Earlier this month, Lincoln Park Preschool staff attended Spark Ventures’ Annual Fall Gala. The theme of the night was Making Connections. Since 2017, LPP has been sending teachers to Zambia Africa as part of Hope Community School’s Preschool. This past July, Mr. David Feldman, Ms. Kelly Dicken, along with Sharon Kozek and her family returned to the school to dedicate the opening of Hope’s very own school library. At this year’s gala, Sharon and her family were given the opportunity to share their connection to Spark Ventures and the impact it has had on the LPP community.
Established in 1994, Lincoln Park Preschool and Kindergarten was founded on the belief that all children no matter their zip code deserve access to high quality early education. In their 25 years of operation, LPP has not only provided the highest quality programing for their students and families, but is devoted to supporting vulnerable children both locally and globally.
Community is a core value that is represented in all aspects of the LPP curriculum. Children are included in service projects supporting local organizations that include school supply drives, creating classroom materials and fundraising for art programing grants for local public schools, and gift drives for the holidays. LPP’s exemplary staff incorporate service projects in their lesson plans such as making lunches for local food banks and visiting the local nursing home to deliver letters to their neighbors.
Community is a component of LPP’s daily schedule, where all classrooms come together to reinforce this core value and instill a heart for service.
“LPP places a high value on supporting and coming along side of organizations whose passion and vision is to lift up vulnerable children,” says founder Sharon Kozek, who sits on the board of directors for the groundbreaking after-school program, By the Hand Club. LPP’s other local partners include VOCEL, Creative Schools Fund, Chicago Children’s Choir, Tuesdays Child, Polaris Charter and Spark Ventures.
How was your day? Good. Good. What did you do? I don’t know.
Pulling up an event from the past, even the near past, without any other prompts, or visual stimuli and then coming up with a system to organize the information and present it to someone who wasn’t there, (even though you may still be operating in ego-centric thought, and just assume that others know what you know) is a huge task for a preschooler. So let’s break this question down and scaffold it for your student to get a response that matches the best of their language and memory abilities, and the fullness of their day.
Start broad, narrow in, use visually charged language.
We want our students to be able to answer open-ended questions and be able to organize their thoughts so it is still appropriate to ask a young child a broad question. When you get a non-response, then you can start to narrow in your questioning. A lot of memory is visual so use visual language as you question. “What did you see when you were outside? If “outside” is too broad, try a specific place. Children call the area where we play in the afternoon “the grassy area” or “grandma’s garden.” Use specific verbs. Replace do with play, sing, read etc. “What did you play with at the table during centers?” This question activates a specific place and a specific action, for the child to recall. More specific questions provide a framework for students to organize their response. Another way you can scaffold your questioning is to pull up the child’s “schema” of the day for them. Activate the images and memories of the day by giving a summary using key words from the theme of the week. You can find the theme at the top of the lesson plan. “Wow you talked a lot about dinosaurs today! What did you play with at the table during centers?” By pulling up a key word or image first, you can clue them into your question before you ask it.
Wait for a good time to talk.
It is important to respect young children’s attention abilities, if a child is mid block tower, that’s a good time to talk about or narrate the block tower, not ask them about their school day. Catch them during a calm time, maybe after reading a story that has the same theme as their classroom. You can also build talking about the day into your dinner-time or bed time routine. At those times you can model first by talking about your day. As you talk you can model how you pull up a memory. “What did I do today? Hmmm. . I sat in my office, oh and I got to add more details to my project, and I talked to my friend on the phone.”
Use art and creations from the day to prompt a memory.
Use artifacts from the day. Take a picture of their work on the wall and always take contents of the cubby home even if you just use it for your conversation. When asking students about their art keep in mind, their work may not be representational or static yet. Representational drawing can begin late in the second year through the third year when students set out to draw something specific. They have understood that they can use a symbol or drawing to represent the real thing. Even when representational drawing begins, the image may not be static, and hold its meaning to the artist. What was a strawberry in the morning may be a sheep in the afternoon. Keeping these developmental milestones in mind can guide your questioning. Instead of asking a pre-representational artist “What is it?” try questioning to the materials. “What did you use to make this?” “What colors did you use?”
Repeat and Extend.
This is a responding strategy you probably use instinctively that is essential to language development. Repeat back your child’s response and then add a little more to it each time.“Ball!”“Wow! Look at the red ball!”This offers affirmation and extends their vocabulary.
Putting It All Together.
Prepping your student by activating images from the day
“I heard you talked a lot about dinosaurs today!”
Start broad, narrow in.“What did you do today? What did you play with at the table?”
Using artifacts from the day
“Look what I found in your cubby! Tell me about your picture, how did you make it? What did you use?”
Repeat and Extend
“You used red, you used a lot of red, you must really like that color!”
Since the founding of Lincoln Park Preschool almost 25 years ago, owner and founder Sharon Kozek has placed a high value on providing life-changing experiences for her exceptional staff. The impact of a unique work perk she created at LPP has been both personal and global.
