Early childhood teachers give kids the gift of gab

teacher reading to preschoolersYes. You read the title correctly. Early childhood teachers give kids the gift of gab. Research proves it! A team of researchers at UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute recently published a compilation of studies that shows how early childhood educators positively impact the language development and communication abilities of infants and toddlers.

“When teachers ask children questions, respond to their vocalizations, and engage in other positive talk, children learn and use more words,” explained Kathleen Gallagher, co-investigator, in a press release.

Along with Nicole Gardner-Neblett, Gallagher created a resource with educational activities for kids that teachers can use to best impact language development. The free eBook, More than Baby Talk, includes 10 specific ways teachers of daycare curriculum can promote the early language development of infants and toddlers. Research-based ideas include engaging in conversations with children, reading books multiple times, using props, and (drum roll, please!) participating in early childhood music activities.

Using early childhood music to support language development

As creators of early childhood curriculum that uses music as the vehicle for early language and literacy development, we know that early childhood music classes are tied to improvements in young children’s early language development, increased vocabulary acquisition, and a greater phonological awareness. In fact, children who participated in our early childhood curriculum, ABC Music & Me, for just 30 minutes a week experienced a 32 percent literacy gain! We could go on and on about the benefits of music on a child’s brain development, social and emotional development, physical abilities, creativity, and more!

From the classroom teacher to the teacher at home

Of course, early childhood educators aren’t the only, well, early childhood educators. A parent is a child’s first and best teacher, especially during

the early years. These same strategies can work at home, too.

“We think parents could use these same practices with their young children,” said Gardner-Neblett in a press release. “By using these strategies at home, parents can provide children with the rich language exposure and opportunities they need to enhance their language and communication, helping them to achieve in preschool and beyond.”

At Kindermusik, we support a parent’s pivotal role as a teacher. It’s one of the reasons enrollment in our programs always includes materials and resources, including the music from class, that families can use together at home—or on the go.

Early Literacy Curriculum with Research-Proven Results

For more information about bringing our childcare curriculum, daycare curriculum, or early childhood curriculum to your school, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com. Oh, and by the way, our early childhood curriculum intentionally uses all 10 of the practices recommended!

5 essential skills taught in early childhood education

Source: She Knows Activity Center

In early childhood education, we understand that teaching children involves celebrating the uniqueness of each child and preparing them for academic success beyond the preschool classroom. As creators of a standards-aligned daycare and preschool curriculum, we also know just how important these early years can be to a child’s lifelong learning abilities. Early childhood education may look like fun and games (and it is!) but the skills learned through these “fun and games” as part of a daycare or preschool curriculum can help a child make a smoother transition to Kindergarten.

5 skills taught in early childhood education that prepare a child for Kindergarten

  1. Early literacy skills, including knowing all the letters in the alphabet by sight and sound, vocabulary acquisition, phonological awareness, and print awareness, help prepare a toddler and preschooler for the more rigorous reading instruction in elementary school.

  2. An elementary school classroom usually includes more students and involves more time sitting at a desk when compared to a preschool classroom. Children with strong inhibitory control abilities can sit quietly, stay focused on the task at hand, think before they act, and behave in other appropriate ways.

  3. In Kindergarten, a child’s fine motor skills get a workout with writing letters and words, drawing shapes, using scissors, and even typing on a computer.

  4. Social and emotional skills help a child make friends, share, participate in classroom discussions, and like inhibitory control, can help a child experience fewer classroom behavior challenges.

  5. Children may spend up to 75 percent of classroom time learning through listening. While hearing is one of the five senses, learning how to actively listen takes practice and can also be a foundational skill for literacy and language development.

Preschool curriculum uses music to teach key skills

When used as part of a daycare curriculum, research shows music can engage young ABC Music & Me - Early Literacy and Language Curriculumlearners and teach them these key skills needed for continuing academic success. For example, a new study shows that children participating in ABC Music & Me, our daycare curriculum, 30 minutes each week experience a 32 percent literacy gain when compared to other children.

