Reading out loud to develop well-read children

To develop a rich vocabulary, the confidence to use it and an ease to find the right words to express oneself, children need to be exposed to words. Reading aloud to children at school and at home has been scientifically proven to stimulate and strengthens the part of the brain associated with visual imagery, story comprehension and word meaning.

In their early years, being read to provides children with life-long benefits. What we are starting to see happening with children’s books today is that the descriptive words are more complex and when combined with fantastic illustrations provide the children with a 360 experience, the benefits of which lead to the following:

  • Development of phonemic awareness
  • Development of a rich vocabulary
  • Use of correct grammar
  • More articulate oral communication
  • Enhanced creativity
  • An understanding of people, cultures, and places beyond their immediate environment

In fact reading to children has proven to have unparalleled benefits to such a degree that the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new policy recently encouraging doctors to share these benefits with parents.

What we observe is that as children enter their teenage years, which are a critical time in their development, they start to participate actively in reading aloud and the benefits of reading aloud increase. This process enables them to build confidence in the use of language to express their emotions and find the strategies to handle social situations and conflicts.

The types of books to select from will vary: Whereas younger readers respond well to books with strong repeated patterns and vivid pictures that support the text and engaging stories that reflect their experiences, teenagers interests are peaked by more powerful texts focusing on the issues that have historically concerned teens as well as themes particularly relevant today: How do I fit in? How do I stay true to myself when confronted with peer pressures? How will I find my life’s work? How can I create a world free of violence, hunger, want and filled with natural beauty?

Ultimately, reading aloud to young children establishes a life-long love of books, active learning and culture which is an important part of a well-rounded education.

Author: Dr. Kandace Williams, Superintendent Clarion School

 

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Reading Aloud to Our Children in the Year of Reading

We all want our children to become good communicators, with the confidence and ease to find the right words to express themselves and a strong vocabulary to articulate their thoughts.

There is no better way to achieve this than by exposing them to reading aloud in their early years. Reading aloud to children at school and at home is proven to stimulate and strengthen the part of their brain associated with visual imagery, story comprehension and word meaning.

And there is no better time to start than today with 2016 declared the Year of Reading in the UAE under the directives of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

In recent years we have observed that children’s books are taking on a new form –the language used in children’s books of the past was simple and rhythmic, today the usage of words are more descriptive and complex and when combined with creative illustrations, they provide children with memorable 360 experiences. This allows young ones, in their early years, to develop phonemic awareness, a rich vocabulary, correct grammar, more articulate oral communication and enhanced creativity.

In addition they develop an understanding of people, cultures, and places beyond their immediate environment.

In fact, reading to children has proven to have unparalleled benefits to such a degree that the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new policy recently encouraging doctors to share these benefits with parents.

As children enter their teenage years, the most critical years in their development, they move from listening to actively participating in reading aloud. This process enables them to build confidence in the use of language to express their emotions and find the strategies to handle social situations and conflicts.

The types of books to select from will vary: Whereas younger readers respond well to books with strong repeated patterns and vivid pictures that support the text and engaging stories that reflect their experiences, teenagers interests are peaked by more powerful texts focusing on the issues that have historically concerned teens as well as themes particularly relevant today: How do I fit in? How do I stay true to myself when confronted with peer pressures? How will I find my life’s work? How can I create a world free of violence, hunger, want and filled with natural beauty?

Reading aloud to children establishes in them not only a life-long love of books but one of curiosity of the world around them. Their passion for reading will translate into a passion for discovery, innovation and excellence through active learning, helping them to become thoughtful and productive leaders of tomorrow. So in this, the Year of Reading, let’s make it our New Year’s Resolution to read aloud to our children.

Tips for Parents:

• Share your enjoyment of books with your child.
• Talk over your reading.
• Continue to read aloud to your child even after he or she reads independently.
• Encourage your child to choose a book to read aloud to someone else.
• Broaden your child’s horizon by helping to select from a wide range of subject.
• Encourage your child to read whatever he or she enjoys even if it appears too easy or too hard.
• Let your child see your enjoyment of your own reading.
• Find time for your child to visit and browse in libraries and bookstores.

Top Ten Children’s Books according to New York Times Bestsellers:

1. Love from The Very Hungry Caterpillar
2. The Day the Crayons Quit
3. The Wonderful Things You Will Be
4. The Day the Crayons Came Home
5. Dragons Love Tacos
6. The Book with No Pictures
7. Waiting
8. Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Love
9. Last Stop on Market Street
10. Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

Author: Dr. Kandace Williams, Superintendent Clarion School

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Progressive Education: an Education for Life

With more choices about education than ever at the fingertips of parents, the responsibility of making the right one can be overwhelming. A curriculum that has been gaining significant traction recently is progressive education, which emphasizes educating the whole child — emotionally, physically, socially and intellectually in an experience-based, interdisciplinary and collaborative setting. This is done through the delivery of a rigorous system nurturing creative, independent and problem-solving talents – all increasingly critical to a successful adulthood today and for many decades to come.

