June 14th, 2011 | 1 Comment »
“Não é o caso simplesmente de que a competitividade de outras nações
é amplificada pela proficiência de seus trabalhadores em uma linguagem
específica, mas sobretudo que sua juventude ganha vantagem competitiva e cognitiva
devido ao seu acesso à habilidade excepcional que acompanha o multilingualismo.”
(Jackson, Kolb, & Wilson, 2011)

 

Uma conversa de casamento incomum…

Mas estimulante mesmo assim. O tio de meu marido me pergunta: “Você não acha que o mundo seria um lugar melhor se todos os países falassem Inglês?”

Embora eu tenha certeza de que sua intenção é me levar a discutir, embarco na viagem com ele – contestando, lógico!

Como se meu desacordo tivesse fundamento no fato de minha primeira língua não ser inglês, ele refaz sua pergunta: “E se o mundo todo falasse português? Ou qualquer língua que seja, mas que todos falassem a mesma. Você não acha que as coisas seriam mais fáceis, que a vida seria mais simples?”

Minha resposta e sinceros pensamentos:

Simples, talvez, mas tão desinteressante! Privada de riqueza seria uma descrição mais própria.

Se eu tivesse que escolher uma coisa para apoiar nesse mundo, eu escolheria a diferença. Sou pró diferença, pró diversidade. Percebo o encontro com a variedade como uma das experiências mais enriquecedores que podemos ter e considero esta uma verdade em qualquer âmbito de ser humano. Até em ciência aprendemos que, quando em contato com o diferente, coisas se alteram: experimente abraçar com mãos mornas um copo de água fria. A água amorna, as mãos resfriam.

Mentes estreitas se ampliam

Mudanças, entretanto, vão além de adaptação ou reconhecimento da diferença. Por anos eu mantive a idéia de que a língua é nossa ferramenta para pensar. Assim, quanto mais línguas aprendemos, mais caminhos podemos usar para construir nossos pensamentos. Lendo este artigo defendendo multilinguismo, dei-me conta de que pesquisadores também apóiam essa idéia: aprender línguas ajuda desenvolvimento cerebral e pessoal para além da instrução e da comunicação, ou seja, multilinguismo nos ajuda a crescer, ampliando a própria habilidade de pensar e ser.

De acordo com os autores, aprender outras línguas também ensina sobre outros costumes, aumentando nossa percepção de nuances dentro de nossa própria cultura. Especialmente em um mundo em constante mudança onde o fondue* está derretendo cada vez mais, e as cores e culturas se misturando, essa sensibilidade é fundamental.

Jackson, A., Kolb, C., & Wilson, J. (2011). “National imperative for language learning” *in* Education Week, January 26,  2011.

*fondue aqui se refere ao dito norte-americano de que os Estados Unidos são o “melting pot”, ou panela de fondue, onde as culturas se misturam como os queijos do fondue.

November 9th, 2010 | 4 Comments »

Sad News

About a month ago, as I excitedly shared with a friend my journey of writing a children’s picture cookbook, I learned that “the New York Times had an article according to which picture books are over”.

I argued that it was not possible, picture books are a fundamental part of learning how to read, and pictures play a key role in supporting young readers’ feeling of success when pretend-reading, etc. He forwarded me the link to the article so, as soon as he left, I ran to the computer to read it.

As it turns out, picture books sales have been slowing down, and the article writer, Julie Bosman, assembles a range of information to try to paint a picture of what is happening to cause that. One of her findings was that  “Parents have begun pressing their kindergartners and first graders to leave the picture book behind and move on to more text-heavy chapter books.”

Although there was an incredibly long thread of responses from parents arguing that it is the schools’ fault, a few days after reading this article, I had an interaction with a 1st grader that saddened me.

A Light from the Field

Subbing in a charter school where reading is experienced workshop style, during which children have freedom to choose books that are ‘just right’ for them, I noticed one particular boy holding a chapter book in his hands. He had the bookmark somewhere around the first third of the book, but it seemed to me that he was just staring at the pages. I walked around, helping students get settled in reader’s workshop, supporting children who needed to make a choice of a book to read, or who had questions. After five minutes, that boy asked to go to the restroom. I granted permission, he returned a few minutes later.

