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Early Years Bulletin

Summer 2018 vol 5 no 4

Focus on Pre-K & K editor: Jennifer Baumgartner

The Importance of Service Learning in the Early Years: Taking Ownership of Your Own Community By Wendy L. Hardy, Associate Professor, Early Childhood, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg


ervice learning can be an impactful pedagogy in the early childhood classroom, as it supports children’s learning and allows them to contribute to their communities. During one service learning project in our community, kindergarten students worked with local college students to make screen-printed works of art that were sold to raise funds for underprivileged children in El Salvador. Through this experience, the children learned arts skills (screen printing and fine motor skills) while also learning, through thought-provoking discussion and well-chosen literature, about human rights and why education is something all children should have. Service learning teaches young children how to apply classroom learning to real life, promoting the development of knowledge and then giving them opportunities to practice those skills in the real world. Additionally, it links this learning to the curriculum and learning standards in authentic ways. Fair and Delaplane (2015) tell us that service learning is beneficial in numerous ways. We know that service learning positively impacts students’ self-concept, helps them gain a greater sense of self-responsibility and a deeper understanding of the world, and benefits the community. Additionally, service learning often doesn’t require a substantial amount of funding (Fair & Delaplane, 2015). The intent of service learning, ultimately, is to be useful for both the recipient and the provider; hence, everyone benefits (Alvarez, 2009). English and Moore (2010) describe the benefits of service learning as enriching the learning experience,

and strengthening communities. Service learning is different from community service because it links learning standards and goals of the curriculum. It differs from “just volunteering” by building extensive, ongoing partnerships and facilitating strong connections between the students and community (Montgomery, Miller, Foss, & Tallakson, 2017). Many times, teachers plan service learning projects that are one-time projects. These aren’t quite as effective as longer projects that cultivate deeper thinking and connection to community. Service learning can be as simple in concept as creating an urban garden and sharing the food grown with community members, making blankets for veterans in a hospice facility, or making cards and taking them to the local Meals on Wheels to distribute with the daily lunches for senior citizens. The focus of the projects is both on the service provided and the learning experience. If students were studying a unit on the history of the United States and what it meant to serve in the armed forces, they may decide to integrate the service project of making the blankets for military veterans.


p. 4 - Focus on Infants & Toddlers p. 11 - Activities for the Classroom

Early Years Bulletin It is also wonderful when students and teachers choose projects that harbor personal meaning for them collectively. In one experience, a student shared that her grandfather was a veteran residing at a facility, so the class decided to make blankets and deliver them to the veterans during a Veteran’s Day program as a way to provide service to the community. College students worked with the 3rd-graders to make lap blankets for the veterans. During the project, students learned history as they discussed the veterans’ service and used math skills to measure and cut as they worked with the college students to make the blankets. This project-based example shows that young children can participate in service learning that spans a significant time period, incorporates curricular goals and standards, and has a positive effect on the community (Montgomery, 2017). Service learning projects can be a developmentally appropriate method for working toward the goal of learning civic responsibility. Projects facilitate learning through discovery and by actively “focusing on familiar topics that children encounter in the world around them” (Chung, Hertzog, Gaffney, & Dymond, 2012, p. 233). Children are naturally curious and want to investigate things around them. Chun et al. (2012) define the important elements of service learning for early learners as: 1) authentic context, 2) curriculum integration, 3) structured preparation, 4) active participation, 5) reflection, and 6) celebration. Teachers can ask young children what they want to learn and create a service learning project based on a real interest and, then, a real need. How can students get out into the community and show that they are important contributors to society? In order to choose an appropriate project, a teacher must investigate the community needs and ascertain viable solutions to those needs. If a need, such as support for veterans or the homeless, is discovered by the teacher, it can be brought up in class, perhaps through a piece of literature (such as Still a Family by Brenda Sturgis, which deals with homelessness on the level of young children). Then the teacher can guide the children in thoughtful discussion to come up with ideas to solve the problem in their community. The chosen project must actively involve students, teach children a life lesson, and create empathy toward others no matter what the age of the students involved.

