The Power of Not Yet

The new year is about making positive changes to our behaviours and mindsets, making it the perfect time to consider the growth mindset made popular by Carol Dweck in her 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. She explained the two mindsets she found in her subjects: fixed mindset and growth mindset.

Since this book became popular, teachers have been helping students identify when they have a fixed mindset (believing we have a fixed amount of intelligence and ability) and reframe their thinking with a growth mindset (believing we have limitless potential to learn and grow).

As teachers, we can access many resources to help support our students understanding of their mindset and how it affects their ability to learn. How we teach today and the language we use can greatly affect how our students see themselves.

Learning How We Learn Best

Talking about how a student learns best and identifying their strengths helps them celebrate what they currently do to learn successfully. It also highlights what they still need to work on to better improve their learning. Whether it is “finding a good fit spot” to learn in or getting started on work right away, this process allows students to focus on a goal. It also helps parents and students understand how we assess and report on learning behaviours. Reminding students of their learning behaviour goals can help them refocus on the learning process, recognizing their ability to learn.

Goal setting

Encouraging students to set goals for learning behaviours and specific subject areas, helps students to understand what they are aiming for and gives them ownership of their learning. Conferencing in small groups allows reflection and discussion time. Some students find this process quite easy by Grades three or four, others may need support and direction until they are older. Goal setting provides a focus for both the student and the teacher to move learning forward.

Mistakes Are How We Learn

Recognizing a mistake as a learning opportunity requires a mindset shift for many students. Regularly discussing the mistakes made and finding out what can be learned helps students reframe their thinking. The obvious place for this to start is math where there is a clear right or wrong answer. Talking about the thinking process allows students to understand how they calculate and listening to others provides a different perspective. Learning from our mistakes and seeing them as an opportunity changes how we approach everything.

The Power of Yet

Building resiliency in students can be challenging but having the language to understand what the “Power of Yet” means that students can understand the possibility of achieving their goal. A wonderful song from Sesame Street says it all:

“Keep trying and you will learn how.

Just breath don’t lose control

Keep trying and you’ll reach your goal

You just didn’t get it yet, but you’ll make it soon I bet

This is what you get with the power of yet.”

Learning is a Journey

Identifying learning as a continuum and helping students understand they are all in different places and that that is okay, takes time but is a worthy pursuit. For example, I ask my students to solve a one/two-step problem in math and when they are finished, they have an option to try a more complex word problem. They begin by highlighting the most important information, then find the math and the operations, then work out the steps. We always do this problem as a class later and students who completed the problem lead the discussion, explaining what they did. We talk about the fact that some students just completed step one where they highlight the important information, others are further along the process. The importance is placed on effort and learning from what we did, not the correct answer. This is all part of building understanding and respect for the learning journey.

Lifelong Growth

We can all learn and grow by thinking about our mindset. Talking to our students about our own mindset and attitude towards learning helps reinforce what we are teaching. I tell myself I spell badly just to help my students see my growth mindset as I am publicly corrected by a student! Demonstrating mistakes and explaining what we learn from them helps students understand that everyone makes mistakes and what we learn them is important.

“You just didn’t get it yet, but you’ll make it soon I bet”

Written by Chris, a teacher in Manitoba

3 Ideas for your Block Play Area

Unit blocks are an important staple in most early learning rooms. They are invaluable for supporting every area of the curriculum.

Here are 3 ideas to extend and complement your block play area:

Windows & Doors are an exciting new option to add detail to house structures. An ideal addition to a structure, windows and doors are a fun challenge to build with, as children learn how to make space for their window or door and continue to build for strength.

The five piece set includes 4 windows and 1 door and is available as a single set or double. They are scaled for use with standard unit blocks and recommended ages are 3+. The window and door panels are permanently attached.

Rainbow Blocks are an adventure in colour and light. Indulge children’s appetite for exploration by combining blocks to form new colours, or stack the blocks in a different order each time to form new and exciting shapes.

These Rainbow Blocks are standard unit block measurements and include 8 squares, 4 1/2 circles, 2 large triangles, 6 small triangles and 10 rectangles. The rectangle measures 7cm x 3.5cm x 14cm (2-3/4″ x 1-3/8″ x 5-1/2″). and recommended ages are 2+.

Organize your unit blocks easily with this storage unit designed just for that. The Block Shelf divides blocks according to size and shape. We often forget that choosing the correct block for its purpose and then sorting and returning blocks to their home spot, is an important part of the learning process. Having a permanent home for each type of block in your Unit Block Set makes this process much easier.

The Block Shelf accommodates a 150 piece block set and comes fully assembled with a 15 year warranty.

Happy Block Playing!