Schools, preschools, and childcare centers can learn more about using our daycare curriculum, ABC Music & Me, by emailing us at info@abcmusicandme.com

4 reasons to include play in a preschool curriculum

preschoolers playing

Children participating in a daycare curriculum that incorporates play receive immeasurable—and measurable—benefits. Children naturally learn through play that engages all five senses. Plus, children learn just how fun, well, learning can be!

preschoolers playing4 reasons (and tips) to include play in a daycare curriculum

  1. Play gives children the opportunity to try out new ideas and concepts in a safe environment. Cognitive benefits include boosts to imagination, problem solving, and abstract thinking. Tip: Ask and incorporate children’s ideas into the lessons. Learning about farms? Ask children what kind of animals they would see on the farm. What would they sound like? How would they move? You never know what kind of farm children might create together!
  2. When children play together, they practice cooperation, sharing, taking turns, and conflict resolution—all vital skills needed for success in school, at home, and in life! Tip: Point out positive behavior you see throughout the day.
  3. The language benefits of play include storytelling, vocabulary acquisition, communication skills, and even emergent literacy. Tip: After reading a book to the class, create an “And Then” story together. What happens to the characters after the book ends? After each child’s turn as storyteller, say “And then…”
  4. Play provides opportunities for physical development, such as fine- and gross-motor skills, physical challenges, and self-help skills. Tip: Go outside and play. Research shows children can better concentrate and self-regulate after spending time on a playground during the day.

Preschool curriculum uses music (and play!) to promote school-readiness skills

ABC Music & Me is a standards-based supplemental daycare curriculum. All levels of our toddler and preschool curriculum use music, movement, and play to cultivate turn-taking and sharing, improve self-control, enhance creativity, and boost early language development and early literacy.
For more information about bringing our preschool curriculum to your childcare or daycare, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

eBooks for Kids during shared book reading in preschool

(Source: The News Tribune DEAN J. KOEPFLER/Staff photographer)

Reading nooks, daily book reading during circle time, bring-your-favorite-book-to-school day, dressing up like the Cat in the Hat for Dr. Seuss’ birthday—the opportunities for preschool teachers to infuse early literacy and language activities into a daycare or toddler curriculum abound. A quick search on Pinterest can quickly add even more ideas! However, discovering age-appropriate and research-supported methods to integrate eBooks and digital learning into a preschool curriculum can be a bit more challenging.

Using eBooks during shared book reading in a preschool curriculum

A new study published in the Journal of Literacy and Technology observed how preschool teachers used eBooks in the classroom. As published in the article, the observations of Kathleen Roskos, PhD and Karen Burstein, PhD focused on preschool teachers’ implementation of a vocabulary-focused, shared book routine; language strategies at the touchscreen; mobile devices to extend the shared reading experience; and children’s learning of 40 target words. The research team wanted to gain a better understanding of using eBooks for kids as an instructional resource in a preschool curriculum.
Over a four-week period, the eight preschool teachers participating in the study imbedded eight eBook shared reading sessions with each eBook being read two times. In addition, the children browsed or reread the eBooks on a digital device. The researchers found that eBooks can support vocabulary acquisition and that teachers easily transitioned from traditional books to eBooks as part of the shared book reading. The teachers used the same reading methods whether using a traditional book or an eBook. However, it came as no surprise that additional digital learning research specifically focused on instructional techniques and strategies are needed to maximize eBook features and support eBook browsing and reading on mobile devices, especially when used with the youngest learners as part of a preschool or toddler curriculum. The researchers noted that eBooks with rich visualizations, sounds and music appear to support early language and literacy, especially for young at-risk students.
You can download the full article, “Descriptive Observations of Ebook Shared Reading at Preschool,” here.

