myth buster series (5)

Welcome back to our Mythbuster series

This week we invite Dr. Clements and Dr. Sarama to talk about the fourth myth: Children don’t need adult guidance in play (or learning). Let's keep reading and find out why this is a myth and why combining guided free play with intentional, guided-discovery teaching is important. 

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About the Authors
3533786640?profile=RESIZE_180x180 Douglas H. Clements, Ph.D.
Dr. Clements received his PhD from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Previously a preschool and kindergarten teacher, he has conducted funded research and published over 500 articles and books in the areas of the learning and teaching of early mathematics and computer applications in mathematics education.

3533793197?profile=RESIZE_180x180Julie Sarama, Ph.D.
Dr. Sarama received her PhD from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Dr. Sarama has taught secondary mathematics and computer science, gifted math at the middle school level, preschool and kindergarten mathematics enrichment classes, and mathematics methods and content courses for elementary to secondary teachers. She designed and programmed over 50 published computer programs, including her version of Logo and Logo-based software activities (Turtle Math™, which was awarded Technology & Learning Software of the Year award, 1995, in the category "Math"). 

Myth #4: Children don’t need adult guidance in play (or learning)

“I believe that children learn through play.”

“My philosophy is to let children play. If adults interfere it destroys children’s learning through play.”

Fact: Claiming that “children don’t need adult, including early childhood and early childhood special education practitioners, guidance in play” is a myth is not to say we don’t believe in play. We love play. And we believe children learn through play. However, we also believe it is a false dichotomy that there are but two choices: Unguided free play versus “adult interference” (or “direct instruction”).  Such a false dichotomy makes nuanced use of a variety of developmentally appropriate teaching strategies, such as NAEYC promotes, almost impossible.

Let’s start with free play…and let’s start with something on which we hope everyone can agree: Child-directed play is a rich context for learning and adults can interfere with its benefits if they enter it without observing and without carefully considering what the children are doing.

But should adults always stay away? No. Research is clear that guided play is better for children. For example, teaching strategies that optimize make-believe play have been proven successful in improving young children’s self-regulation competencies and academic achievement1,2,3. This approach imbues dramatic, make-believe play with supports that strengthen the development of self-regulation. Adults guide children on the development of imagination, the ability to sustain and create pretend scenarios, a set of roles and the use of language to plan and organize play ahead of time.

This is why we have educated, expert practitioners–not just to set up and get out of the way—but to observe, interpret, interact, and then change the environment and interactions when that would benefit children.

How about STEM?  Do children “do” STEM in their play–and what should adults do about STEM and play?

Perhaps surprisingly, in their free play, Children engage in substantial amounts of foundational STEM skills as they explore patterns, shapes, and spatial relations; compare magnitudes; engineer with various materials; and explore scientific phenomena and concepts.4,5,6  Let’s use mathematical play as an example. Observations of preschoolers show that when they play, they engage in mathematical thinking at least once in almost half of each minute of play. Almost 9/10 of children engage in at one or more math activities during free play episodes.6

This mathematical play reveals intuitive knowledge of many concepts that most people think young children cannot understand, from arithmetic to parallelism and right angles. Unfortunately, these same children may not understand these concepts when they arrive in middle school. If they are not helped to mathematize (reflect on, give language to—more later) their early “theorems in action”,7 the ideas do not become theorems in thought. Adults need to help children learn the language of mathematics. Similarly, while children innately explore the world around them, and take pleasure in building with different materials, and making patterns, adults also need to help them learn engineering habits of mind, the language of coding, and scientific practices.

Many adults believe that such scaffolding will harm children’s play. These concerns are misplaced. Content-rich teaching increases the quality of young children's play. For example, children in classrooms with stronger emphasis on literacy or math are more likely to engage at a higher quality of social-dramatic play.8 The new ideas energize high-level play activity. Thus, high-quality instruction in STEM and high-quality free play do not have to “compete” for time in the classroom. Doing both makes each richer. Unfortunately, many adults believe that "open-ended free play" is good and "lessons" in STEM are not.9,10 They do not believe that preschoolers need specific teaching.11 They do not realize that they are depriving their children both of the joy and fascination of STEM, but higher-quality free play as well.12

Combining guided free play with intentional, guided-discovery teaching13 and promoting play with STEM objects and STEM ideas is pedagogically powerful play.12,14,15

