and counting on all provide children with a good foundation for addition.

How I use math: Many teachers use measurement as they follow a sequence in completing the steps in a recipe.

Opportunities for math learning:  Including children in these types of activities helps them to follow steps in a picture recipe. They learn to identify written numbers for steps 1, 2 etc. They will learn about measuring and measurement words as they measure two cups of flower and one cup of salt, for example.

How I use math: Teachers often make center signs to indicate the number of children who can play in a center (ex, number 4 with four stick figures or Velcro dots for names) as a management tool during center time.

 Opportunities for math learning for children: Helping children learn to use the center sign not only helps them develop decision-making skills, but also offers them the opportunity to learn important number concepts, such as counting, determining how many in all, how many more, and identifying written numbers.

How I use math:  Teachers read a variety of books, including books with math concepts, to children throughout the day in small groups, with individual children and in large groups.

Opportunities for math learning: Reading and discussing math-related books is certainly one way to help children identify and practice math skills, but math language can be introduced and discussed in almost any book.

For more information:
Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (third edition)

kristenc

kristenc

Kris Corrigan is an Environment Rating Scale Assessor with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She has been in her current position for three years. She enjoys meeting and working with providers who are committed to providing quality environments for the children in their care. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family including her four cats.

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Snack as a Center Choice

Preschool children need time during the day for group times, free choice play activities, snacks and/or meals, rest time, and outdoor play in order to support their development and learning.  Designing a schedule to ensure enough time for all these activities can be like putting a puzzle together with too many pieces.  Not everything fits.  This is especially true for part-day programs.  In an effort to maximize the time for each scheduled routine or learning activity, teachers will sometimes offer snack as a center choice during free play.

As we transition to using the ECERS-3, here are some things to consider for those programs who decide to offer snack as a choice during self-selected free play:

  • Sometimes part day programs do not offer snack because teachers feel children eat before and after preschool. Keep in mind that all children must be offered a meal or snack every two and not more than 3 hours.  Children’s appetites and interests in foods vary.  By offering a nutritious meal or snack every 2-3 hours, it will ensure children get enough calories for the day.  A snack or meal must be observed during the 3-hour time sample.  Meals and snacks must meet CACFP requirements (Child and Adult Care Food Program) even if a center does not participate in the program.
  • The option for choosing whether to eat snack should only be offered to older preschoolers. Younger preschoolers must have a snack or a meal.
  • Offering snack at center time as an optional activity to older preschoolers does take then away from play activities. Some children will choose to play rather than eat even though their bodies may need nourishment. If snack is offered as a choice to older preschoolers, staff must encourage children to participate.  This means that children not only hear about snack, but also see what is being offered.  Children may decide they are hungry after all when they see an appetizing snack.
  • Teachers need to participate in snack even though it is offered as a choice. Even older preschoolers may need assistance with portion control, serving themselves, and clean-up procedures.   When teachers are actively involved with children during snack, they can engage children in conversations that will enhance their language development.   Providers also need to remember to clean/sanitize each place at the table between uses.
  • The ECERS-3 requires one-hour for free choice time during a three-hour time sample with only a two-minute grace period. Teachers must be cognizant of the average time all children spent eating snack and extend free play, if needed, by that amount of time to compensate for it.

New CACFP guidelines (effective 10-1-17)

https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/cacfp/CACFP_MealBP.pdf

Reference:  Harms, T., Clifford, R. and D. Cryer (2015).  Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (third edition).  New York: Teachers College Press.

 

kristenc

kristenc

Kris Corrigan is an Environment Rating Scale Assessor with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She has been in her current position for three years. She enjoys meeting and working with providers who are committed to providing quality environments for the children in their care. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family including her four cats.

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Yesterday was…Today is…Tomorrow will be…Calendar Time – The Best Use of Their Time?

 

We often observe large group time and when children are engaged and the group time is kept short, it can be an important part of the day.  It is a time when children gain a sense of belonging to the classroom community and have an opportunity to talk about important events in their lives.  Calendar activities are often part of these large group gatherings.  Many times we see teachers pose questions to children that draw blank stares, such as “yesterday was…. today is …. and tomorrow will be…..”

The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale doesn’t specifically address “calendar time”, but it does address developmentally appropriate ways to teach math concepts and addresses child engagement and individual needs during group times.  If concepts are not developmentally appropriate and too abstract, children will become disengaged and problems may arise.

Still, many preschool teachers will argue that calendar time is the time when they introduce important math concepts such as counting, one-to-one correspondence and basic patterning.  And, these math concepts are important to introduce to preschoolers. But is whole-group calendar time the best time and best way to introduce developmentally appropriate math concepts?  Here are some alternatives suggested in the articles listed in the resource section and from ideas I have observed in the field:

Hands-on Materials: Young children need many opportunities to explore concepts such as patterning and counting using real materials.  This can be handled most effectively in small groups or at center time with adults who are available to guide their learning.

Daily Opportunities: Many opportunities exist throughout the day to teach math concepts.  For example, counting while children wash their hands or looking for patterns in the environment during outdoor play.  These experiences help children understand the value math plays in their everyday lives.

