Category Archives: early education & play

Inclusion in the Preschool Classroom


What is an inclusive preschool?

An inclusive preschool educates children with disabilities in the same environment as typically developing peers, so all children can participate in the same activities and routines.

An inclusive preschool ensures an accessible learning environment, offering multiple ways to access materials, engage with materials and to express themselves. An environment where learning is individualised and adapted to meet the needs of all students, so they can seamlessly become a participant of the group.

In preschool, this is founded in play. Play is in its essence supportive of inclusion. Play’s open-ended nature, encourages, choice, naturally caters to different learning styles and supports teachable moments as they occur.  Inclusion is an attitude, a set of values rather than a set of practicalities.  

In this room the children engage in sensory play. They work together on a painting, mixing colours. The children have choice as to which materials they add to the sand or water and all the boxes are at child height. Aprons are provided and the children independently take them and put them on. The dustpan and brush is at child height. The children are encouraged to clean up as they go.

Why should preschool classrooms support inclusion?

Social and emotional learning

  •  No studies comparing the social impact of segregation and inclusive settings have shown segregation to be superior.
  • Social and emotional learning is at the heart of preschool and is a core component of the Early Years Foundation Stage in England, at the heart of the Australian Early Years curriculum and many others around the World.
  •  Inclusive preschools give more opportunities for children with disabilities to build friendships. Through these friendships, engagement is maximized, the friends look out for their interests, are encouraging and help them explore and learn new things.
  • Building friendships in the early years has shown benefits for later life in academic achievement, independent living, and adult mental health

… The single best childhood predictor of adult adaptation is not school grades, and not classroom behavior, but rather, the adequacy with which the child gets along with other children. Children who are generally disliked, who are aggressive and disruptive, who are unable to sustain close relationships with other children, and who cannot establish a place for themselves in the peer culture are seriously at risk.’ (Hartup, 1992,)

The teacher uses visual hand signals to guide the children in this musical activity. The children also have an opportunity to learn from their peers.
  • Inclusion gives children a sense of belonging and shows that they are valued for their abilities and potential
  • Inclusion encourages acceptance and support from typically developing peers that are the foundations of an inclusive society. Studies indicate inclusive settings provide typically developing children with opportunities to learn skills, values, and attitudes related to human differences (Farrell, 2000), including learning how to be friends with people who are different from themselves ( Rafferty et al., 2001) and to assist classmates who may be experiencing difficulty (Burnstein et al., 2004)
  • Typically developing children are also likely to show increases in self-esteem, confidence, autonomy and leadership skills (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Burish, 2000).

Language, communication and learning

  •  Rafferty, Piscitelliand Boetthcher (2003) found improved language in children with severedisabilities in inclusive settings and no difference between settings inchildren with less severe disabilities
  • In an inclusive preschool, children with disabilities have a more varied and stimulating experience, opportunities to interact and observe typically developing peers; they get encouragement from other children and learn directly from others.
children of different abilities work on an art project. The teacher helps the child to understand the directions and holds the paper to help him cut.
  • Typically developing children make similar developmental gains in regular and inclusive preschools (Odom, DeKlyen, & Jenkins, 1984, Strain & Bovey, 2011)
  • Some typically developing children spontaneouslycommunicate by alternative means in order to be able to communicate with theirpeers with disabilities.

Why inclusion is particularly well-suited to the preschool classroom

  • Inclusion is particularly suited to the preschool classroom because of the flexibility of the curriculum and ability to respond to a range of learning styles through play.
  • In early education, observation and assessment is an integral part of the learning cycle. Teachers are used to observing children in their play, and using their observations to enhance the learning and create next steps.  Teachers are also used to working in teams who reflect together on the learning to create a purposeful, engaging environment.

Below are some examples of planning and assessmentmaterials I have used. These could also be developed with individual children’sIEP goals to focus observations and assessments. Ask yourselves – am I doingit? Does it work? How could I change it? How can I encourage interests to bemore complex or appear in different contexts?

 At preschool there are multiple opportunities to embed learning throughout the day. IEP goals can be worked on in the natural setting ,for example, communication goals can be worked on during play and during routines such as snack. Think about how your daily routines can provide opportunities to practice goals.

What does an inclusive preschool look like?

  • A preschool learning environment considers the indoor environment, the outdoor play provision and the emotional environment.

