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01/16/2010

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Crystal Jigsaw

I've just commented on BMB and it seemed to eat my comment!!

I am in favour of doing this so long as it is done in a fun way offering encouragement and a way to teach the children that achievement will mean success. It doesn't have to be done acedemically. I am of the opinion that children should be allowed to be children for as long as possible, unfortunately they grow up too fast as society dictates. But if it's carefully considered for each individual child, remembering all children are different and learn at different levels, then I think it would be a good idea.

karen

Really appreciate you perservering and getting your comment to me. I was thinking that the achievement card would be non judgemental and a "celebration" or memento of what had been achieved. My concern is that this will not be the perception!

Cathy via British Mummy Bloggers

Hi Karen - it's an interesting question you've posted. I'm a childminder so I work to the EYFS framework and am required by Ofsted to observe and record children's development - but how I do this is up to me. I personally really don't like using prescribed milestones or checklists as all children are different, have skills in different areas and grow at different rates. What I do is record what the children are doing as individuals. They have their own book which I call 'look what I can do' which I fill with photos of them doing all sorts of things, samples of their art work, notes I've made about things they've said and so on. It captures what they are doing naturally. I then use this to reflect on what I can do to support them to develop further. If I used a checklist I might miss things they're doing spontaneously and I would be trying to fit them to a set programme - which of course isn't how children grow. My parents love these books too - some add them to their child's memory box as a keepsake. (And Ofsted rate me as 'outstanding' so they are happy with my method of recording)

Thinking about your classes, as a parent I would prefer a termly newsletter telling me what the group had been up to, with some great photos rather than a system where my child was being measured against a set of expectations. I'd much prefer the joining in and having fun was celebrated instead of thinking of my child as being measured.

I'm interested to hear what everyone else thinks.

Grit via British Mummy Bloggers

well you'll get a totally unbiased viewpoint from me! ;0)

one day i walked into the nursery and the adult was sitting at a desk with shark. shark was piling up blocks, one on top of the other. i do not know whether shark was doing that spontaneously, or whether the adult had asked her to 'demonstrate' how she would make a tower. the important thing for me was, that in the few minutes i watched, trying to work out what was happening, the adult did not speak to shark. she referred to a pad of paper, drew her pen down, made a mark, and looked back to shark, who was looking at her. the interaction was strained, artificial, tense, and i was ****ing furious. when the adult saw me, she covered up the paper with her hand.

why did i get so cross? i realised this is what a proscribed curriculum does: it structures the relationship between the adult and the child at a detailed and subtle social level. so the adult is not longer there to play/chat/ involve themselves and learn alongside. they were there to monitor, check, assess, record.

do i believe it supported in any way my child's learning? or communicated something to me i did not already know? not at all. it was there to comply with an agenda imposed on the school; the school would then be subject to an ofsted routine, which would then feed into a county statement and uk statistic. where is anyone's interest in my child?

children love to set their own agendas; be in control of what they do; be proud of achieving something that they could not do before. they are self-directed, self-aware people. why are we making them jump through hoops for someone else's convenience?

i withdrew my kids from nursery because i wanted them to be free to play. i have not regretted that decision, and now we have a child-led primary education. the achievements in it are truly theirs.

Karen

Thanks Cathy and Grit for your comments.

I agree with both of your views although am not sure if these come from a reluctance to have children measured in some way or another. I think that targetting pre-schoolers is ridiculous but am not at all sure that is what the achievement card is all about. The "carer" attends the sessions so will also being noticing the development. The card would just be a record of that achievement - possible a memento of it - and the process would be without any judgement or comparison. Nevertheless, quite clearly there might be a perception that there is some form of targetting or recording of development and in such a case I would be reluctant to do it.

Donald O'Brian Porter

I think it's a great idea. If you can offer a sort of Toddler Memory Album for the cards to be stored, it would be a great addition to those used already by many parents. You may also achieve this by using standard photo sizes so the cute little cards fit well in traditional family photo albums.

It would also be a great way to help market your activity group via word of mouth, parents love sharing their child's achievements with others.

All the best

Dave Maskin "The WireMan"

Report cards for infants? Not a good idea...

All you'll do is make the parent paranoid if little Johnny doesn't get an A in diaper management...

Brandon Webb

I think it might be a great marketing tool for the parents; however, that may not be best when taking the children into consideration. In some ways, the idea of achievement cards for babies and toddlers may wind up a stark contradiction for the children as they age. For example, some of these children will move onto youth athletics where in many areas there are no targets, no scores, no winning or losing team; everything is equal. Nonetheless, I think it would still be worth at least surveying the parents as to what they think.

Martin Thomas

My teacher used to issue gold and silver sticky stars if we behaved or did good stuff. We REALLY tried hard to win them. Not sure any of us would have done that for a report card ;-)

Linda LoCicero

Isn't that what our Baby Books are/were for?