References

  1. Barnett, W. S., Yarosz, D. J., Thomas, J., & Hornbeck, A. (2006). Educational effectiveness of a Vygotskian approach to preschool education: A randomized trial: National Institute of Early Education Research.
  2. Bodrova, E., & Leong, D. J. (2005). Self-Regulation as a key to school readiness: How can early childhood teachers promote this critical competency? In M. Zaslow & I. Martinez-Beck (Eds.), Critical issues in early childhood professional development (pp. 203–224). Baltimore, MD: Brookes.
  3. Bodrova, E., Leong, D. J., Norford, J., & Paynter, D. (2003). It only looks like child’s play. Journal of Staff Development, 24(2), 47–51.
  4. Clements, D. H., & Sarama, J. (2016). Math, science, and technology in the early grades. The Future of Children, 26(2), 75–94.
  5. Sarama, J., & Clements, D. H. (2018). Promoting positive transitions through coherent instruction, assessment, and professional development: The TRIAD scale-up model. In A. J. Mashburn, J. LoCasale-Crouch & K. Pears (Eds.), Kindergarten readiness (pp. 327-348). New York, NY: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-90200-5_15
  6. Seo, K.-H., & Ginsburg, H. P. (2004). What is developmentally appropriate in early childhood mathematics education? In D. H. Clements, J. Sarama & A.-M. DiBiase (Eds.), Engaging young children in mathematics: Standards for early childhood mathematics education (pp. 91–104). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  7. Vergnaud, G. (1978). The acquisition of arithmetical concepts. In E. Cohors-Fresenborg & I. Wachsmuth (Eds.), Proceedings of the 2nd Conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (pp. 344–355). Osnabruck, Germany.
  8. Aydogan, C., Plummer, C., Kang, S. J., Bilbrey, C., Farran, D. C., & Lipsey, M. W. (2005, June 5-8). An investigation of prekindergarten curricula: Influences on classroom characteristics and child engagement. Paper presented at the NAEYC, Washington, DC.
  9. Sarama, J. (2002). Listening to teachers: Planning for professional development. Teaching Children Mathematics, 9(1), 36–39.
  10. Sarama, J., & DiBiase, A.-M. (2004). The professional development challenge in preschool mathematics. In D. H. Clements, J. Sarama & A.-M. DiBiase (Eds.), Engaging young children in mathematics: Standards for early childhood mathematics education (pp. 415–446). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  11. Clements, D. H., & Sarama, J. (2009). Learning and teaching early math: The learning trajectories approach. New York, NY: Routledge.
  12. Sarama, J., & Clements, D. H. (2009). Building blocks and cognitive building blocks: Playing to know the world mathematically. American Journal of Play, 1(3), 313–337.
  13. Baroody, A. J., Purpura, D. J., Eiland, M. D., & Reid, E. E. (2015). The impact of highly and minimally guided discovery instruction on promoting the learning of reasoning strategies for basic add-1 and doubles combinations. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 30, Part A(0), 93–105. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2014.09.003
  14. Clements, D. H., & Sarama, J. (2005a). Math play. Parent & Child, 12(4), 36–45.
  15. Clements, D. H., & Sarama, J. (2005b). Math play: How young children approach math. Early Childhood Today, 19(4), 50–57.
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Welcome to the third blog post of our MythBuster series.

Last week, we talked about how children’s learning and development in literacy and STEM can be intertwined. This week, we are going to bust a myth that sometimes deters practitioners or families from carrying out STEM activities with young children. 

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By Hsiu-Wen Yang,  PhD. 

Postdoctoral Research Associate at STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

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By Chih-Ing Lim,  PhD.

Co-director of the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

Myth 3: STEM learning is too expensive

Fact: You do not need to purchase expensive toys or materials to engage young children in STEM learning. STEM learning opportunities are everywhere, including during daily routines1,2,3,4. For example, cooking or mealtime is a perfect opportunity to engage children in STEM concepts4,5. While preparing snacks, children can count a small number of dry ingredients that you are going to use and bring it to you. Children may also experiment with measuring cups of different sizes, and guess which one holds more, or observe how butter changes from solid to liquid when it melts.

Adults, not toys, are key in children’s development and learning. Adult-child interactions are critical in supporting children’s development across all domains of learning6,7,8. Additionally, adults who are intentional in providing learning experiences and opportunities that balanced self-directed play and adult-facilitated instruction can contribute to children’s development in math9. Young children are active learners and are naturally curious about the world around them. With adults’ support, they can have rich learning opportunities within everyday experiences and without expensive materials or toys.

