Essential Tips: School Skills for Families

Partnering with Parents for School Readiness

What is the most important thing that we want our children to remember about their school days? Is it following too many rules? Being told what to do? Testing, testing, testing? Of course not! And when we think about our own days at school, we remember more personal and experiential events – rather than test answers or when to raise our hands. Support for our children and their families as they enter their educational journey is an awesome and important reality for Head Start programs. How to make that successful requires thought and intention on our part. Consider these things:

Tip #1:  Developmental language may be new to families.

Not every family understands child development. They may not realize how the ages and stages of children relate to school success. Displaying newsletters, classroom notes and posters in a Family Service Worker’s office will provide your families with ongoing information about their children’s growth. Discuss their own child’s specific development at conferences or home visits. Talk with parents about what is typical and address any questions they have. Follow up with ways to encourage developmental stages with home supplies or materials as a great home-school connection.

Tip #2:  Publicize the great things that go on every day in your program!

Offer a training or parent event on the important skills that children are learning. Detail the sets of important skills –  social/emotional, gross and fine motor, cognitive and transitional – and give families a way to see their child as others do. We often slip “eduspeak” into our conversation. While it’s helpful to clarify terms, avoid it when possible. By giving parents an understanding of educational terms and phrases, we provide them with talking points for their first kindergarten parent conference and transition them into the public education sector.

Tip #3:  Start with success.

Parents have many strong supports already in place. They deserve validation and recognition for those successes. Give them an opportunity to answer questions that show how they work with their child at home: “What do you do at home to help your child be successful at school? How do you partner with your child’s teacher?” Help families understand that regular book time or a specific bed time schedule is far more valuable than any set of flashcards or purchased school skills booklet.

Working together with families for school readiness provides the most success as children move into elementary school. When families are comfortable with their role and empowered as advocates for their child, they will make an important difference throughout the school years.

Interested in staff training on working with families to promote school readiness? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at

Listen up! Setting the Stage for Reading and Writing

The Literacy Knowledge and Skills Domain of the Head Start Early Learning Framework sets the stage for reading and writing development in school. As early childhood teachers, we must provide activities that lend themselves to not only developing these critical skills, but that also fully engage children in their learning.

Did you know that Phonological Awareness is a continuum of skills that leads directly to emergent reading and writing? Phonological Awareness calls children to listen to the sounds of our language from a whole word or sentence, down to the individual letter sounds in a word. Later, these skills will help children develop strategies for decoding words when they are learning how to read.

If you want to implement phonological awareness activities in the classroom, but you don’t know where to begin, here are some great activities to get started.

  • Focus on a nursery rhyme or poem every week. Write it on chart paper or poster board and, each day, read it together, making sure that you point to the words as you read it and plan different ways that you can play with the words (for example, hum the rhyme or poem or have the children listen for specific sounds).
  • Use counting, tapping, clapping and jumping to segment a word into syllables.
    For example: cupcake = cup – cake = 2 syllables
  • Play fun word games that manipulate phonemes by removing, adding or substituting sounds in a word or sentence.
    For example: “Let’s play the MISSING game!”
    Can you say “smile” without the /m/; or say “bat” without the /b/“)?

Interested in early literacy, phonological awareness and how to effectively implement it in your classrooms? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at

Creating Highly Engaging Training for Your Staff

Having a comprehensive training plan for your staff is essential, but it’s not everything.  The training must also be highly engaging so that learning occurs.  We recommend utilizing a “learning by doing” training methodology.  Make your training highly interactive so that the participants experience the information that is being presented.  This results in high impact learning, in which the training participants take back the information that they learned and implement it immediately.  When planning training for your staff, consider the following:

Have regular professional development opportunities throughout the year.  People take in new information a little at a time.  While Pre-service is a good time to provide staff with training, it’s just a few days of the year.  Instead of presenting a lot of information at once, create multiple training opportunities for staff.  Create a layered plan to provide training to staff throughout the year – once a month if you can.  Lay a foundation of learning and then build on it – a little at a time.  This allows for effective learning.

Use a combination of training techniques to engage all types of learners.  Since everyone absorbs information differently, it’s important to present information in a variety of learning styles.  We find that the most successful technique is a combination – presenting the new information followed by interactive experiences.  Begin by sharing the information via lecture using a powerpoint presentation.  Follow it up with a high level of interaction – lively discussion and hands-on activities for participants to “experience” the new information and put it into practice.  Small group activities, pair and share, role plays as well as question and answer sessions are a few good ways to engage the participants.

Offer opportunities for staff to learn from each other.  Provide occasions for small groups of Teachers, small groups of Family Service Workers or small groups of other like staff to spend time together.  Offer them time to get together and talk, share ideas and brainstorm.  Give them a challenging topic to explore.  They can share successes and challenges with each other – as well as strategies to address those challenges.  Whether it’s bouncing ideas off of each other, sharing strategies, or just helping each other work through an issue – peers can learn a lot from each other.  Connecting with a community of like staff builds a supportive work environment.

Interested in highly engaging training for your staff?  Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at