Friday, December 16, 2011

It's Beginning to look a lot like...

We are pleased to introduce our new blogger, Jessica Larson, or more appropriately SuperJessica.   She just happens to also be our webmaster, one of our most beloved teachers, and a parent to two of our TLS kiddos (one of whom will most definitely be offended if it is not pointed out that he is a TLS ALUMNI).  Jessica brings with her a wealth of experience and talents - including, (but not limited to!), photography, multi-media, technology, fine arts, and graphic design.  She has an incredibly sharp wit, too.  Jessica brings these talents into her classroom, and intertwines them with her depth of knowledge of early childhood development, providing a vibrant and enriching experience for the children in her care.  

We are fortunate that Jessica shares these gifts with our school as a whole as well.  Her excitement is infectious and she makes those of us around her see the fun in what we do.  We are thrilled that she is going to be able to share her thoughts with our entire community.   She has the unique ability to offer perspective both as a parent, and as a member of The Little School teaching team.  We are so thankful you will have the opportunity to come to know her as we do!- Jen Dock

And without further ado...

What happens when you ask a room full of 3 year olds to tell you something that happens in December? 
"Snowmen!" says Olivia, (it's 68 degrees out, but we go with it). 
"and carrots" adds Lucas.
"Carrots?" I ask, "What are those for?"
"For the snowman's nose!"
"No," says Charlotte “They are for the reindeer”.
"Christmas!" they all shout. The room is getting louder and louder as the kids literally buzz with excitement. 
"Hanukkah." says Barclay
"aaaannnd" I ask, leading the witness,

I'll admit it, in the past I've been known to be a bit on the Grinchy side.  This year, my 11 month old is doing everything in her limited power to pull down my tree, and I'm not sure I can handle another round of Justin Beiber singing holiday classics. Enter the pure magic of the holidays. After spending 5 minutes touring the halls and rooms at TLS  to see what these real life "Cindy-loo Who's" have gotten into, and my heart instantly grows 3 sizes. It’s impossible not to succumb to the warm and fuzzies in this place!

From Shannon’s Peapods to Dana’s Pre-K, busy elves are hard at work making holiday cheer and sweet surprises. Ms. Val’s Zany Zoo has hung their homemade stockings with care, which the kids will fill with cards for one another. Ms. Lulu’s class is having their very own snow day, and Ms. Diana’s class is decorating an evergreen with “I Love You’s”. Ms. Arryan’s room is taking turns digging into Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, and Holly’s kids are sweetening the deal with peppermint themed art. Students have been spinning dreidels and cutting down trees, building kinaras and transforming rice and goo into adorable wreaths. Looking for a good party? Grab your tutu and crown and head to the Mighty Me’s Nutcracker celebration.  
Like much of what we do, these activities and experiences have genuine purpose. These kids are practicing everything from fine motor control, following multi-step directions, shape recognition, sensory exploration, math sequencing, taking turns,  all the way to exploring diverse cultures, navigating their social interactions, and gaining a deeper understanding that their world exists beyond their immediate experience. But lets face it: some things just look really cool covered in glitter. There is nothing more healing to this Grinch than preparing for all the different holiday traditions with the kids. It's a contagious glee, and finally a bug I'm OK catching.
Each family has their own take on the holidays, just something that MAKES the season complete. We want to hear them all. Do you bake shortbread with Grandma Doris? Leave your shoes out for St. Nicholas? Do your kids put grass under their bed for the camels on 3 Kings day? Do you drink unreasonable amounts of egg-nog lattes (me)? We want to hear them! Tell us all about YOUR family's traditions? And of course, however your family spends the holidays, be it with who-hash or egg-nog lattes (again, me) we hope it is full of all the joy there is! We all look forward to seeing you in the new year.

***Staff Spotlight shines on Ms. Valerie***
Our Ms. Valerie received her B.A. in child development, and has the quirky necklaces to prove it! Around the school she is known as someone you can always count on. Co-workers describe her as a dorm mother, fun-loving and always with a smile on her face. She has been married to her husband, Chris, for a zillion and one years, and has two teen-aged kids of her own. We asked her:
What was your happiest childhood memory? What makes it so special?
The Christmas my mother worked so hard so we could have a white Christmas. I was born and raised in Southern California, so it was always warm in CA at Christmastime. This year our Mom took everything; tree, gifts, food, etc. to the mountains. We went to Big Bear and had a fabulous time. Loosing both of my parents last year makes this memory even more special.

