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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

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10 Tips to Prepare for a Diverse Classroom + Professional Development

I love to celebrate Black History Month to help my children recognize and appreciate the different cultures that are part of our community. It's also a great reminder for me to constantly self-analyze my own approaches to culture, learn more about the cultures around me, and make sure that I am using culturally-sensitive approaches in my teaching, so when ChildCare Education Institute (CCEI) approached me about sharing some of their resources, I very happily said, "Yes!" 

I went through two courses to prepare for this article: PROF108 (Cultural Competence in Early Childhood Education) from CCEI and SOC101 (Introduction to Sociology) from StraighterLine. I learned a ton from both courses, and am excited to share 10 Tips to Prepare for a Diverse Classroom with you! 

These courses cover many more things than just the 10 tips that I'm sharing today, so if you're interested in learning more, CCEI is offering you a discount code for their annual subscription! Use the code PPP24 to save $20 on an Annual Individual Training Subscription--you'll get access to PROF108 and hundreds of other courses! I'll share more about this below! Expires 3/3/24.

First, let's get started on those 10 Tips! 

#1: Promote the cultures of the children in your care! PROF108 points out that children develop their self-esteem within the culture they're being raised in, so it is extremely important that we treat that culture with respect when we refer to it and when we respond to our children. 

I'll share some specific ways we can do that in #'s 2-5, but this tip is a reminder to check your own attitudes and responses. Every time we interact with our kids, we are sending messages to them about how we perceive them and their culture. We need to make sure we respond to the things they tell us, the languages their families might speak, and their home environments with respect. This will help them develop a healthy self-esteem and be able to advocate for both themselves and others in the future.

#2: Deliberately include culture and diversity in your curricula. One way to do this is a suggestion from PROF108: share fairy tales from different cultures. A lot of popular fairy tales focus on European stories, but there are fantastic stories from around the world that all children benefit from. This exposes our children to different ideas and cultures while sending a message of the importance and value of those differences. 

This is one resource I have enjoyed: A Bedtime Full of Stories by Angela McAllister. It has 50 stories divided up into the parts of the world that they originate from.

#3: Make sure the children in your care see themselves! Use books! Put books that feature the cultures of your children in places where your children can see them, pick them up, and "read" them---with your help or by themselves! 

This also helps create a continuous approach to cultural competence, both for minority children who see their cultures represented right next to the dominant culture and for children in the dominant culture who need to see minorities represented as just as important as themselves.

Did you know that only about 12% of picture books have characters who are Black? Here are a few that I love:


#4: Make sure the children in your care see themselves! Use posters! Decorate your rooms in ways that celebrate the cultures of all the children in your area. Obviously, this includes taking the time to get to know those cultures yourself and finding ways to represent them in the decorations, inspirations, and curricula you use. To get you started, I made this little packet of Inspirational People Mini-Posters. You're welcome to print as many copies as you like and display them or use them in other ways. For example, you could print them all on one page, make two copies, and play matching games with them!

#5: Let children learn to enjoy, appreciate, and seek out differences! PROF108 points out that children will notice differences. Our job is to create a culture of appreciation and respect for those differences. We can do this by encouraging healthy discussions and making sure we intervene quickly when we hear anything unkind or disparaging. 

PROF108 (Cultural Competence in Early Childhood Education) is a 2-hour course that covers so much more than I've been able to share! It explores the history of multicultural education, self-reflective practices, and practical ways to encourage a healthy cultural competence in yourself and the children you teach. It is the best professional development I've taken on multicultural education, and I highly recommend it!

The course is distributed over 126 slides, like the one below:

Most slides have instructional material, but some include reflection questions, assessment questions (that must be passed before moving on to new material), and interactive activities.

After you finish the course, there is a short exam that you must pass at 70% to pass the course. Then you can download a certificate of completion!

