"I Am a Control Freak" – There, I Said It

Wow, I have been teaching for almost thirty two years and it took me this long to figure it out. I am a control freak. There, I said it. Now it is time to move on.

Recently I was involved in the School Improvement plan at my school. We were doing research on some of our student, parent, and teacher surveys. It suddenly occurred to me that students are easily understood. We do not have to do a survey on students to find out the two biggest problems in school according to students. In every school that either has uniforms or a dress code, students will always see dress code as the number one problem and school lunches as the second biggest problem.

It was my next thought that changed my way of thinking. I began to wonder if teachers were just as predictable. If you asked teachers what the biggest problem was in their school, what would they say? My greatest hope would be that teachers would be most concerned with how much students were learning. Certainly that was my first thought. But, when I read the results of the survey I found that 83 percent of the teachers in my school thought that student behavior was the number one problem.

What alarmed me was the fact that I understood kids. I predicted easily what they would perceive as the biggest problems in school. I did not understand myself. I did not know that I was a control freak. I might be over reacting just a little, but it is true. Think about it. What are we doing? Most of the time we put students in straight lines in straight rows and expect them to keep their mouths shut for almost an hour, unless they get permission from none other than the King control freak.

I know what your are thinking about now. You are thinking that without order no one will be able to learn. Certainly there are times when students do need to respect their peers and take turns speaking. The big question is… do we spend too much time controlling each and every one of their behaviors? And If you believe that we are…. what can we do about it?

First we must design models of teaching that enable the students to move around more often and communicate much more with their peers. No! I do not mean collaborative groups where the students merely focus on the concepts and Ideas that the teacher designed. While there is definitely time for these types of exercises, we need to have many learning experiences where the students are given the liberty to use their own creativity in exhibiting the concepts and standards that are to be met on a given day.

If you still do not see teachers as control freaks… let me share a quick story with you. Yesterday I was in a teachers meeting and we were tasked with the job of coming up with a criteria for Student of the Month.

Once again my first thoughts for criteria included some positive signs of academic progress, or even citizenship. Do you think that that was the first thought of my colleagues? I could barely believe my ears. They started making a list of the behaviors that they did not want in the Student of the Month.

After listening for about twenty minutes I could stand it no longer and I brought it to their attention that all we need to do is nominate someone each month and then take a vote.

We are not policeman and our main objective is not to teach them what not to do! We need to guide students through the discovery of creative and innovative ideas and concepts, while engaging the students in their own education.

If you are one of the thousands of control freaks like me, I suggest that you admit it, forget it and move on to a more productive way of teaching. I ceased to control every move that my students make and they are learning more while enjoying their new freedom. We now affectionately call me the reformed Control Freak while they are called the Over Achievers.


Source by Bob Roach

The Importance of Learning About Shapes For Preschoolers

Even babies can recognize the difference between a circle and square, using their sight and sense of touch to distinguish between them. However, learning the names of the different shapes is not an inborn ability, but it is a necessary step in your preschooler’s education. Children need to learn the names of shapes so that they can identify them verbally and in writing and compare the various shapes and how they are used. These are basic skills that they will use for the rest of their lives.

Learning shapes helps your child identify objects as well as letters. Letters are made up of circles, triangles and lines – think of the circles in b, d, g, p, q, or the parts of a triangle found in k, v and w. Drawing the curved lines of a circle or oval shape helps your child to write letters such as f, u, m, n, j, and the lines in squares helps your child to write i, l, k, p, q and so on. Often, recognizing the shapes in the letters helps a child to recognize the letter too, important for developing reading skills.

Drawing shapes is also the first step in learning how to draw. Almost anything can be broken down into shapes, such as a house, a cat, a book, a ball – they can all be drawn with simple shapes. This makes it easier for your child to progress from stick drawings to more detailed artworks – and if they have talent, they will use shapes to draw and paint in the future as well.