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your super powers to be?
Healing hands. If I could help people in this way it would be so wonderful. Oh, and I would have to fly so I could get there quicker. 

What was the best movie you went to see?
The Help. I had read the book (which was better, but not by much). I was very taken by the fact that this was not long ago. The acting was awesome.

What is your favorite children’s book?
One Woolly Wombat by Kerry Argent. It is an Australian counting book with very interesting animals. My husband read it to my son (now 20) when he was probably two or three years old. You can never read too much to a child.

What book has had the biggest impact on you?
Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck. He is one of my favorites and I love this book because as John and his dog traveled the roads they got a real flavor for a variety of human characteristics. When I read a Steinbeck book I feel like I am present and involved in the story. I also loved Grapes of Wrath, Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row.

What words do you live by?
Enjoy each and everyday. Life is so short. Marry somebody or be married to someone you can call your best friend. Your children are a treasure.

If you could do any other job in the world, what would it be?
Queen of England or Queen of someplace! Wearing a crown and jewels would be awesome.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Portfolios 101 And Davian is Second to None

The Little School utilizes the assessment tool, The Desired Results Developmental Profile© (2010). This tool is designed for teachers to actively observe, document, and reflect on specific learning tasks of each child. The tool provides teachers with information about the student’s development that can be used as they plan the curriculum, manage the classroom, and help each individual child learn and grow.

At The Little School, teachers record observations of children throughout the day. Notepads often travel in pockets and aprons, making it easy and convenient to take notes and capture these observations.

There are several types of observations: verbatim quotes, anecdotes of interactions, work samples, and photographs or any combination can all illustrate the various "measures".

While checklists have their usefulness, tracking your child’s developmental progress with The Desired Results Developmental Profile© (2010) allows us to really understand your child through a broader scope.

Observations track your child’s strengths and areas for improvement, as well as their interests and interactions.

TLS uses two forms of the Desired Results Developmental Profile©. The DRDP-IT© is designed for use with Infants and Toddlers up to the age of 36 months. The DRDP-PS© is used for children 3 years to kindergarten entry. This same tool may be used for children who are at least 2 years and 7 months and who are participating in Pre-School programs.

As you study your child’s portfolio (or the links below), notice some important elements of the DRDP© :

For the Pre-School measures go to:

For a condensed version go to:

For the Infant-Toddler measures go to:

At this time there is not a condensed version of the Infant/Toddler scale

There are four Desired Results. When a child graduates from The Little School we anticipate that children will be:
        • Personally and socially competent
        • Effective learners
        • Show physical and motor competence
        • Be safe and healthy
In order to reach these desired outcomes we focus on different domains of learning throughout a child's entire journey at The Little School . There are 5 domains in the Infant-Toddler program with 35 individual measures, while the Pre-school tool has 7 domains, with 39 measures. There are an additional 4 English language development measures for our children where English is a second language.

Each domain represents a crucial area of learning and development of young children. Several measures make up a domain, with each measure covering one aspect of development within that domain.

For instance, the first domain for Infants and Toddlers is Self and Social Development. A few of the measures contained in this domain are: Self Expression, Empathy, and Interactions with Peers.

One of the domains for the Pre-school is Cognitive Development. Some of the measures included in this domain are: Problem Solving and Curiosity and Initiative.

These measures are tailored to the developmental stage of the child. For instance, both the Infant-Toddler and the Pre-school tools contain the Measure: Identity of Self. For the Infant-Toddler tool this is defined as: “Child shows awareness that self is distinct from and also connected to others”, while on the Pre-school scale this measure is defined as: “Child shows increasing awareness of own physical characteristics, preferences, and experiences as separate from those of others”.

A child’s observed behavior is assessed along a continuum of developmental levels. For example, the developmental levels in the Infant-Toddler assessment range from Responding with Reflexes to Developing Ideas. Most measures have five developmental levels.

