Sign Language and Its Importance as You Teach

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When I started teaching I knew I wanted more for my students than even I could imagine. I wanted to expose them to all types of learning, activities, centers and curriculum. I decided when I was getting my degree that I would take sign language because I had taken Spanish in high school. I am so glad I did, because I used sign language every single day with my students for the 5 years that I taught in public schools. Sign language was an important part of our day. We did the pledge of allegiance, counting, songs, days of the week, months of the year and our names in sign language. There are all types of sign languages but I taught and used American Sign Language.  A great deal of past and current research shows benefits and encourages all that work with young children or have young children to teach signing.ASL is the third most used language in the U.S. Early childhood is the best time to acquire a new language” (Simpson and Lynch, 2007).

What is ASL?

The National Institute on Deafness and other Communications Disorders says:

“American Sign Language (ASL) is a complete, complex language that employs signs made by moving the hands combined with facial expressions and postures of the body. It is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf and is one of several communication options used by people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.” (2017).   

It is important that while you are learning sign language that you also learn about the culture and the people. It is vital that you can come to understand not only how they speak out in the world but how and what they believe. I also taught my students about sign language and why people signed instead of spoke with their words. To this day, even though I am not in the classroom I am memorized with signing. I think the language is beautiful and what a wonderful thing to share with your students.

Reflect on your teaching practices as you read this article and I challenge you to try to incorporate some sort of signing in your environment.

  1. Children can learn to sign as soon as you feel comfortable, make sure it is correct and consistent.
  2. When children cannot speak it reduces fear and frustration because they can communicate with their care takers.
  3. It teaches children about differences and helps to show empathy.
  4. Children learn about other cultures and the way people communicate.
  5. All children and all learning styles benefit from learning to sign.

As noted by Morin,

“My Smart Hands–an agency that offers information and sign language classes for hearing toddlers and parents–explains that sign language helps to bridge the two hemispheres of the brain. This gives children two ways to access a word and its meaning. ‘Signing is different than learning spoken languages.'”(2008).

I noticed as I would teach my students their letters, we would also do the sound and the sign.  They learned to associate the sound with the letter, and as we learned they could not only sound out the word but they could also spell the word.  My students were always very excited to not only learn letters and how to sign their names but to do songs.  The families of my students were shocked and excited that their children were learning to sign.

Easy ways to start incorporating signing:
* Sign letters as you teach them (sound and writing).
* Signing songs that are traditionally sung in the classroom
* Signing words used during snack time such as eat, more, and names of food items
* signing numbers, feelings, months of the year, days of the week, names, pledge and numbers

Ensuring that children are engaged in their learning and exposing children to everything I could was my goal as a teacher.  I wanted them to have every opportunity to succeed and embrace learning as a fun and meaningful experience.  I feel like I met my goal and still to this day do, even teaching college.


Morin, A. (2008). What Sign Language can Teach Your Child. Retrieved from


National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2017).  Top Benefits For learning Sign Language. Retrieved from


Simpson, C. and Lynch, S. (2007). Sign Language: Meeting Diverse Needs in the ClassroomRetrieved from








Giving Students the Best Start

As proven in research, we know that the first five years of life are a crucial time for a child’s learning and development.  All children deserve a quality education, but before education comes in this is what they need from the family and community that surround them. Here is a list of ideas that are crucial from birth until the age of five:

  1. Prenatal care: doctors appointments, vitamins, healthy eating, blood tests and anything before the child is born. As an early childhood professional reach out to mothers and give them ideas and resources that can help them with this. 

    image via BirthCentered
  2. Parent support at home: reading books, talking to the baby, singing, eye contact, touch, good nutrition. As the child becomes a toddler: playdates, interaction with other children, vaccinations, healthy diets. If the child must attend daycare: get quality care that is accredited. 

    image via Saline District Library
  3. Head Start: Children that qualify should attend a Head Start that allows at-risk children to have a quality start in their educational endeavors. They help with many different aspects of the child and even family. Private Preschool: This should be a quality school with standards, missions, visions and philosophies that you agree with and where a child is encountering a curriculum that encompasses developmentally appropriate practices. 

    image via Home Away From Home Academy
  4. Universal Pre-K: This is becoming more prevalent in many states. It is sometimes in the public schools and sometimes in a totally different area of the community. Pre-K allows children to begin learning skills such as writing their names, numbers, colors, shapes, letters and the sounds and how to be in social situations. They learn how to follow a daily schedule, they are exposed to a community of learners where they have responsibilities and they are learning to separate from their family for short amounts of time. 

    image via WAMC
  5. Enrolling Children in Activities: As children are exposed to different situations and ideas enrolling them in activities such as soccer, library time, skating, gymnastics, dance, art class, science fun etc, are ways to start seeing what your child is interested in. This is important and you may change every year so they can be in something different, but this is an important time to get children engaged. Children can though, be over engaged and too busy, so be careful how many things you put them. They still need a schedule and ensure that they have time to rest and eat a meal with their family. 

    image via Pinnacle Gymnastics

It is important for children to get a good start. A good start begins at home with the family and the larger community. As the child becomes acclimated to education then the teacher and the school become another huge and crucial part of a child’s development and learning. Let’s give all children the best possible first few years we can!