Shapes are extremely important in basic and more advanced math. Most adults will immediately think of geometry, but shape patterns and spatial perception help your child to develop sequencing and logic skills that they will use later in their school career in subjects like calculus.

We use shapes every day as adults, although we may not realize it. Think about rearranging the lounge furniture, cleaning out the kitchen cupboards or the refrigerator – all done according to the shape of the items in them, and how they will relate to each other. Road signs and markings make extensive use of different shapes, helping us to recognize them before we can actually read them.

Learning about shapes includes learning about 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional shapes. A sphere, or ball, is a 3D circle, and has specific properties, such as the ability to roll, that some other shapes do not have. This is true of all shapes, and your child will be able to make this progression if his or her basic grounding is good.

For kindergarten, children are expected to know the basic shapes, recognize them and identify how they form part of other items. They may also be expected to be able to draw the shapes – not perfectly, but certainly recognizably. There are many ways to encourage and help your child to learn about shapes.

Because shapes are all around us, it is easy to play ‘Find the Shape’ at home, in the car, in the store and elsewhere. Select one shape at a time to concentrate on, rather than trying to find all the different shapes.

A good set of worksheets for preschool will help your child recognize different shapes, see how they form part of other objects, and help them learn how to draw them. Drawing shapes is the precursor to learning how to write, and a good set of worksheets should take you step-by-step through this process until your child is drawing shapes on their own, free hand. Look out for worksheets that combine learning shapes with the use of different colors, as this is particularly effective in reinforcing the shape names.


Source by Elizabeth C Allan

Preschool Graduation Ceremonies – Themes and Ideas

The Montessori system of education requires that students are treated as individuals from the inception of their education up to the end of their formal education. There is recognition that each will have their own needs and wants and barriers to achieving all they want to achieve. This article will specifically look at the Montessori system for pre-k education with a specific theme of how the preschool graduation ceremony can be used to celebrate the individuality of the student.

Initially you will need to ask the child what they want for their preschool graduation ceremony. Obviously they will want to have their friends with them and they may even invite specific members of the family to celebrate with the group. At the school itself, there will be other preschoolers who are graduating as well so it might be that the child will want to join them or go to their parties after the graduation ceremony. Asking a child what they want for the graduation ceremony is a great way of keeping them involved and making them feel that they own the graduation ceremony. Since the Montessori system accepts that individuality should be respected, it then falls on the community to ensure that the graduation ceremony is as individual to that as is possible in the give circumstances.

The family will have a role to play in terms of their culture and beliefs during the preschool graduation party. The aim of parents is to provide the best possible opportunities and start in life based on the belief systems that they hold. It is sometimes even instinctive that the graduate’s parents will try to include their own view of life onto the event. This is normal family life and it should not surprise the organizers that the parents may for instance want a religious theme party. Some families who come from ethnic minority backgrounds will want to have a theme that hacks back to their own traditions in the original homeland.

Above all, graduation parties are about enjoyment and celebration. The themes and ideas that are being used for the graduation must reflect this at every stage. It is no good creating a system of parties with military precision yet the people who are at the party are not enjoying themselves. The first duty is to let the people enjoy themselves. It is also important to remember that we are talking about toddlers and pre-school children which means that there is some limited scope for including adult themes. The preschool graduation party is about the children and the themes should be about children.

There are plenty of ideas to use as themes for pre-school graduation ceremonies under the Montessori education system. I looked at the themes of pirates, although this might offend the sensitivities of some parents. I also looked at the theme of snakes and ladders. Then for the religious minded parents, you can have a biblical story. For those that like the exotic, you might have a tropical safari type of theme. All these are just ideas that can be developed depending on the tastes and preferences of both the parents and the children at the time.


Source by Karly Potter

Stages of Artistic Development in Preschoolers and Toddlers

Art is an important aspect of learning in early childhood education and must be carefully designed to enhance their artistic development and nurture an appreciation for beauty in their world. Art enriches the lives of all preschoolers and toddlers as it provides experiences for them in finding meaning about themselves and the world around them.

