The Center for Educational Improvement

  Early Childhood Practices


In This Issue
The Arts and Multiculturalism
Daily Yoga in Preschool
National Middle School Conference
Teacher Institute

STEPS to the

Common Core

Washington, DC

 June 24, 2011

9:00 - 3:30

> Standards and 21st Century skills
> Q & A w/ OSSE rep
> Planning for depth of instruction -- breakout sessions for math; reading/lang arts; early childhood
> Expectations for D.C.

Dr. Michelle Croft (OSSE), Dr. David Silverberg, Kathy Ward-Cameron (Early Childhood), Kevin Simpson (math), Jaque Hayden (English), Dr. Christine Mason (21st Century Skills)

Fees include a copy of a STEPSTM kit. Discount with 3 or more from your school.

To register or info on fees and location -- 

    Logo RadiantChild

   Radiant Child Yoga    


Yoga for adults and for adults who want to be trained in teaching yoga to children.   


Sterling Yoga Center  

Sterling, VA   

June 9-12  

30-hour training

Level 1-3 



   Shakta Khalsa  


   You can reach her at




Services Provided

School Improvement Plans We can help you develop and monitor School Improvement activities to meet state and federal requirements. We are certified as school improvement officers in Ohio and trained in school improvement reviews in Washington DC.

Workshops and Seminars
CEI implements our unique "WOW! Factor" presentation style for interesting and vibrant workshops.

We also provide over 30 different training modules that can be formatted to fit your school's needs. Among these are workshops on: co-teaching, closing achievement gaps, global education, and the Response to Intervention model. We provide both live, in-person and web-based workshops.

Data Driven Instruction
CEI can assist teachers and adminstrators in training and implementing DDI programs into their schools.

Praxis Tutoring
We offer Praxis tutoring for teachers working on completing their Praxis I or II tests, as well as the speciality exams.

More information
Please visit our website for information or to arrange for a presentation regarding services.

Contact Information
Contact our Executive Director, Dr. Christine Mason.


(571) 213-3192

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 Dear Educator,


As the school year ends, it is often a time of reflection -- reflecting on what went well and what to do better.  This year many are also looking forward --not only to summer vacations. They are also scheduling time to plan for curriculum revisions during the summer and looking to the future and the ramifications for changes in instruction and assessment.  This year the focus of curriculum planning is the Common Core Standards.


This issue of WOW! Ed spotlights some exemplary practices in Early Childhood education -- something we urge schools to do as they become involved in the curriculum review process. Under ideal circumstances planning for the Common Core will include a review and revisions of early childhood curricula.  Whether it be best practices in multicultural classrooms in Chicago, or yoga instruction in Virginia and Massachusetts, there are many options for boosting the relevance of preschoools.  We encourage you to extend your planning and review down to this level.



The Arts and Multiculturalism in the Early Childhood Classroom

By Kathy Ward Cameron, Executive Director, Early Literacy Institute


   A Chicago-based Early Childhood team includes artists who perform in the classrooms and at family literacy events using creative, interactive formats to emphasize key literacy concepts. Key concepts such as phonemic and phonological awareness, vocabulary, and other oral language development skills are taught while enhancing awareness and pride in children's heritage. Not only are their performances rich in content, they are great fun! This team is part of The Early Literacy Institute cadre who support the growing number of state and federally funded literacy programs throughout the U.S

   Mama Edie Armstrong is a speech therapist and bi-lingual storyteller. When she shares one of herinteractive African-inspired folk tales, she begins by pulling fun stuff from her bag...a puppet, a drum and several other percussion instruments and props. She presents the story in a rhythmic sing-song style, inviting the children to join in for a chorus that is repeated several times throughout the course of the telling.  


Periodically she will introduce one of the treasures from the bag and hand it to a child to hold. Through the course of the half hour story/song, she will add movements for the children to do to help emphasize what's happening in the story.

   Soon all of the children are engaged...singing, clapping,stomping and repeating the now familiar chorus. At the end of the story she reviews and highlights the new vocabulary she has introduced. During her performance she glances frequently at the teachers to make sure they are participating, and at the end she speaks directly to them, giving them suggestions for building on this new vocabulary after she leaves.

   Another literacy artist, Mama Vaune, is a professional dancer and choreographer. She provides the same type of literacy-rich, multicultural experiences in the classrooms as Mama Edie, but with particular emphasis on movement and music.  

