Welcome to my blog about my experiences working in early childhood. I have called it Nurturing Forests because I believe that raising children is not a isolated activity but takes a whole community.

As early childhood professionals, we are actively involved in this process but we also need to work closely with the children, parents, community as a whole and other allied professionals.

I hope you enjoy my site. I also have a facebook site of the same name where I provide links to useful sites for teachers, parents and others interested in the early childhood: www.facebook.com/nurturingforests

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Documentation part 2: Observing and interpreting

With the latest Early Years Learning Framework newsletter out - here if you are interested: http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/eylfplp/newsletters/EYLFPLP_E-Newsletter_No10.pdf

It is reassuring to see that there is a return to a recognition that all forms of observations can lead to fulfilling the expectations. There did seem to a bit of confusion that only Learning Stories should be used.

However, there are lots of ways to record what is happening with the children in your care and ensure you are adequately reflecting their learning and thinking.

These are a few of my favourites:
-Jottings: if you are anything like me, jottings is one of the main ways you record what is happening on a day-to-day basis. I quickly pop down on a notepad, post it or even a scrap piece of paper whatever is being said and done and add it to my pile. The intention is then to turn this into something more meaningful when I have a chance to have programming time.
- Photos: I am of the personal belief that you cannot take too many photos. Especially if you take a number in quick succession you can often later interpret much of the children's thinking and their social skills.
- I also believe there is still a role for the many templates that were in use for the NSW curriculum framework. I would add an additional page or bit that talks about what it means in terms of the outcomes.
- Art samples - I collect as many as the children will let me keep (and take photocopies if they desperately want to take them home). As part of this I try to record what the child has talked about while making the picture and how they explain it at the end. I also love when art is displayed with the children's comments next to it.
- Word samples are very developmental psychology (and I know some people think this is a bad thing, but it's not) but they provide a important insight into the child's language development
- another useful psychological tool are interaction maps. Both the ones that track movement around the room and ones that track who the child talks and plays with.
- learning stories are fabulous but do take time and commitment (which many of us simply don't have in the world of long day care where we are lucky to have adequate staffing let alone time off the floor or a computer)
- finally, being a Macquarie graduate, there is the concept of pedagogical documentation (which will be a whole other post and something I am very much learning still)

The above is barely scratching the surface of techniques that can be used.

Finally, it is important to remember that all the observations in the whole world have little or no meaning if you don't take the time to interpret them and use them for planning and assessment (so my pile on my desk at work is rapidly becoming useless if I don't dedicate some time to them).

What forms of observation to you find to be most effective?
If you are a parent, if you see observations in a portfolio which ones do you enjoy the most?
How do we bring families into the documenting process?
Do you send home observations that you are working on?
Or put posters around showing the children's thinking and understanding?

I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and suggestions.

Posted by Wendy

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


After underplaying it all week, I graduated with my Masters of Teaching (birth to five years) today and it did feel really good.

I was very proud to see girls ( or should I say women) that I have met over the years in both undergraduate and postgraduate studies walk down to get their pieces of paper.

The speeches were lovely and short but still inspirational and meaningful.

I agree with the Chancellor that we now have a responsibility to go forth and apply our knowledge and benefit our community.

I also agreed with our guest speaker, Professor Kevin Wheldall, AM, that we have a obligation to the children we teach to teach them using methods proven by research and scientific study.

I look forward to watching us all work in and influence the very important field of early childhood.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Macquarie university, Sydney, Australia

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Teach/Learn Carnival: Easter!

Lots of lovely links to Easter ideas today. It seems like most people are on holidays, so here are lots of things to read and do with kids.
Now you have more than enough to do leading up to Easter, have a great holiday!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Patterns: The building blocks for mathematical thinking

Recent early childhood research has found that the ability to make and understand patterns is a critical skill for future mathematical understandings. Studies have found that an understanding of patterning can lead to the development of analogical reasoning and the ability to identify, extend, and generalise patterns is important to inductive reasoning. The studies have found that a child can learn these skills at a very young age.

Papic and Mulligan (2007) found that teaching the "unit of repeat" is the key concept. The unit of repeat is the element that constantly reoccurs. For example, in a pattern that goes: Blue, Yellow, Blue, Yellow, Blue Yellow. The unit of repeat is "Blue, Yellow". If the pattern was changed to : Blue, Yellow, Red, Blue, Yellow, Red. The unit of repeat would be blue, yellow, red. It can also be any other representation e.g. square, circle; rectangle, circle, triangle.

