As I reflect on this past semester, I realize I have learned so much. This post is going to highlight some of the key lessons that have stuck out to me from ERCH 496- Curriculum Instruction and Assessment. Some are more serious than others, but all are helpful as I plan for my teaching experience. Enjoy the read!

Lesson #1 Consider the Rhetorical Triangle in all your communication!

The rhetorical triangle reminds us to make our presentations (no matter what media) engaging, informative and personable. Our audience will connect with us much better when we keep them in mind!

#2 Learn how to respond to children when you asked to pretend you are pregnant, invited for sleep-overs and find yourself as the object be fought over.

Children, especially preschoolers, can be extremely fun (and funny!) You may find yourself doing and saying things you never imagined for yourself. But respond with care and creativity. Their hearts are so impressionable and you will leave a lasting impact on them.

#3 Mix and match to create curriculum that works for you and your students.

From Waldorf, to Creative, to High-Scope to Montessori, there are many ways to approach teaching. I personally am a fan of extensive time outside and plenty of imaginative play. (Thus the picture of a friend and I in a tent). Learn different techniques of teaching and the philosophies behind them, and make a unique curricula tailored to your class. 

#4 Encourage Inquiry- Let children ask questions, and ask questions yourself!

Children are curious. Most go through a stage of constantly asking “why?” They want to know the reasons and the “hows” of life. But over time, the negative responses that children are given to their questions discourages them from asking. But questions are the engines of learning!

#5 Last, but not least, take the time care for your mind, soul and body!

Teachers are often busy and preoccupied with caring for their students and families. But you will most effectively support others if you yourself are refreshed. Be intentional to eat healthfully, exercise properly and engaging in activities that you enjoy. Maybe that means going to the beach to watch the sunrise!

I hope that you take some helpful information with you from this post. I could say much more about what I learned (like the fact that if I look tired at an 8am class, Dr. Powers may so kindly make me coffee), but I don’t want to tire your eyes. Maybe I’ll go do some yoga for some self-care, join me if you’d like!

Rethinking Homework

Is homework actually beneficial? What are the statistics on achievement and homework? Should homework continue to play a central role in elementary education?

These are all questions asked by educators, parents and students. As an educator, I ask these questions as well. I was home schooled, so I never had traditional homework until I began college. Thus, I’ve leaned toward the belief that very little homework or none should be given. I’ve thought children should learn academics in school, and then be free to spend time outside and with friends and family when school is out of session. However, I’ve wrestled with the potential that perhaps children need homework to let them explore their own academic interests and deepen their knowledge concerning in-class lessons. To learn more about homework and various perspectives regarding homework, I chose to watch a webinar entitled Rethinking Homework: New Practices, New Roles. This webinar is by Cathy Vatterottt, a professor of education at the University of Missouri- St. Louis. I found Vatterott’s presentation insightful and practical. I want to share the main points in the webinar and explain how the information inspires me to use homework intentionally.

The first point made in the presentation is about the controversy surrounding homework. There are typically two main schools of thought. One is that homework is good and important for learning. The other belief sees homework in a negative light and believes that homework is unhealthy for students and doesn’t help academic achievement significantly. Some schools are lessening homework loads because of complaints from parents. There is an economic divide that also influences views on homework. Some children are unfairly punished for not doing homework due to at-home situations that are out of their control. Another factor that has encouraged homework assignments to lessen the stress that it causes. This academic stress and achievement culture that is heightened by homework is what usually leads parents to actively speak against homework.

The second point is what the research says about homework. Research shows that homework is messy. Messy refers to the questions of Who did the homework? and Does homework enhance achievement? It is nearly impossible to answer the question of Who did the homework. Some teachers ask parents to sign homework sheets to signify that the child did the homework, but that doesn’t work for every family. Basically it comes down to trusting that the homework was done as intended. In regards to the effectiveness of homework, there is no correlation between homework and achievement at the elementary level. At middle and high school levels there is only a weak correlation. However, it is important to note that this does not mean that homework is worthless, but rather that there is a lot of ineffective homework given. The research does affirm that no more than ten minutes of homework per grade per night should be given.

Thirdly, the presentation focuses on what quality homework looks like. Homework should have a clear academic purpose, and promote competence and ownership. Assignments should also be time and energy efficient.When creating homework assignments teachers should ask: Is the goal to complete all the work or to show mastery?  One trend in homework that attempts to make homework effective is allowing students to make choices regarding their assignments.