Summer 2018 To be effective, service learning requires sufficiently prepared groundwork. Children can assist in preparing needed materials or conducting research that may be needed to lay the groundwork prior to a trip or visit. Teachers, children, and community members must work together in order to plan a service project that functions collaboratively and efficiently from start to finish. Involving students in the decisions, when possible, teaches children that decisions have real consequences and encourages them to take tasks seriously. Then class time must be set aside for work on the project and tasks delegated to each student. If it is part of the project, plans for a trip/visit must be planned well in advance and extra adults recruited to assist. When the service learning time span has ended, some time must be set aside for reflection to ensure maximum learning can take place. Service learning starts with students and teachers believing that young children can make a difference in the world around them and looking for ways to ensure their voices are heard. While service learning involves a great deal of both in-class and out-of-class preparation and organization, the end result is worth it. Students benefit from becoming a part of their respective communities and gaining ownership of their learning in a way other learning does not offer. Service learning done thoughtfully can give students confidence in their education and forge a connection to where they live. References Alvarez, F. (2009). Foreword. In T. Kelshaw, F. Lazarus, & J. Minier (Eds.), Partnerships for service-learning: Impacts on communities and students (pp. ix-xi). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Chung, C. E., Hertzog, N. B., Gaffney, J. S., & Dymond, S. K. (2012). When service learning meets the project approach: Incorporating service learning in early childhood. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 10(3). English, K., & Moore, D. (2010). Service learning in our classroom. Connecting Education and Careers, 85(4), 38-39. Fair, C. D., & Delaplane, E. (March, 2014). “It is good to spend time with older adults. You can teach them, they can teach you’’: Second grade students reflect on intergenerational service learning. Early Childhood Education Journal, 43, 19-26. Kieselmeier, J. C., Scales, P. C., Roehlkepartain, E. C., & Neal, M. (2004). Community service and service-learning in


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Early Years Bulletin

A service learning project involving making lap blankets for an annual Veteran’s Day program is linked to math standards for measurement. University students are demonstrating how to measure in order to get the proper square and how to make the cuts so the blanket fits correctly. Students then did the measuring and cutting themselves and made the rest of the blankets the next day.

public schools. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 3(3), 138143. McWilliams, M. S. (2013). Early-childhood teacher candidates’ service learning with family book celebrations. The Delta Gamma Bulletin, 59, 33-41. Montgomery, S. E., Miller, W., Foss, P., & Tallakson,

D. (2017). Banners for books: “Mighty-hearted” kindergartens take action through arts-based learning. Early Childhood Education, 45, 1-4. doi: 10.1007/s10643015-0765-7 Sturgis, B. R. (2017). Still a family: A story about homelessness.


Early Years Bulletin

Summer 2018

Focus on Infants & Toddlers

editor: Nur Tanyel

Seven Activities for Helping Guardians Engage With Their Newborns

By Jessica Essary, Ph.D. and Kelsey LeMon, The University of Mississippi


fter the birth of a child, new parents and guardians must learn how to best nurture and relate to their newborn, which can be challenging. For instance, recovering mothers tend to be physically exhausted after delivery. Mothers experiencing post-birth fatigue may find it difficult to do anything outside of the expected (e.g., breast feed, cuddling, etc.). Exhausted mothers and parents and guardians experiencing an endless variety of other challenging circumstances face many questions about what to do with their newborns. Unfortunately, the world of literature does not seem to offer much guidance. For the first 28 days of life, children are considered newborns (or longer for babies born premature) (Engle, 2004). Although this life segment is often discussed synonymously with infancy in education research literature, medical research suggests that a different approach should be taken when nurturing and educating a newborn. Therefore, to enhance activities that are particularly designed for newborns, early childhood education experts must address the lack of literature in this area. The purpose of this article is to provide caretakers with a diverse array of gentle educational activities for newborns and their guardians. The combined use of these activities in daily practice will provide tactile, auditory, and visual stimulation. This variety of sensory stimulation may enhance a newborn’s alert experiences by activating a broad variety of brain areas (Shibata et al., 2012). Newborn Cues as Pathways to Providing Care and Education The first few weeks of a newborn’s life involves learning experiences for both the caregivers and the baby. New

parents must learn to understand their baby’s cues in order to provide responsive care. Veteran parents may recognize general cues that indicate certain needs or emotions, but will still need to make sense of a new baby’s individual cues. These cues might not be the same as those used by the older children (e.g., whimpering with occasional grunt sounds vs. crying with occasional coughs when hungry). Beyond meeting the basic needs that newborns have, caretakers can also provide additional stimulation. Many newborns will have observable reactions (e.g., widening their eyes) to a new stimulus. “By the time of normal birth, the brain’s layout verges on the adult human brain. All major structures have come into place, including white matter pathways” (Keunen, 2017, p. 10). Indeed, caregivers may engage newborns in perceptual, sensorimotor, cognitive, language, social, and emotional experiences throughout infancy. “Infants, including those with disabilities, are capable of learning as a result of sustained, meaningful interactions with people and events within their environment” (Osofsky, 1979, cited in Encyclopedia of Special Education, p. 1108). While some stimulation is beneficial for learning, too much can be overwhelming. For example, a newborn may begin to shake or hiccup. When this happens, the caregiver can reduce the stimulation until the child recovers. By doing so, the caregiver provides a responsive reaction while learning about the individual child’s cues, needs, and stimulation thresholds. Shared Educational Activities as Bonding Opportunities The first days and weeks of a child’s life are an important time for bonding. Research suggests that parent bonding


