Week of March 25, 2019 / 20 Adar II 5779 Being an Educator: A Lifelong Learning Journey
Exceptional educators constantly reflect, listen, and seek to learn more about best practices from research and observing their colleagues. PASECC educators are no exception; they are never content simply to rewind what they have done in the past. Rather, their goal is always to tap into both the interests of their students and what is occurring in the world. Studies of buildings and construction are prominent in the ECC right now as we gear up to move back home.
Pam and I have met with each teacher during the past two weeks. Following their meetings, they all have assessed their fall personal goals and revised them integrating our observations and suggestions to match their current stage of development. All of our educators agree that not only are all of our students growing daily but also, as teachers we are on a lifelong learning journey. As administrators, we are invigorated when we witness the thought processes of our teams.
As a staff, we have been talking about all manner of interesting topics, including gunplay in the classroom, gender identity, and ways to use sustainable art materials. We did a deep dive into read-alouds and examining our daily practices around reading aloud.
I am aware of and have spoken at length about the importance parents of young children attach to learning to read. I have also stood strong on the research that children develop the ability to read along a range analogous to that of walking and talking. In early childhood, the focus needs to be on reading aloud to children: what, when (how often), how, and why?
All educators in the ECC agree that reading aloud to our students at least once a day is a mainstay of our practice. As a staff, we recently reviewed the goal of read alouds.
What? and Why? It is important for educators to plan ahead when selecting books to read aloud to the class or small groups. A book may reinforce a study that the children are engaged in or learning about Jewish holiday. At times, teachers choose books that relate to social emotional goals such as kindness or sharing. Whatever the purpose, educators choose carefully which books will be read during the course of the week.
When? Read alouds happen at multiple points during the day. A 1:1 read aloud may help a child transition into the room in the morning. A read alouds may help a small group of children who are waiting for the next activity. Read alouds are valuable in both small group and whole group learning times to illustrate messages and concepts.
Reading the same book multiple times uses a story to teach multiple skills. A book may be read aloud to children purely for enjoyment. That same book can be read at another time to emphasize character or setting. A third or fourth time, the book can be read for vocabulary enrichment or to activate a child’s ability to visualize without showing the pictures.
How? Any time we read aloud to children we want to make the experience an interactive one. That doesn’t necessarily mean pausing on each page to ask comprehension questions. While asking children questions is one part of literacy development, inspiring children to ask their own questions may be even more critical to their higher level thinking. Reading using different intonations and voice helps to bolster comprehension. Picking and choosing passages to read that illustrate certain concepts is another great technique. The endless variety of ways one can read the same story shows that how you read a story greatly influences the impact you will have on a child’s understanding of the material.
I hope you remember this glimpse into our recent professional development discussions the next time you read to your child at bedtime. Even if your child asks for the same story you have read every night for the past year, try to see it in a different light. Take it for a new spin to activate different learning pathways; the results are exciting and important.