Thursday, March 28, 2013

Let's Talk Principles...

Leona Patlik
Monique Collin
Monique Lanthier
Early Literacy Specialists
Parent Resource Centre

In our work as Early Literacy Specialists, my colleagues and I are often faced with the challenge of finding ways to interpret concepts so they can be applied rapidly to the childcare settings in our community. It’s no secret that we champion the “Early Learning for Every Child Today” (ELECT) framework and our work over the last 2 years focused mainly on training professionals to make the most of the interactions they had with the children and families in their care. And although most of our workshops and conference presentations usually end with us handing over resources and strategies our participants can use right away, there are some concepts in the framework that are more difficult to convey.

Our greatest challenge so far has been to demystify the 6 statements of principles, which are designed to guide our work in early childhood development. They can be interpreted in many different ways, an as with most of the information contained in the ELECT document, there is no true right or wrong way of interpreting them. It takes time and reflection to figure out how to apply them to any childcare setting.

There is no way to demystify the statements in a short article such as this one. However, it is a perfect forum for us to begin discussions and this article will contain very simple interpretations, insights and suggestions.

Statement of Principle 1: Early child development sets the foundation for lifelong learning, behaviour and health.

Adults who were exposed to many new learning experiences as children deal better with stress and adapt well to change.

When young children are given many learning opportunities, they tend to adapt well to change as they grow up. While children need structure and routine, they also need to have new experiences in a safe environment, with adults they trust. The confidence and self-esteem they build when they have been able to solve problems, work with others, make friends and successfully complete tasks on their own helps them approach new experiences and new environments with more ease. Don’t be afraid to give children new materials to work with or make changes to their learning environment. Just make sure you are respectful of their emotions and respond accordingly. The goal here is to help children successfully face new challenges, not to avoid new experiences altogether.

Statement of Principle 2: Partnerships with families and communities strengthen the ability of early childhood settings to meet the needs of young children.

Learning to socialize, collaborate and cooperate are essential life skills that lead to creating strong, prosperous communities.

Much of the partnerships in early childhood involve organizations in the related sectors. But they don’t have to be. There are many members of the community who are more than happy to contribute to the health and well being of our children. And contributing doesn’t always need to mean giving money. My colleagues and I seek out partnerships as a way to make projects happen much faster and with very little money. We have asked businesses in our community to contribute materials for events, such as panels for a Book Walk that would have been too expensive to purchase.

But there is more to partnerships than exchanging money or materials: there is a social aspect. As we use more and more technology to communicate quickly, basic social skills in our society have begun to suffer. The experience of bringing people together for a common goal is a great way to teach children about how they fit in their community.

There’s no doubt that we all want the best for our youth, but how will they learn to reach out to their community if we don’t teach them how? Try coming up with an event that would require you to ask merchants in your neighbourhood to contribute anything but money (time, space, materials, etc.). Have the children and families contribute as well so they see what a community partnership looks like and what it can lead to.

Statement of Principle 3: Demonstration of respect for diversity, equity and inclusion are prerequisites for optimal development and learning.

Children develop a strong sense of self from growing up in an environment that supports and respects their individuality.

We talk quite a bit about multiculturalism and inclusion in our society, but diversity is more than just making sure you have dolls and posters that reflect different cultures. At the very root, diversity is about open minds, self-esteem and tolerance for all points of view. The objective in this principle is to view each child (and adult) as a unique person.

This is difficult because we tend to believe that treating everyone as unique is more work, or that it’s not fair to not treat everyone the same. Just because one child needs more, it certainly doesn’t mean we are neglecting the child who doesn’t. So let’s redefine the word, “fair” to mean “every child’s needs are met.” Get to know your families, go beyond just learning their names and their cultures.

Statement of Principle 4: A planned curriculum supports early learning.

Planning focuses on learning goals determined by assessing children’s developmental needs.

The idea behind this principle is that the planning process involves thinking about what you have observed the children doing, learning and struggling with. It involves thinking about the space and materials at your disposal and how you might use them. The process also helps you determine how you will support children’s skills development. Without proper planning, curriculum becomes rigid and inflexible because not enough thought has been put into what’s really important. It may sound like a contradiction, but the truth is a planned curriculum gives you more flexibility in your work, not to mention, it helps you make better use of your time.

Planning in advance requires that you set appropriate learning goals for the children and think about the many ways they can be achieved. Think of ways to include skills development in subjects children are interested in or their favourite games.

Statement of Principle 5: Play is a means to early learning that capitalizes on children’s natural curiosity and exuberance.

Play is highly motivated practice.

There is much learning going on when children are at play, from cognitive problem-solving to social interactions and vocabulary development. It’s not that having fun makes children learn more effectively, it’s that the children are more readily open to acquiring new skills if they are embedded in a quality play experience. They will put more effort into learning a game they are interested in playing than in learning “boring grownup stuff” that usually requires them to sit quietly and listen.

Watching children during free play is a perfect opportunity to assess where they are situated on their continuum of development. In fact, it’s one of the best assessment tools you have at your disposal, since it shows how children naturally apply their understanding of concepts, behaviours and interactions to their environment. How much, or how little, you participate in their play experiences will depend on what you are trying to observe or what skill you are trying to develop.

Statement of Principle 6: Knowledgeable and responsive early childhood practitioners are essential to early childhood settings.

Reflective early childhood professionals are better prepared to respond to the needs of their families.

There is a direct relationship between self-reflection and quality of service. Reflecting upon your environment, having discussions with families, thinking about your prior experiences and observations is necessary to help you to make decisions about the best way to approach your work. The discomfort that comes with self-reflection usually has to do with the idea that if we self-reflect, we are looking for something we are doing wrong. Although it is important to be honest with yourself, the objective of the process is not necessarily to find fault: it’s an effort to improve. For example, the decision to take a workshop doesn’t mean you lack professional skills, it simply means you wish to add to the ones you have. And you would have determined this after having reflected on how to better meet the needs of your families.

Hopefully this will give you cause to think about the principles and how they apply to your specific reality.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please respect policies outlined on blog when commenting. Any comments which do not respect the policies will be removed.
Thank you.
Veuillez respecter les politiques du blogue lorsque vous écrivez vos commentaires. Les commentaires qui ne respectent pas les politiques seront supprimés.


By using this site, you confirm that you have read and understand the policies and that you will respect the policies at all times.
Lorsque vous utilisez ce site, vous confirmez avoir lu et compris les politiques et que vous respectez les politiques en tout temps.