LPP’s Vacation with a Purpose program has been a dream come true for staff seeking opportunities to travel abroad and reach children in need around the world. LPP teachers have ventured to over a dozen locations, including Ecuador, Mexico, Zambia and Thailand. While abroad, teachers are given paid time off and a travel stipend to do impact work with children and women in adverse circumstances.
In addition to teacher-selected locations that go through an approval process, LPP sends a group of teachers to Ndola, Zambia to visit Hope Community School. At Hope teachers connect with students and staff as they participate in the classrooms, take cultural excursions to learn Zambian history, and lead activities as part of Hope’s reading partner program.
“My time at Hope Community School was nothing short of life-changing. The staff and students exude kindness, gratitude and warmth.. and the culture is open and giving.I hope to go back one day!” said LPP teacher, David Feldman.
In October of 2018, LPP was inducted into Chicago-based- non-profit, Spark Ventures’ Founder’s Circle, for their continued partnership in funding and guiding projects that directly impact quality of life and education for over 350 students in Zambia. LPP has spearheaded two major projects over the last two years with Spark; the opening of Hope’s first preschool classrooms, and the construction of Hope’s first library.
Kindergarten Teacher, Valerie Pokladowski has traveled twice with the Vacation with a Purpose program LPP offers. This fall, she returned to Pattaya, Thailand with Not Abandoned, a non-profit organization that works to end sex trafficking. “We offer these women resources and a way out of a life they are trapped in through debt, family obligation, and lack of education,”
LPP Director, Laura Garland traveled to Zambia on LPP’s inaugural trip in January of 2017. Garland feels the vision of Vacation with a Purpose is a reflection of LPP’s mission, “Our aim is to put our hearts, minds and hands together as we work towards a brighter future for all children, both those inside our classrooms and those on the other side of the world,”
For more information about LPP and their global impact, visit: lppschools.com/philanthropy
By: Valerie Pokladowski
2’s Lead Teacher: LPP-Germania
Communication is key. We hear this phrase often enough, but in a preschool setting it can be quite difficult to bring that phrase to fruition. For a preschooler, communication manifests in many different ways and can be fostered with a few simple tactics. In this article, we will discuss what communication is, why communication is so important in the development of young children, and how we integrate it into a home or classroom environment. By the end of this article, you will have tangible strategies to use with your child to build communication.
Communication is the ability to send and receive information. It can be verbal, nonverbal, artistic, and technological, among others. In order to help a child build essential academic skills and feel confident in her learning, she must first be able to communicate and feel positive in that interaction. This success is linked to stronger math and science skills, as well as higher attainment on standardized tests. When children have receptive and expressive language to use in communicating, they are more likely to practice these skills to advocate for their own learning and they develop and maintain strong self-regulation skills. Students at Lincoln Park Preschool and Kindergarten are constantly integrating these skills to calm themselves or convey a feeling or need. By doing so, students resort less to physical forms of communication, which results in a more positive learning environment. Regardless of a child’s age or skill level, communication allows for all children to feel safe, acknowledged, and be successful in life.
Now we know what communication is and why it is important, but how do we use this information to build these skills both in school and at home? We will dive into two methods for increasing communication in preschool age children: Conversation and Writing. When starting a conversation with a young child it is important to be patient and set feasible expectations for his response. Give the child time to engage in conversation at their own pace so as to not create anxiety in the exchange. Start by simply asking him open-ended questions, instead of simple yes or no inquiries. By asking Why or How questions, you challenge a child’s cognitive thinking as well as increase his vocabulary. Extend your child’s play by questioning his choices, imagining with them, and introducing new objects, ideas, and vocabulary through play. For example, your child crawls under the table and you ask, “What are you doing under there?” He says, “I’m fixing the car!” You respond, “What kind of tools do you need?” or “Oh, here’s the wrench.” If a child is working with a one or two word sentence structure, model language for him and give him choices. For example, if a child is playing with cars, instead of asking him if he likes playing with cars, ask, “Do you prefer the red car or the blue car?” while holding up each car. You can continue to extend the language by adding other descriptors and encouraging your child to repeat after you if they are struggling to link the words together. Try to avoid drilling your child or expecting a certain response, but allow him to respond in whatever way feels natural. If you are surprised by the way your child responds to something you have said simply ask them why and continue the conversation to create an open dialogue where the child is truly allowed to speak his mind as long as he is being kind and respectful. Overall the conversations with your child should be fun and natural.
