Category Archives: Developmentally Appropriate Fine Motor Skills

Classroom Management Should Be Easier than Herding Cats

I am currently at NAEYC’s Professional Development Institute (PDI) in Baltimore. Yesterday I presented a workshop on classroom management. One of the focus points for this year’s conference was the need to support DAP strategies in primary grade classrooms, K-3. This is important to me since I have spent most of my teaching career in those grades. I also currently supervise student teachers and interns, which include candidates working in K-3 classrooms. Although we tend to shy away from the term, ‘management’ when speaking about 0-5 settings, it is evident that it can be appropriate to use that term when speaking about school-age classrooms. From my experience, classroom management in primary grades is the foundation for teachers to be able to teach in a developmentally appropriate manner. I have found over the years that administrators and fellow teachers will listen to a DAP suggestion when they feel the teacher making the suggestion is an effective teacher and can run a nurturing and responsive classroom.
Here are some of the research materials that we use in our program at the University of Utah to provide guidance for our candidates to develop appropriate classroom management skills:
• Forlini, G, & E. Williams, A. Brinkman. (2010). Class Acts: every teacher’s guide to activate learning. Bronxville, NY. Lavender Hill Press.
• Jensen, E. (2013). Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind. Alexandria, VA. ASCD.
• Wilson, M.B. (2013). Teasing, Tattling, Defiance and More. Turner Falls, MA. Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc.
• Armstrong, T. (2006). The Best Schools. Alexandria, VA. ASCD.
• Charles, C.M. (2014). Building Classroom Discipline, 11 Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Pearson.
• Cunningham, P. & R.L. Allington. Classrooms That Work: they can all read and write, 5th Ed. Boston, MA. Allyn & Bacon.
Of particular note is the ‘Big 8’ format that we use, in collaboration with Granite School District, which comes from the book listed above, Class Acts (Forlini 2010). Expectations, attention prompts, proximity, cueing, signals, time limits, tasking, and voice, provide a wonderful framework for helping pre-service teachers develop that all-important classroom management foundation.

Developmentally Appropriate Fine Motor Skills

Wouldn’t you know that I forgot the most important part of the discussion during my last entry about the triangular crayons. The most important part of that issue is not the crayon staying on the table, it is how the shape of the crayon will help young children develop fine motor skills.

During my 30+ years working in classrooms as a teacher and supervisor, I am continually reminded that we push young children into a corner with many activities that we plan and materials that we use. Early in my years of teaching kindergarten I re-discovered a monumental truth taught to me many years ago. Back in the ‘olden days’ my first grade teacher had it right. She insisted that we use large ‘horse-leg’ pencils during that first year of school (we didn’t do much during the six-week summer preschool they called kindergarten back in the day). Mrs. Conklin seemed to know that our fine-motor skills were still in development. In keeping with that thinking as a teacher, I began using large-size crayons and pencils for the first half of the kindergarten year. Come January, I would slowly transition the children to standard-size instruments.

All I know is that my children consistently wrote, drew, painted and did everything better by the end of that school year. I felt it was one of my contributions to recognizing there are developmental stages to fine motor skills. Can young children write with regular pencils and crayons? Sure. But, I have observed children having difficulty with fine motor control. A child in that situation is encouraged practice. Perhaps instead of encouraging practice the adult should give the child more appropriate materials to use for her developmental level.

Now, these new triangular crayons and pencils can serve the same purpose. They give a slightly larger surface area and great angles for children to develop those skills.

Mrs. Conklin would be happy.