Preschool curriculum uses eBooks and digital learning with music

With twice as many children reading eBooks today than just two years ago, eBooks for kids can become a key component to a preschool or daycare curriculum and a way to increase parent involvement in early childhood education. At Kindermusik International, we know how important it is to implement the latest research (and tools!) on how young children learn best. After all, with more than 35 years of experience creating music classes for toddlers, babies, big kids, and families, as well as standards-aligned preschool and daycare curriculum, we’ve experienced breakthroughs over the years on reaching even the youngest learner.
Kindermusik@HomeIn fact, we continue to create new early childhood curriculum that implements the latest research, including how to use digital learning—and eBooks for kids—in an age-appropriate and effective manner. For example, with Kindermusik@Home parents can easily access favorite Kindermusik songs and activities, music, eBooks, and lyrics—as well as recipes, learning games for kids, crafts, and more in a green-friendly digital format any time from any smart phone, iPad, tablet, laptop, or computer. Families and teachers also love our music apps for kids.

To learn more about enrolling in a Kindermusik class and receiving access to Kindermusik@Home, contact a local educator via our Class Locator.

Schools, preschools, and childcare centers can also benefit from Kindermusik@Home. To learn more about bringing our daycare curriculum into your classroom, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

5 Ways Music Prepares Children for School

It’s no secret. We love music. Music can move us in profound ways. No question about it. With more than 35 years of experience creating music classes for toddlers, babies, big kids, and families as well as standards-aligned daycare and preschool curriculum, we know the lasting impact music education can have on a child. We also know, as music educator Cheryl Lavender puts it, “The fact that children can make beautiful music is less significant than the fact that music can make beautiful children.”
As if creating beautiful children wasn’t enough, research shows that music can even help prepare children for school. All of that makes us fall in love with music all over again! Here are just five ways music can help prepare children for school. (By the way, we use all of these ways…and more…in our developmentally appropriate and research-based music education programs in private studios, public schools, and childcare centers!)

5 Ways Music Prepares Children for School

  1. Learning to read musical notation uses a similar set of cognitive skills and pattern recognition also found in reading. In our preschool curriculum, ABC Music & Me, and in our Kindermusik classes, when children sing high or low based on whether an image is above or below a line or when children imitate a recorded sound by playing a C-A pattern on an instrument, children are learning the symbolic representation for sounds. Learning musical notation in this way mirrors how listening to and imitating spoken language evolves into reading.
  2. Music gives children many opportunities to practice active listening skills. Developing strong active listening skills prepares children for classroom learning, including language and literacy development. During the school years, children will spend an estimated 50 to 75 percent of classroom time listening to the teacher, to other students, or to media. When children intently listen for the sounds of a specific instrument in a song, use wood blocks to produce a Staccato sound, or move smoothly with scarves when they hear the music change from Staccato to Legato, children are practicing active listening.
  3. Music and movement helps children learn to tell their bodies what to do, when to stop, when to go, and when to move to another activity. Self-regulation is the ability to control one’s own thoughts, feelings, and actions and can be a key ingredient to successfully transitioning into Kindergarten. So, in our music classes when we play a “Stop & Go” game, participate in circle dances, transition from one activity to another, and even share instruments, children learn and practice self-regulation skills. Those same skills will help children pay attention in school and act and behave appropriately, even among the many distractions found in a typical classroom setting.
  4. Music leads children to experience patterns through movement, listening, and playing instruments. Rhythm patterns are combinations of long and short sounds and silences. In our preschool or toddler curriculum, educators may lead the class to “step, step, step, stop” or “ta, ta, ta, rest” with rhythm sticks. This helps children learn rhythm patterns (quarter note, quarter note, quarter note, rest), a basic musical concept. Plus, whole body involvement with patterning not only lays an early foundation for reading music but also for math and literacy.
  5. Through vocal play, children learn to form vowels and consonants, say words and phrases, and imitate rhythm and vocal inflection. Our music classes and daycare curriculum provide many vocal play opportunities through songs, chants, and carefully-crafted activities, such as mimicking the high sounds of birds or the low sounds of frogs. Vocal play using glissando also encourages the expressive qualities of children’s speaking and singing voice as well as vocal range.

To learn more about enrolling in a Kindermusik class, contact a local educator via our Class Locator.

