Opening Minds Early Education Curriculum & Instruction

Series of Continuing Education Courses

Opening Minds Early Education Curriculum & Instruction Series: What is the purpose of school? What are today’s real-life performance expectations? Expectations about what children ‘should’ know and be able to do by the time they are ready for their first paying job is changing at a rapid pace. How are we keeping up with these expectations? One way to examine how we are keeping pace is by looking at our curriculum and instruction goals. Have you made the shift from uniformity and conformity to curricular goals which allow problem solving, collaboration, creativity and innovation to flourish? Do we need to change the way our classrooms are set up and how we teach?

The 2019 Early Education Curriculum and Instruction Series provides a roadmap to student engagement and teaching problem solving. Disciplinary Literacy, Reggio, and STEM are a few of the areas we will cover. We can’t forget the importance of building a solid base of knowledge. Children are born learning. With that in mind, we have included an Infant & Toddler four-day mini-series all its own to provide the key ingredients needed for a responsive caregiving environment. Every child has unique learning needs. Let us lend support and information to include children with special needs, and to offer immediate use ideas to walk away refreshed and ready-to-go when you return to your programs and schools.

Preview of Sessions Planned


Intro Session: The Elements of the Reggio Emilia Approach Defining Elements including, Image of the Child, The Environment, Transformational Materials, Documentation, Studies, and Role of the Parent. Each of the elements will be explored individually and subsequently integrated into presentations throughout the day.


The Learning Environment

Teachers individually and collectively collaborating to create unique environments that support children’s inquiry. Elements of nature, light, levels, reflection, and boundaries will be discussed and shared with striking images. Time for discussion and support for participants’ application of ideas in their own context.


A Materials Survey:

Transformational Materials Workshop-Paper

Attendees will participate in an in depth encounter with paper as a transformational material, discussions and support for developing mini-studios in classrooms, and a studies revolving around clay and paint explorations supporting social-emotional learning and community building.


A Teacher-Parent-Child Materials Collaboration Story                                                                                  

How watercolors and paper facilitated healing a community, (SEL)


Role of the Parent:

A Reggio Inspired Approach to a Parent-Toddler Group

A parent child playgroup blossoms when environment and observations are reflected on and radically reset to create a space of wonder for toddlers.


Parent Orientation: The Entrée to Parent Involvement in a Reggio-Inspired setting

Parents connecting with children in the first days of school to investigate the idea and importance of Identity through literacy and materials.


The Role of the Study                                                                                                                       

The Velma Thomas ECC staff, children and parents, embark on year-long study of the community as experienced in McKinley Park. Teachers will share individual studies inspired by children’s year-long explorations of a city park, to include all aspects of the Approach. Areas of focus include a study of trees, squirrels, ducks, photography, magic, color, etc.


Professional Development: A session for Program Leaders 

A discussion and sharing of cycles of learning for teachers, parents, and children, internally in the school through professional learning groups meeting regularly to study and plan for children based on documented work. Additional resources and strategies to support teachers in integrating Reggio practices into their thinking and approach to planning for learning.

Morpheme Mastery


Presented by Rachel Turney, Assistant Professor of Literacy Education, William Woods University

Explore the importance of teaching English language morphemes across disciplines. Special emphasis is placed on the effect of teaching morphemes to students with dyslexia and emerging readers. Missouri has shifted to dyslexia identification and intervention. Education in morphemes and phonics skills are shown to improve brain function in children with dyslexia. This presentation will examine how to target early dyslexia students and teach morphemes across disciplines in grades K-12.

Opening Doors to Early Literacy presented by James Thomas

(CANCELED by Presenter)

Language Play for Infants (Newborn to 12 months) 

Little ones quickly become willing participants when they watch an adult focusing attention directly on them. Typically, non-walkers and non-talkers engage with their eyes and ears and react with smiles and intense staring. They want stimulation. Therefore, pleasant, joyful, memorable ways to accomplish this goal need to be planned and provided to promote awareness of themselves and others. The fast-paced program of body movement, songs, yoga, and signing may be replicated using the same or adapted sequence in a library setting, at home, or in a child care environment. Participants will learn ways of organizing a setting that will be conducive and age-appropriate; providing content that will maintain

interest and engage little ones; sharing activities such as songs, body movement, and books; and encouraging exercise and signing activities. Three offerings of this program will be discussed: “Baby, oh Baby: Books, Signing, and Songs for Expectant Parents”; “Itsy Bitsy Babies for Mothers and Others”; and “Man in the Moon for Male Caregivers.”