Teachers, early childhood advocates and professionals are vital to a child’s early start. When early childhood professionals can document and share with families about how their child is developing it helps build that reciprocal relationship.  Kaymbu is something that helps you not only document a child’s progress and how they are doing but also allows you to build a strong foundation and bond with families.  

Making Learning Visible: Inquiry-Based Documentation

For easy reference, here is a transcript of the video:

S1: Alright [cross talk] well [cross talk] we will go ahead and get started here thank you so much for joining us everyone who is here today [cross talk] this webinar is about making learning visible [cross talk] through inquiry based documentation I am David Sall director of educational partnerships here at Kaymbu.

S2: Hi I am Nicole Grubby the school ambassador here at Kaymbu.

S1: And [cross talk] yeah so [cross talk] we will both be doing part of this webinar I am going to start it up just so you know the structure [cross talk] with a little bit more about the [cross talk] theory behind inquiry based documentation and why it is a really important part of practice and then Nicole is going to go a little bit into how you can actually do this in practice and how technology can facilitate that specifically through Kaymbu [cross talk] I want to mention that you know we are not here today to sell you anything [cross talk] Kaymbu is a free app for teachers [cross talk] so you can just sign up anytime you will see the website [cross talk] there that you can do that at any time if you’d like. [1.00] 

[Cross talk] today we won’t have any time unfortunately for questions during the webinar but we will present our email addresses at the end and you can email us any questions that you have or a scheduled time for us to talk to you we would be happy to do that. [Cross talk] so with that I will get started [cross talk] so [cross talk] I am going to start on focusing on what we hear from the schools in terms of feedback [cross talk] that we generally get about documentation and sometimes we ask what schools are doing for documentation and [cross talk] we get a lot of different answers.

[Cross talk] I think documentation seems to be kind of broken into these four broad categories [cross talk] and I will start by talking about the ones that you see at the bottom by compliance and photo sharing [cross talk] you know I think these are really typical [cross talk] early childhood documentation that’s there [cross talk] they happen daily they happen ad hoc [cross talk] but [cross talk] they usually family facing. [2.00]

So [cross talk] you know [cross talk] things like compliance through daily sheets or [cross talk] just you know one of photo sharing video sharing things like that. Sometimes done through technology sometimes done through pen and paper [cross talk] but typical [cross talk] but I think the more sophisticated documentation that a lot of schools do but I think is less typical than photo sharing and compliance [cross talk] documentation, are these more assessment based kind of documentation talk] so [cross talk] inquiry based and standard based, so I will tell you how I differentiate those in a minute.

[Cross talk] but these with anecdotal evidence trough photos through videos through notes [cross talk] to show [cross talk] to show academical growth or developmental growth or [cross talk] you know student development over time. [Cross talk] so I [cross talk] if you’re wondering what the difference is between these [cross talk] and I think it’s open to interpretation for the people but by the literature that your inquiry based documentation [3.00] is really about highlighting student interest [cross talk] it’s much more organic and aligned to student interest and that helps teachers [cross talk] reflect on their individual students their needs and [cross talk] kind of bringing that to the table through planning [cross talk] for further lessons.

[Cross talk] standard based documentation on the other hand is [cross talk] much more recommended in terms of [cross talk] it’s aligned to specific standards and although you have a curriculum you have curriculum indicators and you have your anecdotal evidence that shows proficiency or growth on these [cross talk] on these standards.

[Crosstalk] there is still a lot of reflection and planning that goes into that but then again it’s more based on these individual curricular [points. [Cross talk] you are wondering what that looks like I mean it looks different in every classroom but here on the left we got a very good example of documentation panels that I would call inquiry based documentation from one of the schools we work with, which is [4.00] university of south Florida preschool for creative learning [cross talk] and [cross talk] on the right [cross talk] you will see a kind of more traditional rural based [cross talk] you know points that has your indicators on one side and shows proficiency on the other.

[Cross talk] and you know I think it’s important to keep in mind that these are both really important kinds of practice so this webinar is about inquiry based documentation that’s not to say that it’s better [cross talk] but I think what’s important to do is when [cross talk] you’re documenting [cross talk] students [cross talk] in everyday activity making sure that you not just keeping an eye out for [cross talk] plan motor skills or for [cross talk] you know social emotional growth but you also keeping an eye out for what individuals students are interested in within the curriculum and then using that to inform [cross talk] further planning [cross talk] as a teacher or director plus the inquiry.