Schools, preschools, and childcare centers can learn more about using our daycare curriculum, ABC Music & Me, by emailing us at info@abcmusicandme.com

Georgia’s PreK program finds ways to improve its preschool curriculum

One of the key attributes of a learner is that the quest for knowledge continues throughout the year—whether you are a 4-year-old learning how to write letters, a teacher attending a training on how to implement a new preschool curriculum, or even an childcare administrator uncovering ways to make your program more effective. As creators of daycare curriculum and other early childhood programs, we continue to monitor and implement the latest findings on how children learn. So, we loved hearing how one of the leaders in universal PreK programs in the United States, commissioned a study to find out how they can better reach children and families.

Georgia’s PreK program looks for ways to improve preschool curriculum

With one of the few state-funded universal PreK programs, Georgia’s PreK program reached 94,000 children throughout the 2011-2012 school year in local school systems, private preschools, and blended Head Start/Georgia’s PreK classrooms. However, Bright from the Start, who administers Georgia’s PreK program, wanted to evaluate the program and uncover ways to increase its effectiveness. In partnership with the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, they conducted an evaluation study during the 2011-2012 school year. The study included a random sample of 100 PreK classrooms in the program and assessments

of the language, literacy, math, general knowledge, and behavioral skills of a sample of 509 children.

As published in the Children’s Growth and Classroom Experiences in Georgia’s PreK Program report, the researchers uncovered interesting findings:

Children’s outcomes

  1. Children exhibited significant growth during their PreK year across all domains of learning, including language and literacy skills, math skills, general knowledge, and behavioral skills.
  2. Children who were Spanish‐speaking dual language learners showed growth in skills in both English and Spanish, although their growth tended to be greater in English.

“For many areas, this indicated that they progressed at an even faster rate than would be expected for normal developmental growth,” explained senior scientist Ellen Peisner-Feinberg in a press release.

Two ways to improve Georgia’s PreK program

The report showed that English proficiency, number of English Language Learners in the classroom, and attendance of a PreK program in a local school system predicted greater growth in skills. In addition, researchers identified two ways to improve the overall effectiveness of the preschool curriculum.

  1. Reduce class size
  2. Add bilingual supports during classroom experiences

Preschool curriculum offers bilingual support

ABC Music & Me uses music to promote school-readiness and skills development, including early literacy and language development and social skills in young children. The research-based childcare curriculum aligns with state standards, including the Common Core, and can be especially beneficial for English Language Learners. In addition to our “English Language Learners Strategies Guide” that provides unit-by-unit, lesson-by-lesson tips and tools to use in the classroom, ABC Music & Me includes materials in English and Spanish to increase parent involvement and support the common language spoken in the home.

For more information about using ABC Music & Me as a daycare or preschool curriculum, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

Recommendations for reaching Hispanic ELL preschoolers

As children, many of today’s preschool teachers probably picked up a Spanish word or two while watching Sesame Street. (Anyone else remember Luis looking for agua?)

Now, with people of Hispanic descent making up the fastest growing segment of the population in the United States, those same educators teaching a daycare or preschool curriculum probably can put those words to good use in the classroom. However, effectively teaching English Language Learners in preschool takes more than speaking one or two words in Spanish.

Hispanic ELL students in preschool

(Source: Hispanicallyspeakingnews.com)

Longitudinal studies show the lasting effects of a quality preschool curriculum on at-risk students, including increasing the likelihood of graduating high school and attending college. While these studies primarily focus on at-risk children in general, many of today’s at-risk students are English Language Leaners. In fact, 21 percent of all children under the age of 5 are Hispanic (although not all are English Language Learners). A recent policy brief published by NIERR (National Institute for Early Education Research) asks whether or not today’s preschool curriculum is preparing Hispanic children in particular to succeed in school. The report outlines recommendations for decision makers to consider when evaluating or establishing a preschool curriculum or program.

