Category Archives: Projects

  • -

25 Goals for Developing Your Young Learners

Tags : 

The Inspire Early Learning Program revolves around 25 developmental Goals in five Areas of Development. At the STEPS School in Omdurman, Sudan we have completed three of the four workshops introducing these goals.

We started with the basic idea…

You can help your students develop knowledge and skills in important areas to prepare them for school and for life!

(Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001)

To illustrate the four types of knowledge, consider an orange. What are the facts about an orange? Its color is orange, it’s round, it’s sweet, it’s fragrant, etc. What are concepts involving an orange? They are a fruit. (Are all oranges fruits? Yes. Are all fruits oranges? No.) They are food. What are procedures related to oranges? How to peel an orange. How to grow an orange. How to make orange juice. Finally, what metacognition is associated with oranges? Well you tell me! What are you thinking right now about oranges? I like oranges. The fragrance lifts my mood. And so on…

Skills = 25 Developmental Goals

We will unpack each goal with examples and activities that promote that particular skill. The five Areas (or Domains) of Development are…

  • Social/Emotional/Personal
  • Physical
  • Communication
  • Thinking (Metacognition)
  • Approaches to Learning 

Active Learning

Activity-based instruction is learning and building knowledge and skills through DOING. It will often feel like fun and play. Students are engaged & interested. When teachers shift their thinking from students sitting in chairs in straight rows and “repeat after me” lessons to active learning, their effectiveness increases significantly. One challenge in making the shift is knowing what types of activities work best for active learning. How does a teacher evaluate an activity? We’ve developed a rubric just for that purpose.

Part of each teacher’s “homework” is to create at least one new activity for the classroom and try it out. We spend a fair amount of time using the rubric above to evaluate the quality of each other’s activities (Yes! Including the instructor’s). The teachers show amazing creativity in how they apply these concepts.

Trial Run

The owner of the STEPS School in Omdurman invited us to present this series of workshops with his Preschool and Kindergarten teachers. His hope is to open this up and offer the workshops to other preschools in the area. We hope that will become a reality.


Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., Airasian, P. W., Cruikshank, K. A., Mayer, R. E., Pin- trich, P. R., … & Wittrock, M. C. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives, abridged edition. White Plains, NY: Longman.

Fun with a water activity!

  • -

3 Strategies That Increase Achievement

Tags : 

I had the pleasure of leading a workshop at one of Khartoum’s most effective international schools, STEPS, in Omdurman. For three hours, we discussed and worked through three main classroom strategies that increase achievement. We also sprinkled in 8 “bonus” strategies along the way. Most of the strategies were used in the presentation, so we not only presented them but experienced them as well.

The 3 main strategies included…

  • See, Say, & Do
  • 1-2-3
  • 100% Response (Triangle, Circle, Square)

The 8 bonus strategies…

  • Think Aloud
  • Modeling
  • Open-Ended Questions
  • Make it visual!
  • Make it social!
  • (small group interaction)
  • Fruit Salad or Mixed Grill? (de-compartmentalize the learning)
  • “Think your way to understanding” rather than “Memorize your way to knowing”
  • It’s About the Application

  • -

Inspire: Phase 3 – In the Classroom

Tags : 

The top goal of every professional development team is “enactment.” It’s one thing to sit in workshops and absorb new ideas, but it’s something totally different to enact them in the classroom. Our goal for Phase 3 of the Inspire Early Learning program was to see the strategies and concepts enacted in the classroom and at home.

The preschool leadership (Imam Khalid) invited us to join the teachers during the preschool day. During that time we worked right alongside them demonstrating and encouraging enactment of what we’d studied together.

Once or twice per week, we’d stay for an extra hour after the kids left and debrief about the week. It gave us a chance to share examples of our successes and challenges. Our main focus was “What went right this week?” Because the examples were specific, it encouraged the individual teacher and provided a practical example for the others.

There was one little girl who was especially used to getting her own way. To say she was highly independent would be a understatement! All the teachers would try to motivate her, but because of her persistence in getting her own way they would give in after a few attempts. She quickly learned that she could get her own way. This was especially obvious at “line up” time to start the day. She would simply not stand with her own class, but would continue playing.

Noticing that the teachers were not getting the job done, I took her on as my personal project. One of the strategies we used together is called “1-2-3.” It’s basically three steps. You (1) go to the child (rather than shout across the room at them), kneel down, call them by name, (2) describe the behavior you see that you want changed, (3) tell him or her what you expect them to do (and wait).

So morning after morning, I would go and kneel down, call her by name, and say you are not with your class; it’s time for you to line up with your class. I would take her by the hand and lead her (not forcefully, but calmly and respectfully) to her line. After three seconds, she would bolt back to where she had come from. I would repeat the process. Sometimes 5 or 6 times in a span of 3 minutes during the short lineup time.

This pattern continued for several weeks. All the teachers watched as I persisted and she persisted. I could tell they were thinking, “Good luck!” Finally on one morning, I knelt down and said the same thing I’d said literally hundreds of times before. This time, however, she skipped off to her line and joined her class. You can’t imagine the teachers’ responses. They all started smiling and whispering to each other. Finally, it had worked. Was the challenge over, not totally, but mostly! From that point on, she lined up with only occasional prompting.