[Cross talk] and if you’re wondering why you should [5.00] be looking at student work over time which I am sure a lot of you do [cross talk] this is one of my favourite findings from an older source [cross talk] in 1989 but [cross talk] it really you know to this day looking at student work over time is just undeniably more reliable as a as in terms of [cross talk] data plans on student learning than something than a standardised based performance.

[Cross talk] so again it’s really important to [cross talk] show longitudinally how students are growing [cross talk] you know in many different organic ways and it is going to look different for every classroom. [Cross talk] so for just of a little graphic of how we fit in as a company we also kind of just process in terms of how technology is facilitated [cross talk] you know it really starts with collection so collecting your observations trough photos videos an notes [cross talk] Nicole will go into how we do that in our system but we call that Kaymbu moments [6.00] the section of our system.

[Cross talk] and then as far as analysis goes in terms of tagging them with curricular indicators [cross talk] but then in terms of displaying [cross talk] the authentic assessment [cross talk] it may be in a more traditional assessment tool and we are familiar with those but we, we have a platform that shows it a little more collectively as a documentation based or story board.

[Cross talk] and then you know getting that engaging road families with each other and teachers and with students [cross talk] so that’s [cross talk] I am going to leave it there and [cross talk] and give this to Nicole who can [cross talk] walk you through a little bit more about how our system works.

S2: Alright thank you David, so David already mentioned the University of South Florida but [cross talk] I want to start off by showing you guys an example of what they have done with making the system related to that. [7.00] so they are definitely a school that follows the approach of the product approach and after they have gone through the entire process of first students of identifying interest and then going through fitting the curriculum fitting the math skills into that topic fitting all those things in.

What they’ve done is they’ve created this webinar which you’ve got to kind of highlight the work that they’ve done sharing it with their director sharing it with other colleagues and then of course with families and then the students themselves. So scrolling through I am just going to show you an example of, of what this is.

So it starts out with a high level of explanation of what the project approach is, taking the time to educate these families and really anyone doing this about what this about what this philosophy is from there they break it down into what they actually show the students. So identifying the students interest is right here [8.00] and the walking them through what this project is focused on so in this case they take the time to share with us that you know while they were working with the students on something that related to peter and the wolf they used this a way to kind of ignite that interest and decide that their entire next semester will be devoted to this idea of music.

So for me in general they are talking about fitting the standard into braid topic that students are already showing high levels of engagement around. So from here each phase of the project [cross talk] is really clearly showing through photos and videos and then also explains [cross talk] so they’ve gone through with phase one so how did they discover what the students already knew about the topic?

When we are talking about inquiry based learning [cross talk] it’s not only about finding the interest and fitting the standards in it’s meeting with students where they are, so discovering what things they already know and the thinking about how you can, how you can [9.00] draw up on those skill sets to you and form your future clients.

And then you know going through phase two. So this is the investigator stage this is very typical in terms of the process here with this. Once you’ve identified a topic you aware of what they know you really immersing them in a true investigative approach here. So getting in as you can see they using the cubes to measure and getting in those mass standards [cross talk] you know you can chose in so many ways but they doing it here in this very engaging way by teaching them through musical instrument.

And then of course interjecting this with teachers of [cross talk] you know tax related to, to what this practice is and you know as the families receive all this information are getting so many different perspectives and they getting the [cross talk] you know the students perspective of what we are seeing here they getting the teachers perspective also at a high level here so a little bit more as well. [10.00]

[Cross talk] and then they are ending up their this one right here by the culminating performance so phase two right here we are seeing what actually what happened here what was the output so how did they really test them so in this case it was through the natural performance or the students created original aspect to it and we able to really tell what they knew in a very powerful and in empowering way.

[Cross talk] one thing that I’d like to point out here is that they have an actual performance with inviting the family institutor without [cross talk] showing this without showing the family the story board and walking them through the process the families will not really understand the learning they just get that final product here so this is a really easy way to highlight [cross talk] you know the entire process from the very beginning to the very end.

[Cross talk] so without further ado we going to jump right into how they did this, so let’s know fairly professional [11.00] very nice the design that is really simple to do this within this system [cross talk] so what they use within this system within Kaymbu is what we call story boards I am going to spend just a second telling you a little bit more about moments.

Moments are what we call the individual photos and videos that you’re putting into the system. So there is lots of ways to do this if you have a device [cross talk] iPad iPhone anything that’s an android that you can capture through the camera [cross talk] and publishing through those moments. If not you can go online and you can always upload the information there. [Cross talk] you can attach them to various students here, so clicking them I can see with students are associated with the moments and you can even attach your learning tags to it to kind of further categorise your, your information.