As sharing is a big part of the reading experience, like Debbie Miller, Ruth Routman and others advocate, buddy reading is encouraged in the workshop approach. About ten minutes into independent reading, I announced that if they wanted to read with a friend, they could. The same boy, chapter book in hands, asked to go to the restroom again. That’s when I connected the dots.

I told him he would need to wait until recess, which would happen in another ten minutes. I added that he had two choices: he could find a quiet space to keep reading his book, or he could find a buddy to read with. I asked what his book was about, and he seemed to know, so I suggested: “How about you read to me? I would love to be your buddy and hear some of that story.” My experience with first and second graders has shown me they LOVE reading to an adult, they glow as if it is a privilege that a grown up is listening to them tell a story rather than the other way around. His response, however: “I… I can’t read this book.”

Where is the pressure coming from?

My heart sunk to think that this boy spent some fifteen minutes holding in his hands a book he could not read while everyone else engrossed in adventures and discoveries. I began to wonder where the pressure came from – it sure was not from the teacher: there were plenty of books leveled for less fluent students, who actually seemed quite proud and possessive of the book boxes that were, as they told me, “just for us”.

One of the mishaps of being a sub is that we take part in one chapter of children’s lives, which makes it difficult to really support their evolution and growth. Without the full story, I can only  hypothesize contingencies that led this boy to choose a book he cannot read.

With an understanding of the school’s and teacher’s policies concerning reading, I could easily fall in the trap of blaming the parents for forcing an early maturation of their child. However, as much as children are usually quick to embrace learning adventures, around the age of 5 they also become painfully self-conscious, if not about reading, about their performance in sports, or about whether their tooth fell off like others in their group or not. The consequence is that, if a friend moves on to chapter books because it is his interest and it falls into his reading ability, the other friend who is not thoroughly supported and valued for where he is in his own reading development will feel lessened. The same will happen if this child does not loose a tooth when his friend does.

What I learned from it

I don’t think that this picture book issue is about assigning blame; I see it as an alert.

As a reading teacher, my job just gained a new perspective: to advocate for the different styles of reading, and for the various types of writing. A novel is not a better book than a philosophy book, they serve different purposes. The same way, a child who reads pictures has different skills than the child who reads words. As Julie Bosman puts it: “Literacy experts are quick to say that picture books are not for dummies. Publishers praise the picture book for the particular way it can develop a child’s critical thinking skills.”

That does not mean one type of reader will not learn what the other knows, but as a teacher my role is to stimulate them to share with one another the treasures of their knowledge and to support both to grow as much as they can in all areas, to develop as complete, rich, beautiful human beings. In their pace, using their skills.

In “real life”, I proofread what my husband writes, and he helps me overcome my technological roadblocks. We learn from one another, but my strength is the word, and his is the programming.

October 5th, 2010 | No Comments »

“Os efeitos da educação infantil na performance escolar”

Li ontem um artigo no Child Psychology Research Blog a respeito da importancia da Educação Infantil (ou creche). Para aqueles dentre nós que já trabalharam com crianças pequenas, essa importância não chega a ser novidade.
Me surpreendeu, porém, que a pesquisa discutida por Nestor Lopesz-Duran, PhD, revelou que o impacto na aprendizagem acadêmica ocorre de fato entre crianças cujos pais não têm um alto nível de educação formal. Em outras palavras, crianças de famílias com um histórico de ensino superior aparentemente não se beneficiam tanto – dentre essas crianças, a pesquisa não encontrou diferença significativa de aprendizagem entre aqueles que tiveram educação infantil e aqueles que não.
Tendo estudado e trabalhado como professora de Educação Infantil e como Psicanalista Infantil, entretanto, eu vejo este tema também sob outra perspectiva, uma perspectiva que tem sido gradualmente mais reconhecida entre aqueles que se preocupam com a educação nos Estados Unidos.

