Walking The Talk

footprintsDo our beliefs align with our practice or are we just window dressing our teaching practices with the appropriate jargon and “showpieces”?

I recently read the article doing Reggio? by Margie Carter  which challenged me to think about the  values, perceptions and beliefs about young children that guide my practice.

In my position as Early Learning Consultant I have the privilege of supporting early learning teachers across the division.  As I work with these teachers I often emphasize several key principles of early learning, including; viewing children as competent and capable, carefully designing learning environments to inspire and support children, teaching/supporting all domains of development, using documentation to guide future planning, and the importance of supportive relationships for children and their families.

Keeping these principles in mind, I then need to reflective on my practices, even if they possibly lead to an uncomfortable realization of misalignment.

Consider asking yourself the following:

  • Do I primarily provide activities for children that require them to complete things as instructed, with little room for deviation OR do I provide them with open-ended activities that encourage problem-solving and creativity?
  • Do I thoughtfully and intentionally set up learning activities and materials within my environment based on my observation of what my students need and are interested in OR am I providing the latest “cool” material I found at a recent workshop?
  • Do I provided balance in the opportunities I provide children to ensure that all areas of their development are supported OR are certain skills and understands highlighted as being more important?
  • Do I go through the motions of documenting children’s learning to create a pleasing display for my bulletin board OR am I carefully observing and listening to children in their play to glean what it is they are interested in and what they are demonstrating as current understandings?
  • Am I truly supporting children and families where they are at OR do I view children and families through my own biases or agenda?

It is often too easy to use the jargon of the day without adding the necessary layer of reflecting on how research-based best practice relates to one’s practices within the classroom.

In other words, am I doing what I’m doing because I know that is what others want to see OR because I truly believe in the practice and understand the research base supporting its effectiveness?

March 20, 2015Permalink

Emergent Professional Learning

As a consultant team, during our recent STF-directed PD day, we were challenged by Wendy Jones from Saskatoon Public to change something in our current PD facilitation practices to improve our abilities in facilitating professional development……..

As overwhelming as this challenge seemed we all set out to establish a goal to move our PD facilitation practices forward.

My personal goal became: Incorporating more check-ins within PD events to create a more responsive professional learning environment.

As I think more about this goal I am beginning to make connections to the early learning principle of emergent curriculum.

If I am advocating for early learning teachers to follow the lead of their students, how can I as a professional development leader/facilitator adopt a philosophy of emergent professional learning?

According to Stacey (2011) Emergent Curriculum is defined as a cycle that involves:

  • Watching and listening to children with care
  • Reflecting on and engaging in dialogue with others about what is happening; and
  • Responding thoughtfully in ways that support children’s ideas, questions, and thinking.

What if I applied this cycle to the professional development opportunities I provide for teachers?

During my professional development “events” do I truly watch and listen to the teachers in attendance with care?

Do I reflect on and engage with teachers in attendance about what is happening or being presented?

And, do I respond thoughtfully in ways that support teacher’s ideas, questions and thinking?


Am I focused on covering the content of my carefully and preplanned workshop agenda?

Am I predetermining the interests, needs and thinking of the teachers attending?

Am I flexible in the content and structure of the “event”?


As Stacey (2011) challenges, “How can we parallel what we offer educators with what we want educators to offer children?” (pg.38)

December 15, 2014Permalink

What If Everyone Understood Child Development?

In my recent readings of Early Childhood blog posts I came across the following “poster” advocating for developmentally appropriate programming:

Let Me Play

I’ve long been an advocate of deepening the understanding and support of play-based learning in early learning.

This leads me to wonder…

If our education system and society as a whole truly understood child development, what impact  would it have on our interactions with children and our programming decisions?

As educators if we truly supported the value and importance of play-based learning for our youngest learners, what changes would we make in our classroom environments and teaching practices?

As early childhood classroom teachers I believe we often, almost innately, understand the value of play and all the learning that is supported through play-based environments but we struggle with advocating for play-based activities and learning in our current education system.

February 3, 2014Permalink

How does documentation differ from displaying children’s work?

by Angela Yeaman

I recently read this quote on an early childhood blog I follow (Journey Into Early Childhood, 07/31/2013 post: Documentation-pondering a quote):
“Documentation is not pretty pictures of engaged children. Rather, it captures the thinking process: What motivates [students] to begin, continue, change direction? What were the breakthroughs, the pivotal remarks or actions? How did they solve the problems? The goal is to enable whoever reads a panel to understand what the child attempted and how they went about it, to see stimulus, process, and outcome.”
A. Lewin-Benham

This reflection on a main purpose for documentation resounded with me and specifically connected to the reading I have been doing in the book, Windows on Learning: Documenting Young Children’s Work, 2nd ed. By Judy Harris Helm, Sallee Beneke and Kathy Steinheimer.

Given the young age (3-5 year olds) of children that are a part of the projects and learning done in Prekindergarten it can often been challenging to truly share and celebrate the important learning and growth that is documented in children’s work.
Our classroom documentation then becomes a key piece in sharing the thinking, learning and growth of our students with an outside audience.
As emphasized by Helm, Beneke & Steinheimer (2007), “One value of documentation is the ability it gives us to share the importance and thought that goes into learning experiences that may not produce patently impressive products” (pg.16).

A “simple” drawing included in a display and the learning it represents for the child cannot be fully understood by an outside audience without the added narrative of the teacher.
Consider this drawing done by a 4-year old Prekindergarten student during an inquiry about plants.

Drawing of a plant
Drawing of a plant


Without the added labeling by the teacher the understanding this student is developing about different parts of a plant would not be evident.

Consider this documentation of a 4-year old Prekindergarten student during an inquiry about Spring and birds.
Learning about birds

Without the added photo and quote from the student accompanying the work created, an appreciation of what the student understands about birds and nests would not be developed by an outside audience.

As I continue supporting Prekindergarten teachers with their use of documentation I am challenged to explore how can we use our documentation to:
• Understand our students better
• Provide insights into students growth
• Inform our teaching and professional development
• Allow others to see into the learning experiences in our classroom

September 16, 2013Permalink