Progressive education was founded in the early 20th century by John Dewey based on his philosophy of ‘learning by doing’. It became in the US owing to Lucy Sprague Mitchell who first rolled it out as part of a teacher education program at the acclaimed NY-based Bank Street College of Education, celebrating its centennial this year. Mitchell viewed education from a different perspective, focusing not only on what children needed to learn, but also how they learned, with a tailored approach that recognizes individual differences from child to child.

What sets progressive education apart is its emphasis on life-long learning. It fosters a developmental-interaction environment in which children are learning and growing through the integration of thinking, feeling, doing and reflecting. For example, on a typical day in a progressive school classroom, children may be taken on a field trip and will be guided to interpret the experience through their eyes upon their return to the classroom.

The experience comes, first and then the students take their understanding of that, reflect on it and expand on it, which is quite different to the traditional approach to education where the child would learn all the facts first and then go on a field trip to simply observe and validate what they have learned.

For the first time, children in the UAE will now have access to a progressive education curriculum through a partnership between Bank Street and the Scholars International Group. The collaboration will be implemented at the brand new Clarion school, which opens its doors in September 2016. The school will be staffed with a high caliber team of teachers, all holding Masters degrees, and qualified educational staff.

In alignment with the UAE’s drive for innovation, progressive education offers a lifelong love of learning, creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence. Empowered with confidence, a problem-solving mindset, and a spirit of corporate citizenship, Clarion graduates are slated to make a meaningful impact on their societies like many of those who graduated before them from Bank Street in the US.

Progressive education offers parents an important curriculum choice through which their children will receive a challenging, engaging, supportive and collaborative educational program. More importantly, it offers children a head start on life with an education system that can meet the rapidly changing demands for knowledge to attain and sustain growth in an increasingly complex and competitive world.

Author: Dr. Kandace Williams, Superintendent Clarion School

 

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Clarion School Bring A Progressive American Education To Dubai

Of all the wonderful schools and curriculums I have seen since my recent arrival in Dubai, I must say I am impressed. Parents have a plethora of choice as to both which school to attend and which curriculum to pick. Many parents will select a curriculum based on their home country but I have spoken to many expat parents who are looking for something better than the type of schools they attended back in their day at home. For this reason I am thrilled to be part of the team bringing Progressive American Education to Dubai.
What is Progressive education?

By definition progressive education has a strong emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking, collaborative, cooperative work among students, inter-related, inter-disciplinary curriculum study units, opportunities for hands on learning and a learning in your community, social responsibility values. How does that work in the classroom? At Clarion School it translates into the process of teaching to children’s developmental stages was explored and studied to become the genesis of progressive education. Experiential learing is the core of our curriculum at Clarion School and is localized for Dubai to allow our children an opportunity to a learn-in-place environment.

I see the current trend to “push down curriculum” into the Kindergarten years as troubling. Our school will open Pre-K to Grade 2 in September with upper grades to follow each year. I am mentioning this because skipping development stages for learning in the kinder years is detrimental to growth in social, emotional and thinking skills. These are crucial skills, which need to commence in those young years. They are the basis for both curiosity about learning and life and social behaviour needed in the future. Those are the attributes that make children happy to come to school instead of arriving reluctantly each day with a sad frown. Reading and numeracy skills in young children are teacher accomplishments but not necessarily student accomplishments. Developing thinking skills by these young students are true accomplishments that can be built upon as they grow and go forward at school.

Because progressive education is founded on the knowledge of child development stages we have the liberty and I think gift of allowing children to be children, in an environment where children are curious to learn. Progressive educators are deeply committed to providing children with opportunities to learn by doing, observing, and experimenting. At a progressive school, classrooms are filled with intentionality. This means the classroom is filled with intentional tools to evoke wonder and assist the child to explore – be that an ipad to research or practice, a book on topics related to subjects being studied, tools to interpret and re-imagine and extend the lesson, items to provoke questions or support knowledge as it is gained. This is a rich environment for emergent learning as the curriculum lesson takes place, allow for wonder in classrooms, guided by teachers trained to progressive education teaching methods. Progressive educators are deeply committed to providing children with opportunities to learn by doing, observing, and experimenting.

Author: Dr. Kandace Williams, Superintendent Clarion School

 

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Learning Skills for a Changing World

In our ever changing world, the one element that has unfortunately remained constant is our education systems.

Traditional schools today follow very much the same systems set in place during the industrial age, classrooms are set up in the same way, text books follow the same format and exams are the benchmark for measurement of the success of our children. While our world has changed in leaps and bounds and the way we interact with our world has no resemblance of the past and the change continues at an alarming pace, education has stood still. Which begs the question, what do we want our children to take away with them as they graduate from school and enter higher education institutes and the ever competitive and changing world we live in?