“Fazendo as pazes”

Na revista Instructor de maio/junho de 2010, Samantha Cleaver revelou uma nova tendência nas escolas públicas americanas: ensinar educação socio-emocional. Segundo ela, escolas estão começando a perceber que problemas de comportamento frequentemente diminuem quando há uma dedicação sistematica de tempo para ajudar as crianças a lidar com conflitos, tendo ainda o benefício de melhorar a aprendizagem geral do aluno e subir as notas em testes – chave para fazer funcionar a política educational americana.
Cleaver encontrou e conversou com diversas pessoas envolvidas em movimentos, associações e organizações que promovem, ensinam e apóiam a Educação Social Emocional. Em alguns estados, inclusive, a Educação Social Emocional já faz parte das diretrizes educacionais.

O que eu penso

Lendo a respeito de como as crianças aprendem a interpretar intenções e sentimentos através de ilustrações em livros infantis para poderem entender melhor os sentimentos dos outros, de como aprendem a resolver problemas em vez de ignorar seus conflitos, e como a linguagem e comunicação têm um papel importante no processo de Educação Social Emocional, não pude deixar de pensar: Mas é ISSO que ensinamos na Educação Infantil!!
Voltando ao começo deste artigo, quando comento a discussão de Dr. Lopez-Duran: A pesquisa comprovou que o maior impacto da Educação Infantil no SUCESSO ACADEMICO ocorreu em crianças cujos pais tinham menos educação formal. Eu pergunto, porém, se há uma pesquisa que de conta da APRENDIZAGEM SOCIAL EMOCIONAL e sua relação com a Educação Infantil. Eu arrisco dizer que faz uma diferença enorme, sem relação alguma com a história educacional dos pais.

**

Cleaver, S. (2010). Making peace: Why social and emotional learning has to come first. Instructor. Scholastic:New York.
Lopez-Duran, N (2010). Day care and school readiness. Retrieved from http://www.child-psych.org/2010/10/day-care-and-school-readiness-closing-the.html

October 5th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

“Daycare effects on school performance”

Yesterday I read an article in the Child Psychology Research Blog about the importance of daycare: “Is daycare good for my child? Daycare effects on school performance”.

To those of us who have worked with young children and who have studied Early Childhood Education and Child Psychology, that is not really a new finding. What surprised me, however, was that the research discussed by Nestor Lopez-Duran, PhD, found that the impact on academic learning really happens between children whose parents do not have a lot of schooling. In other words, children from families with a history of higher education apparently do not benefit as much – the research found no significant academic difference between those who attended daycare and those who did not.

Having taught in Early Childhood settings and having worked as a child psychoanalyst, however, I see the theme from another perspective as well, a perspective that is becoming increasingly acknowledged among those who care about education.

“Making peace”

On the end-of-school-year issue of Instructor Magazine, Samantha Cleaver revealed a new trend in public schools around the United States: teaching social and emotional learning skills. According to her, schools are beginning to realize behavior problems often decrease when time is systematically dedicated to helping children deal with conflicts, with the added benefit of also increasing overall learning and test scores – which is the key to motivate policy makers to adhere to any idea related to education.
Cleaver found and talked with a number of people involved in movements, associations, and organizations who promote, teach and offer guidance in Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Even some states, like Illinois, begin to include SEL in their teaching standards.

What I think

As I read all about how children are taught to interpret intentions and feelings through illustrations in stories so they can relate to others, how they learn to problem-solve rather than ignore a conflict, and how language and communication play an important part on the whole SEL process, I could not help but think: THAT’s what we teach in Preschool!!!
Now, circling back to the beginning of this article, when I mention Dr. Lopez-Duran’s discussion: The research found that the largest impact of Preschool on ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT was in children whose parents had less formal education. I wonder, however, if there is research on SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING and Preschool. I risk to say it makes a huge difference, unrelated to parents’ educational background.