All measures in the Pre-school assessment have four developmental levels: Exploring, Developing, Building, And Integrating. If a child is not yet consistently and confidently showing evidence for a certain level, but is showing examples of moving toward the next level, the emerging bubble (found at bottom of each measure) would be selected.

Knowledge of the domains and accompanying measures allow teachers to enhance learning and to guide the classroom interaction and curriculum. Since teachers track children’s progress in their natural daily routines, it is not necessary to set up tasks or artificial situations to “test” the child. Rather, teachers seek out opportunities to observe the children as they move through both the structured and unstructured activities of the day. Observations come from the children’s interactions between one another, as well as adults, and from their activities and the materials they choose.

Observations are written from an objective perspective, where teachers seek to describe, not judge, the observation process. It is also important for teachers to remain neutral or “stay out” of the observation.

Teachers focus on what the child is doing and describe what is actually observed, rather than what they think the child is doing or what they think the child can do. For example, instead of saying that a child was sad when a peer took a toy away, one might say that the child cried when a toy was taken from them.

It is often tempting to write based on our own interpretations. Teachers at TLS are still learning to trade “labels”, such as “John is happy” for objective descriptions, such as “John laughed”.

Here are some examples of observations. Ms. Diana observed Cause and Effect in the following:

We were studying dinosaurs this week and had frozen some small plastic dinosaurs in ice. We invited the children to figure out how they could “excavate” the dinosaurs from the ice. Chloe tried several ways to get her dino out. First she thought light might work so she asked Ms. Davian to shine the lamp on it. She decided it wasn’t strong enough so she held the ice cube in her hands to see if the heat from her hands would melt it. As it melted she had fun splashing the ice-cold water onto her face!

Some observations provide evidence for several measures. For example:

Engaging an infant or toddler in a simple game of “peek-a- boo” can provide opportunities to observe the child’s development in Interactions with Adults, Memory, and Attention Maintenance.

When a teacher reads a book to Pre-school children and leads a discussion about it, the following measures can be observed: Relationships with Adults, Expression of Self through Language, and Interest in Literacy.

In the following observation, Ms. Davian observed both the measure Expressions of Empathy, as well as Recognition of Own Skills and Accomplishments:

John and a friend were both using legos when the friend became very frustrated and shouted, “I can’t do this!” John stopped working on his jet, turned to his friend and said, “I can help you. Look, I did all this in less than a minute.” The friend handed John his legos and after John attached the pieces, he handed it back, held up his jet and said, “Do you know how I started to do this? I practiced and then I was easy at it.”

Ms. Kelly observed Fine Motor Skills, Numbers, and Recognition of Own Skills and Accomplishments here:

Lakshman was working on his rocket at the art table. He was placing the stars carefully on the body of his rocket. As he did this he was counting his stars and told me how many he had. He said that they were very small and that he had to go slow to stick them on. He also told me how many stars he had and stated that he sure made a nice rocket.

Sometimes, two or more children may share an observation. Here is an example from Ms. Davian illustrating Impulse Control:

Nicholas was painting beside another child at the table. He lifted the paintbrush off of his paper, turned to the other child and held it over her paper as he asked, “Do you want any purple?” The child didn’t respond and Nicholas then asked, “Where can I put purple on your paper?” The child said that she did not want any paint and Nicholas added more purple paint to his own paper.

This would simultaneously serve as an example of the other child demonstrating Impulse Control as well and/or a beginning level of the measure Conflict Negotiation.

In the following observation Ms. Laura observes Attention Maintenance:

Vera was placed on her stomach underneath a mobile that makes sounds and has a hard plastic circle that has flashing lights and music. The lights instantly caught Vera’s attention. She began kicking her legs when the lights flashed on and off. Other children were playing and crawling nearby, but she kept watching the flashing lights on the mobile. When the lights stopped flashing she began to touch the circle and make her own noises. Vera continued touching the mobile and then rolled on her back to touch the top of the mobile.

Thank you for your Attention maintenance in reading this issue of the TLS blog!

Teachers at TLS are enthusiastic about the use of the Desired Results Developmental Profile© (2010). Ms. Davian sums it up well:

Observations are an essential part of our day. By writing and collecting observations we are able to learn more about each child's individual interests and development across several different domains, and then plan activities to build upon those interests. As we jot down notes alongside the children we promote the development of early literacy skills as children are able to see that writing is meaningful, and we're demonstrating to the children that we care about them and value their experiences. The portfolios are also a great way to make learning visible to the parents and gives parents a better sense of what their child is learning here.”