Top 5 Manipulatives for Infant and Toddlers

Manipulatives are designed to build strength in infants and toddlers, whether that be hand eye coordination, memory, leg or core strength. Here are our 5 most popular manipulatives for infants and toddlers:

Oballs

The fun and flexible Oball is incredibly easy to grasp and safe to throw. The bright colours and smooth feel are captivating for little hands, while the virtually indestructible design withstands tougher toddler play. Perfect for all ages, Oball is sure to be an instant favourite! The Oball with Rattles is the same classic Oball that everyone loves with four clear rattles filled with colourful beads. Both are available in assorted colours.

Toddler Tough Vehicles

Take to the air, tracks or road with these tough vehicles, including a race car, train, dump truck, airplane, fire truck and police car. This Toddler Tough Vehicles set features no pinch axles and wheels. The cute painted on faces make them even more appealing for little hands. 3″L x 2″W x 2-1/4″H. Ages 12 months+.

Egg Shakers

A classic, these brightly coloured egg shakers are enjoyable for children and adults alike. Sturdy and durable, these larger Egg Shakers (2-1/2″ tall) are suitable for infants and toddlers. They are available individually or in a set of 5. Let’s get music making!

Stack-Up Cups and Cubes

Unbreakable square cubes and round cups can be stacked or nested. An essential for exploring size relationships, Stack-Up Cups and Cubes are fun to stack, smash, build and bash. Their ability to build a large tower and alternatively nest together amazes infants and toddlers alike.  Full stack is 14″H. 18 piece set.

Animal Links

This set of super light interlocking Animal Links can be easily linked together to create a variety of fun chains or exciting three dimensional structures.18 large easy to manipulate pieces made in 3 animal shapes in 6 bright colours, ages 12M+. Stack the shapes, sort by colour and style, make a pattern. Washable and safe, they have been specifically designed to meet the developmental needs of smaller kids, and they don’t make any noise when they fall!

Check out the rest of our wonderful collection of Infant and Toddler manipulatives here.

Roadway System Review

I love to look through toy catalogues and create wish lists but I know I have neither the storage space nor the funds for all the items I find interesting.  Honestly, being budget conscious, many items get added to my ‘make this’ list instead of my ‘buy this’ list.  The Roadway System was one of those items I planned to make instead of buy – I even went to the lumber store to price out the supplies.  However, once I factored in the time it would take to cut, sand and paint all the pieces, I decided it would have to go on the ‘buy – someday when you have more money’ list.  So, when I was offered the opportunity to receive a product in exchange for writing a blog post about it I knew I had to include the Roadway System on the list of items I’d like to try.

My current group of five boys range in age from 22 months to 4 ½ years old.  They tend to get very excited and sometimes reckless so toy durability and safety are equally as important as play value. When I first unpacked the Roadway System I was very impressed by the quality and the size of the pieces – I would never have been able to make ones as nice as these. Often when I buy construction type toys I buy multiple sets in order to ensure there are enough pieces for all the children to use so I was a little concerned that ’42’ roadway pieces may not be enough but to date the boys have never run out of pieces for any project.

The pieces are easy to put together and take apart.  Even the youngest boy in the group needed no assistance;

There was a little frustration at first because several of the pieces (as seen in the photo above) have one connection point with tabs and two connection points with spaces resulting in many more spaces than tabs.  The boys have since decided that when they leave these spaces lined up with a straight edge or another piece with spaces it creates ‘potholes’ in the road – bringing real life experience into play.

I really like that the pieces are thin enough that the children can walk across the roads without tripping and yet strong enough that they will not bend or break.  Standing on toys is usually discouraged but for these it is OK;

They boys did also complain that they couldn’t make a circle road – they kept choosing some pieces that curved one direction and at least one that curved the ‘wrong’ way and wouldn’t work unless it was upside down. I wouldn’t show them how to do it but I did encourage them to take a closer look at the eight curves and sort them into groups.  Eventually they figured it out and made TWO circles.

I found it quite amusing that the boys use the crosswalk sections of roadway as ‘jail’. Any cars caught speeding are escorted there by the police car and must stay on the ‘bars’ until they are permitted to drive again. We’ve been working on getting all the cars to drive on the right side of the road so there are fewer collisions between vehicles driving in opposite directions.  This may however just be my point of view – I think sometimes the collisions are actually their intended outcome.

We’ve been spending the majority of our playtime outdoors but since I first introduced this roadway system it has been their favourite indoor toy.  For weeks now, with the exception of a few trips to the housekeeping area to make food for the hungry drivers, they have played exclusively with the roadway when they are in the playroom.  They have become expert roadway designers;

I love the little ‘parking lots’ they add.  Note all those ‘extra’ pieces still in the bin and no one is complaining that they ran out of pieces.  With most of the other construction toys the boys become quite competitive – trying to build structures that are bigger/better than what the other boys are building.  With the roadway there are some racing competitions but the construction is always cooperative.  Making this MY favourite building set too.

