Partners in Learning

June 26, 2011

New Haven Register Article

If you have a chance, please read and watch this video at the New Haven Register.  I was interviewed by Jim Shelton.  I am honored to be one of the lucky people he has interviewed.

May 21, 2011


Hi Everyone,

I just rejoined Twitter with my new name:  classroom 365.  Please consider following me on that site.

December 1, 2010

But, I Can’t Sing!

When I was in a church choir, many years ago, the choir director walked to the back of the church and exclaimed after a song, “I hear a lemon in a basket full of peaches.”  She was talking about me. ME!!!

Yes, I cannot sing.  Maybe you can’t either.  But, don’t let that stop you being a star to your children.  Sing.  Sing.  No matter what you sound like, the kids will love it.

Use song to teach simple rhymes, stories, family fun.  Remember, the kids will be too young to remember how bad you sound.  But, teaching the joy of song, rhymes, and stories will be the best gift to your child.

November 30, 2010

Simple Sounds

A classic comedic event is having children bang on pots and pans in the kitchen.  It is good for a laugh on television and in children’s books.

I bring it up here because simple sounds help your child thrive.  Toy makers know this.  Walk up and any toy store or aisle set aside for children’s toys and they are filled with touch and talk laptops for babies, rattles, a magic cube that plays eight Mozart compositions, an elephant that sings do-re-me and so much more.

Instead of spending money, encourage your child to make their own music.  Using a simple stick and block, that your child might already have, is a great way to start.  Take a walk around the neighborhood and gently tap signs, trees, sidewalks, and mailboxes to discover the different sounds they make.

Bells from a craft store are another way to introduce sound.  Make a simple hand wrap with bells sewn on is a great way introduce this jingle to your child.  But, only let your child, over the age of four, experiment with this while you are present.  Swallowing a bell that came lose could be potentially fatal for your child.

What other ideas do you have for making music?  Email me and let me know.  It’s important to spread the word because enveloping your home with simple music and tunes will help your child grow.  Combing music with drawing, looking at books, and active conversations with your child will not only help your child in school, but increase the bond you have with your child.

November 29, 2010

Remember that Tune?

Listening to music is almost as natural as breathing for young, old, and everyone in-between. In the car, on the computer or with an IPod, this naturally accepted activity is what makes it a logical choice for family fun.

How did you learn the alphabet?  Was it  by singing A-B-C-D?   I did.   I still sing it silently sometimes when I need to look up a subject alphabetically.

Do you remember the tunes you learned as a child?   I think Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star was a favorite for most children.   Who does not know Rock-A-Bye Baby?

Jill Jarnow in her book All Ears states, “Families who listen together, sing along together, laugh together, and talk together become families who grow strong together.”  This is a powerful statement.

She goes on to say that Zoltan Kodaly, “a composer and childhood specialist, contended that not only do babies and young children enjoy hearing music from their parents, but frequent and quality listening with a primary care giver enhances children’s ability to concentrate.”   Powerful.  Very Powerful.

I think a key component of this comment is the Kodaly connects the quality of the child’s experience with the attention by the caregiver.  Important.  Very Important.

One day I was driving by the swing set in my condo complex and two youngsters were swinging listlessly.  One was draped over the seat of the swing and barely moving, the other making feeble attempts swinging. The mom was off to the side talking on the cell phone.  The mom thought that by bring the children to the swing set, she was effectively parenting.  Now, she could chat on the phone to friends.  Unfortunately, no. Parents need to recognize that their involvement and interaction is the key.  The children’s experience on the swings was directly related to the attention by the mom.

So, I  have a question for you.  When would you be able to add listening to music with your child?  Not as a chore or an added have –to, but something that would be a fun, family activity?   Email me and let’s talk.

November 26, 2010

Fine Motor Development: Part 3

Don’t overlook the free and fun items that are found in everyone’s home that will increase your child’s motor development

  • Tear it Up!!!

Repurpose old newspapers.  Let the kids make strips with it and create imaginary houses, roads and turnpikes.  Add toy cars and a pinch of imagination and you have kids who are multitasking:  developing fine motor skills, learning to focus, and are involved in imaginative play.

  • Crumble it Up!!!

Make  newspaper balls. Let your children crumble it up old newspapers or

magazines. The noise alone is a kid pleaser. Plays sink the basket in an empty pail is always fun. And, you can appreciate that there is little mess and no cost.

  • Shape Up!

Parents get involved!  Play!  Draw common shapes on old newspaper paper.  Your child will trace the shape several times using different colors.  This is called echoing and is used in schools to practice spelling words.  Your child is developing fine motor skills

Do you have other ideas?  Write to me and share them so everyone can see.