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Early Years Bulletin

takes place through repeated, positive, shared activities (Brady, Stevens, Coles, Zadoroznyj, & Martin, 2017; Goodman, 2005). Throughout the process of providing care and bonding with the individual child, guardians also are often providing educational opportunities. This article shares seven recommended activities that support a newborn’s education. To demonstrate these points, we describe guardians’ activities with 3-week-old newborn, Grayson (pseudonyms are used throughout this narrative).

to a variety of musical genres and sounds. Exposure to different phonetic sounds as a newborn can alter a child’s ability to recognize sounds as distinctly different in later life. For example, children exposed to bilingual parents’ languages before 11 months old tend to distinguish letter sounds from two languages better than Englishonly speaking children of the same age (Ferjan Ramírez, Ramírez, Clarke, & Kuhl, 2017).

• Dancing to International Music Grayson listens carefully to international music sung in different languages for two minutes. His mother, Candice, is excited about this development, because she has never seen him lay awake in his portable bed so peacefully for this long. Candice is not the only one interacting with Grayson. As she recovers from labor (for approximately 6 weeks or more), her father, Grandpa Jake, is there to support the family. Jake gathers up Grayson to dance with him for a moment. Since he is aware of the dangers of shaken baby syndrome, he carefully supports Grayson’s body (especially his neck) and slowly dances to the beat without making any sudden jerking movements. As he gently sways to the beat, Grayson peacefully looks around. After two songs, Grayson falls asleep. Lullabies have long been known to have positive effects on newborns (e.g., appropriate weight gain and increased positive reactions to other stimulus) (Standly, 1998). Music from different nations exposes Grayson

• Sensory Stimulation Candice makes different sensory bags and bottles for Grayson to look at while the family embarks on a twohour drive to Grandma’s. First, she places a sensory bag full of tea about an inch away from his nose. She notices that Grayson’s eyes instantly widen as he smells the pouch. Next, Candice shakes a sensory bottle at different rhythms and tempos to enhance his brain stimulation. Grayson appears to be listening as he watches in awe at the shells dancing around inside the bottle. Then, Candice dabs Grayson’s mouth with different burp cloths made of silk and cotton—making a high-pitched tone at each touch. Grayson purses his lips in a different fashion for each material. Suddenly, 15 minutes have gone by and Grayson is falling asleep again. The car ride to Grandma’s is, ultimately, a rather peaceful success. Sensory bags, bottles, and fabric providing novel experiences for the newborn and can be made with common household objects. With sensory bags and sensory bottles, the newborn can engage with various textures, smells, sounds, and visuals. These are wonderful distractions to use with newborns who may be cuing their boredom in cars, on planes, or out in public. BPA-free bottles make interesting noises when filled with various objects (e.g., rice, shells, etc.). For sensory bags, thin fabric pieces can be sewn into a square sack and filled with various seasonings (e.g., rosemary, pine, lilac) to stimulate the newborn’s sense of smell. Strips of organic fabric cut into pieces can provide opportunity for different texture experiences (the area near an infant’s mouth is a sensitive place for sensory learning). • Outdoor Immersion To maintain the appropriate body temperature, Candice bundles up her newborn reasonably (avoiding overheating) in accordance with the cold weather that day, and she is prepared to shield him from wind gusts.


Early Years Bulletin

Candice, Jake, and Grayson’s Grandma, Brenda, sit outside with Grayson on their three-seater swing, and slowly begin to sway. Candice loves spending time outside with her family. This peaceful part of their day exposes Grayson to different sights and sounds and thus supports his cognitive development. Grayson uses the information he takes in to make sense of the world around him (Cobb, 2008). Newborns are alert beings, using every experience to process their environment. On another, much warmer, day, Candice places Grayson in a blanket at the beach in the morning, near an open shaded window at noon, and in a hammock in the afternoon. Each time, she begins to label the nature sounds they hear. Narrating what happens can be beneficial for babies at any age. Narration fosters speech, language, and vocabulary development throughout children’s lives, and encourages them to make connections to the world around them. Brenda Cobb (2008) encourages caregivers to provide opportunities for the newborn to lay down (on their back) on a blanket outside with a guardian. As Grayson drifts into slumber, Candice monitors him while enjoying the beautiful day. First introduced as an effort to reduce infant mortality, outdoor naps are common for babies as young as two