Two things I want to take away from this presentation are the lessons on academic stress and homework effectiveness. I want to make sure that my homework is not adding to student stress. I also want to remember not to assign homework that will be ineffective. I intend to only assign homework that will help my students gain valuable knowledge, not waste their time.

Stay at Home? How can I Support my Child’s Development?

When Governor Wolf issued the order that everyone was to stay at home, your mind may have been running 100 miles an hour. You understand that the order is for everyone’s good and to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but you are at a loss for how to fill your days with your little ones who are usually at school. This post is for you, as a parent or guardian who has been spending all day, every day at home with your child(ren).

I grew up being home-schooled, so I was at home for all of my growing up years. My experience taught me that learning can take place anywhere and can be done in the most unconventional ways. I usually finished book work in 2-3 hours. Then my siblings and I learned outside through play. Our play was entirely unstructured, but we often based our play off of our thematic units in school. Following are some activities that we engaged in that your children may love too!

Teepee Building and Playing “Native Americans”

My siblings and I inside a teepee

Take your children to a state or county park, or head out into your own woods if possible. Let them build their own teepee and learn from their mistakes. Even children as young as 3 can carry sticks and lean them against a frame. If your children don’t know where teepees originated from, read them a story or provide them with a documentary about Native Americans and teepees. This activity teaches history, culture, science and engineering, as well as supports physical development.

Landscape Design and Archaeological Digs

Notice the tips of my boots as I build sandcastles with a little neighbor boy!

If you have a sandbox or your local park has one, take advantage of this resource! Your children can build sandcastles or create entire towns and farmlands. As a child my siblings and I would spend hours a time designing our own “properties.” Sandboxes can also be used to learn about archaeology. There are plenty of books that explain archaeology in kid-friendly terms that you can read to your children. You can then bury artifacts for your children to find, or your children can bury artifacts for each other. These activities promote creativity, social skills, higher-order thinking skills and much more!

Legos, Lincoln Logs, Kinetics and Food Art

My little sister building a cabin with pretzels and icing!

Some days are not ideal for outside play. Legos or other similar manipulatives are a great option for such times! Simply playing with Legos encourages creativity and problem solving. Manipulatives can also be used to teach social studies. Pictured is “Abe Lincoln’s Log Cabin” made from pretzel rods and icing. Your children can study structures from other places and eras and then make that knowledge more meaningful and memorable by creating their own structures.

A Question from the Field


Witnessing two little ones forming hearts with their hands was one of those good moments!

Eating a “baked frozen cake”, receiving a  little construction paper heart, accepting a friendship bracelet, running around the playground for “Duck, Duck, Goose,” dancing to kids’ songs, picking up beads that spilled all over the floor… a day at PreK Counts is full of little moments. Some are good, some not so good, but  every moment is a chance for me to learn, to love and to be loved.



One of my favorite experiences I’ve had in this classroom took place during morning circle time. The teacher asked me to find and bring to class a book about balls for a read-aloud. On the set day I talked to the children about balls and then opened the book.

Before the lesson no one was sure how the students would respond to a new teacher, but they interacted with the lesson and listened very respectfully to the story. Afterward we all headed to the gym for the children to let go of some energy. I also hoped that the class would be able to extend their learning about balls by playing with some balls during gym time.

Where are all the balls? The question entered my mind as I stood in the gym a few minutes after the preschoolers were let free to run and play. The children ran around, some chasing each other, some running just for the joy of running. But there wasn’t much else for them to do. Then another preschool class entered the gym and brought with them a big bag of balls. However, there weren’t near enough balls for every child. Some of the balls were way too big for the children to handle anyway. With so few manipulatives and toys with which to engage, I worried that the children might get bored. Another question came to mind- Could the preschoolers benefit cognitively, socially and physically if there was more equipment for them to use?

I decided to do some research. I was super impressed to find an article on a study concerning just what I was asking myself about- preschoolers and object play. According to the article, object play can support and aid in developing scientific reasoning skills and understanding of the physical world. Balls, for example teach children principles of movement (bouncing, rolling, etc.). But balls aren’t the only useful manipulatives. Blocks, sand, water, cardboard boxes and many other objects offer children a wealth of opportunities to learn and grow.

Now that I know that object play is important for healthy child development, I want to I want to make sure that the balls come out of the closet at the gym and into the children’s hands. Children have so much potential and their minds and hearts are so impressionable. As an educator, I want to give children the support they need to reach their fullest potential!

You can access the article I found on Object Play and Preschool Learning at