Now what they have done is use a story board as a way to compile all of this information. So a very simple process here. You click on new story board here and then you [12.00] just come up with whatever your title is, so let’s say that I am doing this with my students and we have been doing a product on reptiles perhaps we had gone outside and some has seen something and then it kind of initiated the dialogue with the students and then decided to go in and, and go from there.

You just have the plus button and then you think about what sections you want to add so you might add photos at the beginning and then go again maybe you going to take some time to explain something in a paragraph from there plus button maybe a couple more photos. So you just adding different sections coming up with the templates that you want and that works best for your name.

This is a process that can be done over time so you don’t have to do everything from beginning to start here and you can always just kind of go back read the story board come back a week later and add more information.

Really easy to delete various sections as well if you decide that you don’t want something we arrange sections here as well [13.00] and we got some themes dotted in here if you want to make it you know a little bit cleaner or something right here and lots of ways to just kind of create these templates and insert the information that makes sense to you.

When you are done with your story board you don’t have to send this out this might be something that you’re going to print out for displaying around the school but if you did want to email it out to your families really simple, email, who do you want to send it to and then and the you can go from there.

So that is story board in a nutshell [cross talk] you know if anyone has questions about the specific of how to make them and these are the ideas of what you could do with them [cross talk] David is going to wrap up in just an second but he will be sure to answer your emails and we can help you guys out with anything like that.

S1: [Cross talk] thank you Nicole alright [cross talk] well [cross talk] I think [cross talk] you know Nicole said [14.00] said during her section [cross talk] you know a huge part of authentic assessments is [cross talk] taking really starting with how students is interacting with you know with each other with exilhities.

And [cross talk] also making sure that [cross talk] you are [cross talk] aligning standards to that [cross talk] so [cross talk] similarly well with Kaymbu what we’ve tried to do is [cross talk] you know create a tool that’s aligning the practice that you’re already doing in the classroom so it’s not supposed to be changing your practices drastically but it is supposed to be [cross talk] making them easier for you [cross talk] over time.

[Cross talk] so with that I am, going to leave this with our email addresses [cross talk] and then also again if you want to create a free account [cross talk] to do everything that you saw here today [cross talk] feel free to do that and you know you can do that [cross talk] and ask any questions about how to do that so [15.00] we will keep this up for a few minutes [cross talk] but [cross talk] we look forward to speaking to you [cross talk] and hopefully that you find this useful [cross talk] just so you know there will likely be a survey going out [cross talk] about how [cross talk] you know how this content worked for you and what’s going to help us create more content in the future [cross talk] we haven’t done way to many of these webinars but we planning on continuing to do them based on the interests that you have. So [cross talk] yeah please feel free to interact with that as well alright well thank you and we look forward to talking with you soon. [15.44]

What Children Need and Want!

As an early childhood professional I think we all ask ourselves: what do children really need at school?  What do children really want at school? Some would argue with need and want, saying they can’t be the same thing, but really they are the same thing. As I was teaching and saw different teaching styles and the way classrooms were ran I learned a lot about what I wanted and needed to do because of what my students needed and wanted:

What do children need and want?

  1. A warm and loving environment where everyone is welcome and they feel at home and at ease. 

    image via livehappy
  2. Individual spaces where children can sit alone, work alone and have a spot for their belongings. 

    image via Art Metal Products
  3. A classroom community where everyone is valued.  When children have this they know and feel like they belong. They have jobs where they contribute and help each other.  

    image via
  4. Rules/expectations: children can help make these so they know they helped build the classroom culture. When they break an expectation they feel empowered because they made that expectation.
  5. Jobs where they have something they are responsible for and have to do each day to help the running of the classroom community. 

    image via WeAre Teachers
  6. Responsibility for their actions: they want to be held accountable for positive and/or negative things that happen (trial and error).
  7. A daily schedule: children want to know how their day will run.  Children are not that much different than adults (raise your hand if you have a to do list, or a daily schedule). 
  8. Procedures and transitions: Children want to know their limits and when things will happen next. They like structure, they want and need it also. 

    image via ClipArtFox
  9. Time to learn and reflect on their own: after the teacher teaches, children need time to go to a center or to an area they choose and work on whatever the skill is. This allows for differentiation and different learning styles to take place. Teachers should monitor this time and even assess the learning.  

    image via Scholastic
  10. Relationships between the parent and teacher: when they see their families getting along with and agreeing or backing the teacher they are more willing to listen and feel good about doing good in their classroom community. 

    image via SimplyCircle
  11. To feel heard and be valued: Children want a teacher who listens to them and gets to know them. Someone that comes to their soccer games, or buys Girl Scout cookies from them. 

    image via Concordia University Online
  12. Structure: children want a classroom where things run smoothly, the daily schedule is followed and they know what to expect. 
  13. Show and tell and/or a place where they are able to hang art work, tell about things happening to them, a place where they can bring important things and share with the community and a place where they can feel free to share pictures from home and about their family.  

    image via Conferences That Work

Reflect on how many of these you already do. What could you add that you aren’t doing? Children do want to please you, they want to know what to expect and when and when you provide children with these things, and the things in your environment that work, you are being successful and helping them develop in a developmentally appropriate way.

