MGOL as Outreach to Preschoolers and Their Families
At Campfield Early Learning Center, with ABC Preschool and Play Keepers Child Care
Judith P. Hoyer Early Child Care and Family Education Centers (known as Judy Centers) offer services for children from birth through kindergarten and their low-income families, all under one roof, throughout Maryland. As part of Port Discovery’s Museum on the Road program, I designed a series of five MGOL sessions that would be presented in a Judy Center to two classes combined together: an onsite childcare program and a school-based family involvement program for parents and their children from birth to age four, including children with special needs. Attendance for each session was expected to be 35 children, 17 parents, 4 staff members, 2 teachers, and 1 teacher’s assistant.
The goal of this program was to expose children to new vocabulary, materials and situations; create opportunities that foster intellectual, physical and social development; help children develop positive feelings about books and reading; and to model positive nurturing behavior so that parents could feel confident in their role as their children’s first and best teacher.
In order to effectively evaluate and tweak the program, teachers were given pre-evaluations forms to be administered prior to the first MGOL session and post-evaluations forms to be filled out after the last session. One evaluation was for parents or caregivers; the other was for the teachers and Center staff. In addition, the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Text (PVT) was administered.
When planning the program, my intent was to follow the traditional MGOL ten section format, but to use a formula of 50% rather than 80% repetition. I created “scripts” for all five sessions ahead of time, basing each upcoming session on the previous session and using different highlight colors to mark the changes. The scripts contained less rhymes and more books, since the projected audience consisted of mostly three and four year olds. Read-aloud books were a bit longer than those used for the birth through age two crowd. I also created a booklet with the lyrics to all of the anticipated songs and rhymes to give to teachers and center staff so they could reinforce the activities in between the sessions.
Scouting out the site ahead of time, I found out that the sessions were going to take place in the school cafeteria. Inside were a number of large picnic table like tables on wheels with benches attached. There was no way to separate the benches from the tables, so I tried many different configurations of the tables until I found a way to make a huge circle to accommodate the expected crowed.
For this traveling program, we purchased a Best-Rite® Magnetic Flannel Easel with a steel frame and wheels. I created enough felt pieces to have one for each of the five sessions, eliminating the need to switch pieces in and out each week. The bells and the scarves were divided up ahead of time so there were two bags of each instead of just one. Before the session started, I asked one of the teachers to take a bag of bells and a bag of scarves, requesting that when I began handing out the instruments at one end of the circle, she begin handing out bells at the other end of the circle. We each worked out way around the circle, giving instruments to all children and adults, until we met in the middle!
For the first session, the tables were rearranged to form a big circle, and as the parents entered the cafeteria door, I invited them to come into the circle and choose seats on the inside benches only, facing me and in a good position to see the flannel board. One group arrived about five minutes before the other. Instead of expecting them sit still and wait, I immediately introduced myself and told them that I was so happy to see them that I wanted to sing a song about it. Launching into “If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands,” I kept the song going for almost the full five minutes by coming with more movements to go along with song and asking for suggestions for new verses.
The first session was chaotic. Children were moving around inside the circle of tables more often than not. It was hard to get children to stop during the freeze game. Few parents recited the rhymes or did the fingerplays; it often felt like I was singing solo. Many of the parents focused on their cell phones rather participating in the activities. They looked sheepish when I had everyone all stand up and march around in a circle.
When it became clear during the first session that many of the families attending had difficulty with English or simply did not know the songs and rhymes, I decided to repeat more than 50% of the material for each consecutive week. This decision was reinforced at the end of the first program, when one of the teachers asked me to repeat some of the songs for the next session and expressed gratitude when I explained that the entire program was built on repetition. Another teacher said that she was going to practice the songs all week to help the parents and their children to be able to follow along for the next session.
Keeping all of this in mind, during the welcoming comments at the beginning of the second session, I informed parents that they were their child’s first and best teacher, that children learn best by imitating the adults that they love, and that in order for the children to get the most out of the program, it was important for adults as well as their children to join in the activities.