Cheryl is an experienced ECE II who runs her own daycare (Cheryl’s Child Care).

The Importance of Messy Play for Young Children

Messy play allows children to explore their world learning from the materials they are interacting with. The open-ended opportunities of messy play allow children to explore in an inviting, non-threatening way, there is no right or wrong way to play. The lack of focus on making something or an end goal gives children freedom and confidence.  Messy play is a wonderful way for children to develop the use of their senses, especially touch, through hands-on activities. Yes, the mess is unavoidable but the benefits far outweigh the temporary chaos and summer is the perfect time to enjoy many messy play activities outside.

Types of Messy Play

Water:

Water play is the perfect way to explore so many scientific concepts. Pouring water from one object to another helps children to understand volume, measurement, gravity, pressure, and displacement. Playing around a water table develops social skills as children share equipment and space.

Food:

From babies trying new foods to preschoolers building meals for themselves, exploring food teaches children to try new things. Giving them autonomy in food choices encourages an interest in the food we eat and hopefully leads to less fussy eaters. Helping to prepare a meal as children grow helps them understand and appreciate the work and love that goes into the food they eat. Pasta, beans and lentils make great small scale sensory materials for indoor play.

Sand:

The sandbox is a wonderful way to explore mathematical and scientific concepts such as empty, full, and half full, wet and dry, and force. Older children can practice writing in the sand with room for error. Fine motor skills are developed as tools are used to play. This sandcastle will not work if the sand is dry and we all know how relaxing the feel of sand is under our feet.

Nature:

Now is the time to get outside and explore nature. Our summer is short here in Canada and we tend to try to be outside as much as possible. Grass, dirt, mud, leaves, stones, trees, flowers, snow, puddles, all provide wonderful opportunities to play and learn in a messy way.

Paint:

The options are endless: on paper, on a variety of surfaces, on their bodies, printing with paint, painting with flowers, twigs and water.

Adult Role

Often children are discouraged from getting messy at home and struggle to relax into messy play.

Having smocks available for play can help to reassure those who are nervous and also calm parental worries. Some children wear new clothes to daycare and school no matter what they are advised.

Open-ended questions are an important way to encourage critical thinking “I wonder why that happened?”, “What would happen if…”. These questions are also a way of showing children you support their learning and that it is good to get messy in this situation.

Preparation is key when planning messy play. Often clean up can take time or children are engaged for longer than expected. Allowing lots of time for messy play and then the clean up afterwards is necessary.

Addressing parents’ reactions to messy play can be challenging. Not all parents understand the need for their children to engage in messy play. This wonderful display board from my son’s childcare center explains the concept beautifully:

When your child comes home messy…. look deeper. Your child has been exploring… but most of all your child has had fun!

Skills developed:

  • confidence
  • creativity
  • curiosity
  • social
  • independence
  • communication
  • well-being
  • reasonability
  • imagination
  • identity
  • respect

What a wonderful way to explain the importance of messy play for our children!

Learning Patterns with Links

As I have mentioned before early math is not my strong suit so I am learning too. I had seen variations of Link ‘N Learn Links being used.  I have also seen paper clips being used instead of links with homemade activity cards.

I took the easy option (I am scaffolding my learning) and used Link ‘N Learn Links and Link ‘N Learn Activity Cards. The wonderful resource guide took things step by step for me. If I was teaching fractions I would know exactly where to start; (no problem for a grade 6 teacher) but for early patterning, I am enjoying using resources.

The first time I got this resource out I remembered to let Daisy play. I have made the mistake of trying to do a structured activity without letting her play and explore the materials first. It never works. I firmly believe in learning through play and if an activity is no longer fun for my flowers, they will not be doing it. She had made bracelets and necklaces for herself and her stuffies before sitting down to do this activity.

We started sorting the links by colour.

We looked at the activity cards and started at the beginning. They are all double-sided and clearly labelled, starting with 1a then 1b and moving on to 2a etc. We discussed the pattern saying aloud the colours; “red, yellow, blue, green, red, yellow, blue, green,” and Daisy joined in.

She stated “I know what to do mummy” and off she went. She was happy to do this independently. I watched and if she struggled I asked

“Would you like help?”

“What do you think comes next?”

“What is the pattern?”

Daisy played, making patterns for 20 minutes. As you can see from the picture below she was just getting to the continuing pattern point when interest was lost. Her colour matching and sequencing skills are strong and I think we are ready to move on to continuing patterns. What you can’t really see is that she insisted on matching the break in the links also. The activity cards show if the link break is at the top or bottom. Daisy simply HAD to match the break in her pattern, with the card (a perfectionist in the making!)

Learning Opportunities:

Math: sorting by colour, identifying and reproducing patterns, discussing patterns

How have you used links?