Saturday, August 27, 2016

App All Star: ChatterPix Kids

ChatterPix Kids is simple to use, fun and engaging app developed by Duck, Duck Moose.  The concept is fun, the app allows you to turn anything into a talking picture.  To begin, import or take a picture, draw a line on the picture, and record a message.  This process results in a video of the chosen image, delivering the recorded message. The completed video can be saved to the camera roll on the device for viewing.

Our team used this app much like I described in the Talking Tom post.  ChatterPix Kids is a great tool for simple social stories and reinforcing messages.  The power is in the image that is used, it can be tailored to the child's preferences.  For example, we had a student who was very interested in pirates.  This same student was struggling with walking in the halls, not always being first in line and keeping his hands to himself in the halls.  His teacher had tried some social stories and was having some success, but she decided to tap into the power of the pirate.  She imported a picture of a pirate and had her husband use his best pirate voice to record a scripted message.  The message included the student's name and some pirate vocabulary.  She played it for the student and he was delighted that the pirate was talking to him.  He took the pirate's advice very seriously and showed improvement in his ability to follow rules in the hallway.  He would often quote the pirate to remind others of the rules.  Another teacher delivered some social stories to a Disney obsessed student via Disney princesses and saw success.

Another possible application is using the app as a means for students to demonstrate what they have learned after a project is completed.  For example, after a study of animals that live in Minnesota, a student can choose a picture of an animal and record some simple facts about that animal, then play it for the class, and email to parents.  The app is free, download it and see what you can do with it!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Four Reasons to join the Division for Early Childhood

This week, the Minnesota Division for Early Childhood (MN DEC ) is hosting the Spring Practitioners Conference.  This conference is a wonderful networking and professional development opportunity.  Not all of the practitioners who will be attending are members of DEC, so I wanted to take this opportunity to share the benefits of being a member and encourage practitioners to join.  I joined because I wanted to increase my leadership skills and get involved.  I wanted to be a voice in the field and grow professionally.  There are many benefits to being a member, here are my top four reasons to join.

Content:  If you don't know it already from reading other posts, I like research.  Because I am a member,  research journals are delivered to my door and I can access the online archives.  When I get into those journals and archives, I get lost in all of that evidenced based goodness!  I can be confident that I am staying relevant in my practice and using interventions and practices that are grounded in research.     

Discounts and relevant professional development:  DEC frequently provides discounts to members on conferences and other resources supported by DEC.  DEC offers Learning Decks, professional development webinars, at a discounted price.  For $25.00 you can receive up to date, pertinent PD, in the comfort of your home or office!  So far, I have attended one of the Learning Decks and was impressed with the quality and relevancy. I plan to take advantage of this resource again.   

Membership provides opportunities to expand my professional network.  I have attended conferences, joined the board, and joined special interest groups.  This expanded network, which includes DEC members from across the nation, provides access to resources, knowledge and inspiration.  

Get involved, be a leader, be an advocate: I recently joined two special interest groups offered through DEC.  Involvement in these groups, involvement on the board and other networking opportunities will further my ability to advocate for the field and be a voice.  DEC communicates policy and advocacy information to members.  Staying up to date in these areas supports my efforts to raise awareness about the importance of the work we do in the field of Early Childhood Education.

Joining DEC was a good decision.  Membership has supported my goals in the area of professional development and opened the door to new opportunities.  I hope other practitioners will consider the benefits and join.  If you are attending the conference, stop by the membership table and they will answer any questions you might have.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Playful parenting: PBS Parent Play and Learn app

In a previous post, I reviewed the app Sesame Street Family Play, an app that supports playful parenting by providing hands on, unplugged, play suggestions.  I have found yet another app that supports playful parenting.   PBS Parents Play and Learn app is a free, bilingual app (Spanish and English) that provides parents with simple activities to play with their children designed around familiar locations.  There are 52 activities and 13 games grouped around the following locations: Bath Time, At the Zoo, Playground, At a Party, Play Time, Grocery Store, Library, At the Park, On a Bus or Train, Kitchen, In the Car, In Town, and Restaurant.  In each section, there is 1 interactive game, 1 activity for babies, 1 activity for toddlers and 2 activities for preschoolers. The interactive games target math and literacy skills.  The games have a parent section that includes explanations of how the game promotes development and provides suggestions for extending the learning in the real world.  The activities provide suggestions rooted in evidence based practices, we know promote good outcomes for kids such as talking to children, singing, reading, and pointing out print in the environment.  The interactive game in the Bath Time section involves writing letters on a steamy mirror.  The name of the letter and the letter sound is stated.  The suggested activity for a baby in the Bath Time section is singing a song about washing different simple body parts.  With toddlers, parents are encouraged to explore the math concepts of volume by pouring water into containers, while using concepts such as empty and full.  In the Kitchen section, the preschool activity involves making patterns with fruit to make a nutritious fruit kabob.  The app occasionally provides new activities through a message section.