References

  1. Tudge, J. R. H. & Doucet, F. (2004). Early mathematical experiences: Observing young Black and White children’s everyday activities. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 19, 21-39.
  2. Andrews, K. J. & Wang, X. C. (2019). Young Children’s emergent science competencies in everyday family contexts: A case study. Early Child Development and Care, 189, 1351-1368.
  3. Lee, J. & Junoh, J. (2019). Implementing unplugged coding activities in early childhood classrooms. Early Childhood Education Journal, 47, 709-716.
  4. Sikder, S., Fleer, M. (2015). Small Science: Infants and Toddlers Experiencing Science in Everyday Family Life. Research in Science Education, 45,445–464.
  5. Susperreguy, M. I. & Davis-Kean, P. E. (2016). Maternal Math Talk in the Home and Math Skills in Preschool Children,Early Education and Development, 27, 841-857.
  6. Hamre, B.K.; Pianta, R.C. (2001). Early teacher-child relationships and the trajectory of children's school outcomes through eighth grade.Child Development, 72, 625–638.
  7. Howes, C.; Fuligni, A.S.; Hong, S.S.; Huang, Y.D.; Lara-Cinisomo, S. (2013). The preschool instructional context and child–teacher relationships.Early Education and Development, 24, 273–291.
  8. Rodriguez, E. T. & Tamis-LeMonda, C. S. (2011). Trajectories of the home learning environment across the first 5years: Associations with children’s vocabulary and literacy Skills at Prekindergarten. Child Development, 82, 1058-1075.
  9. Fuligni, A.S., Howes, C., Huang, Y.D., Hong, S.S., Lara-Cinisomo, S. (2012). Activity settings and daily routines in preschool classrooms: Diverse experiences in early learning settings for low-income children. Early Child. Research Quarterly,27, 198–209.
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Welcome to our week 2 of MythBuster series.

Last week we debunked the myth that STEM is only for older students or gifted children, and it is too difficult for young children or children with disabilities to understand, this week we will tackle the myth that language and literacy skills are more important than STEM knowledge and skills.

 

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By Hsiu-Wen Yang,  PhD. 

Postdoctoral Research Associate at STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

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By Chih-Ing Lim,  PhD.

Co-director of the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

Myth#2:  Language and Literacy skills are more important than STEM knowledge and skills

Fact: All aspects of children’s development are equally important and intertwined. In fact, STEM and language and literacy can go hand in hand. For example, during shared book reading, children not only develop their language and literacy skills1, but can also learn about math2 or science concepts3. While reading storybooks, adults can ask open-ended questions, pose problems, and discuss STEM concepts with children.4,5 While answering the questions, children will also have opportunities to build their vocabulary and make sense of the plot. Additionally, evidence shows how intricately twined literacy is to STEM, in that children improve their math, early literacy, and reading when they start learning science concepts early.6 Furthermore, early exposure to math content and activities could be a strong predictor of later academic achievement.7

Given these evidence, we know that literacy and STEM are false dichotomies. At STEMIE, we are developing a series of examples on how families can use dialogic reading and make adaptations to the books to have conversations on various STEM topics using some readily available books. Stay tuned for our new series!

References:

  1. Saracho, O. N. (2017). Parents’ shared storybook reading – learning to read. Early Child Development and Care, 187,554-567.
  2. Green, K. B., Gallagher, P. A., & Hart, L. (2018). Integrating Mathematics and Children’s Literature for Young Children With Disabilities. Journal of Early Intervention, 40, 3–19.
  3. Gonzalez, J. E., Pollard-Durodola,S., Simmons, D. C., Taylor, A. B., Davis, M, J., Kim, M., & Simmons, L.(2010). Developing Low-Income Preschoolers’ Social Studies and Science Vocabulary Knowledge Through Content-Focused Shared Book Reading. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 4, 25-52, 
  4. Van den Heuvel-Panhuizen, M. & Elia, I. (2012): Developing a framework for the evaluation of picturebooks that support kindergartners’ learning of mathematics, Research in Mathematics Education, 14, 17–
  5. Pantoya, M. & Aguirre-Munoz, Z. (2017). Inquiry, Talk, and Text: Promising Tools that Bridge STEM Learning for Young English Language Learners. American Society of Engineering Education, 1, 7679-7695. 
  6. Paprzycki, P., Tuttle, N., Czerniak, C. M., Molitor, S., Kadervaek, J., & Mendenhall, R. (2017). The impact of a Framework-aligned science professional development program on literacy and mathematics achievement of K-3 students. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 54, 1174-1196.
  7. Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., ... Japel, C. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1428–1446.

 

 

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Children start developing STEM concepts and skills when they are babies and they know more about STEM than you think. 

 

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By Hsiu-Wen Yang,  PhD 

Postdoctoral Research Associate at STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

3516540102?profile=RESIZE_180x180by
Chih-Ing Lim,  PhD.
Co-director of the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

 

Myth #1: STEM is only for older students or gifted children, and it is too difficult for young children or children with disabilities to understand. 