Summer 2018

weeks old in Finland. Finnish parents tend to particularly appreciate the outdoors for helping babies enjoy long, undisturbed, periods of sleep in the fresh air (Tourula, Isola, & Hassi, 2008). These outdoor naps are also very important physiologically for newborns, as they are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, despite the best exclusive breastfeeding practices (Fiscaletti, Stewart, & Munns, 2017). A daily ritual of spending time outdoors with a newborn can be very important. Soaking up sunshine during non-peak hours of daylight is an enjoyable way to provide a health benefit for the baby and caregiver, and exposure to the outdoors is another way caregivers can provide their infants with rich sensory experiences. • Massage and Bath Time Candice notices Grayson has not developed a great sleeping pattern, and has frequent bellyaches that cause him to cry out. Having studied family medicine, she understands that newborns can experience pain (i.e., nociceptive activity) and that stress may reduce the blood flow to white blood cells in the brain (Anand, 1998). The neural pathway for pain is from the skin to the cerebral cortex. “Anecdotal claims for the effects of infant massage are wide and include promoting physical growth and

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Early Years Bulletin

motor development, physiological benefits for sleep, respiration, elimination, the reduction of colic (Grossman, cited in Field, 2000), and may help to establish bonding as well as attachment (Blackwell, 2000)” (Underdown, Barlow, & Stewart-Brown, 2010, p. 12). Candice decides to try giving Grayson a massage. Since she is studying to be a nurse, she recites the vocabulary for different parts of his body as she learns them from an iPhone app.

In 1935, the first study substantiated the increased morbidity rates among formula-fed babies in comparison to breastfed newborns (Grulee, Sandord, & Schwartz, 1935). Furthermore, newborn immune system support through breastfeeding has been recognized in the literature since 1980, when antibodies were first discovered in breast milk, and a plethora of additional health defense benefits have been identified since that point (Heinig, 2001). Informed with this research, Candice decided to let family and friends greet Grayson with traditional hugs and kisses. As Great-Grandpa held onto his grandson, Candice peacefully soaked in the moment. As Grayson played with his young cousins, she had less fear of germ transfer than before.

After the massage, Candice splashes Grayson in his newborn bathtub. Bath time promotes his physical development without placing weight on his joints. Therefore, care and physical education may take place simultaneously. He kicks his legs and stretches out his arms. He appears relaxed, as his flailing (moro) reflex is no longer easily triggered in the watery space. Candice wonders if this reminds him of his time in the womb, and wishes that he could express all of his reactions to his experiences. A few minutes later, Grayson is ready to move on to another activity. His brief grunts cue Candice to notice the time that has peacefully gone by while he was daydreaming. Her husband, Jack, arrives just in time to help get Grayson out of the bathtub. • Socializing in Diverse Groups Jack caught the flu last week and so did their eldest son, Mateo. Much to Candice’s surprise, Grayson did not get sick, too. She was initially worried about letting family hold Grayson because she had heard frightening stories of recent viruses. She decided to research the topic and found that her exclusive breastfeeding practices benefit Grayson’s immune defense system, and she had less to worry about than she initially thought.

While Grayson has yet to develop the muscles to express a social smile (which typically appears around 6 weeks of age), Candice believes that his eyes are gleaming with an undeniable happiness during these social experiences. With the parents remaining nearby, these experiences can support healthy attachment and further social development. In addition, Grayson begins


Early Years Bulletin

the process of associating faces, smells, and sounds with particular people in his family. After the birth of her first child, Candice joined a “New Moms” group. She loved the socialization aspect for the breastfeeding mothers and babies. She hopes to find a similar support system but none of the moms from that group have newborns at this time. Candice remembers seeing a young mother walking around the neighborhood and decides to ask if she would be interested in getting together. They begin to visit each other often and enjoy the friendship right away. • Singing Skin-to-Skin Contact Throughout the day, Candice and her husband Jack take brief turns holding their nearly naked, diapered infant chest down on their own bare chests in a slightly reclined chair. Many veteran parents have experienced how skin-to-skin contact increases bonding, trust, and the release of the stress-reducing hormone, oxytocin, for them and their baby (Gianaros & O’Connor, 2011). This peaceful practice helps Grayson improve his regulation of sleep and periods of wakefulness (Baker-Rush, 2016). While Candice sits with Grayson, she sings to him, which activates auditory and sensory-motor regions, similar to a baby bird responding to a mother bird’s song (Prather, Okanoya, & Bolhuis, 2017). She hopes to pass on traditional songs as well as special songs that she plans to dedicate to him. They are bonding and after repeated attempts with this activity, Grayson begins to sleep better and Candice feels less stressed (Persico et al., 2017).