There is also a free play sticker area.  This sticker section is great for creative free play and it can be used to design more structured activities.  I have used the sticker section for activities such as creating patterns, repeating patterns and following directions. The stickers can be used for sorting activities such as sorting fruits and vegetables. Literacy activities can be extended with the stickers.  Children can search for stickers that have the same beginning sound, or attempt to find rhyming words.  

This app has been added to my parent resource pages.  It gets bonus points for being bilingual, free, and parent friendly.   

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Early childhood assessment with predictable book, Blue Hat, Green Hat

Repetitive books, books with predictable text, encourage children to read along and contribute verbally.  Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton, is my favorite book in this category.  The predictability, simplicity and pure silliness of this book keeps even the busiest of toddlers and preschoolers interested.  The turkey in this book has a great deal of difficulty getting dressed.  He puts his socks on his hands and his coat on his beak. I recommend this book to parents who report that they struggle to keep a child engaged in shared reading. In addition to recommending this to parents, I use this book during the assessment process, it is always in my assessment kit.   

When I read this book with a toddler or preschooler, I add another level of predictability by using an action as I say oops. I lightly tap my forehead with my hand.   This provides an opportunity to work on imitation of actions along with sounds and words.  It is a bonus that the predictable word is an easy word to approximate.  Even children who have limited verbal skills might be able to produce an approximation of “oops."  If a child is not able to produce an approximation, he might be able to participate by doing the action at the appropriate time.

During the assessment, I read the book, then I give the book to the child and tell him to read it to me or to his parent, or to a doll.  Here are some of the skills I consider during the assessment.  Several of these are skills are included on the Teaching Strategies Gold in the ares of literacy, language and cognitive.   

Attending to a short, predictable book:  I find that this book has better odds of keeping the attention of some children who struggle to attend to books than many others I have used.  Parents frequently comment that they are surprised to see a child attending to the book.  This story really can keep the attention of even some of our busiest little ones.  

Completing predictable lines/contributing language during a book:  Often after the 2nd time through, a child can’t help but chime in with “oops."  It is fun and silly! 

Shifting gaze from the book to the reader’s face:  For children who sometimes forget to shift attention from an object to face, this book is great for encouraging shifting.  Because of the predictability, the child knows I am going to be silly at the end of each line, but I pause and wait to do the action or say oops until the child looks up at me.  

Imitate actions/sounds:  I have completed evaluations and observations where the child imitates very few actions or sounds, but might imitate the action of tapping their forehead and making a sound for oops.  

Showing understanding of absurdities:  It is always interesting to observe if a child sees the humor on the page before I say oops. 

Verbalizing what is wrong and how to fix it:  When assessing verbal children, I ask what is wrong and what the turkey should do to fix it. The child gets to practice answering “what” and “where” questions.  Where should the turkey put his coat?  

Predicting and answering logic questions:  I ask what is going to happen when the turkey is jumping off of the diving board in his clothes.  I ask what he forgot to do. I ask how he is going to get his clothes dry.  

Understanding that text has meaning:  As I say “oops,” I point to the word and say, “this says oops."  When I am done reading, I have the child read the book back to me.  I observe whether the child points to the word as he says oops.  There are 2 words above each picture, so a child might notice as I point to the words that the first word is a color word and the second is the clothing word.  I watch to see if the child points to the words as he reads it back. 

Colors:  I observe if a child is saying the correct color as he reads it back to me. 

Story retell: The predictable text is wonderful for promoting story retell. If a child knows colors and clothing, he or she can read it back without help.  

Turning the pages:  Can the child turn pages one at a time?

Orientation of the book:  When it is the child’s turn to read to me, I hand the book to him in an upside down position to observe if he turns the book right side up.     

Pretending to read:  Does a nonverbal child babble with a reading like intonation?  What level of detail does a verbal child include when reading the story?  Does the child move from the front of the book to the back?  Does he point to words as he reads?  