November 24, 2010

Fine Motor Development: Part 2

Finger painting and sidewalk chalk add oodles of fun to every child’s play. While you want to continue practicing the skills needed for handwriting, your child will become bored with the same old stuff. Mix it up!
Have you considered shaving cream on a plastic plate in the bath tub? The mess is contained and the added benefit is your child comes out clean and smelling wonderful.
Beach sand is a wonderful medium to practice shapes, patterns and letters. Bring home some beach sand or purchase clean sand from a local toy or craft store. Load it in a large rectangular cake pan. You know the one I’m talking about, the one with a top. Bring it out when you are looking for alternative activities for your child.
I would love to hear from you. What ideas work in your home? Please let me know.

November 18, 2010

Preschool to Kindergarten: Will Your Child Be Ready?

It is not too soon for parents of preschoolers to be thinking about Kindergarten next fall.  Will your child be ready?

Recently, when I appeared on WTNH TV, Good Morning CT Weekend edition, I had the opportunity to demonstrate a few strategies that help parents understand the educational context behind the play.  If you missed my interview with Matt Scott, don’t worry.  I will let you in on the secrets.

You hear it everywhere.  Parents are encouraged to read, read, read.  In preschool the educational buzz term for this is “concepts of print.” While extremely important, I want to remind parents not to forget other equally important skills that are needed to get your child ready for kindergarten.

Fine Motor Development.

Fine motor development is when the child is able to coordinate small muscle movement, fingers, with the eye.

In kindergarten, a child needs to be ready to hold a pencil and write their name. Just holding a pencil is a challenge to some children who are not ready.   Getting a child ready can be accomplished with a variety of fun activities.   Importantly, when a parent understands the importance of  these activities are beyond “just playing,” time for play  takes on added value is no longer considered a luxury but a necessity.

“Fabulous Fun”

Finger painting, a personal favorite, is fabulous fun, wonderfully messy and vibrantly colorful.  These are all ingredients that appeal to children. Parents, remember, finger panting is a washable mess.

If you want a crisp and clean background, you can buy newsprint, floor pads of paper, or table top products.  But consider recycling  the newspaper and use it as an interesting background for your child’s artwork.   Squeeze the paint onto a paper plate and use fingers, sponges, brushes or tips to apply the paint to a surface.

“Finger Painting and Classroom Connections”

Using the fingers, holding a brush, and coordinating this with the mind’s eye, are excellent preparatory steps for Kindergarten.  These steps are important precursors for holding a pencil.

Focusing on a task, concentration on an activity, and completion are significant skills for school and life.

If your child wants to paint and you don’t have it in the house, try painting with water.  The skills are similar, the cost is nothing, and the artwork is magical.

October 13, 2010

The Learning Process: A Day at the Park

Hammonassett, in Madison, CT, is a great resource.  Swimming, fishing, a nature center, birding, and hiking are a few of the main attractions.

But, don’t overlook the puddles!  Puddles???  Yes, puddles.

Last Sunday, I was walking around looking for interesting photos to shoot.  This little boy caught my eye.  His dad and two brothers were kite flying.  This held no interest for a two and a half year old.  What caught his attention, puddles.  Jabbering to himself, he was pushing and watching pieces of wood float around one of the best mud puddles at the park.

Jabbering or babbling I recently read, is a way for children to practice             language.

I said to the little boy, “The wood is floating.”  He repeated it and went back to his own language.

This little boy was engaged in creative play, practicing language, introducing himself to science concepts with explorative play, entertaining himself, and best of all, having fun.

What a great day in the park!

October 12, 2010

The Learning Process

My neighbor was outside yesterday with her three kids.  Other neighborhood kids joined in the group and you could hear laughing and the happy sounds of scooters up and down the road.  There was no fighting or squabbles among the children, just playing, sharing, and having fun.

Afterwards, I began to wonder why?  How could a diverse age group of children get along so well?  The credit belongs to the parents.  Three adults were present among six to seven kids.

The big activity that day was drawing with chalk on the street.  Soon, the kids were coloring their hands and faces in a rainbow of colors, lying on their designs, and rolling in the artwork.  Yes, they were getting dirty, the clothes would need to be washed, but the parents were not admonishing the children.  They just let them play.

One toddler, after watching her sister blow the excess chalk off a design, tried to imitate and ended up kissing the road.  The mom just laughed.  These parents let kids be kids.   The kids practiced social skills, enjoyed imaginative play, and spent time having fun outside.  It doesn’t get better than that.

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