Wednesday, March 08, 2017

What's My Role?

by Dale Ho

While it is passion that led me to become an early childhood educator, it is also drive to innovate and educate that led me here today. Over the years I have seen this role grow and take shape, with the implementation of FDK we have more options available to us when it comes to career choices and here in Ontario we now have a governing body, but in spite of the many steps we have taken to move forward in the industry one thing remains the same, while it is a rewarding career, it is still often overlooked.

It's no secret that early childhood educators play a key role in the most formative years of a child's life, the early years. Yet for many the reality is that things like salaries simply do not reflect the importance of this profession. This alone can have a domino effect on the industry. Early education undoubtedly faces many challenges today. 

So how can we best describe the multi-faceted role of the early childhood educator. 

We are advocates, there to champion the needs of the child.

Experts in every aspect in the development of the whole child. 

We are facilitators, communicators, creators and innovators.

We are partners in learning 

We are filled with compassion and understanding and have the patience of Job.

Our job is to nurture.

We are professionals by trade and leaders in the industry...we are Early Childhood Educators.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What Is Imaginative Education?

Just a few short weeks ago I learnt all about Imaginative Education thanks to Gillian Judson...Gillian teaches in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia.

As an educator I'm constantly looking for new and innovative ways to engage students, so as you can well 'imagine' *pun intended* I jumped at the chance to learn all about it from fellow educator Gillian.  Here's more on Imaginative Education from an article originally published on a really great resource and source of support for educators wanting to learn more.  

To get kids interested in a topic, you have to think like a kid. Your kid.

By Gillian Judson, PhD (@perfinker)

We all want our kids to do well at school. We also want our kids to be passionate and engaged in their learning. I’m sure there are times when you’d like to help your kids with their schoolwork, teach your kids something new, or tap into or ignite their passions.
Do you know how?
My work in education over the past few decades—and now my much more challenging work as a parent—has taught me a few things about how people learn and the circumstances under which our kids enjoy school.

It all comes down to this: people think about things they care about.

That’s right—our emotions direct all learning. So, we need to engage emotions to learn. To do that we need to tap into their imaginations. Imagination wakes up emotion every time. So whether you are teaching your kids something totally new, helping them with their homework, or hoping to reignite their passion for learning, use the following Tools of the Imagination to engage their emotions:

  1. Embed information within a story. This simply means, tell it like a reporter would—pique interest.
  2. Sing it. Clap it. Dance it.
  3. Draw mind pictures. Use words to describe an idea/concept in a way that creates a picture in the mind. (Be creative. What would it feel like to become this thing?)
  4. Move! Use the body to convey an idea (e.g. a gesture or a movement or facial expression).
  5. Identify patterns. Are there commonalities that stand out?
  6. Puzzle over mysteries in the topic.
  7. Notice what is super bizarre, weird, gross, extreme or exotic about a topic.
  8. Think about the topic as if it was a SUPERHERO—what would its superpower be?
  9. Seek uniqueness—what aspect of the topic evokes your sense of wonder? (in other words, how is this topic less ordinary and more extraordinary?)
  10. Organize information in different visual ways—charts, tables, webs, VENN diagrams, flowcharts, graphs etc.
  11. Find the human stories linked to topics—what person lives/breathes the topic now or did in the past?
  12. Change the context: Role play! What part of the topic can your kid become to help him or her remember or understand?
  13. Play. If this topic was a game of tag (or a board game or some other game) what would the rules be?
  14. Engage your kid’s inner rebel—what kinds of controversies are involved in this topic?
  15. Get involved. How could your child actually experience the topic/issue? How could he or she make a difference?

Here it is in a nutshell (or, the most important rule of all!)

To get kids interested in a topic, you have to think like a kid. Your kid.

Want to learn more?  That’s just a start. All of these tips are examples of an imagination-focused way of teaching called ImaginativeEducation. Each of these TIPS comes with a lot of suggestions and support—all FREE to explore at imaginED in our Tools of Imagination Series (

Dr. Gillian Judson

Dr. Gillian Judson is one of the Directors of the Imaginative Education Research Group and a Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. Her published work and teaching show how we can routinely engage students’ imaginations (pre-K through graduate school) to ensure effective learning across the curriculum. She is particularly interested in sustainability and how an imaginative and ecologically sensitive approach to education can lead to a sophisticated ecological consciousness. Her recent books include Engaging Imagination in Ecological Education: Practical Strategies For Teaching (UBC Press, 2015) and Imagination and the Engaged Learner: Cognitive Tools for the Classroom (Teachers’ College Press, 2015).

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Not Just Another Pretty Face

by Dale Ho

There are many really great literacy programs available to us today and with so many choices, choosing just one can become quite overwhelming. Some things you may want to take into account before making your decision include: Considering the needs of your child and your family. What is your child's learning style? Do they need an environment that fosters creativity? Do they need individual attention? Is there a cost to the program? The location and more.

The SJA Therapy Dogs "Paws 4 Reading" Program
This week I choose to highlight what is one of my favourite literacy programs to date, the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog "Paws 4 Stories" reading program.  It's what I consider to be the perfect pairing!