Some parents who observe this activity have purchased the book and report that they enjoy reading it with their child and in some cases it might be the first book they have felt successful with in terms of keeping their child engaged in shared reading.  I always encourage parents to connect books with real life.  A father recently shared that he used the framework of the text from this book to play a game with clothing as he was getting his toddler dressed.  He took different clothes from the drawers, labeled the color and the item of clothing, then ended the sequence by putting a sock on his toddler’s hand, pants on his head, or shirt on his legs and of course, saying “oops."  What a great extension activity!  So, what is your favorite predictable book?  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Visual Supports: Shopping List Bingo on the iPad

As I interview parents about community outings, many share frustrations with grocery store visits.  We often discuss strategies for providing distractions throughout the store in order to avoid challenging behaviors.  A short visual shopping list gives the little shopper a chore.  This activity keeps the little shopper busy and promotes early literacy skills, vocabulary building and conversation between the adult shopper and little shopper.  I used the app Pages to create the visual, then took a screenshot of the visual.  For the Bingo part of the activity, I used the app, Doodle Buddy.  Doodle Buddy is a free app, but there are some advertisements.   To pull up the visual, choose the tic tac toe icon on the bottom, choose "photos" then "camera roll".  Select the screenshot.  

 For younger shoppers, use the stamp icon to select an image.  As the little shopper finds the items, he or she stamps the image.

For older, little shoppers, consider choosing the writing tool so the little shopper can practice some fine motor skills by making some Xs or scribbling on the item.  Guided access can be used to keep the child in the app and disable the icons not being used.  This activity can also be used as a strategy for completing a sequence such as dressing or the bedtime routine.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Playful parenting: Sesame Street Family Play

In my search for resources that for support playful parenting, I came across the app, Sesame Street Family Play.  The app is $.99 with an additional in app purchase.  According to the description of the app, it is designed to encourage everyday playful moments and includes 150 game ideas. The $.99 version of the app provides game ideas for the home.  The in app purchase is $1.99 and provides additional activities for when away from home and traveling. 

The app prompts the user to choose the area of the house where the play will take place, then asks how many kids will be playing.  Choices for locations are Living Room, Kitchen, Bathroom and Bedroom.  Options for players are from 1-4+.  Different Sesame characters present games using readily available materials in the chosen area of the home. Sock Skee Ball is a game that was generated when the bedroom was chosen as the location.  The app asked if there were several belts and socks available.  To play the game, rolled up socks are thrown into looped belts that are placed on the floor.  Each loop is assigned a different point value.   At the end of the activity, the app describes what type of skills the activity is promoting.  In this case, the app explains that Sock Skee Ball promotes spatial relations, counting, and addition.  There were games for different routines such as clean up, bedtime, and bath time.  An example of a clean up game is, Cup Handed Robots.  The idea of the game is to see how fast you can pick up things with plastic cups on your hands.  A novel way to get reluctant cleaners engaged in the process. 

The home version of this app is a great tool for a parent or caregiver to turn to when a new play idea is needed.  The developers have designed many appropriate activities that promote imaginary and active play.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Research versus reality television

Please don't judge.  I don’t enjoy reality television, but I do enjoy reading research related to my field.  Drama is draining, I avoid it as much as possible. Research, on the other hand, is filled with facts, no drama. My magazine holder is filled with journals and that makes me happy! 

 As much as I enjoy reading research, I don't enjoy doing research myself.  When I completed my thesis, the literature review was my favorite part of the process.  I savored my time in the library, immersed in the work of others.  Less enjoyable was the process of completing my own study, crunching the numbers and interpreting the results.  The amount of work needed to complete my small, rather inconsequential study, was staggering.  Completing the process increased my appreciation and respect for those who complete well designed studies on much larger scales.  To all of the researchers out there, thank you for all of your hard work.    

I view reading research as a professional responsibility, it is a practice that supports intentional, effective teaching.  It is my responsibility to use effective, evidence based practices when working with families and children. Because I work in the field of early intervention, there is an inherent sense of urgency.  I know that the early experiences I am promoting and providing  make a significant impact during this small window of development.  I want to work with families and teams to choose interventions that will significantly change the developmental trajectory of a child. Reading research helps me stay relevant and be confident in my choices.  It helps me decide what I need to keep doing, start doing and stop doing.  I know that if my teaching looks the same as it did 20 years ago, I am not being as effective as I could be.  Of course, there are practices from 20 years ago that still have plenty of evidence supporting effectiveness, but I also need to identify those stale practices that are not research based. This can be a daunting task, it is easy to drift from implementing a new practice back to the ineffective practice.  Knowing what works and putting it into practice are two very different things.  That is why my latest reading subject has been implementation science.  Again, don't judge! 

It is much easier to stay current than it used to be.  Two things helped me amp up my research mojo, I joined DEC and I followed more researched based organizations and institutions on Twitter.  Now that I am a DEC member, research journals are delivered to my door and I can access the archives.  Researchers and policy organizations are a part of my healthy, balanced, personal learning network (PLN).  Here is a link to my Twitter list of research and policy related organizations. Here is a link to the CEC/DEC membership page. 

Now back to reality television.  Maybe I would like a reality show about researchers and peer review boards?