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:








What Families Need and Want!

When we looked at the last article, What Children Need and Want from a classroom it started getting me to think about what families of the children need and want from their classroom and the teacher.  If you are teaching young children, this could very well be the first time families are leaving their child.  Each family is entrusting their child in your care.  They have faith that you are teaching and helping their child develop and succeed the best way you know how. This is a huge responsibility that should be taken very seriously. 

What do families need and want?

  1. A caring professional: Families want to know, first, that you care about their child’s well-being. They want someone that is going to treat their child well, and then that knows how to teach. Have a meet your teacher night/back to school night (first impressions are vital) send a welcome postcard that begins building that relationship before they even enter your classroom.  Give out a parent questionnaire that allows them to express their needs, wants and ideas. 

    image via CELT
  2. A reciprocal relationship where they can express their ideas, opinions and concerns.
  3. Parent Parties that are made for families to learn about different topics, ideas and things that are happening in the classroom. You can also bring in outside speakers from the community that can provide ideas and resources to your families. 

    image via Harmony Science Academy
    image via Harmony Science Academy
  4. Someone that is knowledgeable: Families want to know that you know how and what to teach. It is important that you know the best strategies to help their child learn, and how to keep them engaged. 

    image via Flickr
  5. A warm and engaging environment. When families walk into your room for the first time, what are they seeing? They want to see a place where their child has a spot, where their name is around the room, it is bright, fun, engaging, where there are different areas like (carpet time, centers, outside areas, technology etc). This is also a time to incorporate themes and topics that include the students’ background knowledge and interest into your curriculum, (shows you care and you know your students). 

    image via HuffPost Canada Parents
  6. A daily schedule, they want to know and understand what your day will consist of. 
  7. Notes/folder home: explaining behavior that day, fundraisers, anything they need to know that is important it is a way of daily communication.
  8. Welcome note/packet with all of the important things they will need to know all year. 

    image via ClipartFox
  9. What’s happening all week long, this type of note gives your family ideas of what you are planning and what they should plan for.
  10. Open door policy where families can come in and observe, interact etc. Communication is the best way to build relationships. 

    image via Kendall Hall’s Classroom Management Plan
  11. Special days that families can be involved in (field trips, muffins with moms, donuts with dads, tea with grandparents, family day, picnics, carnival nights etc).
  12. Social Media (blogs, websites, etc) that allow families to follow the progress or topics in ECE.
  13. Electronic portfolios (Kaymbu), newsletters and bulletin boards that they can get online and see. This should be in conjunction with notes home. 

    image via Kaymbu
  14. Calls home: Calls home for positive things. Make a calendar of when you will call home to give families positive feedback about their child. This makes them more receiving of all information you give them. 

    image via NEA Today
  15. Family homework or resources: I am not in favor of homework when families can’t help their child (time constraints, not willing, not educated etc). But when a family can find fun things to do together (cook, go for a walk, play a game) I think this builds a family relationship among members of the family. 

    image via Daily Mail

This article gives a few ideas of what families look for as they meet the new teacher that their child will learn from. Out of the 15 listed items what are you already doing to help involve families?  What would you like to try now? I challenge you to find at least one thing to incorporate into your environment as soon as you can.  It’s all about including families and having fun, learning and building relationships can be fun.

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:








4 ideas educators should reflect on throughout the year

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When you think of an Early Childhood Classroom, what do you see?  Do you see bright colors?  Welcoming faces, smiles, bulletin boards that are decorated with fun themes?  There are so many things that young children need, to learn and develop in a successful way.  Early Childhood teachers can do this and help children become productive citizens.  

Here are few things to think about or revisit as the year progresses:

  • The Environment: Your environment is your community. This is where children are living and learning and contributing each day. The environment should be welcoming, bright, inviting and engaging. It should be full of materials and activities that children can work on and be highly engaged in.  There should be a sense of community and willingness to be a productive citizen with responsibilities.

Ways to do this: Set up your environment with interest centers that allow children to engage with hands-on materials and through themes that are interesting that you are incorporating through your day.  Have areas where you can set up a carpet time, small group, large group (tables, chairs), and one-on-one time. Make a place for each child to retreat to that is theirs such as a table with a space that has their name on it.  Have a mailbox (cubby area) that children can put their belongings and allow children to help set expectations for your community.   Lastly, each child in your community should have specific job that they are assigned to each day.  It can be the same job every day or it can change (feeding animals, vacuuming the carpet, dusting shelves, cleaning areas, watering plants etc). This allows all children to contribute to the environment where they are learning.

