Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Child Care Employee Standards of Conduct

When we first started managing child care programs, we thought that we had it all together; clear policies and procedures, thorough employee job descriptions, evaluation plans in place, etc.  What we didn't count on was the human element. 

You spell out for your employees what you expect of them in regards to their job performance and count on them to do it.  Fortunately, the majority are professionals and do even more than you expect of them.  But....then you get the ones that surprise you.  Because of the challenges we have had with these employees, we learned that we must have every employee sign an Employee Standards of Conduct to cover the areas that seem to be gray to some people.

Even if your Employee Job Descriptions are very clear, chances are there are behaviors that you assume are common knowledge and don't need to be spelled out.  Sadly, we have learned that's not always the case.  For example, you have to spell out for your staff what you expect regarding:

  • gossip
  • using inappropriate language
  • stealing
  • prejudicial behavior
  • harassment
  • refusal to follow instructions
Don't assume that "everyone knows" they can't steal from your program or harass a co-worker.  As soon as you make that assumption, you put your entire program at risk.  If you don't already have an Employee Standards of Conduct, check ours out at: http://daycaretools.com/DaycareProducts.aspx#Personnel  Your program will benefit and your honest, hard-working staff members will appreciate your efforts at providing them with good co-workers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Music Education and Reading

As I was writing last week's article about music education for infants (and children in general), I was struck by how it relates to my other job as a Reading Specialist.  I have spent the past 3 weeks preparing a program for students who do not yet have the foundational skills that they need to be successful in a reading program.  The program that we are about to start will help our students to distinguish between words and syllables and to change sounds within words, such as changing "cat" to "bat".  In this program, children will clap, chant, and play percussion instruments to the rhythm of the words.

Along with this, the reading certificate program that I am finishing has recently had me thinking about prosody in reading; reading with good tone, phrasing, emphasis, etc.  Basically, reading like you are reading in the same way as you would have a conversation. Prosody is sometimes called "the music of the language".

As I thought about these components of early reading education, a clear connection between the skills that children learn in music education and pre-reading and reading skills began to come to light. 

  • In teaching children how to identify syllables, we show them to put their hand under their chin while they say a word and count how many times their chin drops; once per syllable.  In music education, children are taught to be very aware of the movement of specific parts of their bodies; hand position on a drumstick or bow, mouth position on a mouthpiece, etc.
  • Once children can identify syllables, we tap them out in rhythm, to help them see the difference between syllables and words.  In music, students develop a solid sense of rhythm.
  • We teach children how to hear all of the sounds in a word, instead of seeing the word as one, unchangeable piece.  (Children who can't do this often have a hard time with vowel sounds and blends; they simply can't hear those sounds in the middle.)  In music, children are taught to listen for slight differences in sounds.
  • We teach children how to read with good tone, phrasing and emphasis.  As this prosody is known as "the music of the language" this relationship pretty well sums it all up.  This is when it all comes together.
As I think about all of these aspects, I'm thinking (mostly seriously) that all children should have music education.  The benefits are so far-reaching.  At the very least, all children should be provided with high-quality early education that includes a music and movement component.  Just my two cents!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Music Education for Infants

We've all heard the benefits of music education for children--academic achievement, memory, discipline, confidence, stress relief, etc.  I don't think there is anyone who argues these benefits.  There is even research to indicate that simply listening to certain types of music can help children relax and organize their thoughts.

While previous research has demonstrated a positive impact of music education on children preschool age and above, there has not been much study on infants.  Recent research from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, examined the effect of music instruction on infants.  They provided two types of classes for parents and their infants aged 6 months to 12 months.  One class was passive, in which "Baby Einstein" cd's were played while the infants participated in various play activities; art, blocks, books, balls, and stacking cups.  Parents were given a different "Baby Einstein" cd each week to play at home for their infants.  The second class was active, in which the parents and their infants were engaged in movement activities, singing, and playing percussion instruments.  The participants were encouraged to learn a variety of lullabies and action songs.  Parents were given a cd containing songs learned in the class and asked to play it for their infants at home.

At the end of the 6 months of weekly training, the infants in the active classes showed earlier and more advanced brain responses than the infants in the passive classes showed.  Additionally, the infants in the active class demonstrated advanced social development including less distress, more smiling and laughing, and easier soothability.

Keep those music and movement activities coming.  Not only are they fun, but they help develop those children's brains!

Trainor, L. J., Marie, C., Gerry, D., Whiskin, E., & Unrau, A. (2012). Becoming musically enculturated: Effects of music classes for infants on brain and behavior. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1252,129-138. http://www.psychology.mcmaster.ca/ljt/publications.htm


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Child Care Provider Appreciation Day

On behalf of Provider Appreciation Day, we at DayCareTools.com would like to thank you for everything you do for children every day.

Forever In Your Heart

Although you're not their mother
You care for them each day.
You cuddle, sing and read to them
And watch them as they play.
You see each new accomplishment
You help them grow and learn.
You understand their language,
You listen with concern.
They come to you for comfort,
And you kiss away their tears.
They proudly show their work to you,
You give the loudest cheers!
No, you are not their mother,
But your role is just as strong.
You nurture them and keep them safe,
Though maybe not for long.
You know someday the time will come,
When you will have to part.
But you know each child you cared for,
is forever in your heart!

Author Unknown


P.S.  Welcome to those of you who joined us from the Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association Annual Conference!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Reading 20 Minutes a Day

I was amazed, when I started digging into children's reading, to learn that one group that is conducting a lot of research on reading is the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).  Why would they be researching reading?   Because they determined that "difficulties learning to read are not only an educational problem; they constitute a serious public health concern" (Lyon, 2000).  Unresolved difficulties in reading can result in such negative life-long outcomes that it is now considered a public health concern.

One area in which reading difficulties have a negative impact on someone's life is in vocabulary development.  Of course, we need to have a strong vocabulary, not only to be able to read fluently, but to be able to express ourselves clearly verbally and in writing.  Vocabulary development is highly susceptible to what is known as "the Matthew effect", which is basically the concept of the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.  Children who can read well typically enjoy reading more than students who struggle to read.  As a result, students who read well typically read more than students who struggle.  And, of course, reading more makes these students even more proficient readers, while those who struggle and don't read as much do not make much gains in their reading abilities.  The gap between good readers and poor readers just keeps getting bigger and bigger. 

Now, apply this principle to vocabulary development.  Reading is one primary way in which people acquire vocabulary.  Therefore, those who read more add more words to their vocabulary. 

I was troubled a few years ago to see a chart by noted dyslexia researcher, Sally Shaywitz, that showed the differences in how many words a good reader, reading for 20 minutes a day, will read in a year (1.8 million words) as opposed to a struggling reader who reads, on average, less than a minute a day (8,000 words).  It showed me how reading every day is absolutely critical.  This year, I have  taken a class on vocabulary development.  Applying typical vocabulary acquisition rates to these reading rates implies that a top reader could acquire 1,800 words in a year while that struggling reader will probably only acquire about 8 words through his reading. 

The good news is that we, as educators, can do something about this.  Recent research has shown that both struggling readers and accomplished readers acquire vocabulary at the same rate when the text is read to them.  We can help erase that "Matthew effect", at least as it applies to vocabulary, by reading to our children and explaining to their parents why it is so very important that they do the same.  

from "Overcoming Dyslexia" by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.