Tina Carter

I have my own three children who are all completely different and have progressed at different rates, I spend a lot of time telling them that they are individual wonderful little people and whatever they achieve and whenever they achieve it is cool with me.

In my Musical Minis classes I have had many Mum's concerned that their child is not 'achieving' as quickly as another child - I tell them the same thing, they are children and they will progress far better if Mummy is playing with them and participating in a relaxed manner rather than worrying about what they're achieving.

Children grow up far too quickly and when they start school we have lost those precious moments where we can be relaxed and enjoy them for who they are.

Shruti Udeshi

Not a good idea. Activities for babies and toddlers should just be a fun learning experience, not a grade. Pretty soon these babies will be facing the grading system. Let them enjoy the activities and not introduce stress so early in life.

Greg Bamford

This might be popular with parents and therefore a good marketing tool.

But the behavioral research is clear: once the children understand you're giving them a certificate for their achievement, they will be less interested in the activity (e.g. music), persist less frequently through obstacle/setbacks, and become less creative.

Really. The behaviorist, carrot-and-stick model for human motivation - which is such a common sense way of dealing with the world - is really poorly suited for long-term success on creative and intellectual pursuits. It works in the short term, or on purely mechanical tasks, or for tasks with no inherent interest.

The new book worth reading on this is "Drive" by Daniel Pink. In one study he cites, kids were given certificiates to celebrate their drawing in preschool. The students given certificates drew less frequently and their work was judged as less interesting by a control group of artists. Similar research has shown similar results.

Children love music. Music is intrinsically interesting. They don't need certificates to make them love it more. In fact, once they aware may make them love it less.

Dan Joseph

Karen,
I have always been against "stickers as praise/markers of accomplishment," preferring to instill an intrinsic pride of accomplishment. That being said, I have seen teachers who successfully use stickers as markers. I think, were I still a preschool teacher, I'd use both. Just as kids learn in many different ways, kids also need rewards to come in different ways. Some may need a visual marker whereas others will prefer to feel good about their accomplishments without being "graded." It all comes down to the environment that the teacher cultivates around the stickers. A good teacher can make anything work, under any circumstance

Suzanne Tomlinson

I'm really not for this as I think there becomes an issue with parents and I don't think it's right that any child should feel they must achieve a standard at such an early age. I understand the principle of having some fun and it might provide and added incentive to stay at the class for longer, but I think in general some parents will get hung up on it and start getting pushy with children. Minis is such a lovely environment without this added extra that I think to go down these lines would diminish the soul of the session, it's about having fun and enjoying time one to one with the parent/carer that brings them. All children are verbally praiesed and I think they benefit a great deal from that and I would hope that to enjoy the sessions is enough of an incentive to stay.

Jacquie Sedman

I feel the idea of acheivement cards is a bad one. It would very much penalise the children attending who may have a disability of some kind and even if a seperate card could be produced for them they would then be being singled out and 'different' from the others in their group.
I agree very strongly with some of the other comments that once children are in nursery they will soon become part of the system and they are then 'recorded' for next 18 years or so. Having worked within these settings I appreciate how much precious time is wasted on filling things in and having less time for what is most important, playing.
Musical Minis does not need to add to the stresses that parents already feel about their children achieving goals, as they attend Minis for enjoyment.
In my sessions I stress to parents that everything we do has a developmental purpose yet the children remain totally unaware of this, and therefore the pressure is removed and they concentrate on what is most important, having fun and interacting with eachother.

We must remember that some parents struggle to acheive adequate communication with their children and at Minis we show them the way during our sessions, it may even scare off some potential business!

In addition to these concerns I feel that once the cards had been filled, the parents may feel they had outstayed their welcome and leave. Bearing in mind that many families stay with us for years! Even if new cards with new acheivements could then be created the cost to the business would be huge.

Debbie Caygill

I, too, am torn with this idea. I feel it would be beneficial for the parents, who are not attending the sessions, i.e. nursery sessions or grandparents/childminders bringing the child, to see what their child is learning from attending the classes. If I was paying a set fee for my child to go to a group where I was not attending, I would like to see what they are doing when I am not there. This would also give me the opportunity to do something with them at home that I know they enjoyed at the class. I feel it must remain light hearted and fun, making the achievments open for ammending. It must be a means of showing parents what their child has learned to achieve rather than a comparison of one child against the other. I am still not sure....I know as a franchisee, and as a parent who attended the classes, achievment cards would not have influenced my decision in attending the classes...I would have gone regardless!

Doug Hering

very much obsessive. You can hardly use elementary school success as a guide to who will be successful in life. Backing that up to preschool and infants borders on insanity.