  When you observe her working with a class of three and four year olds, you discover that even her opening greet is multicultural: 

  "Good morning!" she calls.

  "Good morning!" the children reply.

  "What's another way you can say hello?"

 she asks.

She nods to a Latino child who says, "Buenos Dias."

  "That's right! Buenos Dias. That's Spanish. Everyone say that."

  "Buenos Dias," they all say in unison.

   Mama Vaune then proceeds to teach the children how to greet one another in Japanese, French, Chinese and several African dialects. She pauses briefly to suggest to the teachers that they incorporate the greetings into the morning classroom routine so those new words in other languages will be incorporated in the children's vocabulary. From there she moves on to teaching concepts related to the class' study of supermarkets.

   Then, using African dance movements, she invites the children to come along with her to an open air market in Africa where they will sample different foods that children there enjoy. As the children and teachers sway, clap and stomp to the rhythm of the song Mama Vaune has taught them about the African market, they are transported to another place, to another world.

   These two talented performers demonstrate how the arts can be used to not only enhance language and literacy skills, but to also help create a global community of learners. Ame!

Early Literacy and the Common Core Standards

by Carolyn Lieberg


   Anyone who has spent time in the presence of a group of pre-schoolers has listened to the role of language in their activities and their negotiations. They lay out plans, instruct each other, ask for objects, or inquire about goings-on. If one of them becomes mad or sad, another one might describe the emotion and give a reason.

   The importance of language development cannot be overemphasized, since it plays such a large role in determining the quality of human relationships. As the Common Core State Standards gain more traction nationally, some states and the District of Columbia are also looking at the years prior to formal schooling.

   The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the CCSS in 2010 and has drafted additional standards - Common Core Plus -- in both language and math that align with kindergarten standards. The hope is that teachers and care-takers will review the standards as they plan activities for children and help each child reach the goal of the standard before moving on to kindergarten.


            Pre-K Readers 


   According to the document's introduction, the "foundations of reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language development are formed out of children's conversations, informal dramatics, learning songs and poems, and experiences with real objects, as well as listening to and 'reading' books on a variety of subjects (Sege, 2010)."  In other words, quality play fosters the language development that will be expected by kindergartners. (The draft is available at the

   Early literacy development not only allows children to interact with family and with peers but helps them as they move into school and interact with new teachers. David Dickinson of the Vanderbilt College Peabody College has written about the manner in which children's rate of growth is linked to the teachers' ratings of their closeness to children. He cites that extended conversations allow teachers to learn more about a child and that a consequence of those conversations is that "children feel valued (Dickinson, 2002)."

   Macky Buck, who runs a pre-school program in Cambridge, is excited about the standards but wonders if some teachers will not realize how much they are already doing to fulfill them. "I would love to see trainings that help educators see how they are already doing so much, and how to enhance what they are doing. (Buck, 2010)"

   Clear guidelines may help pre-school teachers see how they are following best practices and where their programs could be adjusted. The engagement in the development of the whole child may mean that there will come a time when, indeed, no child is left behind.


Buck, M. (2010, 8 November) Response to Sege article below. Eye on Early Education.

Dickinson, D (2002, January) Supporting language and literacy in the early years. Kamehameha Professional Development Day, Kamehameha, Hawaii.

Sege, I (2010, 8 November) MA prepared to align pre-K standards with Common Core.  Eye on Early Education.



The Benefits of Implementing Daily Yoga 

Lessons in the Preschool Classroom 

By Sharlen Smith and Christine Mason



                           Mrs. Nelson's Class-Yoga  

   Young children often enjoy music, movement and circle activities. Music, dance movements, and finger-play can all be used as a part of yoga. Rhythms with sounds or motions can also be a part of a yoga session. For preschoolers, yoga isn't simply getting into yoga poses. Yoga often provides an opportunity for students to wiggle, stretch, laugh, and learn to follow a lead, responding to prompts to "roar like a lion" or "hiss like a cobra."    Teachers can use stories about animals to teach young children the yoga poses. The teacher can lead the circle in walking like an elephant or dinosaur. The students will enjoy moving into the poses of the downward dog, lion, and cobra. These postures can strengthen the core and stretch the body into a more composed state.   