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Touch establishes powerful physical and emotional connections between infant and caregiver (Muir, 2002). Among the first to document this phenomenon in research was a naturalistic, longitudinal study in which mothers who respond promptly with close physical contact to newborns’ cries were more likely to have children who cried less often and for less time (Bell & Ainsworth, 1972). Candice understands that early bonding during the first few weeks can contribute to Grayson’s positive behavior development (Fuchs, Möhler, Reck, Resch, & Kaess, 2016). Skin-to-skin contact is a natural behavior technique that begins right after childbirth and aids in parent bonding and infant calming (Baker-Rush, 2016), and may be continued for the coming weeks. If the room is cool, the baby should be lightly covered. • Phoneme Faces Candice’s mother, Brenda, enjoys spending quality time with Grayson. She places a blanket on her legs and rests Grayson facing toward her. She copies Grayson’s lip movements. She does this because she understands that mirroring a newborn’s facial expressions is associated with the newborn’s ability to mirror other social expressions by 9 months of age (Rayson, Bonaiuto, Ferrari, & Murray, 2017). Once her activities gain his attention, she starts saying the phonetic sounds of the alphabet with exaggerated facial expressions. Grayson stares at her lips. She makes the sounds while holding him no more than her arms’ distance from her face. She

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Early Years Bulletin

keeps him close, because she is aware that newborns cannot see a great distance until their eyesight develops. His eyes widen as he hears the wide variety of sounds. She notices his pupils dilating throughout the activity. He looks away when over-stimulated. She recognizes this action as a normal developmental cue among newborns that signifies the need for a momentary break. Therefore, she takes a four-second break until his gaze returns to her. Then, she continues with the next letter sounds. That afternoon, Jack and Mateo show off their own phoneme faces and enjoy Grayson’s slight reactions.

manner, these educational activities can provide shared experiences that have the potential to become part of a psychologically transformative daily ritual (Orlandini, 2009) for recovering mothers and newborns. Seeking Additional Support From Early Childhood Education (ECE) Experts Most professionals who engage with newborns are solely focused on fulfilling their survival needs (e.g., pediatricians, NICU nurses, OBGYNs). To provide support beyond care advice, professionals with a background in early childhood education can also collaborate with guardians about interacting with newborns. For example, early childhood educational experts may serve families as a brief voluntary service or an ongoing consultation basis. By virtue of their expertise, these professionals are familiar with the developmental norms of newborns, and may assist parents in interpreting their children’s cues. Often an underutilized resource for newborn support, ECE experts have wonderful skills for supporting families in designing educational activities and accommodations with particular newborn and guardian personalities and needs in mind.

Further Discussion These are examples of guardian-initiated activities. It is important that the caregiver also be responsive to newborn-initiated opportunities for learning (e.g., copying the newborn’s utterances, empathizing with emotions, and providing reassurance). If the newborn has young siblings, it will be helpful for the parents to involve them as much as possible. Also, it may help to have additional family support for young siblings while engaging the newborn in some of these activities. Arguably, birth and the first few weeks can be rather traumatic and challenging. These activities may not be cognitively effective if the guardian displays a negative or withdrawn affect (Ashby & Isen, 1999) toward the newborn. By interacting in an engaging

References Anand, K. J. (1998). Clinical importance of pain and stress in preterm neonates. Neonatology, 73(1), 1-9.