The Young and the Restless: Activities and Ideas for Captivating and Communicating with Ones

Young children learn quickly and easily by watching and participating in age-appropriate, meaningful, and well planned activities. The format of these activities may be applied to any locale, even the home environment. Activities based on research in learning theory that have been successfully put into practice with one-year-olds will be demonstrated, practiced, and discussed. Participants will learn ways of introducing concepts such as alphabet, counting, shapes, and colors; developing self-concept; applying selection criteria for “developmentally appropriate” book titles; using rhythm, movement, and songs in every-day events; integrating foreign languages with real objects; encouraging exercise and signing activities; and providing an opportunity for kinesthetic experiences.


Making Story/Circle Times Memorable for 2s, 3s, and 4s

Young children deserve to experience age-appropriate books that demonstrate early literacy skills. When such titles are presented using unique and creative techniques, this increases the likelihood that children will grasp language patterns and encourage usage in their everyday lives. Participants will learn how to identify books appropriate for each age; to present books in memorable ways; and to use songs and signing to extend story/circle times.


James Thomas has 30 years in youth services as a public school elementary and secondary librarian, a

university professor for 17 years in a graduate library school, and most recently 12 years of experience teaching and working to promote early literacy awareness with adults and young children. The specific programs for very young children were developed over these past years while practicing in the Pacific Northwest where Dr. Thomas was a children’s librarian and program specialist for these age groups.

“But How Can We Teach Literacy If They Can’t Even Talk?”

Presented by Christopher House Master Teacher, Neelofer Kanji

Research shows listening comprehension precedes reading comprehension. In order for a child to understand what they are reading, they have to be able to hear the language first.  Language learning results from experience. Children learn the language or languages they hear in their environment, so it is important for them to spend time playing and interacting with other people. These experiences build a healthy brain and prepare children for a lifetime of communication. The Language & Communication Domain refers to the child’s ability to communicate with others. It involves children’s ability to see, hear, speak, read, write and construct an understanding of things around them. From the very first day of an infant’s life, infants try to communicate and make connections with the people in their life to satisfy their needs for food, comfort and companionship.

Mobilizing Literacy

Presented by Jodi Case, Mobilizing Literacy Family Liason for Lyon County, U.S.D. 253, Emporia, Kansas

Is it possible to provide more Kindergarten Readiness opportunities in your community for our youngest learners? Yes! Make possibilities opportunities in your community. Build awareness, collaborate and impact early learning, family engagement & literacy!


Problem Solve Like the Experts.


Disciplinary literacy focuses on the ways each content area thinks about, discusses, and shares knowledge. This session will work with participants to develop an understanding of disciplinary literacy and how it can be integrated with problem solving in the early childhood classroom. Participants will leave with practical ideas for developing a classroom environment, planning for learning experiences, and interacting with children in ways that foster problem solving across different content areas.

Maria Boeke Mongillo, EdD Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership Coordinator, MS Program in Teacher Leadership School of Education and Professional Studies Central Connecticut State University

Preschool Problem Solvers: What problems do you want to solve today and tomorrow?

This session highlights embedding Mathematical Process Standards and content into the day of a young child. The learning of mathematics is active and engaging, supported by play and exploration of the child’s environment. Participants will develop an understanding of the Mathematical Process Standards, developmentally appropriate content and math vocabulary. Strategies for teaching this content and transforming the learning environment will be shared, along with activities to extend math learning for families.

Dr. Linda Dauksas, Author, Associate Professor Director of Early Childhood Education, Elmhurst College

Mathematical problem solving can be challenging for young children who are at the beginning stages of learning to read, write, add, and subtract. Emergent numeracy deserves the same presence as emergent literacy within early learning environments. Teachers of young children can provide developmentally appropriate emergent numeracy skills and problem solving as part of their daily routines. As emergent numeracy and problem solving are promoted, teachers also honor the active and multi-modal nature of young children’s learning and remain responsive to their families’ context. Embedding emergent numeracy in routines promotes intentionality in our teaching. Sharing these practices with families is empowering and adds meaning to young children’s learning.


Partnering with Families: Supervision Modules to support collaborative teaching

Dr. Jeanne White, Director of the Master’s Teacher Program and Professor of Education at Elmhurst College

Dr. Jeanne White, Director of the Master’s Teacher Program and Professor of Education at Elmhurst College has been an educator since 1992 when she began teaching elementary school in the south suburbs of Chicago. She earned her doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction in 2003 and began her career at Elmhurst College as part of the full-time faculty in 2005. She teaches the math methods courses for the teacher candidates in the early childhood and elementary education programs and works with in-service teachers in the Master of Education in Teacher Leadership graduate program. She has presented internationally, nationally and locally on topics of math education, specializing in using the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics in primary and elementary grades.