   Breathing exercises can be an important aspect of yoga in the classroom. The focus of the breathing is to inhale big breaths, using the whole lung capacity. Teachers can lead children through rhythmic breathing, which can have a calming effect.  

     Chanting provides another opportunity for students to follow a lead and experience the effects of a common yogic practice. With chanting, teachers can provide syllables or words for the students to say together in an extended vocalization -- actual words or single syllables. This practice actually uses the vibrations of the sound to help children focus or relax.

   Teachers who teach yoga have the advantage of also gaining benefits during instruction.  As Ceallaigh puts it: "Teaching beats on both body and soul in ways that most people do not fathom." Teachers who practice yoga have a technology to lower their own stress rates,  engage students, create a balance and developmentally appropriate practices, and lower student anxiety, frustration, and misbehaviors. Teachers can create a more soothing learning environment by being practitioners of yoga themselves.    

   Any teacher who wants to teach yoga in his or her class can begin by attending yoga classes aimed at instruction of young children, and they will gain practice for themselves as well. (See the article below and the announcement to the left  for a Radiant Yoga Teacher class in June in the DC area. Radiant Yoga is taught by Shakta Kaur, an international yoga teacher.) For some, certification may be the next step.   



   Follow this link to see the website about children's yoga and to see the lesson plans: 


Another opportunity to investigate is Yokids located in Lincolnville, Maine ( ). The program offers yoga and Teacher Trainings in public and private schools in Midcoast Maine. They have been teaching in the schools for seven years. Currently they have sixteen schools in the program.


Additional sources are available on line. 


Babar's Yoga for Elephants

Yoga Games for Children

Yoga Zoo Adventure

Yoga Kids

Fly Like a Butterfly

Storytime Yoga



Feeling Good Today

Children's Yoga Songs and Meditations

Dance for the Sun


This article was based, in part, on the journal entry:  Ceallaigh, Maryclaire. "The Effect of Daily Yoga on Students in a Self-Contained Classroom for Children with Emotional Disabilities: A Literature Review." The Virginia Council for Exceptional Children (VA CEC) Research to Practice: K-12 Scholarship Journal 1.1 (2010): 5-19. Web. <>.

 Yoga Video: Fly Like a Butterfly! 

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Yoga Opportunity -- June 9-12


   If you are new to yoga or if you practice it regularly and would like to gain certification for teaching children, you have the opportunity to enroll in the 30-hour level 1-3 training that will be offered soon in Sterling, Virginia by Shakta Kaur, an international yoga teacher and developer of Radiant Child Yoga. This training, suitable for parents, teachers, grandparents, day-care employees, anyone who works with children, will offer the experiences and guidance needed to teach children, from infants to teen-agers.  

              Yoga Class 

   Radiant Child Yoga, which sponsors the training, was established in 1998. It is the only Yoga Alliance-approved certification courses for children and families. The training offers techniques that parents and teachers may use as they guide children into poses and demonstrate breathing techniques. While learning techniques, of course, participants will also gain the appreciation of the multiple effects of the practice.

   You can register at this site, locate an informational flyer and watch videos here:  

    Participants will interact and are urged to bring questions and concerns about their own particular uses of yoga or yoga in the classroom.  

   Radiant Child Yoga is presenting teacher training at the Sterling Yoga Center in Sterling, VA, on June 9-12. Teachers on this list or those registered for CEI's June 24 workshop will receive an additional $50 off the already-reduced fee ($100 reduction because the session is being videotaped).

Inquiry based approaches to the Common Core

Whether it is at the high school or preschool level, implementing the Common Core provides an opportunity to revamp educational practices.  While the Common Core will require students to have a "deeper understanding" of academic content, the Common Core also provides a challenge to educators to make content and instruction more relevant and more exciting to students.

States have resources on the Common Core on their web sites. Major organizations also have resources.  With technical assistance supports, schools will have guidance to alleviate many of the faults of the current standard-based approach. However to do so requires creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking -- the 4 cs-- for planners, implementers, and students. CEI urges schools and districts to keep their eye on "inquiry" as they proceed down the path to the Common Core.  

Christine Mason
Center for Educational Improvement
This newsletter has been provided to you by the Center for Educational Improvement as per our mailing list.
Please contact Lauren Lomsdale with corrections or comments at
This newsletter has been provided to you by the Center for Educational Improvement as per our mailing list.
Please contact Lauren Lomsdale with corrections or comments at