Teacher’s are only one piece of the teaching!

We love to engage our parents in the learning process! We want to provide a variety of ways for teachers and parents to work together. One way that we do this is by sending things home for children to complete with the parents, and then return to school. It helps parents to know what we are working on at school, how their child is doing academically, and it provides for parent/teacher. Here a re a few ways we facilitate that home-school connection!

  1. Reading Logs24173685_10155185723201527_748842498333817452_o.jpgAt the beginning of the year, we sent home a letter to parents explaining the importance of Reading and our goal for the year. Children and parents read together at home and write the titles on their reading log. After 20 books, they return the reading log for a prize and they get to add a leaf with their name and number of books to the Reading Tree board. This is such a fun way to encourage reading at home and to work towards a collective goal. Last year we read over 4000 books in the course of the school year and we gave out a Gift Certificate to a local bookstore to our top Pre-K readers at graduation.
  2. Homework from Mother Goose Time
    1. “I Can Read” books: Our teachers use these books as homework. They will use them as outlined in the lesson plan book in class and then they will send them home. The children read the book 5 times at home and color in a star on their paper for each time. When they have all 5 colored in, they can return it for a sticker prize.
    2. More Literacy and More Math Books: Our teacher will use some of the pages from these Add-On books as homework and some to supplement or challenge kiddos in class.
  3. Whole Group Projects: 

    Each year, we send home a solid-colored card stock in a sheet protector with a slip of paper that explains the task. Parents are asked to work with their child to create a Family Scrapbook page. When it is complete, they return it and it goes into the Family Scrapbook binder. Throughout the year, if we add any new children, they get to add to the Scrapbook. It is so fun to get to know each of our families, but also to incorporate everyone in our School Family.

    Sometimes we use our Community Board to involve parents as well. This month, we made a Thankful Board and put up a feather with each child’s Name and Picture. Then we sent home an additional feather for families to decorate. They could bedazzle it, paint it, add words or pictures… whatever they wanted to do, and then we added their feathers around the edge. It turned out so cute and the children that returned their feather from home were excited to hang it up.

  4.  Family Night24232157_10155185775911527_5457529972648247757_n.jpg What is more fun that watching families spend time together? This year, we are beginning Family Night’s to get parents to come and play with their child. We will do a variety of activities for an hour just after we would normally close, once per month. Our first one will be a Storyteller. Children are invited to come in their jammies, enjoy a story with his/her parent(s), and then we will have some small snacks. Other ideas are playdough making, crafting, or cooking together. We are very excited to host these engaging times for families and we hope they are enjoyed!
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Let Us Count the Ways!

Millennial parents are said to be more involved than generations before and what they need most is instant communication. They want to know what their child is learning at school, what they ate for snack, who they played with, when they slept, and most of all, that their child was loved. It is important to share verbally at drop off and pick up, but the fastest way to communicate is electronically or visually.

At our centers, we use a program called HiMama to communicate and share information electronically. Parents can check in via their smart phone or computer to see updates throughout the day. We can share photos, and input everything about their day, and that report will get emailed directly to the parents each evening. We can also use HiMama to share information about upcoming events, classroom needs, etc. It is a very useful tool!

In addition to HiMama, we love all the ways that Mother Goose Time provides for instant visual communication with parents. There are pieces that are sent home daily explaining our work, things that are hung in the classroom and hallways… Let us count the ways!

  1. Theme Web and Skills Chart23722616_10155166616136527_5952528475991481107_n Each month in our curriculum kit, there is a Concept Map and Skills Chart to show what we will be learning and what Early Childhood Standards we will be meeting throughout the month.
  2. Activity Calendar23722701_10155166639526527_1937044144423930350_n We hang the Activity Calendar at the Sign-In Desk so Parents can see the plan for the day.
  3. Family Newsletter 

    Each month, we receive a copy of the family newsletter for each child. There is information about what we will be learning during the month, a child development topic, a copy of the Theme Web, and some fun song/rhyme and book recommendations to support what we are learning. Having this resource communicates to parents about what is happening at school and the value of their continued support from home. It also saves our staff from having to take the time to prepare such comprehensive materials.

  4. Daily Notes23795294_10155166616226527_5541963172335457694_n (1)We love this new addition to the curriculum kit! Everyone who has been around small children has received a lovely piece of artwork and had no idea what it was, or why/how it was made. These cards communicate to parents what the work was all about and provide a prompt for parents to engage with their child about the work. These go home daily with the child’s work and are such an amazing tool!
  5. Daily Topic Poster and the Circle Time Board23167853_10155123644426527_3686715316261368706_nThis display is such a helpful and engaging tool in the classroom, but it also communicates to parents how much learning is really taking place each day. There is space for the Theme Poster and the things we practice daily, such as the calendar, letter, numbers, days of the week, weather, shapes and colors. The calendar follows a different pattern each month, so even the calendar work itself is academic. One of the best pieces, however, is the Daily Topic Poster. This shows parents and children what our focus is for that particular day. It helps begin our discussion at circle time, assess what the children already know or wonder, and the pictures are always wonderful. Some of our teachers have been cutting apart the Topic posters and making a large wall collage of the pictures throughout the month. Once again, having these comprehensive materials prepared saves so much time and is invaluable to the teachers.

