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September Message from Deb Green

Back to School…for teachers too!

PIC teachers experienced two very rich days of learning during our recent In-service days. Time was spent in workshops learning from professionals in the field, having meaningful discussions with one another, and engaged in hands-on activities.

On Friday, early learning teachers focused on encouraging language and emergent literacy development and skills. Peg Szczurek from the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC) presented to our infant and toddler teachers, while Denise Ellis from the Philadelphia School District spoke to our preschool teachers.

For our youngest learners, the importance of fostering literacy through the continual use of language cannot be understated.

Every moment with infants and toddlers, through all the daily routines of diapering, toileting, eating, and play, is an opportunity for language development. That’s to say that talk is more than just talk!

Peg’s strategies for developing verbal skills include the idea of establishing a “volley” to expose very young children in the back and forth of conversation. Instead of asking the yes or no questions like “Do you like cheese?,” Peg offered something more open-ended to encourage the use of more vocabulary, such as “What do you like to eat?” This is a strategy for taking a child’s first words from the “what” of identification to the eventual “why” and “how” of conversation as they get older.

Peg also spoke about the importance of offering “invitations for learning.” This means providing unique and open-ended things for babies and toddlers to look at and interact with in the classroom. Beyond the excitement of something new, invitations become vehicles for introducing new vocabulary.

We are giving teachers the tools they need to prepare children for today’s kindergarten classroom.

We were thrilled for our preschool teachers to hear from Denise Ellis, who is widely considered a literacy expert at the school district. She presented the District’s model for introducing literacy to young readers to help PIC teachers prepare their children for kindergarten.

Reading aloud to children is well known as the most important first step to literacy skill development. Denise spoke about incorporating more guided reading in the classroom, something that can also be done at home.

When we point to words while reading we model that we read left to right and top to bottom. When we pause at a period and show inflection at a question mark, we begin to translate the cadence of language into the written word and the rules of punctuation. Denise emphasized the importance of reading high quality books to children each and every day.

With this training, teachers learned strategies to foster writing skills in very young children. For 3- to 5-year-olds, building verbal storytelling skills is a step children must take before they can become writers. It can begin with a child drawing a picture in her own journal. The child tells a story about that image to a teacher who transcribes the spoken words beneath the drawing. Children begin to make the connection that the things they say or imagine can be put down on paper.

We are glad to kick off a new school year at PIC, and even happier to provide our teachers the valuable skills and tools they need to inspire learning every day.