Leslie Jack is the provincial therapy dog advisor for Ontario at SJA, she shares a bit more about the program.

"The "Paw 4 Stories" program is a one-on-one reading program where young readers practice their skills while reading to a Therapy Dog. In the schools it most commonly takes place once a week with the same dog and handler, although library programs can see different children take part weekly depending on how the library schedules the clients.  The handler is always holding the leash and usually sits on one side of the dog while the child is on the other side of the dog. They most often both sit on a soft blanket or pillow, with the dog lying between them, although children are encouraged to "get comfortable" and make sure the dog can see the book and all the pictures!  Sometimes you will see a child on their tummy, propped up on their elbows happily reading with their head right beside the dog's head!  The child is prompted to read to the dog while the handler gently supports the reader "through the dog"  For example, the handler never directly "corrects" the child but will ask the child to "sound out or repeat a difficult word so Rover will understand it"  or they are asked to describe the pictures to the dog and point out details that the dog might enjoy.  If the dog closes her eyes, the child is told that the dog is enjoying the story so much, that she is closing her eyes to imagine what is happening!   We usually schedule time with each child for between twenty to thirty minutes, but that is not all spent on reading.  We always leave time for the child to tell the handler and dog about their week and to become "reacquainted" with the dog and handler and then after the reading session to have a some time to chat about the book they are reading, cuddle the dog and say good-bye to the team.  Our program offers no expectations for reading improvement.  It is designed to give the young reader the opportunity to read aloud in a safe, non-judgemental environment to a dog that does not care if they struggle with pronunciation, stutter or hesitate.  This dog is just happy to lay beside them and enjoy their time together. With that being said, we often see huge improvements in reading skills, self esteem and confidence and it is wonderful to see a shy, introverted child become a self-assured, happy reader, who loves books." 

Who is the program designed for?

The SJA Therapy Dogs "Paws 4 Reading" Program
"The program is designed for elementary school children from the ages of six to 10 years old, but older children and young people with special needs certainly are considered.  These children often have challenges with reading, struggle to read aloud and can have low-self esteem or suffer from shyness and lack of confidence.  They may have situations at home where the environment is not supportive to practicing reading or are falling behind in the classroom because of  weak reading skills.  Sometimes it only take a few sessions to get a child child over the fear of reading in front of their peers and other times it take a full school year for a child to feel good about their reading skills.  Every situation is different and each child is allowed to progress at their own rate."  

How can one bring a program like this into their school or facility?

"Call your local St. John Ambulance.  Contact information for every branch across Canada can be found on our website at  In Ontario we have 50 Therapy Dog Divisions and we are trying hard to keep up with the demands of this wonderful program.  Although there is sometimes a waiting period, we do our very best to answer the needs of our community and share our Therapy Dogs with everyone who needs them."

Everyday we see the benefits of incorporating programs such as these into the community in order to reach the diverse needs of our children, how can we support them?

"If you have a dog who loves people, is friendly and outgoing, enjoys new situations and shows no aggression to people or other dogs, come out and join our team!  We are always looking for good volunteers who realize the miracles that can come from sharing their dog with others.  It is a wonderful way to give back to the community and so very rewarding.  Although our volunteers give freely of their time, there are always costs involved in running a program such as this one.  From the cost of uniforms, leadership training, and evaluating new handlers and their dogs to travel expenses and supporting a healthy program, we are always dependent on the generosity of others to keep our programs out there in the community.  To donate visit our website at and hit the "Community Services" button.   There will be lots of information about what we do and how you can donate or make a donation to your local St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program, so you can see your money working in your own community.  We are always grateful to our sponsors and those who donate."

The SJA therapy dogs and their families
I'd like to thank Leslie from the SJA Therapy Dogs "Paws 4 Reading" Program and the many amazing dogs and their families who give so much of their time everyday to help those who need it most.

If you would like to help out in anyway, please visit their website at


Monday, January 16, 2017

Learning Through the Arts

by Dale Ho
I'm always on the lookout for new and innovative ways to engage students. By doing so it enables us to reach a range of learning styles, interests, needs and capabilities of every child.

"A child that is engaged will learn and an educated child is an empowered child."

One of my favourite ways to do so is teaching literacy through the arts. There's music and movement, poetry, mixed media, photography, dance and film. We can get even more creative and extend this learning to introduce the arts from different cultures around the world.

For example, when teaching the culinary arts we can incorporate science, math, literacy, health and nutrition into any lesson, and how about including a history lesson or two using a popular dish from a different culture.

I think teaching literacy through film has to be one of my new opens up a whole new world!

Through quality film children are still able to analyze characters, plots and themes, predict, make inferences, summarize, conclude and more, just as they would with a book. We can further extend learning through film to introduce production and technology.

When teaching literacy through the arts we are still able to meet the needs of varying age ranges and capabilities, possibly engaging audiences otherwise hard to reach.

By simply providing a variety of options to choose from based on interests, leads to increased engagement, achievement and increased self-confidence and self-esteem.