“From the moment the child discovers what it looks like and feels like to put lines down on paper, he has found something he will never lose, he has found art” – R. Kellogg 1969.

Rhoda Kellogg has studied 100,000 young children’s drawings drawn with pencil, pen, crayon or brush and this extensive study has helped significantly in our understanding of children’s artistic development. She was particularly interested in the scribbles of young children and she discovered that children progress from making scribbles to drawing pictures by using a built-in, spontaneous method of self-teaching and would continue until the children were 5 years old and only in the later stages of development that children’s artwork can be coached and guided by an adult.

Kellogg also identified various symbols that have been drawn by children across various cultures. The mandala design which is a simple circle or square divided by intersecting lines is produced by children in different parts of the world. Kellogg also discovered that preschoolers and toddlers unlike older children are not concerned about their art pieces looking nice or resembling real things but they move their hands to express a feeling that comes from within them and are delighted in the movement and scribbles they produce. With this knowledge in mind, it is important not to force them to look at physical objects and try to copy it but allow them to experiment, create in their own unique way thus providing them an opportunity to express their own ideas and feelings.

The artistic developmental stages are the scribble stage, basic form stage and the pictorial stage. Although there is a predictable pattern to their development, preschoolers and toddlers move through the levels in different ways and at their own pace. These stages can assist parents or teachers as they work with young children and provide guidelines for planning for a specific group of children.

Kellogg’s developmental stages

1. Scribble stage

These are the earliest drawings of young children. They are simple and random markings, made for the pleasure of drawing scribbles. During this stage, the young children have no concern in trying to draw to represent anything but rather are enjoying the process of making scribbles on the paper.

2. Basic form stage

Children begin to draw simple lines and shapes. Kellogg identified several universal symbols that children use around the world. These include the mandala, sun, ladders, spirals, wavy lines and rainbows. These symbols were being used to communicate and were the beginnings of writing. Children in this stage continue to draw for pleasure.

3. Pictorial stage

During this stage, children use the shapes from stage 2 to draw symbolic representations of real people and things such as houses, tress and windows. They begin to identify their drawings, tell related stories and expand their drawings to include new meanings and understanding.

Positive and appropriate nurture of preschoolers and toddlers beginning artistic efforts can provide a strong foundation for later development and enjoyment of artistic experiences.


Source by Maegan Wong

Way, Truth, Life Buttons: A Fun Bible School Activity for Your Preschoolers

Along with John 3:16, John 14:6 is one of the most beloved Scriptures in the Bible. It says this: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” I personally love this verse because of all it teaches us about God. I need to know that Jesus is the way for me to follow. This life is full of twists and turns and I can rely on Him to direct m life. I need to know that Jesus is the truth in a world that is filled with lies. And I need to know that Jesus is the life within me, both now and eternally. It’s really not too early to introduce this great Bible verse to your preschoolers and a fun way to do this is with the following Bible school activity called “Way, Truth, Life Buttons.”

Here’s what you do:

For this activity you will need to prepare 4 “buttons” each showcasing the words “way”, “truth” and “life”. I made my ” buttons” from the tops and bottoms of frozen juice cans. I then went onto my computer and made up nice colorful labels and secured them to the circles. Next, hide 9 of the buttons in a basket or box filled with cotton balls or packaging popcorn or something similar. Place the last way, truth, life buttons on display for the whole class to see. You are now ready to play the game.

Here’s how to play:

After introducing John 14:6 to your little ones, choose a child to be the “Way, Truth, Life Button” finder. Instruct the finder to find one button each which says way, truth or life. Each button that he pulls out that is not a match may be set to the side until he finds all 3 correct buttons. After all 3 circles are found, congratulate the child, then have the whole class say, “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.'” Return the buttons back to the box. Continue playing the game in this way until all children have had the chance to be the finder.

