Tag Archives: mind in the making

Mind in the Making

I recently had the amazing opportunity to join my southwest Ohio friends at a “Mind in the Making” training in Columbus. A national campaign, “Mind in the Making: The Science of Early Learning” is a collaborative effort between the Families and Work Institute and the New Screen Concepts over the past eight years. It was my privilege to preview the “Mind in the Making” learning modules, which are presented as a series of twelve modules, each with a specific video showing the results of some research or an experiment.

What I liked most about the training is that it gave us, the “experts,” the opportunity to share what we know about child development and use that to connect with what was presented in the material and in the research clips. We were really encouraged to reflect on how we care for children and what we know about how children develop.

The biggest “ah-ha” for me was that many people have inappropriate expectations of young children. When an adult and child are interacting with each other, such as repeating a baby’s babble or mimics what the baby does for his or her enjoyment, the child forms an attachment with their caregiver. In a video that explored this attachment, the infant would make a sound or a face and the mother would make the same sound or face back to the child while smiling. Then, in the middle of the “game” the mother put on a “still-face:” she just stopped engaging in the normal interaction she was having with the infant. At first the infant kept trying to get the mother to respond before the infant became upset and began to cry, all the while looking up at the mother. Eventually the child stopped crying and just gave up; she just looked away.

That particular video really opened my eyes to how very important these connections are. I thought about the times when I was in the classroom as a preschool teacher and how it might have felt to a child when I wasn’t connecting with him or her. There are so many ways to connect and/or reconnect throughout the day that there isn’t a good excuse for it not to happen with each child. Eye contact, smiles, small gestures (and the list could go on) are so important.

Only a few states are offering these learning modules for child care providers and Ohio is one of them. With our first series beginning in less than a month, we’d like to offer readers of the blog an opportunity to win a copy of Ellen Galinsky’s revolutionary book, Mind in the Making. Comment to this blog post for one entry to win, or comment with a link to where you’ve shared this blog post on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll give you two entries! Contest will run through next Wednesday, 23 February, when we’ll announce the winner.

Even if you don’t win the book, take advantage of the opportunity to experience “Mind in the Making” and register today!

Everyday Things in New Ways

Imagine if you were a scientist and got to have breakfast with Galileo. That’s what I felt like this morning when my day started with breakfast with Ellen Galinsky in a discussion about how children learn. Well, I should tell you that Ellen is not sitting at my breakfast table at home, but is the keynote speaker at a national conference. Brrrrr, it’s cold in Minneapolis!

Ellen’s work, Mind in The Making, shares seven essential life skills for children. Her talk this morning was motivating and illustrated to the group that all adults play a key role in helping children pick up seven critical life skills. It got me thinking about school readiness, a conversation that gets a lot of airtime in early childhood circles. Aren’t skills for school really one and the same as skills for life?

Let’s try to break down this school readiness thing, and instead of being intimidated by testing, assessment, and standards, let’s focus on what matters- the children. In my estimation, we teachers must do the best that we possibly can to provide children with real experiences that are linked to the skills they will need in kindergarten and beyond. Kindergarten readiness skills are the same skills that will help children succeed all throughout their lives.

So, where should we start? How can you find out what children need to know and be able to do to have success in school AND life?

1. Talk to kindergarten teachers or elementary school principals near your program. This will get you what you are looking for, and is a great way to develop a relationship.

2. Watch the children. Watch each child for a long time. Knowing what children are able to accomplish with and without help will guide you to planning activities for them. Can Louis sort red teddy bears into a pile and green teddy bears into another pile? Can Jasmine hold a book upright, turn the pages individually, and imitate the telling of a story using the book?

3. Love and care for each child while they are trying new things. Ask questions to the child. “What will happen if you add one more block to your tower?”

4. Use tools like your state’s early childhood standards and research-based curriculum to break down the knowledge and skills into smaller “chunks.” Look for sections that correlate to some of the skills you have observed in your children. This will get you started with a lesson plan that meets the developmental level of all children.

5. Watch the children again. Make notes on index cards (easy to carry in your pocket) for every child. Refer to these when you make your next plan. The process of observing, making a decision about what each child needs to work on, and preparing the plan is a cycle.

6. Repeat. Repeat again.

Now that my breakfast with Ellen is over, I look to her for a pearl of wisdom in closing: “These essential skills don’t call for expensive programs, fancy materials, or elaborate equipment. They simply call for doing the everyday things you do with children in new ways.”