What’s the point? The strategies that we’ve studied work. It may take time, but they work, and both the teacher and student are stronger as a result of the consistency in using them.

Throughout the three months of working side-by-side with the teachers we all grew together. I consider those children and ladies dear friends and believe in their future.

We also invested time with the parents in Phase 3. We designed quick-reference cards that explain the 25 Goals and give practical, everyday activities that parents and caregivers can use to promote development at home. They are not lessons, and we stress to the parents that you don’t need to “teach” these per se, but rather involve your children in the activities of life that you are already doing!

The cards include overviews of each Area of Development, age-level characteristics, examples, key questions, and tips for activities at home.

Arabic Card — Side One | Two

We met weekly with the parents and introduced the Areas of Development incrementally. We explained the Goals and demonstrated some of the activities. Each week we’d answer questions and ask them to share about their experiences using these activities at home.

We talked about Goal 1 (Sense of Identity and ValueI have an awareness of myself as an individual and feel important to my family and community) and explained that sometimes when children “act out” it’s because they want time with you, their parent. Children want to feel important to the members of their family. One mother, with big tears running down her cheeks, said, “You mean my child wants to spend time with ME?” This was a new concept to her. In the weeks following she revisited this idea, always with a big smile, as she reported about things she and her daughter had done together.

Interacting with both the teachers and the parents during Phase 3 proved so helpful in enacting the concepts found in the Inspire! Early Learning Program.

  • -

Inspire: Summer Intensive Workshop

Tags : 

With the success of the Inspire Early Learning pilot, one of the village preschools invited us to work with their teachers during the summer break. We conducted an intensive series of workshops (3 months).

The purpose of the pilot was to (1) demonstrate the viability of this program and the concepts, and (2) to train trainers from a local organization’s community development team (trainers of trainers). With those two objectives behind us, we launched a series of workshops that unpacked the concepts in a deeper way for the preschool teachers. The trainers of trainers participated to give examples of what they experienced and to deepen their own understanding.

The basic format of the series was to meet twice weekly for two hours. One of those sessions included an extra hour with children so the teachers could “practice” and apply their learning in an authentic way.

Read More

  • -
EduCAN - Learning Centers

Learning About Learning Centers

Tags : 

Last night in the village where we live, we held another professional development session for preschool teachers. This week, we added children for part of the session so the teachers could have “hands-on,” authentic experiences. They created learning centers each highlighting 1 of the 25 goals for preschoolers’ development from the Inspire Early Learning Program. For a first run, the night was a smashing success.

Learning centers are a new concept for this area, and the teachers’ enthusiasm is contagious. More than that, the preschoolers had a great time, worked on small and large muscles (motor skills) and had a sensory experience.

Working with other-culture people sometimes pushes us toward finding what is different, but we also see as we live life alongside our Nubian friends that we all want our children to learn, to be happy, to have opportunities. So thankful.

  • -
EduCAN Inspire StoryTime

Inspire: Launching the Pilot

Tags : 

Remember what started this whole adventure in creating the Inspire Early Learning Program? It’s true that necessity is the mother of invention! One of EduCAN’s primary guiding principles is to practice sustainable development. If that phrase is new to you, one of the things it means is doing development in a way that will outlive your direct involvement.

Read More

  • -
Lets get to work

What is Inspire?

Tags : 

Okay, here we go…let’s get to writing!

The Overview

To give this program shape, I have to answer the question, “What is the Inspire Early Learning Program?” Basically, it’s a simple introduction to the principles of early childhood development. It’s an accessible approach to providing quality and meaningful learning experiences for young children. Consider it a guide to helping adults develop their young learner’s basic skills they need to embark on the life-long quest of building knowledge. It seeks to lay a solid foundation that prepares children to enter the more formal environment of “school.”

Read More

  • -
Inspire Early Learning Program — 5 Areas of Development

The Inspire Early Learning Program Is Born

Tags : 

I don’t think “a preschool program for villages” makes a very good title. I thumb through my mental thesaurus for single words that have a positive connotation for education. As I think of each one, I immediately do a Google search to see it’s taken. Of course it’s taken—it’s a great word! This happens over and over, but I do not give up.

Read More

  • -
Village near Aswan

“We need a preschool program for villages”

Tags : 

Pam, my wife, and I live in Aswan, Egypt in a small Nubian village along the Nile. I am privileged to serve on the board of a local organization that does community development. As we sat in the board meeting, the director said, “We need a preschool program for villages.”

Read More

  • -

Reading Foundation

Tags : 

“We need an ABCs class!” The director of our local partner organization, Community Development Ministry, came to me asking if we could help with an “ABCs class.” A local village wanted to know the best way to teach the ABCs. As I thought about that request, I realized, there’s so much more to it than just the ABCs. I suggested we title the series of workshops, “Building a Foundation for Reading…It’s more than just the ABCs.” She agreed and we set out putting the workshop together.

Read More

Join us in making a difference for international educators.