The title of the blog says it all:
“Davian is second to none.” The staff spotlight ***shines*** on her today!

Ms. Davian teaches Pre-schoolers with Ms. Diana in the green building. One of the many things that Davian is passionate about is travel and maps to help her find the way. How fortunate for us that she found her way to The Little School!

I love to travel and for as long as I can remember I've always plotted out routes to possible destinations, so when I discovered that there were a lot of children interested in maps I was thrilled! I brought in a few local maps as well as maps from one of my favorite places, the Pacific Northwest, and as the children pointed to different points of interest I was able to share some old travel stories with them. We're still trying to figure out what direction this project will take, but in the meantime we're exploring the purpose of symbols and colors in maps, noticing similarities and differences on various maps, and plotting out routes to various points of interest, including a route from The Little School to Maple View Farm! :)

Q&A Session with Davian:

What is your favorite movie?

Oh, its too hard to pick just one, but these are a few of my favorites in no particular order: The Goonies, Labyrinth, Spaceballs, Napoleon Dynamite and Forrest Gump.

What was the most interesting trip you have taken?

Last year I finally fulfilled one of my childhood dreams to visit filming locations from The Goonies! We traveled out to Astoria, Oregon and visited several buildings that were featured in the movie, and then drove out to the beach to see Haystack Rock, too. Now whenever I watch the movie I smile and say, "I've been there!"

What book has had the biggest impact on you?

The Hundred Languages of Children. It gave me a whole new perspective and respect for early childhood education.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you?

I'd rather they make it a cartoon; one without the 3-D gimmick!

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?

I'd want to be able to fly. That way I wouldn't have to put up with the hassles of airports or traffic.

What is something about you that most people may not know?

I have a very limited sense of smell. Basically, the only scents that my nose detects are the ocean and very strong alcohol based products, everything else smells the same...which comes in handy sometimes when working with children! ;)

If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Do what you love, love what you do!

What is your happiest childhood memory and what makes it so special?

I miss the sense of community from my childhood neighborhood. There were a lot of children roughly the same age, and we spent the winters sledding and building snow forts, and in the summers we spent many late nights playing Kick the Can.

What did you want to be when you were 12 years old?

I wanted to train sea animals, be an actress, and be a contestant on a game show. So far I've fulfilled one of those childhood aspirations!

What would you listen to if you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life?

I’d choose silence. There is no way I could remain sane listening to the same song for the rest of my life.

What do you value most or hold most dear at TLS?

TLS values each teacher’s individuality. Here I have the opportunity to design curriculum based on the emerging interests of children, AND I get to share the things that I love (i.e. baseball, stories from my road trips, and the adventures of my dog, Magenta) with the children and hopefully it entertains and/or inspires them.

If you were a car what kind would you be and why -- what color?

I would be a 2001 Burnt Orange Jeep Cherokee with wing windows because...well as the saying goes, "Its a Jeep thing, you wouldn't understand."

What's your favorite Dr. Seuss book?

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, mostly because I enjoy saying the line: “All the Whoos down in Whooville will all cry Boo Hoo."

What's your favorite tree?

The hollow one that I got stuck inside years ago when I was a child. It was a little upsetting and embarrassing at the time, but it makes for a great story these days!

You can find out more about Davian @:

Thank you to Davian for her dedication and for sharing so much of herself with our TLS Pre-schoolers!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

You Did It TLS (And so did you Ms. Susan!)

As any of you regular TLS blog readers may know, Conscious Discipline, a classroom management system developed by Dr. Becky Bailey, is a favorite blog topic.

Conscious Discipline begins with learning and practicing the 7 Powers of Self-Control. These powers shift the focus of interactions from blame to solutions, from punishment to teaching, from fear to love.

We have introduced two of these powers: Composure = becoming the person you want to be and Encouragement = building a school family.

I recently spoke to Arryan who teaches with Paige and Cicely in the yellow building. I was inspired to highlight a very touching and tangible piece of “Encouragement” in her classroom. It involves noticing the children’s accomplishments and encouraging them by describing their actions.