4 recommendations for states to consider for Hispanic English Language Learners in public preschool, according to NIEER

  1. Evaluate preschool education policies with Hispanic children in mind. If ELL status is not a factor considered for targeted program eligibility, a consideration should be given to making it so.
  2. As future programs expand, conducting comparative analyses of targeted programs and PreK for all children may prove useful. Universal programs can cost less per child and resolve problems of eligibility.
  3. States should ensure programs have some support for ELL children in their home language. Research shows that preschool curriculum that also supports the language used at home improves cognitive, linguistic, and social outcomes.
  4. It should be a high priority at the state and federal levels to develop better reporting systems to ensure quality data for stronger research on Hispanic children and early education policies.

You can read the full policy brief here: “Is Public Pre-K Preparing Hispanic Children to Succeed in School?

Use music to teach ELLs early literacy and language development

Every child speaks music! ABC Music & Me uses music to teach early literacy and language development and school readiness skills to young children and engage families in their children’s education. The research-based curriculum can be especially beneficial for English Language Learners. In every unit of ABC Music & Me, children hear stories read aloud and sing songs that include new vocabulary words. Words essential to the unit’s theme are included on picture cards along with recommended instruction for ELL students, expanding the possibilities for vocabulary acquisition. Plus, ABC Music & Me aligns with Title III requirements and our “English Language Learners Strategies Guide” provides unit-by-unit, lesson-by-lesson tips.

According to the NIEER report, Hispanic families continue to encounter barriers to sending their children to preschool, including lack of parental education and language barriers. However, we build parental involvement right into our preschool curriculum, because we know that a parent is a child’s first and best teacher. ABC Music & Me includes materials in English and Spanish, including robust literacy activities, to increase parent involvement and support the common language spoken in the home.

For more information about using ABC Music & Me with English Language Learners or other young children as a preschool or toddler curriculum, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

Daycare teachers promote early literacy skills with music

If Shakespeare had developed daycare or preschool curriculum instead of sonnets and plays, he may have rewritten one of his most famous lines: “If music be the food of love literacy, play on.” Research continues to prove this sentiment, including a new University of Buffalo study published earlier this month.

Training equips preschool teachers to use music

Before conducting this study, professors from the University of Buffalo knew what the research said about music’s ability to greatly impact a child’s early literacy and language abilities. With their study, however, they specifically wanted to see if early childhood teachers, with little to no music background, could be trained to use music in developmentally appropriate ways to boost early literacy development.

Led by Maria Runfola, PhD, and Elisabeth Etopio, PhD, the team recruited 165 preschoolers to participate in music activities led by 11 daycare teachers. As part of the daycare curriculum, the preschool educators leading the music classes received training in musicianship skills and specific strategies for leading preschoolers’ music development. Prior to this early literacy study, these preschool teachers did not have any music training. The researchers found that participating preschoolers experienced a boost in oral vocabulary and understanding of grammar compared to students not enrolled in the preschool curriculum. Plus, children with lower initial literacy skills saw the biggest positive impact.

“First, we found that the musicianship of the early childhood teachers improved as did their ability to guide music activities in ways that enhanced student music development,” explained Runfola in a press release, Study Finds Link Between Music and Preschoolers Reading Readiness.

Since the preschool teachers did not come from a musical background, it was not surprising that participating children did not experience a significant boost to musicality, such as rhythm-pattern achievement. However, the researchers concluded that early childhood teachers without a music background could be trained to teach a daycare curriculum that uses music as a vehicle for early literacy and language development.

“Administrators need to better understand the importance of the arts to children’s development,” Runfola concluded in the press release. “We hope this research will help music educators and childhood educators support their requests for music time for the youngest of our students.  Children need daily appropriate music activity to stimulate their neural activity to develop tonal and rhythm audiation that in turn appears to help their emergent literacy skill.”

If music be the food of literacy, then play on indeed!

Preschool curriculum helps daycare teachers use music to boost early literacy

Created by Kindermusik International, ABC Music & Me is a daycare curriculum that uses music and movement activities to boost early literacy and language skills while also cultivating turn-taking and sharing, improving coordination, enhancing creativity, and more.