The knowledge that is imparted to children through the traditional school system will forever play a role in education – the basic foundation skills of literacy and numeracy are the starting point and building blocks of education. What we recognize in a progressive environment is that delivering content alone does not equip our children with the tools they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world.

In a progressive environment, education serves not as the means to an end, but as the first step in progress which fuels the desire to learn for a lifetime. We want our children to be intrinsically motivated and have the flexibility to adjust to an ever changing world. So we enable our children to developed enhanced skills such as critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration. To function and create change in the modern world, our children must have critical thinking skills such as the ability to question, predict, investigate, analyze, reflect, evaluate and form opinions.

With a strong foundation and enhanced skills our children are not only able to develop a love of learning, but to also carry that through their lives. We also recognize the need to develop their character skills such as curiosity, empathy, adaptability, leadership and initiative. These ‘softer skills’ when learned with foundation and enhanced skills make learning fun and a lifelong process.

To deliver these skills we recognize the need to invest in the ongoing development of our teachers to enable them to nurture the development of these skills and ensure that learning takes place in the classroom. Today the role of the teacher in a progressive environment is very much different than that in a traditional classroom. Teachers need to move from primarily being the information keeper and information dispenser to being an orchestrator of learning where knowledge is co-constructed with the student. Teachers will become facilitators, guides, mentors, sources and resources who make use of spontaneous teachable moments to scaffold children’s learning.

The campus at Clarion school has been designed to enable and encourage learning to take place in all of its environments from the hallways, to the classrooms to the outdoor areas. The design is intentional and the classrooms do not resemble that of a traditional school. Classrooms are set up with different stations to allow children to use their character and enhanced skills to learn foundation skills and apply them through their lives, not just memorize them to pass an exam.

A child who understands the expectation of their contribution to society through awareness of the world around them, is able to articulate an understanding of their role in society for life. And to give children these tools, our teachings must illustrate a deep knowledge of subject matter and create opportunities for children to actively engage in learning. The opportunities to read, write, explore, discover, reflect, invent, and become engaged with the world are all encompassed with the experiences that the children have.

Today’s children are the leaders of tomorrow, the innovators, the scientists and it is our responsibility to plant within them the seeds of knowledge and instill a joy for learning which will enable them to become engaged and successful contributors to society. Our goal is to ignite within them a natural curiosity to love to learn which they will carry with them though their entire lives. This can lead to meaningful learning and the development of critical thinkers.

Author: Dr. Kandace Williams, Superintendent Clarion School

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Guided Play in Early Years Key to Nurturing Curiosity and Confidence in Children

When observing a group of children in their early years interacting with each other, their ‘play’ is filled with creativity, curiosity, role-play and discovery.

Over the years what we as educators have observed is that children’s play allows them to explore, identify, negotiate, take risks and create meaning. It helps them to scope out situations they might find themselves in and discover how to respond to them. As children have a natural ability to jump back and forth from ‘fantasy’ and ‘reality’, it allows them to grow their self-confidence and emotional intelligence in response to real-life situations with a lack of self-consciousness that we, adults, admire, because we have lost that ability ourselves.

Traditional educational environments still place clear labels on what is ‘play’ and what is ‘work’ with distinct differentiators between the two. This has placed limits on the amount of time children spend at play vs ‘working’. In this context, ‘work’ is defined as controlled time spent on a chair at a table carrying out a systematic task, while ‘play’ is break time in between work time – a time where learning does not take place.

Progressive educational environments, by contrast, view ‘ guided play’ as an integral part of ‘work’ based on decades of research showing that the action of learning through play, interaction, collaboration and problem solving has been documented to maximize intellectual and cognitive growth.
In fact, children who engage in quality play experiences are more likely to have well-developed memory skills and language development, and are able to regulate their behavior, leading to enhanced school adjustment and academic learning.

In recent years research has also proven that guided play has a critical role in the development of critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence that increase the capacity for decision making. Play-based learning allows children to figure things out on their own, to solve problems, to face challenges, to understand their feelings and to gain the confidence to work through difficulties with their peers.

Educational curriculums based on a more contemporary and progressive US education model, which has been championed by both New York-based Bank Street School of Education and Clarion School Dubai, enables us to direct learning to allow young students to gain the maximum benefits out of education. Therefore, as adults and teachers understanding the benefits of guided play and the impact of play on learning

To do that effectively, we need to develop a personalized teaching approach, helping each child gain educational knowledge and skills through and develop their learning from each experience, guided by a rigorous educational curriculum.

As educators, we have a responsibility to understand and apply this process in the classroom to provide children with meaningful experiences through play, encouraging them to express their creativity to master the reality around them. It is encouraging that some schools in Dubai, such as Clarion school, have started applying this methodology.

Ultimately, I believe it’s an approach that would serve us well, as parents as well, in our interactions with our children. After all, we are all educators, each in our own way, aren’t we?

Kimberly Taylor, Educator Bank Street College of Education

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