In addition to conversation, writing is a fantastic way for your child to build her communication skills. Just as we see with language skills, writing skills vary from child to child, but as long as a child can hold a writing utensil and make a mark on a page, that child can write. Encourage your child to write and show appreciation for whatever level of writing she produces. Children begin expressing themselves through writing by drawing pictures, then moving on to letter-like marks (dashes, circles, etc.), and finally on to recognizable letters. At the beginning of your child’s work with writing let your child free write while asking questions like, “What can you tell me about that?” or “I see you have used a lot of blue, why is that?” Asking questions like these that are open-ended will encourage your child to create her own story and foster her imagination. Questions like, “What is that?” force children to decide what they are writing, which they may not even have the answer to yet. Once your child starts verbalizing her writing, you can start to introduce inventive spelling. Start by asking her to describe her writing, and then begin to help her stretch out the sounds in the words of the objects she has just listed. Once she has tackled this you can extend it by asking her to write the letters that she hears. Even if the letters may not line up with the actual sound or even if the letters are unrecognizable marks on the page, the connection is being made, which is a fantastic start!
Words are the most powerful tools we can give children. With words children can express themselves, create lasting friendships, and promote their own education. Through purposeful and engaging conversation, as well as the artistic outlet of writing, children can increase their communication skills, which will lead to not only successful educational careers, but successful lives!
By Lindsay Campbell, Pre-K Teacher-LPP Germania
Classroom management is one of the most important aspects of teaching. Setting expectations, allowing for children to make their own appropriate choices, understanding the limits of being part of the group and coping when the answer is ‘no’ are boundaries that let children feel safe and confident. Incorporating the following strategies at home can make transitions and negotiations more fluid and stress-free.
Set Limits and Expectations – Setting limits and expectations are important for children to feel confident and secure. Providing reasons for your expectations can also help your child accept your limits without becoming defensive. For instance, before going to the playground you could explain to your child that it might be busy and that they will have to be patient waiting for a turn on the swing. You could mention that they need to slide down the slide on their bottom as opposed to climbing up it. When children know what is expected of them, they develop the ability to become self-aware and to self-discipline. When you see your child follow through with your expectations, be sure to notice and praise them!
Related Consequences – When a child makes an undesirable choice, it is important to make sure their consequence is related to the choice they made. For example, if a child chooses to knock over their sibling’s block tower, a related consequence might be to help rebuild the block tower. If they continue to knock it down, a further related consequence might be to have the child find a new area to play. An unrelated consequence, such as cancelling a plan to watch a movie before bedtime, can be confusing to the child, as it does not relate to the reason there is a consequence in the first place.
Statements vs. Questions – Do not ask your child for permission if you don’t really need it. If you are ready to take your child home at the end of the day, tell them so. Give your child reasonable and clear directions, such as, “It’s time to go. Please put your toys away.” Children are more likely to respond to statements such as this as opposed to, “Are you ready to go now?” Take “OK?” out of your vocabulary. Ending your request with “OK?” unknowingly turns it into a question that requires permission. When you ask for permission, you open yourself up to your child’s ability to tell you, “no,” which can in turn lead to an unnecessary power struggle.
Offer Appropriate Choices – Choices are important for children to have a feeling of control and to help build their self-esteem. In some cases, offering your child appropriate choices that are acceptable to you helps to sidestep the power struggle of many challenging situations. For instance, “You need to take a bath. Do you want to take it now or in five minutes?” creates a win-win situation where your child is in charge, within your parameters. You are happy because your child cooperates and your child is happy because they made their own choice.
It’s Okay to Say “No” – Telling a child “no” can often be more difficult on an adult than it is on the child. While we might feel bad that we made them feel sad or disappointed, saying “no” is actually important for children to hear. When children are inexperienced with being told “no,” they can lose their ability to delay gratification, learn patience, and cope with disappointment. We know that life is challenging and that none of us get what we want all the time, so its best we give children the skills necessary to become strong, adaptable, well-adjusted individuals.
Chicago is a great city to grow up in. Parks, friendly neighborhoods, museums, and schools abound. So many preschool choices for families can often make the decision process daunting. Research indicates that well-designed preschool programs will produce long-term improvements in school success, including higher achievement test scores and higher educational attainment.
Children’s author Emilie Buchwald wrote, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents”. The cumulative and growing research on early literacy would include ‘the laps of their teachers’ too. The more we know more about literacy development and acquisition the more we appreciate the role of early childhood environments in growing early literacy skills.
As warm weather approaches, the great outdoors seems to beckon children and parents alike. Slides, swings, and climbing structures welcome summer play with open arms, and parents enjoy watching their children release energy freely. While playground equipment is engaging for a time, it can quickly become dull when used in the same manner everyday. Below are some ways to make outside time more enjoyable and allow parents to be active participants in the excitement of summer while strengthening their child’s development.
Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist”. A process-based art experience ensures that every child has the opportunity to express themselves in unrestricted ways. Process based art focuses on the process of creating art rather than the product. LPP Education Director Jamie Tiller writes, “Process art allows children to be free. In a world with so many rules, process art gives children freedom to express their thoughts, ideas and emotions without fear of being right or wrong. It allows them to be true and honest, which brings out brilliant confidence and creativity.”