I write at www.charterinsights.blogspot.com,(named by Jay Mathews of The Washington Post as one of the top 20 education blogs to read in 2010) I'm also the Colorado Charter School Examiner at www.examiner.com.

Amit Gupta

Achievement cards for toddlers – that’s too much too soon.

For competition to bear the right fruits, individuals involved should be able – themselves or through assistance from others – to understand what it entails and have the ability to adequately deal with the outcome without adverse impact. With age, we understand that the process is as important as is the outcome. And develop the ability to withstand the pressure of not-being successful, particularly in social settings.

However, toddlers are still some distance from developing the thinking process and emotional maturity to deal with competition. An achievement card then may emphasize the outcome at the cost of much else. In subtle ways, it may also steer the child away from a cooperative effort – equally important if not less – and learning to winning. Given our life spans, I think there is a lot of time for them to compete and win.

Faith Morgan

Hi, Karen.

I think there are two parts to an answer to your question. The first part you answered yourself. You "don't want to compromise your beliefs." I'll add to that, "especially when they are founded in sound developmental research." As you clearly know, stickers and other 'prizes' merely distract the child's attention toward acquiring the prize rather than focusing on the real prize which is learning. Folks who sell these "prizes" for a living will, of course, say otherwise.

The second part may be a clarification of what is meant by "tracking and sharing achievements." In your field, tracking and sharing achievements can be as easy as putting on a "show" for parents and family every so often. You could record video or audio of children and even provide families with copies. This way you record and recognize every child's effort and growth and, I would think, it would constitute a value-added benefit to your service. A blank cd costs pennies but one that contains life-long memories of childhood learning is priceless. Don't forget, this would also be a valuable tool for staff as they evaluate progress in each child. Just think how empowering it would be for a child to listen to his/her own practice session and decide what, if anything, they'd like to work on! You could store every child's "portfolio" digitally for as long as you see fit.

Those are my thoughts, in brief. Hope they are helpful. All the best in your business

Parisa Moradi

What a great question Karen!

I don’t think that acknowledging achievements is the same as setting targets for children. I also believe if it’s done correctly, then it can be healthy for preschoolers. Unfortunately in many preschool environments so much focus is put on the “sticker” that the point gets lost. I have seen many youngsters look for ways to earn the sticker without really understanding why they earned it (or didn’t earn it in some cases.)

Many federal and state funded programs are required to observe and record a child’s development; but following/meeting that requirement should not directly affect a child’s experience in preschool. I also don’t think that observing and recording a child’s development is the same as acknowledging the child’s daily achievements by handing them a sticker; although that line is often blurry!

We have seen a ton of research on the importance of individualized assessment and differentiated instruction for children. As many have already noted here, children develop and learn at their “own pace”…that development should not be rushed or judged by a set of requirements. Doing an in-take evaluation to determine a “baseline” for the child, and then documenting growth through continuous observation will satisfy most requirements. Then the sticker business can be implemented in a fun way to encourage good manners, personal integrity, and citizenship. Adults must consistently model such behavior, and then immediately acknowledge it when a child demonstrates repeats it.

Cathy Puett Miller

Karen, Faith is absolutely on target. If you want to read some research, look at Dr. John Guthrie. He is one of the few that has studied the role of motivation and intrinsic (withing) and extrinsic (outside) rewards and acknowledgements. We over emphasize the "here's a sticker" thing. I do believe it is most important to understand the various spectra children develop through in the various domains (my strength is literacy for example and I know that the phonological awareness spectrum normally begins about 3 and opens up primary through age 6. It's like a swimming pool however, with children developing normally at different points in the spectrum. The main thing is movement and progress. Portfolios are a great way to document that and put "treasures" away with the help of the child which show their progress. Knowing the spectrum helps us also to determine when early intervention would be beneficial. Guidelines; no strict checklists that over structure the process of learning.

Cathy Puett Miller AKA The Literacy Ambassador
Author of 'Anytime Reading Readiness for parents of children ages 0-3' and 'Before They Read for Preschool and kindergarten teachers' http://maupinhouse.com/index.php/authors/cathy-puett-miller.html

 Bernadette Elwin

There are no easy answers on this one. On one hand, you would want to praise a child whenever he/she meets a milestone or does a great job. A sticker could be a great incentive. But somehow, the child would focus on getting a sticker at all costs and lose sight on the overall process of achieving a particular goal. In my class, one of student was happy that she was able to write her name; another was happy to have mastered cutting along the lines. No was sticker was given; just my acknowledgement for a job well done. As Cathy and Faith have pointed out, it is the process that counts.

Linda Kimura (The Babies Can't Wait Lady)

Achievement cards are the absolute opposite of screenings and assessments done to see where a child is developmentally and what can be done to help the child succeed. Achievement cards: NO. Screenings and assessments: YES

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