The indoor environment

A space for quiet. The child has a book of photographs of things that are meaningful to him. These are used to initiate conversations.
  • In the indoor environment you will see a range of materials and activities to ensure independence for the lowest functioning and challenge for the highest functioning. This will often involve open ended materials such as clay, paint, blocks or pretend play.
  • Materials will be accessible and children will know where to go to obtain and return them. This can include placing toys on child height shelves labelled with a pictures and words, storing toys in clear boxes without lids and having clearly designated areas for different activities.
The home corner is organised so everything has its place. The plates and cups are stored in colour groups and the pans in size order. The environment is organised, inviting and promotes interaction
  • If necessary modify toys so they are accessible to all. These resources from Youngstar give useful examples of how to modify toys for different needs.

Adapting Toys

Adapting Toys and Play Materials

The Outdoor Environment

  • There should be opportunities for all children to engage in the outdoor environment. Outdoor play should include opportunities for physical activity, sensory play and peace and relaxation.
  • Play Scotland have some excellent resources on inclusive outdoor play with a number of links to other useful resources with activities and tools to evaluate your provision

The Emotional Environment

  • The learning environment should support participation,be nurturing and promote friendship and respect
  • The environment should be structured  to support interaction and accomplish goals
  • There should be collaboration with other professionals
  • Activities should build on children’s interests andextend learning
  • Teachers should demonstrate flexible thinking
  • Routines should be predictable. This includes aregular timetable for the day but also predictable routines withinroutines  for example, keeping  the same routine for circle time and withinthat there might be a predictable routine for calendar
  • It should be inclusive all day long. All teachersshould interact and share interactions and teaching of all students, sharingexpertise and providing instructional generalization. IEP’s are addressed everyday and all day long
  • Teachers should be reflective and work together todiscuss strategies to support the learning of individuals and the group,frequently monitoring outcomes and implementing them into the programme.Collect data on how practice is delivered and the effects and meet regularly asa team to review and plan. Always be flexible and ready to change.
boxes are at child height, are clearly labelled and are open so the children can see what is inside. The adults support the children in making choices, finding resources and how to use them.
  • There should be a strong partnership with parents, building on the belief of the parent as the child’s first educator.

Other useful resources

Inclusion Development Programme Resources.  Guidance for teachers in supporting children with EBD, Autism and speech language and communication needs in the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Assistive Technology for Young Children –http://ectacenter.org/topics/atech/atech.asp

This resource has lots of really useful links on topics inclusion in the early years https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/youngstar/eci/bestpractices

Preschool inclusion for children on the autistic spectrum https://www.rchsd.org/documents/2017/04/alexas-playc-preschool-inclusion-toolkit.pdf/

A short article on inclusive early education and care http://edu.gov.on.ca/childcare/Underwood.pdf

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Had Enough of Snow? These Peanuts Snow Sculptures will Make you Smile.

After almost a week of snow in the Seattle area, many have had enough of snow and can’t wait to get back to normality. Personally, snow makes me smile. I love having my kids home and playing in the snow, because we can try out some really cool projects. As Peanuts fans, on our first snow day this week, we built a snow sculpture of Snoopy lying on his kennel.

snoopy snow sculpture

We used a brick mould to build the structure of the kennel and smoothed the sides to make the sloping roof. Then, sculpted snoopy lying down on top.

snoopy snow sculpture

His nose and ears were painted with watercolour block paint and we painted his name on the entrance to the kennel.

snow sculpture snoopy on kennel

Each day we have added a new Peanuts character.

Day 2 – Charlie Brown and Woodstock

The following night we had a lot of snowfall, so in the morning it was as if a Snoopy cartoon had come to life.

Thankfully the snow was soft and powdery so brushed off with little damage, other than some paint smudging and a slightly less defined Woodstock.

Day 3 – Lucy

lucy van pelt snow sculpture

Day 4 – Linus

This is my personal favourite. There had been some thawing overnight so there were a lot of pine needles in the snow; perfect for Linus’ hair.

Linus Van Pelt snow sculpture

For as long as the snow remains, we’re going to add a different character each day. I’ll be updating this post and my Instagram and Facebook page with pictures of the new additions. Who is your favourite Peanuts character?

A Step by Step Guide to Making Ice Ornaments

It isn’t often we get a cold spell long enough to make ice ornaments, but with freezing temperatures set to last, we made a few batches to hang on our bushes. They look really beautiful, but also provide lots of opportunity to learn about ice, freezing and melting. A few years ago we made some and shared our learning story, as we watched them melt and freeze.