Let me tell you a few more things about courses from CCEI:

** My favorite aspect is that the courses are very user-friendly and convenient! They are all online and available 24/7/365 at your convenience!
** 99% of students say they would recommend CCEI to others.
** The Individual Annual Subscription is perfect for teachers or parents who need professional development! For one annual fee, you get access to their entire catalog of over 200 courses in English and Spanish, IACET CEUs, certificates of completion, and more. I've taken courses from them in topics as varied as literacy, ADHD, growth mindset, brain development, sensational science, and more! This is my favorite professional development provider, and the discount they're offering for Preschool Powol Packets readers is fantastic!! Use the code PPP24 and SAVE $20 off an Individual Annual Training Subscription by clicking the link HERE! Expires 3/3/2024.

The next few tips come from the course SOC101 (Introduction to Sociology) from StraighterLine. StraighterLine is the parent company of CCEI, and includes college-credit courses, like SOC101. I'll share more about StraighterLine after the last few Tips to Preparing for a Diverse Classroom!

#6: Discover and acknowledge your own prejudices and discriminations! SOC101 points out that race is a social construct. It has no basis in genetics, but it has a deeply-rooted basis in our social systems. As teachers and members of a community, we need to take the time to recognize our own biases so that we do not perpetuate them. 

One problem discussed was "color-blind racism," or the idea that while we may not discriminate based on a person's ethnicity, we might discriminate on other factors that are created by that ethnicity or culture. 

We also need to be aware of institutionalized discrimination, which is when social organizations are run in ways that create unequal outcomes for members of different groups. This can range from things in our control (like how we treat children in our programs) to things that we cannot control (like the tendency for waste treatment facilities to be near minority neighborhoods). If we are not even aware of these kinds of things, we cannot hope to be able to do anything about them.

#7: Contact Hypothesis: This might be one of the most hopeful ideas that StraighterLine's Sociology course has to offer racism. Contact Hypothesis is the idea that the more time people from different backgrounds spend working together productively, the more they will understand each other and appreciate their differences. 

At a most basic level, this suggests that in our classrooms, we need to provide opportunities for our children to work together with children who are different from them. They need a chance to get to know each other, appreciate those differences, and see their peers solve problems with them. 

Just letting young children play together might be enough, but I think we can facilitate this even better with activities like cooperative art projects, group activities where they need to work together to solve problems, and discussions.

These two art projects are some of my favorite collaborative projects I've done with young children:


#8: Share achievements of people from a variety of cultures---represent your kids! One of the aspects of white privilege that was discussed in SOC101 is the fact that successful white people surround us. Children from other cultures may not see themselves reflected in the images of success around them. Put up posters of successful people from a variety of cultures in your classroom and share examples of them during your discussions!

You can start with my little packet above of Inspirational People. I included the following six people:

** Angela Merkel: a German politician and scientist who served as the chancellor of Germany for 15 years
** Cesar Chavez: an American Labor Leader and Civil Rights Activist
** Kalpana Chawla: an American pilot, engineer, NASA scientist, and astronaut
** Martin Luther King, jr: an American minister and leader of the Civil Rights Movement for over a decade (until he was assassinated)
** Nelson Mandela: the first president of South Africa and leader of the country's resistance to apartheid before that
** Sonia Sotomayor: the first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States

#9: Allow and encourage the use and appreciation of other languages! One aspect of institutionalized discrimination is that minority languages are not allowed. When we appreciate the languages of the children we work with, we send the message that they are important. It helps build their self-worth and their self-esteem. 

#10: Review your own history! This might not seem like a big deal as you prepare to work with other culture's but knowing your own culture and how it interacts with those of the children you're working with is really important! 

I really appreciated the historical aspects of both courses I took. Seeing racism and discrimination over the last hundred years in America is a different view than looking at it from just the modern angles of our own communities. 

It's much easier to understand the strong feelings that still run through different communities when you consider the recent past. For example, the Civil Rights movement really reached its height in the 1960s and 70s... barely 50 years ago. In the 80s and 90s, multicultural education became a new trend as educators tried to close the achievement gaps they saw in different minority groups. A lot of ideas that are now recognized as frustrating (such as color-blindness and melting pot) were promoted as being a good thing. As the 21st century began, educators began to be encouraged to see the differences in our community and appreciate them. While this is still the best advice, we are now wondering if pointing out the differences might actually lead to more bias instead of less? 