  • Learning Should Focus on Children’s’ Interests and Background: This is one of the first things you will do when you meet the children and families in your classroom.  You will set up your environment, pick your curriculum themes/topics and what and how you will teach by learning about your students and where they come from.

Ways to do this: Student interest inventories/interviews, family inventories and interviews and really honing in on each child and getting to know them. Talk to them about their day, what they do when they get home, what activities they are involved in and ask them about their pets and where they vacation (Get to know me bag, family take home bags, Parent Parties).  There are many ways to engage with children and families so that your teaching strategies and practice reflect on what your children are bringing with them to school.

  • Differentiation: As you get to know your students and you set up your classroom environment you will be able to differentiate for all learning styles.  

Ways to do this: In the classroom centers, make sure all developmental levels are covered. When you choose a topic or theme make sure all children have some sort of background knowledge of what the topic is. Materials, resources and anything that children will be using or engaging with, should allow them to work without frustration, but should push them to learn more. Areas should be set up so children can work independently, with a partner or even in a small group.  Children should have choices of different things to work with and learn.

  • Developmentally Appropriate Practices: Your environment, the learning/curriculum and how and what you are teaching should all reflect on developmentally appropriate practices for all children.

Ways to do this: The NAEYC position statement should be printed off and a resource that you use on a weekly if not daily basis. It provides you with exactly what each child should be doing, how you should handle situations that you encounter, and how to ensure that all students no matter their ability, their development stage and or where they come from are successful.

  • Assessment Ideas: Assessment is something that we do everyday without even knowing or thinning about it. To reach and teach each child through differentiation you must assess and know where each child is developmentally.  There are many ways to do this but one way is through the use of Kaymbu (Kaymbu, 2016).   You can involve families through the use of videos, newsletters, blast e-mails and texts, building portfolios and so much more.

In 2017, these four things are what I challenge you to continuously reflect on.  As ECE professionals we are catalyst for change, and change in your classroom is a positive thing.  Take one of these and make it a priority and see what you can do to better your environment.


NAEYC Position Statement. (2009). Retrieved from

Shipley, T. (2015). Parent Parties. Retrieved from

Kaymbu. (2015). Document Digitally Engage Instantly. Retrieved from


This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:



Types of Play and How they Help Children Develop

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A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about the
extinction of play in terms of what everyone considers play and how play has changed over the years. As early childhood professionals we know and understand that play is a child’s vehicle to learning and exploring. We must get others to better understand how the role of play contributes to a child’s development.  

Child-initiated play is becoming less valued and even extinct.  It is being replaced by social media, technology, over enrollment in activities and even teacher directed learning. There are different types of play that we should be advocating for as early childhood professionals.

  1. Functional Play:  As a teacher I used to show my children how to play. They were unsure how to play in the housekeeping center and pretend that objects were things, and that anyone could be a dog, a cat, or even a doctor. I modeled for them how to use objects like an Irion, or a coffee pot. Sometimes I think we forget that children need to be shown how to do things and what things are and or how to pretend and use their imagination, because they don’t have to anymore, they are engaged in other things that entertain them. 
  2. Constructive Play: This can be included in many aspects of the classroom, but a good example would be the block center.  When a child is using their imagination to build something new they are constructing something and trying to make sense of the world. I would make sure to take pictures of anything a child made, a building, a roadway, a book and even playdough creations. 
  3. Symbolic Play: This is when a child uses one object for something else.  For example they may push a block for a car, use an umbrella for a walking cane and or a chair for a wheel chair. 
  4. Games with Rules: Teachers usually make these up like how to put together a puzzle, or how to play a game.  But children after using imagination can make up game and even their own rules.  This will come later, but as you watch they may come up with a game similar to one you have taught but change it to fit whatever it is they are doing.

There are many types of play we observe.  Children can play alone (solitary), with another child, in a group, there can be structure or pleasure play, unoccupied play, and even onlooker play. As stated by Bredekamp (2017), “play contributes to language development, self-regulation, attention, creatively, problem solving, and social and emotional skills (p. 133). No matter the type of play a child is engaging in, they are learning to use their imagination, creativity, modeling, creation skills, social and language skills, time management and sticking with a job,  and math and problem solving and other things we can’t or might not see.

As early childhood professionals we must ensure that our students have time to play and that we schedule this time.  We need to explain to families and administrators why play is vital in a  child’s learning and development. Document and highlight when play is covering skills that are required of your teaching by the national, state and local educational bodies.