Early Years Bulletin Ashby, F. G., &Isen, A. M. (1999). A neuropsychological theory of positive affect and its influence on cognition. Psychological Review, 106(3), 529-550. Baker-Rush, M. (2016). Reducing stress in infants: Kangaroo care. The International Journal of Childbirth Education, 31(4), 14-17. Bell, S. M., & Ainsworth, M. D. S. (1972). Infant crying and maternal responsiveness. Child Development, 11711190. Brady, M., Stevens, E., Coles, L., Zadoroznyj, M., & Martin, B. (2017). “You can spend time . . . but not necessarily be bonding with them”: Australian fathers’ constructions and enactments of infant bonding. Journal of Social Policy, 46(1), 69-90. Cobb, B. (2008). The importance of taking infants and toddlers outdoors. Retrieved from https://www.ucy. Engle, W. A. (2004). Age terminology during the perinatal period. Pediatrics, 114(5), 1362-1364. Ferjan Ramírez, N., Ramírez, R. R., Clarke, M., Taulu, S., &Kuhl, P. K. (2017). Speech discrimination in 11‐month‐old bilingual and monolingual infants: a magnetoencephalography study. Developmental Science, 20(1). Fiscaletti, M., Stewart, P., & Munns, C. F. (2017). The importance of vitamin D in maternal and child health: a global perspective. Public Health Reviews, 38(1), 19. Fletcher-Janzen, E., & Reynolds, C. R. (2007). Encyclopedia of special education: a reference for the education of children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities and other exceptional individuals (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Fuchs, A., Möhler, E., Reck, C., Resch, F., & Kaess, M. (2016). The early mother-to-child bond and its unique prospective contribution to child behavior evaluated by mothers and teachers. Psychopathology, 49(4), 211-216. Gianaros, P., & O’Connor, M. (2011). Neuroimaging methods in human stress science. The handbook of stress science. Biology, psychology, and health (pp. 543563). New York, NY: Springer. Goodman, J. H. (2005), Becoming an involved father of an infant. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 34(2), 190-200. Grulee, C., Sandord, H., & Schwartz, H. (1935). Breast and artificially fed infants: Study of the age incidence in the

Summer 2018 morbidity and mortality in 20,000 cases. JAMA, 104, 1986-1988. Heinig, M. J. (2001). Host defense benefits of breastfeeding for the infant: Effect of breastfeeding duration and exclusivity. Pediatric Clinics, 48(1), 105-123. Keunen, K. (2017). The neonatal brain: early connectome development and childhood cognition (Doctoral dissertation, Utrecht University). Muir, D. W. (2002). Adult communications with infants through touch: The forgotten sense. Human Development, 45(2), 95-99. Orlandini, A. (2009). The transforming power of ritual. Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry, 37(3), 439-456. Osofsky, J. D. (Ed.). (1979). Handbook of infant development. New York, NY: Wiley. Persico, G., Antolini, L., Vergani, P., Costantini, W., Nardi, M. T., & Bellotti, L. (2017). Maternal singing of lullabies during pregnancy and after birth: Effects on mother-infant bonding and on newborns’ behaviour. Concurrent cohort study. Women and Birth, 30(4), e214-e220. Prather, J., Okanoya, K., & Bolhuis, J. J. (2017). Brains for birds and babies: Neural parallels between birdsong and speech acquisition. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 81(Pt B), 225-237. Rayson, H., Bonaiuto, J. J., Ferrari, P. F., & Murray, L. (2017). Early maternal mirroring predicts infant motor system activation during facial expression observation. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 11738. Shibata, M., Fuchino, Y., Naoi, N., Kohno, S., Kawai, M., Okanoya, K., & Myowa-Yamakoshi, M. (2012). Broad cortical activation in response to tactile stimulation in newborns. Neuroreport, 23(6), 373-377. Standley, J. M. (1998). The effect of music and multimodal stimulation on responses of premature infants in neonatal intensive care. Pediatric Nursing, 24(6), 532538. Tourula, M., Isola, A., & Hassi, J. (2008). Children sleeping outdoors in winter: Parents’ experiences of a culturally bound childcare practice. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 67(2-3), 269-278. Underdown, A., Barlow, J., & Stewart-Brown, S. (2010). Tactile stimulation in physically healthy infants: Results of a systematic review. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 28(1), 11-29.


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Activities for the Classroom editors: Patricia A. Crawford and April A. Mattix Foster

Building Vocabulary and Comprehension Through Interactive Read Aloud: Support for English Learners The following “Activities for the Classroom” column was submitted by Yue Gao, Doctoral Student , and Patricia A. Crawford, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education, University of Pittsburgh.


e have been fortunate to share time and stories with children in many parts of the world. On one such occasion, Yue (first author) had the opportunity to read Lucy Cousin’s Jazzy in the Jungle to a group of 1stgraders in Italy. In this story about a baby lemur who plays hide-and-seek with his mother, Mama JoJo moves through the jungle and keeps calling out, “Where are you, Baby Jazzy?” All of the animals respond, “Not here.” As Yue read, most of the children listened quietly. A few spontaneously said the name of the animals in the illustrations, some in English and others in the children’s native Italian. When the story concluded, no one moved. Everyone remained transfixed on the book. So Yue revisited the story. This time, as she proceeded through the book, she played the role of Mama JoJo, pointing to illustrations and asking the children where she could find her baby. “Not here! Not here!” the children excitedly exclaimed in English, drawing upon the actual words from the story. Yue concluded the session by revisiting the book for a third time, this time asking the children the name of each animal and noting a specific characteristic. Again, a number of children joined in, offering their own responses in a combination of English and Italian. The repeated picturebook readings not only engaged these budding English learners, but also seemed to infuse the experience with joyful opportunities to gain confidence and take risks with language learning. Seeing young English learners (ELs) gain confidence and language competency is a joyful and rewarding