STEAM in the Rainforest- Week 1!

A buzz word in education right now is STEAM stations and you will hear us use this term often because it is all over the Mother Goose Time curriculum. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. What that means is we offer children the opportunity to use critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, and questioning throughout the activity.

The first week of our Rainforest Adventure Theme, we implemented two STEAM activities that were laid out in the Teacher Guide. Week 1 was all about the forest floor. We began a science experiment that we will continue throughout the month. We cut a potato in half, pushed sticks into the base so it could balance on top of a plastic cup, and then we filled the cup with water. 23031576_1558512954239665_8237372388337483612_nWe discussed how the forest floor is covered with decaying materials (leaves, fallen trees, etc), and it is home to many animals, plants, and fungus. We made some predictions about what we think will happen to our potatoes. Potatoes are a root vegetable, but will they grow roots of their own? Will they turn to mush? Will they sprout something new? What do we need for something to grow (light and water)?

The second activity we decided to try was the Root Vegetable Marketplace.

We set out a variety of real root vegetables and talked about the different shapes, colors, and names. The children had so much fun stuffing all their vegetables into bags and pretending to buy them. Then they would sort them back into the baskets and do it all again. They naturally took turns being the shop keeper and the customer. We talked about how much money they thought the vegetables should be and how many they had. Maybe next week we will add in a scale and do some weight measurements. I never realized how many root vegetables there are and I know we even missed a few (no Beets!) This was such a fun activity and we will probably continue it for another few days (or as long as the vegetables survive).

These types of activities lead to Authentic Assessment and real learning. I love that Mother Goose Time has adapted the Teacher Guide to include STEAM stations!

Navigating Change

Our program is currently undergoing a big change! While it is very exciting, there is so much to learn, and how things are handled can make or break the shift. We have been operating a Certified Childcare Center and this is our fourth year in our current location. The opportunity came about to expand by joining forces with another program in our town. They have a professional gymnastics gym where the children spend part of their morning, but the classroom time was struggling in the academic and management department. We are so excited to share Mother Goose Time, among other things, with another group of children! In just two weeks, it is already making such a huge difference!

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The children are so excited each morning to come in and see what we will be learning. It is amazing to watch their self-control and focus when they are engaged. I have seen so much growth in the children with some simple structure and new material. The reality is winning over children is easy… but earning the trust of their parents is another story.

The biggest piece that was missing was communication with parents. There was no way for the parents to know all that their child was doing while they were away or what was coming up. We are currently using a program called HiMama to document our day. Parents can check in via the app, or an email will be sent to them each afternoon with their child’s Daily Report. This is a helpful tool, but the structure of the curriculum is our biggest asset.

We have a research based lesson plan packed full of learning and new experiences with Mother Goose Time. Each month there is a Family Newsletter to send home, detailing the topic of the month and some things parents can work on at home with their child. This month we are going on a Rainforest Adventure! Parents can see the Theme Web, The Activity Overview Calendar and the Skills Chart posted in the classroom. The Daily Topic Poster is always hung on the Circle Time board before the children arrive, and when they look around the room, there are purposeful activities that send the message, “We are learning here!”

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Here are 5 Lessons we have learned so far on this new adventure, but good to remember for any program change!

#1: Always be honest! Speak only to what you know for sure, not what you think they want to hear. Change is hard, but if you say one thing and do another, it does not inspire confidence in your program.

#2: Focus on what is to come! It is important to learn more about how things have been done in the past, but the reality is that the future is the only thing we really can control. Never speak poorly of what was, but focus on the great things that you are bringing to the program for the future.

#3: Ask Parents what they want! We are talking about other people’s children and what they need/want is important. We are on the same team and truly want what is best for each child, so asking for parent input in a new situation is the best way to begin open communication.

#4: Make a clean break! Communicate very clearly with parents what is going to happen and when. It is important to have a clean shift from one leader to the next so care remains consistent and parents know who to talk to with questions/concerns. We run into problems when their is a communication loop between the old and new, and if both are present as is our current situation, we have to be on the same page.

#5: Try not to take things personally! Not all families will be willing or ready for the change. They may take their child elsewhere or need to take a break while the dust settles, and that is perfectly acceptable. It is not about you and it is important to let them do what they feel is best for their family. Focus on the children and families in your care and do your very best to meet their needs.

We are so excited about the days ahead as we expand our program. We love Mother Goose Time and the amazing stability, communication and asset it is to our program. Our teachers have what they need to succeed and our children are excited to learn!