Why do children like to play?:

  1. Play is enjoyable
  2. They get to choose what they are doing
  3. The teacher is not in charge
  4. Play makes them feel good about themselves
  5. Children like to be challenged
  6. Children like to think and do

As you set your classroom up this new year, set it up so children are successful and play is visible. Children are learning more through play then we can teach them.   You can actually document a child’s play and development with Kaymbu and instantly document digitally! Having structured teacher-directed time is an important part of your day, but play must also be documented on your daily schedule. Think back to your philosophy and how you know and understand that children grow and develop.

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:


9 Simple Tools to Prevent Teacher Burnout!

The first year of teaching is a huge adjustment.  I remember 12 Hour Days with excessive amounts of work to complete. I had a hard time keeping my head above water.  By the second year, I was making changes to help manage my schedule-– I knew what I needed to do, I could spot problem behaviors, issues, etc.  Teacher Burnout comes around fast unless you start loving what you do. Follow these tips to keep you and the rest of your teaching team from feeling drained!

 1) Be Organized
Prepare, collect, construct and set-up the classroom at the end of each day so that it is ready for children the next morning.  This way when you arrive at school you have time relax, and welcome children and families to the new day. (Checklist, planners, notes).

image via Daily Mail

2) Collaborate with Others/ Mentors
Often times there are veteran teachers in your buildings or a team of teachers that will share and collaborate on ideas that work well.  Befriend these people and share and “steal”. When you share ideas everyone wins, and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

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3) Observe and Self Reflect
Take time to observe other classrooms and teaching styles.  Look at classroom set up, daily schedules and routines, transitions, procedures, curriculum, bulletin boards, notes home etc.  Teachers want to share.  Then invite teachers into your classroom. Show off the wonderful ideas you have too.  Take notes and pictures and challenge yourself to implement or change one thing you saw that you liked.

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4) Try Something New
Here is the challenge, try something new like a center, a new curriculum, song or transition.  Research, attend workshops, observe and follow other professional Pinterest boards and social media.  Make a goal for yourself to try something new and exciting/engaging each week. This can spark a new excitement!

Learn More about  Planning and Implementing Effective Centers!

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5) Get To Know your Families
Family Engagement is a vital to your success in teaching.  When you build strong family communication and reciprocal relationships that are trusting, compassionate and caring, you and your students win!

These relationships can make your job so much easier and less stressful.  When families respect and trust you because you have taken time to get to know them, you will be happier and more successful.

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6) Love your Administration and the People you work with
I have always said that finding a job and interviewing is like a marriage.  When you find the right fit, with the right people, you are the happiest.  You either love going to teach or you dread getting out of bed.

Make sure you believe in what your school philosophy, atmosphere and teachers do and say. When you love the people you work with and respect what they do and what they stand for you are happier.

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7) Find Your Style
What works for others does not necessarily work for you.  A very strict and rigid teacher down the hall may look like she has it all together but your organized chaos is what works well in your room for your children.  Outside of the classroom, do you like to work on a Saturday morning?  Do you want to take work home at night? Figure out works in your life and your schedule and do what is best for you and your classroom community.

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8) Don’t Do Everything at Once
No matter if it is your first year or 10th year, you can’t do everything at once, or change your entire classroom at one time.  This is gradual and should be.  The children in your community already have expectations they follow, schedules they know and they are used to the way it is.  Change slowly, don’t stress yourself out.  You will eventually get there.

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9) Build A Community
Building a community of learners, where each person has a responsibility to make sure the community runs smoothly allows all learners to contribute and feel valued. When children feel like they matter and are needed, they will try harder, they will want to please and not let others down. They learn to take responsibility for their actions and make positive choices.

If I could think of one thing I would change from all the years I taught, it would be to get to know my students better.  I thought I did this, and I individually talked and discussed with each student every single day, but I don’t think you can ever do it enough.

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As you decide what helps you prevent Teacher Burnout,  take a moment to decide what it was that inspired you to teach.  Start there.  Then go to the list and decide what will work best to find that spark again. I challenge you to do something different!  How can you make your classroom better?  How will you engage families and show them they are a valued part of your classroom community?  1,2,3 GO!

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:








School is about to start: Now What?

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Your classroom is being decorated and you feel pretty confident about what you are doing and what you have planned. Self-reflection is the best way to ensure you are growing as a professional– this, in addition to keeping abreast of current topics and new ideas in your field. Your classroom should be ever changing but like I used to say “my classroom runs like a well-oiled machine” but it can break every now and then.  And that is OK!

Here are some things to start or continue doing to be the best possible teacher you can:

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1) Start or continue your classroom website/blog:  This allows you to stay in contact with families and allows families to better understand what is going on in your classroom.  Your website also gives you the opportunity to add and change pages that show your curriculum, pictures of centers, share recipe ideas etc.  Here is an example:  This will be something you will want your families to visit frequently.

