Tuesday, February 26, 2013

“Green Eggs and Ham” Activities for Multiple Intelligences

Dr. Seuss’s birthday is coming up next week.  To honor his birthday (and to celebrate “Read Across America Day” on March 1), I decided to put together a series of activities based on his classic “Green Eggs and Ham”.  The activities are designed for multiple intelligences to provide something that will, hopefully, appeal to any student.  

So, back to “Green Eggs and Ham”.  It’s such a great book.  It appeals to everyone from pre-readers to young readers and even old folks like me.  It is written with only 50 different words (so that Dr. Seuss could win a bet with his publisher).  The language is simple and its rhyming, repetitive format makes it very predictable.  

While I have long extolled the virtues of this book, I forgot about the most important aspect of it.  It’s just a blast to read out loud.  Last week, I sat down and read the book with a student.  The rhyme, the rhythm, the repetition; it just flows.  We read back and forth, me reading most of it and my student providing the logical rhyming words.  It was quite simply, a thoroughly enjoyable experience for both of us.  

Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss and, thank you.

Get the "Green Eggs and Ham" activities free by clicking for the Preschool version 

or the School-Age version

“Children's reading and children's thinking are the rock-bottom base upon which this country will rise. Or not rise. In these days of tension and confusion, writers are beginning to realize that books for children have a greater potential for good or evil than any other form of literature on earth.” ― Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Helping Parents Understand Play-Based Learning

As early educators, our methods are regularly challenged by parents who want their child to do more academic activities; they want to see worksheets or other evidence to prove that their children are learning something in our programs.  How do we tell parents, who are paying the bills for our program, that we are not going to give them exactly what they want because we know that’s not what’s best for their children?   

First of all, we must be absolutely clear in our own minds that developmentally appropriate learning activities are the best way to educate children.  Next, we need to be able to explain to parents, in simple terms, why we are running the programs we are running.

Touring prospective parents through your program, is a great time to point out various learning centers and briefly discuss developmentally appropriate education.  Then, when parents enroll their child in your program, be sure to provide them with a copy of your Program Philosophy and discuss it with them so that they clearly understand what sort of education their child will be receiving. 

Having your teachers posting their weekly lesson plans, including objectives for the activities, will help parents understand what to expect for the week and, specifically, what their children will be learning.  Labeling your various learning centers with not only the name of the center and a picture of a child working in it, but a brief simple, description of what skills children learn in that center, will help to answer parents’ unspoken questions.  Sending out a monthly newsletter can also help explain your educational program.  Occasional articles about developmental learning in general and specifically what children are learning in which centers are very helpful, as are regular tips on developmentally appropriate activities parents can do at home with their children. 

Along with your solid learning program, regular communication with parents regarding the progress of their children, through portfolios and developmental checklists, will help them to see what their children are learning in your program.  A strong parent education program takes a bit of work, but can make it much easier for you and your staff to run a developmentally appropriate program.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Child Supervision

We all recognize that a large part of our job as early educators is simply providing appropriate supervision for the children in our care.  The question comes in when we ask how we define supervision and ensure that our staff all understand that definition.  Generally speaking, for young children, supervision includes both auditory and visual supervision; you have to not only be able to hear what the children are doing, but see them as well.

There are some licensing agencies that have a different (frankly, unrealistic) perception of what supervision entails.  I had a licensing analyst explain to me that if a staff member of mine sneezed and, in that split second when her eyes were closed during the sneeze, a child were injured, we would be cited for a lack of supervision.  Of course, I strongly disagree with that perception of appropriate supervision and none of us can possibly run a program in which our staff members never sneeze.  However, I have also had staff members who took great liberties with the concept of child supervision and seemed to think that as long as they were in the same general area as the child, they were providing appropriate supervision.

Given the definition that supervision must be both auditory and visual, what does that look like?  First of all, each classroom must be staffed with two staff members at all times that children are present.  There are many reasons for that requirement, but for now I’ll only deal with the supervision issue.  No one person can provide visual supervision for every child in the program at all times.  With two staff members, one can be watching the group while the other provides one-on-one or small group attention to children as necessary.  The second critical component is training staff to provide group supervision.  How do you position yourself to meet the needs of individual children while maintaining supervision of the group?  Hint—corners are your friends.  

If you don’t already have a training program in place to make sure your staff knows how to provide appropriate supervision, DayCareTools is now making our staff training guideline available.  It even includes diagrams of proper and improper supervision to make things extra clear.  Check it out at:  http://daycaretools.com/DaycareProducts.aspx#Personnel

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Child Care Business Management

Do you ever wonder where all the money went?  Do you actually know your monthly budget?  What is your supply budget, food budget or utility cost?  You may find it hard to imagine, but my own child care provider told me one day that she had no good idea what any of her line item budgets were.  I was astounded.

I grew up in the restaurant business.  We knew how much it cost to open our doors each day.  We knew how much revenue was needed to make it a profitable day and how much we needed just to break even.  We knew how much each shift could afford to spend on personnel.   Child care businesses should also know how much it costs each day to open your doors.  How much revenue is needed to break even and/or actually make a profit?

If you plan on being in business for more than a year or two, you need to have a basic budget and cash flow spreadsheet.  Many child care businesses find out too late that they have been losing money for a significant amount of time and then end up closing.  

You wouldn’t teach children gross motor skills by using potty training methods.  It is the same idea; use the tools that are appropriate for the financial side of your business.  Simply having a check register (although it is a critical tool) isn’t sufficient to understand the financial standing of your program.

Check out the “Fiscal Management” section of our website for tools that may help you more effectively run the business portion of your child care program.  Keep it simple when you can; in part by using the right management tools for your program.