Use a Picture Schedule: Young children may not be able to judge how much time there is between events, but they can begin to understand the sequence of events (snack comes after circle time). Some programs I have observed use a picture schedule instead of a calendar to talk about the events of the day or use it as a teachable moment when children want to know when it will be time to go outside.

Photos or Classroom Displays: I have observed teachers using project displays to talk about the progression of events in a study or to talk about past special events. Other teachers use picture journals or photo albums as a way of recording and revisiting past events.

Linear representations: Linear representations can help children begin to understand the concept of a day and the passage of time.  Some teachers record the events of the week on a blank piece of poster paper. They draw a square for each day and a picture that represents what occurred during that day.  Houses are drawn on stay-at-home days.  Teachers can then use the picture in the boxes to discuss events that happened yesterday in a way that is meaningful to children.

What are your thoughts about whole-group calendar time?  What alternatives do you see programs using instead of the traditional calendar time?  What alternatives do you suggest to programs instead of the traditional calendar time?

Resources:

 http://www.naeyc.org/files/tyc/file/CalendarTime.pdf

https://www2.teachingstrategies.com/blog/44-before-after-later-and-next-using-a-calendar-in-a-preschool-classroom

kristenc

kristenc

Kris Corrigan is an Environment Rating Scale Assessor with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She has been in her current position for three years. She enjoys meeting and working with providers who are committed to providing quality environments for the children in their care. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family including her four cats.

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The Challenge in Providing Quality School-Age Programming

 

School-Age child care providers often face unique challenges.  During the school year, children can be in care for a very short period of time making it difficult to plan for them, many times programs have to share space with other programs requiring some to set-up and take down each day, staff may have to work long hours starting early in the morning and ending later in the evening, and school-age child care staff may find that classroom teachers won’t make the time and effort to communicate with them about the needs of children in their care. Having said that, though, quality school-age programs can excite children about learning, provide time to socialize with their friends, give them an opportunity to explore their own interests, help them learn new skills, provide them with needed exercise, and offer caring staff who will listen to them and help them deal with issues at home or in school.  In short, quality school-age programs can be the highlight of a child’s day!

Although the School-Age Environment Rating Scale (updated version) is the least used of all the Environment Rating Scales in Iowa, over a three-year period I have seen enough programs to come to some generalizations about areas where program typically lose points at the good level of quality.  I would like to share this information with those who would like or need more information about the SACERS-U in the event you work with a program preparing for an assessment or a program that wants to improve the care they provide school-age children.

  • Materials should be age and developmentally appropriate.  There are some materials such as blocks or some art materials that are appropriate for both school-age and preschool groups.  But if a program shares space with a preschool, there should be materials appropriate for the ages of the children in the school-age group.  For example, some primary age children will enjoy picture books, but others may enjoy chapter books like Junie B. Jones or the Magic Tree House series. A solution some programs have found is to have materials on carts that they bring out during the program day. More suggestions for appropriate materials can be found in specific activity items on the SACERS-U scale.  Materials should be accessible for at least 30 minutes in a typical after-school program of three hours or more.
  • A considerable amount of softness must also be accessible to the children and appropriate for their size.  A small vinyl preschool chair or a blanket and a few pillow on a hard floor is not enough for a school-age child to escape the hardness of a typical classroom.  But a couch in the music or listening area and bean bag chairs and several large pillow in the reading area would meet this requirement.  It is also important to remember that many soft furnishings must be accessible for at least one third of the time they are in care, at the good level of quality.
  • Two items address child-size seating.  I am reminded of Goldilocks when I observe some school-agers in various seating arrangements.  Sometimes it’s just not quite right.  Programs that share space may have adult-size tables and chairs or preschool-sized seating arrangements.  At the good level of quality, 75 percent of the tables and chairs must be child-size (feet touch the floor, sit waist high at the table, with legs resting comfortably under the table).
  • Interactions are as important as materials and furnishings.  Sometimes school-age providers want to give children enough time to relax, play and visit with their friends.  This is certainly important, and it is important that the school-age child care program not replicate the school day.  However, providers do have the opportunity to complement the school day.  Staff can encourage children to use reading, writing and math in practical situations as children pursue their own interests.  This practice helps children see that what they are learning in school applies to everyday situations.  We must observe this if credit is to be given.  Staff should also engage children in meaningful conversations – there should be several turns for the children and staff to talk.  Open-ended questions (why or how) that require longer and more complex answers should also be asked.
  • A variety of gross motor activities must be provided that stimulate a variety of skills. At the good level of quality, there must be five different skills made possible by stationary equipment and five different skills made possible by portable equipment.  Also, keep in mind that outdoor play activities should occur daily, weather permitting.  Surfacing in and around equipment requiring cushioning must also be adequate.

 

What challenges do you find school-age providers encounter?  How do you help them overcome these challenges?

 

Resources:

Harms, T., Jacobs, H. & Romano, D. (2014) School-Age Environment Rating Scale (updated).  New York: Teachers College Press.

http://ersi.info/PDF/playground_revised_10-3-13.pdf

http://idph.iowa.gov/Portals/1/Files/HCCI/weatherwatch.pdf

 

 

kristenc

kristenc

Kris Corrigan is an Environment Rating Scale Assessor with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She has been in her current position for three years. She enjoys meeting and working with providers who are committed to providing quality environments for the children in their care. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family including her four cats.

More Posts - Website

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