Joanne Mulligan when she lectured us about the findings was so particular about the finding to the point that if the unit of repeat was not completed e.g. red, blue, red, blue, red. We should not label it a pattern at all as it doesn't demonstrate a understanding of the unit of repeat. However, the child can be scaffolded and asked "what needs to be done to finish the pattern?" and if they are able to suggest the addition of "blue" then they are on the way to understanding mathematical patterning. A sound understanding of the "unit of repeat" concept was the key to future mathematical development.

Those of you who are familiar with mathematics will see that this "unit of repeat" concept is identical to the algebra concepts. E.g. a+cd. This is why the study also recommended a focus on the 'structural features' of the pattern rather than the colours - as a focus on the colours of led to a over simplification of the pattern that was occurring.

Overall, the study has opened a new direction in mathematical practices and understanding in the early years. So when you next look at a child's building or construction ask yourself:

  •  Is there are unit of repeat happening here?
  • How can I draw attention to it?
  • What scaffolding do I need to provide to build on this child's understanding?
  • How can I discuss the concept but in a different way? e.g. drawing it, building it etc
  • How can I model (or demonstrate) the unit of repeat in everyday practice? For example, setting the table has a unit of repeat, everyone has a pair of shoes and so on.
What are your thoughts??

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Encouraging your child to write

There is much pressure on preschoolers to be able to read and write before they enter school.

However, it is important to remember that your child is taught these skills AT school so there is no need to force and drill your child into reading and writing.

Instead, what you can do is encourage a understanding of language and its uses.

Initially, this can be a simple as ensuring your children see you using writing as a tool. For example, involve them when making a shopping or to do list.

Secondly, encourage them to attempt to write - it doesn't matter if it looks nothing like their name or words, with practice it soon will. You should encourage your child to write in as many contexts as possible. For example, making lists, sending letters and even typing on the computer.

One skill they do need for school is the ability to recognize their name. So draw attention to their name in print whenever you can.

Finally, a key indicator for a child's literacy and language skills is how much they are read to. The more the better and there is significant research supporting the continual reading of the same book is very beneficial as it gives the child time to comprehend all aspects of the story. Thebookchook.com is a lovely place to start for story ideas.

If you are looking for more practical literacy tips the blog childhood101.con does weekly literacy spots that are excellent.

In my next literacy post, I will discuss some of the initiatives we are doing at my work.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Documentation part 1: Using the daily diary as a tool for reaching your families

There was a lot of feedback asking for a post on documentation. As documentation is a rich and varied area, I thought I would start with the trusty daily diary.

I know a lot of preschools don't use a daily diary but it is a lovely way of filling families in on their child's day. Also, it can be used as a way of demonstrating to children that their contribution to the day is valued and if you are organized and detailed enough you can use it for your observations.

At our centre, we do the diary in a number of ways:
- we have pictures of the children and what they have been interested in and add text explaining what is happening and if possible a quote from the children
- secondly, we cover any group activities undertaken
- we also list the art experiences
-And finally, the books we have read

The diary is in constant evolution and half of above were added as a result of parent feedback.

In the past week, I have endeavoured to add a few more dimensions as a result of the conference:
- a couple of highlighted boxes explaining the value of a particular type of play especially maths and dramatic play.
- I have changed our generic "parent feedback/ comments" line to a " for our families: what you can do a home?". Here, I have tried to provide suggestions to families on how they can extend a interest of their child e.g visit a museum to see fossils, dinosaurs; talk to your child about the weather e.g. Is it cold, hot, wet, dry? How can you tell?
- I have also added a paragraph about our latest project

The diary is at the same level as our children's sign in sheet which makes it very accessible for the children and they will often check the photos and ask to be read what it says. I have also started putting a copy into a plastic sleeve book so the children can easily read the diary and look back over time.

And next week.... I am going to add some stronger links to the early years learning framework using the five overarching outcomes. I'll let you know how that goes.

How do you use your daily diary?
Do you use one? If not, how do you let the families know about their child's day?
Do your parents read your daily diary?
How do you reach families from non-English speaking backgrounds?
Do you use technology e.g. Email or blogs to reach your families?

If you're a parent who uses long day care, what do you think of the daily diary? Do you read it? What would you like included?