experience for teachers. Yet, the process of teaching and learning language can be challenging, especially when the children have not yet developed a wide or robust vocabulary. Teachers can address this challenge by implementing effective and meaningful teaching methods to help ELs build academic and real-life vocabularies, while enhancing their overall language competencies and love for literacy learning. Interactive read alouds are a particularly engaging strategy in this regard, offering literacy-rich learning experiences and a stepping stone into the world of books. Effective read alouds serve as springboards to help children make connections with prior knowledge, personal background experiences, and academic content areas. Moreover, read alouds are flexible learning experiences that can be inserted into nearly any part of a school day and be incorporated within a broad range of curricular areas; thus, teachers can design and structure read-aloud activities to focus on varied learning purposes and meet many different desired outcomes, including those related to vocabulary development. By taking an interactive approach in which children can respond in both spontaneous and guided ways to the story, the teacher can shift the read-aloud experience from a teacher-centered one to an experience that is participatory and child-sensitive. The interactive element also engages children in reciprocal, conversational exchanges, with participants both sharing ideas and listening to alternative perspectives. The interactive read

Early Years Bulletin aloud increases time and space for making connections between children and the teacher, children and the book, and among the children themselves. These interactions create communication opportunities and enhance oral language skills through exposure to new and interesting words and grammatical structures. In short, interactive read alouds can provide an effective springboard for helping all children engage in language-rich learning, and they hold particular potential for young ELs who are building their vocabularies in both first and second languages. These benefits can be maximized by making thoughtful book selections and by conducting thoughtful planning for the read aloud. Book Selection A well-chosen book provides a great foundation for read alouds designed to support young ELs. The following guidelines provide a starting point for selecting books. Choose picturebooks with strong print-visual connections: Many illustrations are beautiful and engaging, but not all are created equal in terms of their helpfulness for ELs. Since illustrations are very important tools for helping children understand the content of books, it is important to choose wisely. Some illustrations may only show a certain moment of the whole story, while others include important, clear details that can help children make meaning from visual texts. In practice, the most helpful illustrations for readaloud activities aimed at young ELs are those that are tightly connected to the print texts and can amplify the meanings of the storyline. The illustrations should contain visual cues that can be easily interpreted by the children, and that are consistent in meaning from page to page throughout the book. Choose books with accessible context: Books based on child-friendly situations and that have rich storylines can provide support for helping ELs tap into background knowledge and increase communication skills. Great choices include realistic storylines, fantasies, and traditional fairytales. These types of books typically have clearly structured storylines and frequently contain dialogue that can serve as examples of interactive conversations children can incorporate into their daily lives. Use developmentally appropriate books: In order to achieve the dual goals of building vocabulary and

Summer 2018 comprehension, the selected books should be age appropriate. The content and language of books may be either comfortable or challenging, but should never be at a level that is frustrating for children. In order to increase interest and engagement, children’s preferences should be considered when choosing books. For instance, teachers might display two to three potential books for the next day’s read aloud, and the children can choose the one they find most appealing. Include nonfiction: Although early childhood teachers have tended to favor narrative stories, research shows that young children also enjoy informational texts. These texts, which often include photographs or other realistic illustrations, can be excellent vocabulary resources for ELs. Informational read alouds can help to set the stage for the expository reading and writing tasks students will encounter later in the curriculum, while piquing their curiosity about concepts and language in the world that surrounds them. Planning the Read-Aloud Activity A high-quality interactive read aloud involves planning for experiences that occur before reading, during reading, and after reading. Tips for structuring these activities and for sample instructional language are presented below. Suggested books for read alouds are included in the appendix. Before reading: An important part of the readaloud experience occurs prior to the reading. Before reading, teachers can help children access the text by previewing the book. This is a great time to introduce important literary-based vocabulary words, such as “author,” “illustrator,” and “title.” It is also an opportunity to engage children by giving them a preview of the text, inviting them to make predictions about the storyline, and forging links between text content and their prior knowledge and experiences. This is also a rich opportunity to introduce vocabulary words that are crucial for children to know if they are to understand the content of the story. Focus on high-utility words that can be used across contexts. When introducing new vocabulary words, it is helpful to provide related pictures or act out new words to scaffold children’s textual understandings. Picture walks can also serve as viable springboards to prime children’s interest and engagement prior to reading a word of the book.