Education is a constantly evolving field--we need to know our history so that we can keep moving forward in the ways that will lead our children to the most successful futures possible!

I really appreciated the way StraighterLine's SOC101 shared our country's history in light of sociology and racism. Most of the material on racism and discrimination was in the course's Topic 8: Social Inequality.

Of course, sociology is much more than just racism and discrimination. There is no possible way I could summarize everything this course offers, but here is a brief overview of the course's other topics:

Here are all 13 Topics for the Course:

You can keep track of the Topic you are on, your course progress, and the assignments associated with it when you log in:

When you open up a topic, like Topic 8, you get a screen with all the course material for that topic:

The links make it really easy to navigate between text chapters, the lesson presentation, and assignments. 

The textbook is entirely available online. It has a super easy-to-use navigation bar on the left and highlight and note taking options available.

The final grade for the course is a combination of exam scores:

Like other StraighterLine courses, this is available online 24/7, on your schedule! It is self-paced. This is my favorite aspect of the courses--it is super convenient!

This course also earns you 3 college credit hours that can transfer to hundreds of colleges and universities!

Or, if you'd like to begin an Early Childhood Education degree, StraighterLine has prepared a bundle of 5 courses for you with a special 20% off discount! Check them out here!

And, in case you're curious, here are a few more details about StraighterLine courses:

** Courses include eTextbooks, 24/7 on-demand tutoring, live student support 7 days a week, and proctoring for the final exam.
** Typical course completion time is about 45 days.
** Courses start at only $79 plus a $99 monthly membership fee. You can start and stop whenever you need to, and pick back up right where you left off! (But check out the bundled discount here!)

I hope I've inspired you with a few ideas to prepare for a diverse classroom! I know I learned a lot from the two courses I took from CCEI and StraighterLine, and I highly recommend them both!

Let me know if you have any questions--you're always welcome to email me!!

And remember that CCEI and StraighterLine are offering you TWO amazing deals this month:

CCEI is offering you a discount code for their annual subscription! Use the code PPP24 to save $20 on an Annual Individual Training Subscription--you'll get access to hundreds of courses! Expires 3/3/2024. 

This article is sponsored by ChildCare Education  Institute. All opinions are mine--you know I only recommend products and companies I love!

Happy Educating,

A Dinosaur Made Me Sneeze!
This awesome book introduces the rock cycle with dinosaurs, volcanoes, and more!
(hint: You can buy it on Amazon or use the code Dinosaur25 at OakieBees.com!!)

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

Never miss another post again!  Sign up for our weekly updates newsletter and get links to all our posts once a week in your inbox!  Sign up here!!

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Monday, November 13, 2023

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8 Tips for Teaching Kids with AD/HD + Teaching Students With Exceptionalities College Course from CCEI Parent Company, StraighterLine

I have always loved teaching the high-energy, fidgety kids whose attention tends to jump tracks at the slightest distraction because... I am one. I embrace the distractions and struggle to stay on task long enough to finish something in one sitting. Knowing this about myself has always made me especially interested in finding more effective ways to both manage my own attention issues and to teach children who have similar, and sometimes stronger, struggles. 

Now that you know this about me, you can probably guess what the most interesting aspect of the online college course Teaching Students with Exceptionalities from CCEI's parent company, StraighterLine, was for me. If you guessed the portions on teaching children with AD/HD, you were right!

In this article, I'm going to share some of the tips the course has for teachers with students with AD/HD, and then I'll give you a brief overview of the course (Teaching Students with Exceptionalities) and StraighterLine and CCEI in general.

I know this course is designed for teachers, but this information about teaching children is important for all parents (and anyone who works with children) to know. The more we know, the better we understand the children we work with. The better we understand our children, the better parents, teachers, and community members we become.

Before I jump into tips for teaching kids with AD/HD, it is important to point out that every child is unique. Every tip will not help every child, but having a range of tools that might help your child will let you discover the best ways for your child to grow and develop.