And there were noticeable changes that second week. The group was less chaotic. They knew what to expect and loved chiming in on the songs that were repeats from the previous week. The children still had difficulty hearing the syllables in their names and tapping them out on the drum, but during the freeze games, all of the children stopped! Some of the parents spent the entire session focused on the activities and did not even glance at their cell phones. By the third session, only a minority or parents used their cell phones, during the fourth session, only one mother was on her cell phone, and by the fifth session, all of the adults were fully engaged in all of the activities all of the time!
This five session preschool program met and exceeded all of our objectives: based on the evaluations, observations, and tests, it was clear that attending the MGOL program had expanded the number of vocabulary words known by pre-school children, improved parent engagement in their children’s early education activities, and improved children’s ability to successfully function in group settings.
It was clear that attending MGOL preschool sessions for only five weeks in row still made a difference. One of the preschool teachers wrote in her evaluation:
“I have learned many new songs and fingerplays to add to our curriculum. I’ve also learned some new ways to use our musical instruments and scarves. It has also been great to see how even just 5 sessions made an impact on the families.”
Another preschool teacher commented:
“It was great to see the children interact with their parents. I believe all parents walked away with a new interest in singing with their children.”
Some of the comments on the parent surveys showed the many ways in which parents benefited from the 5 sessions. When parents were asked what they had learned from MGOL, responses included:
“To interact along with the child helps them because they see that mom or dad is participating as well.”
“Lots of new songs with actions.”
“I’ve learned to increase movement during reading and singing.”
“Children learn and retain very quickly.”
“I learned new ways to help the children interact with each other.”
“Learned to be more patient with my daughters and their comfort levels.”
“To interact, play, sing more with my daughter. The singing can change their moods.”
When asked “What new thing did you notice or learn ABOUT your child during Mother Goose on the Loose session?” some parent answers were:
“He was following directions.”
“His leadership skills.”
“She’s more open and participates more.”
“Listening skills improved.”
“He started participating actively in group activities.”
“She was more outgoing and willing to put some distance between her and I.”
“Much more vocal in singing and dancing.”
“Alla takes about 3 times at an activity to get involved, but she loved the program immediately. She sang a lot at home; Alla likes to observe before getting involved.”
“She is available to clean her toys by following a song, to change from a very active moment to a quiet move by using song. “
The same parent who wrote about her child putting toys away, added an extra comment: “We appreciate that we were available to come to this group. It has have a great impact on myself and my daughter and the way I can spent time with her learning.”
This is a script from the last week. The rhymes highlighted in yellow are rhymes that were introduced during the second week, and the items highlighted in green were either new rhymes or new ways to present a rhyme during the third week, grey is the changes made in the fourth week, and blue are the changes made in the fifth week. The rhymes with no highlighting are rhymes from the first session. (A video montage of the final session can be found on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/uNY3j0g9eR8)
Rhymes and Reads
- Alligator, Alligator
- Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
- I’m Driving in My Car
- Two Little Penguins
- Show photo of peas and ask if they know where peas come from
- Book: Eat Your Peas, Louise! By Pegeen Snow
- (Show the peapod) Five Fat Peas in a Pea Pod Pressed (show pea pod)
- Grey Squirrel (puppet kisses)
- We wiggle our fingers together (add tap our toes)
- Put Your Fingers in the Air
- Baby Shark
- Chewey Bubble Gum
- Five Fat Sausages
- Row, Row, Row your boat,… if you see a crocodile….
Rum pum pum (no flannel piece)
- Grand old Duke of York (brought back from second session)
- Here we go in, in, in, in
- Handy Spandy (no flannel piece)
- I went to visit the farm one day (Dev. Tip:Use Books in ALL WAYS)
- When the __ gets up in the morning (3 farm puppets)
Musical Instruments and Scarves
- We ring our bells together
- Grandfather Clock (with maracas)
- Hurry, hurry, drive the firetruck
- Jack in the box
- Bells away (no flannel piece)
- Wind oh wind (no flannel piece)
- The Wheels on the Bus Go ‘Round and ‘Round
- Jack in the Box
- Scrunch them up into a ball / Scarves away (no flannel piece)
- You are my sunshine (Tip – limbic system)
- Humpty (ONLY IF THERE IS TIME – there was not!)
- Can you kick with two feet (one piece for all three)
- We’re so happy
- It’s time to say good-bye