There are clear and concise images displayed in most paintings and art. However, occasionally, you see a work of art that has blurred lines and is much more subtle in it’s appearance. I thought of this watercolor with blurred lines (a purposeful lack of specific images) as I was speaking with two education managers at a local Head Start agency.
The managers were concerned about the lack of clarity and the blurriness of their assessment procedures. Their concern stems from indications that the students in their program are not displaying the skills that their observation assessments seem to indicate. Their concern is that the teachers are documenting what they think they observe during their classroom interactions, but don’t explicitly determine if each child has clearly developed individual skills.
Many preschool assessment programs are like that. My opinion is that they contain so much information and documentation that the basic tracking of skill development is lost. I believe that many programs try to solve every problem and cover everything that could possibly happen in a classroom. This massive amount of documentation can weigh down the teacher and she/he doesn’t master any of the procedures because of the overwhelming amount of paperwork.
Many years ago, when I was Head Start Education Manager, I developed a simple road map of skills from the HS Outcome Indicator document. I put them in developmental order and they were posted in each classroom. Even though we had other assessments in place, this was a hands-on individualization that helped the teacher easily track progress. What happened was that we began to actually see skill development in the children. We still had our observation assessment that we documented, but we had a quick way to evaluate whether the child had the skill. That simple road map provided so much clarity for the teacher that she/he began to understand how individualization works and how to put all the pieces in place.
I bring assessment up at this time of year since most programs do an assessment at the end of the school year. While subtle images and blurriness may have their place in a watercolor portrait, they do not have a place in appropriate assessments. It is critical that we track a child’s progress in a clear, developmentally appropriate way.
As I travel the country doing early childhood workshops, I am always very concerned with math instruction. Of course there is a new resurgence of math concentration with the attention given to STEM and STEAM schools. Each organization has it’s own set of mathematics standards. My one large criticism is that sometimes the language used in standards is so academic that I fear many classroom teachers fail to absorb the full impact of the standard. I’m not suggesting we dummy things down, but just make sure that we use language that is usable to the early childhood teacher. I also worry that standards are not often listed in the order that you should introduce them to a child.
Through all of the language of mathematics standards, I think the simplicity of developmentally appropriate math strategies gets lost. I watch many teachers instruct students in a math standard before the child has a solid foundation with which to understand and incorporate that skill. A solid foundation will provide a solid basis for the scaffold of math the child should develop. A good foundation will last throughout time. I recently found the foundation of a dock on the coast of Kauai, where they used to load pineapples. The farming and production ceased long ago, but the foundation of the dock has lasted through time. A math foundation for a child should be just as solid.
I have found that the following developmental steps provide a solid foundation for future math skills:
- Spatial Relationships
- One to one correspondence
- Place value
Each one of the skills listed provides a solid foundation for the skills that comes next. For more information, check out the book, Count on Math by Dr. Pam Schiller or download my conference handout about math on the right side of this blog.
It is 5 degrees outside this morning and I’m getting ready to go out. This time of year requires lots of protection against the elements. Instead of donning my parka to walk the two blocks to my gym, I put on a hoodie, parka, mittens, and gym pants (instead of shorts). As I was walking in between snow banks and thinking about the cold, I chuckled at how much work we go through to protect ourselves from the elements. My exercise companion commented that, “People could die out here in this cold!”
When I visited schools yesterday, I noticed that each classroom was trying to come up with some activities to give their students a break because the cold kept them inside for recess. The world is also a ‘cold’ place for children. It is so critical for us to arm our children with the skills to be able to brave the elements of a cold world. If we don’t, they could “die out in the cold,” or not succeed in having a happy and productive life. I was thrilled to see that the classrooms were efficiently working on skills and having productive days. They were arming the children against the cold.