How to Make an Ice Ornament

You will need

  • Baking trays
  • Ribbon or string
  • Food colouring (optional)

Step 1.

valentine ice ornaments

Choose a baking /cup cake tray and fill each hole with cold water.

Step 2

Add a drop of food colouring – mix or leave to mix itself which can leave a marbled effect.

Step 3

ice ornaments

Snip pieces of ribbon or string and submerge one end in the water, making sure the other end is free. You could loop the string but I prefer to leave it as it makes it easier to tie to larger branches. I usually do this part outside to avoid spilling when you move them to freeze.

Step 4

Leave outside overnight to freeze (or put the tray in your freezer).

Step 5

ice ornaments

Hang on a bush or tree. If there is snow on the ground the food colouring will drip onto the snow as they melt. If there are prolonged freezing temperatures the ornaments will melt slightly and form icicles as they re-freeze.

I wasn’t sure how easily the hearts come out of the tins but they came out without any trouble. If they need a little help, bring them inside for a few minutes or run some warm water on the base of the tin. Alternatively, you could use a silicone mould.

The second batch also included owls and bears. We made half of the owls clear, to see how they would look without colour, but kept the colour in the bears, because my daughter thought they would look like gummy bears.

Picture Books to Add to Your Valentine’s Day Collection.

Do you share Valentine themed books with your class or kids at home? Some of the old favourites like Guess how much I Love You are great, but it’s always good to refresh your collection with new titles.

Have I Ever Told You by Shani Kin would make a perfect Valentine’s gift for a younger child. My children read it and said ‘ this is really lovely’. The book is full of the important messages a parent should share with their child;  messages of love, acceptance, tolerance and joy. I can imagine snuggling with my girls, reading the book together and talking about the messages within. Each message end with the phrase, ‘Have I ever told you that?’. Some of the messages are recognizable as things we say to our children, and some may be things we ought to say, but sometimes forget.

book for valentines day

The illustrations by Anna Horvath, are built around hands; multiracial hands, hands doing things, holding things and helping each other. Intertwined with the hands are objects and thoughts to represent each thing the parent tells their child. There is something strikingly beautiful about this; love expressed through hands as they create, bond, help, heal and touch. Holding and touching hands is perhaps the most sincere and secure expression of love there is.

If Have I Ever Told You were read in a classroom, it could inspire a Valentine themed writing project. The children could choose someone they love – a parent, sibling, friend or grandparent, and write something they want to tell them, ending with, ‘have I ever told you that?’ You could scribe for pre-writers and they could draw a picture or write it inside a hand print. Advanced writers could make a small book following the theme. Asking the children why they think hands were used in the illustrations, would also spark an interesting discussion.

Have I ever Told You would make a perfect Valentine’s gift.

Love Big by Kat Kronenberg follows a different theme, one of kindness and community.  In Love Big, Baboon watches the other animals being mean to one another and teaches them that through smiles, kindness, sharing and listening, we can build a happy community. 

I liked the message of the book and think it would be a good starting point for talking about classroom community.  I feel like it would be more effective if it were simplified, as in places it was a little wordy, especially in the parts where Baboon shares his message, which seem a little complex for small children. The book has a nice structure as it moves through a scenario where the animals behave in an unfriendly way and then are taught that they can be happier if they behave differently.  I personally disliked the repetitive Whoosh! Wham! In a flash of light before the phrases ‘We can be kind’, ‘We can share’, ‘We can listen’ and ‘We can care’  as they felt unnecessary and showy, but that is simply a personal preference. In some places, it felt like it was trying to do too much, for example it includes a song to the tune of twinkle, twinkle little star which felt a little out of place to me.

The illustrations by David Miles are bright, bold and cheerful. As the animals learn their lessons, the illustrations are placed in small vignettes and this makes a nice contrast with the bright, full page illustrations in the other parts of the book.

In the back of the book there are ideas for classroom activities to explore the books themes further and additional activities, fact sheets and videos can be found on Katkronenberg.com.

Disclaimer – this post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Book Review for Multicultural Book Day: Farmer Falgu goes to the Kumbh Mela

Multicultural book day was the brainchild of reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen, to share awareness of multicultural books and to get more of them in libraries, homes and schools. As an advisor, I was often asked to suggest multicultural books for schools and it was difficult to find quality books about diverse cultures. A key part of the initiative is to send out books for review to build a huge database of multicultural books with reviews. The website also includes lots of free resources for teachers with booklists, activities and posters.