Applying a Whole-Child Approach to Teaching in Early Elementary

  Dr. Lissanna Follari Assistant Professor and Co-DirectorBachelor of Innovation Inclusive Early Childhood Education University of Colorado

Through vivid video examples and vignettes, whole child education best practices will be shared and participants will create shared understanding around evidence-base, terms, and practices in relationship-based education, whole child education, and child well-being. Participants will engage in dialogues and discussions around opportunities for whole child education within their own professional settings. In teams and with session facilitator guidance, participants will create an action plan for integrating whole child education practices into their own settings.


Using case method of instruction for teaching DECs Recommended Practices

Presented by Dr. Aaron R. Deris, Associate Professor, Minnesota State University, Mankato, and Cynthia F. DiCarlo, Professor & Executive Director, ECE Laboratory Preschool, School of Education, College of Human Sciences & Education at Louisiana State University

The session will provide an overview of the DEC Recommended Practices (DEC RPs) and Case Method of Instruction (CMI). The purpose of the DEC Recommended Practices is to help bridge the gap between research and practice by highlighting practices that have been shown to result in better outcomes for young children with disabilities, their families, and the personnel who serve them. Learn how to use CMI to facilitate learning of the Recommended Practices and how participants can create regionally specific cases.

The Importance of Early Developmental Screening.

Presented by Mark Boyd, Director of Telehealth, The Scott Center for Autism Treatment on the campus of the Florida Institute of Technology

  “In the United States, about 13% of children 3 to 17 years of age have a developmental or behavioral disability such as autism, intellectual disability and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. However, less than half of children with problems are identified before starting school.”

Infant and Toddler Continuing Education Series

(Schedule may change. Additional sessions to be announced)

WEDNESDAY: Establish the framework for practical implementation of relationship-based care practices

Responsive Caregiving: Setting a Framework for Infant and Toddler Relationship-based Care (3 hours)

The Six Essential Practices of Relationship-based Care are a frame and foundation for providing responsive care to infants and toddlers.   Each of the practices serves to guide caregiving and increase the quality of care. But, did you know, that following these practices can make the caregiving role easier as well? This session will set the stage for establishing the framework as well as support you in your role of implementation, whether you are a consultant or a direct caregiver.


Let’s TALK Real:   What the Infant and Toddler Framework Looks Like in Practice

How better to understand the implementation of the Six Essential Practices Framework than to hear stories from consultants who lead infant/toddler provider learning communities? Hear what barriers they have heard from providers on implementation and discuss how to overcome those barriers.


UNCONFERENCE: National infant/toddler specialists will be available to continue the conversation on responsive caregiving or other infant/toddler related topics of your choosing.



THURSDAY: Social and emotional skill building within relationship-based care. 

Engaging in Trauma-informed and Healing Centered Responsive Caregiving

Responsive caregiving is essential for all children. This session will focus on why it is especially effective in supporting children who experience trauma. Learn about strategies to move toward healing that include identifying needed supports, recognizing the importance of culture, and building on children’s curiosity. Discuss how these strategies are part of the relationship-based care framework.



Connecting to Community Resources to Build Resiliency

Have you ever heard the saying, “It takes a village?” It is hard enough to raise a child in today’s world, especially with so many demands on our time. In this session, we will discuss how to identify community resources and comprehensive services that can support both caregivers and families.


Who are you? Helping Infants and Toddlers with Establishing a Sense of Self and Self-regulation

With all of the new research available on temperament and the importance of social and emotional health, we will explore how caregivers can support infants and toddlers in establishing a sense of who they are and find healthy ways of dealing with their feelings.


UNCONFERENCE: National infant/toddler specialists will be available to continue the conversation on social and emotional aspects of responsive caregiving or other infant/toddler related topics of your choosing.                  


FRIDAY: Let’s go deeper with families and environments

Supporting Families of Infants and Toddlers Impacted by Substance Misuse

This session will explore and discuss the impact of substance misuse on children and families. Consider: How might an infant be impacted by substance withdrawal? How do you maintain a responsive caregiving relationship with a parent who you suspect is misusing a substance? What is the impact of substance misuse on a parent’s ability to be responsive to their infant or toddler?


Responsive Caregiving Environments

Routines, classroom design, engagement, and transitions all play a part in establishing responsive environments for infants and toddlers. Learn how to support the implementation of the practices of relationship-based care and curriculum within your environment.


Building Relationships with Families for the Easy and the Hard Conversations

Children develop in the context of their families. How can you build on what you are already doing to support two-way communication?   Are you able to share why responsive caregiving is important? Identify the engagement skills needed to build the bridge between you and a child’s family.


How do we explain, scaffold and make the most of what comes naturally in infant and toddler development?

This is an interactive session introducing practitioners to the language and nuances of the practices of S.T.EA.M. in infant/toddler classrooms presented by Jessica-Christine Gunia, Assistant Director, Joliet Township Infant Childcare Center. Infants and toddlers are noticeably left out of the strategies in STEAM. Infant and toddler development is the most holistic time. They are drawn through natural inclination to utilize STEAM, but do not get the recognition for it. Empowering practitioners working with our youngest in engaging stakeholders in the conversation of natural STEAM further professionalizes the role infant/toddler practitioners have in society.


Unconference: National infant/toddler specialists will be available to continue the conversation on building relationships with families and other infant/toddler related topics of your choosing.                


SATURDAY: Professionalism

Taking Care of the Caregiver, “Exhaustion is not a status symbol”

Identify ways you can care for yourself in small and large ways. In order to care for others, we first need to care for ourselves. Come and explore with us how and why this is a critical component to high quality care for children and families.


Looking in the Mirror: Reflective practice

The first step in improving our ways of doing things is to be reflective. However, this skill is not one we learn easily. Explore the importance of reflective practice and of reflective supervision to assist you in identifying triggers of stress and mechanisms for coping.


Julie Law, Ph.D. SCBC Infant/Toddler Specialist, Region VII

Julie Law has an extensive background in early childhood education, teacher training, and professional development of the workforce. In her current role, Infant Toddler Specialist for the State Capacity Building Center, a Service of the Office of Child Care, Julie shares resources and implementation methods to support infant and toddler teacher development. Julie, co-facilitates session on early brain development and responsive relationships for the Program for Infant Toddler Care (PITC) Home Visitor Institutes. During her time in higher education she assisted in the design of a state-of-the-art children’s center, developed courses and aligned content to early educator competencies, and developed an early education teacher training internship using sustainable implementation coaching methods on relationship-based care.


 Ronna Schaffer

Ms. Schaffer possesses in excess of 35 years in the Early Childhood Education field, including 20 in Head Start/Early Head Start and working with Family Child Care providers.  Currently, Schaffer serves as an Infant Toddler Specialist on the State Capacity Building Center (a service of the Office of Child Care). She has experience as a classroom teacher for infants, toddlers and preschoolers in licensed child care programs and has served as Education manager for a Head Start program then a director of an Early Head Start program that contracted with FCC providers. Additionally, Schaffer has earned several Infant/Toddler specific certifications such as Program for Infant Toddler Care, Mind in the Making, Touchpoints and has served as an ECE trainer, TA provider, coach and consultant to center based programs and FCC providers throughout New England and beyond.


Jeanne VanOrsdal

Ms. VanOrsdal has more than 30 years of experience in the field of early education and child care, with 10 years of providing technical assistance to Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) grantees.  She joined the State Capacity Building Center (SCBC) as an Infant/Toddler Specialist (ITS) when the Center was funded in 2015 where she supports 11 states with Training and Technical Assistance (T/TA) on effective and meaningful improvements in infant/toddler child care quality.  She specializes in matters of health and safety within the ITS Network and supports National work within the SCBC on related topics. Before joining the SCBC, Ms. VanOrsdal was the Early Education and Child Care Initiatives Manager at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).


Singable Songs and Fingerplays for Developing Early Literacy Skills, Attention and Community


Music and Movement to Encourage Physical Skills, Appropriate Touch and Rhythm, Pattern and Sequence

Miss Carole Stephens, Macaroni Soup, Early Childhood Music Specialist

“Many teachers feel uncomfortable making music with their students. Yet singing and movement are important gateways to early learning. I empower teachers of all abilities to sing, dance and DO to provide educational opportunities for ALL! Early literacy skills, appropriate touch, relationship building and emotional literacy can develop through music participation.”

Active Play! Fun Physical Activities for Young Children

Describe how to develop children’s fundamental movement skills and physical fitness through active play.

Identify numerous inclusive, developmentally appropriate physical activities that are motivating and non-competitive.

Explain how to lead physical activities that use only readily available inexpensive equipment and work in small spaces

Diane Craft, Professor, Physical Education SUNY Cortland

“Since 1998 I have been writing, presenting and consulting on the topic of physical activity among young children in child care. Changes in lifestyles over recent decades have contributed to childhood obesity. One of the biggest things missing in the lives of young children today is PHYSICAL ACTIVITY. Childcare providers can have powerful and positive influences in building children’s active lifestyles. I am on a mission to enthusiastically share practical suggestions for childcare providers to increase the physical activity levels of the children in their care. Increased physical activity will, in turn, help optimize young children’s health, movement skill development, brain function including learning, memory, and attention, and zest for life!”

This is just a preview of what’s planned. More sessions, descriptions, and presenters will be added, regularly. Follow us on Facebook, to get updates in real time. The full schedule of listings will be available in January.