Summer 2018 Sample Instructional Language for Before Reading Activities “Before we read, I would like to introduce some new words we will learn from this book.” “The first word is _____; it means_________. Here is a picture of __________.” “The second word is _______; it shows _______. It means ______. Can you show me what it means to ________?” “Now, let’s say these words together.”

Early Years Bulletin During reading: The heart of the experience takes place in the “during reading” phase, when the book is actually read aloud. For a classroom with young ELs, it is essential to provide experiences read a book multiple times during a single session. These repeated, interactive readings can serve multiple goals, exposing children to a whole story and providing a global idea of the content within it, while also providing the teacher with opportunities to check and enhance comprehension. In a typical repeated reading experience, the picture book might be read two times by the teacher, with different goals and routines for each reading. For the first reading, the teacher can invite the children to be listeners and then read through the entire book without stopping.

Sample Instructional Language for During Reading Experiences First reading: Read the story without making any stops. “Now I will read our book from the beginning to the end. If you hear the two new words we just practiced, raise a quiet hand to let me know.” Second reading: Read with stops and ask questions. “Very nice! I saw some quiet hands up. Now I’m going to read the story again; this time, we will make stops to talk about the words and story.”

Questions about vocabulary:

Questions about content:

Check-up questions:

Check-up questions:

“Did you hear the new word(s) in the story?”

“What happened here?”

“Where did you hear it?”

“Where did it happen?”

Comprehension question:

Comprehension question:

“What does it (the new word) mean on this page (read the sentence)?”

“Why did it happen?”

Extended questions:

Extended questions:

“When do we say this word in real life?”

“What did you think about that?”

“Have you ever heard someone say this?”

“Do you think it should…?”


Early Years Bulletin During the second reading, the teacher might interact more fully with the children, inviting them to consider what they remembered from the last reading and to think more deeply about the text by asking additional questions or by inviting the children to offer personal responses to different parts of the story. After reading: “After reading” activities provide a chance to wrap up the lesson and to deepen comprehension of new language and learning. It is a good time to review vocabulary and give the children an opportunity to practice retelling, while also incorporating the new vocabulary. In addition, the pictures or other scaffolds introduced before reading can be re-visited to support learning and bring closure to the lesson. This is also a great time to extend the language and literacy experience by having the children do a related activity, such as illustrating the new vocabulary words, dictating a retelling of the story, or acting out the story while the teacher retells it using the focus vocabulary.

Summer 2018 Interactive read alouds, based on high-quality picturebooks, offer an effective means to increase comprehension and enhance vocabulary development for young ELs. Significantly, the experience offers ELs, like the Italian 1st-graders described at the beginning of this article, an opportunity to jump in and try out their developing language skills in a low-risk and joyful literacy context.

Sample Instructional Language for After Reading Experiences “Today we read __________. In this book, we learned two new words.” “One word is ______; it means ___________. It was on this page, this page, and this page of our book.” [Flip back to the pages and read the sentences.] “The second word is _______; it shows ________. It also means _______. It was on this page, and this page of our book.” [Flip back to the pages and read the sentences.] “Now we are going to do an activity where you can use these words.”

Early Years Bulletin is published quarterly by the Association for Childhood Education International, 1875 Connecticut Ave.., N.W., 10th Fl., Washington, DC 20009.

Appendix: Recommended Read-Aloud Books to Support Young English Learners Baby Brains by Simon James Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats Always by Emma Dodd Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean and Eric Litwin Jazzy in the Jungle by Lucy Cousins Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke and Paul Howard If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond The Three Little Pigs by Patricia Seibert The Napping House by Audrey Wood and Don Wood It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles Shaw Up, Down, and Around by Katherine Ayers This Is Our Baby, Born Today by Varsha Bajaj and Eliza Wheeler

ACEI HEADQUARTERS STAFF: Diane P. Whitehead, Executive Director Michelle Allen, Director of Operations Anne Watson Bauer, Editor/Director of Publications Dziko Crews, Communications Manager Adrienne Henck, Director of Global Schools First Yvette Murphy, Director of Global Advocacy Amanda Stamp, Administrator of Global Programs

Articles do not necessarily reflect positions taken by the Association for Childhood Education International. Copyright © 2018 Association for Childhood Education International


Early Years Bulletin Summer 2018  

The Early Years Bulletin, published four times a year, brings together the voices of practitioners, administrators, researchers, and advocat...

Early Years Bulletin Summer 2018  

The Early Years Bulletin, published four times a year, brings together the voices of practitioners, administrators, researchers, and advocat...