The course introduces AD/HD, how it affects the brain, three broad types of AD/HD, how it is diagnosed, medications, and many more aspects that I will not be going into here. I'm assuming that if you're reading this it's because you already know what AD/HD is and you're probably thinking of someone with it, hoping to find some more teaching methods to use.

So let's get started.

8 Tips for Teaching Kids with AD/HD

#1: Use explicit direct instructions (with an advance organizer, rationale, demonstration, guided practice, and independent practice)
When you're teaching something, you need to be very clear about it. I love the mantra: "Tell them what you're going to teach them. Teach them. Tell them what you just taught them." You can use this in a classroom, at home, or in any other teaching situation. An advance organizer tells your children what you're about to teach/tell them. It could be as simple as an outline for older children, a series of pictures for younger children, or a series of dots or signposts to indicate steps in what is to come.
After you tell your children what you will be doing, give them a rationale, or reason to put in the time and effort to learn it. Learning is work, and our children engage in that work much more readily if they have a good buy-in to do so.
For your actual instruction, demonstrate what they are to learn, supervise and instruct them as they practice it (guided practice), and then let them practice on their own (independent practice). They may still need help and supervision as they work on their own, but independent practice is the only way to find out if they have acquired the new skill or information for themselves. The course points out that there should be THREE TIMES MORE independent practice than instruction or demonstration. We learn by doing.
After your lesson, a post organizer is also very helpful to review and cement new information. New skills and information should be reviewed again during follow-up lessons.

#2- Use clear, simple expectations. This doesn't take much explanation. I'll just point out that children with AD/HD will get distracted if your expectations take too long to explain or remember. They aren't trying to ignore you. They just struggle to focus on something for 4 minutes when a 30 second summary would have worked.

#3- Use cue cards to help with self-regulation for independent work. As mentioned above, independent work is essential to learn new information and master new skills, but self-regulation is something that children (and adults) with AD/HD struggle with. Cue cards might help. These are simply reminders (either text or images) about what the child is supposed to be doing. Checklists are often very helpful---they remind your child what he/she is supposed to be doing and provide a reward (checking the box) when the task is complete.

#4- Use checklists to help children learn to ask themselves about their own past behavior. This is another tool to help with self-regulation. Many children do not recognize that they are off-task. Agree on a signal (perhaps a timer, a hand signal, a word, etc), and when you give that signal, the child pulls out a checklist to analyze their own behavior. The checklist might have questions like "What am I supposed to be doing? Am I doing it?" Simple questions that let the child metacognitively analyze where their mind is at a designated time helps them refocus on a task. The stronger the child's ability to self-regulate becomes, the better he/she will be at focusing and paying attention for longer times.

#5- Use external reinforcements to help motivate. The course points out that external reinforcements can be powerful for some children, but the rewards will need to be changed frequently, perhaps as often as every 2-4 weeks. If they help, use those sticker charts, prize bins, and other point systems! Just remember to change the available prizes at least every month or so. 

I personally prefer to only use external reinforcements for short term systems. Special occasions, a new skill that takes extra focus, and countdowns to holidays are some of my favorite times to break out extra rewards.

#6- Use technology. Creative teachers use all the resources available to them, and there are a ton of technology options! Games and gamified drilling activities can help children memorize everything from letters and sounds to number facts, geography and more. Apps can be used as cue cards, metacognitive checklists, and even external reinforcements. One of my own teens even showed me a "study app" that you open when you start studying, click a button to start a timer for you, and then click it again when you're done. The amount of time you spent working gives you rewards in the app!

The course has a lot of tips in helping you choose websites that are educational as well.

#7- Use short assignments. Assignments should have a purpose. Long assignments that are not necessary for the child to master the information become overwhelming and boring, and students are more likely to misbehave when they are expected to do too much work at once. This ties into #8 as well.