**

References

Cleaver, S. (2010). Making peace: Why social and emotional learning has to come first. Instructor. Scholastic:New York.
Lopez-Duran, N (2010). Day care and school readiness. Retrieved from http://www.child-psych.org/2010/10/day-care-and-school-readiness-closing-the.html
September 13th, 2010 | No Comments »

Innovating Children’s Lunchbox

As a child, I always served my plate trying to keep it harmonious, usually relying a lot on symmetry and the color and shape of each food item to create designs that would be as carefully eaten.

Today, looking for inspiration for my book, I found a blog with an innovative idea that made me relive my old habit – now turned into a passion for all things pretty in the kitchen.

In “An American in Bento”, Kashmirkat brings together the “ready-to-eat-lunch-in-a-box” philosophy and the care for aesthetics found in some fares of the Asian cuisine to prepare picturesque lunches using American staples for her husband.

In her first post, Kashmirkat tells us that her inspiration came from her daughter, who had been packing bento lunches for herself for 6 months. Such revelation made me think that, with layouts like the ones she arranges, children would look forward to tackle their lunch. Think of yourself as a child, knowing your mom prepared your meal with a special design. How eager would you be to open up that lunchbox?

Making it Fun With Cooking Tools (or Cooking Toys)

Like so many children (and my own husband) Kashmirkat’s husband has very specific preferences. To play with her sometimes restrictive palette, she uses creativity, coming up with different pictures each day.

Among the staples found in her photos, we often see macaroni salad as a background, decorated with flower-shaped carrots, green beans as grass or leaves, and ham-and-cheese pinwheels as accents. What really called my attention, though, was the shape she gives boiled eggs.

I had never before seen such things, and I envision it as a clever way to make healthy food fun: she uses molds to boil eggs into cars, fish, stars, pumpkins…

Children’s experience of the world happens mostly through play; that’s their default mechanism for absorbing and understanding  what they go through, and that’s their main language for communicating it back. It seems logic to think that incorporating a playful presentation of healthy meals may have the power to reach a child’s will to experiment different flavors and textures.

Keeping the Balance

The key, in my opinion, is to keep balance. I mention that because I have seen disproportionately bounty lunches sent to children at school. An adult-sized bento can be overwhelming and trigger rejection rather than pleasure.

Keeping in mind the child’s needs for vitamins, carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats is a useful blueprint for assembling an appropriate, well-proportioned, fun picture-lunch.

Daily recommended amount of each group for a 1000-calories diet (recommended intake for an average preschool child)

Personal Eating Rituals

Have you ever noticed how you eat your m&m’s? Have you ever asked your friends? Well, I have. My husband grabs a handful, pops them all in his mouth and chews them right away, already reaching for the next handful. I, on the other hand, put one at a time in my mouth, then I bite the edges of the sugary crust to open the candy in two separate shells. Next, I lick the smooth chocolate from each side. Finally, I chew the crusts. I love the thin crunch they have when the filling is gone!

We develop these particular rituals as we come in contact with different types of food, and some foods more than others compel us to explore.

An American Bento of my Own

That brings us back to the American bentos, that with its beauty and variety invite us to play with our food… Inspired on that idea and using the “My Pyramid” guidelines for a preschool child, I prepared the meal below. It has 1/2 oz of grains in the form of whole wheat white bread cut in the shape of a car, 2 tablespoons vegetables (the grassy pickled cucumber), 2 tablespoons fruit in the sunny tangerines, and 1/2 cup milk represented by the cheese string cut up to form the flower stems and the cloud. For meat, I used oven roasted ham. Look at the result below. How would you go about eating it?

My very first bento!

In time: If your child eats lunch at home, instead of presenting lunch in a box, how about bringing back the plate cover, still used in some 5-star restaurants to add excitement to the meal?

Contemporary design for plate covers.

March 5th, 2010 | No Comments »

“If we wanted to make learning to read and to write as difficult as possible, fragmenting language learning into several unrelated lessons each day would be a good way to do it.”

Allington, R.L. & Cunningham, P.M. (2007). Schools that work: Where all children read and write (3rd. ed.). Boston, MA:Pearson Education, Inc.
April 18th, 2009 | No Comments »

by Djamila Moore