Fact: ALL children, regardless of disability, culture, race/ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status, have the capacity to engage in STEM learning.1,2 In fact, children start developing STEM concepts and skills when they are babies and they know more about STEM than you think.3,4 For example, babies begin by exploring the world using different sense.5 Then, they start making sense of cause and effect through play, observation, or trial and error, which lays the foundation of later STEM thinking skills and problem-solving skills. Also, several researchers have highlighted that toddlers may understand the fundamental aspect of counting, and spatial understanding years earlier than we thought.4,6

High-quality STEM learning experiences and opportunities pave the way for later success in school and in the workplace.7,8 Recognizing that children can start learning the fundamentals of STEM concepts at such a young age, it is important to ensure that young children with a wide range of abilities and from a variety of social backgrounds have access to and can fully participate in high-quality STEM learning opportunities. Children with disabilities often demonstrate a lower level of achievement in STEM not because they cannot learn STEM but because they have fewer STEM opportunities in their home or school.9 By the time children are in high school, participation of children with disabilities in STEM courses is very low.10

Taken together, these sources of evidence tell us that young children with or without disabilities can learn STEM and should not be denied opportunities to high quality early STEM learning experiences.

 

References

  1. Clements, D. H., Guernsey, L., McClure, E., Bales, S. N., Nichols, J., &  KendallTaylor, N. (2016, May  31). Fostering STEM trajectories: Background & tools for action. Paper presented at the Eponymous Meeting of New America, Washington, D.C.  https://www.newamerica.org/educationpolicy/events/fostering-stemtrajectories/https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/events/fosteringstem-trajectories/
  2. Sarama, J., Clements, D. H., Nielsen, , Blanton,  M., Romance, N., Hoover, M., . . . McCulloch, C. (2018). Considerations for STEM education from PreK through grade  3. Retrieved from Education Development Center, Inc. website: http://cadrek12.org/resources/considerations-stem-education-prek-throughgrade-3
  3. Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum (2016). The Root for STEM success: Changing early learning experiences to build lifelong thinking skills. Retrieved from: http://centerforchildhoodcreativity.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2018/02/CCC_The_Roots_of_STEM_Early_Learning.pdf
  4. Wang, J. & Feigenson, L. (2019). Infants recognize counting as numerically relevant. Developmental Science, 22: e12805. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.12805,
  5. Gopnik, A., Meltzoff, A. N., & Kuhl, P. (2000). The scientist in the crib: What early learning tells us about the mind. New York, NY:  Harper Collins.
  6. Uhlenberg, J.M., Geiken, R. (2020). Supporting Young Children’s Spatial Understanding: Examining Toddlers’ Experiences with Contents and Containers. Early Childhood Education Journal. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-020-01050-8
  7. Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A.,  Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., . . . Japel, C. (2007).  School readiness and later achievement.  Developmental Psychology, 43(6), 1428–1446. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.43.6.1428
  8. Duncan, G. J. & Magnuson, K. (2011). The Nature and Impact of Early Achievement Skills, Attention Skills, and Behavior Problems. In G. J. Duncan and R. J. Murnane (eds.), Whither Opportunity: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children's Life Chances. (PP. 47-69). New York, NY: Russell Sage.
  9. Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC). (2015). Transforming the workforce for children birth through age 8: A unifying foundation. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
  10. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CDRC). (2018). STEM course taking. Retrieved from: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/stem-course-taking.pdf

 

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What do you think about when someone asks you about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) learning for young children?  

 

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By Hsiu-Wen Yang,  PhD 

Postdoctoral Research Associate at STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

What do you think about when someone asks you about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) learning for young children?  You may think: 

STEM? Probably not for babies.

“I think we should just focus on talking and reading.”

“Children need to play. STEM is too academic.” 

“It is too difficult for children with disabilities to learn STEM. It is also challenging for me to teach them STEM.”  

Last fall, we asked 29 early childhood STEM experts what were some misconceptions about early STEM learning they have come across in their work. We then analyzed and organized their responses, and searched the literature to debunk the myths and misconceptions with facts.

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Wednesday
STEMIE Center posted a blog post
Why is shared storybook reading so important?  How can we support children's STEM learning through storybook reading? This week, we invited Dr. Towson to talk about how to incorporate dialogic reading strategies into your storybook reading. Dr. Tows…
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At the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMI2E2) center, we are developing and enhancing the knowledge on the practices and supports necessary to improve access and participation within  early STEM learning  opportunities. But many…
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Welcome to our new storybook coversation series!



By Christine Harradine, PhD
PD Specialist at the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

By Chih-Ing Lim, PhD.
Co-director of the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Ed…
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