Start Early. Start well.

November 28, 2017

Educators, Child Care Providers to Focus on Nurturing Children's Natural Gifts as Storytellers

Omaha, Neb. — Harnessing young children’s natural storytelling ability to build early writing skills is the focus of the second institute of the Superintendents’ Early Childhood Plan “Professional Development for All” 2017-2018 series. 

The event, entitled “Children as Authors: Guiding Children on the Pathways Toward Strong Writing,” is offered Thursday, Nov. 30, at the Salvation Army Kroc Center, 2825 Y St. The institute runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. An evening session is also offered from 6 to 8:30 p.m. More than 200 child care providers, teachers, and other professionals who work with children from birth – Grade 3 will explore new research-based ideas about children’s learning, as well as educational practices that engage young children and their families. 

Developed by the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska and funded by the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties, the free professional development series is now in its third year. “PD for All” is designed to introduce leading-edge research and innovative practices to those who work with young children and their families. Additionally, the institutes give early childhood professionals the chance to come together and learn from each other.

“Skills like handwriting, spelling, and punctuation are important tools for writing,” said Chris Maxwell, director of program development at the Buffett Institute. “What matters most, however, is helping children use writing to record their thoughts and ideas and to send meaningful messages—in other words, to become authors. Our goal for this PD for All is that each participating educator discover new strategies to ensure that children find and are able to express their individual voices through writing.” 

Featured speakers at the institute include Martha Horn, an associate professor of elementary education at Rhode Island College who instructs prospective and veteran teachers about the teaching of writing. Horn co-directed the Writing in Kindergarten Project with Mary Ellen Giacobbe in the Boston Public Schools. From that work came their book, “Talking, Drawing, Writing: Lessons for Our Youngest Writers.” Horn continues to work with teachers in school districts around the country.

Other speakers include: Jonathan Fribley, an early childhood consultant, coach, mentor, and trainer; Sue Anderson, a veteran educator who has provided professional development for teachers and school leaders in writing and instruction; and Jimmie Miller Johnson, a local author and educator who has taught reading and language arts to students in Kindergarten through eighth grade.

Janette Merkel, a program specialist at the Buffett Institute, will lead a Spanish-language session at the Thursday evening event. Co-presenting with Merkel are three local early childhood practitioners: Herendira Moreno Padilla and Teresa Lopez Tovar, family engagement specialists at Liberty Elementary School and Gomez Heritage Elementary School, respectively; and Leah Latenser, a home visitor with Ralston Public Schools.
This week’s institute is the second in a series of five sessions planned for 2017-18. Other upcoming institutes include "Children as Mathematicians: Early Math That Matters the Most" (Jan. 25 or 27); "Children as Researchers: Reading to Learn Can Start Early" (March 1 or 3); and "Children as Expressive Artists: Integrating the Arts as a Tool for Learning" (date TBA). 
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