The book I received is Farmer Falgu Goes to the Kumbh Mela by Chitra Soundar and Kanika Nair. 

multicultural picture books

This is the 3rd book in the Farmer Falgu series. Farmer Falgu, visits Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela festival and has a list of things he wants to see and do. Along the way he helps people, but each time he misses the events he hoped to see. Farmer Falgu. though disappointed, shrugs it off with the repeated phrase ‘maybe next time’. In the end, a turn of fate leads him to experience all of the things on his list and he has an ‘unbelievable ‘ time.

The Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela wasn’t familiar to me or my children so we really enjoyed reading about it. It feels very authentic, as if you are looking into the heart of another culture, rather than a superficial book about a festival. The book follows a clear structure and has repetitive phrases that will appeal to young readers, making it a perfect introduction to this lesser known festival. The illustrations are full of vibrant colours and bold designs and I love the simple way the illustrator shows facial expression and character.

multicultural picture book

A description of the origins of Kumbh Mela can be found at the back of the book. This could be a springboard to further research on the festival. Sometimes, I feel picture books are overlooked as a springboard for learning with older elementary children. This book could spark a wonderful project for older children too.

Suggested activities

  • Find the story of Kumbh Mela in Hindu mythology. Read it, act it out, draw pictures. Read other Hindu Myths – older children could write their own story in the style of a Hindu myth.
  • Find Allahabad on a map. Research what Allahabad looks like. Find the other locations of Kumbh Mela on a map.
  • Watch videos of the Kumbh Mela celebrations. Talk about celebrations in their own culture that may be similar.
  • Taste and/or make jalebis and lassis.
  • Think about the video and the book – why did farmer Falgu stop to help people? What happens in crowded places? Have you ever been lost? What did it feel like? What should we do when we are lost? This could also be the basis of a story.
  • Role play area – a train and role play a crowded train journey, a festival stand selling jalebis.

The 4th book in the Farmer Falgu series, Farmer Falgu goes Kite Flying, is available in April.

Wintery Art Project to Teach Value

Value in artist’s terms is the darkness or lightness of a colour It gives objects form on the page or in simple terms for young children, it makes a flat shape look 3D.

The goal of this art project for 2nd grade, was to show them how to shade a circle to make it look like a sphere. Since winter is upon us and the class have been reading a lot of books about snow, I chose a snowball.

Introduction

chalk pastel value

I showed an example drawing and asked them how I had made the circle stand out. They talked about the way I had placed it into the mittens and how I had shaded it. I explained that the darkest shading shoukd be opposite the light source and would gradually get lighter. If they left a spot without shading, it would show how the light was shining on it.

Step 1

Draw around your hand with fingers closed and thumb extended. Decorate using patterns and cut out.

Step 2

Draw the sun using shades of yellow, red and orange chalk pastel. Draw different coloured circles and blend to make a sun. Choose a round sun, a semi-circle or draw it in the corner of the paper.

Step 3

Place the mittens on the centre of the paper and place the snowball under the thumbs. Follow your finger in a diaganol line from the sun to the circle and shade the outer edge where your finger meets in a dark shade of blue. Continue, getting lighter with each layer and stop after four shades have been used.

Step 4

Blend with finger and cut out.

Step 5.

Glue the mittens and snowball onto the paper and add snowflakes.

The example used a chalk pastel background but I used blue paper for the class to make the snowflakes stand out more.

img_3189

Art Project: Fused Glass Snowmen

fused glass snowman

We are very lucky to have the luxury of a kiln in our school, allowing us to complete clay and fused glass projects.

I wanted to make a gift for the children to take home at the end of term. As a multicultural school, some of the children don’t celebrate Christmas, so I chose a winter themed art lesson about snowmen.

Small groups of children worked on the fused glass snowmen while the rest of the class made pastel snowman drawings.

I pre-cut the white glass into 2 x 3 rectangles and cut black glass rods to make eyes and buttons.

fused glass snowman

Each child put their white piece on a paper plate labelled with their name and added pieces of scrap glass to create their snowman.  They were then sprayed with hairspray to stop them moving around when I took them to the kiln.

When placing them in the kiln, I labelled them with a sticky note and took a photograph so I would know whose was whose when they came out. I removed the sticky notes before firing.

fused glass snowman

When they came out, we added a hook (stuck on with E6000 glue) and a ribbon for hanging.

fused glass snowman