#8- Use frequent breaks. Again, children will become overwhelmed, bored, and distracted if they are required to focus on something longer than they are able. This leads to behavior problems. An easy solution is to schedule your time in blocks. Spend 10 minutes focused on one activity, take a break, and then return if you're not done with the first activity. The course suggests that breaks be structured, for example, 10 math problems followed by 5 spelling words followed by reading gives you a break from math with another subject. My personal experience is that unstructured breaks are important as well. You can also take breaks while remaining focused on one subject. For example, if you write down a few notes about plants, draw the parts of a plant, go outside and identify those parts, and then return to make a playdough model, you've taken breaks and stayed focused on the topic.

The online college course Teaching Students with Exceptionalities from StraighterLine, parent company of CCEI, provides a broad overview of a range of conditions that fall under the Special Education department in public schools. It helps teaching professionals to effectively design learning for students with special needs alongside students with exceptionalities to meet all students' needs.
The course includes an introduction to Special Education, litigation in the field, and methods for teaching children with dozens of traits, ranging from learning disabilities to gifted and talented. Here is a list of some of the topics:

Learning Disabilities
Reading Disabilities
Math Disabilities
Writing Disabilities
Language Disabilities
Social & Emotional Challenges
RTI (Response to Intervention)
Intellectual Disabilities
Emotional & Behavioral Disorders (like anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, conduct disorder, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and psychotic disorders)
Communication Disorders
Deaf or Hard of Hearing
Blind or Have Low Vision
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Severe Disabilities
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Gifted and Talented

The course includes 11 quizzes to complete and 2 lesson plans with accommodations to create.

Each topic has several lessons within it, except for the lesson plans, which have the instructions for completing the lesson plan with accommodations. If you score less than 90% on your lesson plans, you have the option of "retaking" the assessment for a higher grade.

The Assignment List helps you organize all the quizzes and assignments at a glance:

The textbook for the course is Exceptional Students: Preparing Teachers for the 21st Century by Lydia Smiley, Stephen Richards, and Ronald Taylor and contains most of the instructional material for the course.

Most people complete courses with StraighterLine in about 45 days, though some finish in as little as two weeks.

Teaching Students with Exceptionalities is one of five online college courses that StraighterLine offers adults beginning a degree in Early Childhood Education. Those five courses are:

All of StraighterLine's courses can be easily transferred to more than 3,000 partner colleges and universities that StraighterLine has relationships with. I wrote more about the courses from StraighterLine and CCEI here. And you can learn more about resources from StraighterLine and CCEI here.

These courses provide an excellent foundation for a career in teaching. They, as well as hundreds of courses offered through CCEI, are excellent courses for continuing ed or professional development.

Teaching Students with Exceptionalities provides an excellent overview of hands-on methods and tools for teaching children with a wide range of challenges, disabilities, and gifts. It is a 3-credit online college course offered through StraighterLine. I recommend the course for anyone beginning a career in education, for teachers looking for more tools and methods to use in their instruction, and for parents who would like to learn more about special education in public schools.

This article is sponsored by ChildCare Education Institute. All opinions are mine--you know I only recommend products and companies I love!

Happy Educating,

Dinosaur Made Me Sneeze!
This awesome book introduces the rock cycle with dinosaurs, volcanoes, and more!
(hint: You can buy it on Amazon or use the code Dinosaur25 at OakieBees.com!!)

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

Never miss another post again!  Sign up for our weekly updates newsletter and get links to all our posts once a week in your inbox!  Sign up here!!

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Wednesday, November 8, 2023

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Free Printable Preschool Thanksgiving Activities

Thanksgiving is around the corner, so I thought I'd share a little print-and-go packet of activities for you!

This packet has 7 activities you can print for free! They're perfect for preschoolers and early elementary kids. The pages include:

1- Build a Turkey

2- Thankful Flower

3- PreK/K Maze

4- Find the Differences

5- Happy Thanksgiving Coloring Page

6- I Spy

7- Gratitude Alphabet

Happy Educating,

Dinosaur Made Me Sneeze!
This awesome book introduces the rock cycle with dinosaurs, volcanoes, and more!
(hint: You can buy it on Amazon or use the code Dinosaur25 at OakieBees.com!!)

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

Never miss another post again!  Sign up for our weekly updates newsletter and get links to all our posts once a week in your inbox!  Sign up here!!

Read More