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2) Have your first Parent Party: Parent Parties should be conducted as soon as possible after the first week of school.  This is different than the “Back To School” night. Here is an article that provides more information about   Parent Parties.  As the new year begins challenge yourself to step outside the box and try these to build relationships with families.

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3) Continue to Develop your classroom: everyday you are learning about the new students in your classroom. This set of students is different from any you have ever had.  Differentiate and ensure that your centers, your classroom set up, your transitions, routines and even the schedule reflect on the new students you have.

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4) Teach Procedures over and Over:  You want your classroom to run like a well oiled machine.  From the very first day of school teaching your students what to and how to be a member of the classroom community is vital.  You may have to go over and over what you expect but eventually it will become second nature.  If a procedure is not completed correctly for example: walking down the hall with voices off, looking straight ahead, hands behind back, turn around and start over. The more you do and the more it is practiced correctly the more routine it becomes.

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5) Schedules
: Try different things.  Sometimes something may work the first couple of weeks and then it doesn’t work after that.  Maybe you are teaching Kindergarten and students are exhausted after lunch but you had big plans for the afternoon.  Flexibility is key and it is OK to change what you are doing and when you are doing it.

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6) Continually learn about each student:  Make your students the number one priority while you are there.  Ask them questions, find out about interests and then incorporate those interests into your curriculum and your thematic planning including center areas.

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7) Get your students excited about learning!  Be the teacher that welcomes his/her students each day and is excited to be there.  Love learning, show students and model what it means to be a learner and a part of the classroom community.

You are in control of how your classroom runs. You are in charge of waking up each day being positive and excited to teach your students.  Show your students that you care about them, their families and cultivating the best classroom community possible.

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:


What Can Teachers Do To Get Ready for School?

image via KidSpot

Every summer I tried to prioritize what I was going to do to get ready for the next school year. I wanted my classroom to be engaging, fun, inviting and a place that I wanted to be each day. This will give you ideas on things you can do this summer to refresh for the fall and prepare for a fantastic first week of school!

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 1) Pick a theme: Each year I liked to have a new classroom theme. Some that I have used before are: Jungle, Smiley Faces, Oklahoma, Beach etc. I wanted my classroom to be fun and engaging for my students and families, and I liked having something fresh to look at each year! Teachers spend a lot of time in their classrooms and so, it should be homey and warm. This theme was always separate from what my thematic units were each week and added to the classroom décor and atmosphere. This way my classroom not only felt exciting, it also looked awesome! (don’t forget that first impressions are what people remember)!

image via LACounty

2) Review your curriculum: Is there anything new that you want to try? I changed, added or redeveloped my curriculum often.  Some curriculum that I have tried are Frog Street Press, Literacy First, Letter People, and I developed Classroom Mascots which I developed a small curriculum on my own. Find something you believe in and that works for you and your students.

image via Kentucky Department of Education

3) Professional Development:  This was one of my favorite things to do in the summer because it always refreshed me, my thinking and my teaching practices.  It also gave me up to date ideas and curriculum that work.  Some that I have really enjoyed are: Dr. Jean, NAEYC, Great Expectations, Bal-A-Vis-X Training,  and Parents as Teachers. Often times we have to use the curriculum our school requires, but you can always add things to make it better.

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4) Pinterest :  I think it’s important for teachers to get ideas from colleagues and peers.  This includes finding websites that showcase other’s work.  This also gives you the opportunity to showcase your classroom and what you love and believe in. I enjoy searching the internet for different way to set up a classroom, centers and even field trip ideas.  You can also find great articles like Tips and Tricks for Back to School while doing a search on how to have a great school year!

image via The Learning Express

5) Re-organize your classroom set up (Environment).  Reorganization can mean many things.  Going through old and used materials, cleaning up your environment, painting, new bulletin boards, and even a new chair for you to sit in will make you excited about starting the year.  Do something or find something that makes you happy.  This can be as simple as decorating the door to your classroom.

image via The Preschool Experiment

6) Go to garage sales/Goodwill: These are great places to find new furniture, book shelves, books and pretty much anything you want for your classroom for cheap.

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7) Research new and innovative ways to reach families:  It is important that we stay abreast on current topics and ideas happening in education. Social media is one great way to reach families and another way to keep families involved is by using Kaymbu.  There are several options of alerts and text messaging for families, virtual pages, bulletin boards, and  Parent Parties.

image via Early Childhood Education Zone

8) Be a Great Teacher: Great teachers inspire to change a child’s life.  They build relationships with families and they take the time to get to know each student individually. The 8 ideas in this post go a long way in getting you ready and even excited about the new school year!

This list is very basic and minimal.  There are so many things you can do to get ready and refreshed for next year. Good luck and have fun, make it the best year yet!

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places: