“Problems” Into Potential: Banning Pre-k Through Second Grade Suspensions

image

The HISD Board of Trustees voted to remove language from the district’s policy proposal that would have ended suspensions and expulsions in pre-k through second grade.

Imagine a school suspending a four-year-old because the child couldn’t tie their shoes. The idea of suspending a student for failure to master a skill seems ridiculous. Although students aren’t being expelled because they can’t tie their shoes, more than 38,000 pre-k through second grade students in Texas are suspended for behavior caused by failure to master social and emotional skills such as self-control, according to Texas Appleseed in their recent study on the school to prison pipeline.

Even more troubling is the data showing that the majority of these young suspended students are disproportionately boys of color, low-income, and/or students who are already behind academically and are only set back further by suspensions for their behavioral difficulties. “Young students who are expelled or suspended are as much as 10 times more likely to drop out of high school, experience academic failure and grade retention, hold negative school attitudes, and face incarceration than those who are not,” according to a 2014 Departments of Education & Health and Human Services Policy Statement on Expulsion and Suspension Policies in Early Childhood Settings.

As a teacher and mother of two small children, I know the momentary feeling of relief when a difficult child leaves my room and becomes “someone else’s problem,” but I also know the profound feeling of power and possibility when a new teaching strategy – like Positive Behavior Intervention or other Restorative Justice practices- is used to effectively reach the most challenging child in my classroom. Even more empowering is knowing that district at large and school administrators have the will and the resources to support teachers, and the capacity to help de-escalate any potentially unsafe situations, instead of simply casting out young students with the greatest need for emotional and academic support.

The HISD Board of Trustees had the opportunity to provide the additional support administrators, teachers and students need when they voted during a second reading of the proposed student discipline policy on Thursday December 10th. By eleminating suspensions and expulsions in pre-k through second grade, the Board could have sent a clear message that they continue to put students first by committing to increase training for teachers and support for an alternative to exclusionary discipline.

These young suspended children are not “someone else’s problem”. They are our city’s potential for a future with less violence, fewer young men in prison instead of college and more compassion for those among us with the greatest need.

Strategies to Build Your Little One’s Confidence and Investment in School Before, During, and After the First Day: Out First Morning of MDO

image

Upon picking up one very joyful and enthusiastic little boy today from the first day of his two day a week Mother’s Day Out (MDO) Program I knew I’d made the right choice in enrolling him. More on that decision making process on my post Choosing to Send My Son to a Two Day a Week MDO In Addition to Homeschooling .

In addition to talking to the teachers and staff about their curriculum, learning methods, songs, books, and language used in the school I wanted to make sure that Maxwell would get the most out of the program by building his confidence and investment.

Below are some of the strategies we used before, during, and after school:

Before School-
1. Attend an open house or at least type the school in advance
2. Let your little one help choose their backpack, lunch box, and nap mat.

image

3. See what the school’s policy is on bringing lovies for nap time and if it’s allowed have them choose one and explain to the toy what school will be like.
4. >Featured Activity < The morning of school we made a poster and recorded what Maxwell was most excited about and then I told him to be ready to tell me what he liked most when I pick him up. This really did an amazing job of avoiding the all to common exchange of “how was school” answered shortly with “it was fine.”

image

image

image

During school-
1. Prepare a special treat to be waiting for them in their car seat to celebrate their successful first day of school. Nothing too big, I just got him a special rare juice treat.

image

2. Breath, remind yourself they’ll be fine, and keep yourself busy to avoid going to back to the school and picking them up early. If I hadn’t been a prek teacher myself I wouldn’t have believed it, but really, they do have fun once the parents leave.
3. Use this time to create things for homeschool or dishes and laundry there’s always plenty of those to go around.

After school-
1. Complete the first day of school poster.
2. After the first day, have a regular part of your day be your child teaching you, their toys, their siblings what they learned that day.
3. Draw pictures of specific aspects of school- a friend, a toy, something they learned, something they ate and have them dictate what their drawing is about.

image

image

4. Make a “school wall/board” to showcase their school artwork, calendars, and reflections.
5. Make their day the center of that night’s dinner table conversation. It’s an important day for them.

Have compelling conversation starters:
-Tell me about a time you felt funny/happy/sad/proud/excited today
-Describe your lunch for me.
-What did your friends eat?
-Could you sing me a song you sang today?
-What books did you read? Could we act them out?
-Tell me about a time you shared something. How did you feel?This line of questions will garner richer dialog than the old “How was your day?” Plus, it’ll get them used to telling you about their day in a detailed way that could be helpful if issues at school ever arise.



If you’ve ever Googled or Pintrested (yeah I know

that’s not really a word) the phrase “first day of school” you know that there is an unlimited number of resources out there. These are a few simple ones that work for us.

Back to School Resources:

image

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
This book is great for any parent child separation and has a million cute activities you can support it with. I actually read this book on the first day of school when I taught before having kids as well.

image

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Season 1 Eposide 3: Daniel’s Babysitter/ Daniel Goes to School
Also, great for any parent child separation. I have Maxwell watch this any time we’re going on a date night, a meeting, or even just a yoga class at the Y. The song is everything.
“GrooownUPS Come back!”

image

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
Very sweet little book about three owls that have to be brave while their mother is gone hunting for good. I have said “be brave like owl babies” countless times because of this book.

Happy back to school everyone 🙂

Toys that Teach: Color Sort Vegetables

image

Instead of buying the gigantic mess-monsters that are the 200 piece sets of pretend food, we chose to buy this simple vegetables and color sorting baskets from Amazon.com two years ago for my oldest son’s first birthday. I can honestly say it’s one of the smarter toy purchases I’ve made for the kids. Not too many pieces, easy to understand sorting activity for the kiddos, and good for pretend cooking as well. It’s one of the few toys that have stayed in the play room this long.

Check it out here: Color Sort Vegetables $29 on Amazon.com

It came out again for this week’s focus on color sorting and you’d think it was a new toy the way Maxwell took to sorting and little brother stirred the food with a play hand blender.

For more color sorting ideas check out my post: Sorting by Color and Rocking Your Kid’s World

image

image

Fine-Motor Latch Board

image

If ever you want to feel super handy and proud of yourself for using a power tool, make your kiddos a “Fine-Motor Latch Board”. I’ve seen these all over Pintrest forever and after seeing both of my boys struggle to do things like use zippers, hold crayons, open containers, complete puzzles, and pick up small objects (all fine-motor skills) I decided it was time to visit the hardware store.

Materials:
A board- They had these blank boards with beveled edges ready made. So, of course that’s what I got, but you could use any splinter – free scrap wood you can find. I will say my board was not quite thick enough for all of the screws I used and I had to pull them out a little so that they didn’t poke through the back of the board. Learn from my mistake and get a board that’s thick enough.
Assorted locks, latches, and hindges- I mostly let the boys pick these out, but I was honestly shocked by how expensive some of these were. You could also get knobs or anything else that suits your fancy. I would do a pintrest search for “fine motor board” for more ideas.
A power screw driver- I tried to avoid the mess that is our garage by using a manual screw driver, but quickly admitted defeat and set to rummaging through the chaos to find the power tool.

image

How to do it:
If you have older kiddos they could watch, but with my grabby little munchkins I figured it would be best to do this project on my own.
1. Lay out your locks, latches,  and whatnot the way you want them on the board.
2. Screw them down.
3. Get a hand massage (the project may be simple, but it takes a toll on your hand muscles)
4. Show your child(ren) how each feature works and help them try on their own. This is entertaining for a wide range of kids and wildly personalizable.

Warning: This board is surprisingly heavy and with two boys who love to throw things I am constantly vigilant for objects that could destroy a TV, toe, or nose. So, I recommend that this be used only when an adult can supervise

image

Variations:
-paint the board
-have kids put stickers on it
-drill holes through it to create a lacing practice section
-Attach an actual lock and key
-Use scrap cabinet doors

Like I said there are tons and tons of ideas for this on pintrest, but I kept it simple. Like this blog, my fine motor board is a testament to my belief that I’d rather it be simple and done than over the top and half finished.

If you decide to make one of these of love to see how it turns out!

image

Color Sorting + Scissor Skills= Geometric Art Project

image
We’ve been working on sorting and scissor skills this week. So, Saturday is a great day to bring the two skills together in this super simple Geometric Art project.  Check out the posts Sorting by Color and Rocking Your Kid’s World and While Baby Brother Was Napping… the scissors came out from earlier in the week

Materials:
Safety scissors
3-5 colors of construction paper (child’s choice is best)
Glue (I recommend the liquid glue to sticks for the 3+ kids because the squeezing motion is great for developing their finger strength and fine motor skills, but a glue stick will get the job done if that’s all you have)
Markers the same color as the paper
image

Objectives:
Child will be able to identify colors
Child will be able to recognize color words
Child will be able to sort objects by a single attribute (color)
Child will be able to use scissors to cut paper with adult assistance

A note on objectives: these are variations on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and are likely very similar to objectives for prek in most states. The expectation is not that the child will master the objective after just one lesson, but rather that they are simply working towards mastery over time

Lesson:
Super simple stuff here-just let your kiddo choose 3-5 colors of construction paper, help them cut it with safety scissors, divide paper into geometric quadrants using matching colored markers, help them glue their paper pieces onto the corresponding quadrants,  and then hang it up for all to see.

Tips:
1. Have two pairs of scissors – one for you and one for them. This way you can show them how to cut.
2. Hold and move the paper for them at first so they can focus on learning the open and closing motion of snipping.
3. Keep it easy and positive. This is a super challenge skill for little ones to master. So, don’t try to make any specific shapes at first,  and focus on their effort more than the accuracy of their cutting.

image

image

image

image

Sorting by Color and Rocking Your Kid’s World

image

Materials:
Painter’s tape (my best friend)
Pictures of various objects that are primarily one color
Color word cards
A Wall
(We used a color wall display we bought from a teacher store, but you could easily use magazine pictures and construction paper. )

image

Resources:
Song Video: What Color Do You Like?
The boys love, love, love this color song (especially Patrick), and I find myself singing the tune all day too

Book: and to name but just a few: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue By Laurie Rosenwald

image

Related Post:
Toys that Teach : Color Sort Vegetables

Objectives:
Child will be able to identify colors
Child will be able to recognize color words
Child will be able to sort objects by a single attribute (color)
Also builds vocabulary

A note on objectives: these are variations on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and are likely very similar to objectives for prek in most states. The expectation is not that the child will master the objective after just one lesson, but rather that they are simply working towards mastery over time

Lesson:
The Rocking Your Kid’s World Part:
Although it could be fun to set this activity up with your kiddo-especially an older kid who could cut out the color objects from a magazine-there’s nothing quite as awesome as surprising your little one with a wall full of colorful fun when they wake up.
Investing kids in learning is 80% of the struggle to get them learn and let’s face it, colors are just cool, and this simple painters tape grid changes wall decorations into an interactive game.

The teaching sorting part:
1. Sell it- “wow! Look at this color wall! All of these colorful things want to be in their color rectangle. Can you help me sort, or put them in the right place?”
2. Show how it’s done- Choose an object and have them name it. Ask what color it is and speculate where it might go. This models the thought process of sorting for them. Then choose the correct location and stick it down.
3. Have them help you-Have them choose a picture, ask them what color it is and where they think it goes. Help them stick it down.
-Repeat doing it with them until they seem to grasp the concept of sorting. This may not happen at all the first few times and you may need to do it with them for the whole activity.
-When they grasp the sorting concept act like you’re going to put one in the wrong place and have them instruct you how to do it correctly.
-For younger kids just focus on naming the colors while sorting.
4. Do it on their own- If they’re able they can then sort all of the pictures. Encourage them to name the objects as they go.  “This is a yellow lemon and this is a yellow ducky. They’re both yellow do they go together.”

image

image

Encourage Self-Correction

image

-If a purple flower ends up in the pink rectangle. Saying “no that’s wrong” could intimidate them from trying. Instead try “hmmm I notice something funny about one of the pictures in your pink rectangle. Do you see something that looks different than the pink things?”

5. Wrapping it up- When all of the objects are sorted it’s time to CELEBRATE and review! “Yay! All of the pictures are in their color rectangles! You worked so hard sorting all of these things by their color! ” Then identify each color again and try to have them tell you what is in each color.

image

Variations:
-This could be done on a smaller scale as a folder game
-On a magnet board
-You could sort actual objects onto colored paper. Apples on red, green, or yellow paper.
-With contact paper instead of painters tape.

Continue reading

What Works For Us: Making Maxwell a Teacher Too

image

Tipping Woody over and pouring him out

Empower your child by giving them the chance to “teach” their toys and siblings:

Why it works: There are so few things in a child’s life they actually control and so few opportunties for them to lead. “Teaching” their toys allows them to have control, lead, and process what they’re learning all at the same time.

Our nursery rhyme of the week is “I’m a Little Teapot” and my plan was that each day Maxwell would work on his gross motor skills by acting out the rhyme. Maxwell was having none of it.

So, instead…enter Woody and the round up crew. Maxwell didn’t want to act it out himself, but he loved helping his toys “be little teapots”. I modeled for him by making his little brother Patrick a little teapot on my lap. This a great way to include little brother as well and he LOVED being tipped over.

image

Continue reading