Through a robust classroom kit that includes Digital Teacher Guides, ABC Music & Me provides step-by-step planned out lessons so even educators with no musical experience can begin teaching this daycare curriculum immediately.

For more information about using ABC Music & Me as a supplemental daycare curriculum, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

10 ways to instill a love of reading in preschool students

There are many ways preschool teachers can support the early literacy and language development of their students. Whether reading the 2013 Caldecott Medal Winner, This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, making snowmen out of socks after reading about snow, or even celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday each March, the list of literacy activities and early childhood books seems endless. But what does the research say?

At ABC Music & Me, we keep tabs on the latest early literacy research and incorporate it into our preschool curriculum. We put together a list of 10 things a teacher can do to instill a love of reading in students while also supporting phonemic awareness and early literacy and language development.

10 ways teachers can support early literacy development (and a love of reading!)

  1. During storytime, include a mixture of books that you choose as well as books that your students choose. Along with the “Line Leader” for the day, why not also pick one child to be the “Story Student” to help you pick one of the books you will read.
  2. Throughout the week, provide opportunities for students to “act out” the stories read in the class.
  3. Add eBooks to your (virtual) bookshelf. Research shows eBooks can be especially motivating to boys and reluctant readers.
  4. Involve parents. Early literacy development begins at home so why not invite parents to be mystery readers in the classroom each week. Be sure all parents know about the importance of not only reading to their children 20 minutes each day but also the value of letting children see them reading for pleasure.
  5. If a new vocabulary word is introduced in a story, tell preschoolers what it means and then re-read the page substituting the new vocabulary word with the definition. This increases comprehension and vocabulary acquisition.
  6. Incorporate sight words into your reading. Ask children to listen for the sight word of the day (or week). Invite children to raise their hands when they hear the word and select a child to find the word on the page.
  7. Listen to audio stories. After preschool, children will spend up to 75 percent of classroom time listening. Listening to favorite audio stories supports emerging literacy and active listening—vital skills needed for early academic success. Kindermusik International offers audio stories available for download here.
  8. Clap or tap to the beat of favorite nursery rhymes. This helps preschoolers tune into the rhythm of spoken words.
  9. Ask open-ended questions during storytime, such as “what will happen next?” or “how do you think the character felt when that happened?”
  10. Participate in a music class. Phonological awareness, vocabulary acquisition, listening skills, and verbal memory can all benefit when children become actively engaged in a music class. Plus, research even shows that children who participate in music classes are more likely to score higher on reading comprehension tests.

    Supplemental preschool curriculum uses music to support early literacy

    Created by Kindermusik International, ABC Music & Me is a standards-based supplemental daycare curriculum. All three levels of our toddler curriculum and preschool curriculum boost early literacy and language development while also cultivating turn-taking and sharing, improving coordination, enhancing creativity, and more. Plus, ABC Music & Me involves parents by providing materials for families to use together at home where a child learns best.

    For more information about ABC Music & Me as a supplemental daycare or preschool curriculum, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

    Preschoolers count their way to math success

    Preparing children to be successful in math during elementary school begins long before that first day of Kindergarten. New research shows that both reciting and counting (assigning numerical values to objects) should be emphasized in a preschool or daycare curriculum to lay the groundwork for understanding more challenging math concepts in elementary school. In fact, the study implies that being able to count objects up to 20 in chronological order predicts success in first grade.

    Preschoolers’ counting abilities and first-grade math abilities

    Louis Manfra, PhD reviewed the reciting and counting abilities of 3,000 at-risk students in preschool and then later in first grade. Manfra found that the students with the highest math scores in first grade could also recite and count to 20 while in preschool. Unfortunately, less than 10 percent of the at-risk students could count and recite to 20.

    “Counting gives children stronger foundations when they start school,” Manfra said in a press release. “The skills children have when they start kindergarten affect their trajectories through early elementary school; therefore, it’s important that children start with as many skills as possible.” Continue reading “Preschoolers count their way to math success”