Becky Bailey says when you notice children without judging them, you introduce unconditional love and acceptance into their lives. When you notice how a child is fulfilling his/her commitments, and describe exactly what they did, while offering encouragement, the child experiences positive self esteem and resiliency.

There is a basic formula for noticing children’s contributions to others in the school family or even just ways in which they may successfully help or regulate themselves:

"You (describe what they did), so (describe how they helped others). That was helpful (or kind)."

EX: "Deborah, you showed your friends 'ballooning' so that they could relax. That was helpful!"


“Johnny, you held the door open so all children could walk through without bumping each other. That was helpful.”


"Edgar, you built a tower with blocks. You did it!"

Arryan’s classroom incorporates a “You did it!” board. The class uses the board for highlighting individual goals, as well as class-wide goals such as being able to settle in for nap on their mats. When there is an occasion to encourage by acknowledging goals and accomplishments, the children go to the board and place their picture (or in this case symbol) onto the board.

The day is filled with opportunities to encourage one another. When someone is spotted doing something helpful or accomplishing an individual goal, the teachers get everyone’s attention in order to share the accomplishment. Together, the class gives a collective thumbs-up to their classmate. Note the amazing thumbs-up (x4 friends) photo by Arryan, which is the photo that adorns their classroom’s “You did it!” board. Recently, a classmate was applauded with thumbs-up who was calm and collected when he spilled his water. He got up to get a paper towel to dry the spill without getting upset.

Through Conscious Discipline the children are learning the language of encouragement. They can use encouragement at home and at school. They can use encouragement for others and to support and encourage themselves.

Here is a great example from the classroom:

Sarah Grace was in her classroom getting ready for nap time. Three different friends were getting very frustrated putting their sheets on their mats. Sarah Grace walked to each one and said, "Don't worry. Let me show you how I do it." She calmly walked to each friend and helped them. After helping them, she said "I did it! I showed my friends and calmed them down!".

You can also teach your children to recognize their own achievements and nurture their cooperative spirit by helping them say "I did it" aloud. Every night you can incorporate “You did its!” into the bedtime routine.

You can allow older children and adults to say what they did during mealtime and every one can respond "You did it!". You can have a “You did it!” board at home.

Lindsey (Lulu) of the yellow building says:

“In our classroom we use "You did its!" for just about anything. It is a great way to recognize the child and their accomplishments. We have recently started using "you did it" to recognize children who are offering comfort to other children in need. If a child falls or someone is upset about something we encourage the class to check on the friend and offer comfort in various ways. The children offer songs, loveys, tissues and pats on the back as a way to comfort an upset or sad friend. We always take time to recognize the act of kindness in our classroom community. We also use "you did it" to encourage children in their daily tasks of using the potty, washing their hands, putting on their shoes, using their walking feet in the hallway and trying new foods at lunch.”

We all benefit from encouragement. In a recent staff meeting Ms. Arryan suggested creating a “You did it!” board for the staff. A board was placed in the staff room and in no time it was filled with uplifting “You did its!” from staff members.

One of the first was from Jennifer which read: “Arryan, you did it. You came up with the idea to use this board.”

What better way to teach the children about Encouragement than by “practicing” it on one another and incorporating Encouragement into our lives.

Paige, who teaches with Arryan and Cicely, wrote the following to her teammates on the staff board: “You did it! You are both inspirational in how you use Conscious Discipline! I feel lucky to have you both as examples in how to incorporate CD in our classroom. I love learning from ya’ll!”

More “You did its!” followed, including:

Melissa: “You did it! You made the older infant room look so much homier! Thanks for your creative style.”

-Ms. Yvette

“You did it, Arryan!” You invited us on a nature walk and everyone loved it. We appreciate your out-of-the-box approach.”

-Always, Leigh

Jim: “You did it. You kept the school from floating away out there in the rain and lightning with your rake and your galoshes.”

-Monica, Crystal + Jennifer!!!

Melissa: “You researched and found programming that is Reggio-like designed for infants, and you are helping to try and bring it to The Little School.” – Wendy

Here is a “You did it!” from Christa that requires a bit more space than is left on our staff board:

“It is always a challenge to open a new classroom. No matter how much support and encouragement we have during the process, it is just plain stressful in the moment. Period.