Posted by Wendy

"the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy" -Martin Luther King

Preventing sudden unexpected infant death (SUDI)

I realise this isn't part of the upcoming post list but this is such an important issue I had to make it a priority.

On Thursday morning I attended the National Investment For The Early Years (NIFTeY) NSW branch meeting. This meeting is attended by key stakeholders in early childhood including government, Gowrie NSW, SDN, and others. I attend as a independent member as I asked pretty please if I could join as I am very interested/passionate about the work they do.

Anyway, on Thursday, we were honored to have a presentation made to us by Professor Heather Jeffery. Heather led and co-author the recent NSW Child Death Review - 'a preliminary investigation of neonatal SUDI In NSW 1996-2008: opportunities for prevention '.

For access to the full report click here: http://kids.nsw.gov.au/uploads/documents/FinalSUDIneonates.pdf

The key findings were:
The three key risk factors for sudden unexpected death of an infant are:
- co-sleeping. Therefore never sleep in the same bed as your child, they can be in the same room but not the bed. Cultures that do co-sleep, eg China and Japan, have a separate safe place for the child to be moved to when asleep.
- safe sleeping i.e. The child should always be put to sleep on their back, NEVER on their tummy
- smoking

If these three risk factors are removed, most deaths will be preventable.

This is a link to the SIDS and KIDS brochure about safe sleeping: http://www.sidsandkids.org/wp-content/uploads/SidsSafeSleeping14ppa1.pdf

The SIDS and kids website is : www.sidsandkids.org

I know this is a sensitive issue and there is a lot of misinformation about what is best for your child. However, this is the very latest research and it may prevent your healthy child from dying.

As a result of this presentation, there will be a substantial government campaign implemented to raise awareness to the findings.

If you have any questions just let me know and and I will endeavor to point to in the right direction

Posted by Wendy

"we are the change we have been waiting for" - Barack Obama

Monday, April 4, 2011

Maths Links: Early mathematical thinking

Thank you for all your feedback and positive comments about yesterday's post. Hopefully I can live up to everyone's expectations now :)

I think off the top of my head the winner was documentation as a place to start which I will try and do a post about over the next few days. If you are keen to look at template/ ideas Carly over at Early Childhood Resources did a post today about observations, the format she recommended is similar to one of the tools I use (probably the influence of the same uni at very similar times).

But as today is Monday it's time for Joyful Learner's maths links... Head over and check it out for some great maths ideas www.joyfullearner.blogspot.com

The main thing I wanted to share with you was some quick places that will quickly get you up to speed on the latest maths research if you haven't studied recently.

One of the best places to start is the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers position statement on early childhood maths which you can find here: http://www.aamt.edu.au/content/download/721/19509/file/earlymaths_a3.pdf

A article about common misconceptions about maths education in the early years: http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/australian_journal_of_early_childhood/ajec_index_abstracts/early_childhood_teachers_misconceptions_about_mathematics_education_for_young_children_in_the_united_states.html

Dr Jenni Way highly recommends the following book for excellent practical and up to date advice on applying maths in the early years:
Dr Kate Tucker,2010, Mathematics Through Play in the Early years (2nd ed.) Sage books. This is the book depository link for you: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9781848608849/Mathematics-Through-Play-in-the-Early-Years.
To paraphrase Jenni "I have been waiting for years to find one I could recommend and this one is it". It's only $33 and free worldwide delivery! And tax deductible if you work in the industry. Have just ordered it myself.

So there's some reading to whet your appetite... Next Monday I will write about the vital importance of developing patterning skills in the early years.

Posted by Wendy

"we are the change we have been waiting for" - Barack Obama

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A post about upcoming posts

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a Sydney University conference about the Early Years Learning Framework and the National Quality standards.

As a result, I have lots of excellent material that I plan on sharing with you over the next few weeks/months.

A broad summary of what I intend to write about for you...
- documentation within the context of the eylf so portfolios, observations, assessment and daily diaries
- ensuring that families are integrated into your practice
- language and literacy in the early years
- using popular characters e.g. Superheroes, barbie and Thomas in your practice - what the research is saying
- maths in the early years. This particular presentation was so fantastic I have enough for the whole year
- working together as a team to achieve the eylf outcomes
- how to use the reflect respect relate document
- how to demonstrate continuous quality improvement ( for this, I will also draw on my previous experience in hr)
- more about advocacy

Posted by Wendy

"we are the change we have been waiting for" - Barack Obama