Before playing this Bible school activity, you may want to introduce the lesson in the following way:

Today’s Bible verse says this: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus is the way. (Hold up the “way” button.) He is the way to Heaven and shows us which way to go in life. Jesus is the truth. (Hold up the “truth” button.) Jesus never lies. He always tells us the truth and He wants you to know the truth such as how much He loves you. Jesus is also life. (Hold up the “life” button.) Every breath you take comes from God. And if you love Jesus, you will get to live with Him forever and ever. Let’s play a fun game to help us remember that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. It’s called, “Way, Truth, Life Buttons.”


Source by Kathy Vincent

Homeschooling Children with Autism: 5 Reasons Why It Works

As a homeschooling parent of a child with autism, I am often asked, “How do you do it?” It takes dedication, planning, and research, of course, but I find that it is not all that difficult when I remember why I do it.

There are 5 primary reasons why homeschooling is the best option for my child:

1. One-to-one instruction provides for optimal learning.

It is a generally-accepted educational principle that the lower the teacher-to-student ratio, the more effective the teaching can be. Most parents realize that the more students a teacher has, the less attention and direct instruction each student will receive from the teacher. One-to-one instruction is always preferred for private lessons or tutoring because the lessons can be customized to the student’s ability in order to maximize their progress in the shortest amount of time.

Homeschooling or private tutoring offers a child with autism the opportunity to make the most of their learning potential. The child receives more direct instruction time, immediate feedback, and teaching that is tailored to their learning style and strengths. Due to the individualized instruction he or she receives, the child with autism is able to experience success on a daily basis which helps improve their self-esteem. Feelings of success are something that many children with autism do not experience in a typical school setting.

2. The environment can be adapted to the child’s sensory needs.

In a home setting, it is much easier to control the learning environment. Unlike a classroom situation where other students can be a big distraction from learning, homeschooling parents can structure an environment that is best suited to their child’s needs. Whether it is a quiet room, special lighting, background music, or breaks for sensory issues, the home can be an ideal educational setting.

3. Homeschooling offers flexible scheduling.

With fewer distractions and more direct instruction, home-schooled students require less of their time to be spent on schoolwork. There is no time wasted on the taking of attendance, class announcements, student reprimands, repetitive teaching on a subject the student has already mastered, etc.

The school day can also be planned around the child’s best time for learning. Some children with autism are “night-owls” by nature and have a difficult time going to bed early and getting up early for school. We can adjust our hours of instruction to correspond with the times that the child is naturally most alert and able to focus. We can also schedule shorter learning sessions throughout the day with plenty of breaks as needed. Shorter sessions also promote greater intensity and concentration on academic tasks resulting in the child retaining more of the material being taught.

Most parents quickly realize that another benefit of homeschooling is the fact that you can plan field trips during the week when places are less crowded. This is a big advantage for children with autism who may not do well with large groups of people.

4. The child has a better opportunity for positive socialization.

All socialization is not beneficial for our children. In schools, you must take the bad with the good. In a home setting, parents have more say in determining when their children are ready for specific social situations. For more on the topic of schools and socialization, see my article entitled, “Social Skills and Autism – Where’s the Best Place for Socialization?”

5. The child’s interests can be incorporated into their schoolwork.

Anything that your child is interested in can form the basis for their studies. In homeschooling circles, this is referred to as unit studies. You take any topic of interest and design a complete educational program around that topic. This approach works well for reluctant learners who say that school is boring.

For my family, homeschooling is a great time-saver that allows us to focus our attention on constructive social opportunities, educational field trips, and practical daily living skills. We don’t have to worry about which teacher our child is going to have every year nor do we have to spend most of the year trying to help the teacher “get to know” our child and their needs. We don’t have to fight the school district for services or for the correct implementation of services that were promised. We don’t have to waste our time going back and forth to school or to school-related meetings. Simply put, homeschooling offers my son with autism a method of instruction that works efficiently and effectively to enable him to achieve his highest potential.


Source by Mary Gusman