We have recently reconfigured our Infant Program in order to welcome the newest members of many of our current families. There was a huge need for the infant spots. A reconfiguration had to happen.

In the process of the reconfiguration, we opened five new classrooms. This was an enormous task that required the cooperative efforts of five Lead Teachers, eight Teachers, four Support Staff, and Two Directors. This team came together with very little time to smoothly execute the move. In order to be ready to welcome the children the teams needed to:

Move furniture

Re-stock and decorate all five of the classrooms

Contact and coordinate with all of the new families

Organize all of the children's belongings

AND be ready to welcome the children and parents... nearly overnight.

In the end, the move was seamless, the classrooms are BEAUTIFUL, the teaching teams came together as cohesive and distinct entities.... And the children and families are wonderful and most welcome.

It is not always this easy to accomplish what was accomplished. In fact, it rarely is. We give a HUGE "YOU DID IT!" to everyone involved. We are so impressed and proud of all of you. You truly did it!”

Thank You (in no order except the order of classrooms from youngest to oldest):



















Jo Ann



Finally, A “You Did It!” goes out to Chef Nate who steadfastly organized, ordered, prepared, and cooked food for our WONDERFUL picnic this past weekend that many of you were able to enjoy. In addition, we send out “You Did Its” to Todd Hannon (Spencer’s dad), Steve Dock (Jennifer’s husband), and Mark Vavrousek (Wendy’s husband) who worked all night to support Chef Nate.

-Christa, Jennifer, Wendy, Mary, and Joann

Hopefully as adults we can learn from Sarah Grace and not shy away from patting our own backs once in a while!

Feel free to comment and leave your own “You did its!”.


***shines*** on Susan Haley. She teaches the Mighty Me’s with Jessica and Maddy in the yellow building. She is very proud of her 4 children. Her two boys are in the military and today she enjoyed military family day in South Carolina. She enjoys her two younger girls at home. She loves working at The Little School and wishes that Conscious Discipline was around 20 years ago while raising her own children. She says, “I use it on my own family now and it works!”

To see Susan’s bio:

Q&A Session with Susan:

If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?

The Crazy Adventures of Ms. Poopen. (this is because Becket cannot say my name he calls me Poopin)

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you? Sandra Bullock!!

What is something about you that most people may not know?

Our family has just adopted a dog named Molly from the Paulson family. The Paulson's were fostering Molly while her owner was serving his country in Afghanistan. Molly's owner is unable to return from Afghanistan. Having two sons in the Military this touched my heart. It is a pleasure for us to have Molly. She is a wonderful six year old black lab and we LOVE her.

What is your happiest childhood memory/what makes it so special? My happiest childhood memory is when a group of girls in my neighborhood would put on plays for our parents. We would practice and make our own scripts from shows such as "One Day at a Time" and "Alice". We would use one of the girls’ carports as our stage. Sometimes we would persuade one of the boys in the neighborhood to play Mel. As a child I spent so much time outside with my friends running around for hours with no worries.....well, except who was going to play which parts.

What did you want to be when you were 12 years old?

An actress.

What's the best bargain you've ever found at a garage sale or thrift store?

Found a riding truck for TLS for a quarter at a yard sale.

What's your favorite Dr. Seuss book?

Oh the Places You Will Go

What's the best costume you've ever worn?

About nine years ago I made a Glenda costume for my daughter Sydney. It took me months to make for Halloween. She had the huge crown and wand. It was the hardest costume I have ever made. Sydney was Glenda and her friend was Dorthy. That costume lasted years in my daughter's dress up box. As a young girl I used to design wedding dresses. I always thought I would make my own wedding dress one day. After my Glenda making costume I realized just how much work goes into something so beautiful.

What's your favorite tree? Weeping Willow

What's the most memorable class you've ever taken?

Social Deviance with John Neathery at Alamance Community College, this class really took you outside your personal bubble. I made some life changing changes after that class for the better.

A big thank you to Susan for sharing, for her dedication to The Little School, and for her creative landscaping skills (to be viewed outside her classroom :).