Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Magic of Dr. Jean

I feel completely refreshed today, because I just got to spend two days in the presence of someone who should be teaching a class for every single new primary teacher who graduates from college.

I have used and loved Dr. Jean's songs and finger plays since I began teaching. She has always been such a calming, joyful presence in my classroom, and she didn't even know it.  Every time we sing her songs or do her finger plays is a happy time for me with my students.  So to me, she equals happiness!
If you haven't used her cds or sung her songs- WHAT?!   Oh my goodness- get ready for happiness. Some of our favorites are Tooty Ta (of course), The Cool Bear Hunt, Bubble Gum, My Mother is a Baker, Banana Dance, Who Let the Letters Out, AND I just learned some new ones that I somehow missed.  I can't wait til Monday!

(Can you tell I am a little happy?)

I don't know about you, but sometimes I leave a  Professional Development training feeling like I don't do enough, don't teach reading or writing the correct way, and/or won't ever be able to fit everything into the day that I need to cover. I'm sad and defeated.   If I do a good job with writing, I haven't covered enough math.  If I have a great math day, I haven't gotten to read enough with everyone.

Well, here is the cure:  Spend some time with Dr. Jean.  Our Family Reading Partnership was able to have her come to our Kids' Book Fest this year to put on a concert for the children. I am not sure who loved it more, the teachers who were there or the children. I think it was a tie!

The bonus was that she did an afternoon of Professional Development for the Pre-K and K teachers in our district, sharing some of her gems.  When I say some, I actually mean one fabulous idea right after another. When she shared a song, she would follow it up with several amazing extension activities at all different levels to go along with it.  I couldn't write fast enough.

For one, quick example, after she shared "The Cool Bear Hunt," she suggested that the children could draw a quick little story map showing the different places they went on the bear hunt -and then retell the story to friends using a teddy graham! OH MY GOODNESS!  Genius!  The standards and skills that one activity works on are amazing- fun AND learning without even knowing it.

Here are my sweet teaching buddies with Dr. Jean doing Tooty Ta!
The even BIGGER bonus was that I was lucky enough to go to dinner with her and some wonderful friends.  I will never forget it.
After the concert today, we took a picture with attitude.   (However, I don't think the "I love you" sign language sign shows a lot of rap attitude... oh well. We tried. ) Somehow, Dr. Jean still looks great!

With the introduction of CCSS and APPR, and the testing that has accompanied these, it is easy to feel sort of defeated when you are a proponent of what are best practices for teaching children.

Dr. Jean knows that children have a lifetime to be grown up, take tests, and do worksheets and a very precious, small window of time to be a child.

That precious, small window is such a critical, time for children to experience things, wonder, play, learn with hands-on activities, sing, dance, read, paint, get messy, do finger plays, laugh, grow, and create and savor memories, doing what they are developmentally ready to do.
Finger plays, songs, stories and rhymes help children increase their vocabulary, sequence events, develop memory skills, stimulate brain development,  play with sounds and syllables, learn rhythm and rhymes, follow directions, practice listening skills, develop large and small motor skills, practice social skills and auditory language, as well as learn academic concepts.  Repetition is necessary for the retention of learning.  Why aren't we doing MORE of these activities?

Dr. Jean asked the teachers who had graduated from college in the last few years if they had learned any songs, finger plays, or rhymes that help children learn.  None had.  We are forgetting and ignoring what are the developmentally appropriate, best teaching practices for helping young children learn.

I just read an article about how academic stress is he number one concern parents have for their students in Singapore.  They have developed a Happiness Revolution Team to help parents think of ways to improve their child's mental well-being, helping parents focus on their child's social skills instead of just academics.
The grass is not greener. The high numbers that we see in test results in places like Singapore often come at the cost of happy, well-adjusted children. There needs to be a balance.

Primary children learn and remember by doing. They learn and remember by singing. They learn and remember by having someone spend quality time with them on real lap tops, as Dr. Jean said, not only computer laptops.  Yes, computers and technology are wonderful, but nothing can replace a real lap and the love a child feels learning on one of those!

Dr. Jean mentioned how powerful music was for memory and learning- and for memories.  These videos are proof of that.

I only wish every primary teacher would be required to take a class with Dr. Jean, to learn or to remember the joy of teaching children and the joy of how children learn best.  I feel so refreshed and re-inspired after spending time with her.

Her website is a true gift to teachers.  She has so many of her wonderful ideas on there for free.  Her cheers are magical.    I read her blog every day, because it always has so many "aha" ideas on it.
Thank you for stopping by and sharing my joy! 


  1. wow! What an experience, Carolyn! She is truly an amazing person and advocate for children. I cried as I watched the videos. I've got to sing and dance more!
    Wonderful and uplifting post. Thank you!

  2. I love your excitement in this post! And I'd love to have Dr. Jean come and give me a little shot of enthusiasm lol.

    I've tried to incorporate music in my class, but it think I need